Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Beef heart and Turkey Bones

I am just coming off of a long run of near vegetarianism. I grew up eating a lot of meat, but then college meat and vegetarian roommates changed my ideas and my palette. Most beef made my stomach hurt and I really lost the taste for everything else. During that time I learned a lot about vegetarian nutrition--beans, whole grains, dark and leafy greens, etc. And I still cook that way much of the time and believe in value of whole grains and tons of vegetables.

But there comes a time in a woman's life when she just wants to eat meat, and that time for me is now. But I don't want to eat just any meat, oh no. No nice and simple chicken or hamburgers for me. I want beef heart and turkey carcass. That's right, you heard me. Beef heart.

I have recently started cooking from Sally Fallon's delicious, crazy, and somewhat terrifying cookbook, Nourishing Traditions. Fallon's food philosophy is that whole grains and vegetables are good for you, but so are properly consumed, organic, unpasturized animal products. She turns to both extinct and existing primitive cultures that live mostly off of animal products as examples. They generally enjoy good health and long lives that are nearly free of disease, especially in comparison to our culture. The book constantly rails against the "diet dictocrats" who have scared us away from butter, eggs, and red meat in our diets. Since I have started using this book I have been eating more butter, only whole milk yogurt, using half and half, and I feel damn good. Thank you Ms. Fallon.

So naturally, last weekend, when I was feeling up for meatloaf, I decided on the recipe from Nourishing Traditions that called for 1/2 pound beef heart. Organ meats are one of the book's favorite ingredients, prized for their high nutritional content. At first I shied away but with some helpful encouragement from my honey we decided to search out some beef heart.

Where, you might ask, does one get beef heart in Portland? At my new favorite store, Gartner's Country Meats, obviously. The place was packed, this being the weekend before Christmas. This is the biggest butcher shop that I have ever been in by far, with more kinds of meat that I could have imagined. My favorite part were the huge bones (cow, I'm assuming) still covered in meat scraps hanging on hooks from the ceiling. They were for the doggies. Lucky doggies. We waited for about 20 minutes and when it was my turn I bravely pushed my way to the counter and said, "Um, do you have beef heart?"

I'm sorry to have led you on dear readers, but we did not get beef heart that day. They did have it, along with the hearts, brains, and intestines of several other animals, but it was whole and frozen. It would not unfreeze in time to make dinner and even if it did, I don't have a meat grinder. The woman behind the counter said that I could pre-order things that like but that there is a five pound grinding minimum. So since then I have been contemplating whether I could really work my way through five pounds of ground beef heart. Maybe over the course of a year...And what does a whole beef heart look like? Would it be gross to grind it? How much does a home meat grinder cost? These are the things that keep me up at night.

So I won't share the meatloaf recipe because it needs some tinkering and some beef heart before it is blog worthy. I have a few other meat stores to try the next time I make meat loaf. Maybe they will sell me less than five pounds of beef heart.

As for the turkey bones, they are simmering in a big pot and by the morning I will have a nice, rich, health giving, delicious turkey stock to use for all sorts of things. I got my turkey bones from Tim's nice grandmother who roasted said turkey for Christmas dinner. As any girlfriend would do upon first meeting her boyfriend's grandparents, I asked for the carcass. And they gave it to me. Yes!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ginger Amaranth Shortbread

I baked these cookies last night and smuggled a few into the fabulous Mustaches for Kids event that I went to. My lovely friend and Mustache organizer S. Compton's words were," should blog about these." Yes ma'am.

I am a ginger addict. I eat the candied stuff from New Seasons like crazy. Sometimes I sit at my desk and look at the clock, thinking exactly how long it will be until I can go buy some, all the while imagining how delicious it will taste. I don't keep any at home because I would eat it all in one sitting and make myself sick. Seriously. Sometimes I just eat raw ginger. I just love ginger.

Luckily for me, ginger happens to be very good for the body. It has long been used as a cure for digestive problems in Eastern medicine. Fresh ginger can help with neaseau, motion sickness, indigestion, and cramps. Fresh ginger can be grated and steeped in hot water, along with honey and lemon juice, to make a tea.

