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!).

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.

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.

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


Bits and PIeces

One of the commitments I’ve made to myself since I started eating Paleo/Primal is that I should include organ meats more often, and I’ve come from a standard “Ew” to a “At least every two weeks”. It definitely helps that I can buy pastured lamb liver for about $2.00 a pound.

However, I actually do not know many ways to cook liver. So I decided to “combine it” this time. I cooked the liver in coconut oil, having seasoned it with salt, pepper and thyme, until it was cooked but not leathery, and then mixed it (including the grease from the pan) with greens that included kale, spinach and arugula. The result was a warm salad that could be eaten right there, or saved in the fridge for later consumption (in my case, as lunch).
I wanted to talk a bit about the trick of cooking liver (although I don’t have more pictures of liver being cooked). I’ve found that the best way to cook it is to fry it in butter or coconut oil, which had to be pre warmed to a decent temperature. I’ve never done it but apparently a good trick is to introduce a chopstick (wood) in the oil and if it bubbles, is ready. And when you are frying it, first you have to wait for a while – let’s say, three to five minutes; then flip it, wait a bit more, and THEN start moving it. Why? Well, liver is soft, so its outer portion can burn even if the inside is not cooked yet. Moving it prevents it from burning, but it allows it to finish cooking – after all, we don’t want a bloody liver. And yes, always try and split a piece just to make sure that the liver is cooked through. I usually like to keep it cooking for 30 seconds after seeing it cooked just to ensure everything is cooked (and not just that one bit).

A different kind of liver

My roommate, Nick, has been working in a farm for a couple months now. One afternoon he called me and since I still have problems understanding English over the phone I only got that I’d be getting some free organ meats from a grass-fed cow. YES!

I considered first doing just liver and onions but I realized I didn’t have enough onions, so I moved onto the next easiest thing you can do with liver: liver with bay and onions. The idea is to fry some onions, then fry the liver, then add some wine and let the liver stew in it. Ah, and some bay leaves, obviously.

I have to admit that since the liver was presliced I found it easier to cook, since it was stewed more uniform. If you don’t have wine (like I did that night) you can always use broth as a substitute. Surprisingly enough, this is a dish that requires very little salt when using broth since that has a fair amount of it – but if you are using wine you may need to add a bit more just to bring out the flavors.

Also, I found the taste to be milder than my usual lamb liver. I have to admit I like lamb liver more, but this was definitely tasty. Now, if I can convince my roommate to give me more free meat…

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rub it all over. In and out.

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

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

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