Summertime Liver and Onions and Veggies

So, I love liver. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved liver. In fact, as time passes and I try more foods, I’ve come to discover that I am particularly fond of organ meat in general.

This fact has come in handy as I continue to live and eat Paleo on a regular basis: because many people find organ meats off-putting, they tend to be more affordable than your average cut of grass-fed meat. Now, in the interest of honesty, I will admit that I do not eat grass-fed, organic meat all of the time– I am about to start grad school (yaay!) and I’m not independently wealthy, which means I do the best I can. But the fact that I enjoy offal makes it possible for me to eat grass-fed and organic meat way more often than would otherwise be true.

I have become particularly fond of the meat from Happy Hooves Organic Farm. They have a booth at the Brighton Farmers’ Market, one of my favorite markets here in the greater Rochester area. Throughout the course of the summer, I have gotten delicious tongue, heart, and liver from them, and am eager to try more of their wide selection of ethically-raised options. All their animals are raised “in the fresh air and sunshine” with a soy-free and grain-free diet. If you are in the area, I highly recommend checking them out!

If you or any of your friends and loved ones are skeptical about liver, I hope this recipe will change your mind. It is overflowing with fresh summer flavors, and is sure to be a hit with one and all.

And, with no further ado…

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Summertime Liver and Onions

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  • Summertime Liver and Onions3-4 T refined coconut oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced
  • 2 bell peppers (I used one yellow and one red), julienne cut
  • 3 summer squash (I used 2 yellow and one green), cut into strips approximately 3” long and ½” by ½” thick
  • 1 T chopped fresh dill (if you must use dried, use 1 t)
  • 1 or 2 t chopped fresh oregano (1/2 t dried)
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil (1 t dried)
  • 1 beef liver, cut into strips
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat the coconut oil in a thick-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes while the onions sweat. Turn the heat down to low and cook until caramelized, about 45 minutes. While the onions are caramelizing, only stir them every 5-10 minutes. They are done when they have reduced significantly in volume and are golden-brown colored and sweet to taste.
  2. Turn the heat up to medium and add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms until all of the moisture that they release has evaporated.
  3. Add the bell peppers and sauté a few more minutes before adding the squash and fresh herbs. Sauté all the veggies together for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the liver, sea salt, and black pepper. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so.
  5. Remove from heat and adjust seasonings to taste.

Slow-cooker Rabbit and Veggies (and an account of my first slip)

Confession time: I slipped. It happened a week and a half ago, on a Sunday night. And it taught me a thing or two about the importance of vigilance and the profound impact that what I eat has on my energy.

So, my day job involves a lot of baking, and sometimes I get requests to make cakes for various occasions. Last Sunday, I made a cake for a friend’s celebration: as per her request, it was a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and raspberry filling. All went well through the preparation of the cake… I even spat out the nibble of frosting I tasted to make sure the flavor was right.

But then I was there, and everyone was eating the cake, saying how delicious it was, etc. etc. And I was there slicing the cake, smelling the cake. And I thought to myself, “Well, just a sliver won’t hurt…”

It did, though. One sliver became two, which then unfolded into a night of poor sleep and renewed sugar cravings. Ugh. Not to mention a headache that you wouldn’t believe.

I was back to Paleo the next day, and it was a pure delight. And then came… a road trip. With a friend. Who isn’t Paleo. At all.

It was a very important road trip: I went to go see the Hoosiers kick MSU’s ass in a nail-biter of a game of hoops. I had a blast, and I regret nothing.

In fact, I did pretty well on the trip. I brought a bag of healthy, real food treats for the drives to and from Rochester, and avoided the many refined sugars that taunted me. But no, I was not perfectly Paleo. I admit it, I ate a bratwurst at the game, and then a sub sandwich afterwards. However, I was able to find a Paleo-friendly breakfast, and have been back to eating real food ever since my return.

What were the other results of my grain and sugar slips? Well, I slept poorly both of the nights when I had wheat and sugar. I also had the first asthma attack that I’ve had since I quit smoking back in 2011. My energy was low, and my stomach felt yucky.

Lesson learned: Paleo is helping. Grains and sugars aren’t.

