Cauliflower Celery-Root Puree

I don’t talk about it much here, but I’m pre-diabetic.  If I’m not careful about what I eat in regards to sugar and carbohydrates and don’t exercise (which, if the truth be told, is my biggest problem), my fasting blood sugar, which I check every morning, will begin to creep up just enough to make me uncomfortable.  Stress will also play havoc with your blood sugar, and there’s been more of that in my life than I care to admit lately; needless to say I’ve been more than a little concerned.

So I’ve been doing a little experimentation and seeing just what drives my fasting numbers up and what keeps them nice and stable.  Alcohol, of course, is not good, so I’ve been avoiding it lately.  Sweet potatoes and winter squash are okay in very moderate quantities as long as I exercise; rice will make my fasting readings go up, naturally, but not as much as you’d think, which kind of surprises me.  The biggest culprit, though?  The thing that just shoots my blood sugar through the roof?  White potatoes.

We don’t eat a lot of white potatoes to begin with, but I guess I’m just going to have to avoid them all together for the time being.  It’s not really any kind of a hardship, but I feel I should let you know that my recipes are going to be more on the lower carbohydrate end of the spectrum and there will be no recipes using white potatoes or potato flour any time in the foreseeable future.

Which brings me to this recipe.  Mashed or pureed cauliflower has been a mashed potato substitute for pretty much forever in low-carb and paleo circles, and for good reason.  It fills that “comfort food” void many people experience when they cut potatoes out of their diet either by choice or necessity, and while mashed cauliflower will never taste like mashed potatoes, that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious, because it is.

We’d also taken a trip out to the local farmer’s market only January market last week; we showed up later than we normally do and there was very little left – we walked away with just some shallots and celery root, which is almost unheard of for us.  I’ve never cooked with celery root before, but I’ve certainly eaten it, mostly pureéd – so in with the cauliflower it went.  With lots of garlic.

Absolutely delicious – the garlic was a nice counterbalance to the mild sweetness of the celery root, and they both offset the strong cabbage-y flavor of the cauliflower quite well.  All in all, a lovely, homey, comforting, easy and delicious side dish.

Cauliflower-Celery Root Puree

Cauliflower Celery-Root Puree

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
  • 1 large celery root, peeled and cubed (about 1 pound)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the cauliflower, celery root and garlic in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are fork tender; drain well.
  3. Puree in a food processor with the ghee until smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 93 calories, 4.4g total fat, 10.2mg cholesterol, 105.9mg sodium, 529mg potassium, 12.5g carbohydrates, 3.4g fiber, 3.1g sugar, 3.2g protein

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Last week I asked my Facebook readers if anyone was interested in a slow-cooker pot roast recipe (since my Facebook status’ are automatically published to my Twitter feed, my readers there were asked, too).  The response was an overwhelming “Yes!” on all fronts.

I love a good quality piece of meat roasted in the oven, but there’s a great deal to be said for braising an inexpensive cut of beef in the slow cooker.  For one thing, it’s relatively cheap; for another, it’s drop dead easy.  Season the roast, add whatever aromatics/vegetables you want, add some sort of liquid, turn on the cooker and walk away for 8 hours.  A quick side dish or two later, and you’ve got dinner on the table with very little effort.

And it will be unbelievably tender and delicious…without any powdered soup packets.

This is a very basic recipe.  You can dress it up all you like – add vegetables, different seasonings, whatever you want.  Remember that you need a more inexpensive cut from the shoulder/arm of the animal – a boneless chuck or arm roast, or a blade roast.  These are the tougher, but more flavorful, cuts that do very well with long, slow cooking.  Depending on the cut, it will come out of the slow cooker fall-apart tender and may be hard to slice, but hey – that’s not necessarily a bad thing, now is it?

