What’s For Dinner? – Basil, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms


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UPC’s Basil, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms

Inspiration can come from a lot of different places, for a lot of different things. I love it when inspiration strikes me, and I am most definitely the kind of guy who will pull over to the side of the road to take a picture or write something down. I’m not so much of a sing-in-the-shower person, but you shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I were to break into song while standing on the subway platform, or walking down a crowded street. Why? I was inspired. Interestingly, most often when inspiration strikes me, I’ve completely forgotten what inspired me by the time the inspired action begins. It’s one of the reasons why I believe in inspiration so thoroughly. Fortunately, for those really life-changing events, the ones that have a lasting impact on my life, I usually remember the inspiration for those. For instance: I remember what inspired me and my wife to go Paleo. In fact, I can trace that particular decision through an interesting path of choices, all made possible by one single moment of inspiration (and not a terribly pleasant one, I might add) almost a year before we did finally make the decision. And, depending on how you look at it, that particular moment, that inspiration, may in fact be responsible for my blogging as well. Sometimes it’s amazing to consider the implications that one action may have such lasting impressions! If I could, I’d go Paleo AGAIN – though I’m certainly not willing to give it up first…

My inspiration, as small as it may seem, for today’s meal was a box of mushrooms. Some mushrooms just say to me “I want to be chopped up in little bits and eaten in a salad.” Some of them say “I want to be sliced thin and made into a soup.” And these mushrooms that you see here, they were jumping up and down, screaming to be made into stuffed mushrooms as loud as they could! Honestly, I don’t understand how everyone else in the grocery store wasn’t annoyed by all the ruckus.
On a slightly more serious note: I saw these mushrooms and was instantly and immediately inspired to make stuffed mushrooms with them. Unlike bursting in to song, stuffed mushrooms take some preparation, consideration, and planning. I knew that they wanted to be made in to stuffed mushrooms, but I still had to figure out what to stuff them with! Not to worry; it came to me. Or, rather, my wife and I spent an agonizing 30 minutes spit-balling ideas back and forth until one stuck. Like inspiration, I knew it once we had it. So, here it is!

UPC’s Basil, Bacon and Caramelized  Onion Stuffed Mushrooms; What you’ll need:

  • Large Mushrooms (I used 20 oz) – any large cup-mushroom (white button, crimini, etc.); or cake the stuffing on top of a cap-mushroom (portobello, shiitake, etc)
  • Mushroom Stems, diced
  • 1 lb Bacon, cooked and crumbled (Top-Quality only! 🙂 )
  • 1 large Red Onion, diced and caramelized (also called “Spanish Onion”)
  • 1 medium Rutabaga, finely chopped.
  • 2 cloves Garlic, diced
  • 5-6 sprigs Fresh Basil, diced (including the stems – they add to the texture)
  • Several Fresh Basil Leaves, diced (keep separate from above)
  • Spices: Savory, Anise, Marjoram, Turmeric

Serves: 4-8
Cook and Prep Time: 60 minutes

2GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Bacon1. Cook and crumble the bacon. Drain the pan of most of the bacon grease (to be used in some other culinary creation!).

2. Add the onions and rutabaga to the remainder of the bacon grease and begin cooking on medium heat. Stir regularly (every 1-2 minutes).

1GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Mushrooms

Remove the stem, cut out the lip, and scrape out the gills.

3. Remove the stems of the mushrooms, cut out the lip of the cup, then scrape the gills off the inside of the cup (or cap, if you’re using caps) of the mushroom with a spoon. This makes more room for the stuffing.
Note: Don’t know what the gills are? Check here.

4. After about 10 minutes of cook time, add the garlic and mushroom stems to the onions and rutabaga and continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes, or until the onions are thoroughly caramelized.

5. Turn off the heat, add the spices and diced basil and mix thoroughly.

5GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Stuffing-LastStir

Stir in the spices and basil with the caramelized onions and rutabaga.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 350.

7. Spoon some stuffing in to each mushroom, making sure that they’re filled to the top, but not over filled. The mushrooms will shrink while baking.

6GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-PreBake

Don’t over-fill the mushrooms; they shrink while baking.

8. Grease the bottom of each mushroom thoroughly (yes, you can use the bacon grease 🙂 ) and place the mushrooms in a baking pan with enough space between them so that they’re not touching.

9. Put the pan in the oven once it’s up to temperature; set the timer for 15 minutes.

10. When the timer dings, sprinkle the remaining diced basil on top of the mushrooms, and serve and enjoy!

Optional: If you’re a cheese person: you can add cheese to the recipe at the end, while you’re adding the basil and spices to the stuffing.

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Questions:

  • What kinds of inspiration strikes you?
  • Do you ever have inspiration that you can act on immediately? Do you?
  • Do you ever have food inspiration?
  • How would you use this stuffed mushroom recipe?
  • How might you change it to suit your needs?
  • Are there other stuffed mushroom recipes that you like?
  • Would you serve this as a meal, or an appetizer?
  • What would you serve this with?

What’s For Dinner? Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions and Mango


PorkChopsWithCaramelizedOnionsAndMango1

I had a slow morning this morning, and a slow day all day. Everything about it was slow. The weather was stunningly beautiful, and because it’s that sunny day between two major rain storms, people around me seemed to be more interested in enjoying the weather than anything else. And I don’t blame them at all!
You know that “sweet” quality to the air the morning after it rained hard? Everything, everywhere almost smells like a flower garden is right next to you? Or there was a freshly cut lawn right up-wind of you… That’s the quality that the air had while I was running for the ferry in the morning. And the air still felt like that when I went out for a late-morning walk. By the time lunch came around, the sun had taken care of most of that, but it was a reasonably warm day, not too hot, and the sun was beautiful, surrounded by blue skies in every direction!

So of course, I had to come home and make a slow-cooked meal, using awesome ingredients, while my wife and I went outside together to enjoy the weather! I’ve now brought to you a slow-cooked Chicken meal, designed to be done from frozen while you work out. I’ve brought a steak meal which, like the chicken, was designed to be done from frozen and while you work out. Yesterday I brought a ground-beef meal along those same lines. And finally today I am completing the “Standard 3” commercial meats, and bringing you a pork meal, from frozen, designed to be cooked while you work out. I really love putting together simple, easy to follow recipes which will work for anyone in any situation. Because I live a busy life, and I don’t need to sacrifice my food quality in order to get the other important parts of my life in place. My food can cook while I’m getting my workout!

PorkChopsWithCaramelizedOnionsAndMangoWhat you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Pork Chops, thick cut (see this link for Pork Quality information)
  • 1 large Red Onion (Organic, of course!)
  • 1 large Mango (also Organic!)
  • 1 tablespoon Coconut Oil
  • Turmeric and Pepper
  • Salad:
  • Arugula
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado

Serves: 2
Cook time: at least 60 minutes

Drop the frozen pork chops in a pan with the coconut oil and turn it on high. Start chopping the onion first, since that will cover the rest of the pan bottom. These can be fairly large pieces because the cooking process is going to reduce them to near-mush, which is exactly what we’re going for! Add these to the pan as soon as possible, and turn the pan down to “Simmer” or about 2 out of 10.

As soon as you’re done chopping the onion and adding it to the pan, start chopping the mango. This will work well with either fresh mango or dried mango, since the cook process is quite long and there’s plenty of time to re-hydrate in the covered pan. But of course, everything is better when you have fresh ingredients! Chop the mango as small as you have patience for. I got mine down to about 1/2 inch cubes, which turned out quite well! It can be a challenge chopping mango up that small, but keep at it and you’ll appreciate the results!

Once all of the ingredients are in the pan, go ahead and spice everything. I put the spice sparingly on the pork chops themselves, and generously on the mango and onions around the outside of the pork. The way I hoped it would work out (and it did!) is the spices and the flavors of the onions and mango would all mingle in the bottom of the pan where the pork is slow-cooking. That way, the flavors will sink in to the meat, and taste delicious!!

