Thursday, September 26, 2013

Plum Good!

I'm steadily making more progress with my recovery. I've finally reached a point where I can start going to physical therapy every other week instead of every week. I was able to sustain about 6 mph on the elliptical machine and 11 mph on the stationary bike. If things keep going this way, I can start running in a couple weeks. My orthopedic gave me the ok to start at 3 months post op, which is later this week and about a month sooner than someone with my surgery normally has to wait. I'm so excited!! This means that I can start swimming and get back to lifting heavy things soon!

Well, I've been making my usual Saturday trip to the Public Market and noticed that several vendors had fresh plums. I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to eat some of this harvest seasons eats! The only problem is deciding do with with a large basketful of plums. Don't get me wrong, I love eating them fresh and know that they'd taste really good in a plum pie or some plum pudding. I finally figured that I wanted to try something a little more savory with them. I give you:

Plum Chutney

(I swear this tastes and looks better than the picture! I really need to get a better camera...)

  • coconut oil
  • 12-15 ripe plums
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1-2 tbsp honey (preferably raw/local), use less if you want it less sweet
  • a splash apple cider vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water
  • Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Cut the halves into small chunks. Set aside.
  • Heat a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add some coconut oil and let it melt.
  • Add the onion and let them cook until softened. 
  • Add the garlic and ginger. Let cook for another minute.
  • Add the plums, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, and water. Let this come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and let cook for a 5-8 minutes (you want the plums to soften). Remove the cover and let everything continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes or until thickened. (I added a half cup of water. My final chutney ended up a bit more watery than a typical chutney and more like a sauce. It's up to you how thick you'd like it to be.)
  • Taste, add any salt/pepper.
  • Serve over your desired protein (like pork or chicken). Enjoy!
I served this chutney/sauce over some curry roasted chicken, and it was fantastic! It's not overly sweet and is evened out some with the cider vinegar. I can only imagine that this would taste equally good over some pork or some roasted turkey or even, dare I say, ice cream... Mmm...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall is Here!

Fall is here, and that means that the chilly weather is coming to good ol' Rochester, NY. We awoke to a 30-something degree, frosty morning, a couple of days ago. I'm happy that I was able to bust out one of my pairs of boots and my new fall trench coat; however, I'm always a little sad on the day of the first frost. It foretells of the upcoming winter and snow... I'll admit it. I'm a bit of a cold wimp. I love the changing of the leaves, everything pumpkin, warm apple cider, and Halloween (my FAVE holiday). Yet, I don't like having to bundle up.

Since I've brought up the idea of pumpkin, I thought it'd be a good time to develop a deliciously warming fall soup:

Chai Pumpkin Soup

  • lard, melted
  • 1 small pumpkin (or squash, like acorn), cut in half and seeds scooped out
  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 strips bacon (sugar free/nitrate free from pastured pork if you can get it)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups broth + a little more (if necessary)
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • a few cups broccoli, cut into florets (I used one very large head of broccoli)
  • half a small cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 1/2- 3 cups leftover chai chuck roast (recipe to follow)
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • freshly chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
  • Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Rub the cut side of the pumpkin with some of the melted lard, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Place meaty side down on a baking sheet.
  • Cut the top 1/4 inch or so of the garlic bulb off, exposing the individual cloves. Place the bulb onto a small sheet of aluminum foil. Pour a little melted lard over the exposed bulbs. Enclose the bulb with the foil and place it on the baking sheet with the pumpkin.
  • Roast the garlic and pumpkin for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the pumpkin. You should be able to easily pierce through the skin of the pumpkin with a fork.
  • Unwrap the garlic bulb and let it cool. Then squeeze out the cloves and set aside.
  • Let the pumpkin cool. Then, scoop out the flesh and set it aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Put the bacon strips into the pot and let them cook until crisp. Set them aside on a paper towel lined plate. Keep the bacon fat in the pot.
  • Add the onion to the pot and sauté until softened. Add the cooled pumpkin, all of the roasted garlic cloves, coconut milk, and 2 cups broth. Bring to a simmer.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. You could also pour the soup into a blender or food processor and puree the soup, in batches, and return it to the pot. Return the pot to the heat.
  • Add the leftover chai roast, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, pepper, broccoli, and cauliflower. Bring the soup to a simmer and let it cook until the veggies are tender. Crumble the bacon into the soup. Taste, adjust seasonings (if necessary), top with cilantro.
  • Enjoy!

Chai Chuck Roast

  • 1 chuck roast (preferably from grass fed)
  • 3 tbsp chai tea (I used a loose chai blend from Wegmans)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2-3 tsp salt (depending on how salty you want it)
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup broth (I used homemade beef bone broth)
  • Blend all the seasonings in a small bowl and rub it all over the roast.
  • Put the roast in a crock pot. Pour in the broth over the roast.
  • Let cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  • Pull out the roast, shred the meat, and return it to the juices/broth.
  • Serve with your favorite side!
The initial idea for the chai roast was inspired by my rooibos roast. The flavor of the tea is warming and beautifully compliments the beef. Pair it with some sautéed greens (like I have pictured above) or some roasted veggies and you've got yourself a nice meal.

The soup may seem like it has a fair amount of time and work, but it's totally worth it! Pre-roasting the pumpkin and garlic add some depth. The chai and cinnamon bring out those fall flavors that I absolutely love!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

End of Summer Grilling

I am pleased to say that I'm doing very well with my post-surgery recovery. I was able to ride a stationary bike last week and have managed to go on increasingly longer walks around the neighborhood. It feels really good to be up and moving about without feeling as though I'm dragging some dead weight around. I will admit that my leg starts to bother me if I'm on my feet for too long, but with a little bit of stretching it fades away.

As a result of my being able to walk around more, I can traverse my public market much more easily. I do so enjoy my weekly visit to pick up my meat order. Mmm... meat... Anyhoo, I was introduced to a wonderful cut of meat a while ago that I've finally decided to share with the rest you: the pork steak. It's as though a pork chop and a beef steak got together and had a love child. Let me just say, it's fantastic!

Grilled Seasoned Pork Steak

  • 2 pork steaks
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • seasonings (I used some Berbere spice blend)
  • olive oil
  • Take the pork steaks out about a half an hour before you plan on grilling them. This will bring them to room temperature and allow for a more even cook time.
  • Preheat your grill to high heat.
  • I pour a little bit of olive oil over both side of the steaks.
  • Season the steaks on both sides with salt, pepper, and chosen spices/seasonings.
  • Once the grill is hot, throw on your steaks. Allow them to cook for 5 minutes on the first side. Flip them over and grill for another 4-6 minutes, depending on what doneness you like (Justin and I prefer medium rare).
  • Remove the steaks and allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Serve with your fave side.
I insist that you try pork steaks! They're slightly fattier than a chop and are incredibly tender. Feel free to use whatever spices you have on hand. I've gone really basic and just done salt/pepper to doing rosemary and a drizzle of balsamic. Pork really lends itself well to a myriad of seasoning blends. Add an awesome side to the mix (I made the delicious "Fauxtato Salad" from Beyond Bacon), and you've got yourself a great meal!

If anyone has any issues with cooking pork to medium rare, let me refer you to a recent New York Times article stating that the USDA has decreased the safe cooking temperature of pork from 160 degrees to 145 degrees. The chances of you getting some food born illness are pretty slim, especially if you can get your hands on some quality pastured pig products. Let me also add that Justin and I have yet to get sick from pink pork steaks.

Monday, September 2, 2013

In a Pickle

Ever since I was really young, I've loved sour or tart tasting things. My Mom used to get me a lemon when we would go to the grocery store. She'd prick it open, give it to me, and I'd suck the juices out while she pushed me in the cart. She tells me that the other shoppers would look at her like she was crazy or somehow forcing me to do this. To this day, I still love to cut a lemon in half and eat it like an orange.

I have developed a penchant for other sour foods as well. Take kombucha, for instance. I'll let me batches ferment to the point where pretty much all of the sugar is used up and the beverage becomes fairly vinegary in taste. Ever since I've started making kumbucha and sauerkraut, I've wanted to further delve into the realm of fermented goodness. I took a little inspiration from what the public market had to offer and found the next item to add to my ferment list:

Fermented Dill Pickles

  • small cucumbers, cut off the ends and cut each in half
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • sprigs of dill
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • peppercorns
  • red chili flakes, optional
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • Place 1-2 garlic cloves, some peppercorns, red chili flakes, and a few sprigs, of dill, into a glass pint jar.
  • Stuff the cucumbers into the jar until they are packed in.
  • Combine the salt and water in a glass and stir until the salt is dissolved.
  • Pour the salt water into the jar until it covers the cucumbers.
  • Top the jar with another sprig or two of dill. Top these with two quarters of onion so that they are holding the cucumbers under the liquid.
  • Put the top on the jar and screw it on. You don't want to screw it on too tightly, a little bit of air needs to get in.
  • Set the jar in a cool, dry place and let the cucumbers ferment for 3-7 days, until they reach your desired level of sourness. Know that the longer you let them ferment, they'll get more sour, but they'll also get softer.
These not quite as sour as ones you might pick up at the store, as there's no vinegar in the mix. Nonetheless, they're tasty! Justin, who doesn't quite share my enthusiasm for sour things, said the fermented cukes were very good. You can feel free to add other spices or herbs to the mix to create other flavors of pickles.

I never thought it would be so easy to make pickles or any other fermented thing. It's really quite simple! You get all the benefits of the good bacteria in the fermenting process and some tasty vittles. If anyone wants to know more about this, you should check out Fermented, by Jill Ciciarelli. I've got this book on my wish list and am anxious to buy it/check out the recipes.