Primal (no-bean) Chili

So, for logistical purposes, I don’t actually have to define the chili as being “no-bean”. That’s because chili, by it’s definition, doesn’t require beans. Only “a thick sauce of meat and chilis”.

Now, I understand that beans are quite popular in chili, but not if you’re in Texas. Or if you’re trying to avoid beans.

Impossible you say? Not so. In fact, it’s simple. Just leave them out.

Here is a Saturday night recipe; while you’re watching the 49ers beat the Saints in the NFC playoffs, while your fiance is at school for the opera performance.

For those of you that like to measure, these amounts are approximate. I don’t like to measure. I just add stuff.

You will need:
4 slices nitrate-free bacon
1 pound ground beef – 85/15 or 90/10 is good.
1-1.5 pounds of stew meat
1 medium red onion – chopped
1 medium yellow onion – chopped
1 red bell pepper – chopped
1 green bell pepper – chopped
1-2 jalapeño peppers – minced
8 ounces white mushrooms – chopped
3 cans diced tomatoes, no salt added (14 oz. each)
8 oz. dry red wine
1/2 tsp dry ginger
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dry mustard
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2-3 tsp ground black pepper
5 tsp chili powder – add more to taste
salt to taste

1. Chop Bacon into small pieces and cook in a pot over medium heat.
2. While cooking bacon, chop all vegetables.
3. When bacon is cooked, add onion and cook until translucent. (4-5 minutes)
4. When onion is translucent, add bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and mushroom and cook, about 5 minutes more.
5. Depending on the size of your pot, you may have to set aside the vegetables in order to brown the meat.
6. Brown the meat over medium to medium-high heat.
7. Combine all cooked ingredients.
8. Add spices. Stir to combine.
9. Add tomatos and wine. Stir to combine.
10. Bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 hours.
11. After about an hour, feel free to taste and adjust spice accordingly.
12. If you are avoiding dairy, or engaging in a clean Paleo diet, garnish with green onion and avocado slices. Otherwise, sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese are tasty.
13. Try to convince yourself that you really need the beans….

So, this is by no means the only way to make chili without beans. The point however, is that there really isn’t as much lacking as you might think.
Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thoughts? Comments?

-Nick

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Achy Joints Update

I have a quick weekend update on the status of the inflammation. I haven’t had any official tests done, so this is purely observational. However, after 12 days, all signs of the “talking” knees and shoulders is completely gone. In fact, it was basically gone within the first 3 days of clean Paleo eating.

A few other observations:

1. My energy throughout the day is very consistent. I don’t feel like I have to have coffee to make it to the second hour of the day, and there is definitely no mid-afternoon crash. (do I sound like an ad for 5-hour-energy?)
2. I don’t really have any cravings for sugar or other things that are sweet.
3. Black coffee isn’t really that bad, and the guy that invented the Aeropress is pretty smart.
4. I really enjoy cooking.
5. A pressure cooker might be a better kitchen investment than a slow cooker.
6. There are plenty of carbohydrate options in the absense of bread, pasta, rice, beans, grains, oatmeal, etc. Plenty of vegetables with a little bit of fruit works quite well.
7. My clothes fit better. Belts are a good measuring tool. So is a work uniform that you wear everyday.
8. Rachel noticed that her teeth are whiter and cleaner without any change in her daily tooth hygeine regimen.

For anyone who is unsure that you can eat well on a Paleo/Primal plan, let me share some of our meals from last weekend.
Friday dinner: Homemade meatballs with cauliflower rice. Between the 2 of us, we ate the whole head of cauliflower. 4 or 5 homemade meatballs (no breadcrumbs needed) with homemade marinara sauce.
Saturday dinner: Baked whole chicken with brussel sprouts, bacon and onions. Strawberries with reduced balsamic vinegar for dessert. (By the way, the dinner took less than an hour to cook, from start to table.)
Sunday dinner: Blackened chicken ceasar salad with bacon. One heart of romaine each, homemade dressing, bacon. Found the recipe for the blackening spice online, and the chicken breasts took 25 minutes to cook in the oven.

Lunches mostly consisted of leftovers from earlier in the week, or a salad. Breakfast is usually eggs or leftovers or nothing.

Anyways, just wanted to share some thoughts from the past 2 weeks. I’ll have a couple of recipes and other stuff later this week.

Thoughts? Comments?

