Slowcooker Short Ribs & Spaghetti Squash with Cilantro Pesto {AIP}

Commitment. That’s my theme for the rest of this year. It has to be. A lack of commitment is the reason I haven’t written a blog post in over a month, the reason my house consistently looks like someone broke in all willy-nilly, the reason my Pampered Chef business is not completely where I’d like it to be (though I did receive a promotion to Director last month!)…

I think most people are the same. When we start something new – a job, a project, a relationship, a new way of eating – we tend to be very motivated and excited, essentially “all-in” and committed to making it work, no matter what.  That excitement can last a few days, months, or even years.  At some point, though, reality slaps you in the face.

HIMYM Slap gif

The sting of that slap causes us to doubt, then lie to ourselves.
Should I really be writing a food blog?  There are so many food blogs, why should I add to the madness? Mine’s not as good as the others…  Is this person really “the one?”  Am I even good enough for him/her? There’s got to be something better out there…
Why did I start this project?  I never finish anything!  I definitely wasn’t cut out for this...
Am I really going to get healthier eating this way?  I mean, I see progress, but I’m sure I’m going to screw up again…

After a while of feeding our brains with this gobbledygook, we start to get extremely creative – not the type of creativity that feeds our souls, but the kind that sucks them dry.  Creative “busy-ness,” creative excuses.
I really need to update my blog!  Oh, I haven’t cleaned out my inbox in a while.  Plus, I haven’t developed a new recipe in a while, so I’ll wait until next week….
We really need a date night.  I should buy him this book – he’s really been wanting it.  Oh, but money is tight and he wouldn’t want me spending extra.  Plus, we are SO busy lately and have our own things we could get done this evening...
I need to make phone calls to my customers today.  Oh!  Before I can do that I MUST make sure I’ve got my office completely organized.  And the bathroom really needs cleaning...
Okay – today I clean the whole house!  Ugh, but it is SO much.  I really need to get organized.  I know! I’ll read Clean Mama’s blog for the next few hours to develop a plan…  {house remains a disaster}

Following? At some point, things get completely out of hand, low, broken, etc., and you look around wondering ‘how the hell did I get here?‘  Did I LET this happen?  This is decision time.  Evaluate where you are versus where you want to be.  It is time to quit or start over.  Figure out WHY you wanted to do something in the first place, and DECIDE if that is still important to you.  Sometimes, the answer is to quit, especially if you figure out that your goal, project, job, relationship etc. is destroying all the good in you.  Sometimes, the answer is to start at the beginning and find your motivation again.  Get excited again!  And be realistic, because this is a cycle, but one from which you will grow immensly, either way, if you allow yourself.  (Check out Monday Motivation over at Balanced Bites – great stuff here).

Thiago (amazing Dallas-based pianist – check out his info here) is a good friend of mine, and my husband’s best friend of over 20 years. I’ve mentioned him before. I can always depend on him for sound advice with an artistic twist.  Just the kind I like.  He shared this the other day and it really spoke to me –

Don't Let This Happen
Abbey, don’t let this happen.  Stop making excuses.  Remember your WHY, and go forth.  GET EXCITED.  Create, love, cook, design, lead, and quit yer bitchin’.

Time for food!  This is a recipe that most definitely excites me, which seems appropriate since I’m telling myself to get excited.  I’ve made it a few times now and it has become one of my favorite go-to meals.  It is super easy but seems kinda fancy-ish.  Plus, my husband and son love it, which is always a plus :).

Slowcooker Short Ribs & Spaghetti Squash with Cilantro Pesto
serves 4, maybe more

Slow Cooker Shortribs & Spaghetti Squash with Cilantro Pesto 2
for the short ribs:
ingredients
2-3 pounds pastured short ribs (we typically pick up some on Market Day at Eden’s)
1 tablespoon bacon fat or other cooking fat
1 small white onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
4 pieces of thick bacon (pastured is ideal)
1/2 cup of beef bone broth
1/2 cup of good balsamic vinegar
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh, left whole, removed before serving)
1 teaspoon dried, crushed rosemary (or a few sprigs of fresh, left whole, removed before serving)
3 medjool dates or 1-2 tsp honey
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of Real Salt or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper (omit if in the first phases of AIP – read what The Paleo Mom has to say about safe spices)

directions
Separate short ribs by cutting between the bones, if necessary. (I don’t know this guy, but this is a REALLY informative video!)

