Saturday, May 28, 2011

Homemade Bacon

Making bacon is not easy.  It takes a lot of time, patience and failed attempts to get it right.  But once you get it right, it is well worth it.  I have yet to see pastured bacon in the store.  Even the organic bacon with no nitrates still comes form grain fed pigs.  Sometimes we get bacon from our CSA, which raises pastured pork but it is cured with sodium nitrate and I'm not interested in that on a regular basis.  So, I make my own.
First, you will need a good source of pork belly; sometimes it is called pork side.  We get our pastured pork from our CSA.  They raise healthy, pastured pigs on their farm in Wellington, CO.  Once you find some quality meat, it's time to make bacon.

The Brine
Ice Water
Sea Salt
Black Pepper or any other spices

That's basically all that needs to be in the brine but you can add whatever spices you'd like to it.  Most traditional bacon brines have sugar in them, too.  I do not use sugar but you can add maple syrup or honey if you think it needs some sweetening.  The amount of salt is up to you.  For about 2 lbs of pork belly, I use about 1/4 C to 1/2 C of salt.  A little salt goes a long way.  But keep in mind you need that salt to prevent it from growing harmful bacteria. It takes some time and practice to get it right.
Add your salt and whatever other spices to some boiling water and let simmer until it is all dissolved.  Then add that to the ice water and submerge your pork belly in that mixture.  I put mine in a Pyrex container with a plastic lid but anything that will fit the belly and brine mixture will do.  The pork needs to be fully submerged, so putting a ceramic plate on top of it to weight it down is a good idea.
Put it in the fridge and let it brine for about a week.  Next you need to "freshen" it.

This means rinsing the pork off with cold water for about 20 minutes.  You are trying to wash off all the excess salt.  The brining process will get the salt and spice flavor into the meat but you don't need extra on the outside.  If you don't freshen, your bacon will be way too salty.
After freshening, pat dry with paper towels.  And now we smoke.

Bacon needs to be cold smoked.  I have a regular, old smoker.  So, what I do is get the wood chips smoking a whole lot, load the water tray with ice and smoke the pork belly for about 20 minutes.  This ice will keep the temperature down but you need to have a lot of smoke going before putting the pork in.  Otherwise you will overcook it.  Keep in mind, you're just adding smoke flavor to the belly, not cooking it.  Keep an eye on it because you can overdo it very easily.  This takes time and practice to get right.
Remove and let your pork belly cool.  Once it is cool, wrap it tightly in plastic and stick it in the fridge overnight.  Don't try to cut it, yet.  It needs to cool overnight.
Now, slice.  I use a deli style meat slicer to cut mine into strips but a knife will do.
Now, you have bacon.  Enjoy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tools: the Bullet

When I used to tell people that they needed to get a "magic bullet" they would look at me like I was a pervert.  You should have seen my mom's initial reaction when I told her I wanted one for Christmas.
Well, for those of you who don't know, it is not a sex toy.
The Magic Bullet is a blender, a whipper, a grinder, a smoothie-maker, an instant gratification machine.  You can make your breakfast, lunch and dinner in it and follow it all up with some chocolate mousse.
If you don't have one, get one.  I use it for almost every single recipe I put together.  We are already on our second one because after one year of 2-3 time a day use, the motor will begin to slow down.  But who cares, at no more than $50 for the whole getup, it is extremely worth it (Costco usually has the best deal).  We will probably be buying many more in our future.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chocolate cookies

These are very rich and very simple.  I would definitely recommend adding walnuts and/or chocolate chips to make them truly decadent.  I didn't have any at the moment (part of the problem of not having the pantry fully stocked).

Chocolate Cookies
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp arrowroot, tapioca or a similar starch
1/2 tsp baking powder (grain-free)
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup xylitol
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp stevia extract
3 eggs
2 tbs strong brewed coffee
3 tbs lard, coconut oil or butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs almond butter 
1/2 cup whipped coconut milk

As always, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (except shredded coconut) and whisk until everything is evenly blended.  When I say whipped coconut milk, I am referring to what we did for the coffee-creamer recipe. That is, taking an entire can of coconut milk/cream and whipping it so that the solid and liquid are combined.  When done in the bullet or another whipping device, this creates a very thick and frothy cream.  Take 1/2 cup of this and whip it further with the 3 eggs and other wet ingredients. After all of the wet ingredients are combined, I add the shredded coconut and blend because it is extremely dry and I am trying to compensate.  Combine the wet with the dry mix and you have cookie-dough.
Bake at 375 degrees on a greased baking sheet or silpat until they don't jiggle (about 10 minutes).  Err on the underdone side, otherwise they might dry out. The recipe yields about 18 good-sized cookies.
Again, feel free to add any nuts or extras.  That can only make them more delicious!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


It's been said many times: bacon makes everything taste better.  I didn't always eat this much bacon.  But now when I have my breakfast without it, I feel gypped.
Besides enjoying it for breakfast it works wonders for sauteed veggies, adds depth of flavor to meatloafs, burgers, chilis and can even be incorporated into sweets. Always, ALWAYS save the grease!  It is definitely one of my secret ingredients for cooking.

