Spinach & Turnip Greens and Ground Meat Mini-Muffins!

Spinach & Turnip Greens Meat Mini-Muffins

ground meat, spinach, turnip greens, recipe paleo

Spinach & turnip greens, with ground meat, are ready for the oven. Mini-Muffins, here we come!

This is an adaptation from one of the cool recipes I found in Melissa Joulwan’s book, Well Fed.  I’ve created her recipe several times as it makes great Road Food for trips where you don’t want to depend on those fast food eateries ubiquitous to the contemporary world – most of them, after all, aren’t worth depending on, although some day I want to try the pork carnitas at a Chipotle’s.   (PS: at the moment I am not getting compensated for linking to Amazon.  I’ve tried to set this up, but I have to get a call back from them to verify… which bombs out my wi-fi connection at this end, and so the linking isn’t yet working.  When it does happen, I WILL let you know!)

Melissa J. wrote the recipe for full-sized muffins, and I’ve made those.  But sometimes you don’t want a full-sized blast of spinach and protein – or sometimes one is too few and two is simply far too much.

I tested out her recipe using a mini-muffin pan instead, and loved it.   This is my second endeavor making mini-muffins, and since I had only one pack of frozen spinach, I added in a package of frozen turnip greens.  (Melissa notes you can make the whole thing vegetarian by omitting the meat and subbing in more spinach to compensate, should you wish.)

A note about potential meats:  Ground beef, pork or goat would be great, whether the muffins are to be served hot or cold (as the latter might be most likely on a road trip).  Sometimes ground lamb tastes a little funky if served cold.  Venison could be a potential if mixed in with a little pork or a bit more goat, to keep it from being too dry.  As for ground chicken or turkey, I haven’t found a good source of either of these that can’t guarantee bits from hundreds of the critters aren’t ground up into the package I buy.  For me, that’s a real turn-off.  But, feel free to experiment, the cooking principle remains the same.

spinach, turnip greens, ground meat, paleo, recipe

Some ingredients, minus the onions and spices (or ghee)

Anyhow, here’s tonight’s current adaptation!

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time: for ingredients, ~10-20 minutes; for muffin time, 25 minutes
Rest time: 15 minutes
Makes 24 Mini-Muffins

Spinach & Turnip Greens Meat Mini-Muffins

1 ten ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 ten ounce package frozen chopped turnip greens, thawed (or just use a second package of spinach)
1 teaspoon oil.  I used ghee today.
¼ medium-large yellow or white onion, diced.
1 pound ground meat.  (This was beef from my local farmer-supplier.)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon ground chipotle powder (or cayenne, or whatever floats your boat.  For non-spicy, ancho is wonderful.  If you are using spicy, and want more of that, definitely push your envelope!)
½ teaspoon allspice
2 large eggs
A little more oil to coat your mini muffin pan (unless you use paper inserts…) – Wipe your pan to a very thin layer using a paper towel. Optionally, you can use those paper inserts in your mini muffin pan, to make cleanup easier.  I didn’t – things clean up just fine for me.   Although I use either silicon or Teflon pans…  Yes, I know there are concerns about Teflon.  I pick my battles and as long as the coating stays intact, I’m using it.


Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

In a large skillet, melt the ghee or butter, or heat up your other oil on the stove top, medium high.

Add the onion and saute about 5-8 minutes or until soft and translucent.  Mix around ever so often.

Add in the ground meat, making sure you break it up.  Mix around.  Cook it until it is cooked through, then drain off most of the grease.

Add the minced garlic, and stir around another minute or so.

Drop in the THOROUGHLY DRAINED, squeezed dry, spinach or spinach/turnip green mixture.  Mix around.

Then add in the rest of the seasonings, and feel free to riff on the suggestions that I used. Once mixed, remove from heat source and wait about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, beat up your eggs.

Once the greens and meat mixture is cool enough to work with, add the eggs, and use your hands to mix the eggs into everything else. Into a lightly greased mini-muffin pan (I used avocado oil, choose your own), add your dollops of food.  I did this with my hands – hey, they were already spinach-y!  These muffins aren’t going to rise, so feel free to fill a little over the top of each hole.  This made 24 mini-muffins for me. Wipe the edges on top of the pan, and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool to at least tepid before removing these from their little nests.  (15-20 minutes, or else they may crumble.) They do freeze well, and they make AWESOME morsels of Road Food!

Melissa Joulwan’s blog is located here.

spinach, turnip greens, ground meat, paleo, recipe, mini muffin

The mini muffins are crisp on the outside, but are not burnt. They just darken.  I did have to fend off the cats while doing the photography.  Umm… that wood background is my floor.  

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Foodie News: Food for Thought, Take Two

Foodie News is a once-a-month (ofttimes much less if there’s nothing out there that strikes my fancy to point us at or talk about) feature here.  It won’t show up more often than that.   In this case there are a few things I found a few months ago, but never got around to assembling.


By the way, I’m seriously enjoying Spring, and I hope my readers in the Northern Hemisphere are, too!  The last bit of snow departed here about a week ago, and I was glad to see it vamooose!  At any rate, some gleanings out there in the world of food…

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/artificial-sweeteners-may-change-our-gut-bacteria-in-dangerous-ways/  In some people, do artificial sweeteners pump up the odds for obesity, diabetes, and other factors of “metabolic syndrome”?

Some sugar, rarely eaten here.

Some sugar, rarely eaten here.