Heat cooking fat in large skillet over medium heat.  Add your mirepoix (onion, carrots, & celery) to the skillet and cook 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent.  Turn heat up to med-high and add short ribs to skillet, searing about 2 minutes per side.

Line the bottom of your slow cooker with bacon.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP, because bacon.  (My cooker is a 6-quart, but you can use whatever size you have and adjust the recipe to fit if necessary.)  Add the seared short ribs, veggies, and remaining fat from skillet.  Add balsamic vinegar, bone broth, garlic, dates, and all spices to slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, until the meat easily falls off the bone.

for the spaghetti squash with cilantro pesto:
ingredients
1 whole spaghetti squash, cooked (I typically bake it whole, and here’s a microwaved option from Nom Nom Paleo)
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
Real Salt or sea salt to taste
2 cups fresh cilantro, loosely packed
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic
Avocado oil* (I eyeball this and add slowly until my pesto has reached a desired consistency)

*Note: You can use extra virgin olive oil if you prefer, but I find that the avocado oil allows the flavors of the cilantro, lemon, and garlic to shine more.

directions
Toss cooked spaghetti squash (assuming you’ve already removed the innards – if not, see link above) with olive oil and salt.

Add cilantro, lemon juice and zest, and garlic to your food processor.  I prefer to use my Manual Food Processor for these smaller, quick jobs.  Process ingredients until finely chopped.  Drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of avocado oil, then continue processing.  Of course, you could drizzle a continuous stream if your processor allows.  Add enough oil and process until your pesto reaches desired consistency.  Serve over spaghetti squash.  If you have extra leftover, it will keep for about a week.

I hope you enjoy!

Always,
Abbey

Slow Cooker Shortribs & Spaghetti Squash with Cilantro Pesto 1

Chinese Five Spice Carrot & Apple Hash

A standard hash usually consists of chopped meat, potatoes, and maybe other veggies, all browned together in a skillet.  Top it all with a pastured fried egg, and you’re golden.  See what I did there?  A hash is a great way to use leftovers and play with flavor combinations.  If you Google hash recipes, you can find the most basic “Hash Browned Potatoes” and also many gourmet versions using seafood, exotic ingredients, and other exciting things.  A hash has evolved beyond the breakfast diner menu staple into a wonderful base for fine dining dishes.  Did you know that the word hash is actually derived from the French verb, hacher, which means “to chop?”  Thank you high school French.  (Actually, thank you Wikipedia, but sometimes I like to pretend I retained at least un petite du Francais.  Is that even correct??  Ugh, merde.)

…Quick thought: I remember not liking hash browns much when I was younger.  It always grossed me out to be at the local Denny’s, or other fine breakfast establishment, and watch people drown their browned, shredded potato side dish with bottled ketchup and stir it all together until it turned pink.  Blech.  I would always request a different side like toast or biscuits, which I thought was the healthier option because it was helping me get my 6-11 servings of grains/bread a day that the USDA food pyramid told me I should be eating as a child.  That’s a topic for another post.  Excuse me while I go scream in my closet for a moment….

I woke up this morning thinking I wanted to make a hash and starting brainstorming with the ingredients I had on hand.  Sometimes I get carried away and add too many ingredients, and too much of a good thing is still too much.  I’ve been trying to simplify lately and it seems to be going well.  I wanted to impart a unique flavor into this dish, without going overboard.  Ah, Chinese Five Spice.  This is a fairly new ingredient for my kitchen, and my husband and son both hate it.  I like the warm, comforting flavor it imparts, but it has to utilized properly.  I think it worked really well in this hash and complimented the salty bacon and tart apples while bringing out the sweetness of the carrots.  I admit, I did not exercise portion control while consuming this dish (let’s be honest, when do I ever?), but I bet it could easily serve two people, maybe even three.  Maybe.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot & Apple Hash
serves 2-3

ingredients
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
Sea salt, to taste

directions
Add chopped bacon to a large, cool skillet.  Heat over medium heat to render out fat, stirring occasionally.

Once bacon has begun to brown, stir in the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it becomes translucent.

