Friday, July 25, 2014

Sausage McMuffins w/ Egg & Avocado

I was a hungry hungry hippo yesterday morning.  Luckily, I had a great many things to eat.  I pulled a roll of pork breakfast sausage out of the freezer a few days ago, and it had defrosted just enough to slice and fry up.  I also had roasted some sweet potato rounds that night before, so I decided to make breakfast sandwiches, patterned after the sausage mcmuffin with egg.  Except, you know, made from actual food.

Paleo Sausage McMuffins w/ Egg & Avocado
6 sweet potato rounds, salted & roasted in avocado oil
3 pork sausage patties
2 eggs, scrambled and turned into 3 "patties"
3 blobs of avocado (mine was mixed with lime juice and kosher salt)


paleo sausage mcmuffin w/ egg and avocado

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Grass fed hamburger lettuce wraps and "salad"

I love me some hamburgers.  And while I love having a crispy bun, it is certainly not the end-all, be-all necessity of the burger. The patty is.  So when I am trying to avoid unnecessary carbohydrates, grains, calories, or what-have-you, but still want the hamburger experience, I go for the hamburger lettuce wrap.

grass fed hamburger salad

We had a pretty warm day and I couldn't bring myself to cook anything inside the house, so I fired up the Weber and cooked up some of these bad boys.  Each patty is a 1/4lb, and I cooked up 2lbs of beef, so got 8 patties.  Without any sides, I ate 2 per meal. They were delicious.

Grass fed hamburger lettuce wraps

As leftovers, I reheated a patty in a skillet while I fried up an egg.  The patty got topped with a little garlic aioli, the fried egg, some lettuce, quartered cherry tomatoes, and avocado slices.  I didn't miss the bun one bit.  The fries, maybe a little.

grass fed hamburger salad

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sous Vide Pork Carnitas Lettuce Wrap Tacos

pork carnitas lettuce tacos

Yikes that sounds complicated.  It's not.  Last November, I used a gift card to my favorite store, Amazon to buy a temperature controller for my crock pot. And it's incredible.  In fact, I like it so much, I bought an Anova immersion circulator to use for larger projects, but it's still in production and I won't have it til October sometime. Regardless, this is officially my favorite way to cook pork carnitas.  I've done the Homesick Texan version, and they're good, but just too dramatic in terms of mess and fuss for me. You will need a temperature controller, or a way to keep a water bath at a steady 155 degrees F for an extended period of time.

pork carnitas

 Here is how it goes.
*Get some pork shoulder
*Chop it up, mix with desired seasonings (a little lime juice, cumin, salt, maybe chili  and/or garlic powder would be nice here)
*Vacuum seal it in quantities small enough to fit in your water bath vessel.  For me, this was 2.5lb packages
*Store, cook, or freeze (I make up and freeze several packs of this when I do a pork shoulder, then all I have to do is pull one out of the freezer and plunk it in a water bath the day before I want to eat.)
*Cook at 155F for 22 hours.  This is easy enough to toss in after dinner and pull out before dinner.
*Remove from hot water and chill in an ice water bath. - At this point you can stick it in the fridge for several days, or open up the package and proceed onto the next step.
*Open package, and pick through the pork.  I pull out all the big solid hunks of fat, gelatinous goo, and other less-desirable bits.  Those go to the dogs.  They appreciate them.
*Toss the hunks of pork in a nonstick or cast iron skillet and cook it over medium-low heat, allowing to crisp (fat will render out to help with the browning process), then turn, allow to crisp more, etc.  Repeat until desired level of crispiness is achieved.   Serve.

pork carnitas lettuce tacos

IMO, these are best wrapped in small flour tortillas, topped with pico de gallo, avocado, and a little crema.  But I am not eating dairy, or flour this month, and my avocados were not ripe yet.  So I made lettuce tacos out of baby romaine, pork carnitas, pico, and a garlic-lime aioli, and topped with a little hot sauce.

pork carnitas lettuce tacos

Monday, July 21, 2014

I made a compost bin, and it cost me nothing!

I will be the first to say that there are many things that I hate, but one of the top contenders is people billing things as stuff they're totally not.  "Totally FREE DIY Compost Bin!!! - All it took was 16 pallets, my contractor husband, several sets of hinges and 14 hours of backbreaking labor!"  This was closer to "I have minimal carpentry skills, and some scrap lumber that I've been trying to come up with an occasion to burn, plus some random lengths of wire fencing I had hanging out around the yard from previous compost bin experiments.

So when we got the house, my mother in law had an old compost bin sitting around her work that she gifted to me.  It was the type that's basically big flexible sleeve with some holes in it, and then a round cap for the top and bottom.  Theoretically that type of compost bin may work OK, but in my experience, you can not adequately stir it, it doesn't get much aeration, and it's very difficult to get the actual compost OUT of it.  I've made cylinders out of 2x4" welded wire mesh.  Those worked about as well as the big cylinder, however using more narrow ones resulted in them toppling over on the relatively light slope we have in the area of the yard that I choose to compost.  Forsaking all of the bin methods, I most recently switched over to a "pile" which has bee fine, however it looks very messy, and the dogs start going through it trying to find high-value kitchen scraps, like watermelon rinds and corn cobs.  It's not a pretty situation.  With the recent education I've had on just how messy ducks are, I learned that I would be needing additional capacity to get all of the poo-soaked bedding rotten enough to safely use in my vegetable beds.

compost bin

Knowing that I'd need a 2-stage setup -  one stage for "maturing" compost, and the other to have an active pile that is being added to regularly, I figured I'd just build a sided bin.  So I did some figuring, and looked around at the random pieces of welded wire mesh I've had cluttering the back yard, and figured out my dimensions.  The bin would be 3x3x6', with a divider in the middle.  And I got to planning it.  It's certainly not the most elegant solution, but for the first time ever, I didn't have to go to the store for ANYTHING to make this operational.  We have a pile of 2x4s leftover from the duck pen project and from removing the pantry a year and a half ago, so I just used those for my 3' sections, and used the 6' pressure treated 2x4s leftover from the first iteration of raised bed trellises.  Besides the wire and lumber, the only other things I needed were screws and staples.  Staples I had leftover from the duck pen, and screws I have hundreds of.  Every time I have a project, I buy a box or three, and now we have hundreds of mismatched wood screws.

After monkeying with the bin a little, I have decided that I probably will want to get some U-channel or something similar to make an easily removable wall for the front to hold up the compost (this will also help keep the dogs from collecting treasures out of the bin). This will require a trip to Lowes, and probably some money also, but the compost bin is currently fully functional as-is.

compost bin

Here's the materials list
3x - 6ft 2x4
12x - 3x 2x4
3x - 3x3ft wire mesh
1x  - 3x6' wire mesh
30-40ish hammer-in staples
25-30 outdoor wood screws

*I started by making squares out of the 3ft 2x4s.  I made 3 squares, and then stapled the wire mesh into each of them.
*When they were done, I stapled the wire mesh into each of them and then set one aside.
*I screwed the 6ft lengths to 3 corners of the squares, then measured and stuck the third piece in as a divider, and screwed that in. Then it was just a matter of stapling the last 6ft piece of wire mesh on, moving the bin to its final location, and filling it with what had been in my existing heap.

compost bin

Since each of the sides is 3x3x3 (aka a cubic yard), doing the math on just how much magical soil I have to use will be pretty simple!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Basil Pesto

Every year it is the same thing for me.  I get the garden planted and then constantly stress out about how nothing is growing.  Eventually I get so discouraged that I give up on the idea that anything will ever produce.  Then a week later, I am totally inundated with crop X and I and wholly unprepared to deal with the amount of food it's producing.  This year has been no different.  Cool season crops grow so slowly (or so quickly) that you kind of keep tabs on them through spring, but as soon as the heat of summer hits, I always scramble to figure out what to do with them!  The kale is covered in aphids, but the ducks love both kale and aphids, so that's been a pretty easy crop to "dispose" of.  The peas have done all the growing they're going to, and in the face of a week of days topping 90 degrees have begun drying out.  The ducks have been greedily gobbling those down.  Anything that gets tossed into their pen is systematically defoliated and all I have to do is collect a bundle of dried out stems weekly.  They're basically the cutest compost pile you've ever seen.  With my move to rid the beds of dying cool season crops, I've been doing little more than pinch prune the tomatoes and keep training them on their strings.  This morning, I looked outside and realized that I have 2 huge basil plants that are beginning to bolt (this means they're blooming, and makes the basil take on a more anise-y flavor).  That means that I need to use them right away!  My favorite use for basil, besides caprese salad (and that's still a month off as none of the tomatoes have ripened yet) is pesto.

Basil Pesto Ingredients

But let us discuss pesto just a little bit.  Typically, pesto is made with pine nuts.  Pine nuts are delicious, but if you've ever heard of Pine Mouth you'll probably think twice about eating them.  Plus, they're super expensive.  And for things like pesto where the nuts are there primarily for texture, it's difficult to tell the difference between them and many other types of nuts.  So I always go with whatever nuts I have lying around the house.  This time, it was sliced almonds that I toasted.

Basil Pesto Ingredients

The trick with basil pesto is that it turns brown by oxidation so quickly.  The only way to effectively prevent this is to not allow the pesto to have any access to oxygen (difficult in a home environment) or to blanch the basil, which is very easy in a home environment.  I went with that.  You basically toss the basil in boiling water, count to 10, ensure that it's turned a bright green color, then drain.  If you're not worried about the pesto oxidizing (like you're going to use it right away or don't care if it turns brown - the flavor doesn't degrade with the color), then don't bother with blanching it.

Basil Pesto IngredientsIngredients:
6ish cups basil leaves, stems and flowers removed, blanched if you so desire.
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2-6 cloves garlic (depends on how much you like garlic)
1/2 cup toasted nuts
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
Salt to taste

Basil Pesto

*Put your cheese, garlic, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor, and twirl until they're pretty fine (technical term here - maybe uncooked couscous sized?)
*Add your basil, either blanched or otherwise
*Whirr the pesto ingredients and stream in olive oil until the pesto loosens up enough evenly process.
*Taste, add salt, and enjoy.

Basil Pesto

This pesto freezes beautifully.  You can either freeze it as a solid block, or stick it in an ice cube tray, freeze, then stick the cubes of pesto into a resealable zip top bag and store in the freezer.  Or put it all on everything you see for an entire week and then go into withdrawals because you're out and the basil hasn't bounced back enough to make another batch.

Basil Pesto wreckage