Monday, December 10, 2012

Paleo-ized Liver and Onions, Follow up

As a spur of the moment decision, today I added red cabbage kraut with caraway (homemade) to the onions and liver.  It was a spectacular hit with tangy complex flavor.  It was, in my daughter's opinion, plate-licking good.  Not to mention, the red cabbage looked gorgeous on the plate.  So give red cabbage kraut a try and prepare to be impressed.  I think I could even convince my liver-hating husband to eat this dish.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Veg Fest!

Part of why I'm able to spend the money I do on grass fed/organic meats and wild caught fish is because of my CSA.  We started buying in to Grant Family Farms, located in northern (high northern, it's rather unsettling to pass the highway sigh listing "CO/WY state border, 20 miles," about 3 miles before our exist) Colorado.  The farm itself offers vegetable shares in three sizes, egg shares, and preserve shares, which are simply large boxes of single items intended for long term storage.  Also, the farm raises chickens, ducks, and geese, which are used for various field duties and manure but also provide excellent poultry in the pot at the end of their working lives.  Recently, I bought 15 chickens for 28 dollars; the birds weigh about 2.5 lbs a piece so I spent approximately .48 cents a pound.  For 100% pastured, organic birds!  How much more awesome can this place be?  Well, I'll share a few more tidbits.  Grand Family Farm also contract with fruit growers all over the state to offer a fruit share (we get plums, pears, apricots, cherries, and apples and sometimes products like applesauce and cider), and contracts with 3 different local creameries for cheese shares, a mushroom grower for mushrooms, and a bakery for bread shares.  Someone trying to eat a Paleo/WAPF type diet could live very, very well off what this farm offers off their own land and through other local producers.

My family gets the medium size vegetable share, a box intended to feed 3-4 adults for a week, deliveries for 26 weeks.  We also get a "single" fruit share, approx 5 lbs of fruit a week, deliveries for 22 weeks.  We get the "full size" preserve share, which produces 10 large boxes of single items (all my choice).  I get all of this for $950 up front in late winter.  Since this quantity of food, properly preserved, will last an entire 12 months, if you divide the total cost by 52 weeks, you quickly find that my produce costs per week equal just a touch over $18/week.  For food coming off a farm that has been organic since the 70's.  I can't spend $18/week locally for conventional produce.  To buy organic and not from Grant Family Farm, I would spend probably more like $30-$40/week at current local prices.

Grant Family Farms had a rough year this year.  It started with an unusually mild winter last year, which didn't kill off the amount of pests winter normally gets rid of.  Then we had a very hot, very dry, very, very smokey summer.  The Ft. Collins fire in the news in June was only about 30 miles or so south of the farm.  So, the season ended up being closed one week early.  To make up for the disappointment, the trucks brought extra produce to our pick up locations last week.  I picked up some extra things, including a huge bag of end-of-season apples, but walked away feeling like I should have packed up more.  In addition to extra crates at our pick ups last week, there were two days of "Veg Fest" at the farm this week.  We went up yesterday.

For 4 hours total driving time and $50 for lunch and gas, I came home with a solid $200 worth of produce at local organic prices.  Leeks, cabbages, onions, dry beans, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and beets.

My children think that parsnips are bugals.  They also think the menu should include more parsnips.  I had planned to bring home half this pile but Chance and Shula insisted I needed more.

The potatoes the farm grows are a waxy heirloom variety.  They don't spike my blood sugar the way floury russet style potatoes do.  Therefore, we eat potatoes several times a week.  These, however, are destined for the food dehydrator and a veggie soup mix I'll be putting together over the next few days.

The world, according to my children, also needs more carrots.  Just like the parsnips, I'd intended approximately half the quantity seen here.  They helped me with the remainder.

We try not to eat beets too much or two often as at least two members of my family have a metabolic inability to process the red color and therefore pee pink.  This makes me think beets are a metabolic stressor for them but we do enjoy a good roasted beet or borscht occasionally.

So that's it for today.  Lots of vegetable goodness being dehydrated while attempting to keep children from eating up all the spoils of our drive while it's still in the bags.  As a cute kid comment, said children decided that an excellent snack today would be dried parsnips dipped in butter.  If they feel the need, I assume there's something in butter their little bodies need so I didn't stop them.  Just gave them butter knives.  I can deal with them eating butter straight up.  I cannot deal with little finger holes in the butter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fermented Garlic

Bet that got your attention.