-Nick

Achy Joints

So, last week I was just minding my own business, going about my life, you know; work, coffee shop, grocery store, general errands. Just the usual day to day stuff. Then, on Wednesday, my right knee started acting up. I couldn’t make sense of why it was bothering me. I didn’t knock it against anything, I didn’t remember tweaking it or anything unusual. I just had a low level pain in it. Nothing that would prevent me from getting around, or cause me to miss work, but enough to make me aware of my knee. And in general, I don’t like to be aware of my knees. I prefer they do their job and stay “quiet”. Around the same time, I noticed my right shoulder acting up a little bit. And in general, I don’t like to be aware of my shoulders either.
The thing that bothered me the most, in all of this, is that I hadn’t done anything obvious to cause the discomfort. And this is the key, it wasn’t obvious. However, in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas I haven’t paid particularly great attention to my food choices. I’ve fallen back into eating the convenient stuff, without enough planning ahead. I’m convinced that this eating of convenience has led to the inconvenience of my knee and shoulder “talking” to me.
I just finished reading The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf, (review coming) and I’ve decided to take on a strict Paleo approach early in 2012. January 4th is my planned start date. 30 days (at least) of strict Paleo lifestyle. No wheat, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol or sweeteners. Probably not a lot of eating out either. Most of you will think I’m crazy. Some of you might even say so to my face. But, I have a goal and a plan. The goal is to reduce systemic inflammation. I could just continue on my way and pop some pills whenever the problems arises, but I’ve never been one for the “band-aid on a bullet wound” approach to things. Much better to find the root cause of the problem and treat that. I have some ideas as to the results, but I will be interested to see how it actually turns out. As well, you may wonder why I’m not starting today, or on January 1st, or something along those lines. My reason is both simple and selfish. I want to watch college football on January 2nd and January 3rd without worrying about sabotaging myself. I do plan in cleaning up some things this week, like the elimination of wheat, and not eating out. As well, I will do some advance planning for the following weeks and months. I also plan on posting here throughout the 30 days. If you feel motivated, or are looking for a change, or have achy joints, or jeans that don’t fit, (and I have all of these things…) you are welcome to join me. I’m fairly confident that this will be a better New Year’s Resolution than the decision that most make each year; to go to the gym and run every morning before work. It’s a choice that is doomed from the start. If “chronic cardio” worked, we wouldn’t all be making the same resolution every year, only to give it up before Valentine’s Day, and then proceeding to blame bad genes or “just getting older.”

Thoughts? Comments?

-Nick

A lull in programming

Sorry for the week (or so) long absence from the web-o-sphere. Lots of singing and visiting and traveling and holidays and the like. I’m sure you all understand completely. Here, on the day after Christmas, 2011, I (we) will be re-doubling our efforts in many areas. Later this week, I will have a book review that might save your life. If that is too hyperbolic, it at least has the possibility to dramatically improve whatever ails you in 30 days. I know, it sounds like a ridiculous infomercial.
As well, I will try to post a Primal friendly recipe this week. That is second on the list after the book review, but I’ll do my best.
In any case, here’s hoping you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season, and that you continue to enjoy the last week of the year.

Thoughts? Comments?
-Nick

The Homemades

Here is a post about the Homemades. Now, these could be anything, and it might even become a series, but for today, we will start with 2 items that you can buy at the grocery but are much better when made at home. And both are pretty simple. If you have a blender, the first item is quite simple. In the name of being fancy, we’ll use the first item as an ingredient in the second item.

The stars of the show are: Homemade Mayonaisse and Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing. Of course, both of these items might not be for you. Some people can’t stand mayonaisse, and probably even more of you can’t stand that funky blue cheese. The point here, however, is to show you just how easy it is to make these things at home, so you don’t have to rely on chemicals and preservatives and the like. If you want to take a look, here’s the ingredient list for Hellmann’s Real Mayo, and for an “over the counter” Blue Cheese Dressing. The dressing especially has lots of things in it that I don’t want to eat. The mayo is less bad, but Soybean Oil and Calcium Disodium EDTA aren’t something that I want to deal with, necessarily.

For those wondering about the soybean oil, I’ll try and get into that in a future post, but you can check out this post at Mark’s Daily Apple about oils, if you like.

So, the Homemade Mayonaisse:

You will need 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (or a teaspoon of dijon if you prefer), juice of half a lemon, oil and salt to taste. Light tasting olive oil is my preference. The main goal is to stay away from vegetable/corn oils and other processed things.