The brands we buy when we are unable to make our own are Coleman, Beelers, and Applegate Farms.  You can find Beelers, Applegate Farms and Maverick at Natural Grocers.  Coleman and Applegate Farms can be found at most Kroger locations.  Whole Foods carries some of these and their own version of uncured bacon.  The bacon you want is the bacon that has as little processing as possible, no or minimal sugar, preferably organic and uncured.  The truth is, there is no such thing as "uncured" bacon.  If it wasn't cured, it wouldn't be bacon.  That's all marketing.  "Uncured" on a label of bacon simply means it was cured with natural sources of nitrates and nitrites.  Usually these companies use celery juice powder to cure the meat instead of sodium nitrate (1 -2 grams may be lethal.)  I am partial to the Coleman bacon because it is very thin and gets crispier faster but they come in all ranges of thickness.
Ideally you want to make your own bacon, which is not easy and takes some experimentation to get it just how you want it.  Right now we have some brining in our fridge that will get smoked today and sliced tomorrow.  After you get the basic recipe down you can start to play with the flavoring.  Then, once you've become a pro, you can experiment and even add some liquor to your brining process.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Carrot Cake (grain-free)

I love this recipe!  We are literally fighting over bites of this cake as it rapidly disappears and we even eat it for breakfast.  This recipe was originally made using dates as the majority of the sweetener, however dates have too much sugar for my weight-loss plan.  If you don't mind the sugar, just substitute the xylitol with about 10 or more large pitted dates that you have ground into a paste (and taste the final mix for desired sweetness).  It is equally if not more amazing this way.  

Carrot Cake
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
3 tbs xylitol
1/2 tsp stevia
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1 tsp baking powder (Grain-Free)
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup coconut milk/cream
2 tbs brewed coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbs lard/butter/coconut oil
2 cups peeled carrots chopped in a food processor
regular sized bag of pecans

*I have changed the amount of liquid to a lesser amount. Because I live in high-altitude, extra liquid is needed to keep my baking moist but this is not necessary at sea-level.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. (This is something I always do to ensure the flours and other ingredients are broken up and evenly mixed.)  Whip the wet ingredients together, except for the carrots, in a blender or bullet and then combine with the dry mix.  Lastly, add the processed carrots.  This can be poured into well greased cake rounds, cupcake molds or a brownie or loaf pan and baked at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Let it cool significantly before frosting and serving, otherwise it does not set up to a cake-like consistency. 
The pictures here are of a 3 layer cake with frosting in between the layers and poured on top (I think I doubled the recipe).  The final touch is toasting the pecans on a sheet in the oven until you can smell them, then crushing them and sprinkling liberally on top.

1 can of previously refrigerated full fat coconut milk/cream (the thicker-the better)
a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
1 tbs brewed coffee
sweetener of your choice: xylitolstevia, etc... (or about 8 pitted dates processed into a paste)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip the ingredients together in a bullet, food processor, blender or with your muscles and a whisk, sweetening to taste.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Coconut coffee creamer

The hardest part of making the transition to a primal diet is cutting out dairy. I still eat cheese but I am trying to cut dairy out entirely.  So, now I need to find a substitute for milk/cream in my coffee.  I drink a ton of coffee and I have tried many times using almond milk, hazelnut milk and coconut creamer.  Unfortunately, nothing sticks.  I just can't get the right creaminess with nut milk and though the coconut creamer at the store is very close to half'n'half, it has sugar in it and still has too strong of a coconut taste.
Well, I may have finally figured it out.  It is very simple but it gets the job done without added sugar or an overly strong coconut flavor.  I use about 3 spoonfuls to get the color above.

Coconut coffee creamer
1 can organic coconut milk/cream (never light)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
sweeten with stevia extract to taste

Empty the entire can of coconut milk/cream into a blender or bullet and whip it all together with your vanilla and stevia extract.  Store in a container (in the fridge) that you can spoon the creamer out of; otherwise it will solidify in a pourable container and you will not be able to pour it out.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Resources: Almond Flour

One of our readers has directed us to his source for almond flour: Nuts Online
It looks like they have blanched, unblanched and organic almond flour in a variety of bulk sizes for a much better price than offered at your local health-food store.
They also have chia seed, shredded coconut, dried fruit and every kind of nut and nut flour you could dream of.  I can see it now.... cashew flour cookies, or better yet- pistachio!
This is definitely a great one-stop pantry stocker.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Resources: Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's is a grocery store I became accustomed to when I lived in California.  So, when I was visiting these last couple weeks I stopped into many a location to stock up on food for my travels.  Luckily for us Trader Joe's is not just limited to SoCal anymore but unfortunately for myself, Colorado is not yet a future site for one.  For all of you fortunate primal eaters with a location near you, here is a mini-review of some of the products they have in stock that suit our needs.

These are just the items I saw at the Southern California location I was near.  There may be more available at the location near you.  Please share with us what you find!

*organic chicken
*Applegate Farms grass-fed beef hot dogs
*organic leafy greens, herbs, and various fruits/veggies
*wild salmon
*Kerrygold butters and cheeses
*raw milk cheese and/or grassfed milk cheese
*raw milk (yes, lucky Californians can buy it at the store)
*organic condiments
*nut and seed butters
*stevia (only the extract has no other added ingredients)
*raw nuts (the roasted have rice-bran oil or other undesirable ingredients)
*73% chocolate bars that contain no soy  (only $1.99! YAY!)

Beware the dried berries- I made the mistake of buying them before reading that they have added sugar...
I had a major sugar-crash after.  Yikes!  Always READ THE LABELS to make sure!

If you don't have a location near you send an email to the company or keep them in mind when you are traveling.  To download a list of all there locations click here.