Tag Archives: healthy cooking

Collards

I grew up in the south. In spite of this, I survived to adulthood without the foggiest idea of what collard greens are. So, for those of you who are as uninformed as I was, here is a brief introduction:

Collards are broad leaf-like objects constructed by angry garden gnomes out of high density rubber and aircraft grade titanium. Intended by the gnomes as personal protective shields, collards are able to survive all but the most intensive heat, and have a tough stem that is best removed before eating. Their high degree of resilience allows collards to resist the attacks of insects, disease, and photon torpedoes. Thus, they grow quite well in the south, where such things are common.

With this in mind, I can now acquaint you with the classic southern approach to eating collards… try not to taste them. Collards have an incredibly unremarkable flavor, which is characterized as bitter. In good southern style, the typical treatment is to add fat, acid, and heat to mask the less desired flavor, while drawing on the bitter edge. So, here’s the recipe:

First, remove the stem rather far up the leaf. Next, cut the leaves into strips or small pieces, chop one small onion, and set aside. In a pan large enough to contain the collards, cook several pieces of bacon until crispy, then add onion and cook until onion is mostly done. Next add some water, vinegar, and the collards and cook until collards are soft enough to eat.

Ingredients:
One bunch of collards (about 8-10 leaves)
One small onion
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (probably any kind would work ok)
3-4 strips of bacon (turkey bacon did not produced the proper effect when I tried to substitute)
Enough water to cook the collards

I’m not very specific about the water here because I’ve never measured it. You should need around a cup, but the idea is to mostly steam the collards. You don’t want to make a stew, and you are supposed to consume the liquid with the greens.

It is possible to simply steam collards and eat them as you would any other green, but the steaming process leaches out some of the nutrients you may want to keep. So, if the only green thing you find at the market this week is a few tough shards of leftover gnome defenses, try out the southern style. You might actually like it!

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Artois the Goat

Artois

If you like your sarcasm paired with a tangy, sweet cheese, might I recommend the movie Artois the goat.

A 2009 indiepix film, Artois the goat follows the journey of a food chemist underling as he struggles to find the perfect cheese, and, um, the meaning of his existence too.

Though overly dramatic at times, the word that best describes Artois the goat is CHEESY! It’s a really funny and surprisingly cute romance that highlights the contrast between commercially mass produced foods and artisan foodcraft, with particular attention to the role of RAW milk in the creation of fine quality cheese. Definitely a WAP friendly script, this movie is of the artsy variety, and a well done sample of that type.

The FDA is introduced as the supervillian of the film, and the sidekick of our hero gives them a fair tongue lashing throughout. In that vein, the dialogue writers did a fantastic job, adding verbal humour to the already amusing setting. I think all raw milk enthusiast would have fun watching this film

My wife and I found the trailer some time back, but were excited to see the film show up on Hulu. While I did enjoy the Hulu version, you may prefer the advertisement free DVD if you can find it.

I give this film a 5 out of 5 for creativity, originality and humour, and a 4.5 out of 5 for overall experience. The middle part seemed a tad drawn out, but I enjoyed the whole thing. I think this is a great date movie, particularly for any raw food enthusiast.


Chicken soup for the toothless soul

Quite recently, my wife had two wisdom teeth removed. (Very much against her will, but it seemed the best thing to do in the end). She has incredible teeth, no cavities or anything, but randomly (the dentist can’t explain it) one broke. Soo, the difficult challenge became to make Real Food, that doesn’t require any chewing. Since that list boils down really fast to soup, we ate mostly soup for about a week. And since I was promoted to head chef, I can claim full credit for the one stellar success in that department: Chicken Radish Soup.
Editors note: Radish is really just the ‘secret weapon’ of this recipe, so the recipe could be called Chicken Harvest Soup. (Loosely follows the Chicken Rice recipe on page 199 of Nourishing Traditions, minus rice).

First we needed a good base for soup. I considered importing a French sous chef to oversee this part, but in the end settled for a temperature controlled crock pot. (It’s not even french, but it is pretty reliable). So we tossed a whole chicken in the crock pot for about 9 hours, and after the chicken was cooked, we separated the meat. Then we put the bones (fat, cartilage, and skin) back in with enough water to cover, and cooked that again overnight. Once the stock was strained, we had enough for a couple of meals of soup.

