Loaded Spuds

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One of my all time favorite comfort foods is a loaded baked potato. Gosh, it’s been a long while since I had a baked russet potato with all those oooey gooey fixin’s on top. What a calorie bomb those things are, delicious nonetheless! I have found an equally satisfying alternative to those bloating spuds, loaded sweet potatoes. You could really top these with anything you want but my recent favorite is roasted broccoli with spring onion topped with my bolognese sauce that I batch cook and freeze. You can find the recipe for the bolognese here. I also have an easy way to prepare this for a quick weeknight meal.

First wash and prick with a fork your desired number of small sweet potatoes (I do three, the kids split one). Brush or smear grass-fed butter or lard all over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt. Place on a square of foil in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. This can be done ahead of time, simply cut open your potatoes when you are ready to eat and pop back in the oven when you roast your veggies to reheat. Then make the green part of your super spud…

Roared Broccoli with Garlic and Spring Onion

1 large head broccoli, florets cut apart
1 spring onion or scallion (whites mostly) sliced thin
1-2 cloves fresh garlic minced
2 T fat of choice (grass-fed lard or coconut oil will work best)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heat a large skillet to medium heat with your fat. Add the broccoli and toss to coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook broccoli on the stove top for 3-5 minutes, keep it moving so it doesn’t burn. Add in the garlic and onion and toss with broccoli for 1-2 minutes then transfer to the oven for about 10 minutes until broccoli is fork tender. This makes a great side dish to any meal.

While my broccoli is roasting I warm my bolognese in a sauce pan on the stove. When everything is hot and ready to go I layer the broccoli then the bolognese sauce on top over my opened sweet potato. This is so good I even eat the potato skins, talk about vitamin central! Yummy!!

Cabbage all day

I am really enjoying cabbage lately. Previously in my life cabbage was limited to coleslaw and maybe a few stray pieces of red cabbage in salad mix. Now I am enjoying it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cabbage has a variety of health benefits. Cabbage is at the top of the list of vegetables with high doses of cancer preventing antioxidants, it is high in fibre and vitamin C and is the lowest in calories of any vegetable. Also studies have shown that eating cabbage will help women build muscle by boosting their testosterone levels. These are just a few benefits of cabbage, for more info check out this link.

One of the things I like best about cabbage is it’s versatility. It is quick cooking and can hold up to a long slow braise. It can also be pickled, fermented or made into slaw. This week I made two similar preparations with cabbage, one for breakfast and one for dinner. My daughter loved the dinner recipe so much she asked for seconds! So I’ll share it with you.

1 head green cabbage
1/2 large yellow onion
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 sprig rosemary
2 lbs chicken thighs (I used boneless skinless because that what I had on hand, use whatever you like though)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pat thighs dry with paper towels and liberally season with salt and pepper. Heat a wide pan with a lid to medium high heat with your fat of choice and sear the chicken thighs on both sides then remove to a separate plate. Add the onion to the pan, sautéing until you see a little color on the onion then add the cabbage and herbs. Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt and a few turns of fresh ground pepper. Sauté until cabbage begins to soften then add the thighs back in, burying them in the cabbage mixture. Pour the liquids from the chicken plate over the entire mixture. There should be a good bit of liquid forming in the pan from the chicken juices and water from the cabbage. Cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

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For the breakfast dish I browned some Shiner Farms pork sausage then added onion and cabbage sautéing until softened then I cracked 6 eggs on top and popped it into the oven until eggs were medium (about 5 minutes at 375). Play with it to get the eggs to your liking. I’ve got a great cole slaw recipe too which will come later. Stay tuned!!

Classic Yankee Pot Roast

I had a great day of eating yesterday. Day one of 60 down, 59 to go. Woohoo! I had 2&1/2 cups of coffee with coconut milk, this is something pretty new for me and I love it. I also had one half of an organic dark chocolate truffle at the grocery store…darn samples. I had leftovers for lunch, an easy fix breakfast and my favorite braised pot roast for dinner. Here’s my food diary for yesterday.

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Steamed broccoli, three hard boiled eggs, one quarter of an avacado with Tessemae’s hot sauce

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Leftover meatloaf and chopped beet greens with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Pot Roast with roasted root vegetables

Classic Yankee Pot Roast

ingredients
2-3 pound grass-fed chuck roast
2 large carrots
2 yellow onions
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
1 C chicken or beef stock (preferably homemade)
Salt and pepper

20140211-090117.jpgLet the flavor train begin.
Method
One hour before cooking remove chuck roast from refrigerator to temper (important). Heat oven to 275 degrees. Dry roast with paper towels, liberally season with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, don’t be shy with the salt. Heat a heavy bottomed pot, a Dutch oven is best, to medium high heat. Add your fat of choice and sear the roast on each side getting a good ‘crust’ on the meat, 2-3 minutes per side. The sound will change when the meat is properly seared, I cannot explain this but just listen and it will change, don’t go poking around until at least 2 minutes has gone by. When all sides are seared remove roast and sear the onion halves on both sides, remove. Add carrots and sauté until you get some color on them, remove. Add the tomato paste and pincer for 2 minutes, stir in the chicken stock, add the roast back in and top with onions, carrots and herbs. Bring liquid to a simmer, cover with a lid and place in the oven for 2 hours. Turn the roast over and cook one to two more hours until the meat is falling apart. Timing will depend on the size of your roast and if you can’t get to the roast to turn it you can skip that step. If you are looking for a short cut you can put all the ingredients into the crock pot for 8 hours on low.

Brussel Sprout Love

I have never liked Brussel sprouts. I remember having to eat them as a kid and hating it. As an adult, every year around the holidays when they came into season I would cook them a variety of ways….always hating them. I’m not sure what has happened to me but this winter I cannot get enough of them! Maybe it’s because at the ripe ole age of 35 I am now a Brussel Sprout Cougar or that I now have a complete family to inflict this misunderstood veggie upon. I don’t know? However, now that I’m eating them weekly I am trying out a variety of different recipes. Here’s one I came up with yesterday for dinner. Delicious with my pork chop!

Brussels, Apples and Bacon

Ingredients:
1lb Brussel sprouts, peeled and quartered
1large Fuji Apple, peeled and chopped about 1/2 inch
2 slices uncured bacon
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook bacon to ‘medium’ crispy, remove and chop small. Toss Brussels into hot pan with bacon drippings, season with a heavy pinch kosher salt and fresh black pepper, cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally to get even browning all over. Add in the apples, stir to incorporate into the Brussels and place in the oven for 15 minutes, removing to stir half way. When the sprouts and apples are tender add in bacon and drizzle with lemon juice. The lemon juice really wakes this up. Yummy!

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Lard…WTH?

I’ve been writing my blog for about a week and a half now and have mentioned several times that I am using grass-fed lard from my favorite pig farmers over at Shiner Farms. Now, I know what you are thinking. You’re not seriously cooking with lard, are you? We’ll, yes, yes I am and happily doing so to further my good health and lower my bad cholesterol by boosting my good cholesterol. But, it by all means HAS to be grass-fed, natural lard. Please, please do not buy a tub of lard at the grocery store.

Lard is high in heart healthy oleic, monounsaturated fat. It has a very similar fat profile to human breast milk. Natural lard is a better choice than many common cooking oils you probably have in your kitchen right now. Here is the low down on how natural lard stacks up to other oils. Consider sourcing some from a local farmer near you and begin to reap the benefits.

Patricia, from Shiner Farms gave me the best tip for rendering your lard…use your slow cooker. Put it on low overnight and when you wake up in the morning you will have liquified lard. Carefully (it’s HOT) pour your lard into a heat proof container, I use a ball canning jar, and refrigerate. This fat tastes a little like high quality butter when cooking. I love to use it for scrambled eggs, cooking a chicken breast or roasting vegetables. The flavor is nothing short of amazing.

Happy pigs have happy fats!

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BBQ Fake Out

I was in the mood for BBQ. Actually, I’m always in the mood for BBQ. It really appeals to my craving for slow cooked, meaty goodness. Unfortunately, I live in a condo with no big smoker out back. Also, most bottled BBQ sauces are loaded with less than healthful ingredients. Yeah, yeah, I know…I could just make BBQ sauce. Who has time for that? Enter Tessemae’s and Matty’s BBQ sauce (they have a wide variety of Paleo sauces, dips and marinades).  I had ordered a few things from Tessemae’s last week and my box showed up on my doorstep just as I came home from the Rice University Farmers Market with my Shiner Farms grass-fed pork shoulder roast. So of course I pulled out my trusty crock pot and put those two things in there right before I went to bed. When I awoke I had tender juicy perfectly cooked pulled pork. Easy!

