Nosh and Knowledge

Haley had her first stand alone cooking class yesterday aptly titled Noshes and Knowledge. We have done several cooking classes as part of our Health and Wellness Retreats, but this was the first cooking only session. She’s trying to do one session a month to explore the various popular diets and their pros and cons.

So yesterday she cooked a Paleo recipe. She cooked, we ate and then she gave a presentation on the history of the Paleo diet, and how easy it might be to adopt this way of eating. The menu consisted of:

Spaghetti Squash with a meat Bolognese
Spinach salad with home made shallot vinaigrette
Home made ice cream with poached pears

Haley charges a modest $20 per person for the dinner, instruction and lecture.

We started by baking the spaghetti squash in the oven. While that was baking, she started on the meat sauce. She sautéed a mirepoix (chopped onions, carrots and celery) in some olive oil. We have been using Trader Joe’s 100% Greek Kalmata Extra Virgin Olive Oil since we found out that so many olive oils are adulterated and not what they purport to be. There is a website called “truthinolive” that lists quality olive oils and you can find out which olive oils are authentic. And this one from Trader Joe’s is considered authentic. Most people live within an easy driving distance from Traders (unfortunately we do not but we do take trips into the city every so often). To the mirepoix she added chopped garlic, chopped bacon (for flavor) and grass-fed beef. I will do a blog soon on the state of the meat and poultry industry in this country, but in the meantime why not make it a priority to eat only high quality food.

Once these ingredients had been sautéed, she added coconut milk and tomato paste and salt and pepper. She let this simmer for another 1/2 hour or so. By then the squash was ready to tease into spaghetti (using two forks). To serve this really delicious dish you would plate the squash first and then spoon the sauce on top. Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired (a Paleo diet would not include cheese) and some chopped parsley or basil. She made the spinach salad with a shallot dressing and home made ice cream with poached pears which was out of this world.

The Paleo diet became popular in the 1970s. It’s supposed to represent how our ancestors used to eat and so does not include processed foods. Also no dairy or grains are allowed, and limited starchy vegetables. But it does allow plenty of meat and fish and fresh vegetables and fruits.

On the pro side, it does eliminate unhealthy processed foods. But on the con side, it doesn’t allow any grains and there are plenty of healthy grains such as quinoa and millet etc. that I wouldn’t want to give up. However I think it’s worth experimenting with these different diet plans and see what makes sense.

Below is the recipe for the Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese sauce. I would love to hear from you if you try it and see what you think. We are lucky enough to be able to grow our own spaghetti squash, shallots, onions and other vegetables. If you can’t grow your own, I’m sure you can find a Farmers Market close by that has fresh produce (you know the motto – buy local if you can).

The traditional Italian meat sauce Bolognese is usually made with cream or milk. To keep this one dairy-free, coconut milk is used instead.

1 large spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons coconut oil or grass-fed butter
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, grated or finely diced
1 lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
4 slices pastured bacon, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.
Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise so that two shallow halves remain. Scoop out the seeds and inner portion of the squash, and then sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Place both halves face down on a baking sheet. Roast for 35-45 minutes—until the flesh of the squash becomes translucent in color and the skin begins to soften and easily separate from the “noodles” that make up the inside.
While the squash bakes: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the coconut oil or butter, and sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until they become translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Add the ground beef and bacon, and cook until browned through. Once browned, add the coconut milk, tomato paste, and white wine (optional), and simmer over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes or until the sauce is well combined and any alcohol is cooked out (if you added it). Add sea salt and black pepper to taste before removing the sauce from the heat.
Once the squash is cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool enough to be handled. Then scoop out and separate the flesh using two forks. Spoon finished sauce over plated spaghetti squash and serve.

Adapted from the book Practical Paleo