Recipe - Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Saturday, November 17, 2012





It's beginning to look a lot like Autumn


This is my favorite time of year for a hundred reasons. One of those being that you can now find brussels sprouts on the stalk at fine grocers like Trader Joe's and your local farmers' markets. This is a really easy and still visually impressive way to prepare them. Perfect with Thanksgiving right around the corner. Break out the bacon!





Ingredients:

  • 1 stalk of fresh brussels sprouts (approx. 3/4 lb of loose sprouts if stalk not available)
  • 6 strips of thick cut bacon
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • additional bacon fat or butter if necessary (see instructions)


Instructions:


Start by browning your bacon strips in a large pan or skillet. Since we'll be adding the bacon crumbled back into the sprouts later, crispy is better. While the bacon is cooking remove the sprouts from the stalk and slice your pepper in to medium width slices. In order to keep cook times even you should cut in half the sprouts that are larger than the diameter of a nickel. This will ensure they cook up tender.


          Once the bacon is finished transfer it to a plate and add your sprouts to the hot grease. Depending on the yield of your stalk you may need more fat. I keep some extra bacon fat on the back of the stove for cooking but if you don't have any you can always use ghee or a good quality butter to make sure all the sprouts are coated. Depending on the salt content of your bacon (uncured nitrate free bacon usually doesn't produce very salty fat) you should add a couple pinches of quality salt and several turns of fresh cracked black pepper to the sprouts as they cook. Saute them until they become tender then add your pepper slices in and cook those until they are deep red but not soggy. You want them to retain their crisp texture when plated. While these are cooking crumble your cooled bacon and hold in reserve.


          As the peppers finish up season the mix to taste with salt and pepper (if needed) and toss your crumbled bacon in the mix. Toss the pan to make sure everything is coated and plate in a large serving bowl. This should yield enough to serve as sides for up to six plates even though I polished off this whole mess myself for supper tonight. Comment below to let me know how yours turns out!





3 Easy Low Carb First Step Tips

Thursday, November 15, 2012

You gotta start somewhere

One of the hardest parts about making a change or trying something new is taking the first step. I registered this blog and started five different posts before I finally stopped procrastinating and started typing. The same was true for getting healthy. I knew well before the doctor's orders came that I wasn't in good shape and that sooner or later something had to give.

          Making big changes works differently for different people. I typically need to make a big change all at once in order for it to take. However, most people I talk to are more inclined to stick with it if they break a big change into smaller changes. So I'm approaching this post from that point of view and will go over three easy changes that can get you started on the right track to losing weight and feeling better.

Tip 1: Deconstruct your sandwich


Removing bread from your meals seems like the most difficult change in the world but when you stop to think about what it entails you realize it's actually the easiest first step to take. This was the first step I took when going low carb and I learned a few things from it. The first is that sandwich bread masks the flavor of your sandwich fillings. I started packing my lunches with the same smoked turkey I always bought (the Boar's Head section of the deli can be dangerous) and a slice or chunk of good cheese but leaving off the bread. What I found was that I was able to fully experience the taste of the meat and cheese and appreciate those as individual lunch components instead of associating them as part of the dry, boring flavor of a whole wheat sandwich.

          What are you really missing when you ditch the bread? A boat-load of sugar, that's what. Most bread is nutritionally devoid of anything beneficial except items that it has been "fortified" with. All the good stuff is added in in order to improve the nutritional value. For a really scientific breakdown of how bread is essentially equivalent to Skittles, read this post by J. Stanton.

Tip 2: Up the fat content

This is tough. I know. It goes against everything you've ever heard about healthy eating. If there's anything you take away from this blog I hope it's this point; fat is not bad for you. Fat is a general term and there are healthy fats as well as unhealthy fats. Unfortunately, our grain producing industry has spent fifty years and millions of dollars to convince us that corn, soybean, and other vegetable oils are what's good and that saturated animal fats are what's bad. It's just not the case.

          When you consume healthy fats that are acquired from good sources you are able to stay satiated longer since fat is digested and metabolized at a slower rate than carbohydrates are. This alleviates that "OMG! I'm starving!" feeling we experience around mid-morning or mid-afternoon that usually drives us straight to the snack cabinet. There is a fantastic documentary that I highly recommend called Fat Head by comedian Tom Naughton which chronicles his weight loss and health experiment by eating fat rich foods.

Tip 3: Shake up your joe

I'm a big fan of good coffee. Lot's of us enjoy a sweetened and creamed style. Unfortunately, we've been trained to forego the fat in order to shave some calories even though the calories we're left with provide us with no nutritional benefits. So here's an easy way to modify your coffee habit. Instead of adding low-fat milk or soy or any number of other evil concoctions, try adding in fat rich dairy and skipping the sweetener. You'll gain the nutritional benefits of the milk fat at the same time reducing the extra carbs.

          Heavy cream is a great option as it's naturally sweet but if you're feeling adventurous you can try adding in a good quality grass-fed butter and whipping it up to a froth with an immersion blender. I know, it's crazy sounding, but it's absolutely delicious. You can find more info about this style of coffee at Dave Asprey's blog the Bulletproof Executive. For a little extra sweetness I add a tablespoon of coconut oil to the frothed butter coffee. Yum!

       
          I hope these tips prove helpful. For more info on getting started and where to look you can check out my references for beginners page here. Also, please share any feedback on the blog in the comments section below or via email. Stay tuned for more tips and recipes by subscribing to the blog and good luck in getting healthy!




Pork Chops on the Grill with Curried Baby Zucchini

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Grillin' up a storm




The weather was looking rather foreboding today. It never made it out of the forties and it rained most of the day. This was disappointing as we had made plans to grill out again tonight. Fortunately it dried up enough to get the charcoal lit and give the royal treatment to a couple of bone-in pork chops that I've been drooling over each time I open the fridge.

          These yummy chops came from the meat cooler at Trader Joe's. I took them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before the hit the grill to give them time to come up to room temperature. This keeps the meat from seizing up and becoming tough once it's exposed to heat. I hit the chops with some salt and fresh ground pepper and let them relax while the coals were heating up. If you plan to grill over high heat I would suggest rubbing the meat with olive oil before seasoning to keep them from sticking. When you use a "low and slow" method (as described in this post) you shouldn't experience the meat sticking to the grill so the oil isn't necessary.

Nutiva brand
coconut oil
           Once the pork was on the grill it was time to pick a veggie. Another Trader Joe's specialty, baby zucchini, has quickly become one of our favorite foods. They are really easy to prepare and cook up deliciously with no more than a little oil and your preferred seasonings. Tonight I picked coconut oil as our fat as the slight sweetness marries well to the flavor of the zucchini itself and was also a natural fit for tonight's featured seasoning, a basic curry powder. A dash of salt and black pepper rounded out the flavoring for the veggies. I heated the coconut oil over medium heat and sliced the baby zucchini in half lengthwise. Once halved the zucchini go right into the hot oil along with the seasoning. These should cook until soft but not mushy. They should remain whole spears when handled.

          As the zucchini finished up I headed back to the grill and flipped the chops. These were shaping up nicely but were going to need a dressing. Back in the kitchen I raided the pantry to put together a sauce. Luckily enough we had and open bottle of pinot noir so I poured the remainder into a sauce pan and cranked the heat on high. I also threw in a handful of dried (unsweetened) cranberries and some chopped, dried apricots (also unsweetened). Bringing the wine and fruit to a boil for a few minutes rendered a nice red wine reduction sauce to drizzle over the chops.

          Putting it all together we had a really great meal with complimentary sweet and savory notes. The meal paired well with a glass of the same pinot noir I made the sauce from (Blue Fin winery again from TJ's at $3.99 per bottle!). We're trying to squeeze all the mileage we can out of the grill before the winter puts an end to it so I look forward to adding some more meal ideas and recipes soon.

          I'm always interested in hearing your reviews of the meals or how you tweaked the recipe so feel free to comment below or email me directly with your feedback. You are also welcome to join my email list to receive updates on new posts and recipe/meal ideas. Thanks as always for reading!







