Thursday, April 21, 2011

Homemade Lard

Animal fats such as pork lard, beef/bison tallow and poultry fat are excellent forms of cooking oil.  They are great for baking and sauteing.  Generally, you can substitute them for butter in baking recipes.  Lard was once a common staple in most American homes. These days it is rare to find someone with a jar of lard in their pantry.  Well, take a look in my pantry.  I have two jars in there (in the fridge, actually).  
I don't use just any lard.  It is important, not only where your lard comes from, but how it was processed.  The next time you're in the grocery store, take a look at the lard on the shelf.  It's most likely hydrogenated and comes from factory farmed pigs.  I am not interested in cooking with oils like that.  So, I make my own lard.  I would also make tallow and poultry "lard" if I had a good source of fat from those animals but I do not.  So, we're sticking with lard for now.
The first step is sourcing your pig fat.  We get our pig fat from a local farm that raises organic, pastured pigs.  Their pigs are a Yorkshire cross breed that are pastured and have lots of room to roam.  They eat lots of farm fresh vegetables and fruit.   
It is important that your pig fat is pastured, as well as organic.  Organic pigs can still be fed a diet corn and soy.  That fat is not Omega 3 rich.  It is rich in Omega 6.  That's not what you're looking for in a cooking oil.  Look for pastured pork from a local farm. Pigs are omnivorous, like us. They need to be able to roam around and eat grubs, fruit, tubers, etc... The factory farmed pigs don't get this.
Once you have a good source of pig fat, you're ready to make lard.
Cut your pig fat into small pieces.  

Load the pieces into your slow cooker.  Turn it on low and let the slow cooker do its thing for a few hours.  It should take about 5 hours, give or take, to render your lard. It is a good idea to keep an eye on it after a few hours.  If you let it go too long it can burn, although it does take a while.  I have done that once before.  
Once there is mostly liquid in your pot and your fat pieces are starting to crisp up, it is time to jar your lard. You will need to strain the liquid.  
I store mine in mason jars but any jar will do.  
Pour the liquid through the strainer and close your jar.    

Let it cool for several hours until it is at room temperature.  The liquid will turn white and become solid at this point.
Store it in the refrigerator and you're all done.

What's left in the slow cooker are the crispy pieces of fat.  These can be stored and used as a sort of "pork crackling."  They can be salted and used as "bacon bits" for salads or a number of other things.  This is where you need to get creative.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Almond Flour

Almond flour is practically in everything primal and it doesn't come cheap in your local health food store.  I vaguely remember it being as much as $12 for a pound of Bob's Red Mill brand.  Well I am going to share with you an incredible money saver for almond flour.  I get mine through my workplace (a bakery/candy shop) that orders their candy from a candy/nut supplier.  Those of you who live in Denver might be completely unaware of Jerry's Nut House.  It is not listed on their website but they do have almond meal, blanched and un-blanched.  I made the mistake of getting un-blanched one time and got yelled at because it is a tiny bit more bitter with the skin on.  However, I still use it and the only difference is it's just more nutty in the recipes.  Since it is not necessarily a publicly available product, I can't predict what they will charge for their minimum order of 20 lbs.  If you are lucky, it could be as little as $100.  You do the math, that is dirt cheap and our 20 lbs lasts us about 4-6 months with frequent baking.
For those who do not live in Denver, do a little internet research and see if you can find a candy/nut supplier near you.  If they don't sell to the public, see what kind of arrangement you can come to.  Maybe if a couple people get together and want to buy a couple of boxes, they could be persuaded.  And don't forget, get the blanched!

Milk products

I love milk.  Like most children I was not allowed to leave the dinner table until I finished my milk.  I probably didn't love it as much then as I did later. When I became a little older and was outside terrorizing the neighborhood with my childhood friends I would often take a break and come inside the house to chug down some milk (if no one was looking, from the carton).  It was what I drank to quench my thirst.  I will say, to this day, that if anyone ever wanted to go head-to-head in a milk challenge I would win hands-down.  Even now, I can't force myself to put down a latte and pick up a glass of water.
As we grew up the milk began to get thinner and thinner until we were drinking what seemed like white water.  Everything became "skinny", non-fat, skim,... whatever.  I wish some of those women that order "skinny" anything could see me now.  I drink full-fat milk, half and half, heavy cream and milk so thick it has milk chunks and it tastes so good that I want to bathe in it (great for the skin, by the way).  Not only is the milk full fat but it is as minimally processed as possible.  If I could get it straight from the udder, I would.  Raw milk is truly the best kind of milk you can buy, if it is available.  Unfortunately, there are laws against selling raw dairy products in some states.  It is so illegal that a swat team will literally break into your store and destroy your establishment at gun-point (no joke).
A brand that I am lucky to have available to me is Kalona SuperNatural.  The dairy farmers (many of which are Amish and Mennonite) do not use chemicals, chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.  Their milk products come from grass-fed cows, are totally organic with no added hormones and are non-homogenized (a process which mixes the milk and ruins the flavor and quality).  The products are also Grade A and have way more nutrients than what you generally get at the store probably because the milk is pasteurized (the legal requirement making it not raw) at the lowest heat allowed.  Industrial-scale milk producers heat their milk up to as much as 265-300 degrees in their pasteurization process while Kalona SuperNatural heats it to 145 degrees.  Read more about their processing methods on their site.
Hopefully the Natural Grocers near me will carry more of their products soon but as of now I drink the whole milk and use their buttermilk for making crème fraiche and adding to my baking. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mexican seasoning

1 tbs chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp coriander
2 tbsp ground dry oregano leaves
1 tbsp ground dry thyme leaves
1 tbsp garlic powder 
3/4 tsp cayenne

*The majority of these spices are the Organic Spices available at our local health food store, Natural Grocers.

