Sorry for my absence yesterday, but I’ve just been incredibly busy.  You may notice, however, that I did manage to get the March theme up, and since green is my absolutely favorite color, I’m quite happy with it.

But onward and forward.  Today what I have isn’t so much a recipe as a procedure:  how to make ghee.

Clarified butter and ghee are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing.  Clarified butter is butter that is melted and has the water and milk solids removed (and thereby removing the lactose and casein), leaving only the butterfat behind.  When prepared properly, clarified butter is more stable than standard butter containing water and milk solids – it has a higher smoking point and a longer shelf life.  (Supposedly, clarified butter will last for up to a month without refrigeration if it is kept in an airtight container, although my personal experience shows that to not necessarily be true.)

Ghee has quite a long history, as it has been used in Indian cooking for many thousands of years, and can be fairly expensive in stores.  It is merely clarified butter that is simmered for a period of time, allowing the milk solids to gently brown, giving the butterfat a slightly nutty taste and a lovely golden color – it is simply delicious.  It is also incredibly easy to make yourself, although you must watch it carefully so the milk solids do not burn.

And since the lactose and casein are (mostly) removed, it doesn’t bother me as much as standard butter does, allowing me to enjoy it occasionally.  Which makes Jan a very happy camper – I’ve missed butter more than I realized!

Serves: 64
2 pounds of butter yields 1 quart of ghee; a serving is 1 tablespoon.
  • 2 pounds unsalted butter
  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy, non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat and continue heating until foam begins to appear on the surface. You can skim the foam off, but it is not necessary.
  2. Lower the heat slightly, and simmer the butter for 45 to 50 minutes, or until all of the milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan and become brown, and the butterfat turns golden and has a slightly nutty fragrance.
  3. Line a mesh strainer with a triple-layer of cheesecloth, or an unbleached coffee filter, and strain the butterfat into a clean, 1-quart glass jar, taking care to keep the milk solids out of the ghee.
  4. Cool completely and cap tightly; the ghee will keep for many weeks if refrigerated.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 102 calories, 11.5g total fat, 30.5mg cholesterol, 1.6mg sodium, 3.4mg potassium, <1g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, <1g sugar, <1g protein.


Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy

Yes – chicken fried steak.

With gravy.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made chicken fried steak, which is really a shame because Beloved, The Young One and I all really love it.  But I thought once I’d given up grains and dairy that I’d never have it again, and that made me sad – chicken fried steak may be the state dish of Oklahoma, but we Texans are quite fond of it, as well, and it’s literally been years since I’ve eaten any.

But when we were watching Patty be cut up a couple of weeks ago, I was watching them slice our round steaks when a thought popped into my head.

“Hey, can you tenderize some of that?”

I’d no sooner asked, when they whipped out this contraption:

Meat Tenderizer

And before I knew it, half of our round steaks had been tenderized, and I was thinking about how to make grain-free, dairy-free chicken fried steak.  With gravy.

And all was right with the world.

The actual cooking of the dish went fairly smoothly once I’d decided how I was going to go about it.  Now, for those readers with nut allergies (hi, Keith!), I used almond milk for the gravy but you could use So Delicious ® Unsweetened Coconut Beverage, or even just dilute canned coconut milk with water and it should work just fine (I may use the latter option myself next time).  I will say that I wasn’t sure about the gravy when I tasted it by itself – it just doesn’t taste like a gravy made with milk (of course) – but once it was on the steak, it was all wonderful.  I really couldn’t have been more pleased.

This is neither low calorie nor low carb – I don’t think anyone would classify chicken fried steak as “health food” under any circumstance – but as an occasional treat, it is a delicious comfort food alternative for those of us who do not consume grains or dairy, either by choice or necessity.

Note:  if you want to sub the tapioca and almond milk with flour and cow’s milk, go right ahead – the recipe is pretty much the basic one for chicken fried steak.  With gravy.

Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy
Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy
Serves: 6
  • 2 pounds round steak, cut into 6 equal pieces and tenderized
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • few grinds black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond milk or other milk substitute
  • 2 cups tallow
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 2 cups almond milk or other milk substitute, at room temperature
  1. Melt the tallow in a large, heavy skillet over high heat; bring to 350 F.
  2. Stir the salt, pepper and tapioca flour together in a shallow dish. Whisk together the eggs and 1/2 cup almond milk or milk substitute in a medium bowl until well blended.
  3. Dredge the pieces of steak in the tapioca flour, shaking off the excess. Dip them in the egg mixture, then coat them again with the seasoned tapioca.
  4. Place the steaks in the tallow and fry until they are brown and crispy, and the steak is just cooked through, turning once. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and keep warm.
  5. Place two tablespoons of the remaining tallow in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk the two tablespoons of tapioca starch into the 2 cups of room temperature almond milk or milk substitute, then whisk the tapioca mixture slowly and steadily into the tallow in the saucepan. Cook, stirring continuously, until the gravy reaches desired consistency; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Plate each steak and spoon the gravy over the top. Serve immediately.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 440 calories, 21.8g total fat, 175.6mg cholesterol, 377.8mg sodium, 616.1mg potassium, 22.2g carbohydrates, 1.2g fiber, <1g sugar, 36.2g protein.


Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

As the voting for’s Best Healthy Eating Blog competition winds down, I am now a “front-runner” (apparently 7th place out of 20 makes me a front-runner) and have been asked to submit a short essay about myself and my blog (thank you SO MUCH for your help, Jen!!) which I’ll post here as soon as they tell me what format to submit in.

Aw, to hell with it – they’re getting a Word document.  I just hope they can read it.

This week, I’m going to talk a bit about something called The 80/20 Rule.  Popularized by Mark Sisson (sorry, Beloved, I know you’re upset with him because he hasn’t mentioned the contest), it’s the idea that if you eat “cleanly” 80% of the time, you can eat less desirable foods the remaining 20%.  For some people, that means not necessarily sticking to their diet when they go out to eat, for some it includes things like the occasional beer and pizza, and for a few it means potato chips, ice cream and candy bars.

Because I simply cannot tolerate gluten-bearing grains or cow’s dairy at all, for us it means things like using more natural sweeteners than we probably should and occasionally consuming legumes, white rice, corn and white potatoes.  The corn and potatoes are mostly seasonal additions to our diet – we eat them two or three times in the fall when they’re at their peak – and the white rice is almost exclusively an indulgence when eating at our favorite Japanese restaurant.  Legumes, mostly in the form of properly prepared dried beans, have become a recent occasional indulgence – but more on that in a couple of days.

Another part of the 20% in our household is indulging in the occasional non-local (but still organic and sustainably grown/sourced) food.  This weekend we visited a marvelous natural foods store in Akron and purchased squid, sea scallops and 3 large plantains.  The squid and scallops are on the menu for later this week, and the most ripe of the plantains became part of breakfast Sunday morning in the form of this delicious South American/Caribbean side dish.

Tajaditas Dulces de Plantano roughly translates into sauteed sweet plantains (tajaditas is the diminutive form of tajadas, which means “slice” or “slab”).  Rather than sauteed, these are fried in coconut oil but you can also use a combination of olive oil and butter if you prefer.   Make sure your plantains are very ripe, or the taste and texture of the dish will suffer.

Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

serves 3

¼ cup coconut oil
1 large very ripe plantain, peeled and cut in 1-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
kosher or sea salt, to taste

Heat coconut oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Gently toss plantain slices with brown sugar, then place into hot oil. Fry until the plantains begin to turn golden brown and the sugar begins to caramelize, about 2 or 3 minutes per side.

Drain plantains on a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 161 calories, 9.3g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 2.4mg sodium, 297.7mg potassium, 21.4g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 11.3g sugar, <1g protein.

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Texas Style Chili, Revisited

Remember how I said I was going to look at some of my old recipes and retrofit them to suit our new way of eating?  Turns out, going through the cookbook files, I already had begun.  And with the logical choice.

In January 2009, I not only posted my recipe for chili, but damn near wrote a treatise on the subject.

At the end of Goodfellas when Ray Liota’s character enters the Federal witness protection program and is relocated far from his home (one presumes NYC), he laments that he asked for spaghetti with marinara sauce at a restaurant and received egg noodles with ketchup.

I can relate, for the first time I ordered chili in Ohio, I received tomato soup with ground beef and beans in it.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been too terribly surprised; I honestly thought I’d gone beyond surprised when connecting through the airport at Cincinnati and saw that these nutty Ohioans eat their version of chili on a bed of spaghetti.

Hey – we Texans take our chili very seriously.

I went on to discuss not only what should and should not go into chili (yes to beans, no to ground beef and poultry), but what to eat with chili (yes to corn tortillas, cornbread, saltines and Fritos, no to flour tortillas and any cracker that’s not a saltine).  For the most part, I stand by my rules for what goes into chili – yes, even the beans, although I don’t always include them and when I do they’re properly prepared (pre-soaked in an acidic medium) and in far fewer quantities than pre-paleo/primal/real food/whatever you want to call it.  But the accompaniments have sadly gone the way of the dodo, although my Savory Almond Flour Muffins are a fine replacement for cornbread.

At any rate, autumn is upon us in most areas of the country and it’s a fine time to revisit what is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best damn chili outside of the great state of Texas.  And I have to tell ya, adapting this recipe was hard work, folks.

I took out the beans.

Texas Style Chili

Texas Style Chili

serves 6

2 pounds chuck or round steak, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons beef tallow
3 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium roasted green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large Poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 medium jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
4 to 6 cups cups beef stock, preferably homemade

Heat the tallow in a large, preferably cast iron, Dutch oven or stock pot. Season the beef with salt and pepper, and brown in the fat. Add the onion, cooking until the onion begins to soften. Add the peppers and garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, paprika and oregano, cooking until fragrant, another 1 – 2 minutes.

Add enough of the stock to cover the mixture well; bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if the liquid is boiling away too quickly.  Once the meat is fork tender, continue to cook, uncovered, until mixture thickens, 15 to 20 minutes.

Garnish with cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole, as desired.

Nutrition (per serving): 456 calories, 30.7g total fat, 104.3mg cholesterol, 647.4mg sodium, 1287.1mg potassium, 12.4g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 35.2g protein.

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Southwestern Chicken Salad

Yesterday I mentioned that I’d been conflicted about which of two recipes to post – since I chose the pancake recipe, it left this one by default.  It may not be slap-your-mama good, but it’s still darn tasty.

I love chicken salad.  If you have leftover chicken, it’s super quick and easy, and it’s just so versatile; you can add just about anything to it.  And with the rare exception, I’ve pretty much stopped using boneless, skinless chicken breasts – they’re versatile too, yes, but they’re also pretty tasteless and can become dry and chewy far too easily.  I’ve discovered a profound love of whole, roasted chicken and it’s leftovers, which are every bit as versatile as those dry chicken breasts.

This dish was the result of several factors:  leftover roast chicken, leftover corn and black bean salsa (from everyone’s favorite recipe – Lenguas! :P), the need to use up some homemade mayonnaise before it went bad, a half a lime that was on the verge of becoming a shriveled half a lime, a leftover half of a tomato, and no leftovers for lunch from the previous evening’s dinner.   I was really pleased with it, and it made enough for Beloved and I to have it for lunch two days in a row – it was even better the second day, hence the instructions to refrigerate it for at least an hour.

Southwestern Chicken Salad

Southwestern Chicken Salad

serves 4

2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup corn and black bean salsa
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup cilantro, loosely packed
1/2 cup diced tomato
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk the mayonnaise, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne and lime juice together in a small bowl until well blended.

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, salsa, and onion. Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and stir until the chicken is coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

Divide the chicken salad between four plates; garnish with the tomato and cilantro and serve.

Nutrition (per serving): 405 calories, 30.6g total fat, 87.5mg cholesterol, 302.2mg sodium, 410.2mg potassium, 12.9g carbohydrates, 3.4g fiber, 3g sugar, 21.2g protein.

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