Slow Cooker Bolognese with Carrot Pappardelle Pasta

A few killer key ingredients make this slow cooker bolognese amazingly flavorful – and the light carrot noodles add a fresh, naturally grain-free contrast.

Slow Cooker Bolognese over Carrot Pappardelle Noodles

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce (with a secret ingredient!) over Carrot Pappardelle Noodles

There are two parts to this post and I can’t quite decide which is my favorite. The bolognese sauce has a secret ingredient, which came by way of Bon Appetit, but I thought I’d adapt it for the slow cooker, and make it dairy-free while I was at it. It takes some prep, true, but is well worth it. The secret? Okay, I’ll spill right away: a mere 3 ounces of chicken liver that contributes so much depth on top of the dense nutritional punch it packs. The idea in Bon Appetit is courtesy of Chef Mike Easton, who also adds some peppery kick to round out the flavor mix.

But then the carrot pappardelle ‘pasta’ (or, as my housemate suggested, “caroodles”), they’re so simple and easy you won’t even believe it. I love some zucchini noodles as much as the next low-carb/paleo-ish type; I adore my spiralizer and use it often, but you don’t even need special equipment. A regular handheld vegetable peeler is all it takes.

Try these together, or in combination with other components, but do try them!

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Creole Red Beans and Cauliflower Rice

A Creole comfort classic gets updated: Red Beans and Rice made grain free with cauliflower. 

Red Beans and Cauliflower Rice

Cajun Red Beans and Cauliflower Rice

Alternate title: The trinity, the trifecta, and the amen. Let me explain:

The Cajun & Creole kick continues! You may recall that in Donna’s recent Shrimp and Quinoa Creole post, the Apron Strings team was preparing to hit NOLA. Last weekend was the  big (easy) event, and of course it was a nonstop food fanatic’s wonderland. Just taking in all the glorious restaurants is a culinary adventure in itself, but we got to take it a step further, via a class at the New Orleans Cooking Experience. Would recommend!

Less interactive than other stand-alone cooking classes we’ve taken together, the evening was nonetheless equal parts entertaining and educational. Chef Janice “Boo” Macomber regaled us with family recipes demonstrations, anecdotes from her shrimp camp, and the occasional off-color joke, all the while tossing out tidbits and tips for bringing authentic Cajun flavor into your own kitchen – and we got to devour the results of her demonstrations (the best part, of course).

Pretty much any home cook who has passing familiarity with either Creole/Cajun cooking or the Food Network knows what the Trinity is by now, right? Chef Boo adds three other shortcut references, all of which are used liberally in her biographical, homespun cookbook (her chef’s jacket is embroidered with “High Priestess of the Bayou”). If the ingredient list includes the Trifecta, you know you need to add salt, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce. The Resurrection adds 6 cloves (or “toes”) of garlic to the Trinity. And adding Amen means finishing with a liberal sprinkle of chopped scallions and fresh parsley.

I came home with a craving for one of my favorite Creole classics: red beans and rice. This dish is so quintessentially New Orleans, Louis Armstrong used to sign his letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.” I thought I’d make it grain-free (and reduce the carbs a bit) by incorporating cauliflower rice, and lighten it up a bit more with chicken andouille. It’s still every bit the deeply flavorful comfort food. The ham hock adds smoky depth, and the beans make it creamy without a bit of dairy. And like so many other slow foods, it tastes even better the next day.  …

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Slow Cooker Scottish Spring Lamb Stew with Rosemary, Garlic and New Potatoes

A hearty lamb stew, perfect for the remaining grey days of early spring. 

Scottish-Inspired Spring Lamb Soup

Scottish-Inspired Spring Lamb Soup

We still have some drizzly March days before we even head into April showers – weather where a really great stew totally hits the spot . . . especially when you can set it up in the slow cooker.  I adore this lamb stew with baby new potatoes, plenty of garlic, fresh rosemary, and a splash of red wine. And hey, lamb is perfect for the upcoming Outlander volume 2 premiere, if you’re into that any-excuse-for-theme-food thing (which I most certainly am). …

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Broccoli Squared: Broccoli Stem Puree topped with Roasted Broccoli Florets

If you’ve never tried broccoli stems – especially this way – prepare to be amazed.


Broccoli Squared

Broccoli Squared: Roasted Broccoli Florets over Broccoli Stem Puree

I wish I could travel back in time and retrieve all the broccoli stems I’ve so blithely tossed aside over the years. Here I was thinking the florets had all the fun. I had no idea! Why did no one tell me?

Okay, to be fair, I knew of using the stems for slaw, but had never even thought of using them in a puree. Then, a few weeks ago, a recipe from the 21 Day Sugar Detox turned me around. Diane Sanfilippo blew my mind by combining roasted florets with pureed stems. I’ve made it three times since then, adding my own tweaks. Try this and you’ll seriously never throw another stem in the compost again.

