Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tomatoes in December

I hate to make my colder weather viewers jealous but I picked all these tomatoes off my tomato plant on December 9th. Some kind person told me to put them in a sunny window and they would ripen. So I put about 8 or so in my window and now, 20 days later, one is nearly ready to eat! The rest are in my pantry, in a bag. They'll get their turn to ripen soon.

My tomato vine is doing better this winter than it did all summer, but it was too cold to ripen the tomatoes. So, I decided to try to just cut it way down, nearly to the ground and I took all the unblemished, unripened fruit off.

Monday, December 28, 2009

More about binge eating

Just ran across this article today: Why some continue to eat when full. It basically describes how ghrelin, a hormone connected to eating and appetite, works to keep us eating.

Scientists previously have linked increased levels of ghrelin to intensifying the rewarding or pleasurable feelings one gets from cocaine or alcohol. Dr. Zigman said his team speculated that ghrelin might also increase specific rewarding aspects of eating.

Are we helpless in the face of all this biology working against us? No, we should be able to outwit Mr. Lizard Brain, as I discussed in that posting.

Dr. Mario Perello, postdoctoral researcher in internal medicine and lead author of the current study, said the idea was to determine "why someone who is stuffed from lunch still eats -- and wants to eat -- that high-calorie dessert."

Any over-eater worth their salt already knew about the "dessert box". That's the portion of your stomach that never gets full when presented with delicious things you want to eat. Dinner food is great and all, but I can get full on meat and veggies and not want to eat more. However, the "dessert box" is always empty (or almost always).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Simple Chicken Wings

I am enjoying the heck out of my new range.

Anyway, yesterday I found some frozen chicken wings (raw) in the freezer and defrosted them. Actually, I wasn't sure what the heck part of the chicken they were, they were frozen into a solid block. So I defrosted them and saw one of my favorite parts of the chicken, the wing!

Here is a super easy recipe. 3 ingredient...

Chicken wings
Louisiana Style Hot Sauce (or whatever your favorite brand is).

Melt some butter, pour in some hot sauce. Coat the wings. Broil them a bit far from the heat source, I use the 2nd from the top rack spot and that worked fine. About 5 minutes, paint on more sauce and flip, another 5 minutes. Paint and flip once more. They should be crispy and browned.

Oh yes, cover your pan with foil for easy clean up!

I like to dip these guys in mayonnaise.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Sous Vide Shortcuts

Since I made a batch of nose-searing mustard I decided it was time to eat a bunch of sausages. I bought some Italian sausages and packaged them up with my food saver. Threw some in the freezer and some in the Sous Vide at 165'. Then they're all cooked and ready to be popped into the microwave for a fast reheat and doused in my lovely mustard. So easy!

Another shortcut to mention is in fermenting things. I keep the house around 68 degrees in the winter which is kind of cool if you're trying to make a batch of Creme Fraiche or kefir. So I put whatever I'm cultivating into a jar and set it in the Sous Vide at 80-86 degrees and it goes much faster than letting it happen at 68 degrees.

Right now I'm trying to resurrect some kefir grains I had dried from several years ago. I'm not sure it's going to work but I got a quart of milk and I'm going to give it a try. My hope is to use it to make some sour dough starter using coconut flour. This is a project I only give a small chance of success, on many levels.

If I were eating yogurt then the SV would be absolutely awesome. Heating the milk to 85c (185f) according to this article about yogurt observed under an electron microscope puts more nubbies (lack of scientific term entirely my fault) on casein molecules which means your yogurt will be thicker and nicer. So, if you're doing Sous Vide, give it a shot! The recommended temperature is 185-194 degrees for 10 minutes. Let it cool, of course, before adding in your starter. Then you could stick it back in the SV for 12 hours or however long you like to culture it, but at 80 degrees or thereabouts.

How to Make Creme Fraiche

I suppose it's cruel of me to mention making creme fraiche and not tell you how I do it. I don't know exactly how authentic this method is but it is what I do, or did rather, I don't use dairy products much any longer. I take about a cup or two of heavy cream and add about 1 Tbl of sour cream, or cultured buttermilk, per cup of cream. Mix well and let it sit until it becomes very thick. This ordinarily takes a few days but in the SV at 80-86 degrees it doesn't take so long. Maybe 24 hours. Refrigerate after it thickens up. It gets even thicker.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cranberry Walnut Bread

  • 8 eggs
  • ½ cup coconut oil or butter, melted
  • ½ cup coconut milk
    • I used half and half this time as I had it on hand and didn't have any coconut milk open.
  • ½ cup sugar substitute
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
    • I used lemon juice, no extract on hand. About 1/4 cup.
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup sifted coconut flour
    • I use Aloha Nu brand coconut flour which I buy online.
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped

Blend together eggs, oil, coconut milk, sugar substitute, vanilla, lemon extract, and salt. Combine coconut flour with baking powder and whisk thoroughly into batter until there are no lumps. Fold in cranberry sauce and nuts. Pour into greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F (175 C) for 60 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

This comes from Nancy542 on the Low Carb forum

My guests raved over this. They couldn't believe it was low carb and gluten free.

