Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ah, life gets in the way while we are living

OK, I'm still alive...just got tied up with other things that took me away from this blog.  Thank you for everyone who checks out my food ideas and occasional ramblings.  And thank you UCLA girls flag football for helping UCLA beat the WSU Cougars last week - if it wasn't for your last minute participation WSU (my alma mater) would have walked away the victor.

My left knee is still in recovery mode.  Currently I'm experiencing a number of hyper extensions every day as I slowly try to walk down-grades or as my leg fatigues during the day.  My 3 year old J took off from me the other day at the store laughing and honestly stating "you can't catch me!"  Of course she came running back when I asked.

So, moving forward I am going to keep blogging about my food, my joys in life (right now my instant gratification is a bottle of vino from Trader Joes but the 90 degree weather in So-Cal this week was pretty good too) and whatever else I feel like.

During business school, back in the 90s, I learned setting goals that are measurable, achievable and challenging were keys to a successful plan.  So starting this week:

1. Food budget, including cleaning supplies, vino, potting soil/plants/veggie seeds, food while eating out and grass fed beef/organic chicken will be $100 per week.  I will measure this on a weekly basis.  We are just a family of 3 however with an egg allergic kid there goes one of the most nutritious food sources.  Plus grass fed gets expensive but it is so good.

2. Preferencial purchasing will be made in this order - California produced, American produced, Canada produced, Internationally produced.  I will not purchase apples from New Zealand when Washington Apples are available even if they are a higher price.  And no more French, Spanish, South American or Aussie wine.   This goal isn't just for food; it includes gasoline companies, future car purchases, clothing, shoes etc.  Stay tuned for more updates on this.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Workout of the day - Sat 9/10

I love living in southern cal.  Wednesday and Thursday were hot (for our standards), Friday we had a marine layer until noon-ish with a steady, cool ocean breeze and this morning I woke up to a thunderstorm with big raindrops falling from a rosy lit sky.

My knee therapy continues and after an incredible session yesterday I am very sore this morning.  Today's workout's goal is to get the range of motion back into my other muscles, start building some stamina and not overdue it.  You can add a burpees, mountain climbers, squats or jumps into the routine however I can't since my knee cannot physically do them (and have you ever tried one legged burpees?).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paleo tomato pasta sauce with grass fed meat balls

Anyone living in southern cal knows its been hot the last couple of days.  Normally I wouldn't cook in the kitchen with 90 degree weather outside but with time constraints tonight I had to come up with something quick and easy.  

Tonights dish we served with rice pasta.  My knee therapy has gotten more intense and the extra bump in carbs makes a difference in the way my body feels during the recovery.  Plus I'm rediscovering the joys of push ups, dips and abdominal exercises so overall my body needs a little more zip.

3 cans of roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 leek (or onion I just didn't have one)
2 lbs grass fed ground beef (90/10% works better than 80/20%)
3 garlic cloves
1 cup of red wine (Doon Buggy!)
Parmesan cheese
Oregano or Italian seasoning
Salt n Pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional but would add a nice bite to this dish)

1. Heat pot over medium high heat.  I like to cook this in my stock pot as it doesn't splatter as much on my white stove and countertop.  Once pot is hot (does water dance when dropped on the bottom) gently add 1/2 cup of olive oil.  The oil will get hot quickly so be careful.  Then pour in the three cans of roasted tomatoes.  I keep the lid partially covering the pot when doing this so it doesn't splatter on me.  No need to stir the pot (unless you really want to).

2.  Prep three garlic cloves.  No need to chop up.  Normally I would chop an onion but the only onion like item in my fridge were three leeks.  Leeks are a great substitute for an onion in this dish.  If you have never cooked with them before, just barely cut off the root end, cut off the leaves area (where it gets dark green) and slice open like the pic below.

3.  The leek needs to be run under water and peel apart each layer to ensure all the dirt is removed.  Chop up and add the leeks, garlic, handful of mushrooms, salt, pepper, 1 cup of red wine and oregano to the sauce.  Still no need to stir as the tomatoes will boil it in.

