Monday, February 27, 2012

Italian Sunday Gravy

Over the last 3 weeks, Safeway had mega-sales on meat. I had my eye on making this recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution, which uses a lot of meat. I purchased what was needed over the course of the last month and froze it until I had it all (because who wants to pay a lot of money?).  The recipe (scroll all the way down) makes enough sauce for 3 lb of pasta, which I also happened to pick up on sale at just under $1 a box. This is the perfect recipe if you will be feeding a crowd, or are cooking dinner for someone else (like I am). Keep half for you, half for them. E did not try this "because it smells too strong", but the rest of us loved it and I thought it was worthy of posting. 

Five pounds of meat go into this recipe!

The other ingredients, not including the wine...I might have been sipping it...
Draining the diced tomatoes keeps the sauce thick.
I used 6 cloves of our homegrown garlic, which is larger-sized and more pungent than the stuff in the grocery store.
Chopped onions, minced garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, and oregano after microwaving  for 5 minutes. 
ITALIAN SUNDAY GRAVY (from America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution)

  • 2 onions, minced (or just chop)
  • 1 (6-ounce) can of tomato paste
  • 12 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds bone-in country style pork ribs (I couldn't find this so I used the boneless stuff)
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak 
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound sweet italian sausage
  • 1 pound hot italian sausage (I went with mild since I was feeding another family and little kids)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh basil 
  1. Microwave onions, tomato paste, garlic, oil, and oregano in bowl for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through if desired. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Stir drained, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and wine into slow cooker. Season flank steak, and pork with a little salt and pepper. Nestle all the meat into the slow cooker (no chopping up beforehand, awesome!!)
  3. Cover and cook 5 to 7 hours on High, or 9 to 11 hours on Low. 
  4. Transfer all the meat to cutting board and let cool slightly. Shred pork and flank steak into bite-size pieces. Discard excess fat. 
  5. Slice sausages. (I used bulk mild italian sausage since I could not find the links, so I crumbled it before  putting it into the slow cooker).
  6. Let sauce settle for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove fat from surface with spoon. Using folded paper towels will also soak up a lot. 
  7. Stir shredded meat and sausages into sauce and let sit 5 minutes. Before serving, add salt and pepper if desired (I did not find it needed it). Stir in basil. 
Serve with pasta. I imagine you could this on hoagies too. 

Cross my fingers, knock on wood, grab a lucky clover....

Have you ever realized that you're in a great place in life, and as soon as you utter it out loud, things change?
As silly as it seems, I felt that if I utter this, it will change...I have no recipes to post because I have no woes at the moment with E refusals. She is in a really good place right now with at least trying new foods and I am afraid that if I blog it, this will be over.

Last week she tried a cheese quesadilla thing at her day care. Her caregiver was very excited that she apparently ate 1 1/2 whole quesadillas because she usually refuses it. I looked at the pasty refined white flour tortilla and heaven knows what filling inside, and my stomach actually lurched, and I wished she kept refusing it. Double edged sword. I was glad she ate something new, but not happy about the lack of nutrition. On the plus side, she is eating some of the meals I cook at home too. Last night she tried some vegetarian chili and ate a whole 1/4 cup of it. That seems small but it is so much better than the usual finger dip and lick!
This new level of eating was not quite apparent to me until my husband noticed it. Sometimes I describe my brain as something like that of the Tick. He would get distracted by shiny, silver things. While I wish I could be distracted by that, it is actually my career and life balancing that are distracting me. I am tweaking schedules here and there, and doing my best to see what is best for all of us. So I missed the fact that E was doing so well, but once I realized, my brain suddenly went "ooh!" and I began to wonder what is next? I am sure there will be more eating ruts, but might E be ready for learning about food beyond getting used to textures and smell? And how does one go about teaching that to a child with autism since it can be such a huge gray area?

I believe in allowing oneself moderate portions of everything (except goldfish crackers, which are banned). Explaining to her though that a little bit of this is okay and not too much of that seems to confuse her more than anything. She asked once why one cookie was okay and not two. And what about one cookie with each meal, was that healthy because it was just one cookie? And telling her that one cookie per meal adds up to about 4 a day (including a snack), which is not healthy was enough to tune her out because I mentioned the word "add", and any word associated with mathematics automatically brings a sort of withdrawal on her part.

I suppose the point of this post is that I see a glimmer of hope for her future eating habits, but I am not sure yet how to walk her through the pedantics of nutrition. Then grocery shopping, then cooking for herself......and on and on.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paleo Coconut Bread

A friend of mine and her family are doing the Paleo thing, and she mentioned a bread made from coconut flour. I happen to have a huge bag of the stuff in my freezer, so I gave it a try. I was not impressed. It was dry and kind of crumbly. So I started messing with different recipes and adding extra eggs. Most of the recipes call for coconut oil. For some reason, my inner baker was telling me that doing the coconut oil and the coconut flour was contributing to the loaf not being just right. I experimented with canola and olive oil and even clarified butter. (I'm not sure all of those are allowed on strict Paleo).

After doing some research, a lot of forums recommended beef tallow or lard or even chicken schmaltz as a substitute for coconut oil. The nature of the substitute fat had to be the same as the coconut oil: solid at room temperature. Most forums recommended grass fed as grains fed anything is not allowed on Paleo. This had me in a dilemma because the smallest grass fed tub of beef tallow I could find was $100. And I didn't really want to have to roast a chicken every time I might want to make this bread. This led me to bacon fat. I can easily get uncured, organic bacon at New Seasons. I know that doesn't mean that it's from pastured pigs, but I figured if regular organic bacon fat worked, then a person who wanted to make this purely to the regimen could take the time to research finding grass fed bacon. So I fried up my organic bacon and rendered all the fat after draining through a coffee filter (to remove any solids). I got about 1/2 cup from one regular package (about 16 slices).

Well, tonight I hit the jackpot! I used this recipe from Elana's Pantry, BUT I added the 1/2 cup bacon fat instead of the 1/4 cup coconut oil. And I was rewarded with a very nicely moist savory bread with even texture. I ate three slices and am inclined to not share with the kids tomorrow...

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