Tastier Eating for a Healthier You!

Exotic Roast Cauliflower

Please pardon the lack of blogging lately. I have been busy and sadly, rather uncreative in the kitchen. My new diet gives me a day to “eat whatever” so much of my cooking energy is spent making cheeseburgers and baking non-paleo sweets. The other day, I kind of did a junk food blow out at a holiday party, and felt like crap this morning, thus renewing my commitment to whole foods, with only occasional veering into chocolate bourbon cake, spinach dip, sausage dip and pizza territories. My stomach was rather sad today.

However, I rallied by dinner. I smoked a rump roast in my new smoker grill. It makes lean cuts of meat very juicy and flavorful. It saves money by allowing me to eat cheaper cuts of meat. Unfortunately, the way the grill works is unconventional, so recipes don’t translate well…. literally, drop the food in the basket. Cook to the right temperature. But it makes amazing chickens and roasts.

My side dish tonight was cauliflower and I wanted a novel preparation. I love exotic spices, especially saffron. So without further adieu, Exotic Roast Cauliflower.

1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into florets

1Tbs Moroccan spice. Ras al Hanout would work, but I used this: http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/blends/marr.html

Pinch of Saffron threads

1 tsp salt

2T melted butter

Heat oven to 400. Put saffron in melted butter to sit for 5 minutes. After butter has sat for 5 minutes, pour it over the cauliflower and toss to coat. Toss salt and spice on cauliflower. Roast in a single layer on a pan in the oven for 30 minutes.

Delicious!

More Pork

BBQ Man

So I love pork. And if you spend enough time in North Carolina you know that if a BBQ establishment looks sketchy, it’s good. We hit up the BBQ man on our recent road trip to the mountains. We wanted lunch, cheap. Fast food is gross, but BBQ from a weird pink shed with a poorly drawn pig is bliss. For…. $6.50 each we got a mound of smokey, luscious pork and a huge amount of perfect hush puppies, plus 2 sides. Gotta have slaw and for some reason I got pickles. Random but dillicious. LOL. Good and a great value- what could you get at McDonald’s for $6.50? I dunno, I just love BBQ, plus they are small and locally owned. So if you are ever in North Carolina, stop at the weird looking place, get a plate of pull pork, slap some sauce on it (hint, it generally doesn’t need it) and get your eat on. If you are paleo or primal, get the BBQ slaw with your pork and ignore the hush puppies. If you eat low fat, hop on the clue bus. Or just to hell with it, eat the pork, hush puppies and live a little.

BBQ is a great use for a pork butt, but I got about 5 lbs of ground pork in my pork pack from Grateful Growers. Ground pork has many opportunities, but one of the simplest is to grill it like a burger. Pork makes great hamburgers. :) I think HAMburgers deserve special toppings. You can grill ‘em up and put them on a bun (or in lettuce) and dress like a regular burger but that’s boring. Without further adieu…

Pork Burgers with Carrot Slaw

Burgers:

1 lb ground pork

Salt/Pepper

Carrot Slaw

1 lb grated carrots (use a grater, food processer, or buy shredded)

2 T Dijon mustard

1 T maple syrup

1/4 c cider vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup raisins

To make the salad, put the mustard, syrup, cider vinegar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the oil to make the dressing. Toss with carrots and raisins. Flavor with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 30 minutes or so at room temperature.

To make the burgers, divide the pork into 3 patties (or 4, or 2 depending on your idea of a meat portion), Salt and pepper each side. Grill to your idea of done. I grill 4 minutes a side. They are more fragile than beef burgers or soy burgers….so flip with care.

To serve- stack the burger and 1/2 cup of carrot salad on a bun, in a lettuce wrap or in a bowl of spinach. A bit of mayo or goat cheese compliment this combo well.

Why it works – the sweetness of the carrots compliments the sweetness of the pork. The acid in the dressing helps cut the sweetness, while the mustard provides a punch of tart. It’s a nice sweet/salty/tangy combo and when you add in some richness with the cheese or aioli it takes it to a new level.

 

Be Strong

I was reading an article in my local paper about a 40 year old man who tried P90X. He saw success with it, but ultimately abandoned it because it made him tired and sore, the diet plan was costly and it took up too much time. In his opinion, getting stronger wasn’t worth it and the pursuit of it made him a lesser boyfriend, citizen and employee. He decided to go back to walking and well, I guess a cheaper diet. It made me sad to see that being fit and strong and healthy and the pursuit of it somehow wasn’t worth the time. He did mention he’d take up walking. I know walking is good exercise, and it’s a great first step, but walking for 20 or 30 minutes a day isn’t something we should strive for. It’s a bare minimum for basic health.

P90X is by no means perfect- I did a round or two of it and frankly it got boring. But for a commitment of 6 1/2 hours a week in your living room, it is effective. The diet focuses on healthy foods- veggies, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains. They of course, push unneeded supplements and shakes, but if you skip those, the eating is hardly outrageous compared to eating out or buying a ton of convenience foods. It’s not a huge deal- you do the workouts in your living room. They scale the intensity and show a lot of alternatives. At 40, someone should be able to complete the DVD.

I’ve moved on to CrossFit and love it. It costs a lot of money, but yields great results. A time commitment of 5 hours a week and a commitment to eat healthy foods is all it takes. I’m sore at times, tired at times, but I’m building a body that will carry me through life well. I realized that I have friends that easily spend $125 a month on a bar tab. 5 hours a week? It’s not a lot of time. I’m enjoying getting stronger. It feels great to achieve new PR’s at the gym and I love the feeling of hoisting a loaded barbell overhead. It’s freeing. My body looks better than ever.

But IMO, the most important factor is that I am setting myself up for long term health and wellness. I’m nearing 40. The age where things start breaking down. We need to be strong- strong to lift the 50lb bag of dog food. Strong to carry in the groceries. Strong to have a body that holds up to weekend warrior activity. When strength and fitness become some option for people concerned about their appearance and “waste” of time, people begin to break down. All the sudden grabbing that box of copy paper at work pulls a back muscle. A ski weekend tears an ACL. We begin to lose mobility. Moving becomes a struggle. That’s not good. Except perhaps for drug companies, Lazy Boy and the cable company. Strength is not optional for a well lived, healthy life.

At some point, we also have to eat right which regardless of low carb/high carb/vegan/paleo manifesto you follow, does consistently include eating quality foods that cost a little more. Except for when they don’t. My dinner last night was a steak ($6) and a side of asparagus ($2). So $8. What at Appleby’s is $8? OK, I could have McDonald’s. On Friday, my dinner was end of the week cheap- grass fed ground beef ($2.50) sauteed with frozen asparagus ($1.50) and spinach ($1). My meal was $5. I’ve had more expensive cups of coffee. Eating healthy is not more expensive than eating crap. It’s a lame excuse. Plus, you know what’s expensive? Statins, diabetes drugs, heart meds, treatments for conditions caused by eating crap- often skin issues, sometimes joint pain, acid reflux.

What bothered me most about his article was that the time and money required to get fit and strong somehow made him not as good of a person. That’s bullshit. Letting yourself get weak and unhealthy and unfit means you get hurt and sick. How can you be a great parent if you can’t keep up with your kid and thus have to limit physical activity? How are you a good boyfriend if you can’t help your girlfriend move because you have a “weak back”? How are you a good employee if you are sick all the time? How are you a good citizen if you are using a ton of medical resources in your 40’s for preventable issues? In order to be the best people we can be, strength, fitness and a healthy diet is the most critical cornerstone. Cutting corners or putting it on a back burner for others ends up hurting you, and in turn hurts those around you.

Hello Pig

Sorry I have been MIA for a while. Been busy Crossfitting and riding and cooking. But I am ready to make it all up to you with a veritable fiesta of pork recipes.