I’ve never been a fan of fake sugars – none of them ever tasted good to me.  I’ve gone the route of entraining myself to prefer things without sugar (or less sugar), rather than entraining myself to accept a taste that I did/do not like.   This is an interesting, well-written article from Scientific American, explaining how some but not all people concerned about weight loss are not really losing significant amounts of weight when they rely on artificial sweeteners.  Our gut bacteria change in response to what we are eating.  What this all means is still under investigation, but the article mentions some intriguing insights.

(This is about artificial manufactured sweeteners, and doesn’t cover all of them, and makes no mention of stevia — this last, unlike the others, may indeed be super beneficial for people with diabetes, even if to me it still tastes like old gym socks.)  Anyhow, a read worth thinking about.  If you aren’t losing despite switching sugars to the artificial ones, it might be worth testing this in your own food plan.

At any rate, personally I didn’t drop 40 pounds by switching to artificial sweeteners.  (Or to “low-fat” products, either.)  Except for the stuff that climbed back on last fall (my father passed away), the rest has stayed OFF.

http://thenextweb.com/gadgets/2015/04/15/robo-chef-is-trained-by-the-best-and-wants-to-cook-you-dinner/   Is a robo-chef in your future life?

Will he be your next robo-chef?

Will HE be your next robo-chef?

Personally, I love — seriously LOVE — cooking, but I can see this as being useful (eventually down the road, see below) for people with muscular dystrophy, advanced arthritis, or other ailments — people who don’t want to rely on the bland choices carted in from a service that has to cook for as many neutral, often SAD-oriented, tastes as possible.  If it takes off, it will take off first among the wealthy who have to have every gadget.

This gizmo still doesn’t slice and dice your ingredients yet, however.  It seems you have to to provide the mis en place.  This is the least appealing part of cooking, frankly — I want to get the ingredients together, and then COOK!  That version may be down the road later — so I’m hopeful for those folks with certain physical disabilities these might likely be added in gradually.  I’m assuming.

I understand you can have this robo-chef learn your own favorite recipes, handed down from whomever.

Early adapter price tag will be around $15,000 — the goal is to make the gadget a bit smaller and perhaps a bit more adept with kitchen prepping culinary skills.  Although I think some of the initial purchasers, if this comes to market, are going to be those folks who have to be able to show they have EveryThing.  It would be amusing to watch once or twice.

No, I personally never want to need to want one.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/09/how-the-color-of-your-coffee-mug-can-change-the-way-your-coffee-tastes/  Apparently, the color of your coffee mug may affect how your cuppa-java tastes.

Amazing mug that changes from black to a pattern when you add hot liquid...Will this mean coffee tastes change along-side?

Amazing mug that changes from black to a pattern when you add hot liquid…Will this mean coffee tastes change along-side?

I haven’t really noticed a difference, but then when I drink my morning coffee, I’m not really focused on my coffee mug (other than to note it was cleaned out by some means or another prior to use).  I am thinking about all the things I have to do that day, or will I fully wake up soon.  Maybe this is true if you are just sitting around in some lab focusing on your coffee, but maybe this doesn’t quite apply to most day-to-day situations?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/11/24/366300894/for-the-next-food-drive-go-for-the-canned-tuna-not-the-saltines  Food Drive nutritional ideas – as in decrease donating high glycemic filler.

Some foods that would work in a nutritious food drive.

Some foods that would work in a nutritious food drive.

I’ve been doing this for YEARS.  I figure the people benefiting from food drives need nutrient-dense foods, not a pile of rice and crackers.  Yes, it costs a little bit more, but I’m DONATING because I want the recipients to eat healthy nutritious foods.  All that the SAD diet does is increase dependency on the medical establishment, in the long-term.  I donate canned beans and stewed tomatoes and canned tuna and Dinty Moore stews (the latter probably not fully healthy, but better, far better, than the cheap pasta offerings that probably 80% of the donations at food banks consist of).   I select canned fruit with the least amount of added sugars, too.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/11/04/361187352/army-eyes-3d-printed-food-for-soldiers  The military investigates using those 3-D printers for making food, presumably not with plastics…

Will 3-D food look like this?

Will 3-D food look like this?

Printed food, if it becomes possible, is only going to be as good as the materials/nutrients you put in.  I don’t see this happening anytime soon in the field.  Investigating it, however, as a potential alternative to MRE’s isn’t a bad idea, however.  We will see what unfolds.







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Kimbap/Gimbap: Korean Rice Seaweed Rolls

Nearby, as in two miles (or less?)  away, there was a Japanese-Korean restaurant — they mainly advertised their Japanese menu, but the place was operated by Koreans, and eventually they added on a Korean menu.  I’ve mentioned their japchae in the past, and I’ve already re-created that.

kimbap, gimbap, Korean, seaweed, rice

Korean Kimbap

Come to find after several months of not stopping in there (out-of-town-family events and serious family-related distresses), one night when I really craved a local shot of Japanese or Korean, I learned that they had closed, probably at the end of 2014.  It’s their Korean menu I miss — there are other Japanese restaurants around here, which, frankly, were better on the Japanese end.  However, I seriously miss their Korean food. The owners and main chef were Korean, and you could tell this is what they preferred to cook.

