Albondigas!

You know how on December 26th or so you start thinking that you never want to eat food or drink alcohol again, like ever?

I exercised a little more control than usual this year. It helped a lot that much of my family has adopted a paleo-ish style of eating. For example, for my sister’s college graduation dinner, which we also celebrated over the holidays, we had: lamb shanks braised in beef broth with fennel, carrots, and onions; julienned radishes cooked in butter; parsnip mash topped with the reduced braising juices and veggies; and kale with bacon, blackberry ginger balsamic vinegar, and pecans.

It was a delicious and special meal that still felt good to eat. But then we followed it with tiramisu and White Russians and, well, you get the idea.

On top of the holiday indulgences, I started getting infusions of a new treatment this week. I read that I should expect to feel very tired for a couple of days. I feel pretty good so far, but I already stocked the fridge with food for meals that Chris could prepare in case I couldn’t. First up was one of our all-time favorite meals, a super-flavorful, veggie-packed albondigas (meatball) soup.

This soup is very adaptable to different dietary restrictions. For example, if nightshades are a problem for you, simply omit the tomatoes. You can also substitute plain ground meat for the chorizo, if chorizo is too spicy or if you can’t find one with acceptable ingredients, or switch out the summer squash for a winter squash or sweet potatoes. We’ve made this soup dozens of times–usually without a recipe and with whatever we have on hand. But the recipe I’m sharing here is our fave.

Chris did the cooking, but I prepped for him. I got out all the pantry ingredients…

ingredients

And chopped up all the veggies. In the back left, I have the sliced squash. In the ugly orange bowl, I prepared all the veggies that will go into the meatballs. In the front left, you can see the mirepoix that will be cooked first. And in the last bowl, cilantro. You can do this ahead of time, too, to make dinner a breeze.

prepped

Here is the final product. Buen provecho!

yum

closeup

Albondigas Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground meat (I used white meat turkey, but any ground meat will do)
  • 1 pound bulk chorizo (beef or pork is fine; just read the list of ingredients to make sure it is legal)
  • 26-28 ounces strained tomatoes (I use the Pomi cartons because they are BPA-free)
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and divided
  • 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 summer squash, halved and sliced
  • 8 cups chicken or turkey broth (homemade is best, but this is a great substitute)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped and divided
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 limes
  • Coconut oil
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot sauce, optional

Albondigas Method

  • Thinly slice 2 and 1/2 of the carrots and 2/3 of the onion. Set the rest of the carrot and onion aside for the meatballs.
  • Heat 1 spoonful coconut oil over medium-high heat in a heavy stockpot. Add carrots, celery, and onion and saute for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Add broth and tomatoes to stockpot and bring to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, make meatballs. Grate the leftover carrot and onion and combine in a bowl with half the finely chopped cilantro. Mix the vegetables with the ground meat and chorizo. Season lightly with salt and pepper (go very easy if you are using chorizo, since it is already seasoned). Roll into small meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter.
  • When the broth boils, carefully drop in the meatballs and gently stir so they don’t stick together.
  • Turn down the heat so it’s just barely boiling. Then let simmer for 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked.
  • Add sliced squash to the soup and cook about 8 more minutes, until the squash are soft. Taste and adjust seasoning of broth.
  • Serve in bowls topped with lime juice, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and hot sauce to taste.
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Lentejas, por favor!

I studied in Spain for a semester when I was a youngling, and while there I lived with a wonderful Spanish couple named Trini and Pepe. Trini would often come into the room I shared with my American roommate and ask us, “Que quereis comer??” There was only one thing Trini made that we didn’t want to eat–cold hard boiled eggs stuffed with tuna and dropped in marinara sauce–but otherwise we loved all her food, so this was always a hard question.

Trini, Pepe, their son, and all of my many Dutch and American hostsiblings, gathered around the table after another spectacular Spanish meal.scan0079

Trini made flawless paella with squid and gambas the size of your hand, on Tuesday afternoons, as if it was no big deal. She would serve huge platters of golden, whole fried anchovies with lemon as an appetizer. Pepe owned a bakery and would make us homemade flan, serving only the perfect ones that slid onto the plate without cracking, and cakes made with chocolate and butter and nuts and three kinds of alcohol.

Trini and Pepe’s talents were not limited to the kitchen.scan0073

In other words, it was a food paradise, but one of the most-requested dishes in the house was also one of the humblest: lentejas con chorizo. A bowl of lentil soup with a chunk of Pepe’s crusty white bread just always seemed to hit the spot.

So, when I found out that lentils (as long as they are properly soaked overnight) are SCD-legal, I immediately thought about Trini’s lentejas. This version is not super authentic, since I can never seem to find real Spanish chorizo and since I substitute carrots for potatoes and American bacon for a Spanish cured ham, but it’s satisfying, nutritious, easy to make, and reminiscent of Andalucia all the same.

This is all you will need, plus some spices (and the lentils of course!). p1000684

Saute your bacon with peppers and onions. Remove bacon when it’s done and set aside. p1000686

Add in other veggies and sausage and cook until all the veggies are soft.p1000688

Now add in the chicken stock and lentils, bring to a boil and reduce down to a simmer.p1000689

Cook until lentils are soft. Taste and adjust seasoning, and serve!p1000691

Sopa de Lentejas Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1 cup dried brown lentils, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2-3 pieces bacon
  • 3 links smoked sausage, sliced (check ingredients to see if it is SCD legal; I used a smoked chicken apple sausage)
  • 3 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • The night before you want to make this, place lentils in a stockpot with enough water to generously cover them. Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat off, cover, and leave to soak overnight. When you are ready to cook them, strain them, discard the soaking water, and rinse with fresh water.
  • Cook bacon in large stockpot until starting to brown. Add in olive oil, bell peppers, and onions and cook over medium heat until soft.
  • Remove bacon and set aside. Add in tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and sausage, and cook about 5 more minutes, until vegetables are mostly soft and tomatoes have started breaking down. Chop up bacon and add back into the pot.
  • Add in the soaked, drained, and rinsed lentils and enough chicken stock to cover them by 1-2 inches. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer about 45 minutes, until lentils are very soft and much of the liquid has reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning.

One Dish Italian Baked Eggs

Chris and I are in the middle of having pretty much our whole house painted and recarpeted. We are very excited to finally be able to make this happen, because our house (which had previously been through 2 foreclosures) needed some serious TLC.

This means that we have been banished from most of the house, though. While we can get into the kitchen, there are little piles of things sitting everywhere. There are pictures from the entryway walls on the island, painters’ toolboxes on the breakfast table chairs, and couches cuddling the dining room table. Since we’ve had to have the doors and windows open to air out paint fumes, our kitchen has also become a fly’s paradise. As you can imagine, this has put a serious damper on our culinary adventures. Still, a girl’s gotta eat!

It would be so easy to pick up sandwiches or pho (and, who am I kidding, it might still reach that point before this is all over), but so far we have successfully been holding on to our diet by scaling back to bare basics. This is one of the dishes that has been getting us through this week. It is super easy to make and clean up, and Chris was a little upset that there wasn’t enough for seconds, which means it is tasty. This is also one of the few ways I can tolerate cooked spinach, which I typically hate, but my GI doc really stressed the importance of cooked leafy greens now that salads are (hopefully temporarily) out of my life. Everyone knows spinach is healthy, but it has special benefits for IBD patients because it is high in iron and folate–both of which are common deficiencies with IBD–and it also is a good source of calcium, which is important because many people with IBD cannot digest dairy. Spinach also contains glycoglycerolipids, which are protective against the damage from inflammation in the digestive tract and cancer.

So, ok, fine, I’ll eat spinach as long as it is mixed in with lots of mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and sausage. This is easy and quick enough to make for a super healthy weekend breakfast, but it’s hearty enough to be good for dinner as well.

