Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tacos: Simplicity

Tacos by CaptainShen
Tacos, a photo by CaptainShen on Flickr.
I maybe, sometimes, often over complicate things. For one of the Mark's Daily Apple contests that I really have my eye on, readers were asked to choose a recipe posted in a previous thread and take a photo of it. I just got back from a long trip out of state, so I had just above nothing in the kitchen. I had put some frozen beef in the fridge to thaw overnight (lucky move) and had a tiny head of cabbage in the fridge, as well as an avocado from the trip. Basically, I chose a recipe that looked extremely simple and required few ingredients. The one I found: Primal Tacos from Hollykelsey.

I used what I had and I whipped the rest up after a short bike ride to the Farmers Market and produce store. I made a few tweaks here and there, but didn't have high hopes for the recipe (no offense, Hollykelsey, read on!). I'm a Texan and I have made some seriously involved taco meat. I have put a lot of effort into past primal tacos, and with great results.

I am also, as it turns out, a naive and arrogant little chef.

These were AMAZING. This was GREAT. One of the best recipes I've ever made from a blog! It was so simple-- yet somehow, with the first bite-- I was left astounded, with a familiar burst of flavor dancing on my tongue. These, my friends, are TACOS!

Thanks MDA and Hollykelsey! You humble me (and fill me up).

Happy eating!

Note: The coconut sour cream is something I pride myself in and whipped up my own way. Coconut milk powder, creamed coconut, lemon juice, salt, and a sprinkling of garlic powder sat out on the counter during my ride to get ingredients and chilled in the fridge while I cooked.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Mom: An Inspiration

IMG_1062 by CaptainShen
I'd like to honor my Mom today. She's from Hawaii and is one of the youngest souls I know. When she was in high school in Kaneohe, she was already a tall 5'9" and weighed 112. When she was around 25 she began to put on weight. She had moved to the mainland and says that every year she'd put on a few pounds at Thanksgiving, never losing them, and when I was born she'd reached 188. That is when she joined Weight Watchers.

Ever since I was a kid, she'd been afflicted with terrible migraines, had to nap every single day, and was constantly striving for her 'goal weight' of 169 at Weight Watchers. She was depressed a lot of the time. She kind of went up and down with her weight and her health, never attaining what she wanted and always coming up short of that magic number. At her heaviest (on, still, a 5'9" frame) was 202. She hasn't ever told anyone that-- she said it for the first time when I asked her to share for this story. She says she always got within 7 pounds of her goal weight.

She thought I went absolutely crazy when I first went primal, and got a little bit used to it ater a while. On a road trip together, I made our road snacks-- conventional for her and primal for me. By the time the trip was over, she wanted my snacks more! I asked her to go for the 30 day challenge in 2010, and to my surprise, she jumped on board. She was 186 lbs, but never started the challenge to lose weight-- just to gain health.

She began doing more and more things, stopped needing naps, began ripping out the old bathroom wall to remodel (!?!), changed the oil in the cars with my dad, and generally just shed years of age. She settled into the primal lifestyle well and was magnificently creative with her foods. We shared (and still do) everything-- recipes, meals, snacks, and articles. When she visited, I'd read Mark Sisson's book with her or watch a movie like Fathead. Suddenly, one day in January, I recieved a call from her. There was utter shock in her voice. She told me, completely taken aback, that she was 2 lbs under her nearly-forgotten goal-weight of old times. She seemed relieved, and amazed, but at the same time-- that number that she'd been reaching to attain ironically mattered so little now. I remember the exact moment I realized that this had definitely changed her: She bent over and picked up something she had dropped without even thinking about it. It had been so long since I'd seen her quickly and nimbly squat down or bend over that it stopped me in my steps.

I interviewed Mom because I think that she absolutely has a wonderful story to share (and deserves 100% to win this contest. As much as I'd love those supplements myself, this one is for Mom). Mom is a beautiful, vibrant, healthy 62 years old with who's smile can light up an entire island and who's heart still knows how to play. So, Without further ado, I introduce to you: Sandy Poster.

What has been liberating about eating this way?
"You know-- butter, cheese, eggs, bacon... these were all things I grew up with. Then I came to a time in my life where they were saying "Limit your eggs to weekends, eat turkey bacon... that is whats liberating to me. What I can't get my friends to understand is you don't NEED Sweet N' Low, you don't NEED splenda. I keep telling them, its things that are made in a laboratory that you need to stay away from. I asked her, 'Why not just try without the sugar?' and she said 'Oh I could NEVER do that.' Why not?'
What does primal mean to you?Primal is ... natural. Things from the earth and its non-chemical and its a way that, to me, a way that you can eat and your body knows how to work with you.
Primal means... Healthier eating and more energy. I don't know how to put it into words. Its like a new journey that is FUN.. its fun discovering new recipes and its fun eating its just really awesome knowing that everything I eat is doing something good for me and that if I do slip every now and then-- like if I just think i have to have a peice of a brownie or something-- i take a bite of it and I realize this isn't as good as I thought it was gonna be. There is a couple of times that I've eaten something like cheesecake.

