Paleo Stuffed Eggplant – Lebanese Style (Sort of)

I’m back!  I had a bit of a hard time food-wise this winter and early spring.  After my knee surgery in January, what started out as a simple indulgence in some “medicinal” M&M’s, quickly lead the way back into that vicious sugar/bad carb cycle.   This is particularly bad for me because I have discovered that sugar and/or refined carbs really wreak havoc with my moods and ability to deal with stress.  A depressed/stressed Tricia is a sugar craving beast.  Very bad stuff.  I become the hormonal equivalent of the Incredible Hulk — prone to crankiness and busting out of my clothes.   I quickly gained 20 pounds and was spiralling out of control.  Fortunately I realized how horrible I was feeling and dragged my butt back to Crossfit and dusted off my kitchen gadgetry and got back to cooking good stuff.   I’ve been eating pretty clean for a few weeks again and already feel 1,000% better.  Moods are better.  Sleep cycle is normalizing. Lost 11 pounds.  Let’s hear it for happy hormones!   If any of you are reading this and haven’t tried Paleo, do yourself a favor and try it for 30 days.  Even if you think the diet is whack (what do you mean grains are the devil?!?), give it a whirl, see how you feel after.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G what a difference it can make.  I’ve been kicking myself in the ass for wasting 3 months.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled recipe…

Paleo Stuffed Eggplant – Lebanese Style

So you guys know my food tastes are all over the place.   I’ve dabbled in Indian a few times on here already, but I haven’t messed with Middle Eastern.  Mostly because there was a fabulous Lebanese deli just down the street, and I liked the food there so much that it wasn’t worth the effort of trying to reproduce it.  However, they recently changed owners and switched cooks.  After a few marginal meals, I sadly have decided it just isn’t quite the same.  On the bright side, now I have no choice but to learn how to do it myself.  For my first attempt, I thought I’d try a stuffed eggplant.

Most Lebanese versions of stuffed eggplant work with the small baby size eggplant.  I know they have a name/type, but I don’t know what it is — baby eggplant works for me.   The grocery store only had the larger size eggplants in the organic section, so I went with the big ones.  (I’m really trying to eat organic veggies where I can).  I couldn’t really find a single recipe online that I liked, so I cobbled together a couple and added a few touches of my own.  The result was pretty good.  I think I may tweak it a bit next time. Maybe add some parsley to the stuffing and possibly add some additional cinnamon and allspice to the meat a few hours before cooking to up the flavor (I really love the taste of cinnamon with ground beef in middle eastern dishes).   I’ll update the recipe with future experiments.  Feel free to post your additions in the comments section and let me know how yours comes out.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium-ish Eggplants
  • About 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (These really add a little something something and I highly recommend not omitting them)
  • 1 pound ground beef or ground lamb (grass-fed preferably).  I used beef.
  • 1 Large onion – finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves – chopped
  • 1 – 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen fire roasted)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (fresh ground is best if you have a spice mill)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut stem end off of each eggplant and cut in half long-ways.  Scoop out most of the flesh, leaving about 1/3 – 1/2 inch of flesh inside the skin.  This was the first time I’ve actually hollowed an eggplant, so I didn’t have my method perfected, but I found cutting with a paring knife to be the most effective for me.   Coarsely chop the eggplant innards and set aside in a bowl.

Liberally sprinkle salt on the inside of the eggplant shells and place them upside down on a paper towel to drain for about a half hour.  Being pretty much an eggplant virgin, I had to call my friend Erica to find out why.  Apparently the salt draws some of the bitterness out of the eggplant.  She actually soaks her halves in salt water before scooping out the innards.  I was happy with the sprinkle and drain method.

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add pine nuts and toast until lightly brown.  Watch these.  They tend to cook very quickly — you don’t want burned nuts.  When done scoop them out with a slotted spoon (leaving oil behind) and set aside.

Add garlic and onions to the pan and saute until translucent.

Add ground meat and eggplant.  Cook until the meat is done and the eggplant is tender (about 10 minutes).  Add can of tomatoes (juice and all), pine nuts, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper (I also plan to add some parsley next time.  I needed a little something extra).  Stir to mix and continue cooking for a couple of minutes to let the flavors blend.

