Tuesday, 24 July 2012

And Honourable Mention Goes To.....

Today's post is not about the recipes that I made myself.  It is about all the recipes that other people have put love, time, and ingenuity into creating that show up regularly on dinner plates in my house.  So here's to all of you paleo recipe creators out there--thank you.

I had originally thought about going back and reviewing some of the many, many recipes I reference and test.  Some have been wonderful, and some not so much.  But then I figured, the recipe creator must have loved it, whatever it was, or they wouldn't have blogged about it or posted it afterwards.  They don't need me being all down on their cooking.  Maybe its just my taste buds, right?  So instead, on today's post, I'm just going to list our absolute favourites.  There are many great recipes that I try that bear mention, sometime soon enough.  But today, its just the top ones, the "cream of the crop" recipes that I'm going to give mention to.

I've said it many times before, but it bears saying again...  We don't repeat a lot of food in our house.  I'm an adventurous eater.  I like a lot of variety, and some pretty unusual combinations.  But every house has a few recipes, or should have a few recipes, that are tried and true, that just make everyone happy without any food rebellions at the dinner table.  These are ours.  These few get cooked time and again, some of them weekly, some of them every other week, some of them once a month, but definitely over and over. 

They are, in no particular order:


Zucchini Noodle spaghetti casserole.  Juli Bauer @ PaleOMG makes comfort food at its finest here.  The only change I've made is I add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a splash of red wine to the sauce.  So sue me.  It cooks off.  Of course, I have to make this hot, so I add hot pepper flakes, too.

Salisbury Steak

Hamburgers in beef gravy--need I say more?  The Domestic Man hits a total home run.  It tastes like childhood.  Paleo has not altered or tainted this taste.  I have changed nothing.  I serve it over mashed cauliflower, or mashed celeriac, or both.

Chipotle Chicken Cauliflower Casserole

The girl with the very original name, Stormy Maoomba has made a classic here.  It fills my need for Mexican, without the beans, corn and cheese.  I tend to add more tomatoes than she calls for, and sometimes I add a bit of salsa, too.  I serve it with hot sauce, too, just because I add that to almost everything I eat.

Swedish Meatballs

Tara really got this one bang-on.  This recipe is fast, easy, and totally kid-friendly.  Can't go wrong on this one; I've made it without eggs and without almond flour on days that I don't have any in the house.  It is a cannot-screw-up recipe.  But when I have the ingredients, I do make it as per her instructions.  I always serve it with mashed cauliflower and loads of sauce.  And I do not add hot sauce.

General Tao Chicken

I will admit, I have made some adjustments to this recipe.  Don't get me wrong, its great the way it is.  I use honey in place of the diet soda+splenda option, which she actually offers as a variation.  I use tapioca starch in place of the xantham gum.  I add extra heat.  Because I'm like that.  I always serve this one with riced cauliflower.  It just works perfect that way.  It looks fussy with a lot of ingredients, but it really isn't hard at all. 

Pad Thai

Mel gets the flavour bang-on.  Tastes like the real deal.  I will admit that I have been using soy sauce in place of coconut aminos because I didn't even own aminos until recently.  Her sunshine sauce rocks.  I add extra hot pepper flakes, and chili-garlic sauce.  I love heat.  I've used almond butter in place of unsweetened sunbutter and it comes out just fine, too.


Ok, skip the tortilla-omelet.  The spice blend that Mark makes tastes exactly like it came from a taco kit.  My kids love it.  I just add the spice blend to cooked ground beef, add a bit of water and simmer for a few minutes to blend in the flavours.  I typically serve it over salad with loads of avocados, olives, a dollop of plain full-fat yogurt and salsa.  No other taco recipe has tasted this authentic so far.

So far, that's it for not-made-by-me recipes in our regular rotation of dinners.  Of course, of my own recipes, there's Enchilada Pie, Zucchini Calfredo, Tandoori Fish and Chips and Sloppy Joes, to name a few.  But what about breakfasts?  I have to admit, I still like sweet things.  I never much liked pancakes before going paleo, but since then, I've had so many pancake-like things that I just can't seem to get enough of them.  Here's my favourite not-by-me breakfast recipes so far...