So here’s how I actually went about it.

Ingredients:
2-3lb grass-fed pork shoulder
1/2 bottle Matty’s BBQ Sauce

Method:
Place roast in your crock pot. Pour 1/2 bottle of your BBQ sauce over it, set slow cooker to low and go to sleep, or work, or go qualify for Kona…for about 9 hours. Remove the roast and reserve the juices. Shred the pork with a fork or your hands, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a glass container, chill everything in the refrigerator.  I like to cook the roast overnight so you can shred and chill the juices in the morning. When the fat is solidified, lift it off of the gelatinous stuff underneath. Put the gelatinous liquid into a shallow pan and reduce by half adding in the shredded pork, tossing to coat, cover and remove from the heat.

Now if only I had a big bun to put that on. Well, I could do that or I could just roast up some sweet potatoes in the fat from the roast. These potatoes were the perfect complement to my pork.

Ingredients:
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 T pork fat
1tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cube the potatoes, about 1 inch. Heat pork fat in an large pan and toss in the potatoes. Add the seasonings and toss to coat well. Place pan in the oven for 7 minutes, remove and toss the potatoes, return to the oven and cook another 7-10 minutes. Serve with something green.

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Saturday Market

Every Saturday morning I wake up extra early to run with my running club In Flight Running (shameless plug).  I am a mentor for my running club which I’m pretty excited about.  We tear up the streets of Houston, TX sweating and chatting about anything and everything under the sun.  We train for marathons and half marathons all over the world.  Our season is 40 weeks and today was long run #36.  On Saturday mornings my husband takes over kid duty so I can do this.  Usually afterwords I am too worn out to stand in the kitchen for any length of time so I like to treat myself to breakfast out.

I am still on duty as our household manager and Saturday is the day of the best farmers market in Houston, Urban Harvest.  Time to buy food, one of my favorite things to do.  I really love this market and come as often as I can.   Because of my Saturday commitment to my running club I don’t always have time to make it to the Saturday market.  Not to worry, I have a backup plan.  Tuesday afternoons I always stop by the Rice University Farmers Market. They have some of my favorite vendors so I’m not missing anything.  Here’s a picture of today’s bounty.

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I spent $35 at the Atkinson Farm’s booth, they are my favorite vendor for produce.  Their farm is in Spring, TX just 30 minutes north of Houston.  I got sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, golden beets, green leaf lettuce, broccoli, purple carrots, turnips, cauliflower and strawberries.  I spent $5 on tangerines (impulse buy) and $15 on a 2.5lb beef shoulder from Law Ranch Cattle Company out of Crosby, TX.  I need to buy a side of beef from them soon.  If you can get a few friends together this is the most economical way to buy grass fed meats.

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I also swung by Wabash antiques and feed store to pick up eggs.  They sell cage free fresh eggs for $7 per 20 eggs.  They are delicious, I bought 40.  So grand total for the day I spent $69 and got a bounty of food.  I don’t usually buy this much on Saturday but ‘snowmageddon’ last Tuesday caused the Rice University Market to shut down their operation and we were out of food.  This Tuesday I’ll probably buy some pork from Shiner Farms out of Shiner, TX and beef from Pearls Pastured Beef out of Franklin, TX.  It is important to help your local farmers and to know where your food comes from.  I also save money shopping this way.  I really feel like this is the best route to optimum health.

When I get home I have to put it all away, this means washing and bagging all the greens (turnip, beet and green leaf lettuce) and creatively filling my fridge like a game of Tetris.  I threw the turnip greens in a pot with onion, bacon and chicken stock to eat later.  I washed the beet greens and lettuce for salad and wrapped them in dry paper towels in gallon size ziplock bags. Beet greens are great for chopped salad and an excellent choice for dark leafy greens.  The greens will keep for a week this way.

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It was in culinary school that I learned to use everything, waste nothing.  I haven’t found inspiration for the carrot tops but if you wanted they would add texture to salad.  Every meal I eat at home will have any combination of the veggies and fruit piled up high on my plate.  My kids are eating most of these foods daily and my daughter’s teachers say she eats her vegetables eagerly and asks for seconds at school.  I believe that is because we have offered these foods to her since she started eating solid food.  I am very passionate about this way of shopping and eating.  Why not, this all tastes better than what you’ll find in the grocery store!  In the coming week I will show you how to cook it all so stay tuned and have a great health filled weekend.