Good ratio of yummy veggies to yucky spinach.p1000564

Chicken sausage, onions, and garlic cooking over high heat.p1000565

Then add in your mushrooms and tomatoes.p1000567

Then your spinach. p1000569

Make wells and crack eggs into the pan. Pop in the oven.p1000570

Voila. Our egg yolks are cooked pretty solid because we take leftovers for lunch (and half-cooked eggs don’t keep so well) but feel free to cook a little less time if your like your yolks runny.p1000571

Mmm mmm mmm. I can even forgive the spinach!p1000573

One Dish Italian Baked Eggs Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 3-4 tomatoes, cut into large dice
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 ounces whole mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 links chicken or pork sausage (with only SCD legal ingredients; or, substitute 1/2 pound plain ground meat of your choice and add in extra basil, oregano, fennel, salt, and pepper)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or equivalent of basil, oregano, and fennel)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chives or other fresh herbs (optional)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Melt butter in oven-safe pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken sausage and stir for about one minute.
  • Add onion and garlic and saute for 2-3 more minutes.
  • Add in mushrooms and tomatoes. Continue sauteing until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are very soft and have released most of their liquid.
  • Add Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir. Taste and adjust seasoning. It is ok if it tastes just slightly overseasoned right now because you still have to add in the spinach and eggs.
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in baby spinach to wilt. Make a well in the pan for each egg and gently crack into the pan.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or until egg yolks are done to your liking. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve!

Chicken Enchiladas in Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

I am originally from Texas, so I have enchilada sauce running through my veins. Enchiladas are one of my all-time favorite foods, and the food I use to judge every Mexican restaurant. It would seem like a diet that eliminates all grains, most dairy, and canned foods would pose a real challenge to an enchilada-lover such as myself, but really it means I have to get creative.

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, I present one variation of enchiladas that we have made and enjoyed, but there are so many possibilities. The tomatillo sauce featured here is sweet, tangy, and fresh, and I can imagine these being especially yummy paired with shrimp instead of chicken. I’d also like to work on perfecting a homemade red enchilada sauce soon. But, green enchiladas are and always have been my favorite, so I started here. These may not bear much resemblance to the cheese-sauce gooey, gravy-topped Tex-Mex enchiladas of my youth (thankfully) but I feel really good eating these enchiladas knowing they are filled with healthy vegetables and super lean protein. Like, I can eat these and not need a Mexican-food nap to recover afterwards. And Chris says he can’t even tell we’re not using “real” tortillas.

Making every part of an enchilada from scratch is a time-consuming process, so I recommend either making this on a weekend when you have plenty of time or making it in stages. If you use leftover chicken and make the tomatillo sauce and/or tortillas ahead of time it would be a snap to pull together on a weeknight. And, the good news is, it makes a lot so depending on the number of mouths you are feeding you can have leftovers for several meals (and they taste even better as leftovers!).

These veggies will be the basis of your enchilada sauce. Don’t be afraid of the tomatillos. They look hard but the husk just peels right off. Don’t worry if your tomatillos leave your hands sticky–it’s totally normal.P1000546

Roughly chop everything and throw them on a baking sheet. No need to be precise here.P1000547

Throw everything together in the food processor.P1000548

Yummmmy homemade enchilada sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Once it’s cooled a little, add yogurt if you want to. Don’t let anyone near this with tortilla chips…it will be all gone by the time you are ready to assemble the enchiladas!P1000549

Now start on your chickens if you aren’t using leftovers. Nothing fancy, just salt and some seasonings of your choice.P1000550

This is how my grain-free tortillas look. Against all Grain does a great job documenting the whole process, so I will spare you additional pictures. You can see they are not all the same size or shape, but they will work just fine for enchiladas. If your tortillas don’t look perfect, don’t sweat it!P1000551

Saute your remaining onion and garlic and add in your shredded chicken.P1000553

Set up an assembly line with tortillas, shredded cheese, chicken, sauce, and prepared casserole dish. If you have an extra set of willing hands around the house this is a good time to recruit them.P1000554

Fill each tortilla with a little chicken, a little sauce, and a little cheese.P1000555

Tuck your enchiladas into your casserole dish.P1000556

Smother with remaining sauce and cheese. Pop uncovered dish in the oven.P1000557

All done!P1000558

This meal deserves TWO pictures!P1000560

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Ingredients (Serves 6 generously)

