Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Barbeque Shredded Pork

You may have noticed that I enjoy braising pork. And so it continues. This time I opted for a spicy tomato base, which when cooked down and browned a bit turned into a marvelous and complex spicy barbecue sauce. Borrowing from previous experiments, I used liberal amounts of spices (annatto and others)

  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2T annatto seeds
  • 2 whole habaneros
  • 1t cumin
  • 2t Balti mix (storebought)
  • 2t peppercorns
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4c lime juice
  • 1/1c water
  • 5lbs pork; boneless shoulder and/or country ribs (both shown below)
  • 1T salt
  1. Brown evenly all sides of the pork in an oven-safe pan or Dutch Oven.
  2. Add 1c of tomatoes to a blender. Add all spices, garlic and habaneros. Blend for 2 or 3 minutes, watching for the "graininess" of the spices to become palatable. DSCN0166
  3. Add remaining tomatoes and lime juice. Pulse until combined.
  4. Pour tomato mix over pork. Use 1/2c water to rinse out what's left in the blender and pour over pork.
  5. Cook covered at 300ºF for 3 hours. Uncover and cook for 1hr at 425 or until desired moisture remains and sauce has begun to brown slightly.
  6. Remove from oven; remove bones, add salt, and shred with two forks. Serve.

Green Beans with Bleu Cheese and Almonds

Cooked green beans and chopped almonds tossed in a hot skillet of butter; then tossed in a splash of soy sauce. Topped with crumbles of bleu cheese (should have used more).


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Training Goals

This blog might expand from just food porn with occasional recipes to include workout and fitness posts as well. I've hinted at it earlier, and now it seems that I want to document my progress and iterations through experiments.

Let me make that clear also; this is not definitive and by no means applicable to everyone. These are my experiments with my body, and I will do things both right and wrong. Follow in my footsteps at your own peril :) Use it as jumping off points for your own research.

The past few months

I've always been a lean guy. This past beginning of December my 5'11" frame tipped the scale at a paltry 157lbs and I decided that I looked emaciated. My self-conception of my "fatness" was always around my belly: if I had a paunch, I thought I was fat, even if the rest of me was scrawny. 157 was the smallest I've been in a few years and I decided that I was going to lift some weights and improve my physique. Fat belly be damned – I was going to lift, eat, and get some muscle on my frame.

That was the beginning of December 2010. I recently left my travel-heavy consulting job for a work-from-home new business venture and decided that, with a better ability than ever to control my workouts and diet, it was time to get serious. I picked up a great weightlifting book: Tiki Barber's Pure Hard Workout. I guess this dude is a famous football player, and he is strong as hell. The book espouses a simple and un-revolutionary philosophy: lift big, lift heavy. Duh. But it's prescriptive with specific workout routines, which I needed in order to be disciplined. Squats, deadlifts, bench press and military press form the foundation. If you're not doing these lifts, you're wasting your time. My workout routine was 1.5 to 1.75hr workouts, 4 times a week. Hard shit.

By the beginning of February I was hovering in the 177 to 179 window. My squats went from 155lbs (4x3) to 235. Deadlifts from 175 to 235. Bench from 120 to 155. Solid strength gains, and with it quite a bit of muscle. I was eating like a hungry hungry hippo: spaghetti dinners filled my diet, and I was regularly clocking 2,700 to 3,000 calorie days. I had put on the muscle I wanted and—fat belly be damned—I had put on a good deal of fat. Time to lean up.

Diet experiments

I don't believe in "going on diets," because the implication of a strict adherence to a set of rules also implies a short-term contract with yourself. And so in an acknowledgement of this, I embarked on a few diet experiments that, if successful and sustainable, would become eating lifestyle choices. The experiments included the Slow-Carb diet and the broader paleo or primal diets. In summary: eat like a hunter-gatherer from 200,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens became a species—you know, eat like we evolved to eat. Meat, animal fat, marrow; seeds, roots, fruit when it was rarely found; and lots of leafy greens. (Remember: agriculture is 10,000 years old, so selectively-bred foods like wheat and corn did not exist when we became a species.) Slow-carb includes legumes as a source of carbs. They agree on: no grains, no sugars, nothing processed; just simple, whole foods. Legumes are nice for fitness because they fill up your muscles with glycogen, the fuel that allows muscles to work, without spiking blood sugar.

