This blog is a place to share my passion for cooking and inspire people to cook more from scratch. With six people in the family, cooking is something that is always on my mind. I want to share some of my favorite foods and recipes and share more about traditional diets (like the kind of food our great, great, great grandmothers would have made). Right now I am fascinated with fermented vegetables, coconuts, seafood with a cerviche twist and organ meats... although maybe not all in the same meal!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dive in to good times...soup that delivers taste and performance

Crabs, mushrooms, miso, kale, ginger... it's a party in here!

I really don't like recipes in general.  They have their place and sometimes I do use them... especially when I am in new territory.  But soup for me is an old friend and so I usually will just whip up something that suits my mood and what is in the fridge.

I'm still swirling around the ideas of Dr. Terry Wahls about how she improved her MS with diet.  And again-- even without any MS or particular reason to find this so interesting-- I do.  I think it is because on some innate level despite all the skeptics out there who say I'm coo-coo for thinking that diet can have a profound impact on health, I still believe that it can.  I know it is not everything, but I think our society vastly underestimates the power of food on health.

It is somewhat ironic to me that some of the hardest people to even entertain this idea are doctors.  I was at a party several nights ago talking to some doctors there and mentioned Dr. Wahl's story and link to her TED talk.  I told them to look up the link and tell me what they think... I seriously doubt that they will and I'm pretty sure they will dismiss the potential in this story without even looking at it.   

But for me, I keep trying to find ways to get more of those good foods that Dr. Wahls say are good for brain health and health in general into my diet.  And I wanted a quick soup this afternoon after my taxing exercise class with Dr. Stew.  (By the way... lovin' my new running shoes that have been fit with an insert to help stabilize my feet.  I was running my 1/4 mile sprints on about 6 minute mile pace!!!  I can't help but think that my diet is part of why this middle aged momma was the fastest woman in the class today and hangin' not too far behind some men half my age).

OK, I digress.  Now back to the soup... I am looking for ways to get more fish stock, miso, greens and mushrooms in my diet so here's the ingredients I used:  

  • an organic onion, diced
  • 2 tbs coconut oil
  • shitake mushrooms, diced, about two handfuls
  • portobello mushrooms, diced, about two handfuls
  • two cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 cups fish stock, preferably homemade (mine today was home-made by the folks at Whole Foods)  I prefer to make my own but hey, it was Christmas yesterday and I've been busy :) )
  • 1 container of frozen wild crabmeat
  • 2 tbs of freshly ground ginger
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 2 heaping handfuls of chopped kale
  • 1 - 2 tbs of Miso
  • 1 dash of secret fish sauce

What I did:

First I put the coconut oil in a warm pan and then added the onions and let them sweat down.  Then the mushrooms and garlic were added.  After they were nice and soft, I added the fish stock and let that get up just about to a boil.  

Then I added the crabmeat.  After letting it cool a bit I added the coconut water, the handfuls of kale and the ginger.  I took a cup of liquid out and mixed the miso and got that all mixed and soft and then re-added it to the mixture.  Then at the end I added a dash of this very strong green stuff that I got from a Japanese friend who got it from Japan.  I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know it is good stuff and less than pea sized drop adds boatloads of depth and flavor.  If you don't have it, I think the rest of it still would taste good on its own!

So that's my cooking for today... simple, stuff I had on hand, and just chock full of nutrition.  I've downed some serious greens today if you count the sautee'd kale I had for breakfast and my wheat grass shot earlier in the day.  I got some mushrooms, fish stock, ginger and all kinds of good things in.  

I think that's what excites me about cooking... finding ingredients that are actually GOOD FOR YOU and then finding a way to make it taste so good that you can just enjoy the food for what it is and not feel deprived in the least.  GOOD FOOD really does taste GOOD!  Simple as that.  So go ahead... make your own party and invite the good foods that you think your body needs right now and dive right in and enjoy!

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Tastes Like Chicken!

 Perhaps even I've gone too far this time... but I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.  I didn't mean to go down this road but it is where I ended up.  Here's how it all went down....

