Friday, January 30, 2009
I've decided to get serious about this goal and start recording my findings. This blog seems like a perfect place to do that first, because it is convenient for me, and also because thai food usually falls within the realm of real food. Thai food is chok full of vegetables, small amounts of meat and seafood, healthy spices and herbs and good fats like coconut milk and peanuts. Fish sauce, a wonderfully nutritious condiment, is almost ubiquitious in Thai cooking. It is also relatively easy to get gluten free meals at thai restaurants becaue of the use of rice and rice noodles (though I would certainly talk to a waiter about possible cross contamination if that is an issue for you). Thai restaurants in America certainly use polyunsaturated vegetable oil for their stir frying and deep frying but if you are good about using healthy fats at home you can probably budget for the occasional Thai meal. If you cook Thai food at home you can make it super healthy with coconut oil, grassfed meat and wild seafood.
Without further ado, I give you Mission: Yellow Curry PDX, Entry 001. Kesone Thai Lao Bistro.
Kesone Thai Lao Bistro
2600 NE Sandy
What I ordered:
Lunch special yellow curry with eggplant instead of potatoes, medium spicy, with chicken. Also an order of fresh summer rolls.
Overall Curry Rating: 2
The restaurant is very nicely decorated with a pleasant waitstaff. It only took a couple minutes for my order to come. Looks like they have a full bar set up, in case you want Makers Mark with your stir fried eggplant some evening. Presentation/Packaging: 1
I actually would give this a 3 on presentation but a 1 on packaging. They piled the rice neatly, a nice touch, but it was surrounded by curdled, brown yellow colored vegetables. They also packed the lunch special in one of those clear plastic, hinged, to go containers which, as usual, broke and I ended up with half of my curry inside the plastic bag. Hot, liquid things should not go in those plastic containers! They just don't hold up!!
Portion Size and Price: 4
I paid 6.50 for the curry and 3.50 for the rolls. The curry was a perfectly decent size portion so I'm happy.
Flavor complexity: 1
It smells alright, but it just doesn't have much taste at all. Kinda turmericky. Yeah. Just say no.
Overall flavor: 2
I mean, I ate it all. It's still curry. But as noted before, it was curdled a bit, and had no complexity of flavor at all. The eggplant was well cooked (this can be a problem sometimes) but the chicken was almost overcooked. And the rice wasn't even that good - like they used "long grain rice" instead of jasmine or basmati.
Anything else I ordered: 3
The summer rolls were quite nice - hard to mess those up though. I've had more complex peanut sauces before, but it wasn't unpleasant in anyway.
I might give these guys another try - if nothing else was open anywhere else in town. I guess I would like to see how they handle stir fry and noodle dishes, but this curry does not bode well for them.
Friday, January 23, 2009
To fry potatoes:
1) Cook a goose and render out 1 pint of goose grease.
2) Spend years seasoning a cast iron skillet until it has a perfect patina of use and fat.
3) Spend months developing the perfect, highly nutritious seasoning salt.
4) Peel, chop and cook potatoes in aforementioned grease in aforementioned skillet with aforementioned seasoning salt.
I seasoned the potatoes, as I season all potatoes with my special, soon to be patented (not really, but maybe - know a patent lawyer?) chile grill salt. It is based on SN from Everything Free Eating's seasoned salt as well as about a million other recipes on Recipezaar. It is chok full of healthful spices and has such an unassuming flavor it can really be used anywhere. Sea salt includes many trace minerals not found in table salt. I use Real Salt, but other sea salts are just as good. Chiles and turmeric are full of antioxidants and cancer fighting nutrients especially needed when grilling or frying food. I use mostly New Mexico chile powder to keep the scovilles down, but a little Arbol or cayenne would kick up the heat nicely. I find Spice Hunter New Mexico chile powder at my local grocery stores. Kelp is a wonderful source of iodine and other sea minerals and doesn't add any noticeable flavors to this mixture. Onion and garlic are also known for their anti-biotic and anti-cancer properties. You just can't go wrong with this stuff!
Alyss' Chile Grill Salt
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons mild chile powder, or a mix of mild and hot powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons kelp powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Combine everything in an empty glass spice jar. Makes about 3/4 of a cup.
I served my potatoes with homemade sauerkraut, ketchup and cheese. Like I said, it was everything I wanted and more.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
My two main go-to meals when I've got no time are quesadillas and soup. Soup is filling, warming, nutritious and ever so forgiving. Kelly the Kitchen Kop blogged about the nutritional wonders of bone broth as well as gave us directions for making stock, and Carrie over at the Thrifty Oreganic wrote up some great "recipes" for throw together soup. I like to sautee up some onions and spices, throw the meat and broth on top and let that simmer while I change my clothes or take the dog for a walk. Then I'm a little more relaxed when it's time for dinner. With leftover rice, canned beans and decent tortillas in the fridge quesadillas take only minutes. I especially like both soup or quesadillas topped with sour cream and homemade sauerkraut.