 4. Grate about 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese into a bowl.  Add some salt, pepper and oregano.   Then the 2lbs of ground beef (or veal, chicken, turkey etc).

 5. Using your hands mix the ingredients together.  Twist, knead, turn, mold until you are confident the flavors are evenly mixed.

6.  Now go ahead and mix the sauce.  It is still over medium high heat.

7.  Roll the mixed meat into meatballs and gently place into sauce.  The meatballs will be about 3/4 covered and thats OK.

8.  In about 10 minutes gently move the meatballs around so the tops get under the sauce.  Cook another 5 minutes and serve.

I forgot to take a picture of the adults plates before we chopped up the meatballs and mixed everything here is the 3 year olds's plate, plastic fork included.

The only thing I would change in tonight's meal is gone with a leaner beef.  The 80/20 blend would work great with something (mmmm crusty bread) to soak it up.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Take two - coffee/wine braised sirloin

So the London Broil braised meal was good...just seemed like a long time to cook and wasn't quite right.  So I ventured into the trusty cookbook and discovered "London Broil" is a generic name for a number of different cuts of meat.  Don't believe me, google it.  London Broil is probably a better steak to marinate and then cook versus trying to make tender through slow cooking.

So here is my take two attempt.

First the final product picture (brussels sprouts and chunks of smoked gouda).

1/3 bottle of red wine (fresh & easy's new Napa Doon Buggy 9.99 bottle)
4 cups of coffee (fresh & easy's donut shop blend)
3 tablespoons of butter
1 chopped onion chopped
3 garlic cloves smashed and diced up
2-3 lbs of top sirloin (Whole foods grass fed)
Sea Salt
1 piece of dark chocolate per serving

1. Take beef out of fridge and coat with sea salt and pepper.  I cover it in wax paper and let it sit on the counter for an hour prior to cooking.  Don't just grind the seasoning onto the meat, use your hands and grind it into the meat.

2. Melt butter in pot over medium high heat.

 3. Prepare garlic and onions while the butter melts.  If you notice there is now coffee in the pot...I had to brew a new batch after we drank the morning pot.

4. Add the beef to the hot pot and butter gently (I splattered butter all over my arm and hand by being in a hurry today).  Sear the outside of the meat.  Takes about three minutes.

5. Remove the meat from the pot.  Add the onions and garlic and cook over high heat for about a minute.  For anyone new to cooking, do you see the scratches in the cooked food in the bottom of the pot?  This is where a bunch of flavor is hiding.  Your goal is to scrape this cooked food off the bottom of the pot and into the liquid you add to the pot.  So slowly add the wine and coffee to the pot and scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate the flavor into the meal over a high heat.

 6. Place the meat back into the liquid.  Cover and adjust the heat to a simmer.  Cooke about 2.5-3 hours.

7.  Once the meat is tender enough to fall apart, remove from liquid.  Since we don't eat gluten I boil down the liquid about 2/3rds to make a thicker, more flavorful broth.

8.  To finish off I transfer a serving (about 1/2 lb) into a separate pot with enough broth to keep moist.  Over heat I then add a single chunk of dark chocolate which melts into the broth and meat.  The chocolate gives it a richer flavor but isn't necessary.  Once I perfect egg free gnocchi I will mix this meat and broth with the gnocchi and brussels sprouts.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Coffee Vino braising sauce - London Broil

Our coffee pot always has a cup or two left in it.  Not sure why we brew more than we need...guess we are waiting for that day when we don't have time to wait for another cup to brew, water to boil for the french press or to insert the plastic K cup and push on.

This week we officially joined the grass fed meat society.  The meat smelled better raw, the flavor was intense and even the left over fat looked healthier.

