Today’s post will be several in a series I am doing with a company called SunBasket. They are one of several home-cooked meal kit delivery services that have popped up as of late. I am particularly fond of SunBasket because you can order strictly Paleo meals that are organic and non-GMO. I also love the story behind the company.
Additionally, all meals are developed by top San Francisco chef Justine Kelly (formerly of The Slanted Door) in partnership with Sun Basket’s in-house nutritionist Kaley Todd, ensuring that each dish is balanced, nutritious and delicious.
Also, I am excited to bring this company to your attention because the Paleo diet is something that is only truly sustainable if you 1.) Can cook at least a little or 2.) Can carve out the time to cook at least a little. Andy and I are a little spoiled because we alternate shopping and cooking to churn out Paleo/Primal meals everyday. But, we don’t have kids and have pretty flexible schedules to allow the time to do so.
I am thrilled to help introduce SunBasket because they can take the thinking/guess work out of dinner for three nights a week and even do the shopping for you. The meals come complete with everything you need to make three full meals for two people. The only thing you will have to do is the dishes!
For my first box, I was sent 3 meals, one of which was Winter Albondigas with Shredded Cabbage. I was pretty impressed with the way everything was labeled and the pre-printed recipe cards that came in the package.
And chop away I did, as I chopped the onion, carrot, cilantro, cabbage and segmented the lime. The butternut squash used in the meal was already peeled and chopped for me. OK, now that’s easy, because if you have ever cooked a butternut squash, you know what a pain it can be to peel and remove the seeds.
Following the recipe, I sauteéd the vegetables (as you can see below). Meanwhile, I prepared the meatballs that were to go in the soup:
The meatballs were a blend of ground pork and beef (antibiotic and hormone free) with chopped cilantro, egg, and a provided spice packet. I was able to make 11 pretty decent-sized meatballs from the meat and ingredients given.
After simmering and reducing for about 30 minutes, you end up with a delicious meal for two. The soup preparation was so simple, yet the flavor was as if I had spent hours in the kitchen!
Winter albondigas with shredded cabbage
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 ounces cabbage
- 1 lime
- ¾ pound butternut squash cubes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 6 ounces ground beef
- 6 ounces ground pork
- 1 egg
- Meatball spice blend (oregano-cumin-coriander-garlic)
1. Prep the vegetables
Peel the onion and cut into ½-inch-thick pieces.
Scrub the carrot and cut into ¼-inch-thick half moon slices.
Finely chop the cilantro.
Cut the cabbage into thin strips.
2. Cook the soup
In a sauce pot over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, carrots, and squash. Season with salt and pepper and cover, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to soften, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stirring to coat the vegetables. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the soup slightly thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Make the meatballs
In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and pork. Add the egg, spice blend and half of the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well until combined.
Add the meatballs to the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the meatballs are just slightly pink in the center, 5 to 7 minutes.
Cut the lime into wedges. Divide the soup between two bowls and top with the remaining cilantro and cabbage. Serve with lime wedges.
Nutrition per serving: Calories 710, Protein: 37 g, Total Fat: 44 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 21 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6.5 g, Saturated Fat: 12 g, Cholesterol: 185 mg, Carbohydrates: 43 g, Fiber: 12 g, Added Sugar: 0 g, Sodium: 490 mg
A few weeks ago when I interviewed Mason Partak about his Chopped Junior experience and some of his future plans, I asked him to participate in a little something I call the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge.
See, Challenge Butter (and Cream Cheese) sponsored my cookie exchange last year and sent me coupons for more butter and cream cheese than I could ever possibly use. Of course, the butter coupons I made very good use of and currently have about 15 pounds of butter in my freezer. However, cream cheese is not primal or paleo, so I sent the remainder of my cream cheese coupons to Mason Partak and asked him to come up with a recipe that I could publish on my website.
He gladly accepted the challenge, as he is such a great sport and takes advantage of most opportunities that come his way. I present to you his recipe for the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge:
2 pkg Challenge cream cheese
1 med yellow onion
1 sm red onion
1 lg head of garlic
6 sage leaves
2 springs of Rosemary
1 pkg chives
1 C Italian blend grated cheese
1.5 C fresh grated parmesan
1 C chopped or sliced nuts (we used almonds)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Quarter the onions and top the head of garlic. Create a wrap around the garlic with foil so it sits up, it does not have to be closed up. Drizzle the onions and garlic with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until soft. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their casings. Isn’t itway fun how they pop right out?
