Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Valentine’s Day Treats February 14, 2011

Filed under: Events — realfoodmama @ 10:30 am
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Valentine’s day is known for it’s chocolate, flowers, and the ability to make the unattached feel like second class citizens. All in all, not a very healthy holiday! There are, of course, ways to lessen the blow of the Valentine’s Day unhealthiness.

Chocolate actually isn’t that bad for you in its purer forms. Dark chocolate is full of healthy flavonoids and antioxidants which lower or regulate blood pressure and protect the body from free radicals, respectively. The problems, of course, come from the additives put in many of the chocolate confections sold for the holiday. High Fructose Corn Syrup is an ingredient in many of those heart shaped chocolate collections, and the additional sugars and food dyes that go with it make the standard Valentine’s heart-shaped-box a poor choice for the holiday.

Some better options for your sweetheart include Green & Black’s dark chocolate at 70%. I like the super dark stuff but if you are used to regular chocolate go for the lower percentage. If you are in the NM area and interested in buying local, Chocolove is out of Boulder, CO and they have a fabulous selection of dark chocolates in more romantic packaging, as well as several organic options. My personal favorite, and not just because it is packaged in red with big XOXO’s on it, is the dark chocolate with almonds and cherries.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to chocolate to romance your sweetheart. My favorite food gift for valentine’s day is a huge slab of grass-fed beef, cooked on the grill (or under the broiler if weather interferes). The best way to prepare it is to use some organic or grass-fed butter, a little sea salt and some cracked pepper, then cook until medium rare. Good for the heart and the soul as far as I am concerned!

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Eating!

 

Meet dinner! May 16, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Eating local,Events,Food For Thought — realfoodmama @ 8:15 pm
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Mo the steerThis is a picture of my new steer – he’s the one looking at the camera. Yes, I officially own a cow.

Of course I don’t have to feed him or take care of him or even see him until he’s been ground up and put in my freezer. Yes, readers, I came face to face with my dinner. And it smelled a little.

This weekend I drove for about two hours, over 15 miles of bad forest service dirt road in order to arrive at a ranch located in what most people would consider the back of beyond in order to pick out my own Black Angus beef. My steer will graze exclusively on the grasses and shrubs of the New Mexican desert until the end of October, at which point his delicious self will be butchered and packaged to order for myself and my family. And then he will be dinner.

I admit to being surprisingly unfazed by the whole experience, but that may have a lot to do with my upbringing. My father hunted when I was young and our family friends would slaughter hogs every year. I frequently saw the progression from animal to food and I have always made the connection in my mind between the roast chicken I’m eating and the clucking bird in the yard. It has never bothered me and I am hopeful that my son will feel the same.

Because his father decidedly does NOT. It took some serious begging in order to get him to even come along on the adventure and he has yet to look at the picture of the cow I selected. Of course he’s the person who eats the most meat in the house and regularly asks for steak, but such is life. Admittedly watching them being castrated, branded and tagged wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience, but, no offense to any cow lovers out there, they don’t have much of a long term memory. And they all ran off happily afterward, so I am pretty sure they will survive.

I certainly hope that my cow has a happy life up there on the mesa’s, running around and playing with his other cow friends. I suspect when it comes down to it, he won’t know what hit him.

 

Locally Grown Grass-Fed Beef and the Problem with Eating Meat. February 26, 2010

Filed under: Eating local,Fight Back Fridays — realfoodmama @ 1:40 pm
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This last winter we bought about 50 pounds of grass-fed beef to store in our freezer. It lasted us about 3 months and while we didn’t get a lot of variety, we did get some fabulous meals out of it.

It was such a success that we have decided we really want to buy more this year and as luck would have it, there is a local ranch doing a special in May. For $600 you can buy a cow, and then take it to the butcher for a pre-negotiated price. I am incredibly excited about this for a few reasons. First, I can request some very specific things from the butcher such as suet and organ meats. Secondly, it has given me the opportunity to meet a local butcher. This will come in incredibly handy in the event we ever want to process any of our livestock for meat. Lastly, I love the idea of meeting the animal beforehand. The whole point of the special this ranch is promoting is that you actually go there and pick out your steer. And this is where the whole thing fell apart when I was explaining it to my partner.

My son’s father is more tenderhearted than he cares to admit. He won’t hunt, he doesn’t like the idea of eating any male chickens we end up with, and he absolutely refuses to let us raise our male goats for meat. The idea of going to a ranch and coming face to face with his Rib Eye steak literally made him get up and leave the room. He just can’t help but personify his animals, and that makes it hard for him to eat them if he thinks about it.

