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Tag Archives: food
My ChooseMyPlate – Part 1 – Deconstruction of ChooseMyPlate
Many of you by now have seen the new USDA ChooseMyPlate recommendations, where they eschew the near ubiquitous “Food Pyramid” for something much more nebulous – 4 roughly sized areas on a plate of indeterminate size, complete with another area off to the side to represent dairy. On the plate are the usual suspects – Vegetables, Fruit, Grains, and Protein (not meat, because we have to be sensitive to the people that choose not to eat meat. To do otherwise would be at the very least rude, and we can’t ignore protein completely. So we instead name that section after not the type(s) of food you eat (meat, nuts, dairy, tortured-vegetable-protein byproduct), but instead the macronutrient that the foods replace. Great. Should we do that with the other stuff? Nah, because then we would have the following: Protein, carbohydrate, carbohydrate, carbohydrate, and that would just look funny and a little sad.
First trip foraging in the ‘wilderness’
Today the family and I loaded up the trusty wagon and headed down to visit some friends and do something that I had never done before – forage for nettles! For those of you that don’t know, nettles are a stinging plant (not everyone is sensitive to them, but be warned) that is commonly found across Europe, Asia, and North America. Many a child has been hit by the stinging needles of the Nettle. The upside to these hurty plants is that they’re also delicious and full of vitamins and minerals that will keep you coming back for more.
Nettles are leafy green shoots which are usually found in areas of heavier rainfall and grow particularly well in areas with a high phosphorus soil content. The leaves range from thin and tender
when young to much thicker when mature. The leaves can reach nine inches in length and five or six in width. The stalks are generally fibrous and tough. Both historically and currently they are being used in textiles and cordage.
The leaves are generally eaten blanched and in conjunction with something else (as blanching tends to compress the leaves into fairly dense blocks of green – think frozen grocery store spinach) and provide a fresh ‘green’ or herbal flavor. The leaves can also be dehydrated and crumbled and used as a tea or decoction, or sprinkled over meat or into sauces as an herb. It is quite versatile.
The nettle is rich in vitamins A and C, and contains the following minerals: iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. They are also high in protein (for a leafy green vegetable), containing up to 25% by dry weight.
Harvesting without getting stung can be a challenge. It is recommended (if you don’t know if you are sensitive or not) that when you go you come in the following items: Long pants, long sleeved shirt, shoes, plastic grocery bags, and gloves. The gloves should be leather or latex coated cotton gloves. (Pro Tip: Special care should be made to ensure the back sides of the gloves are coated in latex also. Particularly the fingers.) Additional protection may be garnered by wrapping thin or compromised locations with electrical tape. (Pro Tip: long sleeves with thumb holes might come in handy to protect from the sleeve slipping up and exposing your wrists.) Once you have these items, all you need is a nettle patch to tromp through to look for tasty-looking ones. From there it’s a simple matter of snapping the plant off at the midpoint or so and stuffing it in the sack. Repeat until your sacks are full. Then we get to head home for more adventures! (for more on harvesting stinging nettles, check out learning herbs‘ article on how to harvest without gloves!).
Preparation is easy if involved. This is performed in 4 steps.
- Soak nettles in cold water to remove bugs, debris, and theoretically stinging (While I did not get stung AFTER we soaked them, I still wore latex gloves to protect myself from any potential stings).
- Remove stems and unwanted leaves. Grade the leaves according to size and toughness (larger and tougher leaves are better used for tea).
- Transfer soaked nettles into a pot of boiling water. They should stay in the boiling waterfor 10-20 seconds.
- Remove from boiling water and proceed to wringing the blanched leaves out and forming a thick and dense puck or ball of nettles.
- Package using conventional ziplock bags or a vacuum sealer. If they are vacuum sealed, they can be frozen and kept good for a very long time.
- For tea, throw the leaves in a dehydrator (DIY or storebought doesn’t matter) and dry those things out. In a pinch, a low heat oven will work. When they have dried, simply crumble the leaves and enjoy (try pairing with peppermint, chamomile, or lavender to soften the ‘green’ flavor nettle tea has on its own).
