Curried Ground Pork with Carrots and Celery

Last weekend Brent and I bought a couple cookbooks on sale at the local Barnes & Noble, and one of them was called The Curry Bible. Brent and I love food. Yes, we eat Paleo more and more frequently; but we love food, all kinds of it. Curry is one of my favorite things to eat out. All this Paleo business has kept us from going out to eat. Now, that’s awesome because we’re saving big money not eating out. But it’s a little less awesome because we’re not going out to eat for some of our favorite things (like curry!).

So, this weekend, despite being insanely busy (and not with the usual stuff like cleaning house and grocery shopping and cooking multiple big meals to have all week), I made sure to make some time for experimentation.
My one and only curry recipe that I make at home is a peanut-butter curry chicken. OMG I love that stuff. YUM. It is near and dear to my heart, but alas, peanuts are a legume and thus off-limits all through the Whole30 Challenge (oh wait, that’s right, it’s over! woah…) and generally not acceptable even when we’re doing a 80/20 approach to Paleo. You know–80% Paleo, 20% whatever-we-want.
I guess Brent and I are pretty much sticking to Paleo (at least 80/20) from now on, with the occasional cheat day. This isn’t an official decision, just something that seems to be happening. So, still in this 100% Paleo mindset and knowing that we had approximately 1 pound of ground pork desperately in need of being used hanging out in the fridge, I decided to try creating my own curried ground pork recipe. We also had plenty of onion and garlic (typical), lots spices in the cabinet (also typical), and a few select veggies in the fridge (carrots and celery, also in desperate need of being used soon). 
I started by looking through a few recipes in The Curry Bible. Then, I rummaged through our pantry and sniffed (yes, literally sniffed) a variety of different spices next to the curry powder.  This may sound a bit silly, but I find it very effective: I hold the curry powder in one hand near my nose, and then in the other hand hold one or two other spices at a time; I then sniff all three more or less at the same time, somewhat waving them in front of my nose so I can get all the scents as close to simultaneously as possible. In this case, I feel pretty confident it worked out. 
And so, without further adieu, here is my new Curried Ground Pork with Carrots and Celery recipe…
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Ingredients (roughly, in order of when you need them):
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (approx. 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced or pressed)
  • 6-8 thin carrots, cut into 1-inch sticks (approx. 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated with a microplane or grater (or simply minced)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 and 1/2 cup coconut milk 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon garam marsala
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 3-4 celery stalks, chopped (approx. 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups)
*Note: This picture of all the ingredients includes one I didn’t list above: red pepper flakes. Originally, I planned to sprinkler a few in to give the curry extra kick. But as I cooked it, I realized that there was plenty of delicious flavor coming from the curry powder and other spices. So I didn’t use the red pepper flakes. If you do use them or some other heat/kick-adding ingredient, let me know how it goes!
Method:
1. Heat ghee over medium-high in a large, high-walled pan.
2. Saute onion, garlic and carrots in the ghee for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the ginger and ground pork. Sautee everything together, breaking up the ground pork with your spatula until the ground pork is nearly cooked through (most of it should not be pink, but it’s ok if a little is). 
I admit, I forgot to time step 3. I *think* it took about 6-8 minutes for the pork to become mostly cooked through, but please don’t quote me on that. Make sure you pay close attention and keep breaking it up and moving things around.
5. Add coconut milk and spices. Stir well to blend it all together.
6. Add the celery.
7. Bring the whole mixture back to a low bubble and then turn the heat down to medium-low.
8. Let it simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes. This will allow some of the liquid to reduce while all the yummy flavors congeal.
9. Serve in bowls and enjoy! OR let it cool, store in a sealed container in the refrigerator over night to let the flavors mingle even longer before eating it. 🙂
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I taste-tested this throughout the cooking process to make sure I was adding just the right amount of curry and other spices, as well as to make sure it came out delicious overall. 
I think it’s awesome! And Brent did say it smelled amazing. 🙂 But Brent and I actually haven’t eaten it yet (even though I made it last night, just before we went out to dinner with friends who were visiting DC this weekend and wanted to see us). 
Why? Well, I planned for us to have it for dinner tonight. But, around 1 p.m. today, we got an invite to go to another friend’s cook-out this evening. So we had yummy grilled pork/onion/bell pepper skewers with veggies and other yummy sides. Tomorrow, we will “officially” get to taste this curry ground pork and I will be able to add a little note about how good (or bad–hopefully, not!) this recipe actually is.
If you try it, please let me know what you think! Feedback is key to perfecting recipes. 🙂