Finely dice the chives and place them in a bowl, set aside. Dice the sage leaves and Rosemary. Once your roast onions and garlic are cool (don’t have to be cold, just not hot), place them in the food processor and pulse until they are almost a paste consistency – not quite though. Add the cream cheese, Italian blend, 1/2C parmesan, sage and rosemary and process unit it is all completely mixed. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. You may need to scrape your food processor bowl and mix again to be sure you don’t have cream cheese lumps. Turn the whole thing out on to a cookie sheet being sure to scrape all the cheesy goodness out of your processor.
Form the cheese into four logs or balls and roll in the chives. When you start to run out of the chives, add the other cup of parmesan and coat with that. Do the same with nuts if you want. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with a French baguette and crackers, it’s delicious!
Mason says if you have leftovers, it adds a delicious layer of flavor to casseroles. The Partaks have also added it to their white chicken chili, it was so good!
Thanks so much for the recipe, Mason! I will be following up next week at some point with my stuffed sweet potatoes (also featuring Challenge Cream Cheese). You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
Meet Mason Partak! He’s a 12 year-old culinary mastermind from Auburn, California and a winner on Food Network’s Chopped Junior! You might have seen Mason on TV before doing cooking demos on Good Day Sacramento or in person at the California State Fair.
I have known about Mason and his cookery for a very long time, as I am friends with his mom, Kathy and have watched Mason grow up and mature into the bright, talented pre-teen he is now.
Last month, Mason’s parents invited their friends (including me, YAY) to Pistol Pete’s for a viewing party the very first time the Chopped Junior episode that Mason appeared on aired. None of the guests knew what was going to happen, but we all showed up to see it on the several big screens in the bar. For me, I was just thrilled that someone I knew was going to be on a nationally televised program. I didn’t care win or lose, I was going to show up and support Mason. I would want the same kind of thing from my friends if I ever appeared on TV. I have appeared on local TV segments before and did a pretty good job, but remember being a ball of nerves. I can’t imagine having the chance to be on Chopped or how it felt.
I emailed Mason some questions after the viewing party, and he emailed me his answers. So fun! :)
Cavegrrl: How did you get on Chopped and what is the audition process like?
Mason Partak: I think I got selected to audition for Chopped Junior because I was the alternate for Rachel VS Guys season one. They cast 8 kids and I was their number 9. Food Network sent a culinary producer to my house and everything, so they knew who I was. I did have to do a Skype audition for CJ and it was my worst audition ever! I had a terrible day at school and I said cray things, my mom was wondering who the heck I was?! When the call and email came that I had been cast, I was totally surprised.
CG: What was the ingredient (in any of the baskets) that you were the most happy to see?
MP: Totally the Wagyu skirt steak! I had already decided that if I got beef, I was making a taco and that is just what I did. It turned out that my spicy street taco was the best dish of the competition and Max’s in Auburn has it on their menu for the month of January.
MP: I need to salt my food properly, which means a little more than I think I need. I also learned how much video gets shot and not shown when you make a show for TV.
CG: When did you get started and find your love for cooking?
MP: I’ve been in the kitchen with my mom and dad my whole life, they both cook. My mom let me help stir and mix cookies when she baked cookies and then she started to teach me to decorate them like she did in the bakery. When I was four, I wanted to chop things so she taught me how to properly use a knife. When I was eight, I was allowed to do my first live cooking demo and I loved it! I loved performing and cooking and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I loved that people liked watching me cook and teach them how to make recipes.
CG: What is your fondest memory in the kitchen?
MP: Baking sugar cookies with my mom. She has taught me how to decorate sugar cookies to look amazing and finally, I’m getting really good. We open the cookie factory right after Thanksgiving and decorate hundreds of gingerbread and sugar cookies for Christmas gifts. My dad makes different flavors of truffles and those are the Christmas gifts we give our friends and neighbors.
CG: Do you have any favorite tools/appliances when cooking?
MP: My chef knife. Kitchen tools and gadgets are fun and I love to ask, “What the heck is this thing for?” on my You Tube channel, but really, all I need is my sharp knife.