The only thing I'd change about this bread is using sugar free cranberries however, they're impossible to find. Next time I'll probably just use a shredded apple instead of cranberries.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sear your nose: Mustard

My sister has a recipe for sweet, hot mustard she shared with me years and years ago.  We have it on Thanksgiving and Christmas on what ever meat we're having.  It's really sensational on almost any kind of meat.  I really like it on sausages too.

I'll give you the original recipe and my changes to make it low carb. 

  • 1 - 2oz Can of mustard flour (or powder), Coleman's is one brand.  
    • Nowadays I buy it in bulk from the health food store, cheaper that way.
  • 1 Cup of Malt Vinegar
    • I don't use malt vinegar any longer due to my gluten sensitivity.  Apple cider, red wine and other vinegars are just as good.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Cup of sugar
    • Obviously I don't use sugar any longer.  I use a combination of sweeteners or Splenda.
 Mix well (I use my blender) and cook while whisking in a double boiler until thickened.  Around 150-160 degrees.


 Now you can hate me a bit if you don't have a Sous Vide... put in your Sous Vide bath for 20 minutes or so at 150 degrees.  Voila!  No whisking like a maniac.  I'm definitely going to be eating this hot, sweet mustard a lot more often now that I've seen how easy it is to do by sous vide.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Grateful for hash!

We're talking about the kind you make in the kitchen with meat. I had a brisket that was less than perfectly yummy and the talented and lovely Allison suggested I turn it into hash. So, I happened to have a chayote (picture on left) on hand which I shredded in my food processor. I also chopped up some onions and pressed a few cloves of garlic. I cooked the onions and garlic in some duck fat then added the chayote, salt and pepper and some cayenne pepper. I cooked that until it started to brown up and the onions and garlic were nice and softened. I chopped up brisket in my food processor (quick pulses) and then added it and fried up the whole mess.Delicious! And it works well for any meal. For breakfast I put an egg on top.

I had even more brisket left and I made another has, this time I had some left-over root veggies I used. Next time I really need to include some green sweet pepper in my hash.

So, if you want use up some meat I'd suggest dicing it finely and making a nice hash out of it.

Found I had a picture of my hash in my camera

Sunday, November 1, 2009

More Tips for Changing Eating Habits -- Part I

Once upon a time...
I decided to go on a diet. I had dieted before and lost even almost 70 pounds once, but always the weight came back. Why? Because I hadn't made any permanent change to my eating habits. So finally this last time, which I started about 7 years ago, I finally realized I had to make changes permanent. Along the way I've discovered how to make these changes permanent and I encountered a lot of obstacles, within myself but also in our society, that I had to learn to deal with.

Anyway, the diet worked as they usually do and I lost 40 pounds. I've kept it off. I'm not at my goal and perhaps I will always have that extra 15-20 pounds but I'm in a much healthier place.

The Biggest Obstacle: Me
For reasons I detailed in Outwitting the Lizard there are all kinds of things going on in the brain that I had to figure out. I had to figure out the seeming unexplicable motivation behind why I was failing to stick to my diet that had to do with addiction and cravings and rewiring my brain. But along the way there were some simple things that really made it doable for me.

Diet or Way of Eating?
First off is you need to change from "I'm on a diet" to "This is how I eat". That's a really tough transition to make because dieting is, as we all know, a temporary state of deprivation. If you can just tough it out long enough you'll be slim and live happily ever after... or so we all think. Actually you'll be slim (maybe) for a few weeks, a few months but eventually you will almost certainly regain everything you lost and perhaps find a few extra. Why is that?

Well, there are probably a host of psyiological reasons including things like your sensitivity to leptin is all screwed up so your energy requirements are much less (I've heard 25% less), however your brain is still wired to want the old energy levels. Bleh, not much we can do about that at this point. However there are lots of things under your control.

What you did to lose the weight you must continue to do afterward. Well that sort of makes sense right? Yet most people fail to do this. Why? I think they haven't really come to terms with two things: Sustainability and Permanent Eating Changes.

Have you ever watched the Biggest Loser? Those folks are exercising hours and hours a day and eating next to nothing to win a contents. People admire them for their perseverence but is this real? No, they're in a protected environment where their only job is to lose weight. For most people, we have jobs and families and we can't dedicate hours a day to exercise and we need to nourish ourselves properly. So what I am suggesting is that any measures you take to lose weight will have to be sustained for the rest of your life.

This is why I think relying on exercise is not terribly practical. Changes to your schedule or an injury that takes a long time to heal can completely derail you. Your brain adjusts to a certain amount of energy input (food) and when the energy output suddenly changes, I can guarantee you your energy input is unlikely to change to compensate.

My own experience was with martial arts. I decided to get involved in that. I had 2-3 nights a week of multi-hour long sessions and I became extremely fit. I could eat almost anything and not gain weight. Eventually my arthritis got pretty bad and I had to stop, my knees just weren't going to let me continue. So my energy output decreased dramatically but I still had the brain wiring that made me want to eat more. Result: Weight gain!