Add carrots, apple, and Chinese Five Spice powder, and stir until combined.  Cook an additional 5-7 minutes until lightly browned.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.  Serve warm as a side dish, or chilled as a salad.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot & Apple Hash

Always,
Abbey

Simple Slow Cooked Piggy + Quick Meal Ideas

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so it makes perfect sense to post a recipe for pulled pork, right?  RIGHT??  I actually made this recipe several days ago, and have been eating from it over the last few days.  Saturday, I took the last few bites of this delicious shredded meat, cold,  straight out of the fridge.  It’s that good.

I’d love to say that I got this little piggy from a local farmer and it is pasture-raised and all that goodness.  However, I cannot say that this time.  This pork is part of a bulk package from the Costco, and you know what?  That IS okay.  I have to remind myself often that I’m not doing it “wrong” if I occasionally eat meat from a super market.  I try to do the absolute best I can for my family, and sometimes that means buying what is affordable at the moment, then making it taste amazing.

Simple Slow Cooked Piggy

Simple Slow Cooked Piggy (adapted from Nom Nom Paleo’s Slow Cooker Kalua Pig)
serves many people,  for days

ingredients
4 strips bacon
6 – 8 pounds pork sirloin tip roast
1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled

directions
Layer bacon on bottom of a slowcooker.  (Mine is 6-quart, but you can use whatever size you have and adjust the recipe to fit if necessary.)  Rub pork roast with salt and paprika and place atop bacon.  Sprinkle on the black pepper and drop the whole garlic cloves into the pot, wherever they may fall – but try to spread them out a little bit.

Cover and cook on low for 16-18 hours, and there is no need to add liquid.

Remove pork from cooker and place into a large bowl.  Shred with a fork, or two, or three if you’re talented.  Taste and adjust the seasonings by adding the cooking liquid, a small spoonful at a time.  It is best not to shred the pork directly in the cooking liquid because it is awfully difficult to control the amount of salt when you do it that way.

I love making pulled pork because it lasts for days and gives me such a great base for all sorts of yummy meals.  It is also freezable!

Quick Meal Ideas

Pulled Pork Tacos: I simply topped some lettuce with pork, a simple carrot slaw made with paleo mayo (or your favorite paleo slaw), pineapple, red onion, avocado, and cilantro.  A flavor explosion in the best way.

Pulled Pork Tacos
Pulled Pork Tacos

Pork and Apples On-the-Go: Add a serving of the pork and a small granny smith apple, chopped, to a microwavable safe dish.  Microwave thirty seconds, just to warm it up.  Stir and add two tablespoons of your favorite paleo mayo.  Sprinkle with cilantro.  Consume and be joyful.  (Warning: this may become addicting)

Pork & Apples On-the-Go
Pork & Apples On-the-Go

Use as a protein in your favorite soup recipe, like my Pork, Sweet Potato, & Cabbage Stew with Avocado Pesto Cream 🙂

Serve it up for breakfast, or anytime, with a pastured egg on top.

What is your favorite way to eat pulled pork?

Always,
Abbey

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese Lasagna {grain free!}

After a couple weeks or so of not really feeling up to doing much of anything, I’m finally making another blog post.  It’s about damn time, Abbey.  Good grief.

Let me first explain how this lasagna came to be.  I was soaking a cup of raw almonds for homemade almond milk (which I seem to be making almost daily lately) and completely forgot about them for about 24 hours.  After some online research, I was just about to throw them out thinking they would have gone bad, but I held off for some reason.   Throwing real food away just seems wrong.

A while later, I was flipping through Against All Grain looking for Danielle’s mayo recipe and happened upon the Basic Nut Cheese.  After snickering a bit at the title (sometimes I pretend to be a lady, this was not one of those times), I noticed that the recipe required soaking raw almonds for… wait for it… 24 hours.  Score!

Basic Nut Cheese

Once I had the Basic Nut Cheese made, my creative fooding wheels started a’turnin’.  The resulting texture is so much like ricotta that I just had to use it in that fashion.  Plus, I had never made a Paleo, or even a gluten and grain free lasagna before, so it was time for a challenge.  I’m mostly dairy free, with the exception of the occasional raw cheese or the more than occasional goat cheese.  So this recipe does have 6 ounces of goat cheese, which I imagine you could omit if you’d like it to be completely dairy free.

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese Lasagna 2

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese lasagna {grain free!}
serves 6

ingredients
6 large zucchini (these gents will be playing the part of your noodles)
5 ounces goat cheese
3 ounces good quality sliced prosciutto

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon bacon fat, or other paleo fat of your choice
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
8 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
4 cups (32 oz) diced tomatoes, fresh or canned (I used a combo of the two because that is what I had on hand)
3 ounces “no salt added” tomato paste
1/4 cup loosely packed, chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For the “ricotta” filling:

1-1/4 cup Basic Nut Cheese from Against All Grain by Danielle Walker
1 ounce goat cheese
9 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove as much water as possible
1/4 cup loosely packed, chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
1 clove garlic, pressed
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
1 egg

directions
Heat oven to 375 degrees.

To make the sauce: melt bacon fat in large skillet over med-low heat.  Add ground beef and break it up.  Once the meat begins to brown, add in the onion, garlic, and mushrooms, and cook until meat is thoroughly browned and veggies are cooked.  Stir in spices, salt, and pepper.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered.  Taste (don’t burn your tongue like I did!) and add more salt if necessary.  Stir in olive oil and parsley.  Let cool a bit before assembling your lasagna.

To make “ricotta” layer: mix all ingredients, except the egg, in a small bowl.  Taste and season to your liking.  Mix in egg with a fork.  (Hint: you can do this while your sauce is simmering.)

To make zucchini noodles, slice thinly lengthwise with a knife or mandoline.  Put the slices in a single layer on a microwave safe plate and microwave for 1-2 minutes to help draw out some of the moisture.  Blot with with a paper towel if necessary. I do this prior to assembling because zucchini produces water when it is cooked, and nobody wants watery lasagna.  You may have to do this in batches. (Hint: you can do this while your sauce is simmering.)

To assemble: Spread 1/2 cup of sauce evenly across the bottom of a 7×11 baking dish.  Layer one third of the zucchini noodles atop the sauce, slightly overlapping the edges.  Spread half of the “ricotta” mixture on the noodles and top with half the prosciutto, then 1 cup of sauce.  Repeat the zucchini, ricotta, prosciutto and sauce layers.  Top with a final layer of zucchini noodles, more sauce, and crumbled the goat cheese.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.  Uncover and bake another fifteen minutes to lightly brown the top.  Let cool ten minutes before slicing.

Tip:  You can complete all the above steps ahead of time, assemble, cover with foil, and refrigerate until you are ready to put it in the oven.  I made my lasagna the night before, then put it in the oven to have ready for lunch the next day.

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese Lasagna 1

I will not lie, this is most definitely a labor of love, but I honestly believe it is worth every minute (er, hour).  It’s great for a special occasion and I fully intend to make it again, once I recover from making it this first time.   Hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

Always,
Abbey

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese Lasagna 3

Smoky Roasted Root Fries

My husband sent me this photo earlier (unsure of the original source) and I giggled a little because I knew I would be posting this recipe.  Good timing.  He has that gift, most of the time :-).

Back to Our Roots
Back to Our Roots

I make these “fries” quite often.  They resemble a french fry in shape and texture, but their flavor is much more unique, and my boys really like them.  I have only tried this particular recipe with carrots and their cousin, parsnips.  I’ll experiment in the future with other root veggies, and I encourage you to do the same!  The parsnips, once roasted, have a sweet flavor that works very well with the smokey spices.  You could change it up a bit and use all parsnips or all carrots, and play around with the spices to see what you like the best.

Smokey Roasted Root Fries

Smoky Roasted Root Fries
serves 4

ingredients
4 medium-sized organic carrots, peeled
4 medium-sized organic parsnips, peeled
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste

directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut carrots and parsnips into “fries” that are approximately 2-1/2″ long and 1/4″ thick.  Toss veggies in coconut oil, making sure they are evenly coated.  Toss again with paprika, cumin, and garlic powder.  Spread veggies onto a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast them in the oven for 20 minutes, then stir.  Continue roasting for another 15 minutes, until they are nice and browned.  Remove from oven and toss with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

We like to serve them with a side of my husband’s Most Excellent Guacamole, or homemade mayo.  Throughout dinner, we heard, “Can I have your fries?” from my 9-year old.  Needless to say, we had no leftovers.

Always,
Abbey