And that’s how we did it! It was an excellent day out with friends and family, and we got to get out, explore the nature around us and get back to our primal roots a little bit.
Food is an important part of our lives, and we feel that our kid needs to know that food doesn’t just ‘come from the store’, but rather has its own place in nature, requires real and honest work to procure, and that the experience of gathering food can be just as rewarding as the consumption of the food itself. I feel that foraging and hunting is very important to the primal way of life and once again connecting our lives to the foods which enrich us and allow us to thrive and prosper in a way that oreos, doritos, or any other ‘food’ that ends in ‘os’ would never be able to do.
For more information on nettles, including medicinal effects, check out this link from the Idaho Observer.
Coconut milk ‘iced cream’ in five minutes!?!
Even we of the primal-set aren’t so austere that we don’t enjoy a good dessert every now and again. This one is easy, delicious, and makes a delicious iced cream substitute. (In fact, this recipe might even be considered… vegan!) Basically, it’s an easy iced cream analog that takes almost no time to make up and is tasty, wonderful, and about as simple as you can get. Without further ado, here is the LONG list of ingredients:
- 1 14 oz can of Coconut milk
- 14oz of FROZEN fruit (we generally use berries, but you could theoretically use any fruits – besides, berries are more primal-friendly, right?;)
- 3 tablespoons of honey (or to taste. I think that 3 tablespoons isn’t too sweet, but less wouldn’t have been horrible, either).
That’s it. Now for the instructions…
- Scoop the coconut milk into a food processor, and blend until no longer lumpy.
- Throw in your frozen berries.
- Add your honey.
- Blend until everything is smooth and the consistency of iced cream.
And that’s it! It’ll be soft, but it’s ready to eat right now. If you want, you can drop it into a bowl and throw it in the fridge to set up further. I’m not sure on how long it will keep in the freezer, but it won’t last long!
Other thoughts I’ve had regarding this treat:
- Blend then freeze (in an ice cube tray) a can worth of coconut milk. Prepare as above, substituting the frozen coconut milk for the fruit. Add in vanilla to taste.
- Follow the above steps, but add dark chocolate instead.
Good luck, and remember: it’s about having fun and getting in the kitchen and trying things out!
Robb Wolf’s Liberty Garden concept
One of the most important things you do every day is make decisions on what kinds of things you will use to fuel your body. Beef or chicken? Grassfed or storebought? What kinds of veggies? You gonna throw some corn down, or perhaps a big-ass sandwich? Maybe that’s not such a great idea.
Regardless of the choices you ultimately end up making, the choice itself is an important one. Your body is – without a doubt – the most important thing you own. How you choose to fuel it should respect that level of importance, in my opinion. And herein lies a problem inherent in the system – you can make good choices that still end up being less good choices based on how that fuel was raised/grown/created. And while you may not be able to fully know how all your fuel was created, it’s important to take those baby steps to getting to where you would like to be. (If you’re happy guzzling Mountain Dew and Ritz crackers, you can pretty much disregard this. Realistically, you’re probably not reading this anyway.)
Enter the Liberty Garden concept as promoted by Robb Wolf. Here’s the concept in an even smaller nutshell than Robb’s site talks about it: You are what you eat; in order to know what you’re eating, you should grow some of it because factory farming is involved in practices that can be called questionable (not to mention non sustainable), and that a great way to start it is using your own yard/kitchen window/balcony/veranda/fire escape/WHATEVER to start growing some of your own stuff. Sounds easy, right? It is! Just throw some seeds in some healthy soil (dirt is such a dead sounding word), keep it watered as per the directions on the back of the package, make sure the plants have adequate sunlight, and voila! instant food.
The Liberty Garden – Robb Wolf
To start, I would recommend some herbs. They’re usually very resilient and do well. If you think you have a black thumb, go with these to start. They’re almost a sure thing.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there, and get growing!
9 foods to thrive on.
A month ago, Primal TOAD asked a simple question “If You Could Only Live on 9 Foods, What Would They Be?” The game is basically “desert island discs” but with food instead of music. I just stumbled across it, and it seems like a great exercise – something kinda fun, but at the same time, a good look at how people eat and how their preferences dictate their diet.
