Curried Pork Lettuce Wraps – From 2012 Austin Parade of Homes Chef Night

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I was honored to be selected as one of the featured chefs for Austin’s 2012 Parade of Homes Chef Night at the PGM Design + Build home. PGM owner, Edgar Prats, and I later reunited on the He Said, She Said radio program. He’s been begging me ever since for he pork recipe I prepared that night. This curried pork is a test of patience, but well worth the wait to prepare. I originally served this as a one bite amuse-bouche at the event, but it’s especially delicious served wrapped in a crisp lettuce cup. The cool crunch is an awesome compliment to the sweet spice of the pork. I usually will buy an entire pork shoulder at a time (about 12-18 lbs). If entertaining, you can cook the entire shoulder or split the butt (upper part) from the picnic (lower part) and freeze one for a later use.

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Ingredients:
1 pork butt, bone in
1 sweet yellow onion, sliced 1/2″ thick
1 – 12 oz can coconut milk
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 stalk lemongrass, bruise with heel of knife
equal parts Penzey’s Sweet and Hot Curry Powder, about 4 Tbsp each mixed
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp coconut oil
1 head Boston lettuce

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Season butt completely with curry powder, then sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper.
3. In large Dutch oven, heat coconut oil over med-high heat.
4. Sear butt in oil on all sides until browned. Remove and set aside.
5. Add lime juice and coconut milk to Dutch oven to deglaze the pan.
6. Return butt to pan, add remaining ingredients except lettuce, cover and place in oven.
7. Once in oven, immediately reduce heat to 200 degrees F.
8. Cook for 4 hours, basting every 20-30 minutes.
9. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before shredding pork butt with fork.
10. Strain pan sauce and save it for remoistening pork if needed.
11. Serve in lettuce wraps by themselves or topped with fresh chiles, your favorite salsa, shredded cabbage or cilantro.

Note: This can also be made in a crockpot. Turn crockpot to high and allow to heat completely. Once this is done, sear the butt in a sauté pan. Transfer pork to crockpot and deglaze saute pan with lime juice and coconut milk as above then transfer sauce to crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook high for 4-6 hours or reduce heat to low once all ingredients are added and cook 8-10 hours.

Chicken Enchilada Stew

chicken soup

When I wake up to rainy days like today, only one thing sounds good. Soup. I had just enough time to throw this in the crock pot before heading to class, can’t wait for the amazing smell when I get home later, NOMS!

Ingredients:
2lbs chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, sliced very thin
4 Hatch green chiles, charred with torch or over stovetop burner, deseeded and chopped
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 (14oz) can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 (7 oz) can tomato sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
bunch of cilantro, to garnish
avocado, to garnish

Method:
1. Season chicken breasts with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Sear lightly in saute pan with coconut oil on both sides until they begin to brown. Don’t cook through completely.
2. Add chicken and all ingredients to crock pot on low for 8-10 hours or high for 6-8 hours.
3. After 6 hours remove chicken breasts and shred with a fork before returning to crock pot to finish cooking.
4. Garnish with fresh cilantro and diced avocado.
5. Enjoy!!!

Note: I make this typically in large batches. It can be eaten as more than just a soup. By straining the stock, the chicken and veggies are amazing in omelettes and on salads.

Faux-lafal… Yep, had to go there…

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Gotta keep with the theme for National Falafal Day with a paleo friendly version I worked up. These make a great side dish, salad topping, or by themselves with some tzatziki sauce. And for another twist on the traditional recipe, check out my good friend Chef Amy over at What Jew Wanna Eat.

Ingredients:

2 cup raw cauliflower, pureed in food processor
1 cup ground almonds or pecans
3 tbsp Penzey’s Greek Seasoning
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
4 large eggs
6 tbsp coconut flour
coconut oil, as needed for sautéing

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients well in a bowl.
2. Form mix into 3 inch patties.
3. Add and melt just enough coconut oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat to coat bottom of pan.
4. Sauté patties a few at a time. Flip when you begin seeing the sides brown.

Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity

gluten-intolerance

I get a lot of questions with regards to grain-free lifestyles and more specifically, gluten. To bakers, gluten is the magical agent that can be manipulated to bind their creations together and create a bold texture like in bagels and pretzels or subtly developed to create form and structure while allowing the product to flake apart like Grandma’s buttermilk biscuits. But to those afflicted with autoimmune conditions like Celiac disease or Crohne’s, the presence of gluten can be a very serious and even life threatening issue.

Gluten sensitivity includes a wide range of disorders from non-celiac gluten intolerance to celiac disease as a result of the body’s inability to properly process gluten from wheat as well as similar proteins in rye and barley (Stepniak et al. 2006). This sensitivity is a systemic autoimmune disease, or more simply, a disease in which exposure to gluten causes the immune system to attack and harm the body’s own tissues. It is important to note that all celiac disease is by definition, a form of gluten sensitivity or intolerance. However, gluten sensitivity itself is not a diagnosis of celiac disease. Many issues present themselves for sufferers of all levels of the disorder from ability and doctors’ willingness to diagnose, lack of education and established support systems, ease of lifestyle transition, cross-contamination during the production of products which would not naturally contain gluten and failure of regulatory bodies to establish specific guidelines for labeling of gluten-free products.

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Avocado, Citrus and Fennel Salad

citrus fennel

This is a great little salad I like to whip up when it starts warming up outside. The avocados are a no brainer as I always have them on hand and they go in just about everything I eat. A great vegetarian source of protein, avocados contain all 18 essential amino acids to form a complete protein. They are also a great source of high density lipoproteins (the good cholesterol) and have incredible anti-inflammatory properties. Combine the peppery spice of the arugula with the sweetness of the citrus and the fennel’s aroma and it’s a win.

For those who know me, my favorite things to make are soups and sauces, and that includes dressings. There really is no reason for anyone to visit the salad dressing aisle in the grocery store other than to get some ideas of a dressing to make at home themselves in a batch to use and also store for later.

One of the first ingredients to look at in our diets whether it be for weight management, performance or just simply to be healthy is where our fat comes from. Rather than get into too much science here, for now let’s just stick with the refined oils used in salad dressings. When oils are processed, their chemical structures are manipulated by manufacturers in order to increase shelf life, maximize smoke points for high-temp cooking and any number of other reasons. These alterations also increase the likelihood of oxidation of the oil and making them molecularity unstable and potentially becoming carcinogenic free radicals within the body. The list below are oils to avoid and those recommended. Keep in mind that we are only talking about for cold uses. I will spend significant time in another post discussing oils safe for cooking as many listed here like olive oil are very dangerous to cook with for the same oxidation concerns.

Oils to Avoid: Canola, Corn, Vegetable, Soybean, Grapeseed, Sunflower, Safflower, Rice Bran

Oils Recommended: Olive, Sesame, Nut (walnut, pecan, macadamia), Flaxseed, Avocado

Next time you’re at the store, pick up a bottle or two or ten. Read the labels and I challenge you to find many if any at all that do not contain these processed oils. Look especially close at those that advertise being “Made with Olive Oil.” Sure, the are technically made with some olive oil, but there are no guidelines set as to what percentage must be olive oil and what can be the other junk.

The Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette recipe below is a great example of what you can do yourself. The ratio of vinegar to oil is one that can be kept standard for you in other dressings so with that you can get creative and play with other flavors from fruits to berries, nuts and spices. This leaves you in control not only of the flavors you are in the mood for, but also the quality of ingredients you are putting into your body.

Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette
1/2 cup blood orange juice (may substitute orange, lime, yuzu or any citrus juice)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon organic local honey
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Salad
4 cups arugula, rinsed
1 whole avocado, peeled pitted and sliced 1/4″ thick
1 whole fennel bulb with frond, bulb sliced very thin with knife or mandoline, with sprigs reserved for garnish
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1 grapefruit, cut into supremes

1. Mix all vinaigrette ingredients except oil, salt and pepper into a bowl and whisk together or blend with a hand mixer.
2. Very slowly drizzle oil while continuing to whisk until an emulsification begins to develop. Oil may be added a little faster at this point. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Lay avocado slices across bottom of plate as a base for arugula.
4. Toss arugula, shaved fennel and red onion lightly with just enough vinaigrette to coat but not soak and wilt the leaves. Place on top of the arugula.
5. Garnish with supremes and fennel sprigs.
Note: for added protein, this salad goes GREAT with smoked salmon, ahi tuna or lump crab meat. Enjoy!!!

Ancestral Fitness… How Far We’ve Come…

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With so much focus on ancestral diets, it is important to note that the nutrition piece is only part if resyncing ourselves with out genetic coding. Physical activity has no doubt decreased in modern society as we continue to advance technologically.

The dreams of the past of when computers and machines would make our lives much easier and increase the quality of living did not come true for most of us. Now don’t get me wrong, sure we can communicate at lightning fast speeds, automate production and travel more efficiently (even though I’m still waiting for my hover board from Back to the Future.) But, as our technological means have increased, so have the expectations of our production. We are working as many, if not more hours than before except now we are tethered to our devices sitting at desks, on planes, trains or in automobiles. Even the visit to a cubicle down the row has been replaced with a text message or email. Add in the morning and afternoon commutes, it’s no wonder over 35% of Americans are now obese. Read that again, over 35% of Americans are obese, not just overweight.

While it would be true to say that America has gotten lazy and simply let the blame lie there, in many cases we have actually just hoarded too many to-dos and are left with our time management cluttered and we don’t know where or how to fit functional fitness into our routines. We’ve forgotten how to move.

Regardless of ones view on the evolution vs creation debate, our ability to move is not only something we should not take for granted, it is a gift we should celebrate as a species! I mean, can you think of another animal on this planet capable of what we are? Crawling, walking, running, jumping, ducking, dodging, climbing, swimming, diving, pulling, pushing, lifting, throwing, catching etc… And with the correct apparati, you can even throw gliding and flying in there. You get my point, we are truly the Swiss Army Knife of biological organisms.

I’m really excited to spend the next several weeks revisiting a study done by the esteemed Dr. Loren Cordain (pioneer of the paleo movement) and colleagues on how fitness was incorporated in the lives of our ancestors and why it is still possible, and critically necessary, to revive this “movement” in our lives today.

Against the Grain Dining – Wholly Cow!!!

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I was on the run today and needed a quick bite. Not us how I ever missed this place when I was living downtown, but it’s killer. Located just south of 7th St on Congress, Wholly Cow features local, grass-fed beef in all their burgers, Philly cheesesteaks, reubens and chili as well as locally-grown organic produce.

I went with the Fit Cross Burger and Sweet Potato Fries (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they’re not paleo, but it was one of those days 😉 The burger was hugged between two portobello mushroom caps with lettuce, tomato and onions. The mushroom caps are a nice change from my standard naked burger. There’s something just not quite right about having to eat a burger with silverware and lettuce cups tend to disintegrate about halfway through. I’ve had other restaurants attempts at shroom buns, but most of the time you end up with one of two things. The caps are either raw and end up crumbling, or they are over marinated or cooked to the point that they are a slimy mess. This was perfect. I’ll definitely be back and will have to checkout their S. Lamar location inside Zen Food Mart and Convenience Store. Zen is also known for their selection of local organic produce for sale as well as organic non-GMO Fredericksburg Peaches while you’re there. Noms!!!

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The original location is located inside the new ZEN Food Mart Convenience Store at 3010 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704. 512-394-8156.
Restaurant hours are:
Mon-Thurs from 7AM – 9:30PM.
Friday & Saturday 7AM -10:30PM.
Sunday 10:30AM – 8:30PM.

The downtown location is at 619 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701. 512-425-0811
Hours are:
Monday – Thursday 8AM – 9PM.
Friday 8AM – 3AM. Saturday 10AM – 3AM.
Sunday 10:30AM – 8:30PM.

