A rainbow of chard

I’m qualifying this as prep, because a good side of veggies is mandatory. After all, meat should add up to only one third of your plate, no more. But sometimes salads can be boring (or repetitive!).

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Chard is in bloom right now. Every store I go has chard. Always. Even the Farmer’s Market has chard, so let’s cook chard. I’m using Melissa’s method of steam-sauteeing, but with a little oil: first I wash the chard, and let it drip for a little while. Then I chop it. In the meantime, I fry a clove of garlic in oil (either coconut or avocado) so it realeases its flavors.

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When you can smell the garlic, that’s when you add back the chard and then cover it so it steams. Every couple mintues I stir it so it doesn’t burn off. If it’s getting too dry you can always add a little bit of water.

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When done, you add salt and pepper. That’s it. Great complement for meats1

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Cooking engineering, pt. II

I’ve already talked a lot about how great crockpots are, particularly when you are busy and you want something simple that will yield delicious results. However, while the crockpot does not need supervision to give you an amazing dish, it does require one thing: to mind the time. And while yes, you won’t burn your food if you let it go overtime, you might end up with really dry chicken.

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Now, there are crockpots that come with their timer, and that’s awesome! However, mine was a gift from my roommate (he didn’t know how to use it) and it’s a pretty old model. Really solid, but you can tell it has been around for a while.

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The solution was pretty simple, I’m not even sure I can call it engineering: use a christmas light timer. So I prepped it for the amount of hours I wanted, and went to bed without any worries in my mind. When I woke up, my almond meal was ready.

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The recipe was from Chrissy’s book, Paleo Slow Cooking: shaved apple (to provide humidity), almond flour (I actually used almond meal for coarseness – it’s an oatmeal substitute!) and water, and cooked for six hours. Strawberries for sweetness in the end. =)

Cooking engineering

I’m back! Well, that depends on how much I manage to stabilize my working schedule, but I should be back into writing something a bit more periodical and not that far apart.

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Jerky is one of the things I’ve been wanting to make on my own for a while because it’s a good snack. It has protein, it has fat, it is portable and it tastes delicious, depending on what was used to marinate it. However, most storebought jerkys include a lot of ingredients that are not compliant with the Ancestral Health or Paleo diets, which means they are usually off the list.

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The concept of this dehydrator (from The Dirty Carnivore is actually a pretty simple one: a lamp in a box. The idea is to create a warm environment, hot enough to drive air out and with it the humidity of the meat inside. Against what most people would think, you don’t need the air inside (or the meat) to reach 212F: just like a puddle of water ends up evaporating due to the air taking the water away, so does this system work. Therefore, you only need a lamp to create the movement.

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This was cheap. Really cheap. The most expensive bits were the worklight and the PVC pipes. It was also really easy to make: it took me most of thirty minutes, and that was mostly because I’m rubbish with a pair of scissors. And the jerky was friends and roommates approved!

Experimenting with cauliflower

The first time I made mashed cauliflower it came out a bit bland. I mean, it was good, but just a bit tasteless, and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it again. That was what I thought until I read Josh’s post and his collection of mashed cauliflower variations.

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I was scared and overwhelmed to try them all decided to keep it simple and just used the basic ingredients: cauliflower, butter, garlic, salt and pepper. While I steamed the cauliflower I roasted the garlic.

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I roasted five cloves because I knew I would screw it up. I burned two.

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And threw everything (including the butter) into the food processor.

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When it was halfway done I added salt and pepper, and kept it on until it was completely pureed.

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And oh boy the garlic made the whole difference in the world! Now this was a really tasteful companion to my breakfast, and I am sure it will start popping up again in my menu – after all, I need to eat more!

Fermenting follies III: requirement for a carrot cake

I have to admit, when I decided to make Elana’s cookies, I actually had in mind to do (again) her carrot cake. I’ve already said why carrot cake holds a special place in my heart, and therefore it will be one of the recipes I write the most about.
But not poetic waxing! Ways to perfect it! I’ll be honest – before I moved to the States I would consume it just as a pound cake, without frosting or anything else, just carrot deliciousness and milk. However, just like my dear friend Nancy said, you cannot have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting, and after having tried Bill and Haley’s Ginger and Cream cheese frosting, I could not agree more. However, I am wary of what stores call Cream cheese because it is usually a concoction of chemicals and maybe milk, so I decided to look into Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and see what she said about Cream Cheese

