In Sickness and in Health

22 Aug

I’m sick.

Random, middle of summer sore throat and stuffy nose.

It’s funny, I can be all for natural remedies (in fact, I am drinking tea with honey and coconut oil, all good for immune functions and anti virals), but if modern medicine had options to make sickness go away quickly, I would take it.

But, whenever I go into drug stores (or most grocery stores, for that matter), and read ingredients, I get frightened by the state of the universe. I can debate the actual drugs themselves, but why on earth would a cold medicine need two types of Artificial Sweeteners along with high fructose corn syrup and three types of food dyes?

I was in Target the other day, and picked up a bottle of Up and Up CoQ10. It was extremely cheap, and since lots of articles suggest taking it, I wanted to find an economical option. CoQ10 is suggested for heart patients (indeed, you can get it through eating animal hearts), and is an antioxidant.

But, what was lurking in the pill bottle? Not just Soybean oil, but also PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL! Seriously? Who ever thought that putting trans fats in a supplement was a good idea?

As for me, I am drinking my tea, and taking an aspirin.

Dirty Dozen and Clean 15:Questions from the Coop

28 Jan

My coop had the “Local Vs Organic” discussion, about if we preferred local produce or organic produce, when “both” is not an option. Reviews were somewhat mixed, but most fell into the “Local when available” option.

The first question centered around Onions. Our suppliers do not have local organic onions, so we were left with either buying Onions produced conventionally from Upstate New York, or Organic Onions from halfway across the county. Most people preferred the Local Onions.

Onions are the number 1 Vegetable on the “Clean 15″ list, meaning it has the fewest pesticides for any other vegetable. We also will have non organic local Winter Squash (which just missed the Clean 15 by 1 spot, and is still a fairly safe vegetable, pesticide wise.) Full List Here at EWG.org

However, we are also sourcing Organic Out of Area produce, such as Avocados and Citrus. This mostly stems from the thought that if we are going to have produce shipped from out of area, we do want it to be organic. We also will choose fair trade when it is available, as we have done with Bananas and with our Spices.

The other non organic local produce item that we source are Apples. Apples are very difficult to grow organically in the Northeast. Our Apple orchards practice “Integrated Pest Management (IPM)” which is targeting specific insects with specific pesticides, and using the minimum dose needed to keep the apples safe and growing. Apples are number one on the “Dirty Dozen,” which is why we source IPM apples to lower the risk.

In a perfect world, we would have all the produce we want produced locally, and we would only want what was available in season and perfect. The majority of our produce is Organic and Local, so the minor exceptions stand out. Still, they are lots cheaper than the local grocery stores!

Questions from the Coop!

11 Jan

I am starting a new section of the blog, entitled “Questions from the Coop.”

The Bushwick Food Coop is a small food coop located in Bushwick, Brooklyn. You can usually find me there a lot, as I am one of the distribution managers, as well as the Legal chairperson, and part-time sourcing researcher.

As such, I hear a lot of questions like, “What exactly is Kombucha?” and “How is this pork raised, and why does it matter?” and “What exactly can you do with a Jerusalem Artichoke/Kobocha Squash/Rutabega/(Insert Various produce item here)?”

I hope to answer these questions, both in store, and here!

Enjoy.

Budget Recipes: Schmaltz, Liver, and Onions

9 Nov

My food budget has gone down, so I am always looking for new ways to stretch my food budget.

The best way that I have found to feed the two adults in my household is buying a whole chicken each week. I can get at least 3 meals from the meats, and 3 soups from the bones. But, We have been tired of baked chicken, so I tried something new.

I start by removing the Skin from the entire chicken. I then cut off the two breasts (to use in a recipe), the two leg/thigh quarters (to bake for another meal), the tenders (that I use in the recipe below), and throw the remaining chicken into a crock pot to make stock (along with the neck and gizzard.)

This way, I can still get three meals of meat out of the chicken, as well as about a gallon of chicken stock for soups or cooking rice.

Schmaltz
Schmaltz is simply rendered chicken fat. As toxins live in the fat of animals, it is important to find the best quality fats that you can afford.

Ingredients
Skin from one organic/pastured chicken

Recipe
Chop skin into small pieces. Heat a pan on low, and add skins to the pan (no need to add additional fat!) The schmaltz (fat) will start to render out of the skins. You can drain the skins to have a cooking oil, or continue to saute the skin until it has become crispy.

Schmaltz, Liver, and Onions

Ingredients
Schmaltz
One onion, diced
One or more Chicken Livers (usually whatever I get from the chicken)
One or more Chicken Hearts (again, I use whatever comes with the chicken)
Any other non cooked chicken parts you would like to include (the more meat, the less liver taste.)
Salt

After schmaltz is rendered, and the skin is starting to turn crispy, add onions and cook until brown. Add Salt (probably more than you think you need.)

Chop liver and remaining chicken into small pieces. Saute liver and chicken in the schmaltz until cooked. Taste, and add seasonings as needed. (I find that if the liver tastes bad, it just needs more salt.

Serve in small containers. Optional: add parmesan cheese, and enjoy, or use to top pasta or rice.

21 Day Sugar Detox Pre-Day

1 Jun

I decided, after taking my third diet soda (after my sugar free iced coffee) that I really needed to do a sugar detox. I follow @BalancedBites on twitter, so I had seen the tweets about the 21 Day Sugar Detox. I finally took the plunge, bought the ebook, and went to Whole Foods to get food for my lunches. Then realized that I have a 12 hour day on Saturday. Whee, this will be fun!!! :)

I ended up getting a rotisserie chicken, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and a cucumber to make salads, with the thought of bringing two on Saturday and figuring out something else to eat that day. I have eggs and bacon in the fridge, and will make myself eat them before I leave the house. I planned out a few dinners for my partner and I, at least until Monday, which is my big shopping and cooking day.

I also plan on tracking my meals, which will show up on this site occasionally, but will be made private soon after posting as I will be posting these on ActualMenus.com when the site starts running. :)

Actual Menus and Cioppino

30 May

First, an announcement and a call for submissions. One of the frustrating parts of any new way of eating is the question of “What exactly do we eat?” Most plans have a one or two week “meal plan,” which is an idealized version of a menu, which, in my experience, doesnt conform to how people actually eat. I know my own ventures into meal planning are somewhat loose, with at least one meal not being made and another meal being substituted.

As such, I have created a website called Actual Menus. I am looking to create a database of what people actually eat on real food eating plans, including WAPF, GAPS, Paleo/Primal, and others. Do you keep track of your food? I am looking for 20 initial contributors that can send me 4 weeks of what they actually ate (They do not have to be the past month, it can start whenever you sign up and go from there). Menu contributors will have free access to the website, and can see how other people are eating.

Interested in contributing menus, or just want to be informed of when that site opens? Sign up at ActualMenus.com

Now, the food! I was shopping at the Korean Market in midtown (which has New Zealand mussels for a good price), and picked up a package of frozen seafood. I picked the one that had wild squid, wild mussels, wild other stuff, and 15% farmed shrimp. I usually like wild caught seafood or farmed shelled, but I was okay with the small farmed percentage.

I made a quick cioppino, in that I boiled tomato sauce with spices, and added in the frozen seafood. Kinda good, kinda fishy tasting. Was not a “I cant wait to make this again” dish. The next day, I sautéed some onions, and added the cioppino to the onions.

I swear, sauteed onions are the magical vegetable. They made liver taste palatable, and they fixed the seafood flavor of the soup! Now, it does fall into the “I need to buy bags of frozen seafood to make this again!”

Quick Cioppino

2-4 Tbsp Fat of Choice (I used butter and coconut oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed or pressed
1 quart of tomatoes, or a 26 oz can (look for BPA free if possible).
Seasonings to include salt, pepper, red pepper (if you like a little spice), italian seasonings (I buy the already pre-mixed version that has oregano, basil, marjoram, and some other stuff.)
One Pound of Frozen Seafood Mix, or you could use a pound of any seafood or fish. The mixture is good, but this would taste fine with just one type of seafood

Sautee onions in Fat of Choice, until they slightly brown. Add garlic and sautee for a minute or so. Add tomatoes and season to your liking. Add seafood. Bring to boil to cook the seafood, and serve.

Indian Liver

30 Apr

There are many good reasons to eat liver. Vitamins, minerals, the “nose to tail” aspect of food, traditional preparations, etc. Taste is usually not mentioned as one of these reasons. I wanted to find a way that I would be able to eat liver at least once a week, while not having to force myself to eat it.

Spices are the answer. Specifically, Indian style spices, onions, and lots of butter. I bought Indian spices at a bulk spice store, where I could get small amounts for amazing prices. At a store like that, these spices can be had for less than $10 for a 6 month supply. If you buy spices in the store already bottled, they can easily cost four times as much. I put my spices in shaker containers, and usually dose out a few shakes of each. It is worth spending some time smelling your spices, separately and together, to work out the best ratio for you.

Indian Liver

8 oz liver (I have done this with chicken and pork liver so far.)
2-4 Tbsp Fat Of Choice (Butter, ghee, bacon fat, lard, and coconut oil are all good.)
2-3 diced onions, until you have about twice as much diced onion as you do liver, by volume.
(carrots are optional, but delicious)
Indian Spices (I use a mixture of Garam Masala, ground coriander, ground allspice, ground cardamom, ground turmeric, and ground ginger. Between 1/4 and 1/2 tsp of each spice.)
Salt and pepper (Usually, if it tastes “off,” add more salt. The best tasting versions of this have been when I have added enough salt that the salt merges with the rest of the flavors. Add more if you think it needs “something.”

Melt Fat of Choice in pan. Fry Onions with some salt until starting to caramelize. Add Indian Spices, and fry for one minute. Add liver, and cook until done (no pink left in the middle.) Eat each piece of liver with at least one onion for best taste.

Meal Plan, with Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

23 Apr

I have started a new job, which has me working noon to eight, five days per week, and on my feet for most of them. Thus, I have two days off to cook for the week, and I have little to no interest in cooking after work.

Breakfast:
Pastured Eggs cooked in Butter/Lard/Coconut Oil
Glass of Raw Milk

Lunch:
Partner: Leftovers (he has access to a microwave, and can reheat leftovers)
Me: Salad with Chicken, Olive Oil, Lettuce, Cherry Tomatoes, and Grated Cheese

Dinner:
Monday: Lunch (me): Shmaltz with Rice Pasta. Dinner:Rabbit Ragu
Tuesday: Egg Foo Young
Wednesday: Indian Chicken
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Taco Meat
Saturday: Order In

Cooking Plan:
Monday:
Roast Chicken over Fingerling Potatoes (Or Sweet Potatoes, I just have Fingerling.) shred Chicken when Cool
Soak Black Beans for Chili, to cook overnight
Skin 2nd Chicken, Marinade Indian Chicken
Cook Schmaltz with onions and pasta for lunch
Set Chicken Bones for Stock Overnight (yay for having two crockpots!)

Cook Rabbit Ragu for Dinner

Tuesday:
Drain First Batch of Stock, Make Rice (Half for Chili Rice, half for Indian Rice) (If Paleo/Primal, skip rice and/or make Cauliflower Rice.)
Drain Black Beans, use same crock pot for Chili (technique forthcoming)
Cook Indian Chicken
Make Salad Dressing (Olive Oil, Vinegar, Salt, Pepper, Maybe some Cheese)
Make Salad Layers

To CSA, or Not to CSA

1 Apr

CSA stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture. Typically, you pay a lump sum at the beginning of the year/season, and in return you get a weekly or biweekly box of vegetables from that farm. Many have expanded to offer fruits, eggs, meat, and even seafood.

These boxes are great, for many reasons.

  • Paying in advance means the farmer is getting a guaranteed return, and cuts their economic liability
  • Consumers get a guaranteed box of farm fresh items, that change based on the time of the season
  • Consumers get the chance to try new and different vegetables, because farmers have the ability to select varieties based on taste and uniqueness, and not just what will sell to a market
  • Consumers get to support local agriculture, and create relationships with the people who are growing their food
  • Newer CSA models might include shares like winter shares (storage root vegetables and/or frozen summer produce), a forage share (with items that can be foraged wild, such as ramps, scapes, and mushrooms), or plant shares (to get seedlings that can be planted in a container or garden.)

There can be some disadvantages as well.

  • It can be quite a bit of money to pay upfront for a whole season (it is around $600 for my area, for June to November deliveries, which averages $21 per week, but is still a significant upfront cost.)
  • as you are buying into a single farm (usually) or area, if there are any natural disasters, it may reduce or eliminate your remaining share.
  • it can be daunting to face a box of strange vegetables every week, and make sure they are used or preserved before they go bad or the next weeks share is in.
  • The pickup times may be inconvenient, and many have additional work requirements.

I’m sad to say, but I don’t think I will be participating in the CSA this year, mainly because the pickup time is not convenient (I’m working), and the day of the pickup is the day my workweek starts, so I would have less time to deal with the produce.

However, I do want to support my local food economy, and I want farm fresh vegetables to do so. I will be doing a “Make Your Own CSA,” and a monetary commitment to fresh vegetables that will be split among the local farmers markets, and my local food cooperative.

I pledge:

  • To spend $20 per week on local vegetables, bought at the farmers market or food coop. (the CSA is around $21 per week, so this should get me a comparable share. )
  • To try at least one “new” vegetable each week, to signify the variety that would appear in a CSA box

In addition, I will be purchasing local poultry from the markets, and my dry goods through the food coop. I also want to do a few bulk purchases of tomatoes, so I can can my own tomatoes to reduce my BPA exposure.

What has your decision been? Have you bought a CSA share, or can you pledge to spend a similar amount at local food places?

Coconut Garlic Fish Soup

26 Feb

There are so many people that talk about fish stock as being the best thing in the world. Problem is, it’s kinda fishy for me to drink on its own, and it is hard to find good recipes for fish soup that doesn’t call for exotic ingredients. (not that those soups are not amazing, but I don’t keep a lot of spices they call for.)

I bought a fish caracas from the grocery delivery service I sometimes use. I have no idea what kind of fish it was, but it had black skin. (it was sold as “fish for stock,” so it was a non oily fish.) Since it was used to make fancy fillets, there was still quite a bit of meat on the bones, I removed the extra pieces. (look, fish nuggets!). If you buy a whole fish, most fishmongers will fillet it for you, and give you the carcass. Many fishmongers will have extra carcasses around and will give them away or sell them cheap.

Put the fish carcass in a crock pot, add a few onions and some salt, cover in filtered water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar, and slow cook for 4-8 hours.

Strain the broth and cook. Pick any remaining pieces of meat off the bones, being careful of small bones.

I used a 4 quart crock pot, and got about 3 quarts of fish stock. I put the stock in the fridge overnight.

I started the soup by bringing the stock to a boil, and let it reduce by around half. After it reduced, I added a bag of chopped onions and carrots (about a cup of each or so, but add whatever you have around), and cook until soft. Add a can of coconut milk, and cook for a bit. Mince 3-5 cloves of garlic (5 cloves made it quite garlicky, but delicious), and about 1/2 inch of ginger, minced, and add to broth. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until delicious.

Add the fish that was picked from the carcass, and cook until heated. If you want more meat, you can cook the fish nuggets and add to the broth as well.

This made around 6-8 servings, depending on size.

Some notes: yes, this would be better for you with wild caught fish, and BPA free coconut milk. Using cheap ingredients, this cost me around $5 ($3 for the fish, $1 for the coconut milk, and around $1 for the vegetables). Use the best that you have and can afford for your family. This recipe is GAPS friendly, gluten and grain free, and dairy free.

Shared with Weekend Gourmet

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