Pesto- and Avocado-Stuffed Chicken

This post is well over due… oops! Last week, we had two small chickens (they were on sale at the store, packaged together, so we couldn’t resist even though they were not on our shopping list) and we needed to find someway to make use of them or else butcher them further to freeze the parts. Freezing a whole chicken is something I’ve never attempted, nor do I ever want to; and cutting it up to freeze it in pieces just seemed like so much work. :p

So, instead, we nixed a one or two other planned meals and made the chickens. Tuesday night, after dinner, I set to making homemade pesto for our first roast chicken. Brent or I (honestly, I don’t remember who’s idea it was) thought stuffing the chicken with pesto would be more interesting that the standard lemon and garlic roast chicken. In addition, to try adding texture and substance, we agreed we’d crisp up some of the shredded white sweet potato (seriously, we had a lot of this stuff–it’s gone into a ton of recipes lately!) and add that plus some avocado to the chicken cavity.


Ok, so here we go with official ingredients and process…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 package of basil (about 3 to 4 cups)
  • 1 whole chicken (ours was about 2 and 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/4 cup of shredded white sweet potato
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or enough olive oil to brush over the entire chicken)
Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Blend the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, basil and a pinch of salt in a food processor or blender. Ta da! You now have a very basic, homemade pesto. 🙂
3. Spread out the shredded white sweet potato on a baking sheet. Bake in the over for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until at least some are crispy.
Meanwhile, prepare the chicken: remove any gizzards and other internal business, rinse it under cold water, and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on the rack in your roasting pan.
4. Brush the entire chicken (top, bottom and sides, but not the inside) with olive oil.
5. Chop the half of avocado.
6. Gently mix the avocado, shredded sweet potato and pesto together in a medium bowl.
7. Using a big spoon, ladle or your hands to scoop the pesto mixture into the cavity of the chicken.
8. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper–as much as you like. Also, tie the legs closed with cooking twine.
9. Roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer reads 175 degrees when inserted into the breast of the chicken.
We like to roast our chickens closer to 20 minutes per pound because you can always cook more if it comes out under done; you can’t undo overcooking.
Our chicken came out incredibly moist, and the skin was just a little crispy. If you like really crispy skin, crank up the heat at the beginning or the end for about 10 to 20 minutes.
When serving, make sure you scoop out some of the sweet and savory pesto mixture from inside the chicken. I’ll admit, I was a bit leery of the combination of avocado, sweet potato, and pesto; but it was really tasty! Some sweet, some salt, some savory, a little crisp from the skin and a good portion of creamy goodness from the stuffing over the slices of moist chicken breast… delicious!

Seafood Pesto Pasta

Tonight, Brent and I enjoyed a new experiment. We’re calling it seafood pesto pasta. Last week, I made a pesto from scratch for a roasted chicken; we also had some scallops and shrimp in the freezer. So this weekend we bought a spaghetti squash and tonight we threw it all together.


Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 8-10 scallops (uncooked)
  • 3 cups of small shrimp (already cooked)
  • 1/3 cup of pesto (homemade, if possible)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bake the spaghetti squash for 60 to 90 minutes, until tender (ours needed just 75 minutes).
  3. Let the spaghetti squash cool for 10 to 20 minutes.
  4. Cut the squash in half, length-wise. 
  5. Scoop out and discard the seeds; then, package one half for use at another time. (Unless your squash is super small. We only needed half because ours was pretty big.)
  6. Shred flesh of the remaining half of the squash into a bowl.
  7. Melt the ghee over medium high heat in a pan.
  8. Sauté the garlic in the ghee for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. 
  9. Sauté the shrimp in the garlic and ghee for about 3 to 4 minutes, until heated through.
  10. Remove the shrimp from the pan and place in a bowl to the side. 
  11. Sauté the scallops in the garlic and ghee for about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until cooked through.
  12. Remove the scallops from the pan and place in the bowl with the shrimp. 
  13. Toss the shrimp, scallops and shredded spaghetti squash with the pesto in a large bowl. 
  14. Serve and enjoy!
This recipe is great to do together. While I handled cutting and shredding the spaghetti squash, Brent took care of the shrimp and scallops. 
It didn’t take quite like I expected. The spaghetti squash was stronger in flavor than I expected, but it was still really good. Traditional pasta provides a bland, starchy canvass for pesto and any protein you add to it. Rather than the heaviness you find with pasta, the whole dish was light and yet still filling. 
We hope you find this as fun and delicious as we did.

