mexican meatloaf

mexican meatloaf

Meatloaf never makes for a pretty picture, no matter how many pressed linens or bone china plates you add to the mix. It’s sloppy, messy, brown and red (tough colors to photograph), but it’s the kind of mess I like. It’s the juices-running-off-your-chin messy. It’s the I-got-chorizo-all-over-my-shirt (this actually happened) messy. Meatloaf is the kind of food you eat standing up, fork digging into the loaf pan, mixing moistened meat with scalding sauce. It’s the kind of food that will stink up your refrigerator, but who cares? No one should judge you for the contents of your fridge.

Most of the week I’m crazy busy, but I reserve Saturdays for “me” time. Now this isn’t the sort of time I use to get perfunctory work or errands done because I consider that work, rather it’s a day when I read long books, watch good movies, bake meat in loaf pans and take copious pictures of my cat pressing his vanilla paws into his face. However, lately, I’ve also been using it as a means to learn something new each week. This week a friend (and colleague) taught me how to use Snapchat, a non-intuitive platform that I abhorred using for a while. An old friend from New York and I chatted via Skype yesterday while she taught me sophisticated ad targeting techniques. Another friend taught me how to take better pictures (I’m still learning). And yet another friend reminded me about being patient, how to play the long game when it comes to my life and career. Not all of us have the means or privilege to “hunt down our passion” or “quit our day job”, but there exists nobility in finding purpose in the work that you do and then making time for the things you love to do that don’t necessary yield profit.

During my recent financial crisis, where I was living off my credit card and frightened of eviction, some of my friends suggested I monetize this space. I have a fair amount of traffic and readers and I could make some decent change by adding affiliate links to the books I suggest since I tend to read a lot of them. I thought about this, albeit briefly, and shook my head no, not because I was taking a moral high ground, but rather it would make this space work. Making everything about work takes the joy out of the pursuit. Or to put it bluntly, Lenny Kravitz learned from Prince that”[e]verything isn’t for business. It’s for the sake of doing it. It’s about the art, the moment, the memory and the experience.” While I’m not suggesting I create art on the level of Prince on this space, I do get a great deal of joy coming here without the burden of being beholden to people or feeling frightened that I’m not making as much money as I should. I don’t come here with the intention of creating posts that will generate more traffic (I mean, come on, I write 1,000-word posts that have nothing to do with meatloaf). I come here because sharing the food I make, the books I read, the experiences I endured make me happy in a way that’s difficult to describe.

Yesterday, I focused on learning and taking care of myself. I made meatloaf, and while you’d hesitate in wanting to take its picture, this is the kind of meal you want to be eating.

I have a hectic few weeks ahead of me, and I keep saying to myself: take care, take care, take care.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook, modified slightly
1 pound ground beef, make sure this has 80% fat or your meat will dry out
1 pound chorizo
1 red bell pepper, dice
1 shallot, minced
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 tablespoon garlic powder
1⁄2 tablespoon onion powder
1⁄2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup blanched almond flour
1 large egg
1⁄4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
2 cups salsa of choice, divided
DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. The original recipe doesn’t make the following notation, but trust me, it will save you agony later on. Layer the pan with a sheet of parchment paper that hangs a few inches off the sides. This will help when you want to remove your boiling hot loaf from the pan without an epic collapse.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the salsa. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared loaf pan. Pour 1 cup of the salsa on top of the meatloaf. Bake for 1 hour to 1hr 15 minutes until the meat is completely cooked through in the middle. Remove the meatloaf from the oven, top with the remaining 1 cup of salsa, and garnish with extra cilantro.

making mexican meatloaf

mexican meatloaf

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meat lover’s pesto arugula pizza (gluten-free)

meat lover's pesto arugula pizza

For those of you who haven’t followed my lamentations on twitter, the burning raised hives have made their comeback. Last Monday morning, at around 3am, I woke to my body covered in hives. Thankfully, I still had leftover steroid cream or I wouldn’t have made it until morning. Imagine how thrilled I was that my doctor’s office opened at 7am.

We’re not going to talk about where the cortisone shot went but let’s say we did.

Admittedly, because of stress and depression I haven’t made the wisest food choices. Although I’m good about keeping my gluten in check (I honestly don’t miss it anymore) and I no longer crave sweets (my palate changed the year I went gluten + dairy free so now I crave salt), I can’t resist cheese. Cheese, glorious CHEESE. Melted mozzarella on my chicken, charred halloumi on my salad–you name the dish and I’ll find a way to throw cheese on it.

There I was slowly regaining half the weight I’d spent a year losing, and my skin suffered from my dairy fixation (read: addiction). And then the hives–a cruel reminder that mindful eating is a life-long commitment. While the burning itch has abated, fat spots cover most of my legs and I know they won’t be gone for another couple of weeks.

Back to basics.

Now that my life is back in some semblance of order, I can resume making healthy meals and focusing on a plant-based diet. After hitting the farmer’s market this morning, I popped into B&N to find a new cookbook and I LOVED Juli Bauer’s The Paleo Kitchen (so many good recipes!) that I was thrilled to snap up Paleo Cookbook. These are recipes you’re going to want to make, and I had most of the ingredients for this pizza.

Let’s talk about this crust. I’ve tried dozens of crust recipes–cauliflower, grain-free, gluten-free, and all of them were HORRIBLE. Granted, a cauliflower crust does have its place, but when I want something chewy and bread-like, I want something that will resemble the real thing. And while nothing compares to the elastic dough that only gluten AP flour can yield, this crust was pretty stellar. You won’t get much of the charred crunch here, but the flavor profile is unique (I actually didn’t mind the hint of coconut juxtaposed with the salty sausage) and I helped myself to TWO slices (hence the cut-out in the photo above).

As projects come in (cross fingers), I’ll be able to share more recipes on this space. For now, make this pizza and make it your own. I had these ingredients on hand but you can make the pesto as a base and throw onions, peppers and ton of veg on top. Or, if you’re a cruel human and have the ability to consume cheese, I would crumble goat and smoked mozzarella all over this bad boy.

INGREDIENTS: Crust recipe from Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook
For the pizza crust
3 large eggs
1 cup full-fat coconut milk (basically one 15oz can, but make sure you wish the cream and the coconut water until it’s smooth)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups tapioca flour/starch
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt

For the toppings
1 cup basil walnut pesto*
1/4-1/3 lb ground mixture of pork, beef and bacon
1 pre-cooked chicken sausage link, sliced thin
1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, roughly chopped
2 cups arugula

*2 1/2 cups basil
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup-1/2 cup olive oil (depends on your preferred consistency)
Salt/pepper

DIRECTIONS

For the pizza crust
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, and olive oil. In a large bowl, mix the tapioca flour, coconut flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk until completely smooth. The dough will be wetter than normal pizza dough–it’s okay, don’t freak out.

Pour the dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and spread it out flat. Bake for 10-12 minutes and it feels like soft bread in the middle when touched. Cool for five minutes. Raise the heat to 425F. Add the toppings, pop back into the oven and cook for 7-8 minutes.

For the toppings
While the pizza is baking in the oven, saute the pork, beef and bacon mixture until browned. Blitz the pesto ingredients until smooth. With a spatula, spread the pesto all over the warm crust. Add the meat toppings, sliced sausage, sundried tomatoes and cook for 7-8 minutes.

After the pizza has been cooked, add the arugula to the top and DEVOUR.

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spaghetti squash chicken fritters (paleo/gluten-free)

chicken and spaghetti squash fritters

It’s rare that you’ll find me buying cut flowers. While they’re lovely in all their hue and plumage, I consider it a waste of money to have something in your home that will expire in a week. I’ve a long history of killing plants–I was notoriously responsible for the Cacti Famines of 2004 and 2007, respectively, and while I long to have life in my apartment the only thing I can manage is a cat. Felix is vocal about his wants and he always has something to say. I can’t get the kid to shut it!

So it was odd that after a long walk this afternoon I bought a bushel of lilacs. Lilacs are my favorite flower–I fell in love with them when I was 19 and reading “The Wasteland.” I remember the long walk to my college dorm and how it was eclipsed by a lilac bush; I practically buried my face in it I was consumed by its fragrance. There’s something beautiful about limits, memory, and desire, and when I came home I realized that my time in New York is limited and beautiful, too.