What do you think is the greatest benefit you've seen, being primal? For the first time in my life I am NOT counting calories, I'm NOT counting portions. I eat when I want to eat what I want to eat. I eat when I'm hungry and I'm fine! My snack is a handful of nuts with some dark chocolate. If I miss a meal or if I don't eat it exactly on time, I don't have that horrible horrible zoned out feeling. I don't zone out like I used to. Feeling more comfortable with my body. Less pain, less muscle pain... a little renewed energy.

Whats your number one primal food? *laugh* Would I be a dork if I said bacon?

Anything you'd like to add? In the begining I just thought I was taking a challenge, and the way I feel now... its a lifestyle. Its a change in lifestyle. I feel better than I've felt in a long time. I do realize I need to excersize more-- If I do start excersizing, I think I'll feel even better!

Its a weird journey because I was such a sugarholic. It was sugar sugar everything -- donuts, cookies, cakes, pies. I will admit that I miss, every now and then, just being able to have something like that. Most the time I'm in complete control-- most of the time it doesn't bother my to have [my youngest daughter] or [my husband] eating cookies in front of me. Its funny-- every now and then I would love to just have a donut. But then I know how bad it would make me feel! Too much bakatadi*.
I don't feel bad about not being able to have the wedding cake now, but I get excited about what I CAN have. Like a little square of dark chocolate-- I will take that little square of dark chocolate and nibble on it. The things that I love together I never would have imagined, like a bite of apple and a bite of cheese. I savor every minute of it! I always have had a passion for food, that was part of my problem-- and I think that even more than the grain, is the bad vegetable oils. Cutting the nasty oils it what strikes me as the most beneficial.
I like knowing that people-- almost everywhere you go-- people say "Oh, I couldn't do that." "I could never give that up." And I love knowing that I CAN do it. It makes me feel like I can do anything.

Mom Sittin

Mom Bikin'  IMG_7390
IMG_1060  IMG_1069

- "186 lbs to 163 lbs (without trying)"
- "I stopped requiring naps"
- "Flexibility, Oh my god! I can bend, stoop, pick stuff up, lift things! The other day this girl that works in the back [at work] was trying to get a layaway box down and I grabbed this whole box of layaway, lifted it with one hand, and just stuck it on the shelf. "
- "I'm not depressed-- I never even thought about it just now! I was driving down Green Oaks Blvd. the other day and it was one of those kind of open-up-the-car-window-days, and the air felt good, and I thought 'I havent felt this way in a long time.' I lost the passion for life. I used to be depressed all the time, but it wasn't like 'oh poor me, I'm so depressed,' it was like a lack of excitement for things. I didn't have any drive. I'd wanna do something in my mind but I was too tired to do it. Like just for example, gosh, like [remodelling] the bathroom. When I went to Grandma's I couldn't sit still, I was moving the whole time. I was doing their laundry, my laundry, their dishes, fixin' stuff, and you know them, they were like 'come sit down, you're gonna weigh yourself down!'"

Mom: Primal Success Story

A FEW KEY QUOTES "They're not Phytates... they're FARTates!"
"Ever since going primal I just have this deep... uncontrollable urge... to drink bacon grease."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Using the "Whole Animal," or, Mottainai

Here is a nice story, largely unrelated to the topic at hand. Once upon a time I was chatting with a couple of guests at work. I mused about how giving the coconut palm was, providing vitamins and minerals in the liquid from within the fruit, nutritious and fatty nuts, creamy milk, healthful oil for eating, cleaning and conditioning skin, sennet ('aha') for ropes-- well, I digress, but needless to say I have a great respect for the tree. They told me about the coconut palm in their culture, being from Mangolore, and the Kalpa Vriksha. The Kalpa Vriksha is, as many western cultures might call it, a Tree of Life. They said that they called the coconut palm that because it was all-giving and all-providing.

That got me thinking, later, about the way in which plants and animals provide for the people to live. In a way, I believe that much of what we consume from can be considered all-giving, if we are only all-accepting.

In Japan, the concept of Mottainai is the idea of simply not being wasteful. I learned 'Mottainai' a long, long time ago-- I'm not sure from who or why or how, but I remember the following, about the Mottainai Obake.

 And f you are awesome (or 8), you could also watch this video. Anyhow, I remember vaguely the concept being described to me as "what old men say when you throw away a sandwich." I did a heap of studying about the concept, and old Japanese traditions (such as furoshiki, an all-purpose Japanese bandana) and even did my final project for my Japanese Minor on it.