CG: What is your signature dish and why?
MP: I have several award winning recipes, but I love to make fried chicken. I have become very good at getting it just right, crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside and I love to get creative with how I season it. It can be seasoned using a store bought seasoning packet or my own concoctions, no matter what, it’s always really good.
MP: Mason Made Products is a line of sauces, marinades and caramel. Asian Fusion, Organic Citrus Ginger, and my BACON Chipotle Barbecue are a few of the flavors that I love. You can marinate, use in conjunction with other seasonings and spices, and you can even use some of them with a bit of olive oil on salad. When I won Chopped Junior, I told my mom I thought it would be cool to start a business, the sauces are the start, but I am also working on a cook book and I am thinking about making copies of the learn to cook card game my mom created for me to practice cooking.
CG: Any future appearances/plans in the works?
MP: Right now, I’m excited about my spicy street taco being on Max’s menu (110 Grass Valley Hwy Auburn, California) for the month of January and my cooking demos in Auburn, Roseville, Sacramento, Napa, and Petaluma are already excited to have me back as a Chopped Junior Champion. I’m also working on a cream cheese recipe for cavegrrl.com. There is one other thing, but my mom said I can’t share yet, but as soon as I can, I will email you the details, sound good?
Mason, yes! It all sounds incredible and I will be posting your recipe here sometime this week, as well as the recipe I made with Challenge cream cheese. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!
PS: Alta Vista Community Charter School needs some help finding a sponsor or donations to buy groceries for the kids at the school to learn to cook. This is the same school that Mason helped raise $25,000 for a total kitchen remodel for the children to have access to proper culinary classes. Well, now they need the food with which to cook. Shallots, butter, olive oil, you name it. They need to raise $1,000 for the end of this school year and hopefully they can get a sponsor for next year. If you can help, email me at misscavegrrl at gmail.com and I will put you in touch with the right people! Remember, even five bucks can help a budding chef!
You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Thank you Mason for sharing your experiences with cavegrrl.com! Check back in for Mason’s recipe later in the week! :)
Back in September, Andy and I attended the 70th birthday party of the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, a legendary tiki bar located in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel. Walking into the room is like stepping back in time to the post-war days of exotic cocktails, food and all things Polynesian. A time when South Pacific food and culture were all the rage, along with the clothing styles to match. Originally, the room housed the hotel’s indoor swimming pool. The pool and its original tiles have been saved, but it’s now equipped with a floating stage for bands to play live music. Every thirty minutes, a thunderstorm erupts, and rain falls into the pool.
The 70th birthday party featured an incredible buffet, cocktails and live music by the Island Groove band. It was surreal to be in San Francisco on a work night surrounded by so many fun people dressed in their best festive tiki attire, laughing and dancing without a care.
The Tonga Room is a true relic, surviving a threat of closure, and thriving to become what it is today. In 2013, the menu was redone and the drink recipes were given an update to match the more traditional style. It was an incredible experience to be part of the celebration.
If you have never been to the Tonga Room, please put it on your list of travel destinations in 2016 or make arrangements NOW to celebrate with them on New Year’s Eve (details below)!!
Get a real taste of what the Tonga Room looks like and all the fun we had at the party. More photos from the 70th birthday celebration can be found by clicking HERE.
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar New Years Eve Luau
Ring in 2016 in a tropical paradise! Tonga Room offers a decadent Luau buffet package featuring a sumptuous buffet, party favors, Mai Tai or Champagne toast at midnight & dancing to The Island Groove band from 7:00pm until 12:30am.
Tonga Room New Year’s Eve Luau: 6:00pm-close
Cover Charge: $30 per person
1st Seating 6:30pm ~ Dinner Buffet:
$89 per adult, $49 for children under 12
2nd Seating 9:00pm ~ Dinner Buffet & midnight toast:
$119 per adult, $59 children under 12
Tonga Room New Year’s Eve Buffet Menu:
• Raw Kushi Oysters with Rice Wine Mignonette & Wasabi Tobikko
• Chilled Crab Claws with Chinese Mustard Dipping Sauce
• Poisson Cru, Sweet & Hot Peppers, Lime Juice, Coconut Shell
• Chilled Soba Noodle Salad with Ponzu Dressing
• Tropical Green Salad: Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Shredded Carrots, Pickled Peppers, Hearts of Palm, Shaved Cucumber, Crispy Wonton Strips, Sesame Soy Vinaigrette, Rice Wine Vinaigrette, Miso Vinaigrette
• Kona Baby Back Ribs
• Assorted Steamed Dumplings
• Red Lentil Soup
• Chow Mein Noodles, Bok Choy, Oyster Mushrooms, Cabbage, Carrots
Mongolian Beef Stir Fry
• Lu Pulu Taro leaf wrapped Corned Beef with braised Cabbage& Coconut Milk
• Huli Huli Chicken
• Vegetarian Tonga Hot Pot
• Whole Roasted 3-day Hoisin-Brined Berkshire Pig:
• Kalua Pork & Tropical Fruit Stuffing, Sweet Molasses Glaze & Apricot- Star Anise Compote
• Mashed Sweet Potatoes
• Wok Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Black Garlic, Sesame Oil
• Chef Attended Sushi Rolling Station: Tuna, Salmon, Amber Jack & Hamachi with all the accompaniments
Dessert Station: Coconut Clafouti, Petite Pineapple Rum Cake, White Chocolate Matcha Mousse, Assorted Mochi
To make arrangements at the Fairmont Hotel and for a glimpse of everything going on this holiday season, you can click here! You can find Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar on Facebook here and on Twitter here. For more information call (415) 772-5278.
This week, Andy and I were invited to try out the new winter menu at Seasons 52. Seasons 52 describes themselves as a fresh grill and wine bar that offers a seasonal menu inspired by the appeal of a farmer’s market and what’s good now. I would also add that they cater to people who enjoy dining out, but like to stay calorie conscious. That pretty much describes me, and why I have accepted every invitation the restaurant has sent my way. I really love the concept of the restaurant and enjoy the food!
We started out in one of the banquet rooms, (other writers were also invited and gathered there) to taste a few of the featured wines and flatbreads. Andy and I passed on the flatbreads (which Seasons 52 does specialize in because they can make them very seasonal—by swapping out the toppings when the seasons change—and low in calorie). However, later on we found out that they can make any of the flatbreads on the menu with a gluten-sensitive dough! I have been to the restaurant 5 or 6 times now and I never knew this! :) More on the gluten-senstive flatbreads later, but before I get too off track, let’s get back to the wine tasting at the beginning of our evening:
I particularly enjoyed the Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, a reasonably priced food friendly wine, that is a recent addition to the Seasons 52 wine list. Their international wine list features 100 wines and offers at least 52 of them by the glass.
During the wine tasting, Andy and I met up with Susan Cooper (who writes the blog Finding Our Way Now) and her husband. Since both of our websites have shifted towards wine, we decided to sit together during dinner and talk about some of our current and future projects.
I started out with this rosé of Syrah from Casas del Bosque. It was an off-dry wine and a great appetizer in my book. :)
Speaking of appetizers, this is the gluten-friendly flat bread I mentioned earlier. We chose the Grilled Garlic Pesto Chicken with fresh mozzarella cheese, balsamic onions, roasted red peppers and arugula. The entire appetizer clocks in at 490 calories. It’s called “gluten-friendly” as opposed to “gluten-free” because the kitchen and oven are exposed to gluten. Celiacs should always take extreme caution when dining out, but people who are gluten-free for other reasons can enjoy this flatbread as much as I did! :)
Of course, there are dishes that are not gluten-free, but still worth a try such as the Black & White Lobster Ravioli.
The raviolis are made with squid ink and egg pasta, and topped with shitake mushrooms and roasted red peppers. The dish is finished with a sherry-lobster sauce. (320 calories)
If you’re looking for a cocktail in between your appetizer and entrée, Seasons 52 currently features a Bourbon Berry Bramble and a Cranberry & Sage cocktail to enjoy this holiday season.
Entrée time! I think Andy and I were really feeling the seasons change and both ordered red meat for dinner.
I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron Steak Salad: Bibb lettuce, butternut squash, grilled red onion, a cheddar tuile and horseradish vinaigrette. (450 calories).
