Thursday, January 31, 2013

0 Recipe #341: Spicy Chicken Wings

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This hot and spicy Cajun dish can be served as an appetizer (with your favorite dipping sauce) or as a meal. I created this recipe expressly for the upcoming book, Paleo Fitness. OK, got to get ready to leave for kung fu class very soon, so I'm just going to cut to the chase and quickly post the recipe. :) Enjoy!

Spicy Chicken Wings

1 lb. chicken wings (about 6 wings), cleaned, defatted, rinsed, and drained
3 Tbsp. walnut oil (if non-Paleo, you can use extra virgin olive oil instead)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt (omit if Paleo)

Directions: Place prepped chicken wings onto a large plate and pat dry with paper towels. Diagonally slash wings with a sharp knife. Then transfer to a large resealable plastic bag, add all remaining ingredients, seal, and gently shake bag to combine. Massage chicken from outside of bag to evenly distribute spices and rub them into chicken, including the slashes and crevices. Refrigerate overnight.

To make on the grill: Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Place wings onto the grill, close the grill top, and grill wings for about 20 minutes total, or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork, turning them over once after the first 10 minutes to cook on both sides. Serve immediately.

To make in the oven: Bake wings in a 350°F preheated oven for 20 minutes total, or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork, turning them over once after the first 10 minutes to cook on both sides.

Serve hot with your favorite accompaniments and enjoy!

Yield: 6 wings, or 2 servings.

0 Recipe #340: Niña Colada Punch

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This recipe might look familiar to you. That might be because there are already two other niña colada incarnations on this blog -- one's a smoothie and the other one's a (non-alcoholic) cocktail. So what makes this one different? Well, for starters, it's a punch recipe, (which, of course, is just perfect for parties!), and it's also vegan. In fact, this recipe appears in our recently published book, The Vegan Athlete. :)

Niña Colada Punch

2 c. unsweetened pineapple juice (not from concentrate)
1 c. unsweetened pineapple juice (not from concentrate), frozen into ice cubes
3 (13.5 fl oz.) cans light unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 c. club soda
2 scoops coconut (or vanilla) (soy) ice cream or other nondairy ice cream

Directions: Add all ingredients except the ice cream into a blender in batches, and pulse until well-blended and smooth. Add ice cream and serve immediately.

Yield: About 1 gal., or 16 (1 c.) servings.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

0 Paleo Recipes Galore!

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I just prepped some Spicy Chicken Wings for tomorrow's Paleo Fitness photo shoot. They're currently marinating in the refrigerator as I write this. :) If things go according to plan, tomorrow I'll also be shooting two other recipes for this book -- Paleo Virgin Mary and Swoon-Worthy Sweet Potatoes-- as well.

Over the next several days, you'll probably see several more Paleo recipes. Then, from there, I'll move onto recipes that'll appear in The Athlete's Cookbook, by Brett Stewart and myself, which will address cooking, eating, and exercising for three different goals -- body fat loss, endurance, and strength. By addressing both the food and exercise components, our book will provide you with a step-by-step plan to help people achieve total body health and fitness: athletes will build muscle, lose fat, and perform at a higher level. It's part cookbook, part sports nutrition guide, and part training program.

0 Recipe #339: Quick & Easy Chicken Noodle Vegetable Soup

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Alright, here's yet another soup recipe I've been meaning to post for a while but haven't gotten around to doing so, that is, until now. Since I'd better get back to my bookwriting pronto, this paltry little bit of exposition preceding the recipe will have to do for now. :) Anyhow, when it comes right down to it, most people just want to cut to the chase and get the recipe. As one of my cousins said not too long ago with regard to the previous recipe, "Ahhh, give me the goods!" :)

