Italian Casserole

So, I know it has been a while, and I’m I sorry! I say this all the time when my schedule is hectic, but I’ve been living off of paleo “fast food” the past few weeks–salads and frittatas. If anyone tells you that eating paleo on the go is too hard, they’re neglecting to experiment with these two dishes. They’re versatile (frittata and salad combinations are seriously limitless!), easy to pack, and can be eaten cold.

Anyway, enough with my rant, here’s an Italian casserole, almost a lasagna, for you to try!

Italian Casserole
1 eggplant, peeled and sliced vertically
1 zucchini, peeled (you can leave the skin on if you want) and sliced vertically
1 bunch of spinach leaves
1 bunch of basil leaves
1 bell pepper, diced
1-2 packages of mushrooms, sliced
Meat sauce (recipe here) (I made mine in the slow cooker in advance)
Extras: olive oil, Italian seasoning, pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prep your eggplant and zucchini. Dry roast them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes, then flip over. Brush with a little olive oil if you want. Remove from oven when dried out, then set oven to 350 degrees F.

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Prep your other veggies.

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In a casserole dish, place a layer of meat sauce (I should have used a larger dish!)

Begin to layer your roasted eggplant.

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Once your eggplant is layered, add more veggies.

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Add a layer of meat sauce.

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Add a layer of zucchini.

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Then finish it off with another layer of meat sauce.

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Place dish in oven for 20-30 minutes to cook vegetables.

The finished product is a little liquidy (and not too pretty), but you can drain that out. There are a lot if big flavors in this yummy dish.

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Spicy Stuffed Zucchini

My kitchen is done! I’m so relieved. Luckily, it was only 48 hours. I can’t imagine having to wait for a major kitchen renovation. While my kitchen was inaccessible, I ate a leftover frittata that I portioned out with some baked sweet potato fries, and I bought some salads in order to keep it paleo.

The whole time I was unable to cook, this giant sucker was taunting me in the fridge.

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Today’s recipe was an effort to shut this guy up. Hehe. This recipe is a modification of a modified recipe. Now, two weeks ago (or so), we had a paleo potluck at our gym, and Nicole, one of the ladies at RCCF, brought in these delicious little zucchini boats. She got the recipe from fastpaleo.com and made a few modifications (original recipe here).

The stuffed zucchini recipe I’m sharing today incorporates some of Nicole’s modifications and a few of my own. Hope you love it!

Spicy Stuffed Zucchini
1 giant zucchini, or about 4 small/medium zucchini
2 strips of bacon (turkey or otherwise), chopped
1lb. ground beef (or turkey)
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1 pasilla chile, finely diced
1 tomato, diced
Green onion (bulb and stem), minced
1 bunch of cilantro, minced
6 oz. of tomato paste
Paprika, cumin, chile powder, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, ground garlic, ground onion, pepper, sea salt (to taste)
Fat of choice

Ok, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut your zucchini(s) in half lengthwise.

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Using a spoon, seed them to create a cavity for your filling. Reserve half of the seeded zucchini and chop.

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Add a little fat of choice to your zucchini and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make sure your veggies are prepped so we can move on to the stuffing (I minced the cilantro after I took this picture).

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In a large sauté pan or wok, heat your bacon.

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Once it has begun to cook down, add veggies (if your bacon does not give off enough fat, you may need to add some more to sauté your veggies).

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Sauté. Add beef (or ground turkey) and break up.

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Add tomato paste and seasonings to mixture.

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Remove zucchini from the oven (if you haven’t already). Stuff with filling. Serve immediately, or put it back in the oven to keep it warm before serving (lower oven temp!).

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Dinner’s done! Just slice, serve, and enjoy !

Paleo Zucchini Lasagna

I’m eating as I write this. It’s really good. The zucchini shows its versatility in this dish. If we can use it for spaghetti, why not lasagna? To achieve the uniform, lasagna-like ribbons, I cut the zucchini with a cheese slicer, not unlike this one. Since the meat gets cooked in the sauce, there is technically no need to bake this. I just baked it to soften up the zucchini a tiny bit. This is soooo delicious and you don’t need a lot to get satisfied. I love how real food fills you up and keeps you full!!!!! Hope you enjoy!

