Monday, August 31, 2009

Beef and Green Bean Stew

The weather this morning was absolutely delightful. After weeks of searing heat and unbearable humidity, I awoke to a deliciously cool morning. Fall is my favorite time of year, and it paid an early visit this morning. I’ve been in the mood for soup lately, and today was the perfect day to experiment with a new recipe. This soup is satisfying, yet not too filling. Fresh green beans are fantastic, but frozen green beans just as well. If you’d like a more hearty soup, include potatoes and more carrots (sliced), along with an additional cup of beef stock.

2 lbs Beef (suitable for stewing) or Boneless Short Ribs
2 T Olive Oil
Fresh Ground Pepper
2 Cups Diced Onion
1 Cup Diced Carrots
1 Cup Diced Celery
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 t Crushed Red Pepper
1 t Thyme
1 t Sea Salt
1 Cup Dry White Wine
28oz Diced Tomato (reserve liquid), preferably organic
4 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)
1 pound fresh, or 10 oz frozen and thawed green beans
½ cup minced fresh parsley

Wash and dry the beef, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and brown the meat on all sides. When meat is browned, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan. Stir in onions and sauté until soft. Stir in the carrots and celery and continue to sauté until the onions begin to brown. Stir in the garlic and red pepper and cook for one minute. Stir in the wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half. Return the meat and its juices to the pan, along with the tomatoes (and liquid reserve) and beef stock; stir well to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and simmer until the meat is very tender (about 1 ½ - 2 hours) depending on the cut of beef. After the meat has simmered, stir in the green and parsley. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes, or until green beans are tender. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Delicious Homemade Mayonnaise

The difference between mayonnaise and some of the popular commercial spreads is actually frightening. For example, lets take a look at the ingredients in Miracle Whip; water, soybean oil, sugar, vinegar, food starch-modified, salt, cellulose gel, microcrystalline cellulose, mustard flour, egg white, artificial color, sodium caseinate, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, spice, paprika, natural flavor, betacarotene (color).  Yuk!  Now, here is a simple mayonnaise recipe; eggs, lemon juice, paprika, salt, and oil.  It's that simple (and I can pronounce all of the ingredients!)  Of course, when making homemade mayonnaise, it is important to choose the right oil. There has been an ever-expanding choice of oils at most local grocery stores over the past few years. Not long ago, our options were limited to corn, canola, safflower and maybe olive oil. But now choices include walnut, almond, coconut, grape seed and other types of oil as well (like fragrant truffle oil.)

A combination of olive oil and coconut oil is the perfect balance to providing a high quality and nutritious mayonnaise. Wow, mayonnaise can actually be healthy for you! This recipe is a good balance of coconut oil and olive oil in flavor. Yummy! The coconut oil adds just a tad of sweetness to it, without overpowering the olive oil.

1 whole egg (fresh, free range eggs from the farm are preferred)
2 egg yolks
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t white pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil (melted)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (preferably organic)

Combine the eggs, mustard, lemon juice, salt and white pepper in a blender or food processor. With the blender or food processor running on a low speed, start adding oils very slowly. Start out with drops and then work up to about a 1/16 inch stream. It takes a good 5 minutes to accomplish this, but the end result is well worth it! Continue blending until all the oil is incorporated; yields about 1 ½ cups. Place in refrigerator to thicken and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. may take the real food revolution to a new level. As endnotes to the movie put it, we can all vote to change the system, three times a day. Every choice we make of how to spend our food dollars, of what to put in our mouths, is a chance to say, this is what I value, this is what I want more of, and this is what nourishes me.

Remember when food was real?

Remember when food was real? I don’t...but most of our grandparents do. Sadly, most of what we are consuming today is not actually food at all. A stroll down the grocery store aisle can be a tempting experience. Rows and rows of delicious food all wrapped up in beautiful packages. Processed foods have been altered from their natural state to prolong shelf life. And scary as it seems, about 90% of the average grocery bill is spent on processed items. Fortunately, more people across the country are finding new and reliable ways to put fresher, healthier food on the dinner table. There has been an increased awareness on buying locally; milk, eggs and meat from the farm down the road, delicious tomatoes and peppers from an open-air market and herbs from your backyard. Increasingly, such choices are easier to find.

What's with the mysterious ingredients in food?

I find it interesting that something as simple as real food can be transformed into a complicated mess! See if you can guess what food product this is: A pasteurized blend of egg whites, water, nonfat dry milk, modified food starch (corn), corn oil, sodium steroyl lactylate, cellulose gum, magnesium, chloride, beta carotene (for color), ferric orthosphate, zinc sulphate, vitamin E acetate, calcium pantothenate, TBHQ (to maintain freshness), vitamins: cholecalciferol (D3), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine hychloride (B6), thiamine (B1), cyanocobalamin (B12), folic acid.  These ingredients are so scary that my spell check didn’t even have any suggestions! Give up yet? Second Nature No Cholesterol Egg Product. Yikes! I think I’d rather take my chances on eating a real egg.

Where's the Beef?

The perfect compliment to homemade soup is homemade stock. Yum! Good beef stock should include grass fed, organic beef—and bones (the marrow and gelatin are particularly nutritious.) When pressed for time, it can be tempting to pick up a beef broth mix from the grocery store. Well, I wasn’t so tempted after reading these ingredients for a popular mix: Salt, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, sugar, monosodium glutamate, dehydrated onion, maltodextrin, dextrin (with beef extract and partially hydrogenated soybean oil), caramel color, autolyzed yeast, corn oil, dry malt syrup, disodium inosinate, disodium guaylate, natural flavor, not more than 2% silicon dioxide added as an anti-caking agent.  Really? Yuk! I can’t even pronounce most of these words, let alone begin to figure out where the beef is.  I think I'll pass.