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.

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Moroccan Carrot Salad with Raisins

One of my favorite bits of kitchen wisdom is that good things can come from mistakes.  My new favorite summer salad began as a failed attempt to make an Indian carrot halwa.  For some reason, I decided that if I was already grating one carrot for the recipe, I might as well grate half a dozen more.  I ended up with about 8 cups of shredded carrots but decided that I hated my halwa (my fault…I did not even remotely follow the recipe!).  What to do with the rest?

This moroccan carrot salad was the perfect solution.  I ended up making a single serving of it every day for about a week.  The pre-shredded carrots stayed fresh in an airtight container and the salad came together in no time.  I highly recommend this for days when it feels too hot to cook.  It is best eaten on a patio in the shade!

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Raisins
makes 2 servings

Ingredients
–  2 cups shredded carrots
–  1 Tbsp olive oil
– juice from 1 lemon
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp garlic powder
– pinch of salt
– 2 Tbsp raisins

Mix everything together and serve.

* I shared this post with this week’s Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back FridayPennywise Platter and Wellness Weekend.

Paleo Lamb Mini Meatloaves

With the exception of the recipe I am about to share, this has been a somewhat disappointing week in the kitchen for me.  I spend a lot of time scouring recipes and deciding what to make and what kinds of alterations I’d like.  And then I spend a lot of money (an embarrassing portion of my budget, actually) buying the best ingredients I can get my hands on.  And then I set to work in the kitchen.  I’m always excited to get started on a new cooking project.  As I chop my vegetables, I think about just how to word something in my upcoming blog post.  I daydream about the photos I’ll take as I pop something in the oven.  But sometimes, it’s just not meant to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll usually end up with something that I’m perfectly happy to eat myself.  But many times I have to make the decision that it’s just not up to sharing standards.  Perhaps the texture is off or I’ve ended up having to improvise so much that I don’t have anything resembling a recipe at the end.  It was that kind of week for me.

Luckily, I had a serendipitous encounter with a farmer (shepherd?) selling grass-fed ground lamb at the farmer’s market this week.  I really didn’t have any plans for recipes involving ground lamb but, as I heard more about his farming operation, I decided I had to try his product.  The next day, I knew that it had to be meatloaf.

These mini-meatloaves saved my week.  Sometimes you have to work through some disappointments before you get to something amazing.  I think this holds true for the kitchen and life.

Paleo Lamb Mini-Meatloaves
makes 6 (serves 3-4)

Ingredients
– 1 lb ground lamb
– 1 egg
– 3 Tbsp tomato sauce
– 3 Tbsp almond flour
– 1 Tbsp flax meal
– 1 Tbsp coconut oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1 tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Mix well for a few minutes.  It’s important to try and evenly distribute the flax meal so you don’t end up with little “pockets”.  The coconut oil may harden and not completely mix in, which is ok.

Scoop the mixture into a muffin tin.  You should have enough for 6.  The lamb will release a fair amount of juice and you may want to place a pan beneath to catch drippings.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until cooked through and browning on top.  Cool for a few minutes before serving.

* I added this link to this week’s Foodie FridayHearth and Soul HopTraditional TuesdaySeasonal Sunday, Monday Mania, and Melt in Your Mouth Monday.

Lisa’s Grilled Cheese

I’m a week and a half into my 3 week “detox” with no sugar or refined flour.  I’d like to be able to tell you that it’s been easy.  I’d like to be able to tell you that I’m suddenly craving only broccoli and carrots.  But I’d be lying.  The truth is that I can’t wait to bake some cookies and eat them.  Luckily, there’s another blogger out there who has made the same dietary changes I’m now attempting (only she did it permanently!) and she shares her wonderful wisdom and recipes with the rest of us at Thrive Style.  If you haven’t found Lisa’s blog yet, I suggest you check it out.  You’ll find tons of great recipes, nutrition advice, and bits of life.

Recently, she’s been perfecting her grilled cheese, which is made with coconut flour flatbread!  It’s incredibly easy and adaptable, and it’s perfect for satisfying the monster cravings I’ve been dealing with this week.  I’m going to send you her way for the recipe, which I pretty much followed exactly.  The only change I made was omitting the pizza seasoning because I didn’t have any.  For fun, I also added just a bit of fresh basil and arugula.  Thanks, Lisa, for this recipe revelation!

Coconut flour flatbread grilled cheese.

Made with grass-fed sharp cheddar cheese!

On an unrelated note, Jeremy left this morning for a 3 week tour with a band he plays in.  My apartment is already starting to feel empty.  Luckily, I still have this guy to keep me company!

Salmon en Papillote + Parmesan-Crusted Asparagus

I’m on Day 5 of my 21-day resolution not to eat added sugar or white flour and it’s going pretty well.  Honestly, it’s been better in some ways and worse in some ways that I had imagined.

The good stuff: I don’t have to agonize over the “should I or shouldn’t I?” of certain eating choices.  If someone brings bagels or cookies to school, I can simply tell myself that I’m not going to be able to have any this time and remind myself that bagels and cookies will still exist in 3 weeks.  It simplifies things and I haven’t felt too deprived yet.  Then again, it’s only day 5 and I have raided the kitchen pantry for handfuls dried cherries and walnuts the last several nights in a row.

The not so good stuff: It can feel socially isolating to completely avoid any food category.  My resolution is definitely not as restrictive as it could be, but it can still be difficult to navigate certain social situations.  For example, I know my boyfriend is going to be a little put out when we go to our favorite wood-fire pizza restaurant later tonight and I just order some olives and a salad.  He’ll get over it, but this shows how sharing food is an important part of many intimate relationships.  Also, it’s hard to learn how to stay fueled and full when the majority of “empty” calories are taken away!

And I’ve been unusually tired all week.  I don’t know why.

Luckily, there are a great many meals that one can enjoy when avoiding sugar and processed flour.  In keeping with my recent french obsession, I made Salmon en Papillote for dinner a few nights ago.  I cannot even begin to describe the delicious smells coming out of my oven as it cooked.  It was simple to make but came out looking quite impressive. I also made Parmesan-Crusted Asparagus to round out the meal.

Again with the grainy iPod photos. I promise I’m getting my real camera back soon.

Layers of goodness.

Lovely asparagus.

A perfect spring meal.

As always, enjoy!

Salmon en Papillote
serves 2

Ingredients
– 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
– 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
– about 3/4 lb fillet of wild-caught salmon, cut into 2 pieces
– 8 large basil leaves
– salt
– pepper
– 1 lemon
– 1-2 green onions, white parts only, finely sliced
–  2 sprigs thyme

Heat oven to 425F.  Cut two 12″x12″ pieces of foil and set aside.

Start by cooking the tomatoes.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat and add washed tomatoes.  Cook just until their skins are beginning to wrinkle, 7-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the salmon packets.  In the middle of each piece of foil, place 3 basil leaves side by side.  Drizzle them with a little olive oil and sprinkle some salt and pepper.  Place the salmon on top of the basil leaves, skin side down (if they have skin).  Spoon the cooked tomatoes onto the foil next to the salmon.  Drizzle the salmon with a little more olive oil and sprinkle some more salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the packets with a little lemon juice and lemon zest (about 1/4 tsp zest per packet).  Scatter green onion slices over the salmon and tomatoes and place a basil leaf and thyme sprig on each piece of salmon.

Now, close up the packets.  You’ll want to seal them tightly enough that steam does not escape during cooking but you’ll also want to “tent” them so there is a bit of space above the salmon.

Place packets on a baking pan and bake for 7-10 minutes.  I left them for 10 minutes and felt they were almost overdone.  I will try 8 minutes next time.