Fermentation is a process near and dear to my heart.  I love fermentation.  Fermentation, under clean, controlled circumstances, is good for you.  The process grows lacto-bacillius, an important pro biotic and vitally necessary for anybody trying to heal their intestines.  Research suggests that the process also creates concentrated B-complex vitamins, although not B-12 as was thought at one time.  Fermentation keeps food fresh, crisp, and good to eat for months or years and it is much, much easier to prepare food for fermentation than you might expect.  I'm not going to discuss the hard science behind fermentation because, well, I just don't know it as well as some other people.  For further information, read Wild Fermentation.  Fabulous, wonderful book; I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I live just above 6,000 feet of altitude.  I consider the FDA/USDA recommended methods of food storage - preserving by heat and/or pressure - to be grossly unrealistic.  Unless otherwise specified, all canning books assume you live at or under 1,000 feet of altitude. Considering that the larger part of the US landmass is at or under 1,000 feet altitude, this is a reasonable assumption.  The good canning books (Ball Blue Book, others) include a calculation table for those who live 1,000 feet or more above sea level.  You should check it out some time, if you never have.  A typical pint of jam, processed without altitude adjustment takes around 15 minutes in a water bath.  Pretty reasonable, no?  When I lived in WI, I made jam by this method every summer.  It was awesome jam.  If you look at the altitude adjustment table in the Ball Blue Book, you find that the same pint of jam requires 40 minutes of processing time in a water bath.  Forty minutes, the initial 15 minutes plus 5 minutes for every thousand feet above 1,000 for a total of 25 additional minutes.  Add 15 to 25 and you find yourself monitoring a bubbling water bath for 40 minutes.  I have a life that includes 3 children and copious amounts of time out of this house doing things together.  It does not include time for high altitude water bath canning.  And that's just water bath processing for high acid foods.  Low acid pressure canning is even worse.  Let's use potatoes, since I've done potatoes and remember the figures well.  Quarts of potatoes requires 45 minutes at 15 pounds pressure, when done up at or below 1,000 feet of altitude.  Add 10 minutes for every thousand feet (50 minutes), add to the original 45, and we're looking 95 minutes processing time. If I didn't have time for 40 minutes of water bath-ing jam, I most certainly do not have time for 95 minutes of hold a canner precisely at 15 lbs pressure (on an electric range, this is much more challenging than it initially sounds).

Given the time and energy efficiency issues at hand, I prefer dehydrating and fermenting.  Fermenting is far more fun, plus, I already have detailed pictures, so that's what I'm doing first.  Virtually anything can be preserved by fermentation, although some foods, like green beans, should be briefly cooked (par boiled) before preserving.  If you're Paleo, you're probably not eating enough green beans to have even considered putting them by.  If you're WAPF, take head of the phytic acid issue in regards to dry beans, be aware that fermenting will increase phytic acid in raw green beans, and par boil them for 30 seconds to a minute before packing in brine.  I especially like doing garlic because there's no cutting, slicing, or dicing involved.  You can fully peel the garlic or leave the wrapping on, I leave it on for the color the paper gives to the brine and the garlic cloves.

To put up 1 pint of preserved garlic, you will need 4 to 6 heads of garlic.  I have a tendency to buy the 2 lb bags from Costco, pull a head or two for immediate use, and put the rest into pint jars immediately. Saves a lot of wasted cloves that decided to grow on me.

Shell all the loose paper off.  If you want to keep the hard peel on the garlic that saves a great deal of time but a lot of people like to take it off before fermenting.  Pack as tightly as you can into pint jars.

Use sea salt, any brand you like.  But use sea salt that is free of iodine supplementation and anti-caking agents.  Iodine can inhibit the fermentation process, leading to spoilage.  Anti-caking agents can cause cloudiness in the brine.  One of the indications of spoilage you'll be looking for later on is cloudy liquid so don't confuse the issue with poor quality salt.

With distinct vegetable pieces like garlic, I add the salt to the top of the jar and tap the jar on a hard surface to distribute throughout.  Use 1 Tablespoon per cup.  If your container is a pint, 2 T; if you're using a quart, 4 T, and so on.  Depending on the exact environment you're going to store the jars, you may be able to use less salt, might possibly have to use more (unlikely but keep it in mind).  Salt is used to inhibit the grow of bad bacteria in the first few days of fermentation, before lacto-bacillius gets itself going.  If your storage area is quite cool (in the mid 60's down to around 54 F), you need less salt, but the fermentation will take longer (cold also inhibits the growth of lacto).  If your storage area is fairly warm (70's into the 80's F), you will need the amount of salt described here, possibly a little more.  Heat spurs on lacto-bacillius but also encourages growth of negative organisms as well.  Should you find the finished product is adequately preserved in the environment you use, but tastes too salty, soak the vegetable in warm tap water for 5 to 20 minutes prior to use.

When the vegetable is packed in and salt added, fill with filtered water.  Chlorine, as you might expect, can interfere with the growth of lacto-bacillius.  Chlorine and various other chemicals added to tap water can also cause cloudiness.  Since cloudiness, as previously mentioned, can be an indication of spoilage, you want to avoid using ingredients that may cause cloudiness separate from spoilage.  Sea salt and filtered water please!

Try to get rid of as much air as you can.  Lacto-fermentation is an anerobic process, meaning it grows in the absence of oxygen.  Air bubbles slow things down and can spoil your jar altogether.

Despite the detailed information about containers that you will find in books such as Wild Fermentation, you can ferment safely and reliably in canning jars.  Pack full, fill with water.  Turn the lid as tight as it will go and the release by 1/4 turn.  This leaves room for gases to escape but does not allow additional air into the jar.  Garlic should sit in a cool dark place for about 2 months before using.  Once you open the jar, keep in the fridge.  It should last pretty much indefinitely in the fridge as the mark of proper lacto-bacillius fermentation is the ability to keep for long periods of time at cool temperature.

As far as determining spoilage, the best indication is smell.  If something goes bad (and things will go bad sometimes no matter what you do), it will smell like a rotting pile of produce.  You will not want to touch it with a 10 foot pole.  Sometimes, you will find a layer of mold or very soft vegetables at the top.  Most of the time, if you remove the spoiled layer, you will find perfectly safe-to-eat vegetables underneath.  If you EVER find jars with buldging lids, don't investigate further and simply throw out the contents.  Bulging lids are often a sign of botulism contamination and if you're not aware of botulism in home preservation, you should be afraid.  Very, very afraid.  Botulism can put you in a coma in less than an hour and there's less than a 10% chance you'll wake up from that coma.  If you're not already familiar with home food preservation, make sure your jars are clean, your lids are clean and undamaged.  You don't need to sterilize but I always wash jars in hot soapy water just before I start a fermentation process.  Be smart and careful and all will go well

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Paleo-ized Liver and Onions

Oy blogger has been funky today.  It saved (as a draft mind you) multiple copies of the version I wanted to post and posted this crazy thing instead.  Lesson learned:  Save the blogging for the children's quiet time.

My children are ravenously hungry this morning.  So far, they have each eaten half an apple, 1/2 cup mashed potatoes (left over from last night), and 1 egg omelets absolutely stuffed with shredded cabbage (leftovers from last night, again) and topped with coconut oil.  And somebody ate half a raw beet.  Probably Shula since she looks like she's wearing lip stick this moment.  I'm detoxing off some very bad food choices last week and my skin is driving me nuts.  I've got the classic celiac rash popping up on my knees.  It's so bad, I almost took anti-inflamatories before bed last night!  Chance, particularly, is detoxing badly as well.  He's spent more time in his bed the past two mornings doing time outs than he has spent with me.  And he thinks he shouldn't have to share choosing the morning kid's show off Netflix with his sister.  I keep telling myself it will get better.  It will.  It has to.  It must.

Oh, and Lilit has moved on to eating the beet her sister started.  My kids are awesome foodies.

Now, I will probably run off 83% of my potential readership by posting this recipe up front but I make liver and onions about twice a week, my kids love it, and I really want you, if you're still reading, to give liver a try.  Liver is Mother Nature's multi-vitamin.  Observe the following, if you will.


vitamin A1600.3%

vitamin B121598.8%


vitamin B2190.5%





vitamin B374.5%

vitamin B574.3%



vitamin B652%



Kirkland Signature Daily Multi Vitamin
Vitamin A 3500 IU (29% as Beta Carotene) - 70%, Vitamin C 90 mg - 150%, Vitamin D 400 IU - 100%, Vitamin E 30 IU - 100%, Vitamin K 25 mcg - 31%, Thiamin (Vit. B1) 1.5 mg - 100%, Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 1.7 mg - 100%, Niacin 20 mg - 100%, Vitamin B6 2 mg - 100%, Folic Acid 400 mcg - 100%, Vitamin B12 6 mcg - 100%, Biotin 30 mcg - 10%, Pantothenic Acid 10 mg - 100%, Calcium 200 mg - 20%, Iron 18 mg - 100%, Phosphorus 109 mg - 11%, Iodine 150 mcg - 100%, Magnesium 100 mg - 25%, Zinc 11 mg - 73%, Selenium 55 mcg - 79%, Copper 0.9 mg - 45%, Manganese 2.3 mg 115%, Chromium 35 mcg - 29%,  Molybdenum 45 mcg - 60%, Chloride 72 mg - 2%, Potassium 80 mg - 2%, Boron 150 mcg - *, Nickel 5 mcg - *, Tin 10 mcg - *, Silicon 2 mg - *, Vanadium 10 mcg - *, Lutein 250 mcg - *, Lycopene 300 mcg - *, .

Now, the multi vitamin doesn't look THAT bad.  It's not too shabby in terms of price either ($15 for 500 pills).  But one of the long running concerns with vitamins and various capsulized supplements is how much of the active ingredient actually makes its way into your gut, blood stream, and various bodily parts in the advertised quantities.  With liver, there is no similar concern.  What's in a serving of liver contains a natural balance of vitamins, minerals, and co factors that insure that the vitamins and minerals are actually taken up by bodily processes in the forms and quantities necessary.  No matter how good your multi vitamin is, it can't read your body and provide the balance you particularly need.  Eating real, whole foods can.

First, use calf liver please, particularly if you can't source or afford organic/pastured organ meats.  Liver does, after all cleanse the blood stream and young calf liver will help to ensure you don't consume dangerous levels of toxins.  Also, the flavor of calf liver is milder than that of mature beef liver.  If you're unfamiliar with liver or have had bad past experiences, the lighter flavor will be easier to deal with.

Second, if you've paid any attention at all to mainstream nutrition advice over the past couple decades, you will know that consuming liver is no longer "recommended" for fear of Vit A overdose.  It is true that in clinical studies, it is possible to overdose on Vit A.  However, that's pharmaceutical grade, concentrated Vit A, not Vit A coming from whole, real food.  Also, if you're following WAPF and/or Paleo principles you're most likely not drinking commercial cow milk, which is fortified with Vit A (because, you know, it makes so much more sense to fortify a food with something it never had than to recommend people eat something that contains the vitamin naturally).  You're not going to overdose on Vit A as found in liver, not unless you eat it every single day, which I don't suggest.  Remember, a serving of liver, for an adult, is 4 oz.  To sustain good nutrition, you should consume this quantity once a week, or smaller amounts over the course of a week.

Third, rinse liver very well before you start working with it.  Helps improve the flavor considerably.

Last, in tweaking traditional liver and onions for the paleo world, I decided to skip a flour dredge entirely.  A flour dredge is a time honored tradition I found in every single recipe I consulted, including Nourishing Traditions.  Through a few attempts at liver and onions, I found that flour, even paleo-legal flours like almond or coconut, did nothing for the recipe.  Out with the flour dredge!  This speeds up the process considerably and, I think, improves the flavor and texture as well.  I added left over spaghetti squash to the pan as the liver was cooking, feel free to add vegetable additions of your own.  If you add raw veg to the pan, do so while the onions are cooking as the liver needs to cook fast and be quickly removed from the heat once added to the pan.

Paleo-ized Liver and Onions

1 small onion, diced
several T animal fat (goose is my fat of choice this time of year)
1/2 lb calf liver (for 2 children and 1 adult, scale up accordingly to suit your family's needs)

Heat the fat in a saute (otherwise known as a frying) pan over medium heat.  When the fat is hot, add the diced onion.  Cook the onions until just barely translucent.
While the onions are frying, cut the liver into small bite size pieces.  Add to the pan with the onions.  Watch carefully and pull the pan from the burner as soon as the liver looks barely done (just slightly pink still).  Most foods continue cooking after coming away from the stove and liver is no exception.  If you remove the pan from heat at this point, the liver will be cooked perfectly by the time it goes to the table.

Ocassionally, there must be gratuitous cute kitty pictures.  I decided that my cat should not miss out on the liver goodness and gave her a chopped 1/4 cup or so after lunch.  She then disappeared into the bedroom, where she remained for 3+ hours, sleeping off her liver high.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why I'm Here and Hibiscus Tea

Apart from a handful of notable exceptions, there are very few paleo-style recipe and information blogs run from the woman's perspective.  I feel this is an important point to bring up at the very beginning because study after study after study in the past two decades has demonstrated that the female physiology works differently from the male and often, a woman's physiology functions in diametric opposition to the male's.  Therefore, it is exceptionally important for women to bring their voices, their experiences, and their knowledge to the table in attempting to heal ourselves with the foods we eat and make ourselves as healthy as possible.  As far as I can tell, there are no paleo blogs at all that are run by women who are Jewish.  I am a Jew.  I love to eat.  More importantly, I love to cook.  Thus, a paleo Jewish food blog.