I cook this one alot.  It originally came from the Paleo Periodical.  I change it almost every time.  Sometimes it has sauteed carrot and spices to make it carrot-cake-like, sometimes shredded squash and pumpkin pie spice.  Sometimes it has bananas and tastes like banana bread, and sometimes apples and cinnamon and tastes like warm apple pie.  Any way you make it, if you add some sweet fruit, it tastes awesome.  There's no almond flour.  Simmer some berries, and its just total goodness.  Then add bacon.....

These delicious little devils are the moistest pancakes I've made to date.  But they sure do use up a lot of almond flour, making them expensive and at times a bit too heavy on the guts.  Save these for special occasions, they will not disappoint you, and they can definitely win over the most 'I-cannot-give-up-grains' protester you have.

This was the first truly delicious paleo food that I made that really excited me--thank you Paleo Parents.  It made me forget all about sweet, creamy grain-based breakfast cereals.  I have never looked back.  It does take some time to make, and uses a fair amount of not-cheap nuts, but it makes 5 hearty servings and is soooo worth it.  You will be full all morning.

Alright, last but not least, the so-brilliant and so-ripped George over at Civilised Caveman created this dreamy, chocolate granola.  When you serve it as a cold cereal, it makes the almond milk all chocolaty.  You can grab it and gobble it down dry to stave off a sweet craving.  You can store it in a Ziploc for a couple of weeks, easily, if it lasts that long, making it a great cold cereal that the kids can serve themselves.

There are so many great recipes and great recipe bloggers out there.  This list really only touches on the biggest ones--PaleOMG, The Clothes Make the Girl, Civilised Caveman, Paleo Parents and Mark Sisson.  I've really only skimmed the surface here, so stay tuned for more great recipe reviews coming soon!  (I cannot cook them any faster, Scottie!)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Warrior in Me

Yesterday, I was not Cindi the mom.  I was not Cindi, the girl in the office who sits at a desk all day long talking on the phone.  I was not the credit girl who all day long, just says no.  I was none of that.

Yesterday I was a Warrior.

Yesterday I ran the Warrior Dash.  6km, 11 obstacles.  Funny, I thought it would be the obstacles that challenged me.  No, I actually FLEW over, under and through the obstacles.  Or at least I would have if there weren't a whole bunch of people in front of me gingerly picking their way over and under, letting out little girlie screams along the way (ever heard a man do a girlie scream?!!).  No, for me the real challenge was in the hillsThe freaking hills!  The event was held in ski country and there wasn't a single stretch of that run that was on level ground.  The uphill climbs were loose sand, as steep as a sand slide every time.  No one ran up those hills.  You couldn't run up even if you wanted to for all the people in the way, slipping and sliding and clawing their way upwards.  I couldn't run.  I just couldn't.

Look how clean and happy we are; we're at the start line.

Now, to all of you Crossfit-box gym rats out there, go ahead and sneer at me.  I used to be a gym rat, too.  I know, you're thinking phhhht, try Tough Mudder, girl!  Try  the CrossFit Games!   may some day, I will.  But not today.

This was my first "adventure race".  I signed up for this event back in February and waited and waited like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning to arrive.  I had to start somewhere.

Now, if you've ever been to a Warrior Dash, you know that this race brings out all kinds of party animals and crazy people.  I saw the whole Justice League of America there running along with me (except for the Flash, no one can see him since he runs so fast).  There were men in wedding dresses and tutus.  There was a very rotund woman running in neon pink leotards and a black bikini bottom with "can't touch this" written across her very ample rear end.  There were plastic army helmets and 1980's era "20-Minute Workout" outfits.  That must've sucked in the 29 degree heat.  It was hot out there.  And it was dry and dusty as all hell wherever they didn't soak it down with a fire hose.  The grass was nothing more than golden hay and I seemed to spend some serious time surfing down hills on my butt. 

When I signed up for this race, my only ambition was to finish the race.  To not be dead-last.  On race day, full of anxiety and excitement, that was still my only ambition.  To "not suck".  At the starting line, in the blaring heat, I was all smiles and bouncing (doing a subtle imitation of the Swedish Australian hurdle racer).  We were all cheering and cracking jokes.  We were bunched up like bowling pins at the starting line.  Someone told me to tighten my shoe laces.  Thank you, anonymous man, but in my excitement, I completely forgot.