The next step was to account for our vegetable population. The inhabitants of our refrigerator included: Celery, Carrots, Onions, and Radishes. Plus we had some Potatoes in the cabinet. I chopped what I needed of the veggies, and set them to cook in the stock, added a bay leaf, and a generous amount of powdered garlic. I let these simmer until the potatoes were soft, and added them to the chicken. Since the goal was to have food that required no chewing, we had to convert this soup to baby food. I used a blender, starting with some chicken and adding a little of the broth and then combining everything as the blender was able to handle it. And of course, sea salt to taste.
This was by far the best baby food I’ve tasted. And yes, I have tasted quite a lot (my youngest brother is 15 years my junior, so I stole my fair share of his food). Anyway, as far as the soup goes, I think the radish was the amazing part. It was subtle, but brought a freshness that really suited the carrots and soup as a whole.
I’ll try to put all this here is a concise form:

Chicken Radish Soup

5-6 Cups of Chicken stock
2-3 Cups of chopped cooked Chicken
4 medium carrots.
One bunch of radishes (about 10)
1/2 large Onion
4 small Potatoes
2 stalks of Celery
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 – 1 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder
Sea Salt
Optional water.

Chop the vegetables, and place them in a stock pot.
After the veggies are chopped, add enough stock to cover them, and thin out the stock if needed. (I only thin out my stock if it’s pretty dense).
Simmer with the Bay Leaf and Garlic powder for about an hour, or until the potatoes are soft. The other veggies should cook faster than the potatoes, but they aren’t bad if they are undercooked. You can add the chicken at any time, I add it near the end so it retains flavor. We take half of a chicken that has been cooked in the crock pot for our soup, so the measurement is approximate.
Remove the Bay Leaf, and salt to taste.
Enjoy!

We had these veggies on hand since we wanted to have something to boost the immune system, and there are a lot of nutrients in Carrots, Radishes, and Celery. Some vitamins are destroyed by heat and cooking, but you can hang on to a few in a broth. So I think this make a good soup for healing, but it’s also really tasty.


Stringy Squash

So, I have to brag. My wife just cooked an incredible meal, and pretty much made it up off the top of her head (which is very cute).

It’s nearing Autumn around here, and the only local crop that came out well is squash. Several varieties have made some good dishes for us in the past few weeks, particularly the Butternut squash. (In case you are not familiar with Butternut squash, when it is in it’s prime, it tastes like some kind of creamy-nut-concoction infused with butter. Amazing.)

Today we stopped at a produce stand along our way, and picked up some squash. I was excited about the Butternut, but my (very smart) wife had also slipped some Spaghetti squash (image at right) into the basket. Later she informed me that we would have some Spaghetti on greens with some ground beef. ‘Hm,’ thought I, ‘I guess that won’t be too bad’.

Not too bad? I am clearly an idiot for not seeing the potential. It certainly wasn’t bad, in fact it was great! And here, (as far as I can get out of her), is what she did:

Ingredients:
1 Spaghetti squash (AKA: noodle squash,vegetable spaghetti, or spaghetti marrow)
12 oz or more Spinach (we had less than we would have liked, so go all out on the Spinach)
2-3 cloves of Garlic
1 -lb grass fed organic ground beef
A few Tablespoons of Olive oil for cooking
Spices ~2 teaspoons of each
Oregano
Basil
Garlic powder (Yes, more Garlic)
Toppings to add after cooking:
Shredded raw cheese such as Parmesan, (we used Manchego)
Pitted, marinated black olives
Process:
Cook the Spaghetti squash for about an hour until done (a butter knife should easily pierce the outside). If you are not familiar with Spaghetti squash, you should cut it length-wise and bake it face down on a buttered dish. This will help it cook evenly and retain moisture.
While the Spaghetti squash is cooking, begin to brown the beef (on low for grass fed beef) and slowly add the spices when it is partly browned.
Shortly before the squash is done, start sauteing the Spinach in the Olive oil, and add the Garlic cloves. Mix well, and cook the Spinach as much as makes you comfortable.
After the squash is cooked, scoop out the flesh, which should be very stringy (like Spaghetti), onto plates.
Add Spinach and beef. Then top with cheese and olives, and salt to taste.

So, if you have any sense at all, and are within range of a fresh, locally produced, organic Spaghetti squash, devour it immediately! (Before I do).