  • 1.25 pounds tomatillos, husked and cut in half
  • 1 large onion, peeled and very roughly chopped
  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper (or use 1-2 jalapenos instead if you like more heat)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, stalks trimmed off
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup plain strained yogurt (optional)

Against all Grain’s Grain-Free Tortilla Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups egg whites
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • butter or other cooking oil

Enchilada Filling Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breast (about 1 1/2 large breasts; or, use leftover chicken for a quicker preparation)
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • sea salt
  • Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming spice blend (or substitute chipotle powder, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, and any other pepper you like to be completely SCD legal)
  • 1/2 pound cheese, shredded (I used a lactose-free raw white cheddar, but a Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack blend would be nice)

Method

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place tomatillos, onion, bell pepper, and garlic on a parchment paper or silicone baking mat-lined cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes.
  • Add all roasted veggies to a food processor, along with lime, cilantro, and spices, and blend until almost smooth or to desired consistency. Add yogurt once the mixture has cooled a bit, if you like your enchilada sauce a little creamier.

Chicken Breasts

  • Coat both sides of chicken breast(s) with spices and sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165 degrees.
  • Shred chicken (I use the dough blade attachment on my food processor to make quick work of this!).
  • Turn oven down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Add a bit of butter or cooking oil to your fry pan and cook remaining garlic and onion until soft. Toss with shredded chicken.

Grain-Free Tortillas

  • Prepare your grain-free tortillas. Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Beat until smooth. Let rest for 10 minutes, and beat again.
  • Heat up a small pat of butter or other cooking oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan (I use a Bialetti ceramic non-stick frying pan and it’s amazing!).
  • Add 1/4 cup of batter at a time. I find it works best to add a pat of butter to my pan and swirl it around. Then I hold the pan off the heat at an angle and add the batter at the top so that it runs down the pan–the thinner the better. If holes form you can always fill them in with a bit more batter. Set the pan down on the heat to finish cooking (about 1 minute, until the surface looks dull and bubbles form), then gently flip and let cook for another 30 seconds or so. This can take a little practice, but if some don’t turn out beautifully, don’t worry; after all, they are going to be smothered in cheese and enchilada sauce in a minute, so nobody will even know! Stack on a plate until ready to stuff.

Filling and Assembly

  • Assemble your enchiladas! Spoon a bit of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a glass casserole dish and spread thinly. Then, take each tortilla and add shredded chicken, a pinch of cheese, and a smear of enchilada sauce. You want the tortillas full but not so full that you can’t roll them all the way closed, so the exact amount of filling will depend on the size of your tortillas. Tuck the enchiladas into the casserole dish and repeat until all your tortillas are stuffed.
  • Spread remaining enchilada sauce on top of enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling. I served mine with crookneck squash and grey Mexican squash sauteed quickly in butter. Serve with extra plain yogurt in place of sour cream, hot sauce, and slivers of avocado, if desired.

 

Whole Roasted Chicken with Braised Vegetables and Bone Broth

Recently I have gotten into the habit of roasting a whole chicken and making homemade bone broth every week. This process requires a bit of up-front work, but then it makes meal preparations so easy for the rest of the week. One chicken easily feeds my husband and me for 4 meals, and I use the bone broth in the place of water in pretty much every savory recipe I make. Bone broth also makes a really good snack or very light meal, especially during a flare. It is very easy to digest and is full of nutrients that fight inflammation, reduce joint pain, boost immunity, keep bones strong, and strengthen hair and nails. This article among many others provides some good information on the health benefits of bone broth. Interestingly enough, I have found that both traditional and alternative sources strongly recommend broth consumption to IBD sufferers.

I feel like roasting a chicken should be a fairly simple operation, but we are so far removed from the natural state of our food that I feel like most people my age seem scared to buy and prepare a whole bird. I am going to walk you through the process step-by-step, and I promise that you can do it and even your grandma will be impressed with the result!

We normally eat the chicken and vegetables plain for a few meals, and then I use leftovers in recipes throughout the week. This week we used leftovers to make PaleOMG’s AH-MAY-ZING chicken pesto pasta. Since the chicken was already cooked, it was a total snap to throw this delicious dinner together!

