Saturday, July 27, 2013

Clarified Goodness!

I've officially decided that I have kitchen gadget lust. I keep finding various kitchen items that I want and don't have the space for. For instance, I had to have a new crock pot for my birthday, wanted a waffle iron and a spirulizer for Christmas. Currently, I'm drooling over a boning knife (for my quest to debone a chicken), a meat cleaver (for my eventual butchering...?), a meat grinder (so I can make my own ground meat combos and to break down leaf fat/suet to make lard/tallow), a soda stream (I've become obsessed with sparkling water lately) and a sous vide (which is very expensive at $450 and will probably never get). Granted, the one thing I really want is a giant chest freezer for my basement, so I can buy a 1/4 or 1/2 a cow. I also know some local farms that sell 1/2 or whole pastured pigs and lambs. It's a fair investment up front, but ends up being cheaper in the long run... Not to mention that you won't have to buy meat again for a long time.

Sorry to start off with a long tangent there, but it's been on my mind for a while. I've decided that this week I was going to try my hand at a recipe that I've been meaning to make for a while: ghee. Essentially, it's just clarified butter. It makes for a really nice cooking fat and has very few dairy proteins remaining after the clarifying process, which makes it more tolerable for those with casein or lactose sensitivities.

  • butter, preferably from grass-fed dairy
  • Place the butter into a sauce pan or pot and let it melt over low heat. Let the melted butter simmer. Eventually, you'll see the milk fats float to the surface and start to foam.

  • Skim off the milk solids and let the oil continue to simmer until the remaining milk particles sink, turn golden brown, and there are few bubbles rising to the surface.

  • Remove the pot from heat and let it cool. Then, strain it through a cheesecloth or a small mesh sieve into a clean glass jar.

  • You can put your newly created ghee into the fridge. Use it as you would butter or oil.

This recipe was a cinch to make. This is namely because there's only one ingredient and you just have to keep an eye on the pot. FYI, eggs taste really awesome when they're fried in this stuff! Ghee would also taste good with any veggies you might saute, or even use it as a topping for some grilled goodies.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Go-To Meal

I know that it's been I while since I've blogged, but I can assure you that it hasn't been far from my thoughts. A few updates since I last wrote: I've officially made it to my 28th birthday and have had my knee surgery. Per my orthopedic, I'm doing very well and can begin going PT in a little over a week. I am starting to bear some weight on my right leg, with a very sinister looking brace on. (I swear the thing looks more like a torture device than anything good...) The hope is that I'll be able to bear full weight in four weeks and then can focus on walking on my own. I have also been granted the permission to begin bending my knee to 40 degrees, albeit with some assistance from my left leg. My mobility is still somewhat challenged, and there are times when my sanity seems to be fraying (going from being active to a temporary shut-in is not exactly easy...) I'm trying my best to remain cheerful and cool. (So happy that we have central air with the temperatures reaching the mid-upper 90's. Yikes!) All that being said, I should probably get on with the good stuff.

Whilst on my pre-surgery vacation time, I was asked by my dear friend Elaine for some meal ideas that are easy, fairly quick and allow for the addition of various veggies that may tempt picky eaters. I started going over of all the dinners that Justin or I make over the course of the week, and after a while, noticed that there was a particular style of dish that kept reoccurring.  I've somewhat simplified it into the following:

Easy Go to Meal:


  • Coconut oil/butter/lard (choose a fat that works for you)
  • Ground meat: beef, lamb, bison, chicken, turkey, pork, venison, kangaroo (I know this one sounds odd, but you can get it certain places), ground up organ meats, etc...
  • Onion, chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • Veggies: use bags of frozen veggies (thawed of course) or fresh ones I generally have frozen broccoli, spinach, collard greens, or cauliflower on hand at all times. I also tend to have these same items fresh, when in season. Keep your options open with all types and colors, like: green/red/yellow/orange peppers, purple/green cabbage (shredded or chopped), green beans, mushrooms, beets, asparagus, fennel, leeks, kale, spinach, collard greens, tomatoes, orange/purple carrots, celery, etc...
  • Seasonings: Obviously there's salt and pepper, but you can use any kind you wish to get the flavor you want. IE - Italian: I tend to go a little more herby with oregano, basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, red chili flakes, or marjoram. Mexican: Cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder or raw cacao (good for a mole sauce), oregano, cinnamon, ground chipotle, coriander, thyme, paprika. Asian: ground ginger, ground cloves, red chili flakes. Indian: ground ginger, coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, fennel, garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, fenugreek, asofetida, cinnamon, paprika (what spices don't they use?) Feel free to make up your own blends, complex or simple.
  • Sauces/liquids: broth, coconut milk, heavy cream, coconut aminos, fish sauce (slight warning: a little of this stuff goes a long way), vinegar or some sort (balsamic, rice wine, red wine, apple cider, etc), tomato sauce, lemon/lime juice, you could even use some beer or cider, etc...
  • Random other things, like: bacon, nut butter (almond, macadamia, pecan, etc), nuts, any garnishes (fresh cilantro, basil, parsley, lemon/lime juice, shredded coconut, etc), shredded coconut, etc...
  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add a little bit of your cooking fat and then add your meat. Cook until browned. Remove the meat and save the drippings. (More often than not, I just leave the meat in there for the whole process. I'll cook the meat until it's mostly browned and then add the onions/peppers/mushrooms/celery/ carrots. I can be quite lazy...)
  • Add any extra fat if needed. Then, add your onions +  any mushrooms/carrots/celery/peppers, if you haven't already. (Basically, this is anything that will take the longest amount of time to cook/soften.) Cook until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add any liquids/sauces/nut butters, your browned meat (if not already in the mix), and/or any veggies that may take a little longer. Let the liquids/sauces come to a simmer. Turn the heat down and let everything cook until the veggies are tender. If you were cooking spinach, you could add it here. Stir it in until it's wilted. 
  • Serve this meal by itself, over whatever you like (zucchini/carrot/sweet potato/cucumber noodles, roasted veggies, cauli-rice, rice, pasta, etc...), or with any side dish. Garnish with any items that may go with your meal.
Here are some examples of meals I've made in this style:
Curry in a Hurry
Sausage & Kale "Stew"
Jamaican Me Crazy Plate
Sausage Sauce & Squash
"Garbage/Clean out the Pantry" Curry
Mexi-Beef with Peas & Pepitas
Hidden Liver Bolognese

As I said before, Justin and I both make dinners using the above "formula" multiple times a week.  We just throw together whatever we have on hand and go with flavors that we seem to crave at that particular time. For the most part, we come up with something that tastes really good. Other times, it's just okay; however, we generally end up scarfing it down anyways because we're hungry... Feel free to get creative and experiment with different herbs, spices, and veggies. You may be surprised at what you can make.