Eggless meal

Reading through Paleo Slow Cooking I stumbled through this recipe for a morning hash without eggs. Why? Chrissy’s husband doesn’t like eggs that much. And I feel sad about that.

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One of the great things about Slow Cooking is that you can prep all the ingredients before hand and then dump them in the crockpot when you finally need to cook. I had sliced and diced the peppers, the onion and the sweet potatoes (3, 1, 3, respectively) the previous night, and put everything together the following morning. The protein for this meal was two pounds of sausage.

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Eight hours later, the sausage was perfectly done, and the veggies were soft and moist. And yes, I used this recipe for dinner, even if it’s supposed to be a breakfast substitute. I don’t care. Besides, breakfast for dinner is fantastic!

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So good!

Calorie Bonanza

So I tried to do the Spartan Military Sprint in Ft Carson a week ago.

I failed.

And it is the popular opinion that I did so because I lack fat. See, I’m a skinny bastard: I’m 5’11” and I weigh 139 lbs on a good day. My body fat is in the single digits (but I’ve got a mean six pack) and when you try to compete in a race with a lot of mud in a cloudy and windy day with no training whatsoever that missing fat may be a key component of why you get hypothermia.

But next year will be different, I’ll be much better trained, much better equipped, and me and my team will destroy that race.

Yes, I’m doing it again, and for that I am increasing my calorie count.

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Boulder’s public library has several books on Paleo, but almost always they are checked out. I have to consider myself lucky for finally snagging Chrissy’s Paleo Slow cooking. I’ll be honest – I was not aware of her site and I haven’t checked it yet. I just got into this massive “I should check out all the Paleo books” mood in the library and that’s how I got it. I have to say I am impressed.

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I am a fan of slow cooking because of its simplicity. Chop, dump, cook, forget. That’s it. I have several tales of chicken and beef so the Carbaganza was the first thing that I wanted to do. Immediately. And since today was a gym day it seemed much more important than ever.

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I cut up and peeled three sweet potatoes, one apple and put it in the slow cooker with some cinnamon for six hours. After that time, the sweet potatoes were soft so I could dump them in the food processor and have a nice paste that looked not unlike baby food. I deviated from the original recipe by adding nutmeg and raisins in order to bring up the sweetness even more.

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This should be plenty for three weeks. Unless I go wild on my portions. AGAIN.

Annatto life

One of the nice things about mexican food is the variety of spices it uses in its recipes. While not as big as, say, Indian food, it is something to be relished, and I have to say I have been learning much about it. One of the spices I found lately is Achiote, or Annatto, derived from the seeds of Bixa orellana, or Achiote (tree).

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Achiote is tangy, and a bit bitter, and usually sold in the form of paste that includes other spices such as pepper and chilis. This paste is usually dissolved in a bitter liquid in order to bring out the flavor of the spices. Traditionally, the juice of bitter oranges is used, but any variety of vinegar can be used as well, as long as it is not balsamic or sweet. I decided to splurge a little bit and try it with Maple Vinegar, to try and accentuate the wooden taste of the annatto instead of the spice of the chilis. It was a bold move, yes, since it would have been easier just to use apple cider vinegar, but I went with it. I mixed the paste with the vinegar (just a shot) and a couple of garlic cloves.

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I coated the chicken evenly with the sauce before putting it in the crockpot with the rest of it, and let it cook for five hours. The original recipe has the chicken in pieces wrapped in banana tree leaves, but I did not spend time looking for those. Since it came out a little bit dry, I will add an onion (sliced) to the bottom of the pot next time to provide a bit more of juice, and reduce cooking time a little bit.

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But the taste was so good, oh Sweet Gandalf it was delicious!

Mexican Traditions

One of the things that have changed about me during this food journey is my willingness to try more foods. While once I used to shy away from foods for any different kind of reasons, mostly the gross factor, now I am willing to be more open about them and give them a try. That’s how I ended up learning six different ways to cook liver and one way to do sauerkraut. And that’s why I’ve started to look onto mexican dishes that I used to pass a long time ago.

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One of these is Tepache, a fermented beverage made with pineapple and sugar. It is pretty common to find street vendors selling them, and since the amount of alcohol is super low, it is given to children without any worries. It is not sweet, but rather tangy, like a pineapple flavored kombucha, though the process does not involve introducing a new culture – it rather lets the bacteria found in the skin of the pineapple do the process.

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A good tepache begins with a good pineapple. It has to be mature, even a bit overripe, but not too much. You start by removing the crown (the top green portion) and the bottom and discarding both, and then you slice and dice the whole pineapple, skin and rinds included! You don’t throw anything away.

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Now, tepache also needs some flavor, added in the form of a pair of cinnamon sticks and a couple of whole cloves. They bring a smokey, more intense flavor to the drink.
Now, depending on the recipe you are using, you are told to either just use the rinds and skin, or the whole pineapple. I prefer to use the whole thing just because I like my drinks a bit on the acidic side (the natural flavor of the pineapple dulls the sweetness of the added sugar, required for fermentation to occur) but I also used piloncillo, a solid form of unrefined cane sugar. Sally Fallon’s rapadura is the same thing.

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I actually just dumped everything in the pitcher and filled it with liquid all the way to the top. And left it outside for three days, covered with a piece of cheese cloth and in a warm (but not hot) spot in my place. After those three days it looked like this:

Hm… gravy

The convenience of the crockpot is that as long as you dump stuff on it and take care of it, it will cook it thoroughly without having to pay any attention to it. Bad thing is that if you forget about it, it can get overcooked, so you do have to be at least a bit careful. Otherwise dry chicken can happen.

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Michelle from Nom Nom has a recipe for chicken that makes its own gravy. We need to fry some onions and garlic in butter, to let them sweat, and let their flavors come out.

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We add tomato paste and we let it cook for a bit. Now, I know we are not supposed to use acidic food in cast iron because of leaching. I decided to take a risk since we had already added a decent amount of butter to the pan when sweating the onions.

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In the meantime, we rub the chicken. Michelle uses a prepackaged rub – I decided to use the rub I make when I put my chicken in the oven: mustard, thyme, salt and pepper.

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Rub it all over. In and out.

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We put the sauce in the bottom of the pan, and the chicken on top of it.

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And let it cook for four to six hours. After that we take the chicken out and we blend the sauce into a gravy.

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The amount of gravy was so much that I will use it with other chicken.

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!

I need carbs

I usually eat a lot. A freaking lot. A “Alan, you are scaring me” amount of food. Thing is, even if I get satiated, it won’t last that long. Almost the opposite of what is supposed to happen when most of your calories are from protein and saturated fats, right? Well, what happens is that when I’m being a lazy bastard and just doing what I do for a living, I actually can feel satisfied pretty easily. But when I work out… well, things get out of hand.

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So I’ve decided to go up a teeny little bit on the carbs. As in, I will try to eat a sweet potato a day. And what better way to do it than breakfast! Learning from NomNom I shredded it and fried it in butter with salt and pepper. I did that on purpose – I still don’t know what flavors go well with a sweet potato, so I decided to keep it simple.

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Yeah, my breakfast was three fried eggs, one whole sweet potato (fried), one broccoli head (steamed) and some cauliflower, mashed. And I was hungry around noon after that.
I’m a freaking worm hole.