Me(Donna):  Walking into the farmer's market on Saturday.  "Oh, there's a line at Fickle Creek.  Must be something good."  So I get on the line.  Plus I needed to buy some eggs anyway.

Farmer's market salesperson (FMS):  "So we have fresh lamb today.  We have roasts, chops, ground lamb, organ meats, all kinds of things.  What do you want?"

Donna:  "I want some ground lamb.  And definitely some organ meat.  What kinds do you have?"

FMS:   "Heart, liver and Rocky Mountain Oysters."

Donna:  "What do you mean, oysters? Like real oysters?"

FMS:  Laughing... "No, not real oysters.  Testicles, lamb testicles.  I had some chef friends make them for me once-- I didn't know what they were or I wouldn't have eaten them.  But they were good!" 

Donna:  Wheels spinning in head now realizing this is a chef challenge... "Hmmm.  OK then I'll take some ground lamb, a heart, liver and the oysters.  

Back at home:  I now am the proud owner of lots of fresh organ meat so I have to come up with some ways to put all these things into use.  The ground lamb and the heart were easy... meatloaf.  And that's another blog post perhaps and the liver is also a slam dunk... pate'.  But what to do with those other.... things.  Yes, yes, what to do.... 

So with the wonders of the internet I learn that Rocky Mountain Oysters, also known as "cowboy caviar," and "swinging beef" is somewhat of a Midwestern delicacy and that there are lots of festivals dedicated to just this food.  I also learn that generally they need to be removed from the outer tough shell, soaked in salt water to purify, boiled, and then usually fried for best results.  I looked over several recipes on the web before setting out my plan of attack.

I also am curious as to why anyone would want to eat these... except that I know that in general organ meats are very good for you (if they come from a healthy animal) and I am thinking there must be some good stuff to find out about the benefits.  I found an interesting article on the Weston Price website  that discusses some of the history of the food and the author references a 1977 article in Lipid Metabolism of Animals Journal  that 100 grams of raw hog or cattle testicle (I am assuming lamb might be similar?) would have 3 grams fat, 375 mg cholesterol, 26 grams protein and 1 gram carbs and 135 calories.  He speculates that the organ might contain the same elements necessary for reproductive health which would be vitamins A & D, B6, zinc, and the fatty acids EPA and DHA.  

On the LiveStrong Website they say that Rocky Mountain Oysters would be a good source of natural progesterone.  The article says "Progesterone is a hormone produced by women prior to ovulation. In women, progesterone aids in the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Men also produce progesterone, though in much lower amounts than in women. Progesterone is beneficial to the body in a variety of ways, including stimulating the thyroid gland and regulating its production, aiding in the production of collagen, reducing inflammation and increasing immunity. Some foods contain enzymes that are metabolized into progesterone when consumed, providing a natural boost of progesterone."  So they seem to think eating these things could be beneficial to your health.

There was a video circulating on the internet from Dr. Terry Wahls, a doctor who greatly improved her MS from eating lots of veggies, wild fish, grass fed meat, seaweed and organ meats.   I figure if it was so helpful in her health, it is probably helpful for most people even if they are not dealing with MS or any serious disease.  The video itself was quite compelling so I think I've just had organ meats on my mind lately and been looking for a way to get more in me. 

And so I did.  Here are roughly the steps I took:

You have to remove this outer layer of tough skin so I did that with, of all things, my boning knife (figured it would be very sharp and helpful).

Second, I soaked the "stuff" in a salt water mix for over an hour which removes the blood an impurities.

Then I par boiled this for about 15 minutes making sure they looked "cooked."  I added some vinegar to the water in the pot.

Once it was boiled down it looked like this and I sliced it into small pieces.

I made a mix of coconut flakes, salt, pepper and turmeric and alternated putting the coconut coating on the chunks and then dipped into wine and then went back to the coconut coating and dipped them in milk before one last dip in the coconut mix.  I figure since I was trying to maximize the health benefits that coconut flakes would be a better choice than cornmeal.