Butternut Squash and White Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash

Two weeks ago, we made that awesome Paleo Butternut Squash from Health-Bent.com with our own homemade sausage. (I can’t emphasize enough how delicious it was. It was so delicious!)

Now, not knowing what a “small butternut squash” really meant, we purchased a butternut squash that turned out to be much larger than necessary for that recipe. What did we do all the leftovers? Well, for nearly two weeks, it’s been sitting in a plastic container in our fridge. Finally, this morning I said for perhaps the 10th time in the past two weeks, “we need to find a way to use that butternut squash.” And Brent’s response was perfect: what about a hash?
Brilliant. 🙂
We also had plenty of leftover shredded white sweet potato, onions, and bell peppers. So, here’s is my latest variation on breakfast hash. 
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee
  • 3 cups Butternut Squash, diced
  • 4 cups shredded white sweet potato (diced would be great too, ours just happened to be shredded from our experimental lasagna)
  • 1 large red bell pepper (approx. 1-1.5 cups)
  • 1 cup onion (I used one and a half small yellow onions)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Method:
  1. Heat the Ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté the onion and butternut squash for about 2-3 minutes, until the onion is nearly translucent.
  3. Add the shredded white sweet potato and continue sautéing for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the red bell pepper and continue sautéing and stirring for another 2-3 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked through (it should change color from bright, starchy white to a dull ivory, almost like onion just before turning translucent).
  5. If you want to add a little seasoning, like salt and/or pepper, sprinkle a pinch over the dish during the last minute or two of cooking.
  6. Serve hot or cold.
Here are a few pictures of the process:
I think this new breakfast hash was really successful! I made a lot of it so we could portion it out for breakfast for at least a few days this week. We’ve been eating so many scrambled eggs and egg muffins this month, Brent and I are looking forward to this change of pace. 
You could easily use regular sweet potato, shredded or diced, and of course toss in green or yellow or orange bell peppers if you like/have them laying around. 
Lately, our grocery store has had very few regular sweet potatoes in stock and [oddly] has had lots of white sweet potatoes at the same price per pound of the few regular ones on the shelf. So, we’ve bought more white than regularly the past couple of weeks. However, there’s no flavor difference that I can tell. But I will say, I think the white sweet potato prevents the whole dish from getting too orange. I would have loved to toss in a green bell pepper for more color vibrance, but we simply didn’t have one on hand. 
One final note: We love for our food to have a little heat, but I am well aware of my own lack of understanding in applying spices. If I’m not following a recipe, and Brent is too busy to lend a hand, I won’t experiment with that domain. This butternut squash and white sweet potato breakfast hash is naturally sweet and could easily support a little kick–so jazz it up for yourself.
And let us know what you think! What spices would you add? 

Stewed Beef and Homemade Broth

This was an experiment of mine, which was a little terrifying at first but turned out well in the end.  My attempts at saving money this month have been pretty great (a more flushed out post is to come once we’ve completed this Whole30), and I tried to go a step further by using beef neck bones.  

Here’s what I had to work with:
  • 6 beef neck bones (approx. 3 lbs)
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1/3 large red onion
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 4 cups water
I added the celery, onion, and garlic to the slow cooker first, placed in the neck bones seasoned with the herbs above, and then filled the crock with water.  I then covered and turned the slow cooker to low.  At first, the smell was very sweet, and I was terrified I had just wasted all these ingredients, so I left it to cook overnight.
I planned on turning it off at 2:30 today (started at 6:00 the night before, for a total of 21 and one half hours) but we took longer running errands than expected.  It finally got turned off at 4:00, and thank goodness I waited as long as I did.  For a total of 22 hours, the meat is tender and juicy, and the broth is quite flavorful.  Heather and I agree that it will probably need some salt once we use it for cooking, but for now we have most of it in the freezer.
The meat will serve over lettuce or as a snack with scrambled eggs.  When all is said and done, this was not a bad way to spend a day and 8 dollars.  
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