Ethics and Pot Roast

This summer I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I picked it up because I was fascinated with the idea of living off the land for a whole year, not that I could ever imagine doing it myself. As I read more and more I had this odd sense that Barbara was preaching to me, nagging me and admonishing me for not being like her and her family. Her tone carried this “I am better than you”  attitude and I began to resent her condescending words.

I find myself in the unique position of having many opportunities to provide myself with healthy and local sources of food. I realize that not everyone can have backyard chickens, or plant their own garden, or visit their local famers market. But I can only tell my story as it unfolds and the choices I make, and hope that I always come across as grateful and humble.

Whew, now that is out of the way…. J. used to work for a big “beef company-who-must-not-be-named” here in Colorado. He worked in their corporate offices. We had a first-hand look into the world of meat processing and packaging. It totally changed the way I felt about beef and my relationship to it. I couldn’t continue to buy into this corporation that produced such mediocre product and filled the cows with corn, hormones and anitbiotics (neither of which are good for the cows or you and I).

So we made a choice that I recognize is not available to everyone. We bought a 1/4 of a cow from a ranch located just 15 miles from our house. In the late spring we drove out to the ranch to meet the people who were raising the cows in their pasture. The cows were peacefully roaming the through the grass, a beautiful stream with spring run-off rushed by the cotton wood trees. No feed lots, no cows crammed into small spaces with manure and mud. When the time came the cows would be taken to slaughter and the meat would be aged for 21 days. The meat was then packaged by a USDA inspected company and hand delivered to us by the lovely people who own the ranch.

I can honestly say you can taste the difference, and not in a Boulder Hippy Organic Yoga way. The beef is richer, more tender, intense in its texture and flavor. It is a win-win situation. Not only do I help out a small family farm in my local area, but in return I get beef that has been raised humanely and tastes far superior to anything I have ever had. (To my vegetarian friends and family I understand your concerns and convictions, and I respect your choices)

If you find yourself with the opportunity, I highly recommend supporting your local rancher and community by buying locally.

This weekend I made a pot roast from an English Roast that was part of our 1/4 cow purchase. It was amazing.

Published November 1, 2010.   From Cook’s Illustrated.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1(3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast , pulled into two pieces at natural seam and trimmed of large knobs of fat
  • Kosher salt
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2medium onions , halved and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
  • 1large carrot , chopped medium (about 1 cup)
  • 1celery rib , chopped medium (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1cup beef broth , plus 1 to 2 cups for sauce (see note)
  • 1/2cup dry red wine , plus 1/4 cup for sauce
  • 1tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1bay leaf
  • 1sprig plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Sprinkle pieces of meat with 1 tablespoon salt (1½ teaspoons if using table salt), place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. 2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add carrot and celery; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, ½ cup wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme sprig; bring to simmer.
  3. 3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, tie each piece of meat into loaf shape for even cooking.
  4. 4. Nestle meat on top of vegetables. Cover pot tightly with large piece of foil and cover with lid; transfer pot to oven. Cook beef until fully tender and sharp knife easily slips in and out of meat, 3½ to 4 hours, turning halfway through cooking.
  5. 5. Transfer roasts to cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Strain liquid through mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Transfer vegetables to blender jar. Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then skim any fat off surface. Add beef broth as necessary to bring liquid amount to 3 cups. Place liquid in blender with vegetables and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer sauce to medium saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.
  6. 6. While sauce heats, remove twine from roast and slice against grain into ½-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to large serving platter. Stir chopped thyme, remaining ¼ cup wine, and vinegar into sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half of sauce over meat; pass remaining sauce separately.

Eggs a Miracle!

Well maybe it all it takes is a bit of complaining. Two fabulous farm fresh eggs from my backyard. If you wake up early enough they are still warm when you collect them. It seems so sad that we are so detached from our food source that an egg seems like a foreign occurrence. We should be collecting an egg once a day from here on out, and as soon as the other chickens are old enough we will be collecting up to 4 a day.