Quick & Easy Chicken Noodle Vegetable Soup

4 c. water
3 c. organic low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 small yellow onion, roughly 3" in diameter, unpeeled
2 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1/2 c. carrots, peeled and sliced crosswise into quarter inch rounds (About one medium-sized carrot)
1/2 c. parsnips, peeled and sliced crosswise into quarter inch rounds (About one medium-sized parsnip)
1/2 c. celery, sliced crosswise into crescents (about one large celery stalk)
8 whole black peppercorns
1/2 c. fresh dill, finely minced and then densely packed
1/4 cup curly-leaf or Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced and then densely packed
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 c. water (for boiling noodles)
1/2 c. fine (uncooked) egg noodles

Directions: Bring a large pot of water and chicken stock to a rolling boil. Cover pot to boil faster. While you're waiting for the liquids to boil, chop up all of your vegetables and fresh herbs. When water reaches a rolling boil, add all vegetables and the black peppercorns to the pot. Boil for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. With about 5 minutes to go add fresh dill and parsley, then season with salt. When soup is done cooking, scoop out onion half, garlic cloves, and black peppercorns using a slotted spoon &/or sieve. Meanwhile, in another pot, bring 4 cups of water to rolling boil. When water is boiling, add noodles and boil until al dente (for about 7-8 minutes or according to package instructions). Drain noodles into a sieve and rinse them under cold running water. Set aside and allow to cool. Add noodles to soup just before serving. Then ladle soup into bowls and serve hot.

Yield: Makes about 64 oz. soup, or 4 servings. (The standard serving of soup is 2 c.)

Chef's Notes: To make it easier to remove the smaller whole spices (i.e., black peppercorns and garlic cloves) from the soup, you can place them into a large mesh spice ball instead of adding them as loose ingredients.

0 Mushroom Barley Soup

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And now, as promised on Facebook (and elsewhere) weeks ago (or was it months? I forget by now), I give you the long-awaited recipe for my mushroom barley soup. (Yes, FINALLY!) So drum roll, please. Lol. Meant to post this recipe back in early December. Several people had asked for the recipe after I posted the photo on Facebook and Flickr and then, in the photo caption, listed the recipe as "TBA." However, I've been so busy lately that it's been sitting in draft form unfinished for weeks now! Mostly that happened because it's not really a priority to post the recipe at present, as it's probably going to appear in my upcoming healthy gourmet cookbook, which takes a backseat to all other bookwriting projects right now. Maybe one of these light-years I'll actually finish it. ;) (JUST kidding.) So why post the recipe now when I'm clearly so busy that my head might explode at a moment's notice? ;) Well, I'm taking a brief break from recipe testing and bookwriting this morning, and since the recipe's already been finished, all that's left to do is wrap up the exposition, which hopefully won't take long.

Even so, I'm not going to change what I'd written below, because the only other way to keep the wording the same (i.e., the time-specific references at the beginning of the post are no longer current) is to backdate the post, but then of course, the recipe numbers would be out of order. So when you read what I wrote below, just imagine it's still the beginning of December. Lol.

This soup is particularly satisfying on cold winter's day. Yes, I know it's not officially winter yet, but tell that to Mother Nature. :) It's been fairly cold here over the past several weeks, with the thankful exception of the past few days, which have been unusually warm (65-70°F!). Still, it can get rather cold in the evening around this time of year, so a nice hot soup can really come in handy!

And of course, like most other recipes on this blog, this recipe is not only healthy, but is also very filling too. That's because the barley in this soup is packed with fiber. This soup is definitely a comfort food, and since it's so robust and satiating, it really makes a meal unto itself.

In so far as prep time goes, you'll probably want to make this soup on a weekend day. Reason being: This soup requires a LOT of simmering. Two hours worth, in fact. However, don't let that scare you off. You can go off and do other things while you're waiting for the soup to finish. Toss in a few loads of laundry, do some push-ups, make the other courses for your meal, or whatever. Just remember to set a timer, so you don't come back to a scalded pot. :) The simmering is worth the effort, however. That's what makes the soup so thick and rich-tasting, even though the ingredients are naturally very low in fat. In fact, don't let the rich taste fool you; this soup has actually ZERO added fat. So how exactly did I do that?! Well, I'll show you exactly how very shortly, below. :)

And now for a little background on this soup: The dish has roots in the Ashkenazi Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. In fact, you can find this soup on most Jewish deli menus. And true to form, I've kept the recipe ingredients simple and authentic.