You can serve it as is, or get fancy and make a gravy or wine-based pan reduction out of the cooking liquid, which is just fantastic.  But if you’re of the “pot roast and ketchup” school – not that I’d know anything about that (ahem) – this is perfect with a generous serving of homemade ketchup.  Yum.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 pound beef arm or chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
Instructions
  1. Pat the roast dry with a paper towel and rub on all sides with the salt, pepper and basil. Place the roast in the slow cooker, and spread the onion and garlic over the top of the roast.
  2. Pour the beef stock around, not over, the roast and add the bay leaves.
  3. Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours, or until very tender. Remove the bay leaves, slice and serve with the jus from the crock,if desired.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 234 calories, 10.3g total fat, 101.3mg cholesterol, 758.2mg sodium, 674mg potassium, 2.4g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 33.1g protein

Hawaiian-Style Meatloaf

Okay, the name for this recipe is kind of lame.  But, to be perfectly honest, I had no idea what else to call it.  Pineapple-Zucchini Meatloaf?  Guaranteed to ensure your kids will NOT eat it (and maybe your husband, too).

Now, having said that, the name is the only thing that isn’t absolutely wonderful about this meatloaf.

I live in a house with two meatloaf-loving males – I could make a meatloaf out of ground donkey and they’d probably suck it down (and I have a few readers who wouldn’t be surprised if I did).  So I was pretty sure when I decided to throw a can of drained crushed pineapple that was languishing in my pantry along with some zucchini and bell peppers I needed to use before they were fit for nothing but the compost bin in with a couple of pounds grass-fed ground beef that they’d eat it.  But I was not really prepared for the reception I got – it was promptly declared The Best Meatloaf We’ve Ever Eaten.

Coming from these two, that’s saying something.

On my own behalf, I have to say that this is, indeed, a really good meatloaf.  The addition of the Maple Barbecue Sauce and gluten-free soy sauce helped give it that slightly exotic, Pacific Rim taste while keeping it a comforting and familiar.  It’s really worth the purchase of zucchini, crushed pineapple and bell peppers if you don’t have them lying around the kitchen.

Hawaiian Style Meatloaf

Hawaiian-Style Meatloaf

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, diced
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/print/Maple%20Barbecue%20Sauce.pdf” target=”_blank”]Maple Barbecue Sauce[/url]
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Cook the onion and bell peppers in the ghee over medium heat until the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Place the remaining ingredients in a large bowl; add the sautéed vegetables. Gently, but thoroughly mix with your hands until well-combined. Gently form a loaf shape in a 7″ x 11″ glass baking dish. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the internal temperatures reaches 160 F.
  4. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 353 calories, 17.3g total fat, 156mg cholesterol, 800.4mg sodium, 824.8mg potassium, 16.3g carbohydrates, 1.6g fiber, 12.4g sugar, 34.6g protein

Oxtail Ragout

Recently I was at Whitefeather Meats (I don’t recall specifically why; sometimes we go there just to harass those poor people) when a tiny little Asian woman came in and picked up a huge box that was waiting for her.  I’m a pretty nosy curious person, and couldn’t resist asking what was in it.

It was full of tongues and tails.

“I didn’t know I could do that,” I whimpered pathetically to Bunny, the owner, after asking the woman if she had a restaurant (no; it was all for her personal use).

I guess the point of this is we forget that in other parts of the world, where animals aren’t raised in giant feedlots in massive numbers, parts of the cow (or any large animal, for that matter) like the tongue, tail and liver are considered delicacies, simply because there’s only one of them on each critter.  We’re very fortunate that we live in a society where we can buy as many of these cuts as we might like in one fell swoop, especially when they are from pastured/grass fed animals.

And then we don’t.

I never get so many negative reactions to recipes as I do to those involving “variety meats.”  Americans – Canadians, too – are pretty squeamish about anything that’s not muscle meat (and yes, we’ll ignore for the time being that both tongues and hearts are nothing but large muscles themselves).  Which is really sad, because these are among the most flavorful, to say nothing of nutritious, parts of the animal.

Oxtail in this country is really the tail of beef – steers, to be exact, since even among farmers who raise their cattle on grass it is standard practice to castrate bulls destined for market.  It’s a particularly boney cut of meat, and since bone is living tissue, oxtail is usually classified as offal.  I won’t dispute that, but it’s not the same as eating liver – if no one told you you were eating the tail, you’d think you were eating a particularly delicious, silky, unctuous cut of muscle meat (assuming it’s been properly cooked).  However, like most offal, oxtail is quite nutritious, being rich in minerals (glucosamine, chondroiten, magnesium, glycine, phosphorus), gelatin and collagen, which are important for the health of your bones, especially your joints.

At any rate, not only is this dish, which I served over roasted, pureed parsnips (I’ll have to post that recipe some day), very good for you it is also very, very tasty.  And, prepared in the pressure cooker, relatively quick and easy.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can braise this in the oven at 350 F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  The rest of the instructions remain the same.

Oxtail Ragout

Oxtail Ragout

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons tallow or other fat suitable for high heat cooking, divided
  • 3 pounds oxtails, joints cut into 2-inch lengths and trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the tallow over high heat in the pressure cooker, Sprinkle the oxtails liberally with salt and pepper, then brown in the fat, working in batches if necessary. Transfer the browned oxtails to a plate and set aside.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of tallow, if necessary. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute.
  3. Return the browned oxtails to the cooker and stir in the celery, carrots, wine, beef stock, tomato paste, mustard, and bay leaf. Tie together the thyme and parsley with kitchen twine and add that to the oxtails, vegetables and liquid in the cooker.
  4. Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and increase the heat to high until the cooker reaches full pressure (15 psi). Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 55 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pressure to decrease naturally.
  5. Carefully unlock and remove the lid of the pressure cooker. Remove the tied herbs and bay leaf; skim any excess fat from the surface of the stew. Remove the oxtails and transfer to a plate; shred the meat away from the bones with a fork and return to the pressure cooker. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Serve over mashed potatoes or parsnips, and garnish with sliced green onion, if desired.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 421 calories, 15.4g total fat, 95.4mg cholesterol, 347.7mg sodium, 1243.5mg potassium, 8.9g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, 3.5g sugar, 51.9g protein

Avoiding the Flu

It’s cold here again today.  See?

Chillier in Podunk

For those of you who are metric, that’s -17 C.  BRRRRR!!

Of course, the “flu epidemic” is all the news right now and I, for one, am determined to avoid it if I can.  However, my preventative measures will not include a flu shot.

For one thing, in the last 20 years, with the exception of about 5 years ago when I caught it from The Young One, the only time I’ve gotten the flu is when I’ve gotten a flu shot.  Well, duh – you’re being injected with the flu virus (to say nothing of a nice dose of mercury – there’s nothing like good ol’ heavy metals circulating throughout your body, is there?).   According to Scientific American, flu vaccines are almost useless for the very demographics for which they are most recommended – the very young and the very old – and they’re generally not all that effective for the rest of us.

So, what am I doing?  Well, avoiding crowded public places as much as possible and dosing daily with vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, cinnamon, fermented cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil – both of the latter are available from Green Pasture Products and, if I’m not mistaken, are available via Amazon.com, as well.  The cod liver oil and butter oil aren’t cheap, but I’d rather spend a little extra money if means not coming down with what appears to be a particularly virulent strain of the flu; I’ve heard of people being flat on their backs for a week or more.

There’s also increasing evidence that homemade bone broths, rich with easily absorbable minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and trace minerals difficult to obtain elsewhere, are also effective in preventing colds and flu, so I’ve begun incorporating tasty beef and chicken bone broths into my daily diet.  They are particularly nice and warming on these very cold winter mornings, if nothing else.  Of course, a healthy diet rich in nutrient dense foods is also beneficial, so I’ve been incorporating more leafy green vegetables – particularly kale – and organ meats, as well as pastured eggs, into our meals lately.

So far, so good – we’ve been flu-free so far this winter, and according to the CDC it appears to be winding down.  One can only hope.

Have you had the flu this year?  If not, what are you doing to try to prevent it?