One GRITS Journey To Convert Beloved Southern Recipes to Paleo Approved, and Darn GOOD too!

This is my story of how I am striving to change my family's life, nutritionally, for the better. Here in the deep South Paleo is a foreign word. No one has heard of it, and gluten free is really almost as unheard of...
After reading Gary Taubes enlightning GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES I was determine to change! Armed with my own two hands, the internet (thank God for, and all those wonderful blogs and podcasts available now, I am beginning my journey.
Please feel free to join me as I try to adapt all of our Southern Favorites into Paleo Appropriate Scrumptiousness!!! (and all Gluten Free) I will try to post all of the good ones, and may even blog about some failures along the way.

20 March 2011

My Saucy Balls ( aka Erika's Cheesy Mushroom Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce)

This Saturday we went to the ALL LOCAL farmers market for the first time. Its is at 711 Whaley St in the Olympia Park neighborhood. Its one of the only all local open air markets in the South! I was in heaven!!!See my post about it for more information!

I came home with wonderful Salad greens, fresh baby carrots, and even EDIBLE flowers to toss in. Carebear was intrigued. She ate a handful over dinner with her salad, even as she stated she didn't really like them??

Perhaps the intrigue was enough to keep her at it. They were a tad spicy actually, a bite to it. But with my homemade balsamic dressing it was a darn good salad.! Wish I  had taken a pic!
There was also the most beautiful fresh basil. It was so fragrant!!!! I knew I had to make a dinner around it! I came straight home and made PESTO, and whipped up a fresh tomato sauce from the last of my canned tomatoes, and then made my meatballs- these I actually had even planned to make this weekend- but they were SOOO divine with the added fresh pesto!

Saucy Balls- aka Cheesy Mushroom Meatballs

2 lbs ground beef (  a mix of Wil-Moore farms beef and Caw Caw ground pork perhaps??)
3 Tbsp fresh Pesto (see my recipe below)
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh tomato sauce ( see recipe below)
1/4 cup AP GF flour or GF bread crumbs- (whichever
you have on hand will work really, though breadcrumbs are the best option)
1 container mushrooms of choice,  cleaned and diced ( about 2 cups)-i used cremini
 1/2 cup onion diced
2 or 3 cloves garlic diced
3/4 cup good quality Parmesan cheese ( or mix of parm and asiago perhaps) freshly grated
2 eggs, gently mixed
salt and pepper to taste
(this makes LOTS of meatballs!- great to eat some and freeze some!)

First, add onions, mushrooms, and garlic to a food processor and pulse till  finely chopped.
Also pulse some fresh breadcrumbs ( or I often have some I keep in the freezer-day old GF bread is not so great, but makes great breadcrumbs!!)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until well combined. (you don't want to overmix or your meatballs will be tough) Also in this step, start with a tad less tomato sauce, and add more as needed. Also if your end product feel too wet- add more breadcrumbs...If too dry, add some tomato sauce...
Next- make one tiny ball and fry it up-taste for flavoring. This step is important! If its too bland add some more salt/pepper, perhaps a tad more pesto???
Roll your Balls out next. I have found that smaller meatballs don't fall apart as easily, since going gluten free!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brown the meatballs in Fat-- Use lard, or coconut oil here. Brown on all sides and then place on a baking sheet. Once you have browned off all of your balls you can either  stick the baking sheet in the oven for 10 min or so to finish baking, or add them to simmering tomato sauce and simmer for 30 minutes or so.  There are so many meatballs I usually do some of both. The baking sheet balls then go into the freezer spread out on the sheet pan till frozen. Now you can store them in a freezer bag for another time!!! 
The sauced balls- SAUCY BALLS- can be served alone, in a sammie, or with pasta!

Homemade Marinara ( tomato sauce)
(this is more a method than a recipe- you can make it a huge batch or a small batch easily)

Canned Whole Tomatoes ( I think fresh canned tomatoes make a difference here- so can next summer if you can!!!!)
Parmesan cheese rind ( the end of the parmesan cheese, that hard part..)
garlic cloves
diced onion
olive oil ( good quality makes a diff- cold pressed!)
Basil Pesto
2 dried bay leaves
salt/pepper to liking

Saute diced onion and garlic in  butter in a thick bottomed large pan that is large enough to accommodate your sauce. 
When soft and translucent add tomatoes and Parmesan rind to pan. Bring to a simmer and add bay leaves.  
Simmer for at least an hour- the longer the better though- I shoot for at least 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. During the last 20 minutes add your fresh pesto. Stir well and continue to simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I don't often add any salt, as the parmesan adds enough for me. )
Lastly, take out whats left of your parmesan rind, and take out the bay leaves. You are ready to serve now if you want a heartier sauce. 
If you want your sauce to be a more consistant, smooth texture then just use an immersion blender and blend till smooth, or if you don't have one you could do this in the food processor or blender--just be careful, as its HOT.
( For ex: Last night I used- 2 quarts canned tomatoes, 1/2 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, parmesan rind, 1/4 cup pesto- this made enough to sauce my meatballs and to toss with some GF pasta for 3 kids and a hubbie with a tad left over)

Also- if you don't wanna do the pesto version, and I often leave that part out, just add torn fresh basil at the end, or if you must dried basil. If you do dried, you can add it in beginning of the simmering. 

Fresh Basil Pesto
(again more a method than exact recipe)
  Bunch of  Basil
Handful of Pine Nuts
EVOO ( good quality cold pressed extra virgin)
Parmesan cheese ( freshly grated good quality)

Toss your Basil, Pine Nuts and Parmesan into the Food Processor. Pulse till the mixture is combined well and broken down.( you may need to stop it and scrape down the sides a time or two)
Now with the Food Processor running, drizzle in EVOO until you reach desired consistency. You want it to be very wet, but not drowning in olive oil.So go slow, scraping sides down a couple times, and by all means taste with your finer along the way!

This is wonderful in the meatballs and sauce,
or great tossed alone on GF pasta,
or brushed on chicken and grilled or fried up on the stove top! 
Or really on anything in my opinion- you cannot beat FRESH PESTO!

My Balsamic Salad Dressing
(again more of a method- make as much or little as you want, the ratio is what matters)

1 part balsamic: 3 parts EVOO 
(from here you can add a little fresh lemon juice, some finely diced herbs of any kind,  a tad of honey if you like it less tart, some smashed garlic, and of course salt and pepper to taste, even some fresh pesto)

my exact recipe from last night-
1/4 cup Balsamic,
1 T lemon juice, 
3/4  cup EVOO,
2 small garlic cloves finely diced and smashed with salt to a pulp, fresh ground salt and pepper- just a tad

(You could even add a T of your fresh pesto!) 
Place all of this in a small jar with the lid on and shake away to combine. 
  • If you add a Tbsp of mustard here then it will immulsify as you shake- meaning the dressing won't split back apart into vingear and oil while sitting) I  often add the mustard, as I like how it tastes- usually a champane mustard, or really any great flavored mustard works!!! 
  • Tonight I left it out, as I wanted a simpler dressing. If you leave it out just be sure to shake your jar vigourously before adding to your salad greens.
  • Stays well in fridg for a week or so.
  • This recipe made enough for 3 large family size salads, I guess depending on how much you use. I tend to toss the salad as a whole and then then serve.
  • If you add dressing to each plate you will probably end up using more each time.

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