Begin with roasting your bird and braising some veggies. Here are the veggies we are going to be using today:Image

 

Leeks have a tendency to collect a lot of dirt as they grow. To clean them, cut off the dark green leaves and the white end. Slice into the vegetable about halfway up the stalk and separate the layers so you can wash between them.Image

Chop off the tops and ends of carrots; then peel and chop in half. Throw the waste from the leeks and carrots into your crockpot for later.Image

Arrange the cut, prepared vegetables and one third of your fresh herbs in the bottom of a casserole dish and add white wine. Drizzle olive oil on top of the veggies and sprinkle a little sea salt and black pepper on them.Image

Prepare your spice rub by processing one third of fresh herbs and all dried spices and herbs in a food processor. Then combine with 3 tablespoons olive oil.Image

Now it’s time to give your chicken a spa treatment. Reach inside and pull out the gizzards. Set aside. Rinse your chicken inside and out with water and then set in your prepared roasting pan. Massage it inside and out with the oil/spice mixture.Image

Stuff the remaining aromatics inside the chicken.P1000463

Go ahead and put the chicken in the oven.Image

Once your chicken is done cooking, carve. If you’re not sure how to carve a whole chicken, this video is pretty helpful.

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Serve with braised veggies.P1000472

Finally we get to the part where you make chicken bone broth! Throw all the bones from the carved  chicken into your slow cooker, along with your veggie trimmings. Also….let’s deal with the gizzards now. I like to add the neck and heart to my broth, but not the liver (some people are quite averse to the taste of liver in broth). The first picture is the neck and heart, which I throw in.P1000464

Did I mention that I used to be a vegetarian?!?  The next picture is the liver, which I throw out. P1000466

Add celery and any other aromatics you want, along with the apple cider vinegar and gizzards. Fill the slow cooker with filtered water up to the fill line. P1000471

Cook on high for 2 hours, then on low for at least 6 hours, or up to 22 hours.  Then strain through a colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth into a large bowl. P1000479And there you have it. Beautiful, golden, nutritious bone broth! If you have any solid fat on the surface once it cools, scoop it off with a spoon and discard or use in the place of cooking oil.P1000481

Roasted Chicken Ingredients (serves 4-5, with leftover meat)

  • 1 whole chicken (organic and pastured is ideal)
  • 7-10 carrots, peeled and cut in half
  • 4-5 small leeks, cleaned with green leaves and bottoms removed
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • several sprigs fresh herbs, divided three ways (tarragon, marjoram, rosemary, and sage are all good choices)
  • 1/4 cup very dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de provence
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Method

  • Preheat oven to 330 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pour white wine into large glass casserole dish. Arrange carrots, leeks, and 1/3 of the fresh herbs in the dish, with the leeks and carrots to the side and the herbs in the middle. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Remove gizzards from chicken and set aside. Rinse chicken inside and out and place in middle of casserole dish.
  • Combine all dry herbs and spices and another third of the fresh herbs in a food processor. Process until they are a fine powder. Mix with remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil (the consistency should be like a thin paste).
  • Rub the chicken inside and out with spice mixture. Stuff the remaining fresh herbs, lemon, and garlic inside the chicken. If desired, tie legs together with kitchen twine (I never do, but it makes for a pretty presentation).
  • Bake for 3 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Rotate veggies and baste chicken with juices about once every hour. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Chicken Bone Broth Ingredients

  • Raw chicken heart and neck (optional)
  • Bones with a bit of meat still on them from roasted chicken (smaller ones snapped, if possible. Yes, I am a monster.)
  • Vegetables (for this batch I used trimmings from 7 carrots, plus 2 more carrots cut in half, trimmings from 4 small leeks, and 3 celery stalks cut in half; at a minimum you should use leeks/onions, carrots, and celery, although other vegetables can be added and the ratios adjusted to taste)
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cold filtered water (enough to fill slow cooker to fill line)

Method

  • Add all ingredients except for parsley, salt, and pepper to slow cooker.
  • Cook on high for 2 hours.
  • Cook on low for 6-22 hours.
  • Turn off heat and add parsley; allow to sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Strain through cheesecloth and colander.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to five days, or in the freezer for several months.