Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Texas to Mexico Paleo~Style Stuffed Squash

As our family prepares to head to South Texas for the Thanksgiving holiday where quiet relaxing vistas will keep us spellbound for a few days & give us all a certain spiritual nourishment. This fall I've been so enamored with the selection of winter squashes & pumpkins I've seen. I've seen more variety & colorful selection than ever. Not for the first time this season I have cooked with Carnival Squash. It is a mild, squash in the size range of an Acorn Squash.  I enjoy baking Carnival Squash with savory spices however many cooks bake these with a much sweeter result using winter spices such cloves, cinnamon & agave or honey. The colorful skin makes this a nice centerpiece till you are ready to use it regardless of how it is baked. My version of the stuffed squash gives a nod to the hunter-gatherer diet paying attention to exclude grains, legumes, dairy products, salt & refined sugar. *winter squash are:Fat-free and sodium-free, a three-fourths cup serving provides fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and thirty calories. Darker colored squashes have the most beta carotene.  

Carnival Squash are a colorful winter squash sometimes labeled acorn squash.

 Creamy mild flesh of the squash makes a nice complement to the spicy chili sauce
Stuffed Carnival Squash with Mushroom & Red Chili Chicken

2 Carnival Squash, halved, seeded, rubbed with 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 lb ground chicken
1/2 lb lean chicken sausage (I found mine at Sprouts, remove casing if it has casing)
1/4 diced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
*1/2 cup Red Chili Sauce made with Guajillo chilis see recipe link
Recipe here from previous blog post on *Lunch Box for One
2 tablespoon chopped flat leave parsley

Bake the 2 Carnival Squash cut into halves @ 375 for 25 minutes or till crispy golden around edge & flesh tests tender.  Set aside &  prepare Mushroom & Chicken stuffing. Saute onion & garlic in skillet till translucent, add the chicken sausage & ground chicken. Cook till chicken is no longer pink & slightly browned.  Add in mushrooms, cook till tender then add the Red Chili Sauce, mix, add parsley & remove from heat.  Spoon into Squash halves & return to 375 oven for 10 minutes till heated throughly.  Serve immediately.  Any leftover stuffing I serve alongside the filled squash halves.
Leftover Mushroom Red Chili Chicken Filling is good alone 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Paleo Wedding Soup & a Devilish Egg Appetizer

When I'm lucky enough to have true farm fresh eggs, I find a variety of ways to fit them into meals at our home. Eggs aren't just for breakfast as anyone in my house can tell you. Eggs are a low cost cost way to add a naturally good source of vitamin D & protein. This past weekend I made both a soup as well as a quick dozen Deviled Eggs using some of my farm fresh eggs my mother brought me from Uvalde County in South Texas.   

This soup gets the name as a "married soup" since it is a marriage of meat & greens. The traditional name is actually Minestra Maritata & the origins are both Italian & Spanish, whatever the origins are the soup is a perfect Fall meal. Many recipes use bread crumbs to make the meat balls but if you have fresh meat, add the egg & chill the meatballs prior to dropping them in the soup they will be fine. I've even baked my meatballs to get them nice & brown when I have time. Many traditional recipes for this soup soup have streaks of egg-and-cheese scrambles borrowed from the Roman egg-drop soup Stracciatella. The egg adds a certain hearty quality which makes this a very nice one dish meal.

Primal Italian Wedding Soup

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8 ounces turkey or chicken sausage
8 ounces ground turkey
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound spinach, coarsely chopped (1 pound of kale is a good substitution)
2 small turnips, diced into 1/4 in pieces
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the meatballs: Stir the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the sausage & turkey. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.

To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and spinach, turnips and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the spinach or kale is tender, about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. *Finish soup with parmesan cheese if desired. We didn't have this but it is traditional garnish for the soup. I am almost certain no one else puts turnips in Wedding Soup but I had some garden fresh turnips & thought they would be a nice addition to the soup.

Devilish Deviled Eggs
6 Eggs, hard boiled
2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
3-4 Tablespoons Jalapeno Mustard* (or any spicy version you prefer)
2 teaspoons diced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely minced shallots or white onion
dash of sea salt according to taste

Cut boiled eggs into halves lengthwise, scoop out inside reserving whites on platter. Mash & break up all lumps in the hard boiled egg yolks, then add next 6 ingredients. Garnish tops of eggs with extra oregano leaves or sprinkle with dill or any fresh herbs you may enjoy. *I used Woeber's Jalapeno Mustard 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yes, Soup Weather again! Hlelem a versitile Tunisian Soup is back on the menu.

At the first sign of a cold front in Texas I believe across the United State a loud cheer could be heard coming from this Southern State. Texas had record heat & drought this summer. Hottest, driest, longest since 1885 in fact Wichita Falls had 100 days over 100. As a state it certainly felt like we simmered & stewed all summer long (at times in our own skins...). Salads and lighter cooler meals have been the order of the season for months. This past week when temperatures dropped to freezing overnight it felt like it was okay to drag out the soup pots & dust off the crock pots once again. What is nauseating to think of when it is 109* is downright cheerful when the temperatures seem normal once again. I always feel better when I can make a pot of soup. Earthy, rich & soothing soups make me feel comforted & tend to remind me of soups my mother would make when I was a kid. This is a traditional Tunisian soup inspired by Martha Rose Shulman's version from her Mediterranean Harvest recipes. Some of you know this is not my first post of Hlelem,  I've actually made it before with all the beans however I'm on a eating lifestyle now which departs from some of the legumes & pastas so I've changed things up a bit. For vegetarian diets this is good with vegetable broth, for those who want to add a lean protein; I expanded this soup on day 2 with lean ground meat. Enjoy & be soothed as I was.
Hlelem soup hits the spot on a cool fall evening.

Hlelem (Tunisian Vegetable Soup)

yields 2 quarts

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/4 cup celery stalk, large outer veins trimmed, diced
1 large red or green bell pepper, seeded, diced
3 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 quart chicken broth
6 tablespoons tomato paste
2/3 cup canned chickpeas, drained*check below for my new substitution without legumes
7 cups Swiss chard leaves, stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces, leaves shredded, lightly packed
1/2 cup angel hair pasta or fideo, dry, approx. 1/3 c.
1/2 tablespoon red curry paste or Harissa
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup radishes, grated
wedges of lime or lemon

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine 1/2 cup of the reserved chickpea liquid with the broth, reserved bean liquid, and the tomato paste to the pot. Slowly stir getting the tomato past lumps worked out or till well blended and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Approximately 10 minutes before serving, add chickpeas or alternative veggies such as butternut squash*, the Swiss chard, and the pasta. Simmer until the pasta and chard stems are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the Harissa and stir until blended. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Garnish with the chopped parsley, radish & serve with a wedge of lemon or lime.

*I added 1 cup diced butternut squash instead of the chick peas although the chick peas are more traditional in this soup.  Also I would now omit the fideo pasta to cut out the gluten. You can add whatever vegetables are local or seasonal. Rutabaga & Sweet potato are nice winter/fall substitutions.The radishes as a garnish add a nice zesty punch.

A spicy addition to Hlelem Soup this is very similar to Red Curry paste.
Harissa comes in small cans and can be found in a lot of supermarkets and Mediterranean groceries. It is a Tunisian hot sauce or paste usually made with hot chiles, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil.  I also added lean ground meat the second day to this soup.

For my previous Hlelem recipe in the Crock pot please check here for my previous blog post.