Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snack time!

I know I just posted yesterday, but I was thinking about snacks, and thought I'd share my favorite primal snacks.

Fruits are often good snacks on their own. Carrots and celery are too. Sweet potato chips or squash chips (don't fry in vegetable oil!) are great too.

Lately we've made a lot of applesauce. A small bowl of that is a great snack.

We almost always have either Greek yogurt or cottage cheese in the house. Either one is good plain, with applesauce, with berries, or turned into a veggie dip with the addition of a few spices. Cottage cheese is also great with cinnamon, black pepper, or cocoa powder.

I also like plain slices of cheese as a snack. Lately we've had jars of olives and pepperoncini and marinated artichokes around that are good snacks too. We also have lots of pickles around - remnants from the cucumbers in our CSA this summer.

Every time we cook a squash, we save the seeds for roasting. Clean them, add a little olive oil, salt, and seasonings (generally chipotle pepper for us) and roast at 350 or so until they start to turn brown and crunchy. They're like popcorn. Kabocha seeds are the only one I've found that doesn't work very well, just because the shells get chewy rather than crunchy. Acorn, butternut, and pumpkin seeds all turn out great.

We use our dehydrator once in a while for fruits and veggies. Sliced strawberries, apples, bananas, kiwi, coconut, and pineapple work well, as do carrot sticks, broccoli stems, beet slices, cucumber slices, and sweet potato slices. Watch the amounts you eat of these, though; you get all the same carbs from dried fruits and veggies as you do when they're fresh, but not as much volume. It's easy to eat a lot of them. Jerky is a great snack too, also easy to make in batches.

Pickled eggs, seaweed, and pork rinds are also good snacks. Nuts can be good too, but some are high in omega-6 fats and should be balanced out with omega-3s.

One does not need grains to have tasty snacks in the house!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Have some science, and some recipes

This presentation goes over some of the links between sugar, fat, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. I found it really informative, though long; it has 5 parts, each between 10 and 15 minutes. I highly recommend it.

On to food!

Butternut squash, thinly sliced and fried in olive oil at 320 degrees, makes pretty awesome chips. Unfortunately they don't last long.

While almond flour crust works well to make primal pumpkin-kabocha pies (pumpkin and kabocha courtesy of our winter CSA), and is a lot like a graham cracker crust, it does burn where there is no filling, so your pie can't have pretty fluted edges. The recipe I used for the crust used grapeseed oil. I will be try again with butter next time; I suspect I'll get better flavor out of it. One pie has cream cheese in the filling, while the other has some maple syrup; both are tasty.

The pumpkin seeds, kabocha seeds, and seeds from one of our two acorn squash were all roasted with salt and chipotle pepper. Kabocha seeds really don't roast all the well, unfortunately. They tend to be chewy no matter how long they're in for. The pumpkin and acorn ones are better than popcorn, though.

We made lots of applesauce. Almost 6 quarts. We also made 3 quarts of cranberry applesauce, and 3 pints of cranberry sauce. The cranberry and cranberry-apple blend unfortunately needed sugar, and so are not paleo and will be eaten sparingly, but they came out pretty tasty. (Why so much of everything? Well, we bought a peck of apples and two bags of cranberries from the store, intending to make applesauce, and then got another peck of apples from our CSA, along with some cranberries. That makes a lot. But since we've mostly mastered canning for simple things like fruit sauces, the jars will be able to hang out for a while before we eat them.)

We dehydrated all the peels from our apples when we were done making sauces. Now they're like apple chips. Yum!

Then we put a chuck roast we got with our winter CSA in the crockpot whole, along with a few potatoes, a can of diced tomato, artichoke hearts, two small onions, mushrooms, and of course chicken stock and spices. It came out awesome, and made enough for lunch today and tomorrow, and maybe a dinner.

We still have broccoli, brussel sprouts, an acorn squash, and a head of cabbage to eat from our CSA, along with the bulb portions of the two butternut squash we got (we didn't think they'd slice well for chips.) I think we'll freeze the squash and the broccoli and try to make sauerkraut with the cabbage. We also have a gallon of local cider in the fridge, and lots of Amish roll butter in the freezer (I do mean lots. We portioned it into 4 oz. 'sticks' before freezing - the same size as a regular stick of butter - and got 9 of them. After using quite a bit in an acorn squash. And it's super-tasty.) The farm says they owe us two dozen eggs, too; they were out when we got there Saturday. We'll be picking those up tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to eggnog made with fresh farm eggs.

We're picking up more meat on Dec 4th, along with our second winter CSA basket. So far the winter share is just as much of a win as the summer share was. I hope that continues!

Cranberry sauce: 6 cups cranberries, 2 cups orange juice, 1 cup sugar, zest of 1 orange, two tablespoons ginger. Boil until cranberries pop, simmer until thick. Add cinnamon and other spices if desired. Most recipes call for more sugar than this, but using orange juice instead of water adds some, and really, we just don't like things all that sweet anyway anymore.

Cranberry-applesauce: follow the above, but halve the sugar and add a dozen peeled, cored, finely diced apples.

Applesauce: peel, core, dice apples; put into a big pot with some lemon juice. Add water to cover half of the apples. Simmer until apples are tender, blend to desired consistency. Add cinnamon (or add cinnamon sticks early, and take them out before blending.) That's it. Most recipes add sugar, but we've found it's not necessary.

Pie crust: mix together 1.5 cups almond flour (whole almonds in a coffee grinder then sifted works well), 1 tbsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp sea salt. Blend together 2 tbsp honey, 1/4 grapeseed oil, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix with dry ingredients, press into 9" pie tin, bake for 15 minutes (or until golden brown) at 350. Let cool before filling.

Pie filling: mix 2 eggs and 2 cups pumpkin puree (or pumpkin-kabocha blend in our case, strained) with pretty much whatever you want. Cinnamon and nutmeg are pretty essential. One of ours had 1/4 cup maple syrup; the other, maybe 1/2 cup of cream cheese. Fill pie crust and bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Let cool before eating.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dehydrator time! and more

We went on a little dehydration kick recently.

We bought some steaks ages ago to turn into jerky, so we did; found a decent soy-free recipe online to try. It came out alright, but there is an undertone of vinegar that I'm not a big fan of in jerky; we'll have to try again with a few adjustments. It doesn't help that we dried that one for a little too long.

But we also made two ground-beef jerkies that came out great. We used beef from our meatshare, so it's pastured and near-organic; it was interesting because the texture was quite a bit different than what I'm used to from Costco. One had a chili spice blend and the other had an Italian herb mix. Ground-beef ones are fun; they're easy, since there's no marinating needed, the spice mixes are easy to make up and don't use soy, and they're also easier to eat when they're done since they're a bit softer. Unfortunately they need to be eaten fairly quickly; they tend to mold. But that hasn't been an issue for us much.

We also dehydrated a lot of fruit. Several apples, two bunches of bananas, half a coconut (ate the other half fresh), and a pineapple. We've decided we like homemade dried coconut better than either fresh coconut or store-ought dried; the dehydration kills the slight astringency one can find in fresh coconut, and we can make larger pieces than we can buy. Also, fresh dried pineapple is nothing like the candied 'dried pineapple' you can buy in a store. It's far more awesome - despite (or because of?) the lack of added sugar. Of course, none of these fruits hung around for long. And we certainly increased our fructose intake for a week. By the way, Syntax adores dried fruit, especially coconut, for some odd reason. But then, he'll eat anything.

We also had fun with our crockpot. We used several meats from our meatshare this time - hot Italian sausage (not sausages, just sausage), bacon, and stew beef - along with one pound of potato, a few onions, and a butternut squash. Using loose sausage meat was certainly different. (We tried to make sausage patties with the sweet sausage, and it worked ok after I added an egg - the texture's a little difficult, but it's very tasty stuff!) What was unusual for us this time was the spice blend we added to the chicken stock base. Because of the butternut, we added some cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg, along with a couple dried chipotle peppers, salt, and black pepper. It came out great. For once our broth is not bland.

We did end up straining it though, in order to let the fat rise so we could skim some of it off. The sausage and bacon rendered quite a bit, and although I don't mind eating a lot of fat now the way I used to, it was just too much. But then we added the skimmed broth back in, and had some extra to use elsewhere; two days ago I made a 'miso soup' by adding some Nori seaweed to that broth. I know, it's not actually miso at all; it's just a seaweed soup, but it's a pretty good substitute.

Then last night was burgers. We got some hamburger patties from the meatshare that we were eager to try, and so we pan-fried them and topped them with cheese, pan-fried pineapple and some avocado slices (and, of course, mustard and ketchup). Rich wanted hamburger buns for his, but mine were great without a bun. And yes, the pineapple/avocado combo came home with us from Hawaii, and it's one I'll do again. We get leftover burgers for lunch today :)

In other news, my doctor wants me to take the glucose blood test sometime soonish to test for pregnancy diabetes. One problem with that is that people on a low-carb diet nearly always test positive, since the body gets used to processing fats instead of sugars and so sugars stick around for a while. The other problem with that is that, if I test positive, they'll recommend... a low-carb diet. WTF? So for a little while I'm going to try to estimate the number of carbs I eat, and see how low-carb I really am. So far today it looks like I'm not very low-carb at all:
1 apple, according to wolphram-alpha, averages 24g carbs.
Half a serving of roasted squash seeds is 15g (a blend of butternut and acorn, but unfortunately wolphram-alpha can't discriminate, and goes with pumpkin and squash)
Each slice of pineapple is probably around 5 g, and I've had one slice dried and will have one on my burger in a little while.
Some mac nuts, about 5g
I'll get another 3-4 in my ketchup with lunch
But the seaweed, coffee, mustard, cheese, and actual burger measure in the milligrams.

So total carbs so far today: around 70 already, with dinner still to go. Well, anything under 100 is considered low-carb, with 30 being the cut-off for very low carb; so I'm still there today, although the fruit really adds up. I'm going to have to look into that glucose test more to see how I'm likely to react. In any case, I don't think it's worthwhile doing, and my midwife agrees; unfortunately the practice she and my doctor work at apparently requires it. Or something. But we'll see,maybe I can skip it.