Now I have a totally different take on the situation, of course. I think that coming face to face with your food really forces you to realize how important food is for life. I like the idea of coming to terms with the sacrifice, so to speak. I think that the biggest problem modern food production has is the unwillingness to look into the eyes of our food and recognize that the animal before us is giving its life to feed us. I personally am incredibly grateful to all the birds and cows I’ve eaten. However, I can understand that people don’t always see it that way.

However, I think it would be easier to support eating animals that have had a nice life rather than the de-humanized industrial existence that most of them get. The irony is my partner doesn’t like grass-fed beef. He prefers the grain fed variety in terms of flavor and texture. Whats a girl to do?

Well, this girl is going to leave the baby daddy at home, drive 100 miles to pick out a happy cow (no, not like the ones from California) and then quietly serve her partner a Rib Eye steak without pointing out how cute said steak once was, and leave it at that.

Life requires sacrifice, and that’s just the way it is. The only reason why people don’t cry over vegetables when we harvest them is because they don’t have faces. I bet if a rutabaga looked like a bunny rabbit, people would have a harder time rationalizing vegetarianism as a cruelty free way to eat. I personally think the ability to thank your animal in person for his or her flesh will make every meal taste better. However I appear to be alone on this one.

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s blog carnival.

 

Succulent Pressure Cooker Beef Stew February 10, 2010

Filed under: Real Food Wednesday,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 10:20 am
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Pressure Cooker Beef StewSo the other night I was looking once again at the beef in my freezer wondering what I could do with all that stew meat that wouldn’t be exactly like everything else I have ever done with stew meat. To be completely honest with you, inspiration did not strike until I was halfway through the process, but oh! Did it strike hard! The use of the pressure cooker is a result of the fact that I was procrastinating and didn’t start dinner until about 40 minutes before we were scheduled to eat. This stew could probably be cooked in a stock pot or crock pot, but the recipe would have to be adjusted to accommodate the longer cooking time. My pressure cooking is one of my favorite tools here in the kitchen. It makes cooking beans a breeze and helps with a variety of meat dishes.

In addition to the beef, I had planned on adding carrots and potatoes to the stew halfway through the cooking, so I had them all cut up on the counter next to the pot. When I tasted the beef portion, however, I decided against doing so. Instead I simply boiled them up and served them on the side with a strong dose of butter, heavy cream and salt. I love fat…but that’s a different post! Here is the recipe!

Succulent Pressure Cooker Beef Stew

1 lb grass fed beef stew meat
2 TBSP olive oil + 2 TBSP organic butter
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 stick celery, diced fine
1/2 large carrot (or one small), diced
2 TBSP cognac
1 heaping TBSP organic tomato paste
1 c water
1 TBSP dried thyme
1 tsp fennel seed, crushed
~ 2 tsp ground black pepper
~ TBSP sea salt

Place the meat in a bowl and add the black pepper – I am guessing on the quantity because I basically just peppered the meat until it looked covered enough. I like the flavor of pepper in my stews, so I suspect I put in quite a bit. Set the meat aside for a minute at room temperature and heat your oil. I used a pressure cooker because I started dinner late and it is a great way to tenderize meat and cook veggies really quickly. You could use a different method, but you would have to adjust the liquid to compensate for the longer cooking time – probably up to two cups.

Back to the recipe…

Heat the olive oil and butter in the pressure cooker over medium high heat until the butter has started to brown a bit then put in the peppered meat. Avert your eyes and use a long wooden spoon to stir the meat until it is well browned, about 3 – 5 minutes. Pour the meat and all juices back into the bowl and put the pot back on the heat. Lower it to medium low, then add your chopped onions, celery and carrots. You want to “sweat” these veggies, not sautee them. Cook them this way, avoiding browning, until the onions are translucent and the carrots are soft, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Add the beef and all accumulated juices back into the pot, along with the cognac, tomato paste and water. Stir well so the tomato paste dissolves and bring to a simmer. Add the crushed thyme and fennel seeds and your salt (I like a lot of salt, so simply salt to your taste). Place the lid on your pressure cooker and set it to the correct setting for your altitude. Once the pot has pressurized, cook for 10 minutes (so quick!).

Check the stew at this point and make sure the meat is tender enough and there is still liquid. If you want it to go a bit longer and the liquid is sufficient, go ahead. I was happy with the results after this amount of time.

What you end up with is an incredibly savory, rich stew with a thick sauce and tender meat. Serve it poured over mashed potatoes (and carrots!) and you have a really quick, hearty meal for these snowy, cold February nights.

This post has been my submission to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival.