Pan-Seared Beef Heart with Waffles

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Like I said yesterday, the butcher gave John half a beef heart, and tonight we cooked it after a long day of sitting on the couch reading, doing budgets, and watching this incredible video.  (This man, who is an African American pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, should be the President.  He is a genius.  I am writing him in the ballot in 2016, and I am naming our child after him.  Plus, Obama’s face during this entire speech is priceless. He’s so angry.  Ok, I’m done.  I’m not going to get all political here.  Back to beef hearts.)

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So if the thought of a beef heart freaks you out, I apologize.  But in every culture in the world throughout time (except the last 30 or so years of ours) people have happily eaten liver, kidney, heart, and other organs.  We’re the strange ones for thinking it’s strange.

Organ meats are packed with iron, making them a great food for pregnancy, and they usually cost a fraction of what you’d pay for more other cuts of meat. 3 ounces of organ meats contain between 5-10 mg of iron, whereas the same amount of beef muscle contains only 3 mg. Beef heart is also packed with selenium, zinc, phosphorous, collagen, folic acid and CoQ10.

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Here’s an NPR story about beef hearts, and the source of the recipe I used.  We also made some waffles with spelt flour, using this recipe and a waffle machine that was a Christmas gift from John’s sweet sister.  The beef turned out wonderfully– tender, and tasted like steak.  We both loved it.  Between the heart and the waffles I was too concerned with eating to take any pictures of the meal as a whole.

If you want to cook beef heart, or any other part of a cow, please find a good, local source where the cows are pasture-fed.  The nutritional content (and taste) of industrially raised, grain-fed meat will be completely different. Also, please read Jonathan Foer’s book Eating Animals.

 

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Orange Vanilla Almond Cake

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It’s in the high 50s today, which feels almost exotic after the single digit weather we’ve been having.  The baby is thrashing around, and today for the first time I could see my abdomen visibly moving when the baby moved.  I’ve been trying to eat plenty of protein lately, for the baby.  Hence the almond meal cake.

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Also, for the record, I stopped taking my Trader Joe’s fish oil supplements a month or two ago.  I’m not really sure why.  I just didn’t feel motivated to take them, it’s a hassle, etc.  But I started back a few days ago, and my energy has at least doubled since then.  If anyone is feeling a little blah or lethargic, try fish oil, and take a double dose every day!

So, with my renewed energy I made this cake, adapted from a recipe on the back of a bag of Bob’s Red Mill almond meal.  I used olive oil instead of butter and almond milk instead of regular milk (so John can eat some).  And I added some orange zest and juice to give it a nice orange flavor.  It is truly moist and delicious.  (And gluten free!)  But this is also a simple cake, not the cake I’d make if I were trying to impress a dinner party.  A simple, family cake, or a cake for people who appreciate subtle, rustic fare.

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Orange Vanilla Almond Cake (Gluten Free)

3/4 c. butter (or equal amount of olive oil or coconut oil)
3/4 c. sugar (original recipe calls for 1 c. sugar, so you can do that if you want this very sweet, or even go down to 1/2 c. if you don’t need much sweetness)
4 eggs
scant 1/2 c. milk (regular or almond, soy, etc.)
1 t. vanilla
2-3 T orange zest (zest from 2 oranges)
5-7 T juice from one of the oranges*

1 and 1/2 c. almond meal/flour
1/2 c. coconut flour
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder

*You can substitute lemon zest and juice for a lemon cake, and you can add a couple of teaspoons of poppy seeds, if you want.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.  Cream butter and sugar, or mix oils and sugar.  Add eggs, milk, orange juice and zest, and vanilla, and beat until smooth.

3.  Mix dry ingredients well and add them to the oil/sugar/egg mixture.  Stir sparingly until no lumps remain.

4.  Pour into greased (or parchment papered) 9×13 baking dish and bake at 350 f for 25-30 minutes. (Photos are of a half batch of the recipe!)

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Some Little Squashes, and Conundrums

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John and I went to the farmers’ market this Saturday.  We bought three parsnips, a bunch of leeks, two little squashes, and a couple of pounds of carrots.  And now all I want to do is make soups.  I read two cooking blogs written by French women (this one and this one), and this week, because I’ve been missing France, I’ve been scrolling through their archives, absorbing the beauty and simplicity of their recipes, and especially their winter soups.

(The man who sold us this little squash (photo above) told us it was a kobocha squash, but it doesn’t look anything like the pictures of kabocha squashes I am finding.  Does anyone know what kind it is?)

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The only problem is that John doesn’t really like soup.  But we went to a small dinner gathering last night where we ate potato leek soup and bread with butter, and John loved it.  So I have hope.  The other problem is that I need to go to the grocery store for a few things– onions and thyme and curry powder and some lemongrass (because I want to make this soup, minus the shrimp).  But it’s freezing cold and snowing, and I still can’t get used to this place where life goes on as usual in the middle of pouring snow showers.

But as hard as it is to get motivated to run errands in this weather I do love having a real winter.  Seasons are good things, and I have to remember how much I missed a good fall and winter when we lived on the North Carolina coast.  And I think maybe 6 months of miserable cold are a decent trade-in for 6 months of miserable mosquitos…. So, off to the grocery store.  I don’t know how much time I will have to write about the soups this week, but I will try to post a few pictures and links to the recipes that I’m basing mine on.  (For those of you on pinterest, here’s a link to my food for fall/winter board, where I’ve collected the soup recipes I’m going to try out in the next few weeks.)

Yogurt with Bee Pollen and Chia Seeds

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Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of yogurt.  Right now, my baby’s bones are growing, and if I don’t eat enough calcium the baby will take it from my bones and teeth.  I buy plain, whole milk yogurt and add a tiny amount of honey or agave nectar to it (though I’ve been weaning myself off the sweetener this week).  I’ve also been adding about 2 T of chia seeds and some bee pollen.  (Oh, for those of you who read 101 Cookbooks, I freely admit that this post was inspired by her recent and more beautiful one about yogurt.)