This is a good time for a brief sidebar on the metabolism of carbs. As carbohydrates are digested, they enter the bloodstream. The body releases insulin to buffer these sugars. Insulin shuttles carbs away to fat storage or, if your muscles are in need of repair post-workout, to the damaged muscles. The rate at which various carbohydrates are absorbed into the blood stream is measured with the glycemic index, or GI. Glucose is theoretically the fastest to be absorbed and has a score of 100. Everything else is a ratio from there. The important takeaway is that the slower the carbohydrates are absorbed (the lower the food's GI), the smaller the insulin spike, the less likely that those carbs will go to fat storage. This is why legumes are part of the foundation of "slow-carb" diets, because they are "slowly" digested. If you must eat carbs, eat low-GI carbs, which put another way, never eat carbs without fiber. Whole fruit is okay in moderation (remember our evolutionary roots: we gathered fruit when it was in season, which meant we gorged on it when we found it—this is why we have sweet tooths). But fruit juice is bad (all the sugar, none of the fiber).

Armed with this new (to me) knowledge, I quickly shed fat and water weight. That 177 fell to 167 in about four weeks. Now my (still not very big) muscles are visible. Yeah, I'm no Tiki Barber, but at least I have a shape, a physique.

Intermittent Fasting

I also discovered Martin Berkhan during this time, and his intermittent fasting program. I'm not going to re-explain his ideas in full, but the summary is that you only eat in an eight-hour window. Say, noon to 8pm. You eat a full day's worth of calories in that window, and, in body-building speak, you have a bulking and cutting phase every day. Intriguing, and is very easy to implement.


Here I am, and my weight's been steady for two weeks. I still have maybe two pounds of fat in the love-handle region that I would like to shed before an upcoming trip to a place with beaches, which means that it's time for another experiment.

I would like to eliminate the remaining carbs from my diet (the beans, and the occasional sweet potato immediately after a workout). But the problem I've battled is a lack of energy. My current workouts are about 1.5 to 1.75hrs, three times a week. This is brutal when I eliminate carbs: I last about 30 or 45 minutes, and then I get blurry-eyed and feel completely devoid of energy. Thus, beans and eggs have been my 2pm breakfast, and by the time I lift at 7pm I have enough fuel that I can make it through the whole routine.

The plan:

  • Instead of three long workouts, split them into six short workouts.
  • Eliminate non-green-veggie carbohydrates (beans and sweet potatoes these days)
  • Work out before my first meal instead of before my last meal.
  • Eliminate or reduce alcohol consumption for the next two weeks

The hope:

  • Shorter workouts will be sustainable with a lower-carb diet. It was always the second half that killed me, so maybe this will work.
  • Working out earlier will mean I'm not eating my biggest meal right before bed; the food will have all afternoon to digest.
  • Workouts won't leave me so tired that all I can do after is eat and go to bed (in other words, I'll still be productive at work in the afternoon)
  • The last bit of fat I want to lose will finally be consumed by my body for energy
  • Alcohol is just surplus sugar; reducing it should reduce fat.

Okay! Hope you enjoyed a fitness post in addition to food and cooking. I'll report back in 2 weeks on this experiment, and will hopefully be super lean before the beach vacation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Not bad for leftovers

Over the weekend I made lamb soup (4 hours boiling bones and scrap meat with onion, celery, salt, allspice, clove, a bay leaf, rosemary and curry powder; adding tomato and green beans at the end), plus brined and roasted a whole chicken. I used leftover tomato (and onion, garlic, salt and lime juice) to whip up a quick guacamole, and a pile of old store-bought sauerkraut.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes on the grill


Dusted off the grill on a nice warm weather day. That's just top-quality meat dusted with salt and Balti spice mix.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Quick Sweet Potatoes and Lamb Chops

Sweet Potatoes / Yams: wash, cut into 1cm slices, cover lightly and evenly in oil, and broil for 6 minutes or until brown. Flip and cook another 2 to 4 minutes. Serve with ketchup; dust with curry powder (this is a Balti mix) and salt.

Shown here with broiled lamb chops and green beans.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mint Creek Farm

I've been a member of Mint Creek Farm's CSA for about a year now (CSA = community supported agriculture; a meat subscription, if you will, where pre-buying allows them to better plan their operation). I love their food. Delicious, top-quality cuts of meat from healthy animals that live happy lives on green pastures, and are fed organically. Below is an older video interview from ABC 7 Chicago with the farm's owner Harry Carr promoting their 2009 Thanksgiving turkeys. If you're in Chicagoland (they're in Stelle, IL, about 30 miles south-west of Kankakee) and like the looks of this, consider ordering some meat from them or joining their CSA.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chorizo and Mushroom Omelette. With Bacon.


Braised Leg of Lamb in Garam Masala sauce

  • DSCN01243lb boneless leg of lamb
  • Half a bulb of garlic (~10 cloves)
  • 3T garam masala
  • 2 small onions, minced
  • 28oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 1c water
  • 1/2c white vinegar
  1. Crack the garlic cloves under the flat edge of a knife and peel the skin. Stuff the cloves into the hollow opening in the leg (where the bone used to be).
  2. Brown all sides of the leg in hot oil in a Dutch oven.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to pot; stir well and bring to simmer.
  4. Cook covered, for 3 hours in 300 degree oven.
  5. Cook uncovered for 1hr in 425 degree oven (or until desired amount of water remains)



Friday, March 11, 2011


I was going to write a post one day called "Ode to Sriracha," because it's the greatest hot sauce ever made (I still may, one day). The Oatmeal has a comic extolling its greatness.



That's a chicken breast, grilled onions, steamed broccoli, and a lamb chorizo link. Low carb, high protein.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicken Stock!

DSCN0110I brine and roast a chicken almost every week. I decided to save the necks and carcasses to make chicken stock (I discarded the gizzards, as I think that would impart a stronger flavor). Holy lord this is delicious. That picture on the right is after I strained out the solids—about 2.5lbs of chicken carcass and 2 quarts of stock.

And then I reduced it to one quart. Wow! The flavor exploded as the water cooked off.

Another important note: after the bones got soft, I took kitchen shears to them and cut them lengthwise to expose the marrow to the boiling water. DSCN0111In all I simmered the carcasses for four hours, with 1T salt, a bay leaf and a pinch of allspice, and then another ~hour to reduce. I'm going to boil some pinto beans tomorrow and cannot wait to see how they turn out with a 1/2 cup of this stock added to the mix.

Seriously, if you've never had homemade stock, it's like nothing you can buy at the store. Don't throw out your chicken bones! Freeze them!

Final picture is what was left after I "ate" a hefty bowl of stock. Need to skim it after it cools :)

Edit: Here it is the next morning, refrigerated overnight, fat skimmed. YUM!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ground Veal Green Curry


Thai-style curries are a standby for me—I always have green and red curry paste on hand. The recipe is a breeze to make, and comes together quickly (under twenty minutes).

  • Mince an onion and sauté in oil until just translucent
  • Add 1lb meat (ground veal, beef, chicken, tofu all work well).
  • Cook until browned.
    • Note if using tofu, pan fry first and set aside; then sauté onions.
  • In another bowl whisk together
    • 1 to 2T green (or red) Thai curry paste (find it in the Asian section at your grocery store)
    • 1t fish sauce
    • (1) 15oz can coconut milk (and never buy the light stuff, it's bland)
    • 1t to 1T sriracha hot sauce
  • Once meat is browned, pour sauce over meat & onion mixture. If using tofu, add it back now and gently stir to combine.
  • Reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for zero to twenty minutes. I often busy myself making the rest of the meal during this time.
  • 4 minutes before serving, add a bag of frozen peas (10oz, about 1.5c). Return to medium heat and cook the peas for another minute.
    • You can add any veggies you want here. Roasted red peppers are delicious, as are fresh bell peppers. Bamboo shoots add a great crunch. Spinach works,

There you have it—my weekly curry template. If you try out a new variation I'd love to hear about it!