Bison … a tasty alternative to cow *smiles*

I love bison. I think it is one of those under-appreciated meats. Most people have only heard of bison used to make an alternative-to-beef-burger (in my opinion they are only okay). I think there is more to bison than burger. Bison has more flavor and protein and less fat than beef. Bison is also extremely nutrient dense, with good amounts of iron, zinc and the antioxidant selenium. Below I have a nutrition comparison between not only bison and beef but pork, chicken, duck, venison and halibut.

As I have said before I get my meat from Whole Foods and their bison has no antibiotics,no added growth hormones, no animal byproducts in feed, and the buffalo are raised on pasture or range for at least 2/3 of the animal’s life. Even outside of Whole Foods, buffalo are generally treated and fed better than cows. This week I made my veggie heavy version of Bison Bolognese (I will post the recipe tomorrow). It was a easy, satisfying meal with more focus on the veggies with a good amount of meat spread throughout the dish. Yummy!

Recently, I have been decreasing my meat consumption, but increasing the quality of my meat (It is amazing how tastier it is as well!! 🙂 ) This change has been sparked by many things but Michael Pollan’s Rule 27 from “Food Rules” sums it up well:

“Rule 27: Eat animals that have themselves eaten well…

The diet of the animals we eat strongly influences the nutritional quality, and healtfulness of the food we get form them, whether it is meat or milk or eggs. This should be self-evident, yet it is a truth routinely overlooked b the industrial food chain in its quest to produce vast quantities of cheap animal protein. That quest has changed the diet of most of out food animals in ways that have often damaged their their and healthfulness. We feed animals a high energy diet of grain to make them grow quickly,even in the case of ruminants that have evolved to eat grass. But even food animals that can tolerate grain are much healthier when they have access to green plants – so, it turns out, are their meat and eggs. The good from these animals will contain much healthier types of fat (more omega-3s, less omega-6s) as well as appreciably higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants. (For the same reasons, meat form wild animals is particularly nutritious) It’s worth looking for pastured animal foods in the market – and paying the premium prices they typically command if you can”

If you are on a strict budget like myself (medical school does not leave a lot of room for extravagant expenditures), you can try to stick with the motto: quality over quantity. This goes against so much of how our society functions anymore, but I don’t think that having more is necessarily better. I will pay more for better quality which forces me to eat less of certain things but increases the overall quality of the food I put in my body. Eating healthier now can potentially save you money down the road, by saving you from a lot of future medical bills incurred from eating unhealthy foods (and living unhealthy lifestyles). Our choices today will affect the future of our tomorrow.

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I bought a vegan cookbook…and didn’t even know it *smiles*

Sometimes the best way to get over the middle of the week is to do something outside your everyday routine. My friends and I try to do a weekly dinner night round-robin style (different host and cook each week) usually around mid-week. The company and the food is always great and breaks up the monotony eat.sleep.work. This past Wednesday night, it was my turn to host! I thought I would try my hand out at the my roommate’s German style Gruenkol and Sausage recipe and something from my new cookbook: Terry Walter’s “Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source”. This cookbook is not in your face anything, but is great in its approach and simplicity. I didn’t even realize it was vegan until my friend Emily teased me about meat recipes…

Emily: Have you seen any meat recipes in this book?

Me: What do you mean?

Emily: I think the cookbook is vegan…

Me: No, it couldn’t be! *grabs books and flips to index* Let me check for chicken. *searches…searches…searches again* Dang. There is no chicken, beef, lamb, pork, or any other meat in here. How did I buy this and not even realize it was vegan?!? You know I like balance of both meat and green!

Emily: *laughter* and the carnivore falls *continues laughter*

Me: *sigh* It’s an awesome cookbook…

I own over 50 cookbooks, but it hasn’t been until the last 6 months that I have consistently used one. I bought them for the pretty pictures that made my mouth water instead of looking at what kind of recipes the cookbook offered…more importantly I didn’t look at the philosophy behind the collection of recipes. The result: shelves full of pretty cookbooks that collect a lot of dust. This changed for me with Mark Bittman’s “The Food Matters Cookbook”. A recommendation by a friend that really started my journey towards reevaluating how I look at food, what I cook, and subsequently what I put in my body. Bittman’s book had a great philosophy behind it and fantastic recipes (I have cooked more than a dozen already…and some more than once!) One thing it doesn’t have is food pictures. Same idea with Walter’s “Clean Food”. Great introduction and philosophy to how we approach food and recipes reflect that. “Clean Foods” organizes itself by seasons, which is something that I have really started to enjoy. Seasonal cooking plays directly into sustainable eating. Our society is a global one that continues to grow wider every day. This makes it easy to get imported ham from Spain, olive oil from Italy, figs from Turkey, etc etc. But, these options aren’t always the most sustainable. By purchasing in season and local foods, you can  decrease the environmental effects of shipping foods thousands of miles and into your kitchen. This also allows you to support the local economy (farmer’s markets are great!) Seasonal food is the freshest you can buy and thus tends to be more nutritious…and tastier! Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes…and cookbooks :-).

New cookbooks always come with their staple pantry ingredients that keep popping up throughout. This cookbook was no different and had a few items I had never bought before or cooked with before. So I did some research and wanted to share my spoils of three ingredients heavily featured in “Clean Food”: mirin, grape seed oil, and cashew butter.

