Nourishing Italian Ragù

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone was able to enjoy a relaxing holiday last month.  My December felt so busy that I didn’t feel I got much of a break until the last few days!  Between my new nursing job, a trip to visit family and friends in Minnesota, and attempts to carve out some quality time with my boyfriend, I’ve been running around like a madwoman.  Luckily, I’ve been able to spend the last few days at home with no agenda other than some light housework, cooking, and catching up on some much needed sleep.  Perhaps other new nurses can attest to the utter energy wreckage that happens after a few busy shifts?  I’ve been reassured by my co-workers that this is completely normal in the first few months of being an R.N.

Along with the New Year come the inevitable resolutions.  I’ve stopped making a big deal of them because I am the kind of person who seems to have a new resolution every week. But, of course, I am hoping that January will be a good time to focus on cleaning up my diet.  Like most people, I ate with abandon last month and now feel ready for a healthy change.

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Luckily, I just finished a wonderful book called The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet.  It takes a Paleo-esque type of approach but seems a bit more carb-friendly than some other versions of the diet that I have seen.  It’s exquisitely researched and seems quite do-able and so I’ve decided to give their advice a go.  I’ve managed to stick to their recommendations for a whole 2 days now (sadly, this is better than I’m able to do on most diets) without feeling hungry or having overwhelming cravings for unhealthy foods.  We’ll see if this is the case in a few months.

This ragù was the first dish I prepared with the Jaminet’s principles in mind.  It has a healthy portion of veggies, organic beef, and small amounts of sardines and liverwurst for good measure.  If you don’t have those last two ingredients or feel wary of them, feel free to leave them out.  Because the Perfect Health Diet is gluten-free, I opted to serve the sauce over boiled potatoes.  Rice noodles would be another good option.  Apparently meat and potatoes are coming back into style 🙂

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Nourishing Italian Ragù
adapted from Pinch and Swirl

– 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
– 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
– 2 carrots, diced
– 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
– 1 pound ground beef (I used 5% fat)
– 1 cup red wine
– 1 jar tomato sauce
– 1 can sardines in tomato sauce (about 4 oz), optional
– 1/2 cup chopped liverwurst, optional
– 1 bunch collard greens, finely chopped
– salt, to taste

– boiled potatoes, for serving
– olive oil, for serving

Saute onion, pepper, carrots and celery over medium high heat until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.  Add ground beef and sauté until browned.  Pour in wine and allow to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add tomato sauce, sardines, liverwurst and collard greens to the pot.  Cover and allow to simmer for about 1 hour.

Serve over potatoes or noodles with a healthy drizzle of olive oil over everything.

Paleo Beef Liver Meatball and Cabbage Soup

Yup, I said it.  “Cabbage” and “liver” in the same recipe title.  But trust me, if I didn’t find it to be 100% delicious, I would not be sharing it with you.  I’ve been intrigued by the amazing health benefits of grass-fed liver for a while now, but I wasn’t really sure of how to introduce the topic on this site.  Liver is not something that most people tend to get excited about and so in order to sell it, I knew I’d have to find an incredible way to prepare it.  I’ve tried the classic liver and onions, a chopped liver sandwich, and even a curried version (which was actually pretty good but I forgot to write down my recipe).  This is the first that I feel I can confidently promise you will love.  Now, on to a discussion of the health benefits.

Beef liver is an extremely nutrient dense food, providing an abundance of vitamin A, B vitamins, copper, zinc, iron and folate.  These vitamins are essential for proper functioning of the immune system, combatting fatigue, promoting healthy metabolism, and protecting against oxidative stress.  On top of all that, it is very high in protein.  I find that when I eat liver, it takes hours for me to feel hungry again.  Which is unusual for a snack-monster like me  🙂

The nice thing about this recipe is that there are many layers of flavor that make the liver much less noticeable.  There is a savory, salty broth made with a parmesan rind, lots of hearty vegetables, and the meatballs which contain ground beef, liver, and spices.  You can also adjust the amount of liver according to your taste.  Try just 1/4 pound if you’re not sure about the stuff or go all the way to 3/4 pound if you’re a liver-eating pro.

Do you include liver in your diet?  If so, what are your favorite ways to prepare it?

Beef Liver Meatball and Cabbage Soup
makes 12 servings

Ingredients
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 3 large carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ pieces
– 4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
– 1 zucchini, quartered and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 large head of cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
– 8 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
– 1 parmesan rind
– salt, to taste

– 1 lb ground beef (grass-fed, if possible)
– 2/3 lb beef liver (use more or less, to taste)
– 1 egg
– 1 Tbsp ground flax
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1 tsp dried oregano

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add carrots and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and sauté another 5 minutes, until vegetables are starting to soften.  Add cabbage and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add broth or stock and parmesan rind.  Bring to a simmer and prepare meatballs.

3. Place liver in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Place in a large bowl with ground beef, egg, flax, salt, paprika, and oregano.  Mix ingredients until uniformly distributed.  In a large sauté pan, heat a little more olive oil.  Drop beef mixture by tablespoonfuls into the pan and cook for about 1 minute on each side, until lightly browned.  They do not have to be cooked all the way through as they will continue cooking in the stock pot with the soup.

4. Add meatballs to the soup and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  Serve hot.

* I shared this post with this week’s Whole Foods WednesdayReal Food WednesdayAllergy Free Wednesday, Gluten-Free WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysHearth and Soul HopFat Tuesday and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.