To start, add the egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of oil to your blender. Fire it up at a low speed so you don’t splatter the egg yolk all over the inside of the blender. Once the ingredients are incorporated, you will begin adding the remainder of the oil. The key here is to add the oil in a very, very, very slow stream. Just a little bit slower than you think you should. OK, I may be exaggerating a little bit, but try to keep the oil stream as slow as possible. If it’s too fast, your mayo will be a little bit loose. Still tasty, but not the consistency that you’re looking for. The last time I made the mayo, I noticed a different sound coming from the blender when the mayo was set. I had a little bit of the oil left, and at that point I was no longer worried about the speed of the oil stream. Just add the remainder to the blender and let it combine. Taste and season with salt. The mayo can be used on top of burgers, in homemade chicken salad, as a dip for raw vegetables, or anywhere else you might use mayo. It will last in your fridge for about a week, unlike the store bought brand. Have you ever seen that stuff go bad?

The other place to use mayo is in your Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing. The dressing is even more simple than the mayo. There is some dairy, obviously, with the blue cheese, and you also need some acid. Buttermilk is good here. You get to personalize the dressing through your selection of your favorite blue cheese, be it roquefort, maytag, stilton, or any other choice out there. You will need about 4oz. of cheese for the dressing. Feel free to add more, or reduce the amount, depending on the amount of chunkiness and blue-cheesiness that you prefer.

To start, combine your blue cheese crumbles, 1/2 cup of buttermilk, and a fair amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Mix together, in a bowl, while gently mashing the cheese. After a couple of minutes, add 1/2 cup of mayo. Homemade is best. Mix for another minute or two until everything is combined. That’s all there is to it. Allow flavors to “marry” by putting the dressing in the fridge for a bit. This will make “4” servings. But really it’s 3 for me, because I like a little extra dressing on my salad. I like wedge salads with a fair amount of blue cheese dressing and bacon. The iceberg is purely a vehicle. Sometimes I use romaine, just to mix things up. I imagine this dressing will last for about a week in the fridge, but honestly, it never makes it this long.

Speaking of iceberg lettuce, or even romaine, for that matter, my least favorite thing is washing and drying lettuce. I know you can buy the pre-washed stuff in the bag, but I’m not totally convinced about this. So, my new favorite piece of kitchenware is a salad spinner. Most of the spinners that I have seen are pretty expensive. Like $25+ expensive. However, Rachel has one that we got at IKEA. I think it was under $5. I found one at Meijer for $10. This makes washing and drying lettuce way easier, and you can use the bowl as a salad bowl. Double duty. Not too bad.

So, that’s it for the homemades, for now. I think we should unofficially call it “The Homemades: Part 1”, because I’m sure there will be more.

Thoughts? Comments?

-Nick

PS – Engagement photos here. Go check them out.

A post within a post…

So, this post is not about eating or food. I know, I owe you one, or two. I will tell you that I do have a couple of things coming regarding food. Homemade things that we always buy but really are better when made at home, if only for the reason that you know all of the ingredients involved and can spare yourself the extra preservatives and chemicals.

This is more of a wedding-ish post.

When Rachel and I got engaged in July, besides the usual questions of if we had picked a date yet and where the wedding was and all of that stuff, some of you were genuinely concerned about what we were doing for our wedding photography. I tried to assure you that we had someone in mind. Someone really, really good.

Well, the Friday after Thanksgiving, while most of you were either standing in a line to get a headstart on your Christmas shopping, were back in bed because you were already shopped out, or were watching football and eating leftovers, Rachel and I had a photo shoot with our fantastic wedding photographer, Arielle Doneson.

Right now we’re on the first page of her blog, but that will surely change within a week, as she posts more of her fantastic work. So here is the direct link to our shoot.

If you’re interested in checking it out, head over to Arielle’s blog, snoop around, leave a comment or two. Photographers love comments.

As for food. I’ll try and get something out to you before Friday. It is two of the busiest weeks of the church season, between Messiah, Lessons and Carols and Christmas Eve, but I’ll try my best. Also, a book review coming, hopefully next week.

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season so far. Try and stay sane and limit that sugar intake whenever possible. New Years Resolutions that involve going to the gym 8 days a week are only needed if you pack on the pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead, make a December resolution to truly eat in moderation at those holiday parties.

And go check our Arielle’s website. And leave a comment. Please. 🙂

Thoughts? Comments?

-Nick

Poll question…

If you have a quick moment…Thanks.

Thoughts? Comments?