So, without further ado, here is my list.
1. Steelhead – Take the best salmon you’ve ever had and turn it up to 11. Yes, it’s so good that I used one of the three “This is Spinal Tap” references I have left for the year.
2. Beef steak – it’s versatile, and theoretically you could grind it, shred it, cube it, grill it, broil it, braise it or hell, just eat it raw.
3. Onions – I add these to almost everything. They can offer a real change.
4. Portabello mushrooms – again, delicious and they can be thrown in soups, eggs, stir fries, you name it.
5. Butternut squash – it’s a sweet and hearty vegetable. What’s not to like?
6. Bacon – Nothing more to say, here. Not only this, but a byproduct of bacon is bacon grease, which is terrific to cook with.
7. Eggs – Use them in anything. They’re easy to grow, too!
8. Broccoli – Delicious and good for you. We eat this all the time.
9. Macadamia nuts – these may be the most delicious nut on the planet. Bet you can’t eat just one handful!
I found that paleo erin did the same thing, as well as paleo at penn. Both are interesting reads. I think it’s interesting to see the differences and similarities (for instance, chicken breast didn’t even enter the top 25 list, let alone the top 9.
Anyone else have a top 9 list they’d be willing to share?
Beef and squash soup – a tasty adventure
1.5# beef (we used tenderloin, but any can be used) cubed.
1 whole large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
3/4 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 cups mushrooms, quartered
8 cups Beef base/broth – just enough to cover the vegetables
2 tbsp butter or other saturated fat cooking oil
In a large pot, saute the vegetables in the butter, being sure to add in the herbs and spices (reserve the bay leaf for later) until just beginning to soften.
In a separate skillet, brown the beef cubes.
When the vegetables are ready to go, add the beef base/broth to the pot and bring to a simmer.
Add the bay leaf.
When the beef has browned, add it to the soup pot.
Continue to let simmer until vegetables reach desired tenderness (they should be easily pierced with a fork).
Salt and pepper to taste throughout the cooking process.
Enjoy! It’s a great soup, and quite simple, too. The butternut squash and cloves give it a sweeter character, but it adds to the whole of the soup, offering up a nice counterpoint to the richness of the beef.
Primal chili – chili on the fringe
Just wanted to relay a recipe I made up this evening for primal chili. Being well aware of what goes into a conventional chili, I was able to cobble this – dare I say amazing? – chili recipe together. Overall, it’s pretty simple, and probably serves four or five. It’s hearty and delicious and has a nice beefy flavor. In order to go full primal/paleo, you should probably omit the red wine, but I certainly didn’t lose any sleep over having it in there, and the flavor speaks for itself.
Without any further ado, here we go!
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 7 stalks of celery, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 2 lbs grass fed ground beef
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 cup red table wine
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp cumin
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp fresh minced oregano
- 1 tbsp irish butter
Sarah and I do the majority of our cooking in cast iron, so I threw the butter, onion, celery and garlic into a large cast iron skillet, careful to keep the heat low to keep oxidization down. On top of that, add the cinnamon. Cook these until tender – about 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, brown the 2 lbs of ground beef (again, I used another cast iron skillet).
When the onions and celery are looking pretty close to translucent, clear a space out in the middle of the skillet and throw in the mushrooms and oregano. If needed, add a little more butter to help the mushrooms cook more thoroughly. This should only take about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Add the wine to the onions, celery and mushrooms. It should sizzle and deglaze the skillet, as well as add a nice color to the onion and celery. Transfer this mixture into a good sized pot so we can finish the chili.
Next, add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes to the pot, followed by the salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin. Stir until everything is thoroughly coated in tomatoes and tomato sauce. Finally, add the ground beef to the rest of the chili. Bring to a simmer and it’s ready to go! We added cubed avocado to ours, as well as a little cottage cheese for the little barbarian. If you want it a little spicier, add cayenne pepper (not more chili powder). 1/8th of a teaspoon goes a long way, so be gentle.
I hope you enjoy it. If you try it, let me know what you think. The red wine really works to intensify the beefy flavor of the beef, and adds a nice level of body to the pot of chili in general.