I’m taking another trip this weekend to Toronto, and you better believe I’m preparing myself better! I did some research and found a locavore, real-food, Paleo-friendly restaurant, and I already made dinner reservations. I will NOT eat any of the junk food at the game (yes, this is another basketball-related trip, this time to cheer for the Pacers against the Raptors… what can I say, I’m from Indiana, where basketball is the hub around which the rest of life revolves). I will take this as an opportunity to embody my commitment to health. And I will keep you all posted regarding how it went when I return!

One of the meals I made this week turned out wonderfully: I made rabbit for the first time, and felt so confident that I even made up my own recipe for it, despite my neophyte status in the realm of bunny cooking. And it was so delicious, I knew it would be the feature of my next post.

I got a whole rabbit for this process, and proceeded to cut it according to the directions in one of my favorite books, On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals. For anyone who is not familiar with this process and who doesn’t have a copy of On Cooking, the process is well-described on a variety of websites, including this one (http://honest-food.net/2010/05/19/how-to-cut-up-a-rabbit/).

And, with no further ado, the recipe…

IMG_6358'Slow-cooker Rabbit and Veggies

  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bunch beet greens, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 4 or 5 oz. grape tomatoes
  • 8 oz. bacon, cut into bite-sized peices
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 large shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
  • 1 head garlic, peeled, cloves left whole
  • 1 whole rabbit, cut into pieces (see link above)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Small handful fresh thyme
  • 1 quart homemade chicken stock
  1. Place the kale, beet greens, parsley, and grape tomatoes in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Fry the bacon in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high until crispy: add to slow cooker.
  3. Sauté the onion in the bacon grease until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue to sauté until the moisture from the mushrooms has fully evaporated. Add to slow cooker.
  4. Brown the pieces of the rabbit in the same pan, just a few minutes per side. Add to slow cooker.
  5. Season the veggies and meat with some salt and pepper, top with the thyme, and pour in the stock.
  6. Cook, covered, on low for 3 ½ to 4 hours. Remove the thyme before serving.
  7. That’s it! Enjoy!

Beef and Bacon Stew with Veggies

As you all may or may not know, I live in the blustery city of Rochester, NY, which is located on the shivery shore of Lake Ontario, just a few hours’ drive from Toronto, ON. Honestly, it is considerably more like southern Canada than it is like NYC (though the city is what many of my friends back in the Hoosier state inevitably think of when they hear I live in New York). Even when the bi-polar effects of global climate change are accounted for, we basically get a good 7 or 8 months of soup-and-stew weather each year.

I don’t know what it is, but sometimes nothing seems quite as warming a nourishing as a big bowl of hearty stew.

And so it was that yesterday, when I was contemplating what I wanted to make a big batch of for the night’s dinner and several of my lunches throughout the week, I decided that stew was definitely the way to go.

At first, I was pretty convinced that I wanted to make venison stew. In fact, I’m still pretty sure that that’s something I want soon. However, on short notice, all the venison that I was able to locate was tenderloin meat. Now, if I’m having a steak, tenderloins just about rock my world. However, they are not optimal for a stew: the best stew meats are cuts which are higher in fat and collagen, which enable the meat to become even more tender when it is cooked for a long time over a low heat, rather than less tender the way a tenderloin would (it would just dry out and basically be a waste of money, effort, and a delicious steak).

And so it was that I went with a lovely, well-marbled grass-fed sirloin steak. Grass-fed meats tend to be gamier in flavor than those from grain-fed animals, so not only is it healthier, it also is closer to the flavor that I was hoping for. Still not venison, but damn, this stew turned out good regardless!!!

Regarding broth: homemade broth is always, always superior, and it is so easy to make. However, I don’t always have some on hand, and I didn’t have time to make any yesterday: I confess, I ended up buying some. So, here’s the thing: I was absolutely appalled by how many of the broth options in the store were made with variations of sugar!! I was eventually able to find one that didn’t have any scary or sugary ingredients, but the whole process simply reaffirmed to me that I have to make up a big batch of stock soon to have readily available in my freezer. Be careful of what you buy, and read the labels!

This stew turned out absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have been any happier with how tender the meat was or how balanced the flavors were. Of course, soups and stews can be infinitely variable, so feel free to substitute the vegetables and herbs that you have on hand for those called for in the recipe: in my opinion, it’s always better to be flexible than to waste food!