I am blessed to live in the Carolinas for many reasons, but one is pork, glorious pork. Shredded, smoked, chopped, ribs, shanks. We have several sources in the Charlotte area for humanely raised pastured pork. It is delicious, tender, sweet, flavorful and fattier then what you buy at the store. Amazing, and you can tell a difference. The wonderful farmers that are “Grateful Growers” sell “freezer filler” packages that make having a ton of the best pork in your freezer very affordable, plus they let you experience all sorts of new cuts. I ordered a pack that includes: ground pork, pork sausage, BACON, two kinds of pork roasts, pork back bone, pork chops, and pork shanks. I’ve been cooking my way through all this awesome stuff and have yet to have a bad meal.

http://www.ggfarm.com/ is the website. I think they might ship their awesomeness anywhere in case you don’t have a source for local pork.

I’ve started a new diet, won’t go into details, but Sunday night is mine to eat whatever I want. I had the most epic meal of: Greek Salad, Cheese Grits, Boozy Pork Chops and Pumpkin Cheesecake. It was awesome. The salad didn’t quite match, but I love greek salad. A more seasonal side would have been brussel sprouts roasted with bacon. But I wanted some greek salad. Go figure. The pork chops were amazing- juicy and flavorful. I have a gas grill, so my directions reflect that. Please note my chops were marbled with fat, so while I know my technique was good, I also had the privilege of cooking the best pork in town!

So without further adieu:

2 – 1″ thick pork chops

3T salt

1/4 cup Jack Daniels

1 T Coconut Oil melted

Salt to taste

Spice Rub- I use Platte River Rub from http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/  but use what you like.

Process-

Brine: Take 4-5 cups of water and mix with the salt and the Jack Daniels. Submerge the chops in the brine and let them bathe in the booze for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the chops, pat dry. Brush one side with coconut oil and rub on rub and salt. Flip and repeat the oil, rub and salt process.

Grill: Turn your gas grill up as high as possible on both sides. Let it burn for 10-15 minutes. Cut the gas off on one burner, leaving the other on high. Put the pork chops on the side with the burners on- grill 2 minutes per side. Then flip the chops to the non-burner side and grill 4 minutes per side. Pull off the grill, top with foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes. I spent this time putting a metric ton of cheese into my grits. Then eat.

FYI, There are 3,456 ways to grill pork chops. I think what worked here was the brine and rub. Grill them how you feel comfortable as you have many options.

Also, for a paleo/primal meal, corn grits are not a good side (obviously). The sweetness of this meat calls for a rich side and a side with some acidity. For a rich side, something like a cauliflower mash, sprouts with bacon or a sweet potato prepared with some salted butter or bacon fat would be good. For the acidity, go for a good vinegary cole slaw or a salad with a vinegarette.

 

Salads…..

As a former vegetarian, I really learned to dislike salad. Here is how it goes down…Coworkers want to go to a casual chain for lunch. “Oh, yeah they have vegetarian foods at the restaurant, salads!”. So you are happy as lunch time rolls around- yum, a big bowl of fresh veggies, some good dressing, a delicious roll. Then you get to the restaurant and the salads include a: Chicken Caesar, Chef Salad or Garden Salad. If lucky, the have a Taco Salad in a 1000 calorie fried tortilla. So your vegetarian salad is: romaine, some parm, croutons and bad dressing or iceburg lettuce, processed cheese strips, a rock hard tomato and two cucumber slices or a tiny amount of iceberg, some carrot shreds, one wedge of hard tomato, one cucumber slice or a fried tortilla with shredded iceberg, processed cheese, some salsa and sour cream. Oh, and two packs of saltines. And you are like fuck, why did I go out to lunch as you eat $12 of crappy salad (because they don’t discount leaving off the (*&*)(&^ protein) while your coworkers eat delicious looking food. And then you end up with food poisoning anyway. XO

So salads can suck. And when I first went paleo, I gave salads the middle finger. But recently I have been on a salad kick. A bowl of greens full of good stuff, with an amazing dressing and grass fed meats or warm grilled chicken or salmon is amazing. And miles away from iceberg, a hard tomato, one cucumber slice and some weird tasting croutons.

This is the salad I made last night:

3 big handfuls of rainbow chard, sliced (Trader Joes sells it in bags)

1/2 avocado sliced into chunks

2 green onions chopped

1 mandarin orange seperated into segments

5 pieces of asparagus cooked and cut into 1″ pieces

1 grass fed rib eye, grilled and cut into chunks.

2 T of my dressing (recipe to follow).

Mix all your veggies while the steak grills. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes. Cut into chunks. Put on the salad. Toss with dressing. Eat! Healthy, delicious, amazing, even decadant.

Citrus vinegarette:

1 orange juiced

1/2 shallote

1 T white wine or chmpagne vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 egg yolk (option)

Blend the shallotte, juice, vinegar and egg yolk in a blender. Drizzle in the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

:)

Enjoy!

Whole 30…. A Failure, but a Success

I messed up my Whole 30. Half and half in some coffee, sushi when I was out of town, hashbrowns, a burger and a chocolate croissant. The funny thing is that in a BIG way, that was all a success. Nothing really pulled me off track, and I ended this week strong, even making a Whole 30 appetizer for friends. My weight loss was nominal- lost the weight I put on over the holidays (7 or so pounds).

I came to an epiphany today, that if I strive to eat Whole 30 all the time, my cheats are not a big deal and I can have what I really want. When I followed Primal, I ate a ton of “primal OK dark chocolate”. I don’t even like it. Frankly, I just ate stuff out of habit. I could justify a lot, then blame the banana or nuts.

I want to enjoy my food and my tastes have changed for the healthier. I have no desire for sweets these days. But damn it, last Saturday I wanted a BURGER on a BUN. So I ate it. Then I ate clean for the rest of the week until Friday when I had a CHOCOLATE CROISSANT. It’s fine. It really is. And today, I will be having potatoes in my lamb stew, I know I can not eat burgers and croissants on the regular. ;) But I can have them on occasion, and better yet, if I’m not clogging my diet with treats I could care less about (dark chocolate), I can still lose weight and be really satisfied.

I need to pretty much give dairy beyond butter the boot- breaks my face out, and I didn’t want dairy anyhow except for my coffee. I need to keep wheat minimal, but utterly worthwhile. It will be interesting to see the next occurance of wanting wheat. I don’t really want sugar when I eat plenty of fruit. I hated processed foods long ago. I’m not into rice or pasta. I am going to bring potatoes back as an occasional side dish when they would really round out a meal (like sopping up the juices from a divine lamb stew).

To go forward losing weight, I think I need to be more careful with my portions (really, I could eat 6 ounces of steak and be fine). Mostly, I am overeating meat and it gets expensive. I need to be better about having a portion of good carbs on workout days with my dinner. I also got a little crazy with nuts the first two weeks. I feel like if I allow myself occasional cheats, I am FAR less likely to justify a bunch of nuts.

I do need to work out my body’s idea of occasional treat and be prepared to rein in the excess. Christmas was BAD. Not gonna lie. But i have a tool- Whole 30. And I need to push myself in the kitchen so I am not relying on less nutritious foods as staples. Stay sharp and not get lazy. Keep things moving and changing and keep my diet interesting. And if I jones for baked goods, try the paleo versions, but treat them as a treat- so no daily paleo cookie and no slice after slice of paleo cake. One and done, so to speak.

So there you have it. I’m a few pounds lighter, a bit broken out and looking forward to eating a hearty stew tonight. I don’t want chocolate, ice cream or a cake, but I do want some potatoes. I also still want to whip up paleo pancakes. With a side of bacon. :)

 

Day 14 and 15 Whole 30

Well, I blew it. I had half and half in my coffee. My boss was firing someone in my very small office. It was awkward squared so my coworker and I hurried on out and ended up at a coffee shop. No excuses. Could have had it black. But I feel fine, It didn’t make me feel bad and I didn’t have a pastry. Not gonna lie- work was a stress cooker today and I wanted food. I had no outlet as it was a monsoon out!  So all considered, cream in my coffee was not to be upset over.

Otherwise things are good. Needed a quickie dinner! Cut up the rest of my roast chicken, threw in some avocado and salsa and mayo. Very good, very quick and very comforting.


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