Friday, February 24, 2017

Oh My Pork Chops!

These slow cooker pork chops are so good they could make me weep. Last time my daughter came home I chased her around all weekend trying to get her to try a teeny taste. She kept insisting, "Okay I might try it, but I don't like pork chops." Finally on Sunday night she took the littlest bite and said something like, "Wait, these are good." She then absconded with all my leftovers. They are seriously delicious.  This recipe is inspired by a recipe found on The Gluten Free Homestead post from October 12, 2016. I am definitely a KISS kind of cook. This version is somewhat more simple than the original. You do need to plan ahead for this one as you'll want to brine the meat for at least one hour. I like to put it in brine the night before and then set it up in the morning.

Ingredients for Brine
2 large Bone in Pork Chops, preferably pasture raised

3-4 warm cups water
2 Tablespoons salt
2-3 bay leaves
Searing Ingredients
2-3 teaspoons bacon grease, olive oil or avocado oil
About 1/4 cup Bragg's apple cider vinegar (or cooking wine).
Slow Cooker Ingredients
3 cups water
1 teaspoon Bragg's apple cider vinegar
1 medium onion
4 large carrots
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or a few fresh leaves)

Brining the chops. Add two tablespoons salt to 3-4 cups warm water to dissolve into a glass or metal container (I use a medium glass mixing bowl with a lid). Add 2-3 bay leaves and pork chops. Cover and refrigerate. Leave for at least an hour.

Pour off the brine, and put the bay leaves into the slow cooker (if possible). Sprinkle salt one one side of chops. Preheat a cast iron or stainless steel frying pan to medium high heat and add the bacon grease or oil. Once it sizzles when you drip a little water in the pan, it is ready for the chops. Please note if the oil smokes the pan is too hot. If that happens you probably want to throw out the oil, wipe out the pan and start again. After you put the chops salted side down, sprinkle the other side with salt.

Add the pork chops to the hot pan and leave them until you can shake the pan and the meat moves. If the meat is sticking to the pan, it's not ready.  While the chops are searing you can add the Slow Cooker ingredients to the Slow Cooker. Once the chops move freely and have some nice brown spots go ahead and flip them.

Add the seared chops to the slow cooker. After you remove the chops, you will deglaze the pan with about 1/4 cup Bragg's vinegar. Pour the vinegar into the still hot pan and scrap up all the good bits. Pour everything from the pan on top of the pork chops in the slow cooker.

Set the slow cooker on low and cook 4 hours.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Paleo Slow Cooker Osso Bucco

Paleo Slow Cooker Osso Bucco is a good solid family dinner. This recipe is a work in progress. I think I will be changing it up as I make further attempts. I do not make it into gravy, but you could make gravy when it's all done by putting cassava flour or almond flour into the  broth after it's finished cooking. I am good with just broth, but if you feel like being traditional that would be the way to go.

Starting in the Slow Cooker

About 1 pound grass fed beef shank
3/4 cup bone broth (or substitute regular broth)
2-3 large carrots
1-2 celery stalks
1 pint cherry tomatoes or 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste (if you use the cherry tomatoes the skins can be a bit tough)
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup cooking wine
2 Tablespoons Bragg's apple cider vinegar
4 oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
1 teaspoon thyme
pinch of cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus salting meat)

And the Leftovers
Salt the meat and sear it in the olive oil*. Put the broth and vinegar in slow cooker, add seared meat. As soon as you remove the meat from the pan add the cooking wine and continue cooking as you scrap all the good bits from the bottom of the pan. (That's called deglazing the pan and is well worth the effort, plus the pan will be easy to clean.).  Pour all those good bits over the top of the meat then add all the seasoning. Chop and add vegetables. Since I do not tolerate onion very well, I peel and cut an onion and cut it in half (then remove it at the end). Cook on high for two hours and then on low for 6 hours. (If you have to be away and don't have a programmable cooker I would suggest low for 10 hours).

*To sear I prefer a cast iron or stainless steel pain. Heat olive oil to medium/medium high heat (if the oil smokes start over). Be careful not to use too much oil, it won't sear nicely.
Do NOT try to flip the meat until it moves when you shake the pan. If the meat is sticking, it's not ready. I like to wait until the meat has some color variation.

If you want to make gravy, when all is said and done take the meat and vegetables out of the pot. Pour the broth into a pot and bring to a boil. Whisk in a couple tablespoons almond or cassava flour and then simmer until it thickens.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Savory Comfort Food: Pulled Pork

The best savory comfort food I know of is Pulled Pork.  Even better, it's easy, easy, easy in the slow cooker. You don't even have to sear the meat (score!) Once upon a time my pulled pork was basically a dessert. In the last couple of years I've learned to make it with only a hint of sweetness and it is still delicious.

2-3 pounds bone in pork butt or pork shoulder (these are the same thing)
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons Bragg's apple cider vinegar
1 rounded Tablespoon (preferably raw and locally sourced) honey
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika

Here's the easy part
Put the water, vinegar, and honey in the slow cooker, then add the pork roast. Add all the spices in a little ramekin or bowl and mix it all up. Pour the spices over the top of the roast. Cover and set the slow cooker to low. Ideally you will cook this for 10 to 12 hours. You can get away with 8 hours, though it will not be as tender.

Of course you can cook a larger roast and adjust the spices accordingly. I've doubled and even tripled this recipe at times. Most of the time I am only cooking for one or two so I go small. Even with two pounds we end up with some leftovers. My dear hubby even likes this recipe. Although, being on a different path than I, he tends to add both sugar and ketchup to his bowl... sigh. At least we can share the meal though.

I like to serve it with some kind of non-starchy vegetable on the side. Surprisingly I don't really love it with salad though. Surprising, because I eat salad with most anything. This evening I went with diced summer squash with a hint of red bell pepper and the green part of scallions cooked in bone broth.

Save the bone(s) and you can use them to make bone broth later. I put them in the freezer until there is enough to make broth. Later you can use the broth to enhance another meal.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sugar is Killing Your Taste Buds

Okay, well, maybe you are dampening your taste buds with sugar... if you are still eating it. When you eat concentrated sugars such as table sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey or even non-nutritive sweeteners you are suppressing your ability to detect the sweetness in every day foods.

I gave up sugar after reading The Body Ecology Diet a couple years ago. Recently, I gave up stevia after reading Deep Nutrition and discovered that I was missing out on a lot of sweetness in the world. "These products desensitize your palate to the sweetness nature puts in almost everything." (p. 421, Deep Nutrition).

Summer squash and lettuce literally taste sweet to me now --what?! I brought a big bag of chopped romaine lettuce with me on my last flight. It was a fantastic snack (no, really). The challenge is to get through the first few days. I admit, the first week or two without sugar or artificial sweeteners is basically horrendous. Once you get through the initial hazing though, it gets easy. It's really worth it, I promise.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Too Lazy to Bake Seed Crackers?

If you prefer not to make seed crackers these are a pretty good substitute. They are made with seeds, almond flour and cassava (yuca) flour.

I have found them at the The Good Health Store in Quincy, MA; on the Julien Bakery website for $8.99 plus shipping); and on Amazon. The last time I checked they were 19.99 for two small boxes including shipping on Amazon.

They are pretty good, though I like my seed cracker #5 recipe better. Maybe I'm a tad biased? Of course the Paleo Thin Crackers look more like real, commercially uniform crackers than the ones I make, so that can be a plus for you engineering types (My Dad now comes to mind). It is nice to have an option if there's no time or desire to bake.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Seed Crackers Recipe #5

As promised... a happy seed cracker recipe to go with the pastured and cultered butter. These crackers are so good, even when they are bad they are good. It's nice to have something to crunch that is not so high in carbs. Every time I make these I change it up a bit, but my latest version is my favorite so far.

I lovingly call this recipe "Seed Cracker Recipe #5"

1/2 cup each of
-white (or brown) chia seeds
-flax seeds
-Black (or white) sesame seeds (soaked or straight out of package)

2 teaspoons each of
- paprika
-garlic powder
-onion powder

1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups fine blanched almond flour without the skins (I like Bob's Red Mill or homemade)
1 1/2 cups water

First put the chia and flax seeds in a mixing bowl and stir in water and let the mixture sit at least 10 minutes to allow the gel to come out of the seeds.

Add the spices to the top of the mixture while waiting if you want. Then preheat the oven to 300 F. Once the 10 minutes (or so) has elapsed add the almond flour and sesame seeds and blend.

Once everything is all mixed up you will spread the dough into two parchment paper lined baking pans about 11x13 in size. You can also spread it onto olive oil greased pans if you're fresh out of parchment.   Spread the cracker mixture as thing as possible in the bottom of the pans-- I use two metal spoons. Note that you can add water to your mixture to make spreading easier, but it will take longer to cook.

Cook for one hour. If not completely crispy you can flip and cook longer -checking every 15 minutes for crispiness. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then break into cracker sized pieces.

If you want to go for more uniformly sized crackers you can cook for 30 to 45 minutes, then slice them into squares and flip over for additional cooking. I myself could not care less about whether the crackers are squares or natural shapes.

Better Butter?!?

Yes! OMGoodness... so delicious. I found the best of both worlds at Whole Foods: butter that is 1) from pastured cows AND 2) is cultured.

It's so good, don't bother to melt it. Run, don't walk, to get some buttery happiness. This butter is wonderful straight out of the fridge on seed crackers.  It's so good I think my next post will have to be a seed cracker recipe.