When they are done, remove the salmon from the tin foil and plate along with the tomatoes.
Parmesan-Crusted Asparagus
serves 2

Ingredients
– 1 lb asparagus, woody stems removed and peeled, if desired
– 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– a few pinches coarse salt
– 3 Tbsp almond flour (finely ground almonds)
– 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 425F.  In a small bowl, combine almond flour and parmesan cheese.

Place asparagus in a shallow baking dish and toss with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and top with cheese mixture.  Bake for about 10 minutes, until asparagus is tender and topping is just beginning to brown.  Serve immediately.

Shrimp, Avocado, and Lime Salad

Monday was perhaps the hottest day we’ve had so far this year.  While I spend the majority of the winter yearning for summer to come again, I forget what it feels like to be wilting on the couch in one’s little box of the apartment (no A/C, of course), wondering just how anyone could be expected to get any work done in this heat.  That was Monday, a preview of what’s to come.

The last thing I wanted to do was fire up the stove or turn on the oven.  Luckily, I had some pre-cooked Oregon Bay Shrimp I had bought on sale from the grocery store.  According to Seafood Watch, wild-caught Oregon shrimp are the best choice for sustainability.  And since this salad required absolutely no additional heat in my apartment, I’d say it was the perfect meal for the day.  I served it on cucumber slices but it would also be lovely on tortilla chips or a green salad.

I’m so sorry for the grainy photo! I left my camera in Fort Worth and am waiting for my mom to mail it to me. Thanks, Mom!

Shrimp, Avocado, and Lime Salad
makes about 3 cups

Ingredients
– 3/4 lb pre-cooked Oregon Bay Shrimp, picked through for stray shells
– 2 small avocados, diced
– 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
– juice of 2 limes
– scant teaspoon salt (add more to taste, if needed)
–  1 tsp garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp cumin

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine well.  Serve immediately or chilled with cucumber slices or other crudités.

Paleo Tuna Cakes

Have you heard of the paleo diet?  It seems to be everywhere I look these days and, I have to say, it seems to be founded on some pretty good concepts.  The driving idea behind it is  that we should eat foods that our ancestors ate.  In other words, no twinkies.  It is a little meat-heavy for my tastes (although proponents of the diet advocate for grass-feed, ethically raised meat) and it also involves cutting out grains.  What I do like about it is the emphasis on natural, whole foods and vegetables.  I’ve been incorporating some paleo principles into my diet for a little while now, but I’m definitely not an avid follower.  Any diet that says I can’t eat nachos at 1am now and then is just not sustainable for me.  But I believe you don’t have to do something perfectly 100% of the time to see real benefits from your efforts.

So that’s how these paleo tuna cakes ended up in my kitchen.

What separates these from most other tuna cakes is the fact that these don’t have bread crumbs or much else in the way of “fillers”.  This gives them a satisfying, meaty texture but it does mean that they don’t crisp up like some others you may have tried.  Personally, I liked them this way…healthy and satisfying.  Serve them with veggies for a true paleo experience.

For the tuna, I splurged on a brand called “Wild Planet” that’s committed to sustainable seafood products.  Not to mention it tastes better and is recommended by the expert folks at Cook’s Illustrated.

Paleo Tuna Cakes
makes 4 large cakes
adapted from Raf’s Kitchen

Ingredients
– 2 5-oz cans good quality tuna
– 2 eggs
– 2 Tbsp almond flour
– 2 Tbsp coconut flour
– 1 Tbsp lemon juice
– 1 tsp mustard
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tsp onion powder
– 2 pinches cayenne powder
– salt and pepper to taste
– oil for cooking (I used coconut oil, which did give it a slightly coconut-y taste.)

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.  Form mixture into 4 patties.

Heat oil over medium-high heat and cook the patties for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Flip carefully to avoid breaking them.  Serve immediately.

* I added this post to this week’s Fight Back Friday and Fresh Bites Friday.