(Oh and yes, that is a dish in the shape of the lovely, verdant state of Oregon. I thought this recipe paid perfect tribute to its lush greenness.)…

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Creamy Spring Vegetable Soup with Sorrel and Sunchokes

A creamy (yet vegan) soup that’s perfect for the very beginning of spring.

Creamy Spring Vegetable Soup with Sorrel, Sunchokes and Roasted Asparagus (Dairy-Free!)

Creamy Spring Vegetable Soup with Sorrel, Sunchokes and Roasted Asparagus (Dairy-Free!)

If you’re not hitting farmer’s markets in your area yet, have faith, you will be soon. Really. And this soup is just the thing to celebrate the very beginning of the season – still a little chilly, cloudy, rainy (or even downright snowy in some regions, I know), but with green shoots of hope juuuust starting to emerge. Hunker down with a dish of this cozy vegan comfort, and start planning your garden. …

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Twice Baked Four Leaf Potatoes for St. Paddy’s

Four kinds of greens jazz up these cheesy classics for St. Patrick’s Day. 

twice baked potatoesTwice Baked Potatoes are always crowd pleasers, and adding some emerald greens makes them even more fitting as St. Patrick’s Day fare. Kale, chard, spinach, and parsley add up to four “leaves”.  Get it? I know you do. This recipe was a hit with adults and veggie-reluctant kids alike. I used the twice baked method recommended by the good people at America’s Test Kitchen. They might even be lucky!

Included is a tested and approved dairy-free version in the notes after the main recipe, made using Daiya products, which are soy-free and by far the best non-dairy cheeses I’ve ever tried. …

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Slow Cooker Seafood Gumbo

Not only does the slow cooker work beautifully for a fantastic seafood gumbo, it turns out cauliflower rice is great with it, too.

Slow Cooker Seafood Gumbo with Cauliflower Rice

Slow Cooker Seafood Gumbo with Cauliflower Rice

PSA: Mardi Gras falls on February 17th this year. I love any excuse to make/consume Cajun food, but Fat Tuesday itself is always the best. Are you prepared? Well, here’s one way to get on it, with a slow cooker recipe for seafood gumbo. And you can certainly eat it as per tradition with regular rice, but I’m here to tell you that cauliflower rice? Totally works! …

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Baked Curly Fries for Superbowl Sunday

baked curly friesI’m hosting my first ever Sportsball Party this weekend, so of course I’m most looking forward to the food. Lucky me, I just got a spiffy new addition to my kitchen gadget collection, the Paderno Spiralizer. Along with making oodles of zoodles, the first thing I looked forward to making was a baked version of a curly fry. The widest setting on the Paderno was perfect for this! It worked with both sweet and regular potatoes, and I plan to experiment with other root vegetables in the future. Perfect lighter fare for your game day plans, whatever other decadence is served alongside them. …

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Paleo Paella with Shrimp, Sausage and Cauliflower Rice

cauliflower rice paellaWhat do you think for a paleo paella: Paelleo? Paleolla? Regardless, this paleo rendition of paella using cauliflower rice is truly every bit as flavorful as the original, with shrimp, chorizo and jambon, finished with a spicy garlic sauce that’ll knock your socks off. Perfect for low carb, paleo, or any other grain free, whole foods approach.

This is also a great use of Aneto’s Paella Valenciana Broth! Super rich with flavor. (Chicken or other stock works perfectly well here too, of course, but the paella base really does go the extra mile if you can get it!)…

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Cilantro Veggie Curry with Veggie Sauce

Nothing but goodness in this all-veggie curry with veggie sauce, plus extra veggies.

Cilantro Veggie Curry

Cilantro Veggie Curry with Veggie Sauce, plus extra veggies with veggies on top.


This is the perfect warm, mildly spicy dish for January, as it fits into just about ANY health-conscious approach to eating you can think of. It’s vegetarian. It’s vegan. It’s gluten and dairy-free. It fits with paleo, Whole 30, and all other manner of dietary reset plans. Even if your only resolution was to eat more vegetables, period, this fits the bill and then some. Bottom line, it’s absolutely packed with vegetables and vegetables only, save for the spices and broth – the sauce itself is made from pureed veggies that are incorporated into the dish itself.  You cannot go astray with this one.

I fist discovered a version of this in Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat, and have been tinkering with it for years. My latest additions are golden beets and cilantro, plus a touch of turmeric, all of which brighten the dish up. This iteration isn’t terribly spicy – you could certainly add more cayenne if you like, or more heat in another form. Add it to your meal in any of the aforementioned approaches. …

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