Eventually I come to this: I believe in using as much of everything as possible. One thing feeds the next thing and everything is a cycle. This cycle is so vital to life and living and being and growing-- an entirely captivating and rhythmic system that seems to be have been choreographed by necessity and currently carried out only as novelty. The entire process of cutting and peeling vegetables, discarding large parts of them, and (oh no!) throwing out the 'less enjoyed' parts of animals just makes me so sad inside. Learn about the different nutrients in the leaves, roots, stems, seeds, and fruits. Learn about how giving the bones and organs of an animal can be.

I try my hardest to wring two or three uses out of things. Yesterdays dressing is today's marinade, last night's leftovers are this morning's omelette, and the drippings from that meat will cook the next batch of veggies. Yogurt drains out whey and you can make fermented vegetables, chock-full of probiotics, from that (as the yogurt enables you to make the next batch of yogurt!). Since I was little, I saved papaya seeds as pepper (not knowing about how rich in enzymes they were!) and planted all (to my parents dismay?) my fruit seeds.

Stock is a good place to start: Vegetable peelings and stubs can get thrown into the freezer and collect in a bag. The stems of your herbs and the heads and shells of your shrimps are almost as valuable as the initial foods were. Buy a whole chicken and roast it, then pick it clean and save the carcass. Make a stock from it. Slow-cook your ribs or roasts and save those bones. Make a stock from them. When its time to boil (er, almost boil) those meaty discards, add your frozen carrot peelings and parsley stems. Add your celery and onion butts! I could make an entire blog about stock making alone, so I'll leave you with those tips and urge you to explore the world of stockmaking from one of the many masters.

You can throw the tops of carrots into salads or anywhere you'd use parsley. Radish tops make a mean pesto and the white tails of green onions can grow you more green onions simply by trimming the roots and placing them in fresh water in a sunny spot. In looking through old cookbooks in my dear grandmother's house, I found a very simple recipe that is perfectly in keeping with this subject. I invite you to try it and I'll try it too. It is so simple, in fact, that I don't even believe it has a name (or that people actually need a recipe for it), but sometimes it is nice to see something in old print and pass it on. It makes it a little bit more real, and a little bit more like it is part of that cycle.
BEET GREENS FIESOLE from Fresh-from-the-Garden Cookbookby Miriam B. Loo
1 lb beet greens, washed and trimmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 TB olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cook beet greens in salted boiling water until just tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well, pressing greens to sides of colander or sieve to remove all moisture. In a medium-size skillet, sauté garlic in olive oil until just brown, about 1 minute. Add beet greens; mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat greens through. Serve immediately.
Serves 4. 
Thanks for stickin' around. Let me know if you try it!

Happy eating.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Zahlouk and Meatballs

Zahlouk and Meatballs by CaptainShen
Moroccan food is one of my top favorite cuisines in the whole world. It is almost level with Tunisian food for me-- they are both exotic and mysterious, yet warm, bright, and familiar enough to be comfort food. It is well varied, though almost every single recipe uses Olive Oil, Cumin, Paprika, Cilantro, and Parsley. It is beautiful, bright, and clean. I love it desperately and rarely get to eat it unless I make it myself.

Zahlouk (to me this is pronounced just like 'Salad,' except with different letters. What?! Um...) is a Moroccan stewed eggplant and tomato dish that really develops its flavor on the stove after almost exactly the 30 minute mark. I'm not sure how 'authentic' my recipe is, but I do something that I've never seen done with it before: I add meat. Sometimes I add it ground up like a middle-eastern ragout, but this time I added it in meatball form. So, I have Cinnamon Lemon Meatballs and Zahlouk.
3 Chinese eggplants*, peeled in stripes, then cubed
1 large grated onion
2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 or 3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1/2 TB paprika
1/2 TB cumin
Sea Salt
Course Black Pepper
1/2 TB white vinegar
Olive Oil 
Grass-fed ground beef, 1/2 lb
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
Sea Salt
Salt the eggplant and boil it for like half an hour. Drain it and press the water out of the pieces with a spoon, in a colander, until they're mostly wrung out. 
Roll the beef into loose meatballs and get a skillet really hot, with a bit of olive oil. Put the meatballs in and sprinkle them with salt, some cinnamon, and some lemon juice. After turning them a few times so that they're nicely browned (and have made a bit of grease) add the onions and garlic to get them going. After they've sauteed just a bit, add everything else (except vinegar and some lemon juice and salt). Let it cook on medium for another half hour, smashing the eggplant and tomatoes with a spoon but not smashing the meatballs. After that half hour, add the vinegar, the rest of the lemon, and some salt. One thing that I did differently was use one big fat vine tomato and a whole bunch of little grape tomatoes. Those popped and cooked beautifully!

Oh lets see, did I forget anything? I'm not sure. I served this with my standard spinach-- that is, spinach with wakame stirred in it after it cooked.

*Or, one giant American eggplant.
**Also, I'm showing off my new bowl. <3