Would you believe I’ve lived here my whole life and there’s so much I haven’t seen, still? I haven’t been to The Four Seasons. I haven’t visited every independent bookstore. There are so many nooks and crannies left to explore, and I remember a reader who commented a few years ago, suggesting that I look at my home with fresh eyes–photograph it like I was a tourist (thanks, Barb!).

Over the next few months I plan to do just that. I’ve pared down my social commitments considerably to only spend time with my beloveds. And on the days reserved for me (my introvert time), I plan on having my last looks. I plan to look and then not look back.

You can’t know how excited I am to be leaving.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen, modified slightly.
1 small spaghetti squash, approximately 2 lbs., 2 cups of squash strands
2 cups finely chopped, leftover rotisserie chicken
1 fat shallot, minced
1 cup almond flour
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
2-3 tbsp coconut oil for frying

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and place it cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle, then use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds. Use a fork to remove the spaghetti squash strands. Measure out 2 cups of the strands and place them in a large bowl.

To the squash, add the chicken, shallot, almond flour, eggs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well and form 8 patties, similar in shape to burger patties.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 to 3 patties, making sure you don’t crowd the pan. Cook on both sides for a total of 4-5 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the patties, adding more oil to the pan as needed, until all the patties have been cooked.

I’m going to drop some truth right now: THESE ARE THE BEST FRITTERS I’VE EVER MADE. I can’t stop eating these. Like, really. I can’t stop. Promise me you’ll make these and share all the sordid details.

chicken and spaghetti squash fritters

sage + shallot delicata squash soup with crumbled sausage

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Have you ever walked hobbled out of spin class to then tell your friends that you’re going to order those damn pancakes for brunch because you earned it? Did you ever suit up for a run because how else would you justify that one cookie (or four)? Have you ever “doubled-up” on a workout simply to say, with a straight face, that you can eat anything you want?

Lately it feels as if I’m surrounded by people who exercise as a means to justify a basic human function: eating. Last week I read an article where the women interviewed had no qualms about spending $1400/month on their workouts, burning their way through 2+ hours a day in group fitness classes–all in an effort to keep things in check, micromanage their diet, and when things go asunder, when their precarious plan starts to show signs of disrepair, they race to the altar that is the juice cleanse: a very expensive and sophisticated means for self-denial, punishment, starvation. Because why rely on your organs to perform the function they were designed to? Why suit up for the long game of being present in your food choices, when you can wash your worries away with sugar-packed juices whose costs rival a resplendent home-cooked meal. When given the choice, I’d rather fork over $12 for a 4oz filet I can cook at home than a sugary “green” juice.

When given the choice, I’d rather focus on being healthy, because let’s be honest: the twice-daily workouts, juice cleanses, and meticulous dietary vivisection–these choices are not about health, they’re about vanity. So let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? Let’s just say many care about whether they look good in their jeans or whether they’ll tear out their GI tract in ten years time. Oh, we’ll just deal with that later.

In the film adaptation of Less Than Zero, Andrew McCarthy asks a coked-up Jami Gertz, Are you happy, Blair? You don’t look happy. To which she responds, But do I look good? He says, Always.

As someone who used to run 7 miles a day and subsist on Lean Cuisine and Starbucks, I’ve given a lot of thought into fueling my insides. My food sensitivities, contact dermatitis to god knows what–but we’ll find out when I return from Spain–is a result of a succession of bad choices in response to an insurmountable amount of stress. I replaced my bottles of Sancerre with boxes of penne and thought I was the better for it. It was as if I regarded my body as a house I was desperate to burn to the ground, and now, I’m in the state of repair. I’ve dealt with the insurance claims and adjustors, and I’m rebuilding, brick by brick.

This is all to say that I now think about what I eat before I exercise because I want to make sure I can get through my workout and perform at my best. I don’t create reward systems for food or obsessively count calories (an appalling weight loss story in this month’s Shape magazine had me aghast), rather I think if I do right by my body, if I’m consistent and present in my choices, my body will thank me for it.

I’ll have you know that I came home from a pile of errands later than I thought (1:30), and by the time I sat down for my late lunch of this lovely squash for one soup, I felt so GOOD. The soup has the texture of cashmere, and the apple sage sausage I decided to fry up and crumble into my soup made for an excellent addition.

Life is strangely simple: If you do good, you’ll feel good and look good.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen, modified slightly (The recipe says it serves 4. I mean, I guess if you were serving these in ramekins? However, this makes for a delicious full lunch for one, light eat for 2.)
2 delicata squash (3/4 lb or 340g), or you can use any squash, really
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp fresh sage, roughly chopped
pinch of sea salt + fresh pepper, to taste

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DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and place, face-down in on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until soft. Use a spoon to remove the seeds, discarding them, and then scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic to cook for 2 minutes, or until the shallots are soft. Add the squash, broth, sage, and salt and pepper and mix to combine.

Either using an immersion blender or a regular blender, blitz until creamy. Garnish with sage leaves, or you can be like me and garnish with a link of apple sage sausage from Flying Pigs Farm. Just sayin’

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the cauliflower bonzana: creamy soup + coconut rice

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You may have noticed that I’ve gotten a little cauliflower crazy around these parts. When gluten and dairy have been violently excised from your diet, one has to find alternatives. You should know that I lived a cauliflower-free life for the greater part of 37 years. It resembled a bleached-bone plant, and somehow I’d always associate the cruciferous vegetable with my mortal enemy, THE MUSHROOM.

KNOW NOW THAT I WILL NEVER CONSUME THE MUSHROOM. EVER.

But I digress. Lately, I’ve found a host of recipes that make inventive use of this veg, so much so that I uttered the phrase, You know you’re an addict when… after I found myself consuming cauliflower twice in one day.

For lunch, I hoovered this super-simple creamy soup. Don’t skimp on roasted cauliflower because it becomes tender and sweet, and melts beautifully when blitzed with coconut milk. My soup reminded me of mashed potatoes, but I’ll take it. Especially if I’m pairing it with homemade chicken tenders, which I dredged in almond meal and coconut flour. (SWOON!)

For dinner, I ran back with open arms to my beloved veggie burgers and paired them with blackened cauliflower rice, which is a fancy way of saying I burned the rice while answering emails. And naturally I played the part of a five-year-old, mashing up her veg burger and mixing it with the rice and getting all giddy and the like.

However, what’s on my mind, aside from the itch that has slightly abated, is the fact that I’ll be in SPAIN in less than a week! If you’ve been to Barcelona, Granada and Seville, please send all your tips.

On to the recipes!

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INGREDIENTS: Creamy Cauliflower Soup Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen, modified slightly
1 large head of cauliflower (2 1/4 lbs) cut into florets
1/4 cup melted coconut oil, divided
1/4 tsp of coarse salt, plus more for taste
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 can full-fat coconut milk
freshly-ground black pepper, for taste
1/4 halved pecans + 1 tsp olive oil, for garnish

Note: I halved this recipe, since I only had a pound of cauliflower, and it worked beautifully!

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 450F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Add the cauliflower to a large bowl, drizzle with two tablespoons of coconut oil, and sprinkle in salt. Toss to coat. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender and brown, stirring once after the 25-minute mark.

Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onion + garlic and saute for five minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the cauliflower, broth, and water, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the coconut milk, salt and pepper to taste. Blitz to smooth using an immersion blender or a standard blender. Serve in soup bowls with garnish + if you’re up for it, some chicken tenders (dredged in coconut flour + almond meal, flash-fried in a plan for color and finished off in the oven).

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INGREDIENTS: Cauliflower Rice Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen
1 large head of cauliflower (2 1/4 lbs) cut into florets
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup vegetable broth
Coarse sea salt + black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Since I’ve no idea how to use the shredding attachment on my food processor, I used a box grater to mince the florets into rice-sized pieces. It took forever. Note to self: learn how to use the attachments for the food processor.

Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cauliflower rice to the pan and stir for 10 seconds, then add the broth and stir until combined. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, mix well, uncovered, for 5 more minutes, stirring every minute or so to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan.

When done, serve with my FAVORITE VEGGIE BURGERS.

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