During the rush to make our meat purchases Monday, the three year old was on the verge of a melt down,  I asked the butcher for a london broil while I was looking at the short rib.  London Broils have their place in my kitchen, usually after a long time marinating and cooked over hot coals.  So when I realized my mistake this afternoon while digging through my almost empty fridge looking for the short rib I had no choice but to cook up the london broil.

This is not a quick meal.  Plan at least three hours.  Maybe save it for a rainy, wet, cool day when you need the stove to put off some heat and a food cooking smell good odor.  Tip of the day - wear an apron if you do not want to ruin your clothes.


2-3 Lb London Broil
Sea Salt
Fresh Pepper
Grease (I use bacon)
2 Tsp chili powder
1 Tsp Oregano
1/2 onion chopped into larger chunks
1 cup of coffee
1 cup of red wine (maybe more to cover meat while braising)

1. Arrange all your ingredients.  To avoid touching the salt and pepper grinders after touching the meat I grind enough salt/pepper into a small bowl and then season from this bowl.  Its easier to wash a bowl than the grinders.

2. Season the meat with sea salt and pepper.  Don't just drop/grind it on.  Massage it into the meat.

3.  Heat up the pan over a medium to high heat, add about a table spoon of grease (mmm bacon grease) and gently drop the meat into the hot pan.  After about three minutes flip over and cook for about three minutes.

 4. Remove steak from pan and gently poor in the wine and coffee along with the chili powder and oregano.  While still maintaining a high heat scrape the brown flavors off the bottom of the pan.  If you are using a non stick do not use a pair of tongs to scrape...I'm using 50+ year old Revere ware my grand mother gave me for college.

5.  Once the liquid heats up and the bottom of the pan feels smooth, add the steak back into the pan along with the onions.  There should be enough liquid to cover, or almost cover, the meat.  Don't have your three year old add the onions first cause the steak will sit too high (like this picture).

 6.  Cover the pan (forgot to get a picture) and turn the heat down low.  You want the liquid to slowly simmer.  Set the timer for 3 hours.  Check back to make sure the liquid hasn't boiled off.

7.  Around hour three check the meat's tenderness.  In our case we started eating it before I could photograph.  Check out the color difference from start to finish.

8. The pan juices will make a great gravy if you eat flour.  Since we are gluten free I cranked up the heat and reduced the remaining volume in half.  I should have tried to make gravy with almond flour.

 9.  I shredded the meat over sauteed cabbage and drizzled in the pan's gravy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Great weekend and thanks to the readers of my blog

Hey everyone.  Its Monday morning.  Two weeks ago I came off crutches!  My knee is improving and I'm now able to walk up and down stairs unassisted.  The physical therapist was explaining the doc's post surgery report to me on Friday and in addition to the meniscus tears and loose ligaments I have a stretched ACL from my knee being off center.  The doc cut some tissue that allowed my knee to realign correctly while relieving pressure on my ACL.  Now Therapy is strengthening my knee to overcome the natural pull of the hamstring and reteaching the muscle memory of the previous tweaked muscles.  Today I am off to buy a pair of five finger vibrams or other low profile running shoe...might as well relearn how to run correctly,

Today is a big day for the better half.  Last week she dropped a bombshell on me - she wants to go primal. As a family most of our dinners have been primal.  Breakfast and lunch (oatmeal, cereal, flour tortillas, crackers, pita bread) along with a daily one pump mocha from *bucks kept her from fully living the lifestyle.  I know she will do well.

So my challenge now is to improve the primal food options...I can live on bacon and bone broth but she is a little more picky in her selection.  I pre-ordered Make it Paleo: Over 200 Grain Free Recipes For Any Occasion by to improve my selection of food.  Still our biggest diet challenge is J's, my three year old, egg allergies.

Not a typical post for me.  If you clicked looking for a food idea here it is:
1lb 80/20 % ground beef
Mold into 4 patties
Place in microwave and nuke for three minutes each
This is an emergency back up plan when the hotel (nationwide chain) tells you on the phone there is a guest grill then changes their mind after you prepay on-line, arrive and check in...a rant for another day.

Blogger tracks the page views for my blog.  It doesn't track RSS feeds.  I'm sure there is a way to track those but I haven't had the time to figure it out.  I read most of the blogs I follow through my Mac mail reader.  Any suggestions from bloggers who know what they are doing...or if you read via rss can you please leave a comment so I can get an idea how many people may be following my blog via rss.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brussels Sprouts even a 3 year old will eat (and will impress your significant other)

Since knee surgery, almost six weeks ago, I have trouble sleeping past 3:30 am.  The pain meds, ice packs and knee brace (when it was on) helped but I keep waking up.  This early morning I planned on blogging about sauteed radishes.  I transferred the photos out of iPhoto into the blog and discovered I selected the brussels sprouts instead.  Maybe it's time for another cup of coffee.

Growing up overseas exposed me to lots of different foods.  While a kid living in the middle east our live in maid was Indian and made some of the most wonderful curries.  While out with my parents I remember eating fresh shawarma of the spit, fresh roasted nuts, skewers of lamb and veggies from the small sidewalk cafes.  Traveling back to the US always resulted in a lay over somewhere in Europe.  I still remember at 11 eating real carbonara fettucini with the raw egg on top in Rome.  Oh ya, some of the most incredible pizzas too from the little food trailers.

Then my teenage years were spent in Melbourne Australia (go Collingwood Magpies!)  How ironic, my favorite footy team's colors are black and white.  Australia is a melting pot of culinary delights.  My neighbors were Italian, Greek, Chinese, Czechoslovakian and Ozzy.  There was cream in the milk, the meat was grass fed, great public transportation (which was great when you couldn't legally drive till 18) and walkability.  The local shopping center had a supermarket for basic, I'll call it canned/carb sundries.  You then made the rounds to  the  produce store, a meat butcher, a bakery, a desert shop, a flower stand...all individual businesses that focused within their specific niche to finish off the shopping trip.  And the first few years we lived there weekend shopping was limited to 1pm on Saturdays and no commercial shopping on Sundays.

For six years I wore a shirt, tie, slacks and blazer to school.   90210 was the show I'd watch, on one of three commercial TV channels, to see what life was like in the US. I learned to drive on the left side of the road, ate fish and chips with lots of vinegar and wrote/spoke the Queen's English.  I also ate some of the traditional Queens food-banger and mash, scones with cream, marmite (or even worst Vegemite - sorry my ozzy friends), real mint jelly and brussels sprouts.  Brussels sprouts  were served gooey, overcooked and covered in butter.  The butter was the best part.

So fast forward to ten years later; I'm in my late 20's dating my wife and deciding to try a new vegetable in the kitchen, good old brussels sprouts.  After all it's part of the cabbage family and should be good for us.  But I don't want them to be soft, gooey, stinky mess.  So lots of butter later (I didn't understand the positive health benefits at the time), a little sea salt and moderate heat I discovered sauteed brussels sprouts.  It has taken a few more attempts to master and now it is a weekly staple in our house.

I prefer fresh brussels sprouts however Trader Joe's use to carry a frozen bag that would work in an emergency pinch.  In this recipe I cheated and used jarred garlic.  Somehow I forgot to buy fresh and the Trader Joe's jar is a good backup.

1/2 lb to 1 lb brussel sprouts (I get mine at Fresh and Easy)
Chunk (2 Tbsp) Good butter
1-2 cloves minced/squashed Garlic
Twist of sea salt

1.  Cut the hard bottoms off the brussels sprouts and remove the outer leaves (I do because it is the most exposed side of the veggie and if I don't I get the germ hebe jebes).  Rinse under cold water.  If the brussels sprout is large you can cut it in half.  The goal is to have a uniformed size for cooking.

2.  Put on a high heat.  I love this fry pan.  It is almost shot and the other night the handle started falling off.  But it has cooked hundreds of happy meals on multiple stoves, in multiple cities, over multiple grills, served to multiples of friends and family.