  • Mirin is a sweet Japanese condiment with up to 14% alcohol. This sweet cooking wine is made from glutinous wine. Mirin can soften the strong smells of fish and seafood. It is one of the main ingredients of teriyaki sauce.
  • Cashew butter is more often than not unprocessed food in contrast to the ever popular peanut butter (often mixed with salt, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sweeteners, and dextrose).  Furthermore unlike sweetened peanut butter, cashew butter rarely contains any added sugar. Cashew butter has a rich creamy flavor, that is perfect as a spread or an addition to soups, dips, and sauces. Cashew butter is also easy to make yourself (here is an example recipe).
  • Grape seed oil (technically a fruit oil not a vegetable oil) has a moderately high smoke point at about 216 °C (421 °F). This makes this oil ideal for high temperature cooking and also be used for stir-frying, sauteing or deep frying. Because of their insolubility in lipids, the cold-pressed grape seed oil contains negligible amounts of the antioxidants and other biologically active compounds associated with the increased health benefits of grape seeds. However, grape seed oil has a clean, neutral taste that allows the food to stand out not the oil.

Here is a preview of the dish I made from “Clean Food” on Wednesday. I will post the recipe in the next few days. Sweet Potato, Corn, and Kale Chowder:

Morning Mango…with a twist.

Along with cherry blossoms, movies, and shopping, my weekend was filled with a satisfying grocery store visit to Whole Foods. While it can be a little outside of what I like to normally spend, I reserve visits to Whole Foods for when I need good, eco-friendly meat. Whenever I am there though I always get tempted by the tantalizing produce that just calls…BUY ME! EAT ME! and then I always do. One purchase this weekend on my Whole Foods adventure was a carton of mangoes. So this morning, I made breakfast of fruit champions…mangoes, clementines, apples, and bananas (oh and popcorn…I still had some left over from the movies last night *smiles*). Which brings us to my story about mango.

Ever do something or eat something that you thought was completely normal only to look up and notice the abject looks of horror on people’s faces watching you? Enter in: Mango…Filipino style. Ever since I was little, mango was a staple fruit at my house. It was one of my favorite fruits, and my love for it grew when I actually visited the Philippines (so amazing fresh!) and also Costa Rica (the best mango ice cream smoothies I have ever tasted!). Filipinos like to eat mango in all forms. The unripe form is often eaten with salt, fish sauce, chili sauce or soy sauce. The variety my family liked to eat was mango with Silver Swan soy sauce. Why I clarify the type of soy sauce is because Filipino soy sauce tastes vastly different than the varieties one eats with sushi. Ingredients in Filipino soy sauce are a combination of soy beans, wheat, caramel, and salt. It is thinner and saltier than many of its Asian soy sauce counterparts and is a staple in much of Filipino cuisine. I never thought it was odd to eat mangoes dipped in soy sauce…until college of all time. One night during a normal night of friends, food and games, I sliced up a couple under-ripe mangoes and served them with soy sauce to my friends. I still laugh at the looks on their faces when I progressed to dip the mango into the soy sauce and bring it to my mouth. Needless to say, some people enjoyed this twist on mango and others did not. I am certainly enjoying my mango with a twist this morning. Yum!

Lugaw…Filipino sick food.

As a Filipina American, my food cravings tend to lean towards my heritage and like most people… my childhood (especially when I am sick). Up until I was 7 years old my Filipino grandparents (on my mom’s side) lived at our house in a basement apartment. It is one of the things that I remember most fondly of growing up was having that second set of parents. My Lolo (grandfather in Tagalog) was a quieter man who spent hours upon hours tending his garden or reading, and my Lola (grandmother in Tagalog) I always remember as the Filipino chef. My parents would go on vacation and I would pretend that our house was a huge private airplane with my grandmother as the plane’s private chef. Life was always an adventure when I was 5. Another thing I remember about my Lola was her healing touch and healing food when I was sick. Enter lugaw (looh-gow) the Filipino version of congee (rice porridge). Also called Arroz Caldo (“hot rice”) it is typically served to the sick or small infants when completely solid food is not recommended yet. It is very similar to Cantonese style congee, but lugaw typically a thicker consistency, that retains the shape of the rice while achieving the same type of texture. It is boiled with fresh ginger. A lot of times it is topped with scallions and served with crispy, fried garlic. Chicken stock is also used to flavor the soup.

I decided in my sick state that while I am living on my own and my grandmother is no longer with us…I would prepare my version of some chicken arroz caldo for my poor sick body.

Ingredients:

  •  5-6 chicken thighs (boneless or bone-in) (One can use the meat of a whole chicken to get the mix of white and dark)
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of uncooked rice (perferrably an Asian variety)
  • 1  lemon
  • 1 cup green onion (scallions), more more garnish
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, pressed of finely minced
  • 4 tablespoons of ginger (you can do more of less of this depending on how gingery you want the lugaw)
  • *1 hot chili, finely minced ( (I like most of my food spicy and when I have a head cold it opens things up…traditionally you don’t want any chilies)
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 6 cups water
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  •  In a large Dutch oven (or pot) heat up vegetable oil. Place pieces of chicken in oil. Salt and pepper the chicken and cook about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from the pot onto plate with paper towel to absorb the oil.
  • Add the scallions, onion, garlic, ginger, (and chili if adding) to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stirring so that the garlic does not burn.
  • Add in the rice, cook about 30 seconds, then add the broth and water to the pot.
  • Bring liquid to a boil. Juice half of the lemon into the pot, making sure no seeds fall in.
  • Cook the rice for 45 minutes, stirring frequently (about every 10 – 15 minutes). Add in more liquid if the rice is absorbing too fast. (I usually end up adding an additional 3-4 cups of water. One every time I go to restir)
  • Add the chicken back into the pot. Add juice from the other half of the lemon. Cook for an additional 30 minutes, again stirring frequently to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot (The rice will stick worse if you are using a nonstick type pot).
  • Ladle into bowl and garnish with scallions.