Now that Halloween is over but Thanksgiving is not quite here, this is the perfect time to roll out one of my weeknight favorites. This is a recipe that I make so often I don’t usually think much about it, but I have been tinkering with it for years now so I’m really happy to share where it’s at.
It started as a variation of a meatloaf recipe from the South Beach Diet. The original version calls for ground turkey, egg whites, ground oatmeal and shredded zucchini, among a few other ingredients. I’m not one to shy away from good sources of fat, so I almost always have preferred making it with ground grassfed beef and whole eggs instead of their leaner counterparts.
Over the years the ground oatmeal has turned into ground nuts or seeds, usually some variation of flax, chia, almond or pumpkin seeds. The zucchini, however, has always been there, it fills out the meatloaf, adds moisture and is an easy way to sneak extra veggies into dinner.
I have found that the more I make this recipe the more eggs I use. They really help keep the meatloaf moist and add a lot of flavor, it’s almost like swirling a little bit of quiche into every bite. If you aren’t as into eggs as I am, or you don’t like a really moist meatloaf, just scale them back and the recipe will be fine.
Don’t be afraid to make a big batch of this stuff because it makes great leftovers. And if you feel like mixing it up a bit try adding bacon or mushrooms!
1 lb grassfed ground beef
1 medium summer squash/zucchini (1/3-1/2 lb)
1/2 red onion (about 1/4 lb)
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350F
Add the chia, flax and pumpkin seeds to a spice grinder or food processor and grind to a find powder. If you don’t have any of these ingredients on hand then equal parts of other nuts or seeds will work just as well. Also, here I’m showing white chia seeds and golden flax seeds, both have different colored varieties but I don’t know of any big nutritional difference between the two so I usually just get whichever is cheaper in the bulk bin.
Rinse the zucchini and trim, along with the onion. In a food processor or by hand shred both and set aside.
In a large bowl mix the ground beef, eggs, shredded veggies, ground seeds and seasonings. I find it is easiest to mix by hand, you can use a glove if you don’t want raw meat on your hands.
Grease a 9 x 5 bread pan and fill with the meatloaf mixture. Bake for 1 hour, then let cool thoroughly before slicing and serving.
Yields 4-6 servings
Peas are such a simple food. You can easily toss them in a soup, curry, pot pie or casserole, but even when you cook them up by themselves they don’t need much to bring out their flavor. A few minutes in some boiling water or a sautee pan with soften them up, then a little butter, garlic and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand will do the trick.
Unlike mashed root vegetable which can turn into a creamy texture, the less starchy peas don’t break down quite as quickly. Even after generous food processing it maintains a unique crumbly texture which is some much welcome variety when I get bored of my usual veggie sides.
This dish is perfect for someone looking to cook up something seasonal, introduce a new veggie into the dinner routine, or someone who doesn’t like spending too much time cooking. With under 10 minutes and a handful of quality ingredients, you can try something new for dinner tonight!
Simple Mashed Peas with Garlic and Mint
1 cup fresh peas (removed from the pod)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic
about 10 fresh mint leaves (or herb of your choice)
salt and pepper to taste
If you are using whole peas then be sure to shell them first. You can often find them at the farmers market already shelled.
Rinse the peas and mint and let them drain well. Also peel and crush the garlic.
In a small sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter and add in the crushed garlic cloves. Let this simmer for a minute or two to let the garlic infuse. Then add in the peas and cook at least 5 minutes or until the peas have softened, tossing ever minute or so.
Once the peas are cooked, add them to a food processor with the fresh mint. Pulse several times until well broken down. You can have a taste now to get a feel for the taste and texture. Then add salt and pepper to taste and continue to pulse/season until you get it just the way you want. You can also always add more butter if you’d like.
Serve up immediately while still warm. And enjoy!
Yields 2-3 servings as a side
These may look like normal sugar and flour laden cupcakes, but they’re not, they’re healthy! Besides being grain-free, gluten-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free and paleo, they are also a sneaky way of hiding zucchini in a dessert.
I have tried many other recipes for paleo cupcakes before, but most called for strange ingredients or complicated procedures. Even worse, most of them just ended up heavy, bitter or greasy and would stick to their cupcake wrappers. I began to become discouraged that I would ever find a recipe that worked.
That was until I tried this recipe, which is actually for brownies, but the adjustments I made resulted in a texture that was definitely more like cake than brownies. I was amazed the first time I made these that with only 8 simple ingredients I could make a substantial cupcake with great texture that was not overly sweet. They were light, raised well and the wrapper pulled away easily. I had found the perfect recipe!
And when they are topped with my super simple Grassfed Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, they are even better. With just 3 all natural ingredients frosting has never been so good or good for you!
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcake
1/3 c cacao powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 c almond butter
1/3 c raw honey
2 c shredded zucchini
Grassfed Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 c grassfed butter
1/4 c raw honey
1 tbsp cacao powder
If possible, take all your refrigerated ingredients (egg, almond butter, butter) out about an hour ahead of time to let them sit and come to room temperature. This helps the cupcakes rise properly because they are not warming up when they first get in the oven. It is also especially important for the butter in the frosting because the texture of the butter is very different at room temperature and the frosting will be too.
When you are ready to get started preheat your oven to 350F.
Shred the zucchini either by hand or in the food processor and have ready. I use a medium-sized zucchini with the skin and it yields about 2 cups when shredded.
In a large bowl whisk together the cacao powder, baking soda, sea salt and cinnamon until evenly incorporated and no lumps remain. You can use cocoa powder if that’s all you have and the cinnamon is just for flavor, you can leave it out if you’d like.
