low carb

I realize that this recipe’s title starts with the word “spaghetti”, but make no mistake about it – the meatballs are the star of this week. Since first developing this meatball recipe for Paleo Takeout, we’ve made it often, at least monthly. There are a few little touches that make the meatballs just perfect: a mix of beef and pork so that the meat flavor is prominent but not overwhelming, egg yolks for creaminess, gelatin powder for a smooth and succulent texture, and bacon for little bursts of umami.

One of my favorite ways to describe these meatballs is to say that they’ll make your Italian grandmother swoon. Matter of fact, just as I’m writing this intro, I’ve decided to add them to our dinner menu this week.

Here is the writeup from Paleo Takeout:

It seems like every country has a meatball recipe, from the very popular Swedish meatballs to the relatively unknown Finnish meatballs (Lihapullat), often made with reindeer meat. Italian meatballs are larger than most other meatballs and are prized for their tenderness. Gelatin may seem like a strange addition, but it gives the meatballs a velvety texture, not unlike what you’d expect from eating veal.

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Yesterday, we celebrated Memorial Day here in the US. Previously known as Decoration Day, it was first celebrated after the American Civil War to honor those who had died in the war. It later expanded to encompass anyone in the Armed Forces who had died while in service to the country. As a tradition, families would gather to put flowers on the graves of those who had fallen, and would follow it with a potluck meal. It became a Federal holiday in the 1970s, and is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

Today, Memorial Day means a lot of things to a lot of people – honoring fallen service members, family gatherings, the start of summer. From a culinary perspective, Memorial Day ushers in the start of grilling season (although that varies by region).

Each year, as I drag my grill out of the shed, I try and take a moment to remember those who gave their lives in defense of their country – regardless of the country they died serving, or the policy decisions that got them there. Having served in the US Navy these past 17 years, it hits close to home; I find myself recognizing more and more names of fallen service members each year. Human history is wrought with stories of people dying when they probably rather wouldn’t have, and I think it’s worth the time to reflect on that from time to time.

I’m a day late in posting my favorite grill recipe of this year, mostly because I’m currently on assignment in a different part of the country, and away from my usual churn of recipe development. Luckily I had this recipe set aside for summer, and it’s the perfect time to share.

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My parents-in-law recently visited from Hawaii over the holidays, to help around the house as we adjusted to having a new baby in our family. It was great spending the holidays with them, but it also made me realize how much I miss living in Hawaii. I lived there from ages 21 to 28, and many of the events that shaped who I am today – from meeting and marrying my wife, to honing my skills as a home chef, to suffering the worst of my health adventures – came while living in view of the Honolulu skyline. For a few of those years, Janey and I lived with her parents, whom we affectionately called our “roommates”.

When we left the island in 2008, it genuinely felt like I was leaving home; time has caused that sentiment to wane a bit, but in the end, Hawaii has a special place in my heart. And within that special place in my heart there is another, perhaps specialer place in my heart, which is where Hawaii’s Chinese-style oxtail soup resides.

The title for Hawaii’s best oxtail soup is hotly contested. I’ve heard everything from Kapiolani Coffee Shop to Aiea Bowl. Somewhat surprisingly, restaurants attached to bowling alleys are generally known for having good oxtail soup – even the famous Kapiolani Coffee Shop oxtail soup got its start at Kam Bowl, which closed in 2007 but re-opened just last month.

I like to think that preparing an authentic dish from Hawaii makes the sting of not living there hurt a little less, and you really can’t go wrong with a Chinese-inspired creation that’s equal parts rich and comforting. So we’re going to recreate it today for those of us who can’t just drive to our local bowling alley to buy a bowl of soup. Included below are stovetop and electric pressure cooker variations of the recipe, whatever floats your boat.

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Lately, I’ve been taking tiny steps to minimize all those little stresses in life. For example, I’ve been driving on backroads on my way home from work each day, which has much better scenery and fewer cars zipping in and out in front of me. It might take an extra minute or two out of my day, but it’s adding years to my life, right? That’s what I’d like to think. Regardless of any increases in my life expectancy, I’ve been arriving at home in a better mood, so it’s well worth it.

In similar fashion, we’ve recently been taking it a bit easy in the kitchen. Having a small baby at home will do that; my lullaby-singing skills have greatly improved, but I definitely have less time to chop up a bunch of ingredients. So meals like these Spaghetti Squash Bolognese Boats have been a hit, with minimal hands-on time but plenty of flavor. Plus, this recipe requires only three ingredients: squash, pasta sauce, and ground beef.

If you’re hoping to spend a bit more time in the kitchen, you could always make your own pasta sauce (here’s my recipe). Additionally, I’ve included quick instructions on how to roast the spaghetti squash seeds, so that nothing is wasted.

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Parties are the worst, right? All those new people to meet, the inevitable bad music that appears on the stereo, and figuring out what food to bring. Luckily, this week’s recipe will solve two party-related issues: bringing food and breaking the ice (there’s really no fix for bad music). You see, not only are these classically-prepared deviled eggs delicious, but they are a fun party trick, too.