Today, though, I want to share with you a brilliant fast food dish - zucchini fritters. I originally got the idea from the Joy of Cooking and have been making it for years. The great thing about this recipe is that really all of it, except the egg and the cast iron skillet, are optional.
Sliced or grated onion
Flour (white or whole wheat)
Salt and pepper
* Good to have, but optional:
Cooked brown rice and/or bread crumbs and/or crumbled crackers
Crumbled feta cheese or some other crumbled or grated cheese.
* Even more optional:
Dried green herbs (try herbs de provance or thyme)
Chopped fresh green herbs or green onions.
*Grate zucchini and toss with onion. Add in rice or cracker crumbs and salt, pepper and and any other add ins like cheese or herbs. Crack an egg in the bowl and mix around real good. How much egg you need depends on how big your zucchini is (and how big your egg is) - I would say one 1 cup of zucchini to 1 egg, but that is a very rough guestimate.
*When the veggies are all incorporated in the egg then add a tablespoon of flour. Mix around until thats incorporated and then maybe add another. I would guess I usually add 3 tablespoons of flour to one egg, but again, rough guestimate. If you don't add enough flour the fritter doesn't hold together as well, but it's still totally edible.
*Heat up your cast iron skillet (what? you don't have a cast iron skillet?? Then get off the computer and go buy one. At a thrift store. Seriously.) and melt some fat in it. I like bacon grease, or coconut oil. We're not deep frying here, just lubing up the pan.
*When the skillet is good and hot dollop the batter into the hot fat. When the bottom is nicely browned and the top starting to look dry flip it. Cook till the bottom is browned. Serve with ketchup, ranch, mustard, chutney or ice cream. Not really, but maybe... :)
These guys really take just a few minutes, and just a few ingredients. The eggs and zucchini are real food with real nutrition as is cheese if you use it. Brown rice, especially if cooked with bone broth, and the onions are also nutritious. Using white flour is probably actually nutritionally preferable in this case because we aren't doing anything to neutralize the phytates. It's only a couple tablespoons split up between the fritters so I don't worry too much about it. And we here at Real Food, My Way love frying things in good fats like bacon grease and coconut oil. We know we're getting a good nutrition boost when we cook food that way.
Remember - this "recipe" is really, really loose. Don't have zucchini but do have lots of leftover rice? Make rice fritters. Have leftover cooked greens? Greens fritters. Mashed potatoes? Mashed potato fritters! Don't forget to add the bacon to those ones! Tuna or canned salmon? Call them "cakes" instead of "fritters". No food in the house except frozen corn and an egg? Sounds like corn fritters to me.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
This recipe made 8 or 10 cups of stuffing but that turned out to be a goodly amount for the meal. It meant that we had lots to offer dinner guests that evening, and plenty of leftovers as well. Next time around I might even increase the bread cubes, add some more onion and just make a little more.
Of course, use sourdough or soaked flour bread if that is important to you. I used white bread, which is lower in phytates than whole wheat, and figured the whole meal was nutritious enough to call it good :)
Apple Chestnut Stuffing for a Goose
*7 cups cubed rosemary bread (or good quality white bread, but then add rosemary along with the other herbs)
*1 onion, diced
*3 celery ribs, chopped
*heart and liver from one goose, optional, or use chicken giblets. (I chose not to use the gizzard because it was so tough, but you might)
*1/2 cup butter
*1 tbs dried, ground sage, or 3 tbs chopped fresh sage
*1 tsp or so salt and pepper
*1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme
*1 tsp dried rosemary if you didn't use rosemary bread, or more fresh.
*2 granny smith apples, diced (recipe called for 2 cups, I just used two apples)
*1 can of chestnuts, rinsed and broken (can was probably 13 or 14 oz, or maybe 2 1/2 cups chestnuts. It was an odd sized can but the recipe could absorb considerbly more or less chestnuts depending on what you have avaliable)
*1/2 cup or so goose steaming liquid or chicken broth
Either dry the bread cubes over night or toast them in a low oven until quite dry and slightly golden.
Sautee the onions and celery in the butter until soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped giblets, sage, thyme and salt and pepper and cook another three to five minutes or until the giblets are cooked through. Add the apple and the chestnuts and cook another 3 minutes or until the apple is just starting to get soft.
Combine the vegetables with the bread and mix thoroughly. Moisten the mixture with a little goose juice and pack into a crock pot or large casserole dish. I cooked mine in the crock pot on high for about two hours, but suspect it would take just around an hour in the oven to make sure everything is hot and the edges are starting to get a bit crispy. Some recipes used an egg to bind everything together but I found that occasional mashing and stirring of the stuffing the crock pot allowed it to bind a bit so it wasn't just bread cubes mixed with vegetables.
Friday, January 16, 2009
I bought a 10 pound Schlitz goose from a local meat market. Turns out Goosey is not local at all but they claim they are free range. Schlitz does offer a no-antibiotics brand of goose, indicating that their "plain" geese are treated but I still suspect that geese are a bit more humanely treated than most other fowl. I paid six dollars a pound, but I found the same damn bird at another market for a dollar a pound less two days after I bought Goosey.
I did a lot of reading over the last few months to figure out how to cook a goose. I read this article in the New York Times from December 2008, and this one from NPR in December of 2007 and this one from the Schlitz people themselves. In the end I decided to use Julia Child's method from The Way to Cook. It's a steam-roast method that sounded like the best way to get the fat out in a useable form and still have a tasty bird to eat. Speaking of fat... the first step when wishing to prepare a goose is to buy a new bottle of dish soap. Holy dear lord are they greasy lil buggers! :) From the moment I opened the plastic bag until well into the clean up and leftover-eating process I was up to my elbows in goose grease. On the upside, my hands have never been so soft ;)
Here is Goosey right out of the bag. I removed close to two cups of fat pods from inside the cavity and from extra trimmed skin as well as the liver, heart, neck and gizzards. I trimmed the wing ends off (look at those long wings! This ain't no chicken - he can fly!) and used those and the neck to make some stock. The giblets went into the stuffing. I do think he's a handsome little, er, big bird.
The first step was getting Goosey ready for his steam bath. I pricked his skin, rubbed him with lemon and salt and then put him breast up in the roaster with a couple inches of water. I put the roaster on the stovetop, brought the water to a boil and let him steam for an hour. This method allows the fat to render out and both not drown the meat and still be useable. After the steaming I drained out the liquid from the roaster and got THREE CUPS of fat!!
After the steaming I cleaned out the roaster and strewed some vegetables in the bottom. Goosey went back in, breast down, along with a cup of goose steaming liquid and a goodly splash of wine to spend two hours roasting in the oven at 350. Then the lid came off, the goose got flipped and another half hour to brown, with a little basting for good measure. More fat and liquid came out during the roasting ready to made one heck of a tasty gravy.
I used goose fat and butter to make a roux and then used the liquid from the roasting, seasoned with garlic powder and onion powder to make a gravy. Along with the meat and gravy I served an amazing Apple-Chestnut stuffing and some of my apple-cranberry sauerkraut. The consensus among the dinner guests was that goose is darn tasty, but very fatty. You really don't get much meat off a goose, but what meat you do get is very flavorful.
The real bonus of cooking a goose is the amount of "extra" food I have. Three cups of fat, plus maybe five cups of cooking liquid and another half cup of fat from that, all the fat from the cavity to be rendered and the carcass for more stock and probably more fat. Wow! Oh, right, and all the fat I wiped up off my counter and knives and hands and cutting board... haha. Did I mention they are greasy little buggers?
And for the rest of my life I get to tell the story of cooking my goose ;)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Fats and Oils
Read labels of any store lard before buying it. Every one I’ve seen contains hydrogenated lard and preservatives that are not traditional in any way. Save fat from pork roasts and learn to render your own lard if you can’t find it from a farmer.
Healthy Meat and Bone Broth
Use your homemade stock to cook rice and beans. The gelatin and minerals make this cost effective vegetarian fare so much more nutritious. And it tastes delicious!
Eggs and Dairy
Buy the best quality eggs you can find. This is the first thing to find from a real farmer, you’ll never go back to store bought eggs again. Free range chickens that eat bugs and growing grass have vastly more vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids in their eggs. A good breakfast of eggs with bacon or sausage means that you and your loved ones will have the energy to get things done in the morning and not need to eat again until it truly is lunch time.
Learn about raw milk regulations in your state or region. It may be easier to get and/or cheaper than you may have thought.
Look for raw cheese and butter as well as grassfed cheese and butter in stores and online. Organic Pastures just came out with a pastured butter and Kerrygold Irish butter is always from grassfed cows. It's deep yellow color just screams about it's nutrition. Use regular store butter for cooking and as much eating as you can, but get these slightly more expensive products as real, nutritious treats.
Learn to make yogurt, villi, buttermilk or kefir. Culturing even storebought milk restores some of the nutrition that was lost through pasturization. You can use these cultured milk products in the Blender Batter recipes noted below!
Nutritious Plant Foods
Learn to make sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables. Sauerkraut is surprisingly easy to make, costs pennies per serving and goes miles towards improving digestion and overall health. Here are my easy directions for making sauerkraut, and a good article about why lacto-fermented vegetables are so darn healthy. P.S. I’m currently working my way through a quart of apple cranberry kraut made just like the instructions but with the addition of 2/3 of a tart apple, shredded and 1 cup cranberries, quartered, added to the cabbage before fermentation. Wow, so so good.
Master Sue Gregg’s blender batter pancake recipe. This recipe grinds whole grains in your blender with buttermilk, yogurt or kefir and soaks them over night to reduce phytic acid and make the grains more digestible. They can be made with any grain so are easily adapted to gluten free diets, can be made different flavors and can be made in big batches. Once cooked the pancakes or waffles can be frozen and reheated for a quick breakfast or lunch in the future.
Learn to shop seasonally for produce. Yes, this means eating kale and turnips and cabbage in the winter, but it also means eating tomatoes and peppers when they are cheap and taste good. Last summer I bought bell peppers at the farmers market for 5 for 3 dollars and they were delicious! This winter my mom bought one green bell pepper for 99 cents, and it was not very flavorful. It’s too expensive, and it’s just not worth it.
Winter vegetables lend themselves to roasting or creaming. Master the art of oven roasting root vegetables and you will never bemoan the lack of tomatoes in February ever again. Greens like kale, collards and mustard greens are so jam packed with nutrients it’s a crime they are so cheap. Learn to steam-sautee the greens with garlic and your family will thank you.
Learn to do some simple preserving like freezing or making berry jam to save some of the summer harvest. Frozen tomatoes cook up great, and you know exactly where they came from and just how cheap they were.
Watch sugar content and make sure sweets have nutritive value. My general rule is that if a recipe for a non-dessert item has sugar in it, I simply leave it out or at the very least halve the amount. Small amounts of maple syrup or honey can be used, but they certainly aren’t necessary. When choosing sweet treats for your family choose ones that have real food products in them. Ice cream is much better nutrition-wise than white flour cookies, and fruit can be a great dessert. There are lots of recipes for desserts that include nuts, fruit, maple syrup, molasses, shredded vegetables, eggs, milk and other foods that provide actual nutrition, not just empty sugar and white flour calories.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
When I graduated from high school I became a vegetarian as part of my exploration of eastern religious thought. The friends I made in the college dorms were all vegetarians and we had lots of good years learning to cook, exploring vegetarian cuisine and hosting lots of dinner parties. I learned to make Thai yellow curry, to enjoy whole grains like kasha and bulgar and how to cook spaghetti sauce for a party of 18.
I was never a very "good" vegetarian, though. I would get drunk and eat summer sausage, or get sick and "give in" to a can of chicken soup. I missed the flavors of meat, and felt that eating all that brown rice and tofu couldn't be the be all and end all of nutrition. Sometime during my junior year in college I found the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon at the health food store. I went back to the store three or four times to sit in their cafe and read the book because I didn't have the money to buy it.
The principles laid out in that book seemed to make so much sense to me. Sally Fallon and her co-author Mary Enig use the work of researchers like Weston A. Price and Francis Pottenger to lay out a healthy, traditional-type diet for modern Americans. Price studied the diets of groups who had never eaten "modern" food in the 1930s and discovered key components of all traditional diets. Pottenger conducted research on the effects of nutrient deficiency on health and disease. Both concluded that high quality meat, saturated fats, vitamin rich dairy and/or seafood along with nutritious vegetable matter comprised the most beneficial diet for humans. It simply made sense to me, despite my years of vegetarianism. Meat, fat, and dairy are high octane fuels, vegetables and grains, despite their many benefits, are mostly fiber and carbs.
During the next year I moved more and more away from vegetarianism. I continued to eat my brown rice but chose not to eat tofu anymore. Eventually I quit the ruse all together. I claimed that I was "giving up vegetarianism to become a hedonist". It was another year before I had my own kitchen to cook in how I wanted, but I certainly started down the path of hedonism that first summer. Hamburgers and fried chicken never tasted so good!
In the years since then I have learned more and practiced more cooking a traditional diet. I am still a long way off from an "ideal" diet, if there even is such a thing, but I like how I feel, I like what I eat, and I think it is as good as I can do right now. This blog will be an occasional foray into what's going on in my kitchen. I hope to post recipes, musings and goings on. I'll also show off some of my other favorite real food bloggers, 'cause there are a lot of them out there.
Happy eating, and go drink some cream!