The Monsanto Protection Act… Obama and Congress Pull a Rope-a-Dope on America While Eyes Elsewhere…

REUTERS
President Barack Obama signed a spending bill, HR 933, into law on Tuesday that includes language that has food and consumer advocates and organic farmers up in arms over their contention that the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” is a giveaway to corporations that was passed under the cover of darkness.There’s a lot being said about it, but here are five terrifying facts about the Farmer Assurance Provision — Section 735 of the spending bill — to get you acquainted with the reasons behind the ongoing uproar:

1.) The “Monsanto Protection Act” effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future. The advent of genetically modified seeds — which has been driven by the massive Monsanto Company — and their exploding use in farms across America came on fast and has proved a huge boon for Monsanto’s profits.But many anti-GMO folks argue there have not been enough studies into the potential health risks of this new class of crop. Well, now it appears that even if those studies are completed and they end up revealing severe adverse health effects related to the consumption of genetically modified foods, the courts will have no ability to stop the spread of the seeds and the crops they bear.

2.) The provision’s language was apparently written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation is by no means a rare occurrence in this day and age. But the fact that Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can then go on to be planted, even if it is found to be harmful to consumers, is stunning. It’s just another example of corporations bending Congress to their will, and it’s one that could have dire risks for public health in America.

3.) Many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the “Monsanto Protection Act” even existed within the bill they were voting on. HR 933 was a spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown and ensuring that the federal government would continue to be able to pay its bills. But the Center for Food Safety maintains that many Democrats in Congress were not even aware that the provision was in the legislation:“In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”

4.) The President did nothing to stop it, either. On Tuesday, Obama signed HR 933 while the rest of the nation was fixated on gay marriage, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument concerning California’s Proposition 8. But just because most of the nation and the media were paying attention to gay marriage doesn’t mean that others were not doing their best to express their opposition to the “Monsanto Protection Act.” In fact, more than 250,000 voters signed a petition opposing the provision. And Food Democracy Now protesters even took their fight straight to Obama, protesting in front of the White House against Section 735 of the bill. He signed it anyway.

5.) It sets a terrible precedent. Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.

“I think any time you tweak with the ability of the public to seek redress from the courts, you create a huge risk,” Seattle attorney Bill Marler — who has represented victims of foodborne illness in successful lawsuits against corporations — told the New York Daily News.

The Not So “Sweet” Bailout You May Not Hear About…

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The ongoing outrage that is the U.S. government’s sugar price-support program is getting a bit more outrageous.

U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering buying 400,000 tons of sugar to help sugar processing companies avoid defaulting on $862 million in government loans, according to The Wall Street Journal. Which companies? We do not actually know. Somehow the sugar loans are a secret. The Department of Agriculture officially won’t say which companies have received loans. It won’t even say how many companies received loans.

The government is considering buying 400-thousand tons of sugar to stave off a wave of defaults by sugar processors, reports Hampton Pearson.

The U.S. sugar industry has benefited from subsidies, price-supports, and import restrictions for decades. There is no good reason for this. If the entire U.S. sugar complex, from farmers to processors, collapsed, the only thing most U.S. taxpayers would notice would be lower prices.

It’s no great mystery why these subsidies persist. It’s pure special interest politics. The benefits are concentrated in a handful of companies, while the costs are widely distributed. The sugar growers and processors recycle their subsidized gains into political contributions to both parties, ensuring the subsidies and protections stay in place. When the General Accounting Office assessed federal sugar programs in 2000, it found that the trade restrictions cost manufacturers and consumers nearly $2 billion annually.

Even with all these sweetheart deals, however, the sugar processors apparently are in trouble because the sugar crop was so large this year that prices have been under pressure. Rather than reading this as a sign that this is a business that is just too unprofitable to exist in the U.S., however, it looks like the sugar sector is going to get bailed out.

One mystery is why candy makers and cake makers don’t band together to defeat the sugar lobby. Surely this hurts their bottom line. (Note to the private-equity folks who are buying Hostess: call your Congressman.)

John Carney, CNBC