Crossing over the start line, everyone was moving at an easy jog.  We stayed stuck together on that narrow path, no where to go but with the herd.  And we were definitely in the middle of the herd.  People started bunching up tight in front of us, only 250 metres or so into the race as we ducked under the first wooded, shady part of the trail.  Girlie screams were starting, giggles and shouts coming from up ahead.  The crowd was too tight to see what was going on. 

And then it happened.  A mere 250 metres into the race.  I dropped knees-deep into the mud, momentum carrying me forwards, and lost my shoe.  I went several steps before even realising it, until I heard someone shout "there's a shoe in the mud".  I had to claw my way back against that herd of runners I'd just started to pull away from to retrieve the shoe, and then stand ankle deep off-track in poison ivy to get that muddy 5-lb shoe back onto my muddy, soggy sock foot.  Only to watch them then pass me by, and to have to pass them again up ahead.

And the rest of the race was just exactly that.  At the next bunch-up, where the mud was even deeper and this time on a steep uphill climb where runners were pretty much swimming their way up, I stopped and cinched the other shoe ridiculously tight before plunging in.

We were both passed by runners, and ran past a lot of runners and walkers.  On climbing over waist-high wall after waist-high wall, the girl beside me caught herself on a nail head.  Coming out of the obstacle, she quipped "I think I just put another hole down there.  My husband might like that."  And that was pretty much the tone of the first half of the race.  Happy, upbeat, silly... 

But by the end of the race, before you could see the finish line, as we were passing the odd person back-tracking against the direction of the race, likely collecting up more of their group members who'd fallen behind, if they dared to mention how many hills were still ahead us us, the tone was more of a "holy f***, shut up already and let us be naive, just for this moment!!"  But we survived it.  We saw the finish line and picked up the pace and dug deep for that final oomph through the mud pit with the barbed wire.  We finished with flair.  And tried to hug each other before getting across the finish line, where Steve promptly slipped, stumbled, and we both went down together, taking out others around us.

At the finish line, trying to get away from my stumbling husband so I don't go down again.

So how'd I do?  In my age category, I placed 367th out of 792 runners.  I didn't win anything.  But I didn't suck, either.  Just a shade above average, really.  But you know what?  I loved it.  It was exactly what I thought it would be; it was fun, and it was hard and it was the experience of a lifetime.

Somewhere along the race, there was a sign saying "Your high school gym teacher would be proud".  Yes, she would.  In high school, I was a smoker.  The teacher told me to run and I refused.  She made me run anyways, and she ran alongside, barking orders at me.  I ran that track, and then promptly threw up.  On her shoes.  Yes, she'd be pretty proud.  Or flabbergasted.  I am not a natural runner.  Running is hard for me.  That's why I do it.

The moral of my story here?  Sometimes you have to do things that are outside your natural comfort zone.  Every now and then, you have to test yourself.  Try something new.  Try something hard.  Do something that makes you uncomfortable.  You may hate it the whole time, or discover you love it and hate it the whole time you're doing it, but then, you'll be done.  And you'll look back on it.  And you'll be pretty damn proud of yourself for doing it. 

I am.

And I will do it again.

And I might even try something harder next time.  Life is short.  Live it fully.

Waiting for our turn under the fire hose after the race.

Getting hosed off by some gratuitous firemen.  They enjoyed hosing the girlie-girls who screamed alot... 

Soggy, but still smiling.
Oh, yea, I earned this!  The muddy fingernails says it all.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Wok With Me

I'm always pretty honest about where my recipe ideas come from.  I don't usually pull ideas out of thin air.  I compulsively collect/hoard recipes from a million different places and change what I need to change to make the recipe suitable for my particular dietary needs and my family's taste buds.

I've been holding onto the idea of converting this recipe for a long time.  It took forever to get hold of kelp noodles, and my early attempts using zucchini and spaghetti squash were pretty horrible.

The original recipe came from Canadian Living Magazine here.  My family loved it (pre-paleo).  It was part of our regular rotation.  We rarely repeated meals, but this recipe got some real mileage.  Once we went primal, not only were the noodles from the original recipe no longer appropriate, neither was the hoisin sauce.  And both had pretty distinctive flavours.  For a long time, I wasn't sure how I was going to remove hoisin sauce and still get that sweet flavour.  But then, I bought coconut aminos.  And had a real a-ha moment.  It's not much like the original anymore--but the same sweet taste is there still.  So here's where the recipe ended up...


For the sauce:
3 Tbs coconut aminos
3 Tbs oyster sauce
1 tsp honey
2 tsp chili-garlic sauce

The rest:
1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs
1 pkg kelp noodles, rinsed under hot water
1 large head bok choy
1 red pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 tsp tapioca starch
1 tsp minced fresh ginger


Prep everything first:  Thoroughly wash your bok choy and chop it up.  De-bone and de-skin your chicken, then chop it into small bite-sized pieces.  Chop your red pepper.  If you love chicken skin like I do, make cracklings!  (And then clean up the mess you just made because they don't call them cracklings for nothing....)  Set cooked cracklings aside to drain on paper towel.  You can use them as garnish if you don't eat them before the rest of the food is ready.

Mix up your sauce.  Dilute your tapioca in a bit of cold water.

Pull out your Wok, or just a really big skillet.  Using a bit of the chicken fat from the cracklings, cook your chicken, in batches if necessary, until no longer pink.  Remove and set aside.  Add red pepper, bok choy, garlic and ginger to pan.  Stirring, cook bok choy down for a couple of minutes.  Add noodles and sauce.  Cover, if you're using a skillet, and let cook for a couple more minutes to heat everything through.  If its a Wok you're using, just stir very frequently.  Add chicken and juices back into pan and heat through.  Moving everything aside, pour your tapioca into the sauce, stirring quickly as it thickens.  Mix everything thoroughly and remove from heat immediately.

Serve with crackings!

Sunday, 15 July 2012


I'm a little scared.  My shopping list is long and has expensive one-off's on it like parchment paper and lite-tasting EVOO for my homemade mayo...

So I got back from the grocery store, feeling like we did really well, and I open the cupboard to put the EVOO in--only to find another EVOO already in there.  So I re-stocked twice for the same thing...and look, there's two jars of pickles, when there's already one in the fridge, so I did THAT mistake twice over.  And I bought Dijon today, only to find another one of those in the cupboard, too.  So clearly I'm suffering from some kind of Alzheimer's-related memory issues, or I suffer from some kind of food hoarding complex and may appear on the next episode of that tv show. 

Anywhoo, including the $20 I spent on meat earlier this week at the farmers market, this week's grocery total is


Not bad.  On my list; flavoured yogurts for the girls, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, avocados, apricots, parchment paper, club soda (for wine spritzers, you know...) paper towels, bread & buns (only for the girls--we only buy bread for them about once a month), portobello mushrooms and tomato paste, along with the ingredients for everything below....

  • hamburgers with minted tomato salad (gonna try my new grassfed burgers from snowdon farms, salad recipe TBA if I like it)
  • taco scramble (recipe here )
  • curried banana chicken and cauli-rice (recipe here --sounds really interesting with bananas..)
  • buffalo chicken casserole (recipe here )
  • apricot-chipotle glazed pork tenderloins with asparagus (recipe TBA if it works out for me)
  • enchilada pie (recipe here )
  • egg, avocado and bacon caesar salad

Saturday, 14 July 2012

I'm Not Perfect...

I'm not perfect, and neither is anyone else. We're all human. Even our paleo-blogging gurus.

The other day, in a few moments of "OMG, I'm starving", I devoured 3 Source-brand yogurts. Yea. Those little guys. I think it was a mixed berry flavour, then peach, then raspberry. Now, for commercial flavoured yogurt, it could get a lot worse. Sure, its fat-free and uses splenda to sweeten. But it's also full of active bacterial cultures and low-carb/high protein when compared to other yogurts. I could have done far worse. Around here, all greek yogurts are fat free and loaded with sugar, so even though greek yogurt is supposed to be the best choice, its just not, not here, anyways.  I was hungry. It happens.

Matter of fact, I had a particularily bad month where my "treats" were coming way too frequently--and we all know that sweet craves sweet, right? Its a cycle I'm currently trying to remedy to get back on-track and in-control.  It had gotten a little out of hand, despite them all being paleo treats.

There's a funny misconception out there that all those paleo blogging gurus are lean and hard-bodied and perfect in every way. Ok, so maybe Mark Sisson, who like the guy on Dos Equis beer commercials, runs on the beach not because he has to but because he wants to--maybe he is perfect and has rock-hard abs. And so does Robb Wolf. And for that matter, Sarah Fragoso, too (how did she have 3 kids with those perfect abs? I will never understand the difference between why my belly looks like it does and hers looks like it does, sigh...) But there are also a lot of other fabulous paleo bloggers out there who are not perfect, and instead are just normal people trying to do right, trying to be healthy, trying to heal various health issues and help others along the way.

They're not perfect. Nor should they have to be. Case in point, Stacey from Paleo Parents was recently chastized for her choice to eat corn in a restaurant. Juli of PaleOMG had quite a few non-paleo alcohol-filled beverages on the 4th of July and some non-paleo treats, Mark and Robb admit to eating rice on occasion. It's all about doing what you can when you can, and forgiving yourself for the not-so-great choices you make on those off-moments. There's no perfection necessary.  I've heard self-conscious body comments from Wellness Mama, The Clothes make the Girl, The Paleo Mom, Cave Girl Eats...the list can go on and on, but you get my point, right?

6 months into my paleo journey, and with braces
The problem is not that overtly zealous paleo peeps chastize them (ok, that is a problem, too, but not my point here).  The problem is that we perceive all these paleo-blogging people as perfect and when we do that, we perceive ourselves as less worthy, less successful and embarrassed about our own less-than-perfect bodies.  We all want a piece of that perfect body pie, but surprisingly few of us get it.  That doesn't particularily shock me.  Less than 2% of the population can eat from that pie.  What really shocks me is that no one is showing photographic evidence that this is the truth. 

Have you noticed that many paleo bloggers are afraid to put pictures of themselves on their blogs--or that they only show upper body shots? They're afraid that you (and me) will judge them, will call them faleos or otherwise criticize them. I for one won't. I wish that everyone would adopt an "eyes wide open" stance and show everything. Let it all hang out there.  Let the world see what real, healthy bodies should look like and wear those scars and stretch marks with badges of honour.  If all of us showed ourselves with all of our "flaws" apparent, then I think the whole paleo movement would become less intimidating and more reachable. People deserve to know that paleo does not suddenly make them that perfect 2%--but rather it brings them a long way from unhealthy to more healthy. We do not turn into Scarlett Johanssen.  But we do change and improve.

Check out this photo, taken earlier this year. I'm wearing a hat in almost every pic ever taken of me outside over this past decade.  It's really unflattering.  I'm laughing at my son, who can't seem to find the coordination to find his way through the rope obstacle in the childs playground. I am always laughing or speaking when people take pics of me. Its never flattering, but its true because I never shut up.  It is an honest representation.  I always make that face.  I should stop making that face.

I have begun posting more and more pics of myself on my Facebook fan page.  They aren't flattering.  I am horribly unphotogenic.  I haven't gone from 150 lbs to 110.  No, actually, I've gone from 132 to 120 to 128 and I've kinda settled in here.  I've built muscle.  I've sweated for those abs.  So I'm not going to hide behind my food pictures.  I'm going to show that despite all the work I've done, I still have a post-baby belly.  Heck, I'm 41 and I have more than a few grey hairs on my head.  But despite my flaws, I think I'm doing ok.  I don't look like the women in magazine spreads and I don't look like Sarah Fragoso.  But if I look around me, at the real people who surround me every day, I think I'm doing pretty damn good.

I would love to see many, many more pics from all of my favorite paleo bloggers.  I want to see their faces from every angle.  I want to see them enough to truly recognize them, to be as familiar with those faces as we are with our friends faces so that when we cross paths on the street (and maybe one of us is scarfing down an enormous ice cream cone), we can say "hi, how've you been?" as if we are old friends.  If the intent of blogging all things paleo is to build a community (that is very much my purpose in blogging) then we should make our faces more visible to the community.  I want this movement to be all-inclusive.  I want people to feel like they fit in and they are just as successful as the guy standing next to them.  I want this paleo movement to be about great health from the inside out, and not about the outside body results.  I wish everyone could be less self-conscious and just come on out and join us and have some fun already.  Life is short; it's not about the finish line, its about the journey getting there.