Divide mixture evenly into eggplant shells and place in a baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes until shells are tender. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

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Paleo Chocolate Chili Recipe Review

Paleo Chocolate Chili

I’ve never liked beans — of any kind.  Black, pinto, lima, whatever the hell kind of beans are in baked beans  — doesn’t matter I can’t stand them.  I’ve spent the last 3 years trying to teach myself to like the darn things because they are super healthy, right?   Lentils and I finally reached a level of mutual toleration when I was introduced to paleo.  Imagine my joy to discover that the things were actually bad for you  — Ha!  Take that pesky beans!

Of the foods I’ve never been able to enjoy, chili ranked pretty high on the list.  I could have made a beanless chili before, of course, but it seemed wrong.  I don’t have that fear anymore and I’ve been looking forward to trying it.  I found a number of recipes that looked good, but then I stumbled across a chocolate chili on The Clothes Make the Girl’s website.  Perfect!  It contained two of my favorite things: chocolate and anything other than beans.

To call it chocolate chili is a bit of a misnomer.  Although unsweetened cocoa powder is a flavoring ingredient, there is no chocolatey taste.  Rather than copy her recipe over, I’ll just post the link RIGHT HERE.  Check out her site and other recipes while you are there.  It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite paleo sites.  She also has a new cookbook that I love and will be reviewing in a later post.

I pretty much followed her recipe for this as written.  The only thing I did differently was to reduce the amount of chili powder from 2 Tbsp to 1.5 Tbsp.  I cannot even imagine eating it with 2 Tbsp.  I don’t have a super high tolerance for spicy hot foods and at 1.5 Tbsp my mouth was on fire.  If you prefer milder chili, start out with 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp pf chili powder first.  After it has simmered for a while you can add more to taste.  If you like three-alarm chili, go ahead and load it up!

Overall I give the recipe 2 thumbs up.  I’ve eaten it for the last three days and it is even better on the second and third days.  I like to top it with fresh chopped onion.  Today I added a side of oven baked sweet potato fries. Yummy combo!

Accidentally Paleo Meatloaf

Paleo Meatloaf

I’ve been in a comfort food mood the last few days — probably due to the sudden change in our weather from the unusually warm 60 degree days, back to the normal Ohio gloom and chill.  In particular, I’ve had a hankering for meatloaf (the food, not the singer) for several days now, so I decided to share my recipe with you all.  I switched up my meatloaf recipe a couple of years ago (long, long before I even heard of paleo) to a version without bread crumbs.  I’m sure that first time it had more to do with the fact that I had no bread in the house than to a conscious desire not to include bread, but sometimes even a blind rabbit finds a carrot.   In this version I substitute white mushrooms for the bread crumbs.

I always used ketchup as a topper for the meatloaf, however, since the store-bought variety isn’t paleo, I decided to wing it and come up with something a little better.  This topper isn’t bad, but I’m gonna keep working on it.  I want to try my hand at homemade paleo ketchup, so it may end up reverting to ketchup eventually.

O.K. everybody, let’s throw a little Meatloaf on the stereo (the singer, not the food) and get cooking!  Sing it with me now… Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark Ohio night, I can see  taste paradise by the dashboard kitchen light, Paradise by the dashboard kitchen light…

Ingredients:

2 lb lean ground beef

4 cloves garlic – chopped

6 oz. white mushrooms ( finely chopped in food processor to about the size of coarse bread crumbs.  Careful not to over process or they will get mushy)

3/4 c. onion – chopped

3/4 c. red bell pepper – chopped (may substitute green, but I prefer the sweeter colored bells)

2 eggs

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 – 6oz. can tomato paste

1 Tbsp honey

Directions:

Thoroughly mix everything except tomato paste and honey in a large bowl.  Arrange meat in your baking dish.

Meatloaf arranged in pan --- When cooking in the microwave, be sure to shape in a ring

In a small bowl mix the tomato paste and honey and a little salt to taste.  Spread mixture evenly over top of meatloaf.

 I have always cooked my meatloaf in the microwave.  To cook in the microwave, place meat mixture in a ring in a microwavable baking dish.  If you shape it into a giant loaf it won’t cook in the middle.  I have a Tupperware pan with a lid.  My grandma always used a coring ware dish with a glass lid.  You definitely want to cook it with a lid on to help it cook evenly.  If you don’t have a lid, use plastic wrap.  In a 1000 watt microwave, meat and veggies cook at 6 minutes a pound, so this meatloaf will take about 14 minutes.  Let sit for several minutes before checking doneness.  You may need to adjust the time based on your microwave.  As an alternate you can use a loaf pan and bake in the oven.

Meatloaf with oven-baked fries & brussels sprouts