Salad Dressing

Happy little veggies


The Summer after High School I took a job at a local fast food joint. Actually, I pride myself to this day in saying, it was Casual Dining, a significant cut above the fast food served at our competition. But semantics aside, it functioned much the way all pre-fab food entities must. One small item that I had the task of stocking onto the shelves every week was Salad Dressing. A very small part of our inventory, these cute little bundles have the capability of transforming mere rabbit food into a delicious snack, worthy of satisfying the highest calorie requirements. How could they accomplish this in 3.5 onces or less? Easy! The dressing was 50% fat (By weight). And boy was it tasty. That stuff revolutionized my idea of what a salad could be. Now, before you navigate away in disgust, I have mended my ways a little since then. I mean, I’m not a total cretin. But I still like my salad to taste good. Don’t hand me a pile of dry chopped leaves and expect me to get excited.
Then I met Salad Dressing Simplicity. Well, that’s my title for it. This revelation can be found starting on page 127 of Nourishing Traditions and flowing all the way to page 135. Within those few pages there are 19 different recipes (some are variations on a theme, but trust me, they are quite different). I haven’t made a dressing from this section that I didn’t like. The one I use the most is ‘Basic Dressing’, on page 129. But since this recipe contains fewer than my minimum requirement of words, I add the subtitle ‘Salad Dressing Simplicity’ just to fluff it a little.

The biggest tip to this section I have found is good Olive Oil. Since the oil is a huge contribution by bulk, any flavor that comes off as strong in the oil will show up in the final product. With a little care, the tones from the oil can be matched with other ingredients, or a very mild oil can be found (probably by trial and error).

Ok, before you make me hand in my man card, I will reassure you that real men can eat salad and survive. (Um, no, I didn’t say eat only salad, that is the dumbest diet I have ever heard of). So here’s how: camouflage. Simply disguise your salad as a meal. A variation of what I suggest is found on page 240 in the form of ‘Raw Salmon Salad’. I don’t eat raw fish (the classic yuk factor, I’m just stuborn that way), but this recipe is up the right alley. Cook the fish, or leave it raw if you like, but either use the liquids described in the recipe, or replace them with one of the dresings in the section disscussed above. Use mixed greens instead of Boston lettuce if you like (I do), and ADD SOAKED AND DRIED NUTS!!

This is the absolutly best thing to compliment your enormous stockpile of freshly prepared nuts.

So go out to your daughter’s pet rabbit cage tonight, and share a salad! Happy (green food) eating!

(Um, quick Biology/editor note: you probably shouldn’t give a rabbit either meat or dressing, rather different digestive tract there. Oh, and you should never eat food that has come in contact with animals. Cross contamination is all fun and games until someones looses their dinner. So eat a salad together, but not the same salad).


Gardening (or, what to do with an infestation of beets)

 

A harmless (looking) beet

Beets have been cultivated for about 4 thousand years. I suppose this fact alone is capable of making beets seem old fashioned. Or at least just old. I really didn’t have anything against beets for most of my life, indeed, I didn’t really acknowlege their existence until I made a simple, dreadful error in a caffeteria line. I really love canberry sauce, the kind that comes in a can. So whatever cook decided to put out thinly sliced beets sometime in November was playing a particularly cruel joke on yours truely. Nevertheless, with my extra large helping of beet, not cranberry sauce, I made the best of it and ate them. They were pretty good, but I couldn’t help holding a little grudge against beets after that. (They could have at least warned me they were beets)

Thus it was only with passing notice that I helped my wife plant our first garden. My parents plow up a chunk of ground, and a small corner had been cordoned off for us to frolic in. We were given a gift certificate for a mail order seed catalog, which had a (small) organic section. After drooling over glossy pictures of incredible veggies, we picked some names off the organic list that promised to generate veggies identical to the ones in the photos. There were a number of common foods we skipped due to prolific abundance at the organic market, or lack of interest. (Lima beans are just gross.) So we ordered cucumber, okra, carots, and beets.

Had I paid any attention to the world around me growing up, I would have surely noted that beets grow well in the south. Soft soil, plenty of sunlight, and if you haul it in, lots of water. These are about the only things that beets need to grow. And grow. And perhaps multiply a few times undergound in the dead of night. No matter who is to blame, by mid July we were harvesting beets about every 3 days, and coming back with bags full. At first we just sat them on the counter and padded each other on the backs saying ‘You’re a really good gardener!’ and ‘No! You’re a really good gardener!’ and then ‘What do we do with them??’ We ate some of the greens in salad, and tried a few raw beets sliced up, and then decided that raw beets were hard to eat. And that’s how I came to know Borsch. Hailing from the ancient culinary seeds of Unkraininan survival manuals, Borsch is a soup made from beets. We pulled out our trusty Nourishing Traditions, looked up beets, flipped over to beet soup (page 220) and started happily making dinner. What’s that? Ah, yes. I told you I met Borsch, and here I am talking about beet soup. Well, we made a few changes to the recipe. For instance, the recipe expressly forbids the use of meat stock, which is the staring point of many Eastern European traditional recipes. Also, we happened to have several heads of garlic that were begging to be eaten. So with the stock, garlic, and beets, we were ready to go. Oh, we may have tossed in an onion. And some carrots. but this is precisly the spirit of traditional Borsch: Start cooking beets, add stuff that tastes good. And in spite of my misgivings, I really liked the stuff. We started eating Borsch at least once a week. We had beet greens in our salad, and baked beets as side dishes. We even tried to preserve some by fermenting them in jars, as prescribed on page 98, but that experiment didn’t work. Other than pickling failures, I learned to enjoy beets-even love them. The fresh, earthy flavor they impart, even when cooked, gives a delightful tone to the meal.

So, if you have an infestation of beet, I suggest Borsch.


Review

Nourishing Traditions, Revised second edition by Sally Fallon, NewTrends publishing, Inc.

A review.

With a fashionable, new age-y cover (courtesy of Kim Waters Murray), Nourishing Traditions projects the appearance of a cookbook. Which it is. And yet, so much more. Not only does Nourishing Traditions provide a comprehensive series of recipes, the author includes advise on obtaining healthy ingredients, methods of maximising the nutrition content of food, and occasional commentary on the inner workings of the western world’s food production (‘politically correct nutrition’ -front cover)

1. Pros.

I’m an optimist; except in the morning, which officially ends at 2 pm. So I’ll start with the positive aspect of Nourishing Traditions.

Fat.   Sally Fallon makes fat cool. You can cook with it and you can eat it. It’s even required! Mind you, you need to be careful to eat the right kind, but I like fat. It’s tasty.

Salt.   Salt is good for you??! Yep, heart attacks are caused by, um, other stuff. Salt is good. Eat more of it or you will die. Oh, make sure it’s sea salt, or your wasting your time.

Tasty ‘health food’.   Food that is good for you and tastes good. Rather than giving you a dry, low fat, bran muffin, Fallon gives ‘Mexican Eggs,’ complete with 4 eggs, 4 corn tortillas, 2 tablespoons of lard, and 2 cups of salsa. Oh yeah, and you get to fry the tortillas. (Page 438).

Lamb.   29 recipes are listed under lamb. One of the best red meats available to a thickly bearded scottsman is lamb. Showing a resurgence in the meat industry, eating lamb is cool.

Red Meat.   Are you a man? Do you like red meat? You will find sufficient inclusion of recipes for the heartier palate within the covers of Nourishing Traditions.

2. Cons

Though I enjoy a great deal of the methods employed by Sally Fallon, there are a few things which irk me:

Raw meat appetizers.   There is a whole chapter on making raw meat sound good. It’s not. It may be healthy, I’m not sure, but it  is gross. Thanks, but, uh. no thanks. Sadly, this reduces the number of available red meat recipes. Oh, well.

Time.   Got time? A former math teacher of mine informed me that each of us has precisely the same number of hours in each day. (That’s about 24, or so). I always feel like I get cheated out of a few. Sally Fallon’s recipes take a great deal of planning and preparation. It is a lifestyle. Once you adopt the life, it is pretty easy, but until then it’s rough.

Biology experiments.   I love science. I even enjoy dabbling in a little biology, you know, like dissecting the pigs and such. But I cannot tell you how many jars of fermented this and that have gone terribly wrong. Some of them are still in the back of my refrigerator since I’m afraid the EPA will lock me up if I flush them down the drain. There is a lot of instruction about fermenting your own foods, but it’s way harder than it sounds.