I loved their japchae appetizer, and their spicy Korean seafood soup.  I have to admit their rice-based entrees involved far too much rice in the dishes for my tastes — far too much for a lower-carb diner such as myself.  I’m sure the ratio was authentic and this would have been fine — I simply wanted a smaller serving overall, without having to have doggie-bag so much rice with the other stuff for the next three days!  (And they hovered over me, asking me to mix the real food fully into all that rice, before I ate….Okay, yes, authentic, but.  Not so much at once, please!)  Rice, by the way, doesn’t keep that well by the third day once cooked.  And I hate throwing excess food out.   So, I stuck with their appetizers and soups.  Believe me, the wonderful japchae appetizer was large enough for a meal in itself!


Kimbap, gimbap, Korean, Seaweed rice rolls

Some ingredients.  PS, I cut up WAY more veggies and things than I needed!  That’s all right — use the extras in salads during the week!  

The restaurant is gone now, but my hankering for Korean remains!

I stumbled over this recipe for kimbap by Maangchi, and so decided to make some.  This isn’t something that was served at that defunct restaurant, but hey, I’ve been jonesing for Korean food.  It has its own serious ambiance, and I really want more.

Consider kimbap (or gimbap) to be the Korean equivalent of futo maki.  (those Japanese sushi rolls of the thicker variety.)

How do the two differ?  I did some googling and:

Japanese sushi rice:  Has vinegar and a little sugar.  Perhaps some salt.

Korean kimbap rice:  Has sesame oil and a little salt.

Japanese nori (the seaweed wrap) is slightly different than the Korean gim/kim wrap.  The Korean doesn’t come pre-roasted – you have to do that yourself.  But it’s much easier to find the nori in supermarkets here.  I use nori in my recipe.  Maagchi uses her gas range and swiftly roasts her nori by hand, but since I am on electric, I’m happy with nori.

korean, gimbap, kimbap, seaweed rice rolls

More ingredients – bamboo shoots and eggs

Japanese rolls:  Raw fish is frequent, although some are made with cooked seafood.  Vegetarian ones are also common.  Meat from birds or mammals seem to be used very infrequently, if at all — though one local sushi bar serves a cooked duck roll that I have never tried.

Korean rolls:  No raw fish; all sea foods and meats are typically cooked. Pork, ham and beef are common.  Vegetarian rolls are also common.  And indeed there’s one subset that appears to be just the rice preparation, nothing else!  Canned Spam (a vestige from the days of the Korean War) is actually a possibility. The seafood equivalent of canned Spam is that fake crab made from pollack and God knows what else, and that is also used.  (Personally, I avoid that, just as certainly as I avoid Spam.  Your mileage may differ.)  Canned or cooked tuna also is a choice.  Preserved / pickled radish is very frequent, and often definitive for a good Korean kimbap roll.  More on which below.  At any rate, Maangchi also made a delicious-looking lobster gimbap/kimbap, when she was up in Lobster Country (Maine).

Preserved Radish

Preserved Radish

Okay, armed with all this wealth of information, I decided to make my own version of Korean Kimbap, especially since I happened to run into a package of preserved (daikon) radish at my local Asian grocery.  It came from Thailand, but I figured this was as close as I was going to get to Korea.

You’ll need a bamboo roller unless you are already very adept with just your hands, in which case you probably already know how to make these things.  I just purchased a silicon roller from Amazon, arriving after I made this recipe, and which will be easier to clean, but I haven’t used it yet.

kimbap, gimbap, Korean, seaweed rice roll

Rock and Rolled Kimbap

Prep Time:  Depends on how complicated you want to get, and on knife skills.  NOT a quick meal, at least for me.  For a good variety, plan on an hour, or maybe 90 minutes, and be happy  if it takes less. I did a lot of other things this particular day.
Cook Time for the spinach and the pepper:  about 5 minutes each.  For the rice:  About 35-40 minutes.
Rest Time:  Eat immediately or sometime that day.  Sticky rice seriously turns into little rocks within 12 hours.
Makes:  6-8 rolls – 6 for me at futomaki size.
Serves:  Made 6  rolls, it served 16 people at a potluck with a lot of other food.
Perhaps three servings (2 rolls apiece) otherwise.

Extra equipment:  bamboo (or silicon) sushi mat.  Extremely sharp chef’s knife or Japanese sushi knife.
NOTE:  You’ll probably have a lot of extra stuffing materials when all is said and done.  This makes for excellent salad materials for your next few days!

Korean Kimbap/Gimbap (Rice Seaweed Rolls)

Ingredients and prep for ingredients follow:  (I’ve downsized the amount of roll stuffings somewhat from what photos depict, but there should be leftovers — the rice may be the rate-limiting step.