Then it was fried in a mix of pork fat and duck fat.  I have to tell the truth... they tasted GOOD!  It kind of tasted like a chicken nugget.  I know it is a lot to get past the idea of what it is, so I don't blame you if you can't go there.  There is some great irony in the fact that this particular meal is very affordable (less than $5) and highly nutritious but yet repulsive on some level also.  However, if you are going to honor the animal you might as well use every part because to throw something away when there are people starving for nutrition is also somehow not right.  Ancient cultures knew this but our modern culture has lost these important lessons. 

The custom of eating organ meat once a week has some wisdom.  I don't know that we need to go to these uncomfortable places every day but to sometimes stretch ourselves can have health benefits.  Fortunately there are so many other organ parts without baggage-- somehow liver seems benign after this experience-- that one may not need to revisit this particular place very often at all.  But I have found that it is the place that we DON'T want go, is sometimes the place where we most need to go.  We need to become more comfortable being uncomfortable.  So if this whole story repulses you, perhaps it is somewhere you should go...

Let me know if any of you take the journey and also if you know any more about the benefits of eating Rocky Mountain Oysters! 

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday

Monday, December 12, 2011

A New Day

Avacodo, Grapefruit, sprinkles of cinnamon, paprika and dehydrated Kale chips drizzled with Olive Oil
I've been away so long that I don't know quite how to return!  My last post was in October....let's just say I was a bit busy the last month or so and I'm sorry to have been away so long.  But it is a new day and a good way to rejoin you is with a different twist on breakfast.

I had this mix of avacado, grapefruit, cinnamon, paprika and kale chips drizzled with olive oil.  I am drawn to breakfast lately because I think it is the meal with the most room for improvement.  Most people if they are trying to be healthy can do lunch and dinner pretty well.  But breakfast has these cultural norms of cereal, danish, pastries, bagels, toast etc. and so many of these things are NOT the best fuel to start your day.  They just end up as sugar in your body so you're not much better off than if you just ate a candy bar to start your day.

So I'd like to inspire you to become a non conventional breakfast eater.  Once you throw out our cultural norms, there are so many wonderful foods to be eaten as we break our fast from a long night of sleep.  The avacado, grapefruit mix has some great health benefits that might inspire you to dump your cereal box once and for all.

That dash of cinnamon can go a long way.  On just a quick google search of cinnamon I found a cinnamon's health benefits site listing all these health properties such as having a regulatory effect on blood sugar, fighting yeast, reducing the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells, having an anti-clotting effect on the blood, and improving cognitive function.  It also is a good source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium.  

The benefits of avacado are also many.  A good site for avacado's benefits are listed here.  Avacados are good for your eyes and heart as well as being an excellent source of glutathione, which is an antioxidant thought to be helpful in preventing cancer, heart disease and slowing the aging process.  One cup of avacado has 23% of the daily recommended folate intake and avacados have also been shown to lower cholesterol.  

Everybody in this breakfast is adding something of value and the grapefruit does too.  Grapefruit's benefit's, listed here, include aiding in weight loss, providing vitamin C, lycopene (which helps fight tumors and cancer), liver tonic benefits and also digestive aids along with many other benefits.

The sprinkled dehydrated kale chips add some crunch and their own powerhouse of contributions.  Kale may be the most nutritious vegetable on the planet with health benefits listed here that include being rich in carotenoids and flavenoids, having anti-inflammatory properties, and being rich sources of vitamins A, C and K among it's many, many benefits.

Paprika's benefits, listed here include megadoses of vitamin C that can be 9 times more potent than the vitamin C found in tomatoes.

Finally, the olive oil is beneficial in so many ways including being a source of monounsaturated fat which can lower LDL cholesterol and having polyphenols which have cancer fighting properties.

To make this perfect, I should have included some protein.  I actually have some dried anchovies so that would make an excellent addition and more crunch too.  You could add a side of the protein of your choice.

Of course with all these foods, you should seek out the BEST that you can find so that you actually get these health benefits.  I was fortunate to have my olive oil from Chaffin Family Orchards, and my grapefruit just arrived on a truck from Florida this week from my daughter's jump rope fruit sale, and my kale and greens from visits to local farms.  

I say we need to get our food WORKING FOR US to help us be healthier, not bringing us down.  What has your breakfast done for you lately?

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday