Easy Paleo(ish) Weeknight Dinner: Sweet Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Apples and Onions

It’s about time for a real recipe, don’t you think?

We’re back to planning meals in our household. Sort of. Here’s a window into our meal-planning process:

Tim: We have to make that pork roast I bought last week or it’ll go bad.
Me: Ugh. Okay. I don’t even know what to put with it. How many pounds?
Tim: 4 or 5.
Me: So… slow cooker…
Tim: Yea. What do we have?
Me: I dunno. Apples, onions, garlic…
Tim: Sounds good.

So, then, I hit up Pinterest, find some ideas, adjust them for what we have already because, as I’ve stated before, I do not want to take my pregnant self to the store, and make something that I hope will be edible. 75% of the time, it turns out OK. The other 25% of the time, we grab a burger or pizza. Super healthy, I know. Whatever – that’s close enough to the Paleo 80/20 rule that I’m comfortable with it.

Anyway, that’s exactly what happened yesterday. And, believe it or not, our pork roast turned out so deliciously awesome that I didn’t even get a picture of it until after we packed away the leftovers because we were so into eating it that I forgot to take a picture.

Seriously. Yum.

You could probably use this dry rub on any kind of meat, and it’s Paleo as long as you’re comfortable with eating brown sugar. If not, try a honey or maple syrup glaze with these spices instead. But, if you’re OK eating honey or maple syrup, I’m not really sure what’s keeping you from a few tablespoons of brown sugar… to each his or her own, I guess.

We discarded the apple and onion pieces and just ate the meat. You can eat them if you want, I guess, but they’ll be pretty mushy. They just add liquid and awesome flavor.

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Sweet Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Apples and Onions
Serves 4-6

Ingredients for dry rub:
-5 tbs brown sugar
-1 tbs paprika
-1 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp cumin
-1 tsp cinnamon
-Dash of nutmeg 

Ingredients for meal:
-dry rub (ingredients listed above)
-4-5 pound pork shoulder or tenderloin roast
-1 tart, green apple, sliced into thin wedges
-1/2 onion, sliced into half circles
-3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

Directions:
1. Mix all the ingredients for the dry rub together in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Place roast in slow cooker. Rub dry rub all over the meat, making sure to get all sides covered.
3. Sprinkle minced garlic over the meat.
4. Place apple and onion pieces around and on top of the meat.
5. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, or low for 8-10 hours (or until meat reaches an appropriate internal temperature).
6. Serve warm and enjoy!

Paleo Soup: Beef and Vegetable

Tim does all of the grocery shopping in our house. The reason for this is multi-faceted. First, and most importantly, I HATE grocery shopping. Seriously. I cannot emphasize that enough. I don’t know why, but I just hate it. Maybe it’s all the moms trying to corral their bored, screaming kids or the little kids with those tiny Trader Joe’s shopping carts that get in your way (yea, yea, ok, it’s cute, but I’m on a schedule here). Maybe it’s the spending so much money on stuff that you’re just going to consume and will therefore disappear. Maybe it’s the anxiety about trying to avoid the impulse buys those stores put right in front of you in the checkout aisle on purpose so you will buy them. Whatever the reason, I hate it.

The other reasons Tim does the shopping are because he’s in charge of the finances so he knows how much to spend. He also is totally willing to go to three different stores to get the best deal on something, which I am not willing to do (see above – I am on a schedule here!). Also, I do a great majority of the cooking when I’m not coaching, so it seems like a fair division of labor.

Regardless, sometimes Tim comes home with freezable stuff that was on sale but wasn’t on our list. I think this is because he trusts my cooking ability to be able to turn some random cut of meat into something amazing edible. Challenge, accepted.

So, a few weeks ago, Tim brought home some beef stew meat. I’m not sure what the exact cut of beef it is, but it’s basically just beef cut into 1-inch chunks. Pretty convenient if you want to make soup, eh? We tossed that stew meat into the freezer and waited for a day when we’d need a slow cooker meal. That day came on Sunday, the day after our regional speech tournament (a 14-hour day of high school speech fun!). We were dead on our feet after that day, and then we went to celebrate my in-law’s February birthdays. Yup – we needed a quick, hearty, easy meal to come home to that night.

Enter: Beef and Vegetable Soup. I used what I had in the fridge and the pantry, so you can adjust the spices and vegetables you use to taste. I also tossed the stew meat in frozen and it cooked up just fine. We did have to break up the meat a little way through so it would cook evenly, but the meat ended up so tender, you could cut through it with your soup spoon. (Note: Cooking frozen meat in your slow cooker is considered safe for those of us with killer immune systems. If you are pregnant, nursing, or if your little kids are going to be eating this stuff, thaw it first!)

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(Excuse the awful quality of this photo. As I said, this was a lazy day, and the only picture I could get before the stuff was all gone was when I packed up the leftovers to take to work in our mini-crockpots.)