Now, take a seriously good look at these shots.  They were taken a couple of weekends ago, at the cottage, the morning after several beer were consumed.  I had seriously considered NOT posting the pics because my belly is ridiculously bloated.  Because my butt is not my best feature.  Because my hair is frizzy.  Because I'm not at my skinniest.  But then I thought, you know what?  This is how I look.  Really.  And perfect body or not, I got out there and had a lot of fun in my teenie, weenie polka dot bikini.  And I just didn't care how I looked.  Because I was having fun.  And that's why I turned to paleo in the first place.  So that I would be fit enough to have fun.  Doing anything I wanted to.
  And I do.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


Yaay--cheap week!  Ground beef was an amazing price.  Fruit are in-season.

Total this week?  $101.80 

(but I haven't yet bought the tilapia or celery root)

On this weeks' menu.....

  • Bbq'd rotisserie chicken with grilled veggies
  • Sloppy Joes with parsnip fries
  • stovetop spaghetti with sausage (on cabbage "noodles")
  • Spanish beef & cauli-rice
  • Whole roasted tilapia with mashed celery root
  • crockpot glazed pork tenderloin and coleslaw
  • sausage and goat cheese pizza
...and a fruit cobbler with all the fruit we just picked at the farm...


So, the other day I got this email from Kraft Kitchens.  I don't know if it exists south of the border, too, but Kraft Canada is the absolute devil of food preparation and good food recipes.  They use every pre-packaged food item they can find to speed up the process of cooking to produce the most unnatural foods out there.....  But they take beautiful food pictures, and have creative ideas, so I end up receiving these emails and then googling the actual recipes that they are trying to duplicate, and then have to convert those ideas to paleo-friendly foods if they interest me at all.

So I received their crazy rendition of cherry clafouti and had to google it.  What I found was Julia Child's recipe and I just had to work with it!

So clafouti is a dessert served in little coffee houses all over France.  It's not a pretty confection, in fact, behind the display case glass, it is often the ugly duckling and yet remains a popular choice even when it sits beside fancy fluffy decorated cakes and pies.  What it really is, is a baked custard with cherries in it.  It is simple to make, lightly sweet (mostly naturally sweet because of the cherries), and tastes even better as cold leftovers (if it actually lasts until the leftover stage...) 

So here's what I did...

Makes 4 hearty breakfast servings (with bacon!!) or 6 dessert servings


3 cups cherries--fresh or frozen (I used sweet, fresh)
1 can coconut milk
4 eggs
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 Tbs vanilla
4 scoops stevia powder (equal to 4 tsp sugar)
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbs lemon zest, optional
2 tsp coconut sugar or raw, organic crystallised cane sugar (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a pie dish.  Pit your cherries, if using fresh.  Set aside.  Mix all other ingredients --except coconut sugar-- in a blender, pulsing until blended. 

Pour about 1/3 of the batter into the pie dish and bake about 8 minutes, until the bottom begins to set.  Then add your cherries, then pour in the rest of your batter and bake for another 30 minutes until set firm.  Remove from oven and move your oven rack to top 1/3 of oven --not quite the highest position but the one under that-- and turn the oven up to broil.  Sprinkle the crystallised sugar all over the top of your clafouti.  If you're squeamish about this, don't bother with the sugar, but it does add a lightly crunchy sweet touch and it's a very scant 2 tsp.  heck, drop it to 1 tsp if you want.  Would this work with honey?  I'm not sure if honey can crisp up.  You try it and tell me.

Place your clafouti under the broiler for about 3 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it!  Watch the cherries start to burst and spill juices on top of the clafouti and the juices will meld with the sugar and crystallise a little bit like brulee.  Watch it go all golden and and a bit puffy on top.

Remove and let sit for about 5 minutes.

See that huge bursty cherry?? Hot cherry innards!!