I've seen this pattern repeat with lots of friends. They all believe what they've been told over the years that you must exercise like a maniac to lose weight. So they do and it works to some extent, but it's just not sustainable. And if you don't sustain it, you won't maintain it.

Science is starting to catch up to the media perpetuated myths now and more and more articles are being published that exercise is only modestly, if at all, helpful for weight loss. It is great for your health though, so don't look at this as tacit permission to not exercise. You should, but get a regimine that isn't going to injure you and that you can stick with. Something you enjoy doing.

Sustainable also applies to the diet itself. Some people go on those medically supervised protein fasts and lose a lot of weight. But they've learned nothing about how to sustain that weight loss. Again, it's a temporary measure and I guarantee that for most of these folks, the results will be temporary too. You have to change your eating habits permanently.

More tools for Outwitting the Lizard

I just thought of another book that taught me a lot about how the mind works.  The name is rather deceptive, Stumbling on Happiness, as it didn't seem to really tell you how to stumble onto happiness however it sure explained a lot about how our brains work and it gave me a lot of insight into my own behavior and ideas on how to change things.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sous Vide Lemon Low Carb Custard

The Sous Vide equipment makes this super easy. Takes me less than 5 minutes to prepare! I love egg custard because it tastes great but it was always a hassle to do it on the stovetop and I never really tried it in the oven. But in my sous vide, it is a dream! I'm going through eggs like mad between this and having my hummus omelet again.

  1. Crack 6 eggs into a bowl, pick out any shell.
  2. Pour them into my blender.
  3. Add to blender sweetener equivalent to 1/3 cup of sugar (to taste). This time I used Lo Han and Splenda.
  4. Add about 1/3 cup of lemon juice or more if you want more lemon-y goodness.
  5. Add about 1/2 tsp of vanilla.
  6. Blend well.
  7. Taste, adjust as needed.
If you are afraid of raw eggs then you can always use your SV (sous vide) equipment to pasteurize the eggs (135' for 1 hour 15 minutes) before hand.

Pour the egg mixture into a heavy duty freezer type bag with a good seal. I then fill up a container with water and put my not-completely-sealed bag in there, that forces the air out. Submerge it just until the egg rises to the seal, then finish sealing the bag.

Edit: One suggestion, put a ceramic bowl on the bottom of your sous vide bath.   I think the bottom of the bath gets hotter (if you have a rice maker) and this will keep the eggs from getting too hot should they actually come in contact with the bottom of the SV.

Double check the seal and stick it in the SV bath at 155' for around 30 minutes or when set up nicely.

Slide it into a container and refrigerate or serve hot with raspberries or strawberries.

I wanted to add instructions for non-sous vide use. If you don't have a water bath you can make this on the stove top.  Use a double boiler, or create one.  I always just put a metal bowl on top of my pot of boiling water.  Then I pour the mixture into the bowl and stir until it reaches about 160 degrees or starts to leaves trails when you stir.  You have to stir the entire time, otherwise you'll end up with scrambled eggs.  Another thing to be wary of is to make sure that you don't let it heat too quickly.  It should take at least 5 minutes to get up to 160 degrees.  Any faster than that and you might end up with scrambled eggs.

Picture of a homemade double boiler

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Outwitting the Lizard

Update: When I initially wrote this it was about binge eating, but I think there are a lot of good tips one could apply to those times when you don't binge, but you eat a food you know you shouldn't eat.

I wrote something recently on a message forum that people seemed to respond to. Over the last several years I've read a bit about what I call "neural psychology", or the way the brain wires itself and how it makes us behave the way we do.

The books that provided, for me, a lot of insight into this was Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell and another good one was The End of Overeating, by David Kessler. Also I've seen a spate of articles on Science Daily and New Scientist about whether or not we actually have free will. Both books talk about how the brain works and how we struggle to understand or even verbalize why we do what we do and why we seem to have so little control over certain behaviors. Anyone who has been a food binger has probably learned one thing, it's almost impossible to stop a binge once you start one.

Why do we binge?

I think a lot of people waste a lot of time trying to find the reason behind this behavior. They attribute it to emotions, or a bad childhood, or something else. They flog themselves with guilt and shame over it and in the end that's very counterproductive. Feeling out of control makes you stop thinking rationally and you do all kinds of stuff, including more of the bad behavior you're trying to fix.

Lizard In Your Brain

The reason for your problem now is because at some point you rewired your brain such that binging sets off some kind of reward. Oh yes, you feel lousy AFTER you binge, but during your binge all kinds of great things are happening, lovely chemicals your brain absolutely craves are being created and released, in much the same way that anyone who is an addict can tell you about. Whether they're an addict on heroin or addicted to gambling, the results are the same. The brain has strong neural circuitry that causes you to want to indulge in the behavior. I won't get into the science, you can pick that up from the books I mentioned, or other science sources.

This brain rewiring probably begins to happen the first time we eat too much of something yummy. We feel great and want to have another ice cream cone. In days gone by, having a keen interest in opportunistic eating like that would be a great survival trait. If you lost interest in high calorie, high sugar food before it was consumed, you wouldn't have the fat stores to reproduce. But we were built for living as we lived 1,000's of years ago, not in the current age where extremely tasty food is super cheap and always available with very, very little effort.

