Local Beef Three Ways

I’m excited to share with you all three different ways to approach one ingredient: local, pasture-raised beef. This will be the first time I’ve featured beef on the blog, so hold on to your steak knives! Actually, don’t. I’m not going to be discussing steaks. Sorry, you’re on your own there. The beef used in all of these recipes came from Windhaven Farm in Windsor, VA. They raise “Natural, Angus Beef” and here is how they describe it (from their website):

“Natural beef is a healthy and safe choice of quality beef.  The cattle are birthed on our farm.  We do not receive feed stock from unknown sources.  Our farm does not mass produce cattle.  The cattle are antibiotic free and do not receive growth hormones. The cattle are fed 100% grass, hay, and grain.  Therefore the cattle are healthier and leaner resulting in lean, healthy beef. Natural means: No antibiotics, hormones, ionophores, or medicated feeds No feeding of animal by-products. Grass fed, grain finished – grain is used to help “finish” and marble the beef. All natural from birth. Parasiticides are not used within 30 days of slaughter date.”

You can also purchase completely grass-fed beef from them in 1/4, 1/2 or whole packages. Yes, that means 1/4, 1/2 or a WHOLE COW. I know lots of cross-fitters (paleo dieters) that go in on entire cows together, and it actually works out to be a great deal, if you have the room to store even a small portion of an entire cow. I do not. So I usually order their beef in completely reasonable increments, like you know, a pound of ground beef. Their beef is available for pick up at their farm, or through Coastal Farms Co-op and at a few retail stores in Hampton Roads like Heritage Natural Market.  They also do occasional deliveries around the area.

The weather is really cooling down around here and a lot of the farmers markets have stopped for the season and while there is still lots of produce to be found if you’re willing to look for it, it is definitely starting to feel like hearty-food weather. So here are three great options to satisfy your cool-weather cravings:

Beef and rice skillet with late-summer veggies

Meat Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes, pureed in a blender

Directions:

  1. In a large heavy pot, heat oil over high. Add meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until meat is browned and onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add tomato puree, and bring to a rapid simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Casserole:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 oz)
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • meat sauce (recipe above)
  • 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 zucchini or yellow squash, very thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 475 (Fahrenheit). Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan and 1 tblsp olive oil.
  2. In a large cast-iron skillet, bring meat sauce to a rapid simmer over high. Stir in rice and remove from heat.
  3. Top with onion, then carefully arrange zucchini/squash in a single, slightly overlapping layer. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with remaining tbs. olive oil and top with breadcrumb mixture. Return to heat and bring to simmer.
  4. Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake until rice is cooked through and breadcrumbs are golden, about 10 minutes more. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

*This recipe is adapted from Everyday Food

The meat sauce part of this recipe can be adapted and used for anything – on top of pasta, as sloppy-Joe filling, mixed with cheese and stuffed into pasta shells – whatever you want! This is a really perfect recipe for right now because squash and zucchini are still available locally, but it’s still hearty and warm and filling for fall.

Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 3 tbs chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 beef chuck roast (2-4 lbs is fine)
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, combine onion, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Season roast with salt and pepper and place on top of onion mixture.
  2. Add 2 cups of water, cover and cook on high until meat is tender and can easily be pulled apart with a fork, 4 1/2 hours (or 9 hours on low).
  3. Let cool 10 minutes, then shred meat in slow cooker with 2 forks and stir in vinegar to taste.

This recipe was also adapted from Everyday Food

You could serve the ragu over whatever you liked – rice, pasta, polenta, mashed potatoes. I had originally planned on serving it over spiced and grilled polenta, but then the grocery store by our house decided stocking polenta (and anything else I’m ever specifically looking for) is stupid. So for whatever reason I opted for no-yolk egg noodles instead. Big mistake. I’ve never liked these things and I still don’t. There’s not enough salt in the Dead Sea to make them taste like anything at all, and the texture is slippery and slimy. The ragu was great, but my suggestion is to go to a better grocery store than mine and find some good polenta, or make your own, or make some stiff grits or something besides egg noodles. Seriously, maybe even some wood shavings from the pet store might work better. Just go with your gut.

Taco Bowls

Ingredients:

  • Burrito-sized soft tortillas
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Taco seasoning
  • Refried Beans
  • Taco toppings of choice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Place a cooling rack inside a baking sheet and turn 4 ramekins upside down on the rack. Microwave your tortillas for 15 seconds to make them soft. spray each ramekin with olive oil. Mold tortillas over each ramekin, making them into the shape of a wide bowl. Spray outside of tortillas with additional olive oil.
  2. Place baking sheet with tortillas into the pre-heated oven very carefully (the ramekins will want to slide around on the rack). Bake for 10 minutes or until golden and crispy. Remove from oven and let cool on the ramekins. Wait until they have cooled to the touch to remove them from their molds. This will ensure they keep their shape.
  3. Meanwhile, brown your ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain off fat. Return meat to the burner and add 1/4 cup of water and taco seasoning to taste. Keep on low until tortillas are finished baking.
  4. In a small saucepan, warm your refried beans until smooth and heated through.
  5. Once the tortillas have cooled to touch, fill them with your taco accouterments: I like to make the base with refried beans, topped with the beef, then topped with shredded jack or cheddar cheese, taco sauce, diced tomatoes, lettuce, some mashed and seasoned avocado and a dollop of plain, nonfat Greek  yogurt (I use this in place of sour cream in everything. The taste is exactly the same, but without the fat and it’s easier on my stomach).

You can make more than 4 bowls at a time, if you need them. I just only needed four and conveniently I only have 4 ramekins. Jeremy and I each ate two bowls (they are smaller than the ones you get at Mexican restaurants, so put your judgey face away). And we had chips and salsa on the side. This is a fun update on taco night.

Taco salads are great until you decide to start eating the shell. The idea seems great and starts out totally civilized. Something like this:

Oh yes, I’ll just take this one little bite of the shell.

Then all of a sudden all hell breaks loose, a tornado sweeps through your taco salad and you’re left with this tragedy:

The horror! The horrooooorrr!

Which is fine, really – it all tastes the same anyways. But if aesthetics is your thing, then just eat the salad portion with tortilla chips or something and save your bowl for decoration or to hold your keys or a hat for a small child or large dog – your call.

So there you have it – local beef three ways. Certainly you could do all of these recipes with beef you buy at the grocery store, that came from a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), where cows are fed nothing but grain, which makes them sick, which requires them to take antibiotics, which remains in the meat, which over-dosed the entire population with antibiotics so that we all have reduced good bacteria in our bodies so that we are all more prone to sickness so that we all end up having to take more antibiotics like the poor cows before us, which in the long run makes us even more sick, needing more medication and so on and so forth. Again – your call.
Besides that, grass-fed beef has higher omega-3’s, is leaner, often has more protein, and is generally ethically raised. There’s no doubt red meat is not the most healthy thing we can all eat, but if you’re going to eat it (and we all are – the average American eats 110 lbs of red meat every year), then make it the healthiest, most environmentally friendly, ethical meat that you can eat. Cost? Please. Let’s not get into that – just eat your taco bowl and enjoy the grass-fed goodness.

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Detox Lessons Learned

I am back to a pseudo-regular diet and the good news is that wine does not seem to affect me at all. (Huzzah! And just in time for Virginia Wine Month!) However, beer is probably off the menu for good. And anything that combines dairy, cheese and wheat, although separately, they seem to be OK.

So here are some lessons I’ve learned and things I’ll continue to practice now that my detox is done:

  • You don’t need nearly as much food as you think you do. Hunger is a state of mind, not of body.
  • Fast (with juice and smoothies) one day a month, or once a week if you can. This gives your digestive system a break, particularly after a long weekend or the holidays, etc.
  • I do not NEED coffee every morning. Substitute herbal tea a few times a week and only have one cup of coffee on the days I chose to. Drinking 2-3 cups of coffee on an empty stomach was clearly one of my primary irritants. (yes, I figured that out by myself; I’m a genius)
  • Detox isn’t just about food. Get rid of other toxic things in your life like negative thoughts, actions, judgments, relationships, jobs, etc. We have one life, and it can end at any time. Don’t waste any of it on things that don’t serve you well or contribute to your overall improvement. This is not to say get rid of everything you dislike. Sometimes things we dislike are good for us and can and will improve us.
  • Stretch every single day. I like to do this right before I go to bed, it seems to help me sleep. I particularly like twisting stretches, as they are good for your internal organs and can help them detox. Gaiam has a few great suggestions on yoga for detox.
  • Fast 12 hours every day. This means that once you finish dinner, you do not eat anything for 12 hours. So if you finish dinner at 7, eat breakfast at 7 the next morning, with nothing in between. This is a great detox and weight loss principle. Your system needs the rest – food consumed late at night and right before bed doesn’t do you any favors at all.
  • Treat your body well. Not just in what you eat, but in what you do for it on a daily basis. I’ve started going back to a chiropractor since I started my detox and it’s doing amazing things for how I feel over all. Get a massage, get your spine adjusted, do some yoga, or just take a walk (they’re free!).
  • Take probiotics every day. They can do no harm, and can only help balance your digestive system.
  • Focus on “clean” foods whenever possible. Eliminate processed foods, eat your veggies raw every once in a while and I’ll say it – just get rid of sugar. Period.
  • Drink SO MUCH more water than you are. I’ve always been a big water drinker, but during the detox I was drinking a gallon or more a day. My skin, hair and eyes looked better. It’s amazing. Just drink it.

There are so many more things I learned while I did this, but those are just a few that I think are fairly easy to implement.

Has anyone else out there ever done a detox or similar program? What are your lessons learned? 

Detox and why health care will never be “reformed” (ie – heavy stuff for a Friday)

I haven’t blogged lately because I’m taking a break from food. Not from cooking or from trying new recipes, but from food. From eating it. I’m doing a detox. And now, in many more words than are probably necessary, I will tell you why.

For the past year I have been through the medical industry ringer trying to find the cause or cure for digestive issues that I’ve dealt with for most of my life but most severely in the past two or three years. After several months of intense “suffering,” I finally made an appointment with a gastroenterologist in August 2011. Several tests were done to find out if I had celiac, crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, etc., none of which I had. So the doctor decided to have me tested for an intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which I did have. I was put on an antibiotic for 10 days that is so strong it is usually only give to liver disease patients who have so many toxins in their bodies that their brains literally stop working. It cost me over $400 (just for the pills, that doesn’t include the cost of the test) and did not work. So the doctor decided it was IBS. Again, another medication. Again, no results. Finally he decided to do a full sonogram of my entire stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys and gallbladder to check for tumors, stones, etc. Nothing. Finally, he says to me, “well, there’s really nothing we can do unless you’re willing to change your diet.”

Me: “ummmm…..excuse me? I can fix this just by changing my diet????”
Dr.: “Oh yeah. I just don’t usually recommend that anymore because nobody is willing to do it.”
Me: *face palm*

He gave me the name of a book called Breaking the Vicious Cycle that outlines a specific carbohydrate diet that has worked extremely well for most digestive issues, and in some cases has even cured some patients’ completely, even from things like Celiac Disease. I bought it that day. But as I thought about changing my diet, possibly for life, I thought about all the things and ways I had eaten in the past and how hard it might be to pinpoint the exact thing or things that caused my symptoms, so I began researching detox programs. I figured if I was going to completely change my diet, I might as well start with a clean palate. I found a program called “Clean” that was put together by a real Doctor, (not some hippy dippy whack-job) Dr. Jundro, who is a practicing cardiologist in New York. He went through very similar symptoms to my own after becoming a doctor and found relief through detox and Functional Medicine (a combination of Eastern and Western medicine). The detox program he created and outlines in his book, Cleanis safe and provides you with all the nutrients you need during your detox, which you can choose to do for one to three weeks at a time. Here’s how the program works:

You have two liquid meals a day. One for breakfast:

Carrot, peach and mango juice. My magic bullet and food processor are my best friends right now.

 

One for dinner:

smoothie

Apple cinnamon smoothie with Virginia Apples.

 

For lunch you can have a small solid meal that fits the detox guidelines:

chicken

Balsamic glazed chicken and zucchini with wild rice

You can also have a small snack in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon that fit the detox eating guidelines:

White bean and garlic dip with raw veggies

 

And you can have herbal teas and there are several supplements you take each day:

 

Tower of Supps!

The detox guidelines are pretty intense. You cannot have caffeine, sugar, alcohol, starch, pasta, corn, soybeans or soy products, shellfish, beef, pork, wheat, gluten, dairy, peanut or peanut products, raisins or grapes, citrus, or nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers). The idea being that you cut out every kind of common allergen, irritant and foods that cause your blood to become acidic over time (like nightshades). When your system balances, gets rid of the acidity and irritants, it can detoxify itself and restore itself to a neutral state from which to begin eating again, introducing one type of food back into your diet at a time until you pinpoint the cause of the symptoms. During the detox you also take very strong doses of priobiotics to help restore the good flora in your intestines.

As you can imagine, this has been difficult for someone like me who loves food, loves to cook, and is more or less IN love with wine. But it was my last resort and I was tired of feeling miserable every single time I ate a meal. And more importantly, I felt like it was my responsibility. When my doctor told me, as a LAST RESORT, that I could change my diet and live symptom free, it was completely eye opening for me. Most people won’t do this. Most people won’t take the responsibility for their own health. They want an easy answer and they want it in easy-to-swallow capsules. We are addicted to our addictions. We pop pills that often have side effects worse than the symptoms they are meant to treat. And here is where I get on my soap box about health care, because (Now, listen. Listen, now, as Dr. Stanley would say). Americans, in general, do not wish to be well. And you cannot reform a system in which the people who belong to the system do not want to be reformed. In other words – WE have to want to change, if we want health care to change, and what we need to change is the entire idea of health care. In fact, it needs to become just that: the care of our health, not the treatment of disease. I decided to give up on doctors appointments and treatments and pills and procedures and decided instead to care for my health. It is not easy. I have been craving brownies for 11 days straight. But this is my only answer.

I only have about a week left on the program before I start introducing foods back into my diet, and I’ll admit I’m a little nervous to see what I find out. Will I be disappointed if I have to give up cheese or oysters or (GOD FORBID, seriously, I’m praying on this one) wine? Yes, of course. But you know what? It’s better than being dependent on pills, and their adverse side effects, or going to a never ending string of doctors appointment and having test after meaningless test taken. It’s not as fun as my usual food posts, I’ll admit, but keep checking back for detox updates and my adventures in re-introducing food back into my diet! That will be like  a party!