Delicious warm--watch out for hot, bursty cherries!!  But equally delicious cold.  Can be packed and taken to work to make non-paleo co-workers jealous....

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Jimmy Kofta

We found Jimmy Kofta.  He's alive and well and in our kitchen.

Seriously, though, ever heard of koftas? Kofte?  Kufte?  This many-spelled word is basically a middle-east-meets Mediterranean meatball on a stick.  Really.  I've seen them just packed on a stick without being made into a meatball first.  Imagine what that looks like.  Poop on a twig.  So don't do that.  It's not pretty.

Koftas can be made of  beef, bacon, lamb, chicken, paneer or even game meats, mixed with eggs, onions and spices.  Sometimes they are a mixture of hard-boiled egg and meat.  This may be where the scotch egg came from, originally.  For flavour, think exotic combos like saffron or allspice or classic mediterranean with just olive oil and oregano.  They can be baked, broiled, barbecued, fried or even roasted in a tagine.  They are totally versatile and flavourful little gems.  But putting them on a stick makes meatballs barbecue worthy, and unlike hamburgers, you aren't tempted into serving these on buns.  They're a nice change from hamburgers on the bbq.

Personally,  for this version, I went for a simple Mediterranean flavour.  Nothing too crazy, let the meat stand up for itself.  They were delicious.  They were so well received that many spice variations may follow.  So here's the first and original version....

And as for the cauli-orzo salad?  This is a Mediterranean twist on "pasta" salad.  I actually liked this a lot better than the original starchy cold pasta or rice salads because with them, the starches always seemed to soak up all the sauce/oil and become sticky unless it was just drowning in mayonnaise.  I didn't want a mayonnaise salad here.  I wanted to taste the nice EVOO and the roasted tomatoes and the sharp olive flavours.  I wanted a clean, crisp taste and this sure fit  the bill.  The cauliflower does not soak up the oil at all.  It stays oh-so-nicely coated in oil without becoming all sticky.  Now, if you are avoiding all dairy, omit the goat cheese.  Its a beautiful touch, but its not the most important ingredient in it.   Definately make the salad first, and let it chill in the fridge so that all the flavours meld together.

This makes 6 generous portions.

Cold Cauli-Orzo Salad


1 head cauliflower
2/3 c olives, any kind, sliced
1/3 c sundried tomatoes
1/3 c EVOO
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs dried basil
2 cloves garlic
small pkg goat cheese (113 g)
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste


Coarsely chop cauliflower.  Bring a very large pot of water to a full boil, then drop in cauliflower for exactly 6 minutes.  You are only going to "blanch" the cauliflower here; it will only be halfway cooked at this point.  Remove from heat, dump into a strainer and immediately run cold water over the cauliflower to stop the cooking process. 

Now, while the cauli is drying in the sink, get everything else prepped.  Chop the sundried tomatoes.  Mix all the other ingredients in a large salad bowl,  crumble in the goat cheese. 

In small batches, "rice" the cauliflower with your food processor.  Or chop it crazy-fine if you don't have one.  I use my food processor daily.  You should get one if you don't already have one.  Mix the riced cauli in with the rest of the ingredients, stir well to combine and put it in the fridge until you're ready to eat it.  This will keep for several days in the fridge.

So just let it meld.....

And move onto the koftas.

Beef 'n Bacon Koftas


2 lbs ground beef
1 cooking onion (or 2/3 c spanish onion)
2 stalks celery
3 tsp dried thyme
5 slices bacon
2 eggs
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
olive oil for basting


Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Finely chop onions, celery and bacon.  Wisk eggs, then mix all other ingredients (except basting oil) and form into 1 1/2 - 2 inch meatballs.  I think I got 49 meatballs.  Thread them onto wooden skewers.    Place  the skewers on a rack over top of a baking sheet.  Brush the tops with olive oil.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Turn the skewers over and baste other side, then bake for about 5 minutes more.  If you want the meatballs browned, turn the oven to broil at this point and keep an eye on them.  Remove when browned.

This would be perfect on the bbq.  Unfortunately, I can't use a bbq.  I burn everything. 

And voila!  Serve over cold Cauli-Orzo Salad.  Prepare to be thanked by your hungry family.