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Monthly Archives for: April 2011

A “good” read

Just before I moved to Boulder from Northern Ohio, I made it a point to make one last trip up to Ann Arbor to get some love from Zingerman’s deli. Talk about a great sandwich and a foodie’s paradise that’s hard to leave behind. Fortunately for me, the stars aligned, Alfalfa’s re-opened (even hired me!) and I had another world-class eatery in my backyard again!

I just couldn’t wait to share my Zingerman’s experiences with all the food and grocery gurus here at Alfalfa’s. Of course, I was preaching to the choir, all my new foodie Alf’s friends were either already big fans or had been there in person! But, just in case you’re not up on Zingermans and flying into Detroit and driving to Ann Arbor isn’t realistic, may I just suggest curling up with the Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating. 

Now I can babble on about anything, especially food and good reads, so I’ll go bullet-point style and share just a few of the topic excerpts from random pages, this should be all you need to say, “honey, give me the iPad, I need to order this book!” (PS – I gave Boulder Bookstore a call and they stock it!)

  • “Different Cuts for Different Cooks, A Guide to Pasta Shapes” – Do you know what an Annelini pasta is? Neither did I, but now I know it’s shaped like a ring and going in my next soup!
  • “Smell The Bread” – All about the exercise and skill of smelling breads basically, can’t wait to see someone holding up a big loaf of Alf’s bread up to their nose!
  • “Dark Shadows, My Campaign for Darker Crusts” – Ari (founder, author) offers his reasoning on why people need to get over their fear of dark crusts! Who knew I was feeding ducks sweeter and nuttier flavor? I just thought it was burnt!
  • Ok, one more…”How Can Vinegar Cost $50 an Ounce?” Well apparently one reason is that it disappears! The book explains that in 25 years of aging, some basalmics can evaporate down to 10% of their original volume. They’re not talking little jars either, 100 liters can dwindle down to 10 liters!

And it’s all written in the fun-to-read quirky, quick Zingerman’s style, grab it!

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Don’t make your detox, detoxic

When I was in my 20’s I did a lot of crazy fasting, the kind I would never recommend now, for example just water for days, I remember one water fast that included liver powder, yuck! I did learn how much fasting re-adjusts your perspective to food, how often we eat without thinking, or even noticing, and also how lovely cookbooks and the food channel become when you aren’t eating.

These days when people ask about cleansing my answer is simple, eat vegetables, only vegetables, and lot’s of them. Greens in the blender for breakfast, a big salad, vegetable soup, or steamed vegetables for lunch and dinner. Vegetable broth, herb tea, or vegetable juices for snacks. No white potatoes, to help with blood sugar balance. Use a squeeze of lemon in water first thing in the AM, or in other foods. When we starve ourselves, as in a water fast, or the master cleanse, our systems shut down, we may end up circulating a lot of toxins, but they don’t leave the body, and toxins hanging around only become more toxic, like the garbage when the garbage man doesn’t come.

Be sure to drink sufficient water or herbal tea, increase sweating, use a body brush to help the skin release toxins, and take some baths. You can do this cleanse in many different ways, one day a week, a long weekend a few times a year, or for up to a couple of weeks. If this sounds like too much restriction, add in some lean protein, and high quality fats like olive oil and coconut oil, or low sugar fruits, like berries and apples. But no sweets, grains, caffeine, alcohol, dairy or bad fats.

You can greatly increase the cleansing, and healing process by adding some herbal products to your cleanse, some of our favorites are the Flor-Essence 7 day Purification Program, Raw Cleanse by Garden of Life, and 7 Day Total Nutritional Cleanse by Natural Factors. LiverCare by Himalaya is one of the best liver support products in the world, being sold in 75 countries.  

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When it comes to outdoor cooking, Go Dutch!

When it comes to cooking outside, most everyone turns to the grill. As for me, I use the Dutch Oven. It may look intimidating, but I promise you, it’s one of the simplest, greatest ways to get the best flavor out of your meat. It just requires a bit of common sense and a side of patience.

So, if you up to the challenge of the dutch-oven cooking, let’s start with a few basics:

1. What is a dutch oven?
A dutch oven is a cast pot of almost any size. It has thick walls, usually made of cast iron or aluminum and comes with a tight fitting lid.

2. If I don’t have a dutch oven, what should I look for when buying one?
Fist and foremost, I recommend cast iron over aluminum dutch ovens. Some folks believe that aluminum can have negative health effects, so I’ve personally never used it.

Second, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying what’s known as a “camp” or “outdoor” dutch oven. These will have 3 short legs on the bottom with a lid that has a lip around it for holding coals, compared to the flat based dutch ovens with no legs, and no ridge around the outer edge. These flat based ovens are primarly used for cooking indoors.

And third, you’ll want to pick out just the right size. If you’re going to buy just one, I’d recommend going with the 12” round, and about 4 or 5” deep. This will accommodate cooking up most roasts, and chickens, with room to add vegetables.

To make it easy for you, I recommend going with the Lodge Logic™ 8 Quart Cast Iron Deep Camp Dutch Oven (go with the 12” diameter, 5 inch depth), because it’s better quality than most all I’ve seen, and accommodates to most occasions. This size can typically hold enough to serve at 8 – 25 people for the main dish, and about 40 if you’re making a side dish. 

3. What can I make in an outdoor dutch oven?
You can cook almost anything in your camp dutch oven, from roasts to whole hams! Below is a very general recipe that should guide you through any dutch oven dish.

Recipe

  • 1, 12 inch cast iron dutch oven
  • 1 Pair of welder’s gloves (don’t lift the hot lid without these guys)
  • Anywhere from 22 to 28 depending the temp your recipe calls for
  • 1-4 lb cut of meat, pork or beef or bison all are similar
  • Veggies to your liking (potatoes, carrots, Celery onions or any other root vegetables are a great place to start)
  • Cooking oil
  • A bit of flour
  • Liquid (water, wine, stock) water is the last choice but certainly works fine

First place your dutch oven on right on the ground (little FYI, when most people Then, you’ll want to get the bottom of the cast iron pot nice and hot. Place several pieces of lit lump, briquettes, or coals under the dutch oven to the right heat for your desired recipe. Once it’s hot flour the meat, add the oil, and brown the meat on all sides. Next add your liquid of choice, and all the veggies. Then put the lid on top, making sure it is secured tightly.

Next you’ll want to add the coals or your heat source of choice on top. My rule of thumb is to add about three times the amount of fuel on top as you have on the bottom. For example, if you have 3 coals on the bottom, you would want to place eight or nine on top. This blog breaks down the top to bottom and temp ratios pretty well. (http://www.chuckwagonsupply.com/faqs.html)

It will take a bit of practice and some peeking at the food being cooked to get the heat right for your desired recipe, so pay occasional attention and add or remove coals or charcoal as common sense dictates. You might burn your cast iron pot or even your food, but it’s all about sensing when you’re working with a cast iron pot, so don’t give up. Just let it burble a bit, not bubble, just a little tip to know when it’s too hot or not hot enough.

You will need to cook this for at least four hours and up to six is probably better. You will know the meat is finished when it is fork tender. When ready, season to taste and enjoy.

I truly believe that food cooked in a cast iron dutch oven using coals or charcoal delivers a distinct, unique flavor that makes it all worthwhile. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

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