Beef and Bacon StewBeef and Bacon Stew with Veggies

  • 2 lbs. grass-fed organic sirloin steak, tenderized by pounding and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. uncured, nitrate- and nitrite-free bacon
  • 2 tablespoons EV olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch-long pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 t coconut flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sweet potato, washed and cut into ¾” cubes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 bunch green kale, stems removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • One 14 ½ can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups beef or vegetable broth
  • 12-16 oz. fresh mushrooms (I used a mix of portobella and shiitake), cut into thin bite-sized slices
  1. Season the sirloin with sea salt and black pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until it is crisp over medium-high heat. Allow the bacon to drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Crumble it when it is cool, and set aside in the refrigerator.
  3. Add the olive oil to the bacon drippings. Brown the sirloin steak in batches: place browned meat in a large slow cooker.
  4. When you are done browning the meat, sauté the onion in the skillet until it is fully translucent. Add the carrots and garlic and continue sautéing for a few more minutes. Then, sprinkle on the coconut flour and sauté for one more minute before transferring to the slow cooker.
  5. Add the bay leaves, sweet potato, thyme, parsley, kale, tomatoes, and broth to the slow cooker and stir gently to combine.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 4 or 5 hours.
  7. Add the mushrooms and bacon: stir to combine. Continue to cook on low until the steak is tender and fully cooked, about 2 more hours.
  8. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Enjoy!

Re: Paleo Breakfasts (with recipe for Almond Crusted Flounder)

Of all the things that have changed in my approach to eating since I transitioned to eating Paleo, the meal that has changed the most drastically is breakfast.

It is sad (to me) but true that I had been in the habit of drinking my breakfast by way of a high-protein shake almost every day of the week. And almost every time, I would think of the lyrics to Alix Olson’s spoken word piece “I Believe,” in which she proclaims (among other things) that “I believe too many women drink their meals.” (I was bummed to discover that there were no Youtube videos of her performing that particular piece to share with you all, so as a pretty darned good consolation prize, here’s a link to her song “Eve’s Mouth.”) I suppose that these “breakfasts” did what they needed to, in that I lasted until lunch with a modicum of nutrition in my system, but they were not fulfilling.

Previous to the breakfast beverage era, my breakfasts were (as they are for many people) high-carb affairs involving lots of toast, cereal, pancakes, waffles, bagels, and/or apple fritters. Oh, how I love an apple fritter… (Note to self: develop a Paleo-friendly apple fritter recipe.)

And none of those items are even remotely Paleo. Not even a little bit.

So, what do my breakfasts consist of nowadays? Usually, it is either a poached egg or some fish served alongside some leftover veggies or salad from the previous night’s dinner and a piece of fresh fruit. I will eventually try out some of the recipes for Paleo pancakes that I see posted to an assortment of Paleo cooking blogs, but so far I haven’t felt the need to. Damn, I’m enjoying these breakfasts! They feel good, they’re quick to make, and I don’t just make it to lunch, but I thrive through the morning with energy and enthusiasm. Huzzah!

And the best part is that my breakfasts rarely take more than 5-10 minutes of actual prep time, so I’m not finding it to be any sort of hardship on my morning routine.

Since today was one of my days off, I did a little bit more than my usual plain-jane (and yet still absolutely delicious) fish preparation method of just searing or broiling a piece of lightly salted and peppered fish: I added a simple almond “breading,” and it worked out beautifully! So beautifully, in fact, that I’m going to share the recipe with all of you… I hope you like it! (Also… this probably goes without saying, but feel free to serve this recipe at lunch or dinner, too!)

I served this delicious flounder next to some of the leftover veggies from the Mediterranean Chicken I made a few nights ago and a sliced pear... now that's a good breakfast!

I served this delicious flounder next to some of the leftover veggies from the Mediterranean Chicken I made a few nights ago and a sliced pear… now that’s a good breakfast!

Almond Crusted Flounder (serves 2)

  • 3-4 T coconut oil, divided
  • 3/4 c almond flour
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 egg
  • 6 oz. flounder fillets
  1. Preheat your broiler: if it has multiple settings, set it to low. Cover your broiler pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and grease it with 1 T of the coconut oil.
  2. Combine the almond flour, sea salt, pepper, and garlic in a medium-sized bowl or large plate.
  3. Whisk together the egg and 1 T of the coconut oil in another bowl.
  4. Dip the flounder fillets in the egg mixture, and then thoroughly coat with the almond flour mixture. Place on the prepared broiler pan.
  5. Drizzle 1 or 2 more T of coconut oil evenly over the fish: this will help the breading get nice and tender-crisp.
  6. Place under the broiler for 7-10 minutes, until the fish is cooked thoroughly and lightly browned. Serve next to some veggies or a salad and a piece of fruit (maybe even a mug of yerba mate, if you’d like), and enjoy your day! It’s already off to a great start!

Root and Kale Sauté

This is one of those recipes that you can make quickly, easily, and happily. The finished dish is as colorful as it is healthy (unfortunately, the picture below doesn’t come close to doing it justice, but you can trust me on this one). It makes a great main dish for a light dinner, and can also be served as a side dish: the choice is yours!

It requires little to no explanation. Please feel free to substitute your favorite root vegetables and greens for the potatoes, parsnips, and kale: as is true for most stir-fry-type dishes, this recipe is adaptable and forgiving.
Root and Kale Sauté

  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 purple potato, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 butter potato, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled, in bite-sized pieces
  • pinch cayenne
  • 3 cloves garlic, minched
  • 1 red bell pepper, in thin slices
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 T chopped fresh lemon thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat 2 T of the olive oil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until the water released from the onions has evaporated. Turn heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until transparent and sweet.
  3. Meanwhile, toss the potatoes and parsnip in the remaining oil with the cayenne, 1 t of salt, and 1/2 t of pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet until fully cooked and lightly browned (about 30 minutes), stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  4. When the onions are soft and caramelized, increase the heat to medium-high and add the garlic and bell pepper strips. Cook for a few minutes before adding the kale and the thyme. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the kale is cooked. Stir in the roasted potatoes and parsnip. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Acorn Squash with Fruits and Sesame Seeds

So, I was sick through most of the weekend. While I am no longer sick, I am still feeling the need for extra rest and some extra TLC.

As a result, I decided to cancel my usual Wednesday night plans, stay home, have a healthy, simple dinner, and go to bed early.

As has been true for several of my recent posts, this is a recipe that goes without much explaining: the direcctions are clear and free from confusing elements. Feel free to adapt the recipe somewhat, using whatever dried fruit suits your fancy, or substitute chopped nuts for the sesame seeds (following the proportions listed in the recipe).

I made this a complete meal by serving it along with some cooked wild rice blend mixed with some peas.

This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

Acorn Squash with Fruits and Sesame Seeds

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved, seeds and strings removed
  • 1 ripe pear, cored and diced
  • 1/2 c dried fruit of your choice (raisins, cranberries, cherries, or currents can be used whole: dates, prunes, apricots, etc. should be chopped)
  • 2 T sesame seeds and 2 T ground flax seed OR 1/4 c chopped nuts
  • 1/4 c shredded coconut (optional)
  • grated zest of 2 clementines
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T apple cider
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Place the squash cut side down in a baking pan, and add 1/4″ hot water to the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the pear, apple, dried fruit, seeds or nuts, coconut (if using), zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the fruit mixture and honey and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cider. Simmer, stirring often, until the fruit is tender, 3-5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven, carefully pour the water from the pan, and turn the squash cut side up. Fill with the fruit mixture. Bake until the squash is tender, 10-15 minutes more.

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans, and Walnuts

I’ve been busy because life is full and rich.

The downside: I haven’t posted in, like, forever. The upside: now that I’m posting again, you can be sure to get healthy and seasonal recipes that are quick and easy to make. Huzzah!

So, in the interest of making a post efficiently, I’m going to jump right to the recipe. I promise: future posts will include anecdotes. But this one won’t.

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans and Walnuts 

1 T olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 c low-sodium vegetable broth
6 cloves garlic, chopped
12 oz. pasta of your choice (I used wild mushroom fettuccine from Flour City Pasta. It was delicious.)
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese (optional)
1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts

  1. Put large pot of salted water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes: saute 10 minutes, or until vegetables just begin to brown.
  3. Stir in beans, broth, and garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. When water boils, cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain. 
  5. Gently fold the leek and beans mixture and the walnuts into the pasta. Serve sprinkled with feta or goat cheese, if desired.

(Adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe)