August 21, 2014

Awesome Cuts of Meat You're (Probably) Not Eating: Beef Heart!

Hey kids! It’s time for another installment in my ongoing adventures in culinary curiosity. Today’s unconventional cut of meat: beef heart! Eek! Yes, the heart! Is there anything—anything—more primal, more animalistic, than eating an animal’s heart? (Maybe killing the animal myself and tearing its still-warm heart right out of its chest, but cut me some slack. I live in suburbia and I’m pretty sure the neighbors would call the cops if they caught me slaughtering a cow in the backyard. Not to mention the cleanup job required afterward…)

So yeah, I did it. I bought two beef hearts when they were on sale at this farm in Northern Virginia. (Two dollars a pound! Insanity!) They’ve been in the freezer for a while, because I didn’t know what to do with ‘em. Occasionally I would remember they were in there and I’d do a little searching online for recipes. Most of them involved a grill, which, believe it or not, I do not currently own. So they stayed on ice until I found something else to do with them. I stumbled across a recipe that was for a slow cooker, and since slow cookers are pretty much the easiest way to cook just about anything, I figured I would start there. (And yes, grilling a beef heart would be more primal than putting it in a slow cooker. One step at a time.)

Warning: this post contains close-up images of a beef heart. If you think that will disturb you or make you queasy, feel free to skip this post. (On the other hand, if you’re a masochist, read on!)  

August 11, 2014

Alzheimer's Disease: Type 3 Diabetes

Hey Everyone,  

I know I sometimes joke around in my blog posts, making light of serious issues and poking fun at things in general (such as my ongoing food label series, and the sarcastic comment I made about Mikey and his gluten-free cupcake in the book review of Health Food Junkies.) But today I am bringing you something serious. Very serious. If you know anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, or someone who’s a caregiver to a loved one with this devastating condition, please keep reading.

Also keep reading if you are interested in learning about a growing view of Alzheimer's as another of the diseases of civilization, and largely the result of our modern diet, high in refined carbohydrates and vegetable/seed oils, and lower in cholesterol and healthful saturated fats.

August 6, 2014

Book Review: Health Food Junkies

Note: I do not plan to have this blog become nothing but recipes, book reviews, and food label takedowns. I am still (slowly but surely) working on the project I've been mentioning for a while, and I'm also still figuring out where to go next in my "real" posts -- the ones that dive deeper into physiology and biochemistry. I don't want to parrot what a hundred other people out there are already covering, so what's a gal to do? Man, this niche-finding is harder than it sounds! Anyway, I will be getting back to more educational posts soon, but in the meantime, rather than have total blog silence, I hope nobody minds that I keep posting things like this. So here goes...

I expected to not like this book. I expected to be angry and disappointed throughout. I mean, come on, the book’s subtitle is Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating. So before I even started, I wondered how the author, Steven Bratman, MD, would define “obsession” and “healthful eating.” Would he call me “obsessed with healthful eating” if he went out to breakfast with me and I ordered a western omelet (hold the toast), instead of a stack of pancakes dripping with syrup, washed down with a 20oz orange juice? Would he call me “obsessed” if I were at a restaurant and instead of taking a piece of bread from the complimentary basket, I helped myself to a pat of butter? Is that being “obsessed,” or is it simply me recognizing that my body doesn’t do so well on lots of sugar and starch? 

I expected this book to be a diatribe against anyone who asks questions of restaurant wait staff, or who asks for substitutions of double green vegetables in lieu of potatoes or pasta. Was I going to sit through 200+ pages of this doctor railing against people who eat Paleo, Primal, gluten-free, low-carb, or who are simply concerned with the sources of their food? If so, it was gonna be a bumpy ride.

July 30, 2014

Slow-Cooked Collard Greens; a.k.a. Awesome Cuts of Meat You're (Probably) Not Eating: Ham Hocks!

For a white Jewish girl born and raised in New York City, I am absurdly fond of southern, African-American inspired soul food. Ribs, cornbread, fried chicken, sweet potatoes laced with brown sugar…pass me a plate. Better yet, pass me two plates, and also a wet-nap, if you have one handy. But just because my individual metabolism can’t quite handle the dose of carbohydrate that comes with those sweet potatoes, cornbread, mac n’ cheese, and the molasses, ketchup, sugar, and brown sugar lurking in the BBQ sauce on the ribs, doesn’t mean I can’t get a fix of some good, down home food that’s good for the body and the soul. And just because I am a white Jewish girl from New York City doesn’t mean I can’t cook some of it, myself. Exhibit A: slow-cooked collard greens, complete with ham hock! (Yes, that’s right, a ham hock. I said I was Jewish; I didn’t say I keep kosher. And thank goodness, because there are way too many delicious things to do with pork. A life without bacon is no life at all. <--- That would make a great bumper sticker.)

July 24, 2014

80/20 Would Be An Improvement...

I have a confession to make, everyone: I have been talking the talk, but for a few months now, I have not been walking the walk.

I have always been completely forthright about the fact that I am not 100% Paleo or Primal. I don’t ascribe any particular label to the way I eat, except that, generally speaking, I’m on the lower-carb end of things. And more often than not, I buy, cook, and eat real food. I get most of my meat and eggs from local farms, although not always. During the summer, I get most of my produce from the farmers’ market, but this falls by the wayside during winter.

But I’m no saint. I have no problem going to the regular ol’ supermarket and getting regular ol’ food. Like I’ve said before, conventionally grown, pesticide-laden vegetables and grain-fed meat might not be ideal, but they’re a heckuva lot better than chocolate breakfast cereals and “organic” junk food.

I don’t stress about the details when I go to a restaurant with friends, and when life gets in the way and I don’t have a chance (or make a chance) to prepare a lunch to bring to work, I get something from the cafeteria and don’t stress too much about that, either. Is any of it organic, local, grass-fed, or pastured? No. (Not unless I choose specific restaurants, that is, but definitely not at work.) Does some of it have soybean or canola oil? Yeah, most likely. But a little bit of that here and there isn’t going to kill anybody.

I am a firm believer in the 80/20 rule, although I think most people probably fare better closer to 85/15. For me, personally, I seem to do best at more like 90/10: eating spot-on most of the time, and saving that 10% for things that are truly worth it. (Like a special trip to Junior’s for what is supposedly the world’s best cheesecake, rather than a couple of cookies grabbed on auto-pilot from the bag of Oreos on the secretary’s desk at work. Aside: I have been to Junior's, and I'm not entirely convinced...)

That being said, I haven’t been anywhere close to 90/10 for a while now. And even 80/20 would be a bit of an improvement. If I had to ballpark it, I’m probably more like 70/30, which isn’t saying much. Might as well be 50/50, which really isn’t saying anything at all. It’s not like I’m snarfing down pancakes drenched with Aunt Jemima and washing them down with a glass of ultra-pasteurized orange-strawberry-banana juice every morning, or having a side of breadsticks with my pasta dinner, followed by cookies and cake for dessert. Of course not. I haven’t completely lost my mind. But I am far enough from where I know I should be (or, rather, would like to be) that I wanted to admit it publicly.

July 17, 2014

Garlic Scape Pesto

Sure, you’ve heard of garlic. You may have even come across elephant garlic at the store. (It looks just like regular garlic, except each head/bulb is about three times the size of the normal ones you’re used to. You might even say it’s baseball-sized…) But have you ever heard of garlic scapes? Probably not, if you shop exclusively at the regular supermarket. But if you frequent farmers’ markets or smaller stores that stock local produce, you might have seen these intriguing things recently. (Depending on where you live, of course. Antarctica, not so much. And if you’re in some other part of the southern hemisphere, where it’s winter now, not so much there either.) Up here, in the mid-Atlantic/Northeast, they’re usually available earlier in the season, like May-June, but I stumbled across these (at this place) last week and couldn’t help snagging a few. Why? Because they make some pretty amazing pesto. (And if you can’t track these things down where you live, no worries. Next May will be here before you know it, and you can try your hand at this then.)