Poached Eggs

2-4 Fresh Eggs (the fresher the better, but does not necessarily need to be from your backyard)

1-2 tsp of vinegar

Over medium heat bring 2 to 3 inches of water to a boil/simmer in a skillet. Pour in vinegar, 1 tsp per cup of water.

crack single egg into liquid measuring cup, be careful not to break the yolk. Pour egg carefully into water. Repeat with the rest of the eggs.

Turn off heat and cover. Wait patiently until the yolk has set to your desired hardness.

J. likes the yolk to be mostly set, but still a bit runny. 7 minutes or so.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over top

Mrs. Clemmerbottoms “Almond Joy”

Sometimes it seems like I just can’t satiate my sweet tooth. When I am hooked on carbs I am a sugar junkie. Metformin makes me less inclined to eat sweet treats, but my brain still wants to end a perfect meal with something sweet.  The other night as we were craving our sweets J. say to me….. Almond Joy! I gave him a look as he proceeded to explain…….

Low GI Almond Joy

1-3 small portions of a 70% cocoa chocolate bar (if you can find it with almonds already in it. More power to ya)

1 tsp of Coconut Butter for each portion

1-3 almonds

Warm coconut butter in microwave for a couple of seconds until warm. Scoop out and onto chocolate, top with almond.

Brilliant I say! You don’t want to eat a lot of coconut butter because it has a lot of fat, but coconut butter is kinda like peanut butter. As in, the flesh of the coconut has been pureed until it becomes thick and spreadable. It is nutritional, melts in your mouth and has no sugar. You can buy coconut butter at natural food stores, look over by the other nut spreads. It is a bit expensive so be prepared.

Chocolate has been shown to have some good health attributes, and it seem to me that if you are pairing your chocolate with enough fat and the sugar content is kept low enough, that a few pieces now and then might actually be beneficial.

Hope you enjoy your “almond joy”

Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps

Today I went to the grocery store, and as I was picking up my receipt the coupon machine spit out a coupon just for me: Pamper Diapers. Now I have never ever bought anything close to a baby item, not even baby powder. So my nose did a scrunch as I tried to figure out just how they think they can pin me so well. We live in a strange time.
Originally this recipe calls for a pork loin that you cut into chucks and process in a food processor. But this summer J. and I bought a quarter of a cow and with it came 37lbs of ground beef. So I am always looking for interesting and fun ways to incorporate the large amount of ground beef we have. There is a tad bit of sugar and rice, but it is nominal and necessary. I also included Cellophane noodles (made from mung beans) to give it some texture . You can omit this if you want. This recipe was quick, easy and had just enough heat to spice up this cold January day.
Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
  • 1lb of ground beef (preferably grass fed organic)
  • 2 1/2tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 oz. package of dried Cellophane noodles
  • 1tablespoon white rice (see note)
  • 1/4cup low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
  • 4 scallions sliced
  • 3tablespoons juice from 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1head Romaine lettuce , washed and dried, leaves separated and left whole

Instructions

  1.  Heat a sauce pan of water until simmering. Turn off heat and drop in noodles and let set for at least 20 minutes. Drain noodles.
  2. Heat rice in small skillet over medium-high heat; cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool 5 minutes. Grind rice with spice grinder, mini food processor, blender or mortar and pestle until it resembles fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds (you should have about 1 tablespoon rice powder).
  3.  Bring broth to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring frequently, until about half of beef is no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon rice powder over beef; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until remaining beef is no longer pink, 1 to 1½ minutes longer. Transfer beef to large bowl; let cool 10 minutes.
  4.  Add remaining 1½ tablespoons fish sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons rice powder, shallots, lime juice, sugar, red pepper flakes, mint, and cilantro to beef; toss to combine. Serve with lettuce leaves.

Zucchini and Bacon Frittata

Am I the only one that doesn’t like eggs? I swear I must be the only person on this planet that just can’t support a plate of eggs. I used to like them when I was small. There was a funny story of how I really wanted to eat something and I knew what I wanted  but I couldn’t remember the name of it. So my little three year old self tried to explain what it was… “ok, it’s white and then it is still white.” My wonderful grandmother finally figured out my toddler riddle: Hard Boiled Egg, because the shell is white and then when you peel it , it is still white. Around the age of 5 I made the decision that I did NOT like eggs, much to the chagrin of my bewildered parents, who probably figured I would grow out of it. But I didn’t.

My husband does like eggs, he likes them so much that we have backyard chickens. So far we have had 9 chickens in the span of a year and no eggs. I repeat, 9 chickens no eggs. Our first experience with the chicken world almost (I am convinced) killed us, I believe the chicken rangler we bought them from might be a serial killer. But it turned out he cheated us and purposely sold us two roosters, and one died. Then one of my students asked if we would help raise chicks, on the week that we were most likely to receive our first egg, Ms. Matilda Ann Justice (dog) killed both of them. So now we have 4 new chickens braving the winter and not producing any eggs.  Sounds a lot like me! Get it? Lame PCOS joke! I always joke that maybe this spot in the world is a black hole for fertility.

So what do I eat for breakfast if I don’t eat carbs and I don’t eat eggs. Long story short…nothing. I don’t have time on weekdays to eat breakfast, but on the weekends I usually put together a healthy snack to tide me till a regular meal. But being that someday soon I will be swimming in about 4 eggs a day… and that everyone in the world seems to like eggs……

Zucchini and Bacon Frittata

  • 1 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, sliced
  • Salt
  • 4-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • ¼ lb. smoked Canadian bacon or ham, diced
  • 6 eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar
Directions

Combine the zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and toss well. Set aside to drain for 30 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat in a large, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or ovenproof nonstick skillet. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, flipping and stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent. Remove the onions and return the skillet to the stove.

Transfer the zucchini to a clean kitchen towel and pat dry. Add the zucchini and Canadian bacon to the skillet and sauté over medium-high heat, until the zucchini is just tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the zucchini and Canadian bacon with a slotted spoon. Keep the skillet over the heat.

4. Beat the eggs and pepper to taste in a medium bowl until well blended. Fold in the potatoes, zucchini and Canadian bacon, and cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil to the skillet as needed to lightly coat the bottom. Pour in the egg mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook without stirring until the bottom is set, about 10 minutes.

6. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the top is set, 5 to 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes.

Place a serving plate on top of the skillet and carefull invert. The frittata should fall out of the pan. Cut into wedges and serve.

Turkey Barley Soup

The drive home on Friday afternoons is always glazed and unfocused. Some where at the end of the week during the hours of 3 or 4, my brain just shuts off. I left school feeling a bit  sick, tired, sore throat, spacey. So when I got home all I wanted was to sit on the couch and eat soup. So I present to you Turkey Barley Soup, the answer to the Friday Afternoon Blahs. Barley is a great grain to use while dealing with PCOS, it is low on the gycemic index and can actually help with insulin resistance.

 

Turkey Barley Soup

  • 2 to 3 cups of cooked turkey
  • 1 Tbs of olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup of diced greens (kale, collard, swiss chard)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup medium pearl barley
  • 1 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Directions
1. Heat oil in dutch oven or large pot. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until softened.
2. Add turkey to vegetables. Then add broth and water. Heat to a simmer.
3. Add barley, greens, bay leaf, spices and salt to taste.
4. Cook at a simmer for half and hour.

Snacks

We had left-over Coq Au Vin for dinner, so I have no new recipes. But I can tell you what my go-to snack is.

 

I am a teacher, which generally means I eat and pee on a bell schedule. I need to be up, dressed, functioning and at school before 7 am. I am not a morning person, and no matter how hard I try to rewire the system I just can’t seem to manage. Ever since I was in high school I get a twinge of morning sickness (maybe PCOS related?) so I generally shy away from breakfast. So my mornings look like a mad rush and a quickly made espresso shoved into a travel mug.