Cover the pan and head out for your workout. When you get back, turn the heat up to high and uncover the pan for another 5 minutes or so, throw together a quick side salad of some delicious greens, and sit down and eat! Cook time should be at least 60 minutes, so if your workout is shorter than that, you have time for a shower too, and maybe some stretching. Go ahead and take your time. At this temperature, you can let it cook for too long without any fear of overcooking the meat.

Questions:

  • What do you do with those 60 minutes while your meal is slow-cooking? Workout? Yoga?
  • Do you have other favorite cook-while-you-workout recipes that you want to share?

What’s For Dinner? Slow-Cooked Ground Beef with Caramelized Onions and Apples on a Bed of Arugula, with Avocado


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I just read Mark’s Daily Apple’s daily post from yesterday on my commute in this morning. It is an amazing article on pork production quality, and how to find your way through the haze of marketing claims made by the various pork producers. I will shortly be updating my Bacon Project page with this article so that it’s available for anyone and everyone to know why I am so meticulous about the source of bacon that I buy for my own consumption. Interestingly, the article specifically discusses Niman Ranch, which is one of the bacons that I bought. It mentions that, while they do a better job than CAFO, they’re not the level of quality that I personally strive for in my pork products, nor what most of their consumers are likely expecting when they buy from Niman Ranch. Similarly, the article discusses a farm in Vermont. As you all know, I am completely enamored with the Vermont Smoke And Cure products, so it was great to see the writer of the article point out another Vermont farm which does a top-quality job with their pork. I will definitely be looking for Sugar Mountain Farm products, as well as Tendergrass Farm products in the future!

Here it is: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/what-you-should-know-about-pork-production-claims/

Slow Cooked Grass-Fed Ground Beef in Caramelized Apples and Onions, served on a Bed of Arugula, with Avocado on the Side.

My wife and I got home last night at around the same time. The usual “What do you want for dinner?” dance ensued, and we finally settled on ground beef. Since we were heading outside to get in a workout, I put the 1-lb of ground beef in a pan with 1 large red onion and a large apple, and turned it on to “Simmer” or about a 2 out of 10. We headed out for our workout, leaving the ground beef and the “flavorings” to cook slowly, stewing in their own flavors and juices. When we came back we were greeted by the most amazing smell in the apartment! Our appetite, already stoked by the workout, was absolutely roaring by the time we had taken off our shoes!

GroundBeefWithCaramelizedRedOnionsAndApples1What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Frozen Grass-Fed Ground Beef
  • 1 large Organic Red Onion (also called “Spanish Onion”)
  • 1 large Organic Apple (I used Fuji; but most of the “Crisp” varieties will do nicely)
  • Turmeric and Fresh Ground Pepper for spices
  • Arugula
  • 1 large Avocado

Serves: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes

Put the frozen ground beef in a pan. Turn the pan on to “high” while you cut up your onion, getting the beef slightly seared on the bottom. Once the onion is sliced up, reduce the heat to “Simmer” and loosely pack that around the beef, making sure that the bottom of the pan is mostly covered by the onion and beef. Now season the beef with turmeric and ground pepper. With the onion in the pan, you can chop the apple up in to approximately 1/2 inch cubes, and sprinkle them around on top of the onions, letting a few apple cubes fall onto the beef as well. Now cover this and leave it for at least 60 minutes.

The slow-cooking process for any meat is a great way to fill the meat with the flavors you’re adding to the cook-pot (or pan). If you want the meat to taste sweet, add sweet things. I often use apples for this since they’ve got a great sweetness without a terribly high sugar content. If you want the meat to taste spicy, add spicy things.
As I discovered last night, using ground beef (this would work just as well with ground pork, chicken or turkey as well) increases the amount of flavor that the meat will absorb tremendously! And the combination of the red onion’s sharp flavor, along with the caramelizing that it did on the bottom of the pan (the bottom of the pan was all onion or beef, the apple was all at the top of the pan), with the sweetness of the apple was an incredible combination! Adding those in with the beef was divine, and a recipe I will certainly be doing again, and often!

When you get back from your workout, or whatever you’ve been doing for the last 60 minutes, take a spatula and break up the ground beef. The slow-cooking process does nothing to separate the beef out in to the small chunks that most people prefer. So if you don’t use your cooking utensils to do this, it will serve more like a steak than ground beef. Which is fine, but not the texture and presentation that my wife and I were looking for in this meal. We wanted something we could “sprinkle” over arugula for a meal; and ground beef was just the thing, this recipe in particular!

Questions:

  • Do you have any personal favorites that you do with ground beef?
  • What kinds of special, non-standard ingredients do you use?

Mushroom Tapenade with Caramelized Onions


Mushroom Tapenade with sliced cucumbers in the backgroundMushroom Tapenade with Caramelized Onions

Mushroom_Tapenade-ThumbnailMy wife and I hosted two back to back small-scale parties at our place over the weekend. It was amazing! And cooking for parties is one of the things that I look forward to the most as a chef. Back in the old days, I used to make a bean dip for parties, visiting, hosting etc. I had a small group of people who would actually invite me to events specifically for my bean dip. They loved it! And it wasn’t Paleo in the least. So, in honor of the old days, I put my creative energies to good use over the weekend, and came up with a recipe for a thick mushroom dip (called “tapenade” in the title) which replaces the otherwise missing go-to party dip which I used to make.

What you’ll need:Mushroom_Tapenade_Ingredients

  • 30 oz White Button mushrooms
  • 2 large Carrots
  • 3 medium Sweet Onions
  • 1 head Fennel
  • 3 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 4 tablespoons Coconut Butter (or Coconut Manna)
  • Italian Seasoning, Turmeric, Salt & Pepper

Cook Time: 2+ hours
Serves: 8+

Mushrooms and Carrots in the Crock PotIn a slow cooker, combine the chopped mushrooms, shredded carrots, one cup of water and the coconut butter. Start the slow-cooker on high, and turn it down after about 30 minutes of cook time. I like to chop the mushrooms coarsely. This will all need to be processed later in a blender, so I don’t worry too much about the size that I chop the mushrooms down to; I just want to make certain that they are small enough that the cooking is effective. I “shred” my carrots on a cheese grater, and like the mushrooms, I don’t worry too much about them being chopped smaller because this will all be blended later. Let the whole mixture cook on high for several hours (I cooked this for 4 hours before processing; and served shortly after that) stirring every 30 minutes or so. Turn it down from high to low after the first 30 minutes. You can let this cook for anywhere between 1 and 6 hours without any real fear of over-cooking.

Mushroom_Tapenade-Caramelized_OnionsAbout 30 minutes before serving, blend the cooked mushrooms and carrots in a blender. I do this in small batches, about 1/2 cup each batch, otherwise the stirring and re-running the blender will be a very labor intensive process. Put the blended mushroom mix back in the crock-pot, and turn it back up to high. Now is a good time to add the spices and stir them in.

Once the mushroom/carrot mix has been blended, start the onions and fennel in a frying pan with coconut oil. I chop the onions and fennel fairly finely, since these will not be blended. These will provide the “chunks” that you expect from a good dipping sauce or tapenade, as well as most of the texture, so make sure that the size you chop your onions and fennel to is the size you want in the dip. You can season the onions and fennel as well. I cook on a medium-high heat (about 6 or 7 out of 10) and it took me about 5 minutes to caramelize the onions and fennel. Add the caramelized onions and fennel to the mushroom mix and stir.

Mushroom Tapenade with sliced cucumbers in the backgroundAnd Serve!

This is ready to serve as soon as the onions and fennel are added to the mix. This can be kept warm in the crock-pot for more than an hour before the onions will start to break down, so don’t worry if you finished a little early.

I like to serve this with sliced cucumber “chips” for dipping. This is also great on any other type of vegetable, as well as Plantain Chips if you can find them. Leftovers will go great as a top-sauce for a seared steak or pork. This is an Urban Paleo Chef original, so I really hope you all love it!

Let me know what you served this with in the comments section! And if you modified the recipe at all, let me know what you added, what spices you used, and how it worked out?