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!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Herb crusted pork loin so easy you can cook it standing on one leg

On July 21 I had knee surgery.  What was suppose to be simple turned slightly complicated.  In the end I sustained two arthroscopic snake bite scars and an additional two inch, unplanned, scar.  My inner meniscus, think cushion between the femur/tib fib, was 40% removed.  The outer meniscus was discovered to be torn and luckily sewn back together.  And two ligaments, which help stabilize the knee, had the slack taken in.  I've been waiting for surgery since April and glad it is over...however my recovery is really just beginning.

Recognizing I would be an impact on my wonderful wife, N, the night before surgery I grilled six rib eyes (scotch steaks for my aussie followers), about ten pounds of veggies, a packet of bacon and found a batch of homemade bone broth spinach soup in the freezer.  Last thing I wanted her to worry about was cooking for me.  And after all, I knew I'd be up and back to normal within a few days - wishful thinking.  (If you are interested in hearing more about my knee, read on.  Otherwise scroll down to learn about the awesome herb crusted pork loin I cooked while supported by crutches.)

In a way, knee surgery has been a nice treat.  Fresh cup of coffee when I wake up in the morning. and on demand during the day (always said please).  Breakfast/lunch/dinner in bed.  Even better, breakfast in bed with my 3 year old while watching Cars or Beauty and the Beast on the laptop.  Not being responsible for cleaning up the kitchen, loading dishes, grocery shopping.  Being driven around since the pain meds make me a little loopy.

After being cooped up in the house for ten days I got to go grocery shopping with the family.  I hobbled into the store on my crutches and asked the clerk if I could use the electric cart.  My 3 year old jumped on my lap/good leg and we cruised around picking up the items from our list.  Cruising down the "expires today" sale area I found a two pound pork loin for three bucks and change.  I was craving a meat dish with a crunchy, salty coating.  And a pork loin is so easy I knew I could do it while balancing on one leg.

Ingredients: (Serves 4 if you add a salad or other veggie)
1.5-2lb pork loin
2 cloves of garlic chopped
Parmesan cheese (I used pre grated tonight)
Italian seasoning mix
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Spicy mustard
1/4 stick butter
1 head of cauliflower

Based on my mobility I did not scientifically measure this recipe's ingredients.  Trust your gut and just wing it.

Preheat oven to 425.

Start heating an oven safe pan on the stove over medium heat. I'm using my trusty cast iron  Add the butter and after it melts pour one swish around the pan of olive oil.

Mix Parmesan, garlic, italian seasoning, few twists of salt n pepper together in a bowl.  Don't skimp on the salt.

Mix olive oil and two sandwich size squeezes of mustard in another large bowl. Coat the loin in this liquid.

Transfer loin into large bowl with dried ingredients. Using your hands massage the dry ingredients onto the pork loin. Once your are confident it is coated enough transfer the loin into the pan with hot oil/butter.  

Cook in pan about two minutes and gently turn over when the crust gets crusty.

About two minutes later place in the oven.  I recommend you insert a meat thermometer prior to transferring to oven.

Bake for five minutes while you prepare the cauliflower.  

During the five minutes break apart the cauliflower into small trees (as J calls them). 

Remove Pan from oven, add cauliflower around loin.

I coat the cauliflower with olive oil when it's in the pan but you could toss the cauliflower on olive oil prior to adding to pan. Quick twist of salt n pepper.

Bake another 20 minutes or until the meat thermometer reads 165. Take out of oven, remove and rest meat for five minutes. 

Leave cauliflower in pan,  mix around in the oil and seasonings and put back in the oven while the meat rests for five minutes.

Remove from oven, slice pork and serve with cauliflower.  Fresh grated parmesan made the cauliflower superb.  

Don't be afraid to scrape the drippings off the bottom of the pan.  You could remove all the cauliflower and deglaze the pan with wine, whiskey or cream.  That would have been awesome on top of the pork.

Sorry about the weird formatting of the photos and text.  I initially wrote my narrative on my iPhone but during the cut and paste blogger started doing some weird formatting.