By the way, if you're not wired to binge, as David Kessler's book points out, you will never in a million years understand a binge eater. It is like trying to explain a color to someone who can't see. Your brain just isn't wired that way. Consider yourself lucky.

So these neural circuits get established and we strengthen them every time we binge. These things are very primitive and in my opinion, don't really have much to do with our higher reasoning. So when we're being pushed around by the lizard-like parts of our brain we're completely at a loss when we try to describe using our higher reasoning why we did what we did. So are we helpless? Absolutely not! Our only blame in all this is if we can't use our higher reasoning powers to out-wit the stupid lizard-like portions of our mind that operate purely on impulse. But repeating to yourself "I will not binge" is probably not going to be helpful, or punishing yourself, etc. Stupid neural circuits are going to fire, you just have to engage other circuits to weaken them... and most importantly you need to break the constant reinforcement.

I have lots of things that trigger my "inner lizard". Going into 7/11 or other convenience stores and working in an office with a vending machine are my two biggest ones. While my Mom's health was failing it seemed like I could do almost nothing to resist the lure of Cheetos, or Doritos. But I did finally figure out a few things and got control of the binges. Here's my arsenal of tips:

Time: Every time you binge you reinforce the behavior and the trigger. For me, just walking past a vending machine can trigger an urge. The more I do the behavior (and the more recently) the harder it is to avoid triggering again. Some people think they'll cut down, or somehow control the behavior by indulging in it just a little. They're kidding themselves. The longer you don't binge, the easier it gets to continue to not binge.

Remove triggers: Take the stuff you binge on out of your environment as much as possible. Try to convince the people you live with to respect your need for a trigger free environment. If you can't, you'll have to figure out a way to store those triggers so you don't see them all the time (if at all). This was easy for me because I live alone. But frankly, even if I didn't live alone, I'd probably be pretty insistent that my family remove these things from the house.

Avoid external triggers: If walking past Cinnabun or a 7/11 is a strong trigger, you might need to pick a different walking route, or not step inside a 7/11, until you've had enough time pass for your triggers to lessen, and have gotten some techniques for dealing with what happens when you're around your triggers.

Deflection: I find it very useful to have something else when I trigger on something. For instance, I walk into a 7/11 and badly want some chips, I can usually a cup of coffee with cream, which I don't ordinarily drink the cream so that's a pretty nice treat for me. Or a fresh piece of gum. When eating at a friend's house I will offer to bring the dessert and make sure it is something sugar-free (like a low carb cheesecake with a nut crust) and as paleo as possible. Everyone always loves these desserts by the way.

When I eat X I crave Y: So don't eat X. This is really simple yet I run into people that would rather lose an arm than stop eating something. Come on people, use your higher reasoning skills, stop being lizards!

Avoid triggers when your defenses are low: Stress can make our higher reasoning shut off and let Mr. Lizard make all the decisions. So if you are very stressed, even just hungry, avoid the people, places and things that are likely to trigger you.

Understand the consequences of failure: Understand that failing right now is going to make it more likely that you fail in the future. From personal experience I can tell you it's a lot more difficult to stop a pattern of binging than it is to resist this one triggering moment. When you fail you're just reinforcing the neural circuitry that causes you to trigger.

Understand the health consequences of failure: Learn about how eating this crappy food could cause you to end up with Type 2 diabetes, cause premature aging (look up Advanced Glycation End Products or AGEs), read the book "Good Calories, Bad Calories", or read it again. Think about the consequences 10 or 20 years from now. How do you want to be living then? As an invalid? Buy a glucose meter and see how eating crap affects your blood glucose. Did you know that at levels over 140 damage is happening all over your body? Damage that can lead to kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, even limb amputation.

Hormones: Eating sugary, starchy crap food is going to push your blood glucose and insulin around and make you hungry and further increase your cravings. Don't get that cycle started!

Me and Chips

So, few years back I started bingeing on cheetos and doritos. I'd buy one bag from the vending machine and I couldn't stop until I consumed at least 1 or two more bags. It was terrible. The vending machine was like a ghost haunting me nibbling away at the corners of my consciousness, forever intruding on my thoughts. Finally I went cold turkey and after about 6 days of total abstinence the haunting stopped and 6 days turned into a much longer period.

I never had any major relapses but I did have minor ones. Every time I had a minor relapse I could feel the urges strenghtening and the chips would come nibble away at my consciousness. "Hello Nancy! We're so delicious... you know you want us." Even now if I'm at a party I know I cannot eat one chip. If one goes in the mouth, the entire bowl goes in. So don't even put the first one in makes it much easier.

When I'm about to set foot in a triggering environment I walk myself through it a little. "Ok, I'm going to have strong impulses when I walk in this store, but I'm going to focus on the diet soda section and leave." Or I treat myself to that coffee with cream. Or if the impulses are really bad, I walk myself through it like this:

"If I eat these I'm going to want them even more than I do now when tomorrow rolls around. I'm going to mess up my blood sugar for days. Who knows how much damage is happening to me due to my blood sugar skyrocketing above 140? I'm 50 years old, I don't need more AGEs to wrinkle my skin, hurt my heart and make me old!"

Aversion Training

When I found out gluten was causing me problems I knew I was going to have problems not craving wheat products like bread, cookies, bagels and so on. So I consciously set out to train myself to find those foods repulsive. Every time I smelled or saw those yummy wheat-y, gluten-y things I said to myself "poison". It was pretty low key and subtle but the message sunk in. People can eat that stuff around me and all that happens is I feel sorry that they're eating poison. I don't feel envious or feel like I'm missing anything, except perhaps a bad bellyache and days of diarrhea.

Can you ever eat your triggers in moderation?

I think it takes a long, long time to destroy a deeply etched neural circuit. I'm not sure one can ever unlearn the binge behavior. Even though it has been years since I've binged on chips I still feel those tuggings. I don't believe I can eat just a few and stop if there's more in front of me. I think this might need to be for life.

As a binge eater, this might sound depressing, but I think that's a bit of our wiring that causes that reaction. You're going to find other foods to replace these binge triggers that you will enjoy to satiety that don't cause you to binge. In fact, you should make that your goal, it will help alleviate whatever sadness and mourning you have over eliminating those triggers.

Good luck!

Monday, October 26, 2009

What am I eating now?

A new edition of "What am I eating now?"

I'm still gripped my Sous Vide madness and nearly everything is coming out of my SV contraption. So I'm cooking all my proteins this way except the occasional omelet. Remember awhile back, that amazing omelet with hummus filing? Well, I found guacamole makes a really nice alternative and it's easy to buy it pre-made without any weird additives. Or I might have a little custard I've created in my SVC (sous vide contraption) with some raspberries. Doing custard is fun because I basically blend together the eggs, sweetener and flavors (lemon and vanilla usually) in about 15 seconds and pour it into a ziploc bag. About 20-30 minutes at 155 in the SVC and I have a pretty nice custard.

I get some 80/20 hamburger for 1.99 a pound at Trader Joes and it makes some great hamburgers. I do them SV for about 1-1.5 hours at 135-140. Then generally a quick sear, although lately I'm not bothering. I don't even shape them into circles any longer. Why? I don't put them in a bun! They get shaped into logs, like mini-meat loaf. I top with guacamole or ketchup... sometimes both. Oh yes, raw sweet onions!

I'm also eating a pork roast I did SV for 24 hours. Came out nice, but not my favorite SV thing to date.

And with almost every meat meal I'm eating this wonderful mixture of cooked tomatoes...

A 12-16 oz box of grape tomatoes
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic minced or pressed
Red Pepper Flakes (lots of them because you like it spicey, I just know you do!)
Fresh Marjoram (this is a staple in my garden, can't live without it now)
Olive oil
Optionally, finely minced onion

Combine in reasonable amounts and cook until the skins pop on the tomatoes. It'll taste good but gets better as the flavors hang out together for awhile. This makes a wonderful accompaniament to meat.

One word of caution on using certain herbs and spices in SV... meat doesn't cook at a very high temperature so sometimes the herbs can be a little too strong. I found this was true with rosemary and I've heard with garlic too, I imagine onions could be a problem too. Oh yes, and wine. You need to cook these things before adding them to your protein if you're doing a low temperature cooking.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sous Vide! At last I have found you!

I feel like one of those musicals from the 1940's where I just want to break out in song and sing my love.... to a water bath held at a very precise temperature, coddling a steak in vacuum packed bag. *sigh* Ok, I have finally lost it.

I first heard about this when I stumbled on this article: Under Pressure in the NY Times back in February of 2009. I'd also been gently introduced to the notion of very controlled temperature cooking from an episode of Good Eats and it was rather exciting! I looked into what it would take to do Sous Vide at home and I didn't really see a way to do it that I could afford.

Just in case you didn't press the link and read Under Pressure in a nutshell sous vide is cooking food which is packaged into vacuum sealed bags at very precise temperatures. Why? Well, you won't over cook and dry out food if the temperature doesn't get too high. It also keeps all the flavor inside the food, instead of allowing it to vaporize or leach out. The flavors become very concentrated, the meat stays moist and perfectly cooked. The only thing that doesn't happen is the Malliard reaction, which we are all fond of, which causes food to brown. However, you can do a quick sear afterwards.

At some point I stumbled upon a lower cost solution for at home sous vide. You can buy a PID controller, such as this one, and use it to control a crockpot, rice cooker or other device with a manual switch. It will cycle the power on and off to maintain a very steady, accurate temperature. After thinking it over for awhile I decided this would be a really neat birthday gift to myself (a few months late) so I bought the equipment I needed:

Basic cooking guide for proteins: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking

Descriptions and general articles:

Latest cooking trend is in the bag: sous-vide cooking evolves from practical to progressive while filling a void

Sous Vide Recipes

 I will add more as I find more!