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It turns out that she has a recipe for whey – to be used as an inoculator in lots and lots of her recipes – and cream cheese is a by product of it. Now, before I burn in the fire of a thousand suns, the internet tells me that technically it is not cream cheese (you’d need to start with cream for that) but rather “yoghurt cheese”. I am a bit confused about it, since I started with full fat milk and buttermilk cultures, not yoghurt cultures, but I am not expert in the subject. And yes, I reused one of my old pictures because I forgot to take a picture of the actual bottle.
Basically, yeah… just make the same preparations that were done for the buttermilk but instead of waiting one day, wait until the thing fully separates… which in my case didn’t. It clabbered, almost immediately, but after five days (I started the cultures Sunday, and decided to move with the project Friday) I had basically an even thicker buttermilk, and though you could see the whey it was very little and easily dissolved back into the milk.
But I didn’t give up! I took out a large pitcher and strained the thing. I tried to use coffee filters – mistake. The solution won’t filter. So just good old cheesecloth and wire strainers.
Around 24 hrs later, I finally had two phases perfectly separated – a creamy, if not exactly completely solid cheese, and a milky, watery homogeneous solution of something I believed was whey.

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I was half excited (I had cream cheese!) and half dissappointed (was the whey useless?) so I went immediately to the interwebz and read and read and read about whey. And I finally found from Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist that sometimes the separation doesn’t occur fully. As a matter of fact, I think I may have obtained Curds and Whey

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So instead of moving on immediately onto the next fermenting project or throwing it all I left it to settle. And now I have my whey. I don’t know if I’ll get to the curds though, it’s a lot of whey!

Michael Ruhlman’s seven: riding the water

So whenever I feel a bit down, I cook liver. I’ve found out that it boosts me up and it gives me an extra surplus of vitamins that helps me recover much more quickly, just like chicken broth. And black sauce liver remains my favorite way to cook it. However, when reading the recipe again (and applying Ruhlman’s first Think) I realized I was not doing it right.
See, I would always deglaze the pan with some water, add some butter and then coconut aminos, and while the result was pretty good, sometimes it would be a bit clumpy since the almond flour would be burnt or stuck in the pan and give me a lot of trouble. But after reading Ruhlman’s seven Butter, I realized I was supposed to do a sauce – beurre monté.
Beurre Monté is a sauce made with butter whisked into water and then flavored with whatever else you need. In this case, coconut aminos and less than a tablespoon to give a nutty flavor to the sauce. The technique is to warm up but not boil the water, and whisk the butter continuously so the fat won’t separate.
After doing it, it turns out to be that it is pretty easy. However, my grandma’s cookbook does not say anything about it, and probably that’s why I just did my own (and probably wrong, since the beurre monté tastes much much better)
I’ll owe you the picture. I did this when I was going through a rough patch in my work (my laboratory stuff wouldn’t run) and I didn’t left my head in the counter just because it is attached to my neck

Whole30 prep: Ghee

I’ll be honest: I was supposed to do a Whole30 as soon as I got back from Christmas break. Quite the opposite I’ve been eating a lot of stuff I shouldn’t, including sugar. The horror! It’s not like I’ve been going back to an SAD, but since work has been eating my time away I haven’t had time to prep for it. Because it does take a lot of prep – mostly hounding for sugar-free condiments, and the fish sauce that I just bought is not like that, so I will have to wait.
That has not stopped me from doing one of the things I was most excited to do during this journey (that is still happening!): ghee. To render the fat from the butter, filter it and have a much more gentler fat to cook was an appealing idea that I had for a while now. I had even done my research, and while the idea of using the stove or the oven scared me (I didn’t want to burn it up!) I did use the crockpot.

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Getting so much butter meant going to a place where so much butter would be cheap. Costco! I still don’t understand why this butter is in the cheese aisle, and not with the butter. Also, I couldn’t find non-salted, so I won’t be using this ghee on baking (good! Whole30, remember?)

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So I dumped everything in the crockpot, turned it on low without a cover and walked away. Six hours, two recipes, three rounds of dishes, four episodes of Friday Night Lights and a huge amount of ironing later, most of the solids were at the bottom while the golden liquid was on top.

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And I took out the colander, nut milk bag, cheesecloth and got into filtering it.

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I was not capable of removing ALL of the solids. I would have needed a coffee filter for that, I believe. I’ll get one at some point. What I need to do is to control myself when it comes to buying stuff at Costco – I spent so much! I’ll have stock for MONTHS now.