Liver Burgers

Okay. These sound gross, I’ll admit. And that’s not a good selling point at all. But, at least I’ve learned a thing or two since I was 5 years old and I no longer call a burger a “booger” (my parents thought it was quite funny, btw). So know that I have your attention… and managed to embarrass myself all in one fell swoop. Liver burgers. Yea. That’s right. It’s the super organ that everyone needs to eat and no one wants to eat. Auth Ethel’s liver and onions? No thank you. (And no, I don’t have an Aunt Ethel and apologize to anyone who does. I’m sure she’s lovely.) Pâté

? Well, I like it now. So that argument is moot. But I used to think it was nasty. 

(So this photo – it’s the only one I have of the burger and was taken on my super ancient iPhone 4s.)

Incorporating liver in your diet should be a necessity. Unfortunately in the United States, we view organ meats and sub-par. Why have organ meats, the most nutrient-dense of the whole animal, when you can have a nice flank steak? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good marinated flank steak as much as the next person… but it just doesn’t match up for the vitamin powerhouse that organ meats provides. In fact, according to an arcticle by Chris Kresser, organ meats contain 10 to 100 times the nutritional benefit than corresponding muscle meats. (He also has a nifty chart comparing the nutrition of liver against other foods.) Organ meats were once so prized in traditional cultures that they were given first to the pregnant and women of child-bearing years. Talk about a super prenatal! 

If you’re not ready to take the liver and onions plunge, and I’m there with ya so don’t worry, than hiding it in your muscle meat might be the way to go. I usually direct my clients with putting a ¼ lb of ground liver in with 1 lb grass-fed/organic/pasture-raised/etc ground beef. They look at me like I’m crazy. Or have a new growth growing out of my face and it suddenly appeared. Either way, it’s the easiest way to hide the flavor. Yes, it does taste slightly gamey. But it’s not bad. In fact, the flavor is like a mild venison. And who doesn’t love venison?! 

To grind the liver, thaw in cold water and blend in blender until it’s all broken up. Or, if you have a fancy meat grinder, you may use that. Cutting it on the cutting board also works but if you’re trying to hide it from a picky eater, the pieces might be too big. 

Liver Burgers

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ¼ lb ground liver (see above)
  • ½ tsp ground dried organic onion
  • ½ tsp ground dried organic garlic
  • pinch of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Cook as you would any burger. And top with your favorite toppings. Might I recommend my Fermented Ketchup

Red Cabbage Braised with Broth and Mead

There’s a theme to my posts recently – braising. It’s not purposeful, it’s just late autumn and nomming on braised veggies sounds divine. Mention fresh veggies to me and my stomach acts like it’s on a Six Flags roller coaster. No thank you. I’ll stick with my slow-cooked veggies. In this case, slow-cooked cabbage. I think I’ve mentioned that I’m Irish/German American. Cabbage and all derivatives thereof were a staple in my family when growing up. This recipe was our favorite when my mother decided we were going to have “German Pub Night,” as she so aptly put it. We knew when we saw that on the menu planner on the fridge, it was going to be this cabbage, a whole lot of Eastern European sausages from the local Polish sausage maker (he had dead carcasses hanging in his shop, totally cool to a family full of kids), and some kind of potato dish. 

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Like all family favorites, I had to hack this one apart and reassemble with tender loving care. It’s one of those foods that we would eat for an after-school snack… which usually meant my mom was frustrated with her because there went any hopes of having leftovers for dinner. But, seriously. If you can get kids to want to eat this rather than fruit roll-ups (we never were allowed those, anyway), I’m sure you’re more than winning as a parent.

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A few notes and substitutions: If your body stand the mead, add more chicken broth. I usually use whatever I have made in my freezer – whether it be chicken or beef. Omitting will turn it Whole30, Anti-Inflammation Diet, 21 Day Sugar Detox, specific carb diet, and paleo-friendly. (Also omit the maple syrup for Sugar Detox and Whole30.) Stay away from fish stock. Look. I might be Irish, but I draw the line somewhere. No fish stock in the cabbage. Your kids won’t be sneaking that for an after-school snack. Guaranteed. 

Finally, this is one of my favorite recipes because I can put it on to cook and walk away for a while. As in go for a jog, take a long, hot bath and read a good book. Today it was just the jog – I had this post to edit. But it’s a good recipe if you’re a busy family and it can be cooked on high in a crock pot for about an hour and a half if you’re going to be gone for a while and are uncomfortable with leaving the stove on. It’s also fabulous when made ahead of time, the juices continue to marinate the cabbage into a flavor that’ll make your Irish ancestors jealous. 

Red Cabbage Braised in Chicken Broth and Mead 

  • 1 head organic red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 organic onions, chopped
  • 3 cups organic cranberries, rinsed and check for bad ones!
  • 1 organic Granny Smith apple (or some other tart, hard apple) peeled, cored,and sliced
  • 1 ¼ cup organic chicken stock 
  • ½ cup mead
  • ¼ c balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup organic grade B maple syrup
  1. In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until cabbage is tender, about 45-60 minutes. Or see crock pot directions above. 

Paleo Egg Roll Filling… Minus the Roll.

I made the not-so-bright decision to pull two pounds of ground pork out of the freezer.

Not one, but two.

Apparently I was over-zealous with how much I thought I could eat this week.

Or maybe how much I like homemade Italian sausage. Which is a lot.

But, seriously. I have my limits.

Perusing my fridge, I realized that I had a head of cabbage that had been hanging out in the back for…. longer than I care to admit. Cabbage doesn’t ever really go bad so I peeled off the leaves that had started rusting and voila! Inspiration was born. (I also had to steal two carrots from my roommate – but she got dinner out of the deal… and I still owe her two carrots.)

Below is the result of my said inspiration. It’s hearty, filling and 21 Day Sugar Detox-friendly.

You know that filling from egg rolls? Yea. It tastes like that. Minus the greasy fried egg roll bit. (Who likes soggy fried food anyway? mmm.. French fries in duck fat… okay. I do.) But let’s bring it back to egg rolls. I hated the roll and only ate them so I could have the filling and maybe the dipping sauce. But this recipe is so tasty that it doesn’t need the dipping sauce. So this is the best thing ever. 

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  • 1 lb organic, pasture-raised ground pork
  • ½ head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 organic carrot, shredded
  • ½ cup organic daikon radish, julienne cut
  • ¼ cup organic green onion, diced
  • 2 tsp fresh organic minced ginger
  • 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice 
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 3 ½ tbsp coconut aminos
  • ½ tsp (or more) dried red chili flakes
  1. Over medium heat, cook the pork until no longer pink along with the ginger, spices, salt and coconut aminos.
  2. Add the cabbage and carrots and cook for three minutes more, stirring often to make sure the cabbage cooks.
  3. Add the daikon radish and continue to cook until radish is slightly cooked and cabbage is cooked but still tender. (It shouldn’t be bright green – if it is, keep cooking.)
  4. Serve on a bed of lettuce or put it in a bowl and eat it. Or if you feel like being all fancy, fill Belgian endive cups with it. This would also taste good on cauliflower rice. Or just grab a fork and throw manners to the wind and eat out of your skillet.

What. Don’t judge me. 

“Breaded” Fried Zucchini

I’ve been jonesing for this stuff for the past few months and somehow managed to fight the urge to buy zucchini out of season. Not sure how I managed it, but I did. Now that my garden is going crazy, here’s a nice little zucchini recipe for y’all.

I served mine up with some clean BBQ sauce that’s made locally here in Portland. They’re delicious just by themselves but this sauce. It’s an addiction. 

One little note before I give you the recipe: use Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal. Usually, if you’re baking, I’m an advocate for not-Bob’s but this time around, you need the larger “grain” to mimic Panko breadcrumbs. Just trust me on this one. 🙂

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Breaded Fried Zucchini

  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced into ¼-3/8" medallions
  • ¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal
  • 2 large, organic and pasture-raised eggs, beaten
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  1. In a medium skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Test out a bit of egg to see if the skillet is done – you want it to start spattering immediately. 
  2. You’ll need a bowl and a plate – one for the egg and one for the almond meal. Beat the egg in the bowl until it’s well blended.
  3. On the plate, combine the almond meal, salt and pepper and sift with a fork until incorporated.
  4. Dip the zucchini in egg, then in the almond meal and once again in the egg and place in the frying pan. Repeat until the pan is full with a single layer of zucchini.
  5. Cook until the egg is done and golden brown. Remove from pan and put aside. Repeat until all zucchini has been cooked.

Fruit Vinegar

Some of you may recall grandparents talking about sipping vinegar “back in their day” and how it was good for their constitution, gout, the sugar or insert-any-other-old-timey-ailment-word-here. And really, they weren’t all that off. Although their Windex-styled fix-it-all solution is hilarious, they really were on to something.

Natural raw vinegars, ya know, the ones with the mother in them, are quite good for you and are a great source of good bacteria that aid in the health of your gut and overall body. (If your gut is horrid, the rest of you is going to feel horrid because you’re not getting the necessary nutrients to pass through the blood-gut barrier or you’re getting mal-digested nutrients passing through. Bottom line – it’s horrid.)

Anyway, fruit vinegar is easy to make and isn’t super vinegary. In fact it makes a great mocktail. In the heat of the summer, I’ll grab a tumbler, throw a few ice cubes in it, some gassy mineral water (San Pellegrino is my fave) and a bit of the vinegar. The result? A light and refreshing drink that’s outta this world.

You’re going to look at it and wonder how you ever bought your own vinegars. Trust me. I do it to myself. In the mirror. True story. I frequent vinegar shops all the time and have been known to drop $100 on a few bottles of fruit vinegars. Yea. I did that. A lot. Whoops.

A few key things:

  • Your fruit shouldn’t be moldy or rotten.
  • They should be fresh, not frozen (I made that mistake once).
  • Scraps work, too! And they’re economical. Which I like. Bruised fruit is also okay. Use peels, rinds, cores, etc.
  • Use organic. If you can’t afford organic, ask your organic grocer if they have “seconds” in the back. Sometimes they’ll sell you those for a discounted price.
  • Also, if you can’t use organic, stay away from using peels.
  • It’s a lot of sugar, but you need to feed the bacteria something. By the time it’s all processed and fermented, the sugar count will be much less, making it usable if you have a special diet. 
  • Keep fruit submerged with a glass plate, rock, plastic lid (like a yogurt lid, BPA-free).
  • A bowl or wide-mouth jar works best because it encourages oxygen.
  • Save the mother!!! If it develops a mother, save it for a starter for the next batch (and omit the apple cider vinegar).
  • The ratio is 1 part fruit to 2 parts water.

Fruit Vinegar

  • 4 cups fruit scraps or fresh fruit
  • 1 qt filtered water
  • ¼ cup organic sugar
  • 1 tbsp organic raw apple cider vinegar (such as Bragg’s)
  1. Put scraps in the jar or bowl.
  2. In a separate container, dissolve water in the sugar and pour over fruit. (There should be about 1 part scraps to 2 parts water, just eyeball it and add more fruit if necessary.)
  3. Use a rock, plate or a plastic lid to keep fruit submerged. If it won’t stay under, stir daily to prevent mold growth. 
  4. Cover the jar or bowl with a cheesecloth or a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. (Make sure fruit flies can’t get in, they LOVE this stuff!) 
  5. Let it sit on the counter for a week and then strain out all the fruit using a fine mesh colander and a coffee filter. 
  6. Return the liquid to the container and cover it again with the cloth or filter and let it sit another 3-4 weeks. 
  7. If white yeast develops, called Kahm yeast, try to scrape it off – it’s not bad for you. So don’t worry. Otherwise, you can strain it out in the end. If mold develops, also known as the fuzzy stuff, pitch it.
  8. Bottle in narrow-neck bottles, cover and store indefinitely (as in it doesn’t go bad) at room temperature.

Dilly Beans with Scapes

I freaken love all things dill. When I was a baby, I would beg my mom and her friends for their kosher dill pickles when we were out at Rose’s (a New York deli here in Portland – back in the 80s, they were in their heyday and their food was FANTASTIC). After a few kosher dill pickle spears, my lips would be white from all the vinegar. I didn’t care. I wanted more. And my mom and her friends wanted to laugh even harder. It was a win for everyone.

Fast forward 30 years, and I still love my dilled foods. I bought a bunch of green beans two weeks ago and realized that with my neck, any and all cooking wasn’t happening. So, before they had an opportunity to rot on me, I shoved them in a jar with some scapes I had also bought with the dream of sauteing them in butter… Yea. Not happening, either.

Two weeks later, I cracked open the jar and my goodness! Childhood memories of eating dill pickles until my lips turned white came flooding back. They are so. so. so. good. Even the roommate who sometimes thinks my food is a bit hippie (admit it. I know you think this – and I know you’re reading this post), wanted more.

Okay. Enough of me typing. You want to hurry up and make these. And then wait two weeks. It might be the longest two weeks of your life but you’ll have to deal.

The end result is fantastic.

Times 10.

Note: The grape leaves sound random but they help maintain the crispness of the vegetable. Other options are a bay leaf (or two).

Dilly Beans with Scapes

  • 1 lb fresh, organic green beans, with ends snipped
  • 4 organic scapes (garlic spears)
  • a handful of fresh dill – about 1 ½" in diameter if you hold the bunch together
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 grape leaves (organic and non-sprayed)
  • 33 grams sea salt (no iodine or caking agent) to every quart of  filtered water
  1. Leave water out for at least 30 minutes to evaporate trace minerals. In the meantime, weigh out the salt and rinse green beans and scapes. Trim both so will fit in the jar.
  2. Add the salt to the water, stir to dissolve and set aside.
  3. In your jar, layer the red pepper flakes, peppercorns, and dill on the bottom.
  4. Place the green beans and scape spears on top of the spices, stick straight up. Stuff the grape leafs on the side.
  5. Pour the saltwater solution atop of everything and work out any bubbles. The veggies or grape leaves cannot be above the water line.
  6. Place a dunker (either a clean rock or a glass weight) atop to keep the veggies below the brine line.
  7. Seal tightly with a lid and allow to ferment for 3 to 10 days. The beans will get tangier as they age. If mold forms, dump it.
  8. Transfer to cold storage and enjoy on warm summer days! (I’m willing to bet these would taste really good in a Bloody Mary!)

 

Lacto-Fermented Ginger Carrots

I know I’ve been focused on fermenting lately but the bacteria that natural ferments provide are such an important part of the diet.

Here’s why: In a healthy gut, up to 5 pounds (yes – you read that right, 5 pounds) of healthy bacteria should be living symbiotically with our body. That’s crazy! Fermented foods aid in that symbiosis by providing the gut with new waves of bacteria as old ones die off.

Vitamin K2, a vitamin that is totally and completely underrated but rocks my socks, is found in ferments. Dr. Weston Price identified it during his research days as “The X Factor” (not to be confused with the television show). He posited that there was some factor in these indigenous foods that was allowing for good calcium absorption and assimilation that resulted in healthy teeth, bones and tissues. Science, unfortunately, had not caught up with him and only recently have they discovered what he was talking about. Natural foods FTW! (I’ve talked a little bit about this in my butter post.)

So these carrots. They are my favorite. So much so that sometimes I eat too many of them. If that’s even possible! ha! They’re gingery and tangy and full of delightful goodness. On a warm summer day, pulling one of these bad boys out of the fridge is just so refreshing. They’re also super super easy. And super quick to put on. And super cheap. All three are a super win in my book. (I’ll stop with the “super” superlatives, don’t worry! – hehe. See what I did there?)

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Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Frittata

I made this frittata for Mother’s Day and it was a hit – except for the 11 year old who doesn’t like stinky cheese and my sister’s 24 year old boyfriend… who also doesn’t like stinky cheese. Haters gonna hate.

The frittata is a spin-off of a great restaurant here in Portland that is renowned for their weekend brunches. In fact, it’s usually an hour wait minimum on the weekends. Ouch, right? But in all seriousness, we love our brunch in Portland. So much so that they made a Portlandia skit about us.

So yea. Apparently we’ll do just about anything to get to a good brunch place.

Okay, so this frittata. It’s so easy. As are most frittatas. The main specialty item you will need is a well-seasoned cast iron pan (which should be a staple in any kitchen anyway) or a skillet that can go in the oven.

Choosing a mild Gorgonzola is key. It’s a stinky cheese and can easily overpower other flavors. I talked to the cheese counter dude at the local cheese shop… okay. New Seasons. I talked to the guy at New Seasons. I’m not that fancy, even though there are some FANTASTIC cheese shops in the Portland area. But, cheese people – they know their cheese. Tell them you’re making a frittata and want something mild that won’t magnify in the oven. They’ll know exactly which cheese to set you up with. If they don’t, find a new cheese guy. 🙂 If you’re doing level 3 of the 21 Day Sugar Detox, omit the cheese and also omit if you’re dairy free.

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Finally, make sure you don’t toss your excess butter – by the time you’re done caramelizing the onions, it will be infused with onion goodness. It’s what makes this dish fantastic – that and the bacon and cheese.

Here goes!

Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Frittata

  • 2 onions, cut in half and thinly sliced into “half moons”
  • ½ cup organic grass-fed salted butter
  • 1 dozen pasture-raised eggs, beaten
  • 4 strips bacon, minced and cooked
  • ½ cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (or any mild bleu cheese)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (wait until onions are almost done, it could take a while).
  2. In an 8" (or wider if your skillet is shallow) cast iron skillet, and over medium-low heat, melt the ½ cup of butter. Add onions and saute until onions are caramelized (see link if you need a great how-to from The Kitchn).
  3. Remove onions and set aside, being careful to keep as much of the butter as you can in the pan. Swirl the butter around so it coats the bottom and all of the sides of the pan.
  4. While pan is hot, pour in beaten eggs. “Sprinkle” carmelized onions, bacon and crumbled Gorgonzola on top.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until a knife in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Set aside and allow the eggs to set. Cut like a pie and serve warm.

South of the Border Zucchini Pancakes

These guys. So tasty. I had plain zucchini pancakes recently and wanted to give them a little flavor kick. (I’m obsessed with savory for breakfast, what can I say?) So these babies were born. I originally served them with fresh pico de gallo, sliced avocados with pink salt and hot sauce. Always gotta have the hot sauce. After I’m done with my 21 day sugar detox, I’ll serve them with a bit of crème fraîche (French fermented cream that tastes a lot like American sour cream – you can buy it relatively cheaply at Trader Joe’s) or some whole milk cojita cheese. Latin American Sauerkraut would also taste fantastic with these. Enjoy!

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A little note: conventional zucchini is a GMO crop (when at the grocery store, conventional crops start with a 4xxx, organic a 9xxx). Make sure you buy organic zucchini or buy conventional ONLY at Trader Joe’s as they do not carry any GMO products in their produce department. Their open statement on their commitment to non-GMO is only another reason why I love T.J.’s with all my beating heart.

South of the Border Zucchini Pancakes

  • 4 organic zucchini, shredded
  • 4 organic soy-free eggs, beaten
  • ¼ pound bacon, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  1. In a medium frying pan, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Reserve the fat in the pan.
  2. While bacon is cooking and using a cheese grater, shred the zucchini. Add all of the other ingredients and stir until well incorporated. Once the bacon is done, add to the mixture.
  3. Over medium heat, and using the bacon grease in the pan, ladle about a 1/3 cup (pancakes should be about 3" wide) of the mixture. Cook each side until lightly browned, only flipping once.
  4. Serve immediately.

    Note: nightshades are not allowed for some on an anti-inflammation diet. If you do not tolerate cumin, red chili powder or cayenne pepper, simply omit.

Homemade Mayo

If I had known mayo was this easy to make, I would have stopped buying Best Foods/Hellman’s years ago. (And, no – I haven’t bought it for a few years anyway.) The flavor is a bit different than the conventional brands as mine was soy-free and the oils are different. But it’s creamier and nuttier.

My only tip for you – pour the oil very very very slowly. As in very very. A few drops at a time kind of very. This will allow the oil to be blended in completely and won’t break apart the fragments that give it that wonderful floral bouquet once it hits the tongue. Break them apart and… well, it’s nasty, bitter and you’ll want to dump it out.

On to the eggs – farm eggs are the best. Soy-free, organic and free-range. If your local farmer doesn’t wash the eggs first, make sure you do prior to cracking them – and really, this only needs to be done if your eggs have visible dirty spots on them. Which, at that point, if your eggs are crazy dirty, the farmer isn’t tending to his nesting boxes very well and you might want to find a new farmer.

So here’s my recipe. And my roomies had better watch out – I might be dumping their Best Foods/Hellman’s. But it’ll be doing them a favor. No more excess estrogen from the soybean oil and no more nasty fillers. Just good ol’ simple and real foods ingredients.

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Homemade Mayo

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • ½ cup macadamia nut oil or avocado oil (both cold-pressed and extra-virgin)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Whisk all the egg yolks, lemon juice, sea salt, vinegar and dijon mustard together until well blended.
  2. While continuing to mix (a hand blender, set on low works best), slowly drizzle the macadamia nut oil, a few drops at a time and blend until completely incorporated. Repeat until all oil is done.
  3. Next, add the olive oil, blending a few drops at a time, with a  hand whisk, until all incorporated.
  4. Stores in the fridge for up to 7 days.
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