As for nutrition and health benefits, barley has many. :) Barley is a good source of selenium, niacin (vitamin B3), phosphorus, copper, manganese, and beta glucan, which helps lower cholesterol. There's also evidence to suggest that barley protects again atherosclerosis, heart attack, high blood pressure, heart disease, gallstones, childhood asthma, colon cancer, and postmenopausal breast cancer. It also substantially lowers the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Barley helps stabilize blood sugar, the latter of which is of particular importance to diabetics. The copper in barley may also be helpful in reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Barley is also packed with antioxidants. Of particular note is its significant phosphorus content, which is critical to the development and repair of body tissue. It's essential to nervous system structures and is also a mineral component of bone and teeth. Phosphorus plays an essential role in the formation and functioning of cellular structures (particularly cell membranes) as well as a great number of important metabolic processes in the body. It's a key component of nucleic acids, the building blocks of genetic code, as well as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the transporter of chemical energy within cells for metabolism. The energy transported by ATP is used for all sorts of important cellular activities. In fact, ATP is what helps the cells generate enough energy for muscle movement. So, make sure you get enough phosphorus in your diet. Athletes should take particular notice of this little tidbit. :) Anyhow, I've already gone on longer than I really have time for right now, so onto the recipe!

Mushroom Barley Soup

7 qts. (or 28 c.) water
1/2 c. yellow split peas (dried)
1/2 c. green split peas (dried)
1 c. pearl barley
1 c. dried shiitake mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1 c. carrots, finely diced
1 c. celery, finely diced (about 2 large stalks celery)
1 1/2 c. yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 large onion)
1 1/2 c. tomatoes, diced (about 2 medium-sized tomatoes)
2 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely minced and then densely packed
1/2 c. fresh parsley, very finely minced and then densely packed (curly leaf is traditional, although you can use Italian flat-leaf instead)
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 Tbsp. salt, or to taste

Directions: Pour water into a large stock pot and bring to a rolling boil. Then add split yellow and green peas, pearl barley, and dried mushrooms,  and boil, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Stir every so often. Water will boil down considerably, so occasionally check the pot to make sure the soup hasn't boiled down too far &/or burned on the bottom. As you keep watch on the pot, add more water (a 1/2 c. at a time) as necessary. After 1 1/2 hours, add carrots, celery, and onion, and continue to boil for about 15-20 more minutes. While the soup is cooking, be sure to skim off the starchy barley "film" that will inevitably form on the surface of the soup. Then reduce heat to low, add tomatoes, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the dill and parsley, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and boil 5 more minutes. Then remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 10-15 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy.

Yield: Approximately 16 c., or 8 servings. (A serving of soup is typically 2 c.)

Chef's Notes: I skipped the usual step of soaking the mushrooms first before boiling them, since the 2-hour long simmering time will more than adequately take care of softening them. :) It's also one less step to do, so that should make people happy. :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

0 Recipe #337: No-Bake Coconut-Hazelnut Energy Bites

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These nutritious treats were created specifically with busy athletes in mind. They're healthy, portable, and extremely quick and easy to make. Eat them as pre- or post-workout snacks, or just take them with you and pop them in your mouth when you're on the go.

Although these energy bites don't contain any refined sugar or any other types of sweeteners, (artificial or otherwise), the raisins and unsweetened coconut give them a wonderful, natural sweetness all their own. So, instead of reaching for sugary or starchy processed, nutritionally deficient snack foods filled with nothing but empty calories, try this healthy and delicious snack instead. Not only are these treats a much better thing to grab than junk food, but they're also going to fill you up. So, chances are good that if you have these little snacks on hand, you're much less likely to reach for less-than-healthy options that just don't satisfy, or at least not for any length of time.

I created this recipe expressly for the upcoming book, Paleo Fitness. In addition to being Paleo, these energy bites also happen to be vegan, gluten-free, and kosher as well. Bonus. :)

As most regular readers here probably already know, I test ALL of my recipes before I post them here or put them in any books. This of course means that, at the speed I'm creating all of these recipes for various different books, there's often too much food for Erik and I to eat just by ourselves, even if I cut the recipes by half (or more) and make small portions. There's also this: If you add everything up -- not just the dishes I create for the cookbooks and blog, but also the other dishes I make for other purposes, and then add to that the general food items that've been purchased on grocery shopping trips -- our fridge can fill up pretty fast!

Of course, it's easier when I go home to visit my parents, because then there are more people to cook for and it's easier to share the wealth that way. I was raised to not waste food, so I try to only make as much as we can eat. There are, however, some situations in which I might accidentally make a little bit too much (for various reasons I won't elaborate upon here). When that happens, I'll usually invite friends over for meals and snacks or make special deliveries. :) Of course, the other viable option is to give the food to a shelter (for the homeless, abused women, etc.), which we've done in the past when there have been too many leftovers from a party or other function. Throwing out perfectly decent, healthy food just isn't an option.

In this particular instance, this recipe makes almost 30 energy bites, which is way too many for two (or probably even four!) people to eat. And, on top of that, since I ended up making some minor ingredient ratio adjustments to this recipe during its testing phase, I ended up with even more servings than originally intended. Of course, this snack keeps well when refrigerated, but at the time of the recipe testing, my fridge was already getting a bit too full, and so, for both practical and altruistic reasons, it was time to give them all away. :) So, earlier this month, right after the start of the New Year, I brought these treats into kung fu class for my classmates to try (as a recovery snack) after class. Several people went back for seconds. :-D In fact, when I was about to leave, the master of our martial arts school stopped me as I was heading out the door and said something like, "Wait, come back here, please. Those are really good," and then asked for a few more. :)

No-Bake Coconut-Hazelnut Energy Bites

1 c. almond butter
1/4 c. crushed hazelnuts
1 c. coconut flour
1 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1 c. raisins

Directions: Combine first three ingredients (almond butter, hazelnuts, and coconut flour) in a food processor and process until ingredients are completely incorporated. Then fold in raisins and half of the shredded coconut using a baking spatula until well combined. Roll dough into bite-sized balls using the palms of your hands, then dip each ball into a small bowl containing the other half of the coconut flakes and roll around in the bowl to completely coat. Transfer each ball onto a 11" x 17" wax paper covered tray as you complete them, spacing them evenly apart from each other. Place tray in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to solidify. Eat and enjoy! Refrigerate any leftovers.

Yield: Approximately 28 bonbons.

Chef's Notes: If you're making these as a snack to go, just simply wrap them in small squares of wax paper and place into an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. They also make great holiday treats as well. To give them as a gift, simply place the individually wrapped energy bites into a wax paper lined (holiday) gift tin.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

0 Recipe #336: Portobello Buffalo Burgers

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This was tonight's dinner. And yes, if you haven't already guessed, this entrée selection is yet another recipe I've created for the upcoming book, Paleo Fitness. :) Please note that the below version of this recipe is slightly different from the book, since it's almost Paleo. However, only one minor modification is required to make it Paleo, i.e., namely the omission of salt. :) And of course, that modification has been included below.

Not surprisingly, you'll probably see a few more Paleo recipes here over the next several days (i.e., Tuna & Avocado Lettuce WrapsJamaican Jerk Chicken with Grilled Green PlantainsPan-Grilled Lamp Chops with Fresh Herbs, etc.), so be on the lookout for those as well.

Buffalo/bison meat is naturally lean, and in fact, is leaner than many, if not most, cuts of beef (as well as many other types of domestic livestock). On average, buffalo meat has roughly 70-90% less fat than beef, (which of course depends upon the cut of beef in question), and 50% less cholesterol. So, not surprisingly, it also has a lighter (and less greasy!) taste to it as well. If eaten as part of one's regular diet, it's also been shown to reduce LDL (i.e., the bad kind of) cholesterol. It's also much higher in protein, iron, Omega-3's, and amino acids than beef as well. Even better, buffalo are naturally disease-resistant and grow faster than domestic animals, which means that producers will typically raise them as naturally as possible, i.e., without antibiotics and growth hormones. In fact, many of the unnatural (and very unhealthy!) techniques used to increase cattle (and other domestic livestock) production thankfully (!) do not work for bison. Bison demonstrate what most of us have already known all along to be true -- when it comes to our food supply, the less mucking around with Mother Nature, the better (for both the animals and for our own health).

If you've never had buffalo before, you'll probably be pleased to know that it doesn't taste gamey at all, nor does it have a strong flavor or aftertaste. It's really quite pleasant to eat. I would advise however, that, just as you would do with other lean cuts of meat (i.e., london broil, turkey breast, etc.), you pay close attention to cooking times, as it can dry out if it's cooked for too long.

The nice thing is that, these days, buffalo meat is relatively easy to find. It's carried in a lot of generic supermarkets, so you won't necessarily have to go trotting off to a specialty store to find it. OK, enough exposition, let's get cooking! :)

Portobello Buffalo Burgers

1 lb. grass-fed, ground buffalo meat, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground fennel powder
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt (omit if you're Paleo)
4 large portobello mushroom caps (to use as burger “bun” halves)
a small amount of olive oil, for spraying or brushing onto mushroom caps (if you're Paleo, you can use walnut or avocado oil instead if you prefer)
Toppings of choice: lettuce, tomato, red onion rings, red pepper rings, avocado slices, etc.

Directions: Preheat grill to medium-high heat. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients -- minus the toppings, oil, and portobello “buns" -- thoroughly mixing them together with a spatula until evenly distributed. Form into four 4 oz. patties and grill for 2 1/2 minutes per side, or until desired level of doneness has been reached. Brush or spray portobello "buns" all over with oil, and then simultaneously grill them next to the burgers, cooking them on both sides, until grill marks appear. Let burgers and buns cool, then place burgers onto portobello “buns” with desired toppings and serve.

Yield: 4 burgers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

0 Recipe #335: Iced Coconut Chai Smoothie (Iced Coconut Chai)

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Chai is a traditional Indian tea typically made by boiling tea leaves with milk, sugar, and spices, and is one of my favorite beverages. This recipe has been inspired by that beverage, but instead has been revamped into a Paleo-friendly version for the upcoming fitness and nutritional lifestyle book, Paleo Fitness, by Darryl Edwards, Brett Stewart, and Jason Warner, with recipes and meal plan by moi. :)
All of the essential spices in this recipe are exactly the same as you'd find in a traditional chai. However, other than that, this smoothie version completely turns that concept on its head. I substituted coconut milk for the cow's milk and left out the refined sugar and the tea. It's even creamier than regular chai, because it's made with coconut milk. And that makes it extra DE-LICIOUS! Not to mention you get the energizing, fat-burning benefits of its medium-chain triglycerides too. :)

Of course, if you like, you can add some tea to this recipe, but you'll most likely have to adjust the amounts of the other ingredients to the proper ratio to accommodate the changes. I haven't made it this way yet, but you could easily turn it into an iced tea recipe if you so chose.

Chai typically has a hint of sweetness to it, but this recipe still tastes good without refined sugar. However, if you'd like to add a touch of sweetness, I've included a modification for non-Paleo people as well. :)

Iced Coconut Chai Smoothie (Iced Coconut Chai)

1 c. coconut milk*
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
2 c. ice cubes
1 Tbsp. honey, or to taste (omit if you're Paleo)

Directions: Place all ingredients into a blender and pulse until frothy and smooth. (Drink should have the consistency of a slushie.) Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 c.

Chef's Notes:
*To reap the maximum benefits of coconut milk's medium chain triglycerides, use the full-fat version. For a list of some of those benefits, please visit this link.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

0 Orange Spice Tea

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Made this tea recipe this morning. The house was a bit cold (it's currently 14°F outside!), so it felt particularly good to warm up with a nice cup of hot orange spice tea. :)

All of the ingredients in this tea recipe have medicinal properties. For example, green tea has lots of antioxidants (and a lot less caffeine than other types of tea). Oranges have multiple health benefits: their potent antibacterial properties help fight infection in the throat and get rid of chest congestion; their high levels of potassium can help provide relief from dizziness, nausea, and fever; and their vitamin C content boosts immunity by increasing the body's white blood cell count, antibodies, and interferon, which coats cell surfaces to ward off viruses and fight infection. Cinnamon has been shown to improve the body’s glucose metabolism and lipid levels. And finally, drinking lots of hot liquids will help soothe your throat and rid your body of impurities.

This recipe will be published in the upcoming book, Paleo Fitness, by Darryl Edwards, Brett Stewart, and Jason Warner (with recipes and meal plan by moi). This book is currently available for pre-order at and Barnes and Noble. :)

Orange Spice Tea

4 c. water
2 green tea bags
2 whole Ceylon cinnamon sticks, broken into 3" inch pieces
5 whole cloves
5 whole allspice berries
10 whole green cardamom pods
1/2 tsp. fresh orange zest (the zest of about 1/4 large orange)
1/4 c. freshly squeezed orange juice (from a navel orange or other variety)

Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, about 8 minutes. Add all spices, orange zest, and orange juice, and continue to boil for another 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat, strain to remove whole spices and then pour into a tea pot or other heat proof container. (If it's easier, use heat-proof tongs first to remove the cinnamon bark before straining.) Immediately add tea bags, allow to steep for 1-2 minutes, then gently strain and remove. Pour into tea cups and serve. Tea can be served either hot or cold (i.e., as an iced tea).

Yield: 4 c.

Chef's Notes: If you’d like to make a big batch of this tea, simply quadruple the recipe, let it cool, then transfer to a tall pitcher with a lid, and store in the refrigerator. This way, you can just heat it up whenever you’re in the mood for a hot cup of tea. Or, if you'd prefer it cold, just add ice cubes to the pitcher and serve. Be sure to make the ice cubes from the tea mixture itself, you won't dilute the flavor of the tea. A pretty nifty trick, eh?!

Some Important Do's and Don'ts: Use a fresh orange when making the orange zest. The commercially sold dried orange peel is bitter, and won't taste very good in tea. So, be sure to use the fresh stuff!

Also, use whole green cardamom pods (i.e., cardamom in its natural, unprocessed form) and NOT the bleached ones that are sold in generic grocery stores. In the latter case, not only has their color been bleached out, but so has their flavor and nutrients! Natural green cardamom pods smell wonderfully vibrant and heady. And, when you boil the pods, along with the other whole spices, they will make your whole kitchen smell absolutely divine! Green cardamom pods can be ordered online or found in a local ethnic (i.e., Indian, Asian, etc.) market.

Monday, January 21, 2013

0 Recipe #333: Spaghetti Squash & Spicy Meatballs

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This was last night's dinner. I'm very happy with the way this recipe turned out. The meatballs and tomato sauce turned out REALLY well. Very flavorful, with just the right amount of heat. Now THAT'S a spicy meat-a-ball! :)

Erik really liked the meatballs and the sauce too, which is always a good sign. :) He's not just a primary taste-tester; he's also got a great eye, and often helps me pick out the recipe photos that make the cut for The Athlete's Cookbook book series. (He's a photographer in his own right.)

This recipe, in its Paleo version, will be published in the upcoming book, Paleo Fitness, by Darryl Edwards, Brett Stewart, and Jason Warner (with recipes and meal plan by moi). This book is currently available for pre-order at and Barnes and Noble. :)

Spaghetti Squash & Spicy Meatballs

3 lbs. spaghetti squash, halved crosswise with a sharp chef's knife (about 1 medium-sized squash)

1/2 lb. lean ground turkey
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/4 c. fresh spinach, finely minced and densely packed
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt (leave out if you're Paleo)
1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced and densely packed
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

Tomato Sauce: (Makes 32 oz. sauce)
1 c. yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 4 large cloves)
4 c. vine-ripened tomatoes, diced (about 3 large tomatoes)
2 c. water (or more if necessary) (only use 1 c. if you're doing the Paleo version of this recipe)
1/4 c. tomato paste (leave out if you're strict Paleo)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt (leave out if you're Paleo)
1/4 c. fresh basil, plus more for garnish, minced and densely packed
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, roughly chopped and densely packed
1 Tbsp. fresh marjoram, finely minced and densely packed
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced and densely packed

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Next, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and then carefully place halved squash into the pot, using a sturdy pair of tongs, and boil for 20-25 minutes, or until tender. Let the squash cool for at least 10 minutes before handling. Then, using a large spoon, scoop out the pulp and seeds and discard.* Separate the spaghetti squash strands with a fork, scraping with the grain of the noodles (crosswise). Use the same spoon you just used to scrape out all of the strands to remove the spaghetti squash strands en masse. Once you've loosened some of the strands, it'll be easier to insert your spoon closer to the rind and excavate the remainder. :) If you've cooked the squash for long enough, this should be relatively easy to do. Divide up the squash into four portions and place into bowls (or onto plates).

Meanwhile, place all of the meatball ingredients into a large bowl and thoroughly mix together using a spatula or fork. Using a cookie dough scoop (or small ice cream scoop), form bite-sized meatballs and place as many as will fit into a large heat-proof skillet, cooking them in multiple batches just long enough for the meatballs to cook through. (No extra oil is needed as rendered fat from meat will provide adequate liquid fat to brown meatballs and keep them from burning. If needed, you can always add a bit of water during cooking.) Place meatballs into oven and bake them for 15 minutes total, or until golden brown. Then transfer skillet from the oven to the stovetop, and sear them on high heat for an additional 5 minutes, browning the meatballs on all sides. Remove from heat, drain fat, and let cool for several minutes. Using a slotted spoon, divide meatballs into equal portions and place on top of each plate/bowl of squash. Set aside.

Next, make tomato sauce: In a medium-sized pot, add onions, garlic, vine-ripened tomatoes, and water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (or only 10 minutes if you're making the Paleo version with half the water), stirring frequently. (If mixture cooks down too quickly, reduce heat a bit and/or add more water as necessary.) Add tomato paste, season with salt and pepper, and then stir to break up paste and fully incorporate. (Leave out salt and tomato paste if you're Paleo.) Add all of the fresh herbs (basil, oregano, marjoram, and parsley) and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and then pour over meatballs and squash. Garnish with additional basil, if desired. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings.

Chef's Notes: *Preparing the spaghetti squash: When slicing the squash, be sure to use a sharp chef's knife. It can make all the difference. In my experience, it's also easier to slice the squash first, then cook it, and then remove the pulp and seeds. The squash will be softer after cooking and thus easier to scoop this way.

I know that many recipes call for spaghetti squash to be sliced lengthwise, but frankly, when you slice them crosswise, the halves fit into the pot a lot better. Plus, it's easier to scoop out the pulp, seeds, and spaghetti squash "noodles" that way.

Substitutions: Zucchini "noodles" would also make a good option for those who don't want to bother with all the scraping. :)

Alternate Preparations: If you like a smoother tomato sauce, you can always purée it in the blender first before pouring it over the meatballs. If you do this, be sure to let the sauce cool first before adding it to the blender. This way, you'll avoid getting attacked by hot splurts of sauce. ;)

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