 3.  Add enough water to immerse the veggie about 1/4 to 1/3.  Let the water boil rapidly.

 4. Monitor the veggie.  As soon as the water boils off angle the pan over the heat and push the veggies to the side.

 5. Drop a big chunk of butter on the open side of the pan and let the butter melt into the veggies.  Be careful not to burn yourself.  And don't angle the pan too much otherwise the chunk of butter will slide into the veggies unmelted.  Add the garlic and twist or two of sea salt.

 6.  Place back on high heat, toss a couple of times with a flick of the wrist and grub up.

Comments, feedback, thoughts-Please.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Slow Grocery Shopping + 3 Year Old = Smile

The knee brace is off and the crutches are thrown into a corner of the garage!  My knee is slowly recovering its range of motion, or at least in my opinion slowly recovering, and I can almost walk up stairs like a normal person.  Coming down I still have to support my weight or take one stair at a time.

The physical therapist continues to praise me on my speed of recovery, my pre surgery leg strength and my attitude.  Now positive motivation is part of his job and I really believe he isn't saying it just to waste air. The problem is I am an over achiever, always have been.  It's ingrained into my system.  So I feel like I should be further ahead in my recovery, taking two stairs at a time in a kangaroo bouncing motion, not struggling by step five.  I want to run the local 1/2 marathon at the end of October (therapist and Doc both said a big NO), do burpees and ride my mountain bike...all things the therapist tells me will have to wait.  Today I'll get 15 minutes on the stationary bike which is huge considering my last run was March 22nd and I got injured the next day.

This week I got to drive for the first time in almost five weeks.  I felt 16 again, or actually in my case 17 (my teenage years were spent in Australia where driving is at 18 and came back to the US at 17) with the regained freedom of a key in the ignition.  So where did I go?  The local grocery store.  In my dirty truck.  Living by the beach in Southern Cal has it's is not the morning dew and the grim that covers your car within three days of washing it.

I would have preferred the farmers market but I cannot physically walk far, carry the produce or tow a three year old in a wagon.  In essence I need a cart for support as I limp around.  My little girl, J, was awesome.  Normally she will push the cart or walk...usually refusing to sit in the cart's seat.  This time she sat and sat and sat patiently as we cruised through the store.  Cruised is an overstatement - My speed was that of a snail.  My gait similar to a piston.  Push cart, step forward with good leg, followed by upward twisting downward bad leg.  Repeat.

Anyway moving on, Vons recently rebuilt their downtown store in our city and it Rocks!  Huge produce, meat and bakery (bummer) areas.  Great, helpful employees.  Starbucks of course.

J and I spent a good twenty minutes in the produce area.  We picked out, smelled, squeezed, manipulated the avocados, onions, red peppers, broccoli, radish, celery, strawberries and apples together until we found ones we were both satisfied with.  She tasted the cilantro, parsley and basil.  Unfortunately she didn't like the basil and told me we couldn't buy it.  She listened attentively while I told her about the produce, how it grows, the way we normally cook and eat it.

Most shopping trips are rushed.  Deadlines, work, dinner time fast approaching.  The injured knee forced this trip to slow down and what a great time it was stopping to smell the limes, and lemons, and leeks, and onions...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kelly's "Feel Better" Tomato Soup

Well it is three in the morning and I'm wide awake.   Since the knee surgery 24 days ago I've struggled to sleep more than six hours a night.  I have yet to figure out why my knee gives me trouble when I'm sleeping!  Going to sleep is no problem but I always wake up close to three with a swollen and tender knee.  It doesn't matter if I've stayed off my leg all day or had an active day with the limited chores I can accomplish.

Saturday night I started to feel run down.  Most likely the lack of sleep catching up.

Prior to being on a primal diet (pre March 2011), just two or three days with rough sleep I would have been sick with the sniffles, grouchy or physically exhausted.  Scientifically speaking I cannot provide anything more than my observations but my body feels more resilient to illness and adapts better to life's variations.  My three year old started preschool this summer so I'm getting plenty of germ exposure yet this is the first summer in a long time where I have not had a summer cold.

Now back to Saturday night.  So I am tired and around eight pm I develop a crazy craving for tomato soup.  At the same time I'm feeling blah my good friends little girl Kelly, a spunky little five year old red head, is developing a fever of 102. Unfortunately we live on different coasts of the US.  Dropping off an extra batch just isn't easy.  So I'll name this recipe after her so she knows I'm thinking about her.  On a side note, her fever broke the next day and she is feeling better.

Now I dislike raw tomatoes.  I can handle them in salsa, but to eat them like an apple, on a sandwich or burger - ick ick ick.  Needless to say, we don't have any fresh tomatoes in our house.  Even the smell makes me shiver with ickyness (is that even a word).

But I do like cooked tomatoes.  I buy canned, organic tomatoes.  Maybe this summer I'll try stewing some if I can get past the smell.  I really like Fresh and Easy's Roasted Tomatoes.  The price is right and the can lid is a pop can opener needed.

Normally I would use homemade bone broth and fresh basil.  But I needed something quick, at 8pm cooking with only one good leg.

2 TBSP butter or coconut oil (I used coconut)
3 cloves of garlic chopped
2 TBSP Italian Seasoning (I prefer fresh basil)
2 cans roasted tomatoes
1 can of chicken stock (part of my emergency earthquake kit)
1 cup of cream (or milk)
1 handful of shredded cheese

1. Oil in pot, medium heat and add garlic.  Cook for about a minute.  Add Italian Seasoning and mix into oil.
2. Open cans of tomatoes and stock - slowly add to oil/garlic/seasoning (may splatter!).  Turn heat up to high and once the liquid boils turn down to a simmer.  Cover.
3. Cook for 30 mins.  Add milk/cream.
4. Blend smooth.  I use an immersion blender to smooth out the veggies and stock.  If you don't have an immersion blender, #1 BUY ONE, #2 blend small batches in your blender until smooth.
4. Serve in a bowl, garnish with a handful of cheddar cheese and a few twists of black pepper.

Now cross your fingers I can get back to sleep.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yummy steak drippings cream cabbage - simple enough to cook on one leg and only one pan to wash up

The knee is improving however I'm still hobbling around on crutches.  I had an afternoon where I had to get back into the kitchen and digging around the fridge I found some sirloin steaks and half a head of cabbage.  The grill is not a crutch friendly endeavor so out came the trusty cast iron pan.

I coated the steaks with Fresh n Easy's steak seasoning, cooked to a medium/well finish and got ready to deglaze the pan with cream.  I normally saute shredded cabbage in butter and but decided to try making a cabbage dish using the steak pan drippings.  The pictures don't do justice for how good it was.  About five minutes into making the cabbage my wife yells into the kitchen "something smells good" - remember I'm cooking cabbage, a vegetable usually associated with lots of mayo or corn beef.

I know the steaks are a little crowded in the pan.  When you only have one good leg to stand on you don't have time to be totally sensitive to the meat's needs.

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion diced
3 carrots diced
1/2 head of cabbage sliced
1/2 cup of water
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream

1. Add butter, onions and carrots to pan.  Cook over medium heat until the onions start to brown.

2. Add cabbage to the pan (forgot to take a picture).  Stir vegetables around and add 1/2 cup of water.  Cook for five minutes - I usually don't specify cooking time and I know for sure it is five minutes because my three year old got a time out at the very moment I added the cabbage (and she was unable to help cook).

3. Now comes the best part.  Turn up the heat and add the cream.  The cream will start to rapidly boil and thicken up.  Don't be afraid of using heat - cream can handle it.  While you are stirring scrape the meat off the bottom of the pan to capture all that great flavor.

4. Plate the steak and cabbage.  I added a sharp, freshly grated parmesan cheese on the cabbage.

5. After woofing down the cabbage, use the steak to scrap up the cream on your plate.

And only one pan to clean up!