Paleo Beef and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:
2.5-3 lbs beef cut into chunks (or stew meat, pre-cut)
4 stalks celery, cut
4 carrots, peeled and cut
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
32 oz chicken broth
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
Throw all of it into your slow cooker, put it on low for 8 hours, and enjoy!/

Paleo Meal: Chicken Tortilla Soup, Minus the Tortilla

Well. I haven’t been around much this past month, have I? I’d love to offer you a bunch of excuses like I’m coaching speech team this year, which means the hubs has been doing most of the cooking or he’s been training for a marathon so, even when I do the cooking I’m making boring things that fill him up for his long runs or I just haven’t had the energy to try out new recipes lately because I’ve been so busy that I’ve been falling back on the old favorites.

All of these things are true. All of these things are reasons why I haven’t been around here much lately. I’m mostly interested in ease and utility when it comes to food these days, which means we’ve been indoor grilling a lot of steaks and sausages and pairing them with some sort of vegetable that can be steamed. Either that, or we’re tossing things into the slow cooker and hoping for the best.

I’m still doing Paleo. Mostly. Except when I cheat and eat pizza. Or muffins. Or bagels. Or coffee cake. Or hunks of cheese.

OK. So I haven’t been that good. Especially this weekend. Not only was it Tim’s birthday (meaning I had to make the obligatory chocolate Guinness cake with cream cheese frosting – I know, twist my arm, right?) but it was also his second marathon, which meant carb-loading the night before and celebratory pizza afterwards. While I passed up the pre-marathon carbs in favor of some braised short ribs at the restaurant, I find it absolutely impossible to turn down Lou Malnati’s pizza when it is sitting RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF ME. Also, did I mention chocolate Guinness cake with cream cheese frosting? You see my dilemma.

This morning, then, I woke up feeling pretty awful. They say there is such a thing as a carb hangover. I believe it. It was also snowing which meant it was clearly time to bust out the slow cooker and make a nice hearty, cleansing soup.

The spices in this chicken non-tortilla soup felt cleansing, warming, and flavorful without being overwhelming. Even Tim, who HATES spicy foods, said he liked it a lot. Plus, there are lots of leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Perfect for my mini Crockpot warmer!

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Chicken Tortilla Soup, Minus the Tortilla
adapted from Sooo Paleo

Ingredients:

– 1 white onion, chopped
– 1 red bell pepper, diced
– 2 lbs chicken breast (fresh or frozen)
– 2 teaspoons cumin
– scant 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 1 (4oz) can diced green chiles
– 1 (14oz) can diced roasted tomatoes
– 32 oz of broth (I used organic low sodium veggie broth)
– juice of 2 limes
Directions:
Toss everything into the slow cooker except the juice from the limes. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Take the chicken out, shred it, and put it back in. Squeeze the juice from the limes into the soup and stir. Serve warm with sliced avocados if you’ve got them. (I didn’t, and it tasted just fine!)

Paleo Meal: Slow Cooked Lamb Roast with Sweet Potato Pumpkin Puree

Just that title makes you salivate a little bit, doesn’t it? Slow cooked lamb. Sweet potato pumpkin puree. All of the tastes of fall and comfort and happiness – and most of it is ready for you in the slow cooker when you come home from work. Yum, indeed.

Last weekend, Tim and I attended the beautiful wedding of my cousin, Dani, and her new husband, Matt. When we got home late Sunday, we didn’t have the time nor the energy to do any of our normal meal prep or to plan out any meals. We made do with what we had in the kitchen for that night and breakfast and lunch the next day, until Tim could get to the grocery store. When he asked what I wanted, I told him to get a bunch of meat we could easily throw in the slow cooker. He came home with a bunch of stuff, including a 4-pound boneless leg of lamb. It is perfectly slow cooker-sized and looked like I could plop it in the bowl, turn it on low, and be done with it (lamb is really flavorful without anything on it), but we didn’t get around to making it this week. Since Sundays are slow cooker days, and since we were afraid that if we waited any longer it would spoil, we busted out the slow cooker and a new recipe and got to work on this lamb. If only you could smell my kitchen right now. SO. GOOD. This recipe is adapted from Dinner with Julie.

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Slow Cooked Lamb Roast
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
4-pound boneless lamb leg roast
1 lemon
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine

Directions:
1. Zest the lemon into a small bowl. Add garlic, rosemary, and olive oil. Mix together.
2. Prepare the lamb on a cutting board or plate. You may need to cut off netting or plastic holding the roast together.
3. Rub garlic mixture into lamb. If desired, let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes up until overnight. (I didn’t do this step, and it was still tasty.)
4. Place lamb in slow cooker. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour wine over the lamb.
5. Turn slow cooker on low and cook for 6-8 hours.
6. Serve warm and drizzled with red wine sauce from the slow cooker.

The last time I had lamb, I was out at an Irish pub in the area, and it was the special. Whenever I see lamb on the menu, I almost always order it, because it is delicious, a healthy alternative to beef, and I see it so rarely that I just want to eat it when I do. This Irish pub served their lamb over a sweet potato puree that I’m sure was laden with butter, cream, and other non-Paleo items, but was amazing nonetheless. Since we were making lamb in the slow cooker and had some sweet potatoes and pumpkin left over, I decided to make my own, Paleo-friendly sweet potato pumpkin puree (how’s that for some alliteration?) as a side. This recipe is adapted from Chef Amber Shea

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Puree
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
2 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (just pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix)
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter (or honey or maple syrup)

Directions:
1. Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Put them in a pot and fill with enough water to cover potatoes. Cover and boil. Once the water reaches boiling, boil for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients to food processor or blender and process.
3. When potatoes are cool enough, add them to food processor or blender. (WARNING: Be sure to put the lid on and hold it tight! You do not want hot sweet potato hitting your face!) Process until pureed.
4. Serve warm, chilled, or room temperature.

Paleo Meal x2: Slow Cooker Beef Brisket and Leftover Beef and Veggie Soup

Did your mom ever tell you, “waste not, want not?” Well, I’m finding that mom was right. And if you really want to do Paleo right, you will not only focus on finding grass-fed and free-range meats and local produce, but you will use what you’ve got to get what you need.

Case in point: using leftovers and food scraps.

But, first, you need some leftovers. For tonight’s meal, I made a four-pound beef brisket in the slow cooker. Four pounds! I mean, Tim can eat a lot, but that’s a ton of meat! So I spent some time today thinking about what to do with all of those leftovers. You can really only eat hunks of beef brisket so many nights in a row. But first, the brisket.

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Slow Cooker Beef Brisket with Sweet Potatoes and Carrots

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 4-lb beef brisket
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, cut into large chunks
  • 3 carrots, cut into inch-long sticks
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced

Put the cut sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions in the bottom of your slow cooker. Then, put the meat on top. In a bowl, mix wine and garlic together and pour over meat. Cover and turn the slow cooker on low for 10 hours.

Vegetable Broth

So, once you do that, you need to prep for the leftovers. Actually, you probably should have been doing this all along, as you need a bunch of veggie scraps to make vegetable broth. And by a bunch, I mean an entire gallon-sized freezer bag stuffed full. Whenever you are cutting up your veggies for your Paleo meals, just wash, roughly chop, and place your scraps into a bag and toss it in the freezer. As you prepare your veggies throughout the month, be sure to save the scraps and freeze them. Before you know it, you’ll have enough to make broth.

Making vegetable broth is deliciously easy and imprecise. You’ll need to experiment with what works best for you, but use what you have. Part of the fun of it is that it comes out different every time.

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You will need:

  • A gallon sized freezer bag full of veggie scraps – try to include some starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, as that will give the broth a good consistency
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • water
  • garlic salt, salt, whole black peppercorns, ground black pepper, soy sauce, other herbs to taste

First, add the olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Add the veggies, then cover them with water. Just add enough water to cover the vegetables.

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Then, add your salt or other herbs to taste. My favorite is a generous helping of garlic salt, 10-12 whole black peppercorns, and a little bit of dried parsley, but you can choose whatever you want or whatever you have on hand. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Then, simmer it for about an hour or longer. The longer it goes, the more flavor you’ll get!

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After simmering for a while, uncover it and let it reduce for a bit. The veggies should look pretty over-cooked and ready to be put out of their wilted misery.

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Strain it into a bowl and, voila! Fresh veggie broth, ready for your leftover soup.

Pro tip: Store whatever you don’t use for the soup in ice cube trays and freeze them. One ice cube is about two tablespoons, and eight ice cubes equals about a cup. Defrost as necessary.

Leftover Beef and Vegetable Soup

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As you are waiting for your broth to cook, chop up some veggies and beef. Mine is in a freezer bag because I’m getting this ready to dump into the slow cooker tomorrow so I can run out the door for day two of the AP conference. The only thing that’s not in here is the veggie broth.

The thing about this recipe is that it is all about the leftovers. Do not run out to the store to get ingredients unless you really have a hankering for something. Here’s what I had on hand:

  • About 1/3 of the 4-pound beef brisket, already cooked
  • 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 large sweet potato, cubed
  • 3-4 cups veggie broth
  • Various herbs, salt, and pepper to taste

Dump it all in the crock pot, give it a stir, and set it on low until you get home from work.

I don’t have a finished picture of this one yet, because I haven’t made it yet, but I’ll post it tomorrow!

If you’ve made this one, let me know how it went in the comments!