Friday, January 4, 2013

Sanitized Swedish Meatballs with Noodles

Happy New Year!

So, congratulations. You made it through the Mayan New Year, you made it through your relatives visiting for the holidays with their not-so-clean dinner donations, and you made it through having to guilt yourself into New Year's Resolutions.

I made it through the month of December, which was a feat in and of itself for me. For those of you who do not know, my husband and I have lately begun our conversion into Eastern Orthodoxy, and the holidays certainly were a new experience for us! The entire first part of December was a fasting season (which meant I ate so well, but had little to post about) and then the twelve days following the 25th of December is nothing but feast days!

So, as great as I was feeling for the first 25 days of December, I certainly haven't been very well behaved for the past week or so. But the Twelve Days are a time of feasting and enjoyment, and I have definitely enjoyed them. But, with the end of my feasting period looming (January 7th) and my tummy and skin sending me reminders that not all of my body is enjoying this period of indulgence, I thought the New Year would be a good time to start cooking clean again. 

My New Year's Resolution? To not go so long without posting again! 

One of the things I couldn't have a lot of during the fasting period was any kind of red meat. Which means for the past week, I've been eating a lot of red meat in the form of lamb and beef steaks. The other day, however, I found myself craving something a little more like comfort food and a little less like haute cuisine. 

I wanted spaghetti and meatballs. Not just any kind of spaghetti and meatballs, but meatballs and gravy like you find in the Ikea food court. My mouth was watering just thinking of them. Luckily, I had got my hands on some lingonberry preserves for my husbands (kind of like sweet cranberries, for my Southern friends) which is a necessary pairing for Swedish meatballs. A little research, a little crafting, and I emerged with a very satisfying:

Sanitized Swedish Meatballs and Sauce 
over Spaghetti Squash Noodles

"The Squash"

Hello, Mr Spaghetti Squash. Almost as handsome as Signore Cauliflower.

I found a spaghetti squash at the store a couple of weeks ago and, fearing that squash might only be a fall harvest kind of thing, snatched it up, took it home, and let it just hang out in the cupboard while I was fasting. What was I thinking?

If you haven't ventured into the realm of spaghetti squash yet then you must be good at avoiding the health food boards on Pinterest. The appeal of this winter squash is namely this:


Don't worry. Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. I didn't have to use any special peeler or spiralizer. The way that the squash grows produces fibers in long strands that look just like perfect little spaghetti noodles. Missing spaghetti dishes after swearing off gluten? You just met your guiltless rebound partner.

Preparing spaghetti squash is pretty straight forward. Hack it in half (I used a bread knife because I'm a wuss) scoop out what some recipes call the "squash poop" (seeds and innards) and then bake the squash. The seeds can also be salted and roasted, just like pumpkin seeds, for an extra treat!

When I hack, man, I hack. I am the squash hacker. No squashes were harmed in the course of this hacking.

Most places I found recommended cooking the squash for thirty to forty minutes. My squash may have been a little large, but I found it needed almost an hour before it was truly tender enough. You can also microwave your squash, but I prefer using the oven. 

At 375F, cook the squash, rind side up, for between 45-60 minutes until the flesh comes away in tender strings easily when pried at with a fork.

A medium-done squash. Some of the leftover "entrails" will darken while it cooks. 

If your squash is tender, scraping it lengthwise with a fork will result in those fabulous little strands. 

I do not recommend adding your sauce until you serve the meal. I put the sauce over it right before I plopped it in front of everyone. The longer the sauce sits on it, the greater chance you have of getting soggy noodles instead of tender noodles. You can even serve the sauce in a ramekin or small bowl on the side.

Also handsome. Also sexy. Also here to save you from so many empty calories and carbs.
Kind of like a passive, polite superhero with tons of folic acid and beta carotene. 

"The Meatballs"

1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1-2 eggs (I am not afraid of egg)
1/2 cup almond flour
2-3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
seasonings of choice (onion powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley)

Mix all ingredients together. The mixture should hold together in a ball shape easily. If it seems too wet, add more almond flour. I try to grind my almond flour a little coarser for this recipe, almost like bread crumbs.

While making these balls, I usually go ahead and start heating coconut oil in my cast iron skillet. If you don't have a cast iron, get one. If you're unconvinced, just know that I love you even though you're wrong, and make sure to use a pan that has thick enough sides to withstand the heat.

Form balls from the meat mixture that are about  11/2" in diameter. Once your oil is hot (shimmery on the top) go ahead and start plopping them in.

Shimmer, plop, sizzle!

I usually need to turn the meatballs over only once. Your goal is to make sure that both sides brown nicely. Make sure that your oil is high enough to submerge almost half the meatball. They'll actually cook fairly quickly- check after only a couple of minutes! Burned meatballs aren't very appetizing.

Handsome meatballs for our handsome spaghetti squash. I love cute couples.

I am the world's worst multi-tasker, so I usually finish with the meatballs before I mess with the sauce. The sauce will take less than ten minutes, so I wait until the squash and the meatballs are done before beginning. If you finish all the meatballs, check a large one to make sure you're not raw on the inside. If you are, no fear! Just put all the balls into a baking dish, put aluminum foil over the top, and allow them to finish up in the oven slowly. They'll be juicier that way.

"The Sauce"

1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup water
1 cup beef stock
1 teaspoon liquid aminos or say sauce
2-3 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons almond flour, cashew flour, tapioca flour, or all-purpose baking flour

After beginning this recipe, I discovered I was missing my heavy cream (I'm blaming my husband's coffee addiction) so I substituted with 1/2 cup of whole milk, no water, and a little extra butter. It still came out creamy, but not quite as good as other times I've made it. The amino acids add a little extra flavor, and the Bob's Red Mill flour was my way of cheating to get the meal out more quickly. I've had friends who swear that grinding cashews instead of almonds produces a much better taste for sauces. I have used tapioca flour with great success. If you're not worried about G-Free, you can use regular flour.

Add the beef stock, butter and cream first:

Melt down, add the amino acids and any extra seasoning (salt and pepper) as well as your thickener (flour). I keep at mine with a whisk for about five minutes at a high temperature and it produces a wonderfully savory, strong smelling light brown gravy that goes very well with these meatballs.

My end result! I garnished with chunks of raw portobello mushroom.

I will also add that you can get great mileage out of the spaghetti squash. The following evening, my husband and I warmed up the remaining meatballs, cooked up a hearty red sauce, and mixed it all together for spaghetti and meatballs. Today, I cooked up some chicken and some G-Free white sauce and tossed it together with fresh mozzarella, olives and broccoli. 

Happy squashing, and good luck on all your New Year's Resolutions!


  1. Hi Joanna,

    This is Cindy Brown, Amanda's mom. Amanda sent me the link to your blog knowing I would enjoy it, I will be following you.
    Hope you are doing well. :)
    We have been eating clean for about six months and have learned so much AND feel so much healthier. My husband has been able to get both his blood pressure and high cholesterol under control, so no more taking prescription medicine.
    Looking forward to more recipes and tips from you!

    1. Mrs Brown! I'm so glad to hear that! It's a much better way to live. I'm thankful that my husband's been so supportive of it. Let me know if there's any specific recipes you're interested in! I love re-working old favorites to make them cleaner and more healthy.

      Glad to hear you're doing well!