Bee pollen is considered a superfood and contains 22 amino acids, B vitamins, and thousands of enzymes and coenzymes.  It is said to help treat allergies, digestive problems, depression, acne, and arthritis.  Read here fore more information on some studies done with bee pollen, including an interesting one about cancer.  (If starting to eat bee pollen for the first time, be aware that it can cause allergic reactions for some, so start with one or two granules at a time, and work your way up to half or a full teaspoon.  Never heat it or add it to anything hot, because this will kill the beneficial enzymes.  Store in the refrigerator.)

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Chia seeds are full of fiber, Omega-3s, and especially good news for pregnant women– calcium!  One ounce has 18% of the daily recommended amount of calcium.  And 11 g. of fiber (for only 12 g. of total carbohydrates). That’s huge. (Though it’s worth doing some research to see if chia seeds are going the way of quinoa, becoming so high in price that the people who grow it and have depended on it for thousands of years can’t afford to eat it anymore.  This article is worth a read.)  When you stir the chia seeds into yogurt and let it sit for a few minutes, the seeds absorb liquid and become soft.

Yogurt is full of calcium, protein, B 2, B 5 and B 12, potassium, tryptophan, and beneficial bacteria.  Fermented dairy products like yogurt, kefir, etc., have been a staple in traditional diets the world over and are a common feature of some of the cultures that boast the highest life expectancies.  It’s also believed that the calcium in yogurt is more easily assimilated by the body than the calcium in regular milk.

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Elderberry Syrup for Cold and Flu… and a little tiny announcement

John came down with the flu last week, and I immediately went to Green Star to buy some elderberry syrup and some dried elderberries to make more syrup with.  Also, I might as well mention that I’m 19 weeks pregnant, and I haven’t had a flu shot, so I truly, truly was hoping not to get sick.  At the store, I ran into my yoga teacher, and she agreed that elderberries were the way to go (she’s also a doula, so I trusted her opinion that elderberry syrup would be safe during pregnancy).*

*Obviously, if you are pregnant or breast feeding, please don’t take the advice of me or my yoga teacher/doula friend– check with your health care provider before taking this or any other kind of medicine.

But anyway, John and I both drank copious amounts of elderberry syrup last week, and while I’m not sure if it helped him much, I can say that I didn’t catch it.  Whether it was the elderberry syrup or some miraculous intervention, I don’t know.  But I’m going to keep drinking a teaspoon or so per day until flu season is over.

So the following is basically a re-post from last year– my apologies!  But I think elderberry syrup is sort of a natural medicine miracle, and I wanted to share it again.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about here: elderberries have been a natural remedy for hundreds of years and are good for colds and fluresearch is showing that elderberries have strong anti-viral properties.  You can pretty easily make your own syrup at home (see recipe below), or you can buy it already made at health food stores (or online here— use coupon code WER470 to get $5 off).

To make Elderberry Syrup

To make, place 1/2 c. dried elderberries, 5 cloves, 1 stick of cinnamon, and 1-2 T of fresh chopped ginger (the skin can stay on) in a pot and cover with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by about half.  Remove from heat, mash berries, and then strain.  To the strained liquid (once it’s cool enough to put your finger in for 10 seconds) add 1/4 c. raw honey.*  The syrup will last a few weeks in the fridge.  I added more water to the remaining berry pulp and repeated the process a few times, drinking the liquid as a tea.  (You can buy elder berries from Mountain Rose Herbs for a really good price, about $10/pound, which would make several large batches of syrup)

*The raw honey is very important.  Read more here.

You can take a tablespoon a day as a preventative measure during cold and flu season, and take a few tablespoons a day when you are sick.

You can also buy pre-made elderberry syrup at any health food store, but it will be much, much more expensive than if you make it yourself.  (My favorite store bought kind is the one pictured belowSambucus Black Elderberry Extract.  It’s super concentrated and tastes great.)  Or buy it online here for $8 and use coupon code WER470 to get $5 off (and free shipping on oders over $20).

Sources

Information about elderberry

More information and other uses

Buy dried elderberries online– Mountain Rose Herbs

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Tomato Curry Soup and Warm Greens

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John came home from a week in Colorado late last night and this morning went back to bed sick almost as soon as he woke up.  So I decided to make him some tomato soup (in lieu of, for now, the V8 juice he had requested) using this lovely recipe from 101 cookbooks.

This soup is so simple to make.  If you have an onion or two and a couple of cans of tomatoes– whole, diced, whatever– you’re practically there.  You also need some cumin, coriander, and curry powder.  That’s about it.  It comes together in one pot and is one of those soups warms you from the inside out.

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I also had some collard greens that needed to be cooked today, so I cut off the biggest part of the stems and then chopped them across (perpendicular to the stem) in very thin strips.  I sauteed them in a generous amount of olive oil with a pinch of salt, about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and a few dashes of red chili flakes.  Oh, and some minced garlic.  I cooked them until they were wilted but still bright green.  If I had had a strip of bacon or some bacon grease or something similar, I would have cooked them in that.  (Collards, by the way, are one of the best sources of calcium– they have more calcium than milk.  And they have a slightly spicy, bitter flavor to them that I can’t get enough of these days.)

With John asleep and not much else on the agenda for the day, I cooked very slowly and  tried to be present with what I was doing.  And in going so slowly, working gently with onion peels and collard stems, pinches of curry and coriander, cooking this morning felt a little like meditation, or prayer.

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(The beautiful mug in these photos was a gift from my dear sister-in-law, who writes the most charming blog here.)