Chili-cheese fries

This is a great chili for fries, dogs, burgers, etc... because it is mild and rich. If you want a hardcore spicy chili, this is not the stuff. However, you can add to it to get whatever spice level you desire.
I have been obsessed with chili-cheese sweet potato fries ever since I took on the challenge. Since I am trying to limit my starch intake, this is a treat I make only once in a while.

1 tbs homemade lard (saved bacon grease is better for this recipe)
1/2 onion diced
8 cloves diced garlic
2 pounds of ground grass-fed beef, bison or both
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup brewed coffee
1/3 cup diced jalapenos
2 15 oz. cans organic diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can organic tomato sauce
2 cups homemade beef stock

In a slow-cooker or stock-pot melt the lard and get the onions and garlic sauteing. While that is happening, combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix it together. When everything is hot and sizzling, add the meat to your pot and throw in the dry mix. As soon as the meat is thoroughly browned, add the coffee, jalapenos, wine and stock. The cans of diced tomatoes can be thrown in as-is, however I prefer to blend everything with the tomato sauce before adding to the mix. Let it simmer or cook on low in the slow-cooker until it looks like that disgusting chili they throw on your food at the fast-food restaurants. That's exactly what we're going for; disgustingly delicious!

Sweet-Potato Fries
Get yourself some organic sweet potatoes, peel them and then slice them however you like in a french fry fashion. If you soak them in water for about 10 minutes after you cut them, this is supposed to take some of the starch out. Get the oven heated to 400-415 degrees and move a rack to a low spot above the heating element. On a baking sheet (I also recommend a Silpat) melt a couple tablespoons of lard, bacon grease or butter and toss your fries around on it. I season mine with Old Bay or blackening seasoning or just plain sea salt. Make sure to move them around as they cook. It takes a while because they are so full of water, so expect at least 30 minutes of "frying" time. At some point, they will look ready but not really have a crispness to them. You may never achieve the crispiness you expect but put them on a high rack under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes to come close. Keep an eye on them because they can start to burn quickly.

Put a pile of fries on your plate, add chili and cheese. Need I say more?
Once you start making this, good luck. I promise you will become addicted.


There are 3 coffee roasters that I am a huge fan of and I consider myself something of a coffee snob. Coffee is not only something I drink everyday but something I definitely think should be in the pantry for all kinds of cooking. It brings out the flavor of chocolate, deepens the flavors of chili and stews and is the perfect primal cooking substitute for Worcestershire. The brand of coffee I use only matters because I am drinking it and don't like the cheap stuff. If you are not drinking it and just cooking with it, you can use whatever kind you want. Brew up a pot, put it in a bottle with a stopper and save it for cooking in the fridge. I am particular to the espresso blends because I would rather brew espresso and judge my coffee from these. On a side note, for those of you who have never been a barista, you can brew the same beans for coffee, espresso, Turkish coffee, toddy, etc... The only difference is how the bean is ground and the coffee is extracted.

My favorite Colorado brand is the NOVO espresso blend.

My favorite California brand comes from a roaster whom I worked with, KEAN.

Of course, if you ever get to Portland you will be referred to Stumptown Roasters. It is well worth the hype. You can order their espresso blend online, called Hairbender. You can even sign up for a monthly subscription to their beans.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blackening seasoning

This is definitely a staple in my pantry and runs out pretty quickly when it is out on the counter. Several of my recipes will use this because it is great on everything. I generally just eyeball the amounts of each spice, but here are the specifics:

Blackening Seasoning
1 tbs paprika
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground oregano

*The majority of these are the organic spices offered at our local health food store, Natural Grocers.

Crème fraiche

I generally don't follow recipes exactly when I am experimenting in the kitchen which causes problems if I want to recreate something again later. It also makes it a little more difficult for me to get things written down to share with others. Then again, that is another purpose for this blog. Needless to say, I can't exactly remember where I read about making your own Crème fraiche. But between a magazine article and some different recipes found online I gathered that if I just put 4 tablespoons of high quality organic cultured buttermilk into a mason jar with a pint of organic heavy cream, let it sit covered (with a paper towel) on a countertop until the same time the next day, lo and behold... I have crème fraiche.
I told a friend of mine that I made my own hollandaise with my homemade crème fraiche and she asked "What is crème fraiche?" I said "fresh cream." This made her feel a little stupid because she thought it was something more elaborate and fancy than that. I told her that it is fancy and that's all there is to it because I don't really know what all the hubbub is about, except that it is expensive, hard to find and tastes amazingly fancy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eggs Benedict (Grain-Free)

Let me tell you, I did not eat this well before I was primal. But now, it's bacon every day and if not that, eggs benedict. Or better yet, both!
This hollandaise is a sauce made with crème fraiche, for lack of a better use of my experimental homemade batch of it.
Wow, what a lucky experiment! By the way, I put a spoonful in my butternut squash "home-fries" this morning and was blown away...
More on homemade crème fraiche later.