* 3 cups raw sticky rice (sushi, calrose…)  See below!!!
* Sesame oil, not toasted
* Sea salt
* 8-10 ounces fresh spinach.  Blanch quickly in boiling water for about a minute, toss into a kitchen sieve and drain, running cold water over.  Wring with your hands — we don’t want watery spinach.
* 4 ounces canned pre-sliced bamboo shoots.  Drained.
* Preserved (Pickled) Korean radish.  Slice thinly but not to matchstick size.
* 1 (nearly) seedless English cucumber.  Cut into long 8 inch match sticks, excepting those seeds.  Maanghi had me salt them and let them rest for a bit before rinsing and using — next time I’m not doing that again — they just turned soggy.  If you use a regular supermarket cuke, please entirely peel off that waxy skin layer!
* 1 large bell pepper, preferably red or orange for the color.  Cut off top and bottom, pull out the interior and discard, slice about 1.4 inch thicknesses the full length of the pepper (not counting where strips start to bend).  Reserve the rest of the actual vegetable for some other use.
* Meat:  1/4 pound stir fry beef, and/or perhaps 1/2 pound eating-ready ham. Have the ham cut 1/4 inch thick at the deli department.  For me, this ended up with three slices, with some overage.  For the beef, if using:  Slice up into thin stir-fry pieces, and marinate for 1/2 hour in tamari (or coconut aminos) or a mushroom sauce, with a little ground pepper.  Stir fry in a small amount of sesame oil at medium, until meat is cooked, perhaps 5 minutes.  Allow to cool.
* 2 eggs:  
With just a touch of sesame oil in your fry pan, you’ll make an omelette.  Or, two.  To the well-beaten eggs add 1/8th teaspoon salt, and turn the heat up to medium/medium high.  Add the sesame oil to that pan, and when it starts to ripple, add those beaten and slightly salted eggs — just ENOUGH to make a very thin omelette.  This isn’t breakfast; instead this is delicate.  The ideal is to watch the egg cook, and flip it just at the right time that the underside is fully cooked, but not browning.  Same with the other side.  Since every cooktop/rangetop is different, I simply suggest you be very attentive.  If your skillet is small, you may need to turn the rest of your beaten eggs into a second omelette.  Chill, and slice about 8 inches long (where possible) and nearly 1/2 inch wide.
* 1 large carrot.  (Optional).  I don’t like carrots except as an occasional shredded garnish in a salad, and I am seriously TIRED of seeing them in wraps, or anywhere else, mostly because they always seem to be overstuffed with the cheap things. Some Japanese restaurants seem to be moving away from wonderful shredded daikon to cheaper icky shredded carrot – in defiance of that practice, I’m personally not going there! Use at your discretion, but do peel.  Parsnips are far better and IMHO seriously tastier — remove skin and shred or matchstick as you might do a carrot.   You should blanch parsnips first for 30-seconds to a minute.)  Parsnips wider than an inch can be a bit woody at their wide end, so you may wish to omit those.
* Kimchi.  (Optional). Drain before use. Again, liquids may affect how the rolls hold together.
* Optionally you can have Spam or fake crab meat in your plan.  These are both common in today’s Korean kimbap, but I’m SOOooo not going there!
* White sesame seeds can be sprinkled in just before you roll these.

Dipping sauces may be found at the Kimchimari blog.  I went simple:

4 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari or coconut aminos
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water with anchovy paste (use half inch of paste and about 1/4 cup water to make, stir, and use)  For vegetarians, omit, of course.
About 1/8 teaspoon toasted crushed white sesame seeds.  Toast on rangetop for approximately 3 minutes at a medium heat, stirring occasionally.  When most start to brown, transfer to a mortar and pestle, and grind.

The rice will take about 35-40 minutes to cook, and so you may want to get many of the other ingredients prepped up before hand. For the rice, I used my Japanese Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker, following their exact instructions for sticky sushi rice.

After cooking, add in 2.5 teaspoons sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the rice, and mix.

You can start rolling the rolls just as soon as the rice cools down enough to handle.  There are flat “spoons” for dealing with the rice, but I found my (well-rinsed) hands were more effective.  The cooler the rice gets, the harder it is to work with, and the more it will stick to anything you don’t want it to.  I recommend keeping a container of cool water next to you, so you can periodically clean your hands of excess rice.  And yes, some towels.

Anyhow, lay down a sheet of nori (or quickly roasted  kim) shiny side down onto the bamboo (or silicon) mat, and then add a thin layer of warm sticky rice, leaving about a half inch uncovered on the section furthest from you.

Scatter some white seasame seeds thinly over the rice layer, if using.  (I forgot…)

Place your inner ingredients in a line about the middle of the rice.  A couple strips of egg, some preserved salted radish, spinach, and then whatever else you’ve assembled that suits you.  Then, start to roll from the fully-riced side to the other side of the sheet (the side which the rice doesn’t completely cover), squeezing hard as you do so, and being careful NOT to roll the bamboo directly into the roll itself – let it move out as you work.  Squeeze the final roll tightly when done, and remove the bamboo.

While I got six rolls out of this amount of rice, with practice on the rice I should be able to get seven or maybe eight rolls.

(I don’t have a photo of this stage since I was running late and didn’t have time to wash off the rice from my fingers in order to snap the shot! )

In Korea, it appears typical to wipe the rolls before cutting with a little more sesame oil.  I forgot to do this, and I didn’t miss it.

With a very sharp knife, slice each roll into 8 slices, pretty much evenly spaced.  If the knife starts sticking and fails to cut well, dip it in cold water and continue.

kimbap, gimbap, Korean, Seaweed rice rolls

Kimbap set-up

You’ll almost certainly have leftovers when done.  They make great salad ingredients over the next few days.

Kimbap,gimbap, Korean, seaweed rice roll

Serving.  Practice will help extend the rice onto more than just the six rolls!  There were three layers of kimbap here.  I put some plastic wrap between the layers to prevent sticking in transit to the pot luck.

Don’t forget the dipping sauce!

This dish was well-received, and vanished rapidly!






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Breakfast: Egg, Avocado, Grapefruit

I go through a lot of eggs in my house.  This is one reason I do my best to ensure I’m buying eggs from local farmers who raise up their chickens properly.  Chickens are omnivores — they eat worms and bugs as well as grasses and seeds.  And your vegetable garden, if you make the mistake of letting them near…

They cost a  little more, but less than what each egg costs you at a restaurant or that fast food joint that you might pull into because you are rushed on your way to work.  And, seriously, they taste better too…

Eggs.  Avocado.  Grapefruit.  Happy 'n' Healthy 'n'Tasty breakfast.

Eggs. Avocado. Grapefruit. Happy ‘n’ Healthy ‘n’ Tasty breakfast

On weekdays, when I have eggs for breakfast, I tend to make them soft-boiled (the proper term is “soft-cooked”) or poached.  On  weekends when I have more leisure, frying, or scrambling (America’s Test Kitchen has the hands down best recipe for those delicious big curds, although I’d cook them an additional half-minute) them; or cooking the little bursts of nutrition into an omelet.  I’ve also experimented with crust-less quiches, or baked (in an avocado), or baked (in a muffin pan) with veggies and cheese.  For road trips, I often arm up with a few hard-cooked eggs for at least the beginning of the duration of travel.

(My triglyceride levels in 2014 were 65 units of however they measure that, well below normal.  My HDL to LDL ratio was outstanding.  Thank you for wondering…  Ever since I moderated my grain and sugar intake over the past two-three years these parameters have only gotten better!  Frankly, I don’t expect such good news in my upcoming blood screen late March (results still pending), because I’ve relied a little too much on convenience over home-cooked quality of late.  There were some bad familial shocks last fall, and I am slowly getting back out of that “convenience” habit.)

For this meal:

I’d planned to poach one egg and put it into the half-an-avocado and serve it that way, along with the half a grapefruit.  The yolk broke when I put it in the cup I use to collect the eggs for poaching — poaching a broken-yolked-egg is just rather un-appealing!

So, I decided to fry the egg, and to help my spirits along, I threw in a second egg, whose yolk did NOT shatter.  So, okay, one was sunny side up and aiming for inclusion in that avocado half; and one was fried hard-cooked.

Pan frying your eggs:  Get your cooking oil (avocado oil in this case) up to temperature — medium heat, splash a drop of water on it to see if it starts to sizzle.  You are ready!

To cook the sunny side up egg:  when it lands in the skillet, use your spatula to make sure the egg whites disperse and get thoroughly cooked.  The egg whites, being the outer portion closest to the egg-shell, is where bacteria may lodge.  Plus, I believe the protein of the whites are more bio-available when fully cooked.  Reduce heat as needed – personally, I hate the whites turning brown and crispy, but I have indeed recently seen a couple of blogs where the authors relished that.  Not me.  Those are seriously failed eggs to my taste buds.

The hard-cooked broken egg — it was flipped after a couple of minutes. And indeed nearly at the end of cooking time, I flipped it again, and over and a-top the sunny side egg whites to encourage those whites to get more fully cooked.

Seasoning:  I used some ground ancho chili powder and a little garlic powder.

Into the half an avocado, I put the sunny side up egg (leaving most of its whites with its partner).

And then, half a grapefruit.  I know that grapefruit interferes with a lot of medicinals, but I’m not currently on any meds.  I do take Vitamin D3 and a couple of other supplements, but none of these are truly critical nor prescribed.

With this breakfast:  I felt truly healthy and happy!

Read more:   Eat the Yolks, by Liz Wolfe.




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Okra, Tomato, Mushroom, Onion… Vegetarian & Indian Savory Style

Because the okra, the paste tomatoes, the mushrooms and that onion were looking at me accusingly, and the okra was reminding me I bought them nine days ago.

Because one should be creative when facing one’s fridge, and that veggie doomsday clock which was ticking down!  And they need to remain tasty.

Because these foodstuffs are still good, but needs to be cooked… NOW!  Not tomorrow, but now.  I am NOT Martha Stewart.

Okra, Tomato, Mushroom, Onion, Indian. Recipe

Upcoming lunches brought into their proper habitat on an Indian cuisine table

Those okra:  Tucked into a side corner of the fridge — out of sight, out of mind.  My fridge is like that.  A Bag of Holding.  The fridge is so small that things have gaps to hide behind other things in.

Note:  this okra after nine days looks a heck of a lot better than any okra I find at the supermarket, the day I see it at the supermarket.  Makes me wonder how long they let that stuff sit out before putting it on the shelf.  I now only purchase my okra at the Asian market (or during New England okra season, at farmer’s markets).  I think there’s a high turnover at that Asian market, and that might be why it’s so fresh there.  Or maybe they care more, as their two or three varieties of bok choy are also always super fresh, and I love their Thai basil, and their on-ice and fresh seafood department is to die for.  (And a LOT cheaper than my regular supermarket.)  No, we won’t go into their frozen section…  I don’t shop in that part.  ‘Nuff said.

The okra has been muscilagenously maligned.  (To coin a phrase.)  I grew up in a house where okra was frequently served by my parents, so I liked it early on.  I recognize this is not a dish for everyone.  And there are ways to cut the mucus.  But:

Ask me what the five veggies I’d eat forever on that hypothetical desert island, without recourse to any others, but being able to cook them any which way I’d choose?

In no particular order:

Asparagus (okay, this one IS first)
Cucumber (probably fifth?)

(Well, I’d miss fennel and beets and collard greens and sugar snap peas and delicata squash and green or red cabbage, and, currently speaking, Brussels sprouts.  One of these might switch out with the cuke, depending on the day I am asked.)