When I finally do get a chance to eat something there are usually at least 3 or 4 students in my room…ALWAYS. So I never have a chance during the day to sit down to a proper meal. But stuffed in my desk drawer is my pre-made snack bag, and I manage to munch on that whenever I get a chance. Nuts have been shown to actually help with PCOS and they are high in protein so they made the perfect snack for that satiated feeling.

Mrs. Clemmerbottom’s Snack Attack:

1 cup raw almonds

1 cup raw walnuts

1 cup raw pecans

2 cups roasted and salted pumpkin seeds (the green ones)

1 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup peanuts or cashews

1 package of Craisins or raisins,

1 package of dried apples or dried cherries.

So I just put them all into a big ziplock bag and have it ready at all times.

Occasionally I will have the foresight to bring something to eat, or if I squeeze my way between the giant hulks of teenage lunch-eaters I can find a salad. But most of the time I can’t be bothered and this at least can get me through the majority of my day.

Hungarian Goulash

Day two at school, the kids came in today. I already feel behind and overwhelmed, but I guess that is how it goes. My student won a contest, but I had to go get a W-9 and notarize my signature. But I made it home in time to make dinner. This is one of my husbands very favorite. You can serve it with a bit, and I do mean a bit, of whole wheat egg noodles but not too many if your are trying to watch your carb intake.

Hungarian Goulash (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • cup sweet paprika (we use spicy paprika, but it is REALLY spicy)
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 large onions, diced small (about 6 cups)
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick rounds (about 2 cups)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef broth, warmed
  • ¼ cup sour cream (optional, although I double it because we like the creaminess)
  • Ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle meat evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand 15 minutes. Process paprika, roasted peppers, tomato paste, and 2 teaspoons vinegar in food processor until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.

2. Combine oil, onions, and 1 teaspoon salt in large Dutch oven; cover and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften but have not yet begun to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (If onions begin to brown, reduce heat to medium-low and stir in 1 tablespoon water.)

3. Stir in paprika mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions stick to bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add beef, carrots, and bay leaf; stir until beef is well coated. Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides of pot. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat is almost tender and surface of liquid is ½ inch below top of meat, 2 to 21/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Remove pot from oven and add enough beef broth so that surface of liquid is ¼ inch from top of meat (beef should not be fully submerged). Return covered pot to oven and continue to cook until fork slips easily in and out of beef, about 30 minutes longer.

4. Skim fat off surface; stir in remaining teaspoon vinegar and sour cream, if using. Remove bay leaf, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve.


Coq Au Vin

This recipe is a bit labor intensive, but the results are satisfying. The meal is a one-pot, vegetables include carrots,celery, onions. Recipe was adapted from The Girl and Fig Cookbook

Coq Au Vin
Marinade:

1 1/2 cups red wine
3 sprigs parsley
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp soy sauce
6 chicken legs
3 chicken breasts (or 6 thighs)

Braise:
1 carrot, peeled and roughly diced
1 onion, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
6-8 black peppercorns
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups red wine
4 thyme sprigs
4 parsley sprigs
6 cups chicken stock

Saute:
1 1/2 cups flour
salt & pepper
8 oz bacon, diced
16 oz button mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp cognac (I used Calvados because that’s what I had)
2 cups red wine (or the rest of your 2nd bottle which will be about a cup and a half)
20 pearl onions, blanched and peeled or defrosted if using frozen

 

Marinade the Chicken for at least 24 hours.

Saute the vegetables in oil till soft. Add all the remaining ingredients from the Braise and cook until it is reduced to at least half.

Dry and coat chicken in flour and salt and pepper. Fry bacon, remove and saute mushrooms. Remove mushrooms and add dredged chicken to remaining grease. Place mushrooms, bacon and chicken in braise. Deglaze the pan with remaining wine. Pour into Braise. Cook in oven or on stove top until chicken registers 175 degrees.

 

Serve Hot. Traditionally it served over egg noodles or mashed potatoes, but since we are PCOSing I left them out.