mexi cottage pie (grain/gluten/dairy free, paleo)

I’m a sucker for easy, especially when it comes to food.

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It has to be delicious though, and made in my own kitchen.  Bonus points for including as many vegetables as possible.  Aren’t vegetables the best when you don’t even realize you’re eating them?  Sure, I love roasted brussels and blackened peppers, but there’s something so satisfying about secret veggies.

This mexi cottage pie, which is basically shepherds pie made with beef instead of lamb, is a go-to weekly meal around here.  It makes A TON, lasts all week, and is incredibly delicious.  It just so happens to be packed with 8 veggies (if you count green chiles and sweet potatoes (which of course I do)).  Now that’s some serious secret veggie action.

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To all of the instagrammers requesting this recipe, thank you!! Thank you for getting me to share something I should have shared forever ago.

Mexi Cottage Pie

1 batch cauliflower/sweet potato puree (recipe below)

1.5-2 lbs ground beef

1 onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 cup chop peeled carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 15oz can tomato sauce

1 7oz can chopped green chiles

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp chile powder

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350. In a large skillet brown the beef over medium high heat.  I usually do mine in two batches.  Once browned, set aside, reserving as much of that fat as possible.

In the leftover beef fat, brown the onion, bell pepper, carrots, and celery.  If it seems dry add 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Sprinkle with a dash of salt, stir, and cook until onions/carrots begin to soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the beef back into the pan with the veggies.  Pour in the tomato sauce, green chiles, balsamic vinegar, and all of the spices.  Stir to combine and cook another 2-3 minutes. Pour entire mixture into a 9×13 baking dish.  Spread the cauliflower/sweet potato puree on top and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and enjoy!

Cauliwflower Sweet Potato Puree 

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

I like to start this right before I brown the meat so that it cooks along side the meat/veggies.

In a large pot add cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and 1 cup water.  Cover and cook over high heat until it boils, and then reduce heat to medium.  Cook about 10-15 minutes until sweet potatoes are very tender.

Carefully, transfer sweet potatoes and cauliflower to a blender, doing your best to NOT transfer the cooking water.  Blend until smooth.  If it seems too thick, add a couple tbsp of the cooking water at a time.  Usually, I find the cauliflower gives off enough moisture that extra water isn’t needed.

cabbage with sweet potatoes and roasted chicken

I like simple things.  That’s not to say I don’t like complicated things too.  Somehow I’ve been drawn into Game of Thrones, which just might be the most complicated and confusing show I’ve ever watched.  And I’m hooked.  Seriously, 7 kingdoms to keep straight?! I keep hoping that two will get the plague, two will kill each other off, and one will just vanish.  I can definitely keep the last two straight.

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Sometimes though, simple is good.  Really, really good.  Like Friday night’s spent in sweat pants, drinking tea, and watching the week’s TV shows.  Or like pancakes made of just two eggs and a banana.  That is some delicious simplicity.

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Sweet potatoes are simple.  I eat them topped with coconut butter, with yolky eggs, or even just plain roasted and they’re always scrumptious.  Sweet potatoes, or yams if you want to get technical, just make other foods better.  Especially simple foods like cabbage and roasted chicken.  Mmmm, simple never tasted so good

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cabbage w/ sweet potatoes and roasted chicken

2 tbsp butter or ghee, preferably grass-fed

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes (about 2 cups)

1/2 minced shallots, about 2

10 oz finely shredded cabbage, about 5 cups

1 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast (or about 2 cups cooked chicken)

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

If cooking the chicken, preheat oven to 400.  Place chicken breast, skin side up, on a baking sheet or in a small baking dish, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 35, or until internal temperature reaches 160.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Melt butter in pan and add sweet potatoes along with a big pinch of salt.  Stir, cover, and cook about 8 minutes until potatoes begin to brown.  Stir up the potatoes a few times while they cook.  Add the shallots, stir, and let cook a few more minutes until the shallots become translucent.  If the pan gets too dry add another pat of butter.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the bone and chop its bite size pieces.

Add the cabbage and chicken to the potatoes.  Stir to combine.  Cook for about 3 minutes, just until the cabbage starts to wilt.  Remove from pan and serve!

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Make it Paleo: Heidi Swanson’s Mostly Not Potato Salad

I absolutely love cookbooks.

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Let me rephrase: I absolutely love any and all cookbooks that have color pictures.  I really need to see what it is I’m supposed to make, otherwise it just isn’t as appealing.  The best cookbooks are those that have giant, glossy images of each and every recipe.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s paleo or not, if there are recipes and pictures I will read it, and most likely I will love it.  I wish I could buy a new cookbook each and every day, but since I can’t I usually end up reading through the cookbooks on my shelf, the cookbooks that I’ve practically memorized.

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Sadly, since leaving grains and most sugars behind I no longer cook from my cookbooks too often.  I drool over them, read and learn from them, but then place them back on their shelf where they sit until the next time I have the urge to read through one.  I don’t think that’s how a cookbook’s life should be.  I think they should be loved and used, they should be worn and splattered on, they should not collect dust.  I can think of no better compliment to the chef, who put their time and love into creating the cookbook, than bringing their recipes into your family’s kitchen.

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Though bringing some of these recipes into my kitchen may require a bit of tweaking, I’ve been making a much bigger effort to cook from my cookbooks. I thought it would be fun to share these paleo versions with you all.

Up first, a recipe from on of my most favorite healthy cooking bloggers/authors, Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks.  Her second book, Super Natural Every Day, is truly a beautiful book filled with a ton of vegetables and fresh recipes.  Before going paleo, I loved her use of non traditional grains, such as amaranth and millet.  Nowadays, I focus on her recipes featuring local and seasonal produce.

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Her rendition of traditional potato salad had me at first sight. Packed full of vegetables tossed in a bright mustard dressing just sounded too yummy to pass up.  Though potatoes are considered all right in moderation by some in the paleo community, including myself, I wanted to sub out the potatoes for another vegetable.  While at the farmer’s market last week I stumbled across celeriac, or celery root.  After a quick google search I brought home a few of them and couldn’t wait to try them out in this salad.  Best decision of that day.

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Not Potato Salad

lightly adapted from Heidi Swanson

1 celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped into small cubes

big handful of green beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard

1 tbsp spicy mustard or dijon mustard

2 tbsp red wine vinegar (could also use apple cider vinegar)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking

1/4 finely chopped fresh dill

1 small leek, white and tender green parts, trimmed and chopped

1 cucumber, seeded and cut into small cubes

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add a generous amount of salt and add the celery root.  Boil for 10 minutes. One minute before the celery root is done cooking, add the green beans to the boiling water.  Drain them both, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

In the meantime, prepare the dressing by whisking together the mustards, vinegar, and 1 tbsp olive oil.  Add a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add in the dill, stir, and then add in the leek with a big pinch of salt.  Stir in the leek and saute about 5 minutes, until the leek is golden.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the celery root, green beans, cucumber, leek and dill mix, and most of the dressing.  Taste, and add the rest of the dressing if desired.

Enjoy!!

my favorite way to eat cauliflower rice

I’m one of those people who get stuck in the past.

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N’Sync? Still love them. Vanilla creamosa? Please, I’d kill for one right now.

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There’s just something about indulging in old favorites that feels so good. Like time only made it that much better.

Except when that old favorite is a rice bowl doused in soy sauce.

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Time (and knowledge) has definitely made that old favorite less appealing.. and yet it still sounds sooooo good. I swear it crosses my mind at least once a week. I still crave the comfort that comes with that rice. My best friend all throughout grade school and I used to eat it religiously. Watching movies, going shopping, freaking out over school dances… it all ended with laughs and special rice.

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Rice, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and lots of fresh pepper. I drool just thinking about it.

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I don’t know why I didn’t think to make it with cauliflower before today. Guess that’s what I get for being too busy pouting over the lack of special rice in my life.

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Lucky for you I stopped pouting long enough to make this. And then devour it. And then pout some more because it was gone.

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Special Rice (cauli rice w/ coconut aminos, brewers yeast, and black pepper)

1 head of cauliflower

2 tbsp grass-fed butter (or ghee)

2 tbsp coconut aminos

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

fresh cracked black pepper and salt

Cut the head of cauliflower into florets. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat and add the butter to the pan. Pulse the cauliflower until it’s texture resembles rice. Once the butter begins to sizzle dump all the cauliflower into the pan. Add a good pinch of salt and about 1 tsp of fresh cracked pepper. Stir to combine and let cook a few minutes.

Add the coconut aminos and nutritional yeast, and stir to combine. Place a lid over the pan and let cook another minute or two. Remove lid, stir, and continue cooking until rice is tender, but not soft. I like it with some bite left. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.

Servce in giant bowls and enjoy :)

Root Vegetable Stew

Sooooo, it’s Sunday night, I’m freezing even though I’m sitting in front of a heater, the oldest songs of my childhood are blasting (hello Backstreet Boys and S Club 7), and I’m hating all of the pictures I have for this dish… except for the ones in which the dish hasn’t been cooked yet.

Please, just trust me on this one.  The stew is good.  It’s really good, and that’s coming from someone (me) who isn’t the biggest fan of turnips and parsnips and rutabagas.  Somehow all these veggies come together to form a hearty, warming dish that would go great with just about any meat. We had it with steak, and it was delicious.  Told ya.

So since we got that out of the way, let’s talk about what’s really on my mind.  WHY IS IT SO DARN COLD?! Ugh, I can’t stand it! I know that’s what happens in Winter, but I’m just not ready.  I’m not ready to bundle up every time I go outside, I’m not ready to feel like an ice cube until the car heats up, and I’m not ready to have cold hands. No, no, nooooo.  Not yet.

Since the seasons don’t seem to care what I’m not ready for, I think it’s time for a nice, hot bowl of comfort.  and root vegetables.

Root Vegetable Stew

1 tbsp ghee, or cooking oil of choice

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp fresh sage, minced

2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

2 cups diced, peeled parsnip, (about 2 medium)

2 cups diced, peeled carrot, (about 2 large)

2 cups diced, peeled rutabaga, (about 2 medium)

2 cups diced, peeled turnip, (abut 2 medium)

2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp coconut milk (optional)

Heat ghee in a large dutch oven (or other heavy bottomed pot) over medium heat.  Cook the onion about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, sage, and rosemary.  Cook about a minute, stirring to prevent burning, and then add the diced veggies, chicken stock, and 2 cups water.  Bring the whole pot to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook, covered, about 20 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Place about 3 cups of the stew into a blender, place a towel over the top instead of a lid,  and blend until smooth.  Return to pan.  Add the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and coconut milk.  Stir, and simmer a few more minutes.  Serve!

Thai Chicken Chowder (Whole30 Approved)

Uh, oh.  It’s happened.

I’ve officially become obsessed with any and all soups.  Not just soups, but stews and chilis and bisques and anything hot that’s served in a bowl.  N’oatmeal included.

I just can’t help it.  The weather has finally turned cold and wet, the trees are shedding their leaves, and it feels wrong to wear anything other than sweatpants and fuzzy boots.  Unless I’m at work, in which case it feels more wrong to wear those things.  People stare, and suddenly what was once the most comfortable becomes the most uncomfortable.  Ya, not fun.

What is fun is rushing home, dropping everything at the door, finally changing into warm sweat pants (cause you called the boyfriend ahead of time begging him to throw them in the dryer), heating up a bowl of hot something, and lounging on the couch watching Modern Family and Criminal Minds.  Funnest night ever, let me tell ya.

In case you’re in need of such a night, make this.  It’s the perfect bowl of hot something.

Thai Coconut Chicken Chowder

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup frozen pea/carrot mix

1 cup green onions, white and light green parts, finely diced

3 tbsp lemongrass, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp cilantro, stems & leaves, minced

2 tsp fresh grated ginger (or minced)

3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

3 cups cooked chicken, chopped (or about 1.5 lbs raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts)

1 can coconut milk

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

½ tsp fish sauce

¼ tsp red pepper flake, or more to taste

Salt and pepper

Cilantro, green onions, and lime wedges for garnish (optional)

If starting with raw chicken, preheat oven to 350.  Place chicken breasts on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil.  Rub to coat the chicken, then bake for about 35 minutes, or until fully cooked.  Set chicken aside to cool.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.  Add the sweet potatoes, celery, green onions, bell pepper, and pea/carrot mix, along with a big pinch of salt.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the veggies begin to soften, stirring occasionally.  Increase the heat to medium-high, add in the cilantro, ginger, lemongrass, and garlic, and cook for one minute, stirring frequently to avoid burning.  Pour in the chicken stock and increase heat to high.  Once it begins to boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, red pepper flakes and a bit of freshly ground pepper, stirring to combine and seasoning with salt to taste.  Let simmer about 5 more minutes.

    Serve with garnishes and enjoy.

Butternut Squash & Kale Beef Stew (Whole30 Approved)

Don’t let the kale scare you.

This is good.  Like, really really good.  Somehow I came to the realization that kale cooked low and slow in a bath of meat juices is delicious.  Like, true southern collards delicious.  They melllllttt in your mouth.  Melt, people. They melt, and then I melt cause i just can’t believe kale can be so good. It’s one big melting party.

Yes, that’s a party you want to be invited to.  Not like the party of your good friend’s bratty little daughter that you get guilt tripped into attending.  We all have a friend with a bratty daughter, right?  The worst part is that you spend 30 minutes in the toy aisles of Target trying to pick the perfect present for that little girl because deep down you feel the need to impress her.  You don’t know why, and you wish it weren’t true, but it is and regardless of how much time you spend tinkering with every single pink plastic toy, analyzing them, it doesn’t matter.  Cause she’s already going to hate whatever it is you get her because you’re old and boring.

 Ok, so maybe that whole last part is just me, but whatever.  I know you know a bratty little girl.  Point is, the melting kale  party is wayyyy better than that party. Come to my party and forget all about bratty girls (young or old) and that kale is supposed to taste bad.  Cause it is so, so good.

Butternut Squash & Kale Beef Stew

2 tbsp bacon fat, or cooking oil of choice

2 lb stew beef, 1″ cubed

1 onion, roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tbsp fresh sage, minced

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 small butternut squash, cubed (about 4 cups)

 16oz frozen, chopped kale (or one bunch fresh)

4 cups beef stock, preferably homemade

salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven heat 1 tbsp bacon fat over medium high.  Working in batches, brown the meat, making sure not to cook it through (it can turn tough).  Set browned meat aside.  Lower heat to medium and add the 2nd tbsp bacon fat.  Once it’s melted add the onions, garlic, smoked paprika, and sage to pot, along with a big pinch of salt and fresh pepper.  Cook about 8 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent.  Make sure to stir frequently so the mixture doesn’t burn.

Add the beef, butternut squash, and kale to the pot.  Stir to combine, then add the chicken stock and two cups of hot water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook, covered,  for at least an hour.  I let mine go about 45 minutes longer.

Serve and enjoy.  Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.  This makes a HUGE batch of stew.