While the name deviled eggs might lead you to think of something wicked, there is no association between this dish and Beelzebub. The term deviled first appeared in England in the 18th century, in reference to dishes that were highly seasoned (usually with mustard and black pepper). So while many folks will use the terms “stuffed eggs”, “dressed eggs”, or “angel eggs” to remove any perceived evil from this popular appetizer, there is none to be found. But this fact got me thinking – what if I could add a bit of mischief to these eggs?

So here’s the trick: place a random amount of Tabasco between the white and yolk of the deviled egg, then let the other party attendees guess how many drops of Tabasco are hidden within each egg they choose.

By the way, the concept of eating eggs before a meal is not new. In Ancient Rome, eggs were part of gustatio (the world’s first word for appetizer), and were so commonplace that a popular saying soon appeared: “ab ova usque ad mala”, which translates to “from eggs to apples”, or from the beginning to the end (apples were served as post-meal treats).

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Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew first developed in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Originally made by Italian fisherman who had settled in the region, it was crafted directly on fishing boats using rudimentary cooking tools before making its way into local restaurants and beyond. Much like the French Bouillabaisse or the Eastern European Brudet, Cioppino is made with a variety of seafood, depending on whatever is on hand. Also, apparently I’m obsessed with tomato-based seafood stews, because this is my third such recipe in the past year.

The origin of this dish’s name is the subject of some debate. The most likely answer is that it comes from the word ciuppin, which means “chopped” in the Ligurian dialect spoken in Genoa, Italy’s largest seaport, from where many immigrants in the San Francisco area originated. The idea is that fishermen chopped up a bunch of fish for the stew. There’s also a seafood stew from Genoa called Ciuppin, so there’s that, too. But a more compelling origin is that the name comes from Italian-Americans asking their fellow fishermen to “chip in” some seafood for a communal feast, and their broken English formed the word we know today as Cioppino.

No matter its etymology, this is a quick and versatile dish to make for any weeknight or weekend, allowing you to maximize your flavors based on whatever seafood is on sale at your local market. For us, king crab was (somewhat) affordable the other day, so that’s what we used to spice up our dinner. Just stick with the underlying foundation of the recipe and you can’t go wrong.

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It’s hard to believe, but my cookbook, The Ancestral Table, has been out for nearly four months. I keep finding myself surprised whenever someone tells me they have and enjoy my book; for some reason I keep assuming that only our little family regularly uses it as a reference. So I thought it would be fun to take a week off from my regular recipes and share one from The Ancestral Table, as a gentle reminder to myself that there are other people out there who could use these recipes.

Deciding on a dish to share was really easy; we make this roasted chicken recipe at least once every two weeks. Simply put, it’s one of the easiest chicken recipes you’ll find, and it’s deliciously crispy and juicy. Cooking the bird directly in a skillet also makes it a cinch to whip the drippings into a flavorful gravy. Finally, we like to throw the bones and carcass into our electric pressure cooker for a couple hours to make some tasty and calcium-rich broth.

I’m also giving away a copy of my book this week, signed by me and Paul Jaminet (who wrote the foreword of my book). There are only a few copies like this one, so be sure to enter to win (instructions at the bottom of this post).

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Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steak is a specialty of Santa Maria, California, which lies about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Tri-tip is taken from the bottom sirloin of the cow, and is often cut into steaks and sold as “sirloin steak” (a tougher version of the prized “top sirloin steak”). When sold whole, as is used in this recipe, it can weigh up to 4 pounds. This lean, moderately tough, and economical cut of meat fares best when cooked only to medium-rare or medium.

The key to making a good Santa Maria Tri-Tip is cooking it so that it has a crusty outside and tender, juicy inside. There are different ways to achieve this result; in Santa Maria, chefs often use a grill that can be adjusted up and down, so as to develop a crust and then pull it away from the fire to prevent burning.

My method is similar. We’re going to only heat one side of the grill, indirectly roast it until it reaches a certain temperature, then place it directly over the fire to create a tasty crust at the end. The end result is a dead simple recipe that always makes for a tasty experience.

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Last September we met up with our friends Matt and Stacy, the Paleo Parents, for dinner at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, a popular Asian-themed chain restuarant here in the U.S. that sports a gluten-free menu. It was our first time visiting the restaurant, and Stacy strongly recommended (demanded?) that I try to re-create their famous Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Never one to turn a challenge down, I accepted, and then promptly forgot all about it.

But lucky for you, Stacy didn’t forget the promise I made that fateful day. In fact, she did one better, and corralled a bunch of Paleo-friendly bloggers together this week to re-create some favorite dishes from the restaurant chain. Here is a link to the round-up.

For my version I made a few minor adjustments. I used honey instead of what I assume is gobs of sugar (we taste-tested the original dish again last week and I was surprised by how sweet it was), and made fried noodle sticks using sweet potato noodles instead of rice or mung bean noodles, which I assume is what they use in the original recipe.

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With spring upon us, I’ve been looking to expand my grilling options. The idea of cooking and eating a cactus might sound intimidating, but the reality is much simpler than you’d think. All you have to do is scrape off their thorns, and grill them – it’s that easy.

Nopales are the paddles of oputina (prickly pear) cactus, commonly found in Mexico. They are a common vegetable in Mexico, and taste a little like green beans, but slightly more acidic. They are a great addition to grilled meat dishes, or tasty just on their own. They are also often sliced/diced and served with eggs or in salads.

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