I wish I would have known the presentation of my salad was going to be so dramatic, because I would have filmed it and posted the video. The salad is brought out in on the plate with a cuff/ring around it and then it is released upon service. It was like “voilá” here’s your steak salad. I ordered dressing on the side because truthfully, there’s so many flavors going on, I didn’t really need it. Cheddar tuile, I wish I could wrap you around me like a blanket. ;)
Andy ordered another meaty dish: The Oak-Grilled New York Strip. Ut was a soy garlic marinade, charcoal roasted vegetables, Yukon potato mash and a 15-year aged balsamic drizzle. (750 calories) Whoa, Andy, hope you don’t plan on eating dessert.
Just kidding! I love it that Andy is willing to tag along with me and try all this incredible food. We both agreed that the steaks on the salad and on his entrée were perfect (medium rare).
By the way, our server was John. You’ll need to know that because you will want to ask for him when you visit Seasons 52. Here’s what he looks like if you need to chase him down. ;)
Truthfully, I am amazed this kid isn’t working as a wine rep. He knew almost as much as one. This is an instance where server training has really paid off. John is just as enthusiastic and passionate about wine as I am. Maybe. ;) Anyway, if there are not enough reasons to stop by Seasons 52, do so, so that you can be waited on by this guy! :)
More wines (some of our server John’s favorites) he allowed our table to try. I went with sparking wine (sorry, John!) because these days, I try to keep the alcohol content down while I am out and about. 130 calories per glass in the prosecco, by the way. :)
And then it was time to order dessert! :) At Seasons 52, they have a portion-controlled dessert menu that is brought out so you can see exactly what you are ordering!
I passed on the dessert plate, because I was actually so full from dinner, but I heard great things about the S’More dessert as well as the gingerbread dessert from my table mates.
This Friday (Black Friday) you can enjoy Seasons happy hour menu from open to close. With $8 specialty cocktails, $6 select glasses of wine and $5 Chef-inspired small plates, there’s something for everyone!!
Special thanks to the management at Seasons 52 for setting up this special tasting. We’ll definitely be back!!
A few months ago, I was introduced to a company called Hungry Root. Hungry Root’s mission, via their website is to: Unleash the flavor of vegetables, bring them to the center of your plate, and make them craveable.
OK picky people. I know what you are thinking… Vegetables and craveable are oxymorons! Not anymore. :)
Since going Paleo in 2011, I have been a proponent of obtaining most of my carbohydrates from fruits and especially vegetables. :) :) :)
Yes, I am the person who will roast root vegetables like carrots and parsnips until they are caramelized, and eat them for dessert! Maybe that sounds a little nutty, but when you start a true Paleo diet, you omit all processed sugars and so even vegetables when roasted can actually taste sweet!
I was really interested in Hungry Root, because they are making similar things with vegetables that we do on a daily basis, and yet, Hungry Root can ship meals pretty much really to cook with no prep involved other than heating oil in a pan, which is the perfect thing for busy people who need a quick and healthy meal! :)
This is the Cauliflower Coucous with Moroccan Almond Curry ($6). This VEGAN side is finely chopped raw cauliflower with a container of Moroccan almond curry made from fresh cilantro, parsley, mint, almonds, raisins and madras curry in the package. It’s super easy to prepare and you can eat the WHOLE container for only 121 calories. I don’t know about you, but I am a whole container kind of gal. ;)
And THIS is the Sweet Potato Noodles with Creamy Cashew Alfredo which contains Fresh-cut sweet potato noodles with creamy cashew alfredo (cashews, sesame tahini, garlic, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, lemon juice, black pepper), tossed with curried carrots and chopped, roasted chickpeas. The cashew alfredo is absolutely ADDICTIVE. And BOOM, another vegan dish. P.S. There’s so much Vitamin A in the house in this dish, your eyes and skin will thank you just as much as your tastebuds!
The third item we tried was the Almond Chickpea Cookie Dough. Ingredients: Chickpeas, sweet potato, almond butter, sesame tahini, maple syrup, organic cane sugar, vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, vegan chocolate chips. And we loved it so much, we ate it raw. Because it was so HARD CORE yummy that way—and only 60 calories per serving!! :) YAY. Cookies for everyone!!
Want to try out Hungry Root? Well, you’re in luck! The marketing team at Hungry Root sent me a special code to pass along to you so that you can save 20% OFF your order. Just type in KRISTY20 in the promo code field at check out. Also, they are currently running a promotion of FREE shipping for orders over $40. Click here to start shopping!