Prep Time:  15-20 minutes
Cook Time: ~40 min
Rest Time:  None
Serves:  2 or 3 as a main, about 5 as a side

Okra, Tomato, Mushroom, Onion…  Indian Savory Style

* 2 tablespoons ghee (to make vegan, substitute avocado or sesame oil)
* 1/3 teaspoon cumin seeds
* 1/3 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1 medium yellow or white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
* 1 pound okra, trimmed of stems and any brown spots, larger ones cut in half
* 5 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
* 1 six-ounce can of tomato paste.  (Mine had been opened to remove a tablespoon for another recipe.   If you have it, add the whole can.)
* 2 plum tomatoes, quartered or so
* 1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, diced.  Seeds removed or retained depending on heat tolerance.  Any other pepper can be substituted.  (This one just happened to be in the fridge at the time.)
* 2 cloves diced garlic
* 3 sprigs of curry leaves (try two if you have the fresh, not frozen, leaves); remove stems.
* 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
* Salt and pepper to taste

Get the ghee/oil hot on medium-high in a high sided skillet or pot.  Add the cumin and fennel seeds.  Cook until brown (alternatively you can dry-fry them and add the ghee right after).  This will take 2-3 minutes.

Add the onion, stir around, let it get translucent, about ten minutes.

Add mushrooms and okra, allow to cook another 5-10, until the mushrooms are noticeably cooked.

Add the tomato paste, the tomatoes, hot pepper, salt and ground pepper, garlic, curry leaves,  and turmeric.  Mix around for about five minutes, then reduce heat to a very low simmer, and cover.  We want a little liquid to develop.    About 15 minutes.

PS:  there was little if any mucus in the okra, and it still had a little welcome crunch. And it is great fun to find a batch of items in danger of going bad, and treat them RIGHT before they really do so, without having to run out to supplement at the grocery!  And this one makes a great recipe actually to plan for, if one is so inclined (I do realize a lot of people don’t have a stash of Indian spices to hand at the ready, as I do).

I now have two lunches ready for work next week.  Yay, team.

Okra, Onion, Tomato, Mushroom, Recipe, Indian

Team Veggie Salvage Prep, and a bit overexposed photo!

My recommendation for keeping spices to hand: Online — Source Penzey’s, source Kalustyans, source Savory Spice Shop, AND additionally, source your local Indian or far Eastern market, and buy those spices.  Unlike herbs, spices have a long shelf life, especially the ones you buy whole.  If you do source herbs in advance, many (not all) can be frozen for future use.  Yes, some are expensive, but since you’d be using them in tremendously small quantities, this is cost-effective for the flavor factor down the road.   (Maybe not quality saffron, but at some near point I plan to grow my own saffron crocuses.  It’s the hand by hand harvesting of saffron that makes it shopping-prohibitive, not the plant itself).  Buy just a few spices at a time, and learn what you like, and what you seriously desire to taste!





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Just Ducky V: Braised Legs and (Optional) Backs, with Plum

This one owes a lot to the Zenbelly Cookbook, by Simone Miller .  It’s highly recommended (the book, not necessarily my adaptation of one recipe, although I seriously did enjoy this…).  I like her approach to wholesome food and a good variety of flavor.  She’s worked as a professional chef, and has a catering company named Zenbelly.  All her recipes are gluten-free.  The book is available both in paperback and on e-readers.    I’m looking forward to trying many of her vegetarian dishes as well as her seafood delectables.

Duck leg, Recipe, Plums, Duck

Duck Leg on Pan Drippings, Accompanied by Plums

My duck came out of the freezer with legs attached to the back.  You can separate them or leave them together, just smash them down so you can brown up the skin.  Or you can save up the backs (and/or necks) for future stock.  At any rate, I was surprised I hadn’t posted any leg recipes in my Just Ducky series!  I mean, I’d been getting the entire birds!  My last delivery (Marwin Farm) was a year ago, and these guys were lurking in the depths of the upright stand-alone, and it was time for them to see the light of the cooking pot.

Duck legs, Recipe, Onions, Duck

Onions ready to go!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes to sear each load of duck, if you have more than fits to sear in one pot.  15 -20 minutes for onion (5 for shallot).  2 hours to braise in oven.  15-20 minutes with plums and crisping.  
Rest Time: 15 minutes.
Serves:  3-4.

Duck legs, Duck, Recipe

Duck after searing, before braising, and ready for the oven

Duck, four legs, optional two backs, optional necks.
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 really large onion, sliced (shallots are in the book, but I wasn’t going to dash out for two missing ingredients), or a couple small ones.
Ground pepper to taste
A few sprigs of fresh thyme (if you have — that was the other ingredient I didn’t dash out for, but thyme makes everything savory taste better…)
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth/stock   (the total volume of these liquids may depend on the size of your braising dish. I eyeball and don’t measure this.)  Go for low sodium whether homemade or store-bought.  Or add less salt in yourself during the earlier stages.
About a pound of plums.  This is about 4 large ones, or maybe ten-twelve small ones (considering the latter have proportionally greater pits to flesh ratio).
About a tablespoon additional of that duck fat, for the plum stage.

Pre-heat your oven to 300 F.


Heat your oven-safe tall-sided Dutch oven or other appropriate large pot to medium high.  You can use a regular skillet but it’s nice not to have to dirty up additional pans.

Quickly salt your duck with just a little of the salt, both sides.

Add in duck, skin side down, it will generate its own cooking fat.  If the legs are connected by the back, smush it down so all the skin on that side has contact with the heat.  You may have to cut into it a bit so this works, but it should.

Sear about 7 minutes, not burning but browning.  Flip and sear another five minutes on the flesh side.

Remove duck and set aside.

Drain off all but one tablespoon of duck fat (reserve for duck fat purposes)!

Cook the onions or shallots in the same pan.  Shallots are ready by five minutes, for onions I often like to carmelize them lightly — so say 20 minutes in the skillet, turning often.  Add the rest of the salt, and some ground pepper.

Leaving the allium family members in the pot, introduce the liquids (wine and broth), and raise the heat to a boil, meanwhile deglazing the pan by using a spatula to scrape up any adhered bits in the pan.  Let this boil one minute.

Add the duck, skin side up.  The skin parts should be more or less above liquid level.

One interesting contribution from the Zenbelly Cookbook is the addition of parchment paper.  Cut or tear off enough to cover your legs and all, wrap directly over the top of the meat — she uses the word, “snug” — then cover the pot with a lid.

Oven Braising:

Braise in the oven for 2 hours.  If some of the duck has to overlap other pieces of duck, so be it.  It will still cook through in the same amount of time.

Remove from oven.  Do be careful removing the parchment — I’d recommend tongs and stepping back, as this will release steam.

15-Minute Roasted Plums

15-Minute Roasted Plums

Plum Wonderful:

At this point, one can either proceed ahead, or put the duck (once sufficiently cooled) into the fridge for the final stage at a later date.  I opted for the later, for two reasons.

1) I like to remove excess fat when something like this is cooked — reserved, in this case, since it will be nutritionally healthy duck fat from a local farm.  Once this dish is cold, scraping off the fat is child’s play.

2) Well, I also didn’t have the plums, but I just saw wonderful ones at my Whole Foods, better than I’d ever seen at any area supermarket, and this will give me the chance to go back and get some.  (And the duck had to be cooked when I cooked it, as I’d thawed it a couple days ago, so it was just like Floating Holidays at work: use ’em or lose ’em…)

In the immediate gratification case:  

If going to this next step immediately, I’d follow the Zenbelly advice and:

Pre-heat your oven to a toasty 450 F.

Put the duck into a separate pan, a wide cookie sheet is advisable so that everything can fit.

Rinse the plums and slice into quarters, removing the pits.  Use about 1 tablespoon duck fat to coat your plums, and place in the oven, in the pan with the duck, for 15 minutes, or until the skin crisps up.

Remove from oven and allow to rest, about 10-15 minutes.

In the original pot, your juices are still here.  Pour any plum drippings in, and bring to a boil.  Allow to thicken, 2-5 minutes.

Plate, either individual plates or the entire platter:  the juices / sauce first, the duck served skin side up on top of the sauce, and the plums arranged around the bird.

In the delayed gratification case:

The day you want to make the final meal, please pre-heat oven to 475 F.

Bring the duck out of the fridge and allow 25-30 minutes for it to come close to room temp.  Meanwhile, while it is still cold, scrape off and reserve any fat.  Fat without underlying stuff can last close to six weeks in your fridge.  Any underlying stuff will vastly decrease the shelf life to, oh, a week.

I think the duck needs more time to crisp up (20 minutes) in this scenario, while the plums will be cooking at the same time as in the immediate gratification method (15 minutes).  Besides, my wide cookie pan is hidden away somewhere (this is a disfunctionally-small kitchen, and so I store seldom-used things elsewhere).

In whatever pan you do use, cook the duck for about 20 minutes, or until the skin crisps up.  Remove, and cook the plums, coated with the aforementioned tablespoon of duck fat, for 15.

In the original pot, your juices are still here.  Pour any plum drippings in, and bring to a boil.  Allow to thicken, 2-5 minutes.

Plate, either individual plates or the entire platter:  the juices / sauce first, the duck served skin side up on top of the sauce, and the plums arranged around the bird.

This is GOOD!

Duck Legs, Duck, Recipe

Duck, after roasting, before crisping.

Don’t forget to reserve the bones for your next stock.

Duck Legs, Duck, Duck Fat

A little jar of nutritious duck fat.





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Roasted Lamb Shoulder, with Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

PS:  I now have a Recipe Index up at the top of this blog.  Definitely it helps to remind me what I’ve already posted, and what I thought I posted, but apparently did not…


I simply cooked up a most awesome meal!!!  It would be perfect for a small dinner party of six, although this is ending up being parts of my lunch-bring-to-work-plan for next week.  At least I know this one is a keeper and a good idea for any lamb-loving visitors!

Lamb Shoulder Roast, Sweet Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Recipe, Paleo

The platter is much larger than it looks. It can hold a small turkey. This is a lot of meat and will last many meals.

A couple of years ago, I bought a half a lamb from a local farm, and while nearly all of this is long gone, I found a vacuum-packed lamb shoulder lurking in the back of the upright freezer which lives in the garage.  (Food does last longer in these stand-alone uprights or chests because you do (or should) periodically need to defrost them.  The frost-free freezers that come with your fridge go through periodic cycling modes, raising and lowering the temperature, which keeps them frost-free but increases the chance for freezer burn, and wears out your food faster.)

I’ve cooked shoulder chops (yum!) and leg of lamb (yum!) before, but not a whole shoulder, which in this case clocked in at 5.85 pounds, with bone-in.   So I simply surfed around to find a good time and temp to roast it at, and then I’d go from there.

I adapted this Jamie Oliver recipe:

Incredible Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Smashed Vegetables and Greens.

Since he also recommends pastured lamb, I figured his timings and temperature(s) should be on the money — often quality grass-fed animals will cook differently than your supermarket stressed-out variety.

Since Jamie Oliver is overall a good cook, I figured I’d adapt his recipe in other regards, too — but using what I had on hand rather than running off to the supermarket for the sides that he used. Besides, doing a riff in the kitchen is always fun!

He uses plenty of fresh rosemary, and I thought I could find my jar of dried rosemary, but couldn’t, so I subbed with some fresh thyme I had on hand for a different recipe, as well as with  some Penzy’s Herbes de Provence, whose first ingredient is rosemary.

Roast Lamb Shoulder, Recipe, Paleo

Prior to cooking, prep up the lamb.

Prep Time:  15 minutes but you’ll prep some more while the lamb is cooking.
Cook Time:  4 hours 15 minutes.
Rest time for the lamb:  ~25 minutes (during which you’ll do some veggie cook time).
Serves 6 for the lamb.  2 or 6 for the veggies depending on what procedure interests you.

Roast Shoulder of Lamb

The Lamb, Initial Prep:

1 Shoulder of lamb (5-6 pounds, but less will work fine, too.
5-8 bulbs garlic, peeled and chopped
Several rosemary sprigs (or sub dried rosemary leaves; or sub as I did:  several sprigs of thyme + a teaspoon of Herbes de Provence).
Salt and pepper
A teaspoon of avocado or olive oil.

Preheat oven to MAXIMUM.  (You won’t be keeping the temperature there.)

Fat side up:  Make slits in the fat where ever you want.  Early and often, as they say about voting…

Sprinkle half of the rosemary (thyme) and half of the garlic on the bottom of the deep-sided cooking pan you will use, in an area of the pan that will be directly under the shoulder.

Rub the shoulder with just a little oil on both sides, a little goes a LONG way.  Rub all sides with salt (I used Himalayan), ground pepper, and the Herbes de Provence, if using.

Put the shoulder in the pan on top of the aforementioned rosemary (thyme) and garlic, fat side up.

Add the rest of the rosemary (thyme) and garlic to the top, tucking some of these seasonings into the slits.

Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil, and place in oven.

Immediately reduce heat to 325 F.

Allow to cook for 4 (FOUR) hours.  For three of those, go have fun doing something else, like maybe the laundry.   Yep, hate doing the laundry but…

Pull the roast out of the oven, and as soon as it is cool enough to handle, remove it to a platter and keep it tented.  The gravy is discussed below.

Lamb Shoulder Roast, Paleo, Recipe

The shoulder is resting. And providing a wondrous kitchen aroma.

The Veggies:

I’m doing this for me at home, so although the lamb and its sauce (below) will serve six more or less, I don’t want the veggies to provide more than two servings, so I can switch out to other things as the week progresses.  Eating exactly the same meal every time I serve the lamb roast is not a good idea.  Maybe a salad, Or two.  Or maybe roasted beets.  Anyhow switch things out depending on what’s in your fridge or garden.  Don’t eat bored!

* 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes (for two servings), 6 (for 6 servings).  Peeled.
* 1/4  teaspoon allspice.  Or a teaspoon for six.
* 6 ounces shaved  or chopped Brussels sprouts (for 2 servings),  1.5 pounds for 6 servings.  (or, shredded cabbage)
* 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil for the sweet potatoes.  (2 teaspoons for 6 servings.)  No I don’t exactly triple the level of fats when I upscale things.
* 2 teaspoons butter for the brussels sprouts. (4 teaspoons for 6 servings)
* 1 teaspoon vinegar or lime/lime juice for the sweet potatoes.  1 tablespoon for 6 servings.
* salt and pepper.

Boil the sweet potatoes vigorously 20 – 30 minutes until soft, check, and check.

Drain off water, mash with a fork or a potato masher, with the butter or oil, and with the allspice.  Plus a little salt and pepper.

In a skillet, heat up the butter and add in the Brussels sprouts plus a touch of salt and pepper.  Stir fry until the sprouts begin to brown, around 8 minutes.


For the gravy, no matter if you are serving yourself for the week, or for a dinner party:  

* About 1 cup drippings (see below)
* 2 teaspoons tapioca flour.  (Make substitutions if you wish.)
* 1.5 tablespoons of capers, lightly rinsed, if you have them (optional)
* 1/2 teaspoon vinegar (or lemon juice)

Your roast is on its carving platter, and your drippings are in their pan…

Gently pour off most of the drippings — fats will mostly be in the top.  Reserve to put into the fridge for later, when you can truly separate the rest of the fat from the stock.

Leave about 1 cup in the pan.  This should still be hot, and will be mostly stock (with a little fat).

Add two teaspoons of the flour to what remains in the pan, and whisk vigorously with a fork or a whisk.  Tapioca goes in easily.  Don’t add too much, we don’t need this to be thick!  Tapioca seems a bit “gritty” if too much is used.

Add the capers, if using, and vinegar – and mix further.

To your lamb shoulder platter:  Plate the veggies and then pour most of the gravy over the dish, including over the veggies.  If you made a full amount of veggies for six, you could probably pour all of it over.  I had extra.


(This smelled so GOOD I probably ate a little more than I should have.  That’s okay, I’m pacing out my containers for the work week!)

The Evil Spell-Check wants me to change the spelling of “thyme” to “time”.  I doubt the Evil Spell-Check has ever cooked anything in its life… 







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