 

Paleo Zucchini Lasagna (makes one roughly 8″x8″ lasagna)

  • About .5 lbs of ground meat (I used a super lean ground beef and did not need to use additional fat. If you choose to use ground turkey, you may need to add some fat)
  • 1 package of sliced mushrooms (I was a little lazy today)
  • Celery, diced (I used about 1-2 sticks from the stalk)
  • Half a bell pepper, diced
  • About half a carrot, julienned
  • About 1 big handful of fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 medium-large zucchinis, sliced into lasagna-like strips and patted dry
  • 1 package of diced/chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi chopped tomatoes-26.56 oz available at Sprouts)
  • Fresh basil (I just tore it)
  • Seasonings to taste: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasonings, paprika, oregano, cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large pan. Add your meat with some seasonings (season as you go!). Add your veggies, saute and season.

Add your diced tomatoes with the liquid. Add basil and allow to simmer. The sauce will reduce. Get as much water/liquid cooked out as possible. Check for seasonings.

While that’s simmering, begin to layer your sliced zucchini in your dish.

Begin to ladle your meat and veggie mixture onto your noodles. Layer, ladle, repeat as necessary.

 

Bake for about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!!

Lazy Day Paleo

To call my day lazy would be a misnomer. I woke woke up at 5:30am, caught the 6:50 am train, got to campus, set up for the class I TA for, went through the class, ran errands, made copies, figured out section, then got on the bus to LA Union Station. For whatever reason, it seemed like everyone and their mother was eating pretzels from the pretzel place in Union Station. It was like they were all mocking me. I would have to say that I’ve been really strong and nothing has tempted me, but every now and then the idea of bread, cheese or cheese covered bread almost makes me cheat. So while everyone was tempting me with their pretzels and cheese dipping sauce, I find solace in hoping that maybe, just maybe, I was making them feel guilty about their choices as I indulged in my crisp salad with leftover rotisserie chicken and homemade vinaigrette.

Once I got home, I argued with myself for about an hour about going to Crossfit. I haven’t been since Monday since my schedule doesn’t allow me to make it on Tuesday, and I will have to start going to the 6am class on Wednesday (I apologize to Ivan and Mando in advance). The wod seemed really hard and relaxing sounded so much better. Regardless, I got ready and made it to the 5:30pm class. So glad I ended up making it. I got through the workout and felt so much better after I did it.

Once I got home, it was time for my next challenge. Dinner. What to make? What to make?

This is a super quick and easy dish for those days when you’re feeling lazy. It’s delicious and versatile. Enjoy.

Zucchini Pasta (mine made 2-4 servings)

  • 2 large zucchinis
  • Salt
  • Tiny bit of your cooking fat of choice

This couldn’t be any simpler. All you do is wash your zucchini and cut the weird little ends off. Then, using your Titan Peeler or other julienne peeler (what?? you don’t have one yet??!!), just work at making your zucchini look like beautiful ribbons of linguine. Salt the zucchini and pat with a paper towel to get off as much of the excess moisture as you can.

Try to draw out as much of the liquid as possible

Just before serving, heat a wok or skillet with a little fat. Toss in the zucchini, just until it’s warm, then remove from the heat (so it doesn’t overcook and get soggy). If you just heat the zucchini to get it a little warm, it will have a nice little bite, almost reminiscent of al dente pasta. Almost.  Toss with your sauce just before serving.

Just make sure you don't overcook it!

Marinara

  • A jar of your favorite paleo marinara sauce (I used White Linen Collection Gourmet Pasta Sauce by Victoria’s All Natural Marinara Sauce. If my memory serves me well, it’s available at Costco. The ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil, onions, basil, garlic, sea salt and spices). If you don’t have a sauce you like, just refer back to my eggplant recipe for my sauce.
  • Seasonings to taste: Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, salt, pepper
  • Tomato sauce and/or tomato paste to adjust the consistency (optional)
  • Mushrooms (sliced)

My mother never served anything out of a can or jar without doing something to it. I believe I’ve inherited that tradition. Saute your mushrooms with some seasonings. Once they’ve sweated a bit, add your jar of marinara sauce and the other ingredients if you choose. Let this simmer in the background until your zucchini is done. Then, just toss with your zucchini and this dish is done!

If you’re serving this on the side of some protein, I would leave meat out of the sauce. If this dish is your main dish, add some meat to your sauce to make it a little heartier. I served this with an herb-crusted pan seared chicken.

This is very simple, and is often a recipe I fall back on. For variations, just change the sauce. Tired of marinara? Try a coconut milk “alfredo” sauce (I can post that recipe another day).

So for the weekend–I foresee less chicken recipes (you guys are probably sick of them… but they’re soooo easy, so expect many Monday-Friday), and an experimental and hopefully delicious recipe for your slow-cooker.

 

Enjoy!