Recipe - Bacon Brussels Sprouts





It's beginning to look a lot like Autumn

This is my favorite time of year for a hundred reasons. One of those being that you can now find brussels sprouts on the stalk at fine grocers like Trader Joe's and your local farmers' markets. This is a really easy and still visually impressive way to prepare them. Perfect with Thanksgiving right around the corner. Break out the bacon!





Ingredients:

  • 1 stalk of fresh brussels sprouts (approx. 3/4 lb of loose sprouts if stalk not available)
  • 6 strips of thick cut bacon
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • additional bacon fat or butter if necessary (see instructions)


Instructions:


Start by browning your bacon strips in a large pan or skillet. Since we'll be adding the bacon crumbled back into the sprouts later, crispy is better. While the bacon is cooking remove the sprouts from the stalk and slice your pepper in to medium width slices. In order to keep cook times even you should cut in half the sprouts that are larger than the diameter of a nickel. This will ensure they cook up tender.


          Once the bacon is finished transfer it to a plate and add your sprouts to the hot grease. Depending on the yield of your stalk you may need more fat. I keep some extra bacon fat on the back of the stove for cooking but if you don't have any you can always use ghee or a good quality butter to make sure all the sprouts are coated. Depending on the salt content of your bacon (uncured nitrate free bacon usually doesn't produce very salty fat) you should add a couple pinches of quality salt and several turns of fresh cracked black pepper to the sprouts as they cook. Saute them until they become tender then add your pepper slices in and cook those until they are deep red but not soggy. You want them to retain their crisp texture when plated. While these are cooking crumble your cooled bacon and hold in reserve.


          As the peppers finish up season the mix to taste with salt and pepper (if needed) and toss your crumbled bacon in the mix. Toss the pan to make sure everything is coated and plate in a large serving bowl. This should yield enough to serve as sides for up to six plates even though I polished off this whole mess myself for supper tonight. Comment below to let me know how yours turns out!





3 Easy Low Carb First Step Tips

You gotta start somewhere

One of the hardest parts about making a change or trying something new is taking the first step. I registered this blog and started five different posts before I finally stopped procrastinating and started typing. The same was true for getting healthy. I knew well before the doctor's orders came that I wasn't in good shape and that sooner or later something had to give.

          Making big changes works differently for different people. I typically need to make a big change all at once in order for it to take. However, most people I talk to are more inclined to stick with it if they break a big change into smaller changes. So I'm approaching this post from that point of view and will go over three easy changes that can get you started on the right track to losing weight and feeling better.

Tip 1: Deconstruct your sandwich


Removing bread from your meals seems like the most difficult change in the world but when you stop to think about what it entails you realize it's actually the easiest first step to take. This was the first step I took when going low carb and I learned a few things from it. The first is that sandwich bread masks the flavor of your sandwich fillings. I started packing my lunches with the same smoked turkey I always bought (the Boar's Head section of the deli can be dangerous) and a slice or chunk of good cheese but leaving off the bread. What I found was that I was able to fully experience the taste of the meat and cheese and appreciate those as individual lunch components instead of associating them as part of the dry, boring flavor of a whole wheat sandwich.

          What are you really missing when you ditch the bread? A boat-load of sugar, that's what. Most bread is nutritionally devoid of anything beneficial except items that it has been "fortified" with. All the good stuff is added in in order to improve the nutritional value. For a really scientific breakdown of how bread is essentially equivalent to Skittles, read this post by J. Stanton.

Tip 2: Up the fat content

This is tough. I know. It goes against everything you've ever heard about healthy eating. If there's anything you take away from this blog I hope it's this point; fat is not bad for you. Fat is a general term and there are healthy fats as well as unhealthy fats. Unfortunately, our grain producing industry has spent fifty years and millions of dollars to convince us that corn, soybean, and other vegetable oils are what's good and that saturated animal fats are what's bad. It's just not the case.

          When you consume healthy fats that are acquired from good sources you are able to stay satiated longer since fat is digested and metabolized at a slower rate than carbohydrates are. This alleviates that "OMG! I'm starving!" feeling we experience around mid-morning or mid-afternoon that usually drives us straight to the snack cabinet. There is a fantastic documentary that I highly recommend called Fat Head by comedian Tom Naughton which chronicles his weight loss and health experiment by eating fat rich foods.

Tip 3: Shake up your joe

I'm a big fan of good coffee. Lot's of us enjoy a sweetened and creamed style. Unfortunately, we've been trained to forego the fat in order to shave some calories even though the calories we're left with provide us with no nutritional benefits. So here's an easy way to modify your coffee habit. Instead of adding low-fat milk or soy or any number of other evil concoctions, try adding in fat rich dairy and skipping the sweetener. You'll gain the nutritional benefits of the milk fat at the same time reducing the extra carbs.

          Heavy cream is a great option as it's naturally sweet but if you're feeling adventurous you can try adding in a good quality grass-fed butter and whipping it up to a froth with an immersion blender. I know, it's crazy sounding, but it's absolutely delicious. You can find more info about this style of coffee at Dave Asprey's blog the Bulletproof Executive. For a little extra sweetness I add a tablespoon of coconut oil to the frothed butter coffee. Yum!

       
          I hope these tips prove helpful. For more info on getting started and where to look you can check out my references for beginners page here. Also, please share any feedback on the blog in the comments section below or via email. Stay tuned for more tips and recipes by subscribing to the blog and good luck in getting healthy!




Pork Chops on the Grill with Curried Baby Zucchini

Grillin' up a storm




The weather was looking rather foreboding today. It never made it out of the forties and it rained most of the day. This was disappointing as we had made plans to grill out again tonight. Fortunately it dried up enough to get the charcoal lit and give the royal treatment to a couple of bone-in pork chops that I've been drooling over each time I open the fridge.

          These yummy chops came from the meat cooler at Trader Joe's. I took them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before the hit the grill to give them time to come up to room temperature. This keeps the meat from seizing up and becoming tough once it's exposed to heat. I hit the chops with some salt and fresh ground pepper and let them relax while the coals were heating up. If you plan to grill over high heat I would suggest rubbing the meat with olive oil before seasoning to keep them from sticking. When you use a "low and slow" method (as described in this post) you shouldn't experience the meat sticking to the grill so the oil isn't necessary.

Nutiva brand
coconut oil
           Once the pork was on the grill it was time to pick a veggie. Another Trader Joe's specialty, baby zucchini, has quickly become one of our favorite foods. They are really easy to prepare and cook up deliciously with no more than a little oil and your preferred seasonings. Tonight I picked coconut oil as our fat as the slight sweetness marries well to the flavor of the zucchini itself and was also a natural fit for tonight's featured seasoning, a basic curry powder. A dash of salt and black pepper rounded out the flavoring for the veggies. I heated the coconut oil over medium heat and sliced the baby zucchini in half lengthwise. Once halved the zucchini go right into the hot oil along with the seasoning. These should cook until soft but not mushy. They should remain whole spears when handled.

          As the zucchini finished up I headed back to the grill and flipped the chops. These were shaping up nicely but were going to need a dressing. Back in the kitchen I raided the pantry to put together a sauce. Luckily enough we had and open bottle of pinot noir so I poured the remainder into a sauce pan and cranked the heat on high. I also threw in a handful of dried (unsweetened) cranberries and some chopped, dried apricots (also unsweetened). Bringing the wine and fruit to a boil for a few minutes rendered a nice red wine reduction sauce to drizzle over the chops.

          Putting it all together we had a really great meal with complimentary sweet and savory notes. The meal paired well with a glass of the same pinot noir I made the sauce from (Blue Fin winery again from TJ's at $3.99 per bottle!). We're trying to squeeze all the mileage we can out of the grill before the winter puts an end to it so I look forward to adding some more meal ideas and recipes soon.

          I'm always interested in hearing your reviews of the meals or how you tweaked the recipe so feel free to comment below or email me directly with your feedback. You are also welcome to join my email list to receive updates on new posts and recipe/meal ideas. Thanks as always for reading!