First Experiments

My first experiments were with steak. I bought some relatively inexpensive sirloin steak which usually comes out rather tough in my typical sear and finish in the oven method. But this time I seasoned the steak, vacuum sealed it, and consulted this wonderful document that shows cooking times for pasteurizing various foods (i.e. how long and what temperature is needed to kill the bacteria). I only cooked it to achieve pasteurization and while the flavor was amazing it was a little tougher than I'd like. Next attempts I doubled the cooking time (about 2 hours) and it was absolutely perfect. As tender and flavorful as the most expensive cut imaginable. A quick sear is all it needs after coming out of the bath.

I've been using this daily since acquiring the equipment, making turkey, chicken, veggies, custards and using it to pasteurize raw eggs. This has definitely revolutionized my cooking. This method is very easy and the results are usually excellent. It definitely makes eating well daily a much easier task.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Right to your lab results

I received an email action request from the healthdatarights.org which I feel pretty strongly about. It's basically a call to action to have the Federal rules changed so that patients can have better access to their own lab test results.

As someone who cares very much about my health I always want to know the results of any lab tests I take. I even get them from my veterinarian for my cat. Doctors are busy and they miss things, like they missed that my TSH was going out of range. My vet did not tell my some of my cat's labs were abnormal, things that perhaps a supplement or change in diet could have forestalled. Then I can research these things and come back and ask intelligent questions.

Some states have additional laws about lab results, but at least we can make sure the Federal rules don't stand in the way.

Anyway, please go to HealthDataRights.org and endorse their declaration which reads:

A Declaration of Health Data Rights

In an era when technology allows personal health information to be more easily stored, updated, accessed and exchanged, the following rights should be self-evident and inalienable. We the people:

  1. Have the right to our own health data
  2. Have the right to know the source of each health data element
  3. Have the right to take possession of a complete copy of our individual health data, without delay, at minimal or no cost; if data exist in computable form, they must be made available in that form
  4. Have the right to share our health data with others as we see fit

These principles express basic human rights as well as essential elements of health care that is participatory, appropriate and in the interests of each patient. No law or policy should abridge these rights.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Update: What am I eating now?

I have done battle with the green monster's from my last post. Found 3 of them on my plant. I found a nice long poll, so I could dispatch them from the next county over, and knocked them down. I hope they can't crawl back up! Ok, I'm exaggerating a little. My first year I had to deal with them I did seriously get out a 5' long poll. *shiver* This year I got some tong out and used them. Only dispatched one, the other two I knocked down and I'm hoping they get lost in the wilderness and die of starvation.

My thyroid levels have fallen drastically, judging from my temperature and various symptoms, which is a really good way to figure out how your thyroid is doing by the way. So not sure why, my pharmacy has been giving me a new brand of generic, maybe that's the problem. So anyway, the weight simply won't budge despite some pretty severe dieting.

I've been keeping everything VERY low carb and pretty low calorie too (after my brief foray into higher calorie and subsequent weight gain). I have a protein shake in the AM (low carb of course). I was using whey but found it gives me the same symptoms I get when I have casein: Post nasal drip, sneeze-y feeling, nose blowing... I call it feeling "milky". So I have some egg protein and pea protein on order. We'll see how that goes. I'm really fond of these morning smoothies. I usually add instant coffee granules and perhaps some hazel nut flavored sugar-free syrup.

This morning I made coconut flour pancakes. They looked beautiful but were a little bland. I think they needed some salt. I topped them with hot raspberries, made from frozen, a little sweetener added. The way I make these is I mix about 2 Tbl of coconut flour with about 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp baking powder. Try to get the lumps out before adding the wet stuff. Next I crack an egg into that and work it in, adding water until it has the proper consistency for pancakes (sorry, haven't ever measured). With coconut flour you might want to let it rest a bit and add more water if it needs it. Coconut flour is thirsty stuff and can really absorb the water.

I recommend Aloha Nu coconut flour. I don't know if you'll find stores that carry it locally, I always get it over the Internet from Netrition.com or SimplyCoconut.com.

I'm usually having a steak at lunch which I cook with my usual method (sear then finish in the oven). My tutorial is here.

Dinner time has been either salad or fish! Yes, I am finally learning to cook fish. Something I've always been somewhat intimidated by. I saw Rachel Ray do an egg coating on fish and then fry it. I did that and it was very good! Basically I used an egg and a splash of coconut milk, beat together well. Coated the fish and tossed it into the pan with some hot oil on the bottom. The coating actually had a little crunch to it on the edges. I did try something new last time, I poached the fish in coconut milk and spices with a little lemon juice. For spices I used a Kaffir lime leaf (traditional Thai), some chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper. It tasted very good, very Thai like.

Salad is the usual quickie of pre-washed baby lettuce with herbs (from Trader Joe's). I cut up some avocado, throw in some chicken breast, maybe add some olives (I'm a freak for olives). My obsession with dehydrated onion really comes out here. I use a lot of them. They give the salad a lovely crunch. And sometimes I chop up some nuts and sprinkle them on. Then I pour on some oil, usually olive or peanut oil, and splash on rice vinegar and toss. I never get tired of this!

Costco has big containers of dehydrated onions for a good price.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What am I eating now?

No... not eating this horrid green thing. I have nightmares about these things!

Well, drifting a little further from Paleo at times. I've started using Whey protein for shakes. They certainly are delicious and a nice break from my usual left-overs or eggs with fish sauce. I got reminded of the "perfect cold chicken" recipe I posted back in 2008 and made another one of those. The broth is so awesome.

I've been in kind of an eating rut lately. Eating a sort of Asian cabbage salad with either chicken or shrimp daily. I use slightly sweetened rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, dehydrated onions and sometimes throw some avocado in there too. It's great and super fast to make.

I've also been on a pork spare rib campaign. They're 1.99 a pound at Costco and come in really huge containers. A typical package is about 7-9 pounds. So I've been experimenting with various rubs and roasting them in the oven (250 degrees) for a looong time, until they start to fall off the bone. About 6 hours. Then I make up a sauce of ketchup, sweetener, vinegar, onion powder. I think maybe some pickle juice would work good in there too. I should probably use tomato paste instead of ketchup to keep it lower carb.

Speaking of tomatoes, my tomato plant is producing despite my general neglect of it. I really need to get out there and looked for dreaded Tomato Hornworms... *shiver puke* They come every year and I have to overcome my strong repulsion to deal with them. I think I can blame my worm issue on my Mom. She used to pick them off her tomatoes and squish them with her foot. One time one splattered all over my legs (when I was a child). I must've been traumatized by that. :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Baba Ganoush Update

Just made a batch without the Tahini and I must say I like it a lot. So you can save some $$'s and skip the Tahini.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Better than Hummus -- Baba Ganoush!

I love Hummus but it has legumes which I think aren't so great for me. During my Hummus period my arthritis really flared up. So I went off in search of something more Paleo and someone recommended Baba Ganoush. It has all the same ingredients but is made with eggplant instead of chickpeas.

Here's my latest recipe:

1 - 1.5 # Eggplant
Tahini (5 Tbls or to taste)
Lemon Juice (1/8 - 1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp citric acid (optional but really good!)
2 regular sized cloves of garlic
Salt -- to taste

You can optionally peel your eggplant first and de-seed it if you want. Depends how much work you want to do. I suppose it is slightly more attractive, paler color, without the skin. But I suspect there are a lot of good nutrients in that deep purple skin. I leave the seeds in and the skin on generally. But I like to minimize my time spent cooking.

Slice the eggplant into circles. 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. Roast the eggplant for about 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven or until slightly browned. Turn once during that time.

Put the roasted eggplant into your food processor and process until pretty much a paste. Add the other ingredients tasting as you go.

You can use this in place of the Hummus in the Avocado/Hummus Omelet recipe I posted recently.

First time I made this I used 2 giant garlic cloves and that was too much. This time I cut it down to one giant sized clove and I think that would be about 2 normal sized cloves. I love garlic but I prefer the lemon and tartness to shine through a bit more than the garlic.

One of these times I'm going to try this without the tahini. I actually don't like the taste of tahini plain, so I'm wondering if it really is adding anything to the Baba.

I never would have thought of adding citric acid (which comes from lemons) but it really does give it a nice flavor than just lemon juice alone. The video for Hummus from Dedemed.com suggested using citric acid. I found citric acid in bulk at the local Henry's (health food store). You can also buy it from Wine making supply stores, or online.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hummus Avocado Omelet

Straying a little away from Paleo, legumes not being allowed, I have a luscious new treat.
Makes one generous omelet which keeps me full for 4-5 hours.

2 Large eggs
Fish Sauce (or Soy... but recommend Fish sauce)
1.5 - 2.0 oz of Hummus (whatever brand you love)
1/2 Avocado
[Optional] Spring onions or green onions, something mildly onion-y

Step 1:

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk briskly with a fork. Add a little fish sauce (1-2 tsp) and add about 2 tblsp of water. This thins down the omelet so it'll spread out wide, like a crepe.

Step 2:

Heat some oil in a pan and let it get nice and hot. Pour in your egg mixture and let it spread out and entirely cover the bottom of the pan. Let it cook and set. I usually gently push the cooked part back and let the uncooked part flow through. Once it gets mostly set I flip it (over something easy to clean in case I miss my flip).

Assembly Required

Step 3:

Carefully slide the omelet out of the pan onto a waiting dinner plate. Put the hummus in the middle of the omelet/egg-crepe and then dice up your avocado and add it. Sprinkle with mild, sweet onions. Wrap the sides of the innards and enjoy!
Ready to Eat

Fish or Soy Sauce?

I have to say that fish sauce is vastly better for this than soy. I think soy would be too over powering and fish sauce works very well with eggs. You can find fish sauce almost anywhere nowadays, in the regular grocery store it should be in with the Asian foods, right next to soy sauce. Or you can buy it in big, vastly cheaper bottles at any decent Asian market.

In Thailand the street vendors there make an omelet similar to my basic egg crepe I make here but sometimes they put peanut sauce on it.

Anyway, in case you're repulsed by the idea of fermented fish let me reassure you it is very mild tasting and you don't really taste the fish at all, just a sort of flavor that should be very familiar to you if you enjoy Thai food... a touch of salt, a bit of umami. It really makes eggs come alive.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chicken Soup

I got quite sick in the early part of February. It started as a nasty sore throat, the worst I've ever had, then developed into a nasty sinus infection. After suffering for over a week I saw my doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics to attack the sinus infection. I've had issues with clearing sinus infections in the past so I didn't want to go through that again.

Anyway, after I got to feeling better (I felt like a truck hit me) I decided to make some chicken soup. I've never really liked my soups in the past but this one came out just fine. I was still sick so I didn't want to work too hard.

Equal parts Celery, Carrots and Onions, chopped into soup-sized pieces.
Fat for cooking the veggies
Chicken (I pulled left-over rotisserie chicken off the carcass and used that)
Chicken broth -- Store bought, didn't have any made. Enough to cover the veggies and chicken and a bit more.
Herbs ( I used sage, thyme and a little basil)
Garlic: A few cloves either chopped well or pressed.

Optional: I used some left over compound butter (Garlic and Marjoram) to saute my veggies in a second batch of soup I made. This turned out even better!

Cook veggies in fat until they get as soft as you like. I don't like crunch in soup personally. Add chicken. Add stock. Allow to cook at low simmer about 20 minutes. If you use raw chicken that should be fully cooked by then.

This makes a hearty and filling soup!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Asian Marinade (Bulgogi-like)

I've been buying flap meat from Costco. Kind of pricey at 4.99 a pound but it sure is delicious.

I made this marinade which I like to think is inspired by Korean Bulgogi.

1/4 Cup soy sauce (or Wheat free Tamari)
1/4 Cup water
1-2 tsp seasame oil
1 tsp of onion powder
The equivalent of around 2-3 tsp of sweetener (sugar, honey, splenda, whatever)
3-4 cloves of freshly crushed or chopped garlic
6 or so slices of fresh ginger (don't bother chopping or peeling)
Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Put the beef in the bag with the marinade and let it sit for at least a few hours. I usually take my 2-3 pounds of beef and chop it up into 4-5 oz servings and divide the marinade between two bags, along with the meat. Then one goes in the freezer for later. The other, I start using the meat from after it has had a bit of a soak.

I cook this meat about 2 minutes on each side in a pan of the stove top. The marinade will pretty much evaporate so after the meat is done, I add a bit of water to the pan and let some of the water boil off until the marinade is reconstituted. Then I pour it on top of the meat, or perhaps over a vegetable side dish.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Coconut Flour Crust

I have been making a lot of desserts lately for holidays and parties and my usual low carb, Paleo-ish choice is almond meal. However almonds don't really agree with me all that well and I've never been all that crazy about how the crusts turn out. So on a whim I thought to try coconut flour, which I had bought online. The brand was "Aloha Nu". I've heard bad things about certain coconut flours which you can buy in health food, I think the brand was Bob's Red Mill. It is orange colored (from what I've heard). I can't imagine why coconut flour would be orange. Anyway, I've only used Aloha Nu and it seems to be pretty good stuff.

I have worked with coconut flour before, it is quite challenging stuff. It absorbs moisture like nothing I've ever seen and can turn into a crumbling, dry sponge that sucks all the water out of your mouth, if you're not careful. So I had my doubts about using it as a crust. However I do love to experiment!

So I experimented and I'm actually quite pleased with the result. Out of the oven it was a bit crunchy and I can only describe it as flaky, almost like a wheat crust. When I put the filling in it lost the crunchiness but still retained it's shape nicely and had a great taste and remained flaky. It's only oddness was it expands in the mouth. But I didn't mind, it just lent to that flaky texture feeling. I love the little bit of salt added, I think it makes a big difference in the taste of the crust.

Unfortunately I can't give exact measurements on some things because I just added them until the texture was right, but I think I can tell you what to look for.

1 Cup of coconut flour (Aloha Nu)
Lard -- right out of the fridge
2 Tbl Butter -- Room temperature is ok
Salt -- 1/8-1/4 tsp
Sweetener -- about 1/8 - 1/4 cup depending how sweet you like your crust

Put coconut flour, sweetener and salt in your food processor and whiz until mixed.

Now start to add lumps (roughly 2 Tbsp) of lard at a time. I also added about 2 Tbl of butter, because I love the taste. Whiz.

Continue adding the cold lard and processing until the dough just begins to look like it will soon want to clump. Don't put too much in! You really want to be able to pour it into your pan and spread it out easily and press it into place. If you add too much, the dough will be too sticky.

After placing the dough and patting it into place beat an egg white until foamy and paint the crust with it. This will help it get crisp and waterproof it a bit. Try to use the entire white.

Bake the crust at 350' for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

I have to say Alton Brown inspired the idea to use lard instead of butter. He used it in his wheat pie crust recipe (along with butter) saying that the lard has a higher melting point and helps keep things flaky.

Update:  Be sure to bake this crust before filling, like you would a graham cracker crust.  The egg provides a kind of waterproof seal (sort of) and it should help keep the filling from soaking in too much.