But most importantly, it's damn tasty. Especially when combined with some whole grain flours, a little sugar, and a hell of a lot of butter. I had never made these cookies before last night and they turned out amazing on the first try. Buttery, rich, and gingery. The original recipe called for mostly white whole wheat flour, but I like to make my own flour blends so I used three different kinds. I've included my own version below.

Ginger Amaranth Shortbread cookies, based on the recipe by Heidi Swanson from her book Super Natural Cooking

cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup (or way more, if you're me) minced crystallized ginger

Combine flours, salt, and ground ginger. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined and crumbly. Gently stir in crystallized ginger by hand. Turn dough out on lightly floured surface, then knead dough once or twice to bring it together. Flatten in a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. It may still be somewhat crumbly, but chilling in the fridge helps the dough come together.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out to desired thickness and cut into shapes (I used a smallish glass to make circles). Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, or until bottoms start to brown. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the cookies.

*The original recipe says to freeze cookies for 10 minutes before baking, but I forgot to do that and they were just fine. Also, if you don't have amaranth flour and don't want to shell out for it, you can use all purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, or whole wheat pastry flour instead. And, parchment paper is the best. No sticking, no burning, less mess. Buy some, asap.

I did some ginger research in two of my books:
Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford
The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Love/Hate Relationship or Yummy Weekday Morning Muffins

I am mostly a morning person. I like the sunrise, I like morning light coming into my room, I like breakfast food, and I love coffee. What I do not like is the getting up part. I like being up, but pulling myself out of bed in the dark to go to work is pretty much the toughest thing I do, ever. Just ask my dear sweet boyfriend who coaxes me out of bed three or four mornings a week. I am a bad getter upper.

But, once I am up, I like to eat a good breakfast. I am a firm believer that breakfast is the most important, and perhaps the best, meal of the day.

It's a bit tough to eat a good breakfast if you have to be at work early in the morning. But if I don't have a good breakfast I really don't feel so good around 10am, so I've come up with a few standbys. Oatmeal is great but does get boring after a while. A peanut butter and jelly is good, too, but also gets a bit old. And I'm not 10 anymore. My favorite combo is a bready product, some yogurt, and some fruit. I can eat it in stages and it fills me up. And it's easy to vary so it doesn't get boring.

So I want to share one of my favorite bready morning eats. I love muffins, but most have too much sugar in them and are made with white flour--not very good for you and not very filling.

These muffins are made with whole grains, high in protein, and really tasty. The batter is forgiving so it is easy to add anything you want. Here is the version I am baking right now.

High Protein Buttermilk Muffins adapted from a Deborah Madison recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour *
1 cup quinoa flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
some cinnamon
some ground ginger
some ground cloves
one apple, finely chopped.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter your muffin tins. Mix dry ingredients and spices in one bowl and wet ingredients in another, then combine, being careful not to over mix. Batter will be lumpy and uneven--this is fine. Add chopped apples and mix just to combine. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 25 minutes.

You could also nuts, dried fruits, citrus zest, chocolate chips, whatever you want.

These are delicious and filling, and perfect to take to work.

*I loooooove whole wheat pastry flour. It is delicious. It does not have the heavy, dry taste that regular whole wheat flour has in sweet baked goods. Many people can't tell the difference in taste between all purpose white flour and whole wheat pastry flour. If you are unsure, use a mixture of white flour and whole wheat pastry flour to see if you like it. I love it! Love it love it love it!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

First Go Round

Hi friends. Thanks for visiting my new little blog. I have been keeping up with several other food blogs for a few months now, always thinking to myself how lovely it would be to have a stylish blog where I, too, could write about food. And then I realized, oh, I can. So here it is.

I hope this blog will be a bit of everything food focused. I want to share recipes, tell you what I'm up to in my kitchen, write about specific ingredients, and write reviews of food related books and Portland restaurants. I want this blog to be a practical and creative outlet for me, as well as a useful and entertaining resource for readers.

At this very moment I don't have a digi cam but I hope to get one soon. You can't really have a food blog without pictures, right? For the time being just bear with me and imagine how gorgeous all this food must look.

So, thanks for reading, keep doing so, and I hope you find some good things to eat around here in the future.