A few notes to start off right:

~~ I was not raised in a culturally (or religiously for that matter) Jewish home.  Therefore, virtually nothing in my cooking repertoire is recognizably "Jewish," that is, coming from the eastern European background from which the vast majority of America's Jews hail.

~~ While I certainly do not any longer fall into the trap of being one of "those" Jews who eat pork, I do not keep "perfect" kosher.  What I do works for my philosophy and ethics and in my world of Conservative Judaism, that is more than good enough.

~~ At the risk of sounding like an elitist food snob, 90% of our food is grown or produced within 200 miles of home.  I will never specify "grass fed this" or "organic that," however.  To my mind, those labels are less important than avoidance of the standard American diet.  If big box grocery's beef liver is what you can afford and is most accessible, then that's what you eat rather than eating none at all (I'm a huge pusher of organ meats).

~~ My food is informed by both the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Paleo philosophy.  In summary, this means that we eat no grains, we highly restrict dairy and sweeteners, and on the rare occasions when we do eat legumes, they are very well soaked in mild brine before cooking.

~~ No diet works for everyone.  This is what works for me and mine.

This is Chance.  He's my little man.  One of the refrains I hear continually is "Me do too.  Just like abba."  He imitates everything his abba (daddy) says and does.  He'll be five in December; 2 years ago he was diagnosed with apraxia of speech.  Chance makes coffee for me most days, literally begs to help wash dishes, and tells me his leg hurts when he's hungry, because that's where his stomach is.  Chance is also enormously sensitive to blood sugar swings that provoke epic tantrums.  His speech responds to fish, turmeric, and chilies in all forms; ingredients known to help reduce inflammation system-wide.  Like his sisters, Chance inherits a long family history of hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and gluten intolerance - in other words, a dozen blood relations who have overt or sub-clinical metabolic syndrome.  Paleo is for Chance, for his speech, his metabolism, his ability to live a life free of the chronic diseases of Western Civilization.

This is  Shula, my little princess.  Three years old, wants to do everything her big brother does.  she's a daddy's girl.  Loves trains, guns archery, and her gigantic, fluffy hot pink tutu.  More times than I can count, I have found her playing mad crazy "boy" games with her brother, fluffy pink tutu flouncing about her waist.  She is somewhat less sensitive to blood sugar swings; her moods are neither as sudden nor as dramatic as her brother's but she is calmer, sillier, and more artistic without the highs and lows of the insulin roller coaster.  Paleo is for Shula, not just to avoid the metabolic syndrome I hope to stave off in her brother but also for her thyroid (she also inherits a family history  of thyroid disorder that includes her mother) and for her future fertility.
Lilit.  My pudgy pink pachyderm, more commonly called Miss Lili-poo.  Eight months old, sunny tempered, easy going.  Very few things bother her apart from a hungry tummy or messy diaper.  In the past month, she has started eating solid food, choosing liver, salmon, chicken bones over all other offerings.  One recent evening, I watched her mentally debate between a tomato or a piece of pita bread my husband offered her.  She decided the tomato was far more yummy, not to mention messy.  Thanks to that decision, she has yet to eat anything made from grain.  Determined to catch up to Chance and Shula as fast as possible and to keep her pudgy baby rolls for as long as possible.  Paleo is for Lilit.  So those sunny Colorado-blue eyes stay sunny and bright and never know the pain of illnesses food could reverse.

This isn't a "Jewish" or paleo recipe.  It's just a beautiful tea that I love in late afternoons and evenings when I crave a hot cup of something but don't need caffeine or a sugar high.  Plus, the photo gives me an excuse to show off the pink Depression Glass tableware I recently received as a gift.  It's incredibly simple to make, cheap, and beautiful to look at.  Dried hibiscus flower can be found in the Hispanic section of many supermarkets, often labeled "Jamaica flower."

2 or 3 dried hibiscus flowers, crumbled
8 oz hot (not boiling) water

Pour the water over the broken flowers and allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes.  Strain off into a pretty cup and enjoy.  No cream or sugar needed.