Then add in your almond butter, honey and egg and mix until it forms a thick batter. There’s no harm in overworking the dough because the batter doesn’t have any gluten in it.
Finally, mix in the zucchini shreds. They will hydrate the batter and make it much more loose.
Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake wrappers and fill each up about 3/4ths full with the batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick poked through the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Let them cool thoroughly before attempting to frost. If you put frosting on even a warm cupcake it will melt right off. If you are in a hurry then stick them in the freezer for about 15 minutes make sure they are completely cool to the touch.
While they are cooling you can prep the frosting. Using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, work the soft butter and honey together until they are well blended, you might have to scrap down the sides a few times. Then add in the cacao powder and incorporate well.
I liked that just a small amount of cacao still lets the honey stand out so I found the flavor more like caramel. But if you want a really chocolatey frosting you might want to add 1-2 extra tablespoons of cacao powder.
You can simply spread the frosting on when you’re done or use a piping bag and tip to make designs. You can also top with fruit like I did here, or maybe shredded almond or coconut. Have fun with the recipe, it’s easily adaptable!
Yields 1 dozen cupcakes
This is the kind of side I would make for a simple weeknight meal or as part of a special dinner party. It’s simple and easy to make yet has great texture and developed flavors.
Bacon goes so well with most green vegetables and I also love the pairing of coconut and brussel sprouts. If I don’t cook my brussel sprouts up in bacon fat, like I did here, then I usually fry them in coconut oil. So to get that coconut flavor in there, I topped the dish with fresh toasted coconut shreds. The buttery smell and light crisp of the toasted coconut is a lovely with the bacon bits.
With the holidays coming up and a long brussel sprout season ahead of us, this side would make a perfect contribution to a Thanksgiving spread or a Christmas party. While this is a small portion for just a few people, it can easily be expanded to serve many more.
Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Coconut
1/2 lb brussel sprouts
3 strips bacon
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse, trim and half all your brussel sprouts. Then you must steam or boil them until they are still bright green but slightly tender. I steamed mine in a bamboo steamer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Then set them aside.
Toast your coconut to have it ready. I do this in a large dry frying pan over high heat, stirring frequently as the small shreds will burn easily. Cook until just golden brown and remove from the heat.
When you’re ready to cook everything up cut up the bacon slices into small squares about 1 cm on each side. Cook them on medium heat in a large skillet or frying pan until they are about half cooked (mine took about 8 minutes.)
Then add in your brussel sprouts and crank the heat up to high. Stirring every 30 seconds, cook for 3-5 minutes or until the brussel sprouts are browned on the edges. When you feel the dish is done cooking cut the heat, stir in the coconut and add salt and pepper to taste. Even though bacon is salty you’ll still need a little salt to help flavor the veggies.
Dish up and serve immediately. Enjoy!
yields 2-3 servings as a side
I thought to call this a chocolate protein shake, but I really hate when recipes add protein in the title because it usually means it has a large amount of artificial protein powder. Here all the protein is from natural sources like spinach, egg, avocado, and raw cacao, so it digests easily and is plenty to get you going before a vigorous workout.
Then I thought to call this a breakfast shake because I love to enjoy it in the morning, but this recipe could easily act as a dessert. So I’ll just call it a chocolate shake and let you decide when and how to drink it!
Paleo Cacao Shake
2 handfuls of spinach
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp cacao nibs
2 tbsp cacao powder
pinch of sea salt
1 raw egg
2 packets of stevia
1 tbsp maple syrup
5-6 large ice cubes
1 c water
Before blending everything together fresh grind the flax seeds, chia seeds, and cacao nibs together in a spice/coffee grinder. It is always best to fresh grind your seeds as it releases the oils which can then go bad quickly. Never buy pre-ground flax or chia!
Rinse your baby spinach, also seed and peel your avocado. I used a pretty small avocado so if yours is larger you might only want to use 1/4th.
Then blend everything together. I have heard of people using the egg shell in the smoothie for added calcium, but I leave it out. The amount of ice cubes you’ll need will depend on how cold you like it. I just use a few cubes so the blender doesn’t make the shake warm, but I don’t like to drink anything too cold in temperature as it becomes more difficult to digest.
yields 2 servings
A note about my ingredients:
Spinach – I usually use spinach for blending into smoothies because it is a true lettuce which is easily digested raw. The new craze of blending raw dark leafy greens, like kale, into smoothies is a choice that is trendy but not as nutritionally informed. Dark leafy greens are much more fibrous and difficult to digest raw, but more importantly when consumed raw they are high in oxalic acid which is very damaging to the body. I mostly avoid raw dark leafy greens because they inhibit thyroid function, but eat plenty of them once they are steamed, roasted or sauteed. That being said, it’s up to you what kind of greens you want in your smoothie, and ultimately in your body.
Raw eggs – many people fear eating raw eggs because of salmonella, but even in conventionally-farmed eggs the amount of infected eggs are incredibly low. Among pasture-raised eggs salmonella is virtually non-existent because the chickens are much healthier. Especially if you keep your eggs at proper temperatures you’ve really got nothing to fear. Just look at me, I have probably eaten hundreds of raw eggs over the years, yet never have gotten sick from one. They are actually incredibly easy to digest when raw, plus it blends right into the shake so you can’t taste it at all.
Sweeteners – I sometimes try to cut down on the sugar in a recipe with stevia, but often find I can’t sweeten exclusively with it because it can be a little bitter. That’s way I also used some maple syrup but you can use whatever you’d like. I know that some people don’t consider stevia paleo so sweeten however you’d like.