Hollandaise sauce
3 pastured egg yolks (save the whites for the biscuits)
a pinch of sea salt

-Whip the egg yolks and lemon in a food processor while you melt the butter
-Add the butter slowly to the lemon/egg mixture while processing
-Add the crème fraiche to that, a tablespoon at a time
-Salt to taste
-Use right away storing the remainder in a mason or glass jar (because you can stick the jar in a hot water bath later to reheat) It will definitely thicken as it cools.

The "buttermilk biscuit" recipe comes from Maria Emmerich- we definitely thank you!
This works out perfectly because you can make several biscuits and have eggs benedict every day until they and the sauce runs out.

1/4 tsp sea salt
4 egg whites
* I also add parsley, garlic power and onion powder (about 1 tsp altogether)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a medium sized muffin pan. Whip egg whites until fluffy, but not stiff. In a separate bowl, sift the baking powder into the almond flour. Then add the butter and salt. Slowly fold in the almond mixture to the egg whites. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Serves 8.

Now for the final results!
I cooked a couple pieces of homemade bacon, sautéed some green onions and warmed up a couple slices of tomato in a pan. Then I layered this on top of the biscuit, set a poached egg on top and poured hollandaise until my heart's content. A little parsley for garnish and I ate like a queen.
You can use anything you like, obviously. I do also recommend a salmon burger with all the fixings on top for a heartier eggs benedict. You will have enough to experiment for a couple of days!

German Chocolate Frosting

I have always loved german chocolate cake frosting and it is surprising that it only just came to me that it could be a great primal recipe. This is an amazingly moist topping for the chocolate microwave cake, or you could just eat it with a spoon...

German Chocolate Frosting
6 oz bag of pecans, toasted
2 1/2 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened, of course)
2 tbs brewed coffee
1/2 cup xylitol
1/2 can coconut milk/cream (full fat)

Brown the butter/lard in a sauce pan as best you can- we are just going for a little color here. Add the coffee, xylitol and vanilla extract very slowly with the butter/lard off the heat and whisk until it is all completely dissolved. In my coconut milk cans, the thick cream separates from the thinner liquid. Mix the thick half into the heated sauce until it is also completely blended.
Put the pecans on a baking sheet in the oven heated to about 375 or so. They will be done in about 7-10 minutes. The toasting process just brings out the oils and flavor in the nuts and makes them more brittle, but they don't really have to change color or crisp up. When the are done, use a food-processor to chop them until there are no large chunks.
In a mixing bowl combine the pecans and the shredded coconut. Pour the caramel-like concoction into the mixing bowl and stir everything until you have a sticky mess. That is your frosting! Tastes great on a warm micro-cake!

Chocolate Micro-Cake (Grain-Free)

It is a micro-cake because it is made in the microwave, but also because the mix can be made in bulk and portioned out to make individual servings. It is very often that I finish my dinner and decide that I need a little something sweet without wanting to take a great deal of time to make a fancy dessert. This is how this cake came about. The greatest part about it is that I can customize one for my fiancé by not using dairy, but still put buttermilk in my own.

Micro-cake Mix
1 2/3 cups organic coconut flour
1 cup organic cocoa powder
1 cup xylitol
2 tbs baking powder (grain free)
1 tsp finely ground coffee
1 tsp pure stevia extract (pure stevia!  Not diluted versions of stevia - it makes a difference)
1 tsp sea salt

Individual Serving
-Melt 2 tbs of oil* in a microwave safe bowl or large mug
-Add 1 tsp of vanilla extract
-Add 1 egg
-Add 4 tbs of milk, buttermilk (my favorite), almond/coconut milk, brewed coffee or liquid of your choice
-Whisk all ingredients with 1/2 cup of the cake mix
-Place in microwave on power level 8 for a minute and a half, or until it sets

*I use a combo of lard and coconut oil, but you can use butter if you prefer

Some easy variations of this cake:
-Add a pinch of cinnamon and fresh ground nutmeg
-Use 1 tbs of a nut butter instead of 1 tbs of the oil
-Add organic, soy free chocolate chips
-Mix in your favorite berry
-A little splash of your favorite liqueur (keep in mind all liqueurs have sugar in them).

Simple Chocolate/Coconut Frosting
1 can of previously refrigerated full fat coconut milk/cream (the thicker-the better)
sweetener of choice: xylitol, stevia, etc...

Whip ingredients together in a bullet, food processor, blender or with your muscles and a whisk, sweetening to taste.
This must be reasonably cold to hold its thickness... but probably won't last that long. It can also be stored for a week's worth of micro-cakes.