Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making Ghee

Giving up dairy has been a tough one for me.  At the beginning of 2011, I successfully eliminated dairy for 6 months and felt great.  My skin glowed, digestion felt better, minor instances of sinus congestion disappeared and I had an extra punch of energy.  How and why I got back on the dairy train I'm not sure.  I've been adding cream back into my coffee instead of my usual coconut milk and I had a not so pleasant ice cream experience on the weekend (moment of weakness, resulted in intestinal cramping and a migraine).  I think it's time to try again.

In my dairy free days I used a lot of coconut oil, homemade rendered animal fats, olive oil and ghee.  Using the ghee gave me the richness of butter that I love with zero dairy effects.  Ghee is great for cooking at higher temperatures, has an amazing shelf life, can be stored at room temperature and tastes great!

prepare strainer with cheese cloth

1 lb organic butter, unsalted


Double boiler or 1 pot and 1 stainless steel bowl (to fit over pot)
wire mesh strainer
cheese cloth
extra bowl
glass jar for storage

Using a double boiler or stainless steel bowl over a sauce pan, bring water to a boil.  Place butter in bowl and reduce heat to a medium simmer.  Butter will melt.

skim your milk proteins
While butter melts, prepare your wire mesh strainer by wrapping it in cheese cloth (two layers on top and two layers on the bottom).  This will provide sufficient layers to catch any stray milk proteins from getting in your ghee.  You will know after a few weeks if any have made it in as your ghee will turn to funky cheese.  Take my word on that.  As my husband said, "not cool".  He was the one that discovered it and cleaned it out.

slowly pour through strainer
As the butter melts, you will notice a white film form on the surface.  This film is made up of the milk proteins/solids.  When butter is completely melted, use a spoon to skim this film and discard.  Try to get as much as you can from the surface and make sure you do not stir the mixture at any point as milk solids will settle on the bottom too.

ghee collected
You may want to grab some oven mitts to grab the bowl from the heat.  Slowly pour the ghee through the strainer.  Any remaining film on the surface will be caught by the cheese cloth.  It may seem tedious, but do not dump the entire contents through.  We want to avoid the milk solids at the bottom as they are in a liquid form and will not be properly strained.  Remember: funky cheese! 

Stop pouring when you see a white cloudy film at the bottom.  You'll lose some precious ghee at this point, but it's better out than in.

Pour strained ghee into a glass jar for storage and allow to cool for a bit before screwing the lid on.

Ghee is best stored at room temperature.

Enjoy!  I especially love it for making eggs and sauteing veggies!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bacon, Kale and Mushroom Stuffed Squash

I used to hate squash.  That and turnips, brussels sprouts and cabbage.  My tastes have really turned around in adulthood and I'm really enjoying exploring the tastes and aromas of these old enemies.  The only way I would eat squash as a kid was when my mom prepared it, roasted in the oven with butter, brown sugar and curry.  Of course, my childhood taste buds were mainly after the sweet buttery "soup" that filled the squash cavities.  It masked the squash enough for me to enjoy.

I enjoy squash regularly now, it's one of my favourite root vegetables.  Tonight I decided I wanted to try a more paleo savory stuffing and came up with this.

Bacon, Kale and Mushroom Stuffed Squash


1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
8 mushrooms (white or brown), sliced
4 strips of bacon
2 tsp coconut oil
3 large kale leaves, stalks removed
garlic (either 1 clove fresh or 1/4 tsp powdered)
1 tsp thyme

Preheat oven: 400 F

Prepare acorn squash by slicing in half and removing seeds.  Place 1 tsp of coconut oil in each cavity and massage.  Season with salt and place in the oven for 40 minutes.

On medium heat, cook bacon until crisp.  Poor off bacon fat, but keep roughly 2 tbsp on reserve in the pan.  Throw in sliced mushrooms and saute plus 1/4 cup of water to remove and bacon goodness left on the bottom of the pan. 

While mushrooms are cooking, prepare kale by removing stalks and chopping leaves.  Bacon should be cooled by now, so go ahead and chop that up to.

Most of the liquid should be evaporated from the mushrooms.  Add kale and bacon to pan with mushrooms plus another 1/4 cup of water, thyme and saute until kale is tender.  Once done, set aside and wait for timer to finish on squash.

Remove squash from the oven and evenly fill cavities with bacon, mushroom and kale.  Place back in the oven for 15 minutes.

Squash is done when flesh is tender when poked with a fork.

I love how the sweetness of the roasted squash complements the saltiness of the bacon and the kale on top crisps up like kale chips.  I served this with some baked tilapia, but this would accompany well with chicken, beef, pork and lamb.  Delish!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Grass-fed Sirloin Tip Roast Beef

I've been on a real roast kick lately and who can blame me.  Roasts are a perfect winter food, filling the apartment with meaty scents and of course lots of leftovers for the week ahead.  This week I picked up a 4 lb grass fed sirloin tip roast from my favourite locavore hub.

Grass fed Sirloin Tip Roast Beef
If you've ever had grass-fed, you'll know it's much leaner in comparison to grain fed beef and garners a much "beefier" taste.  It also has a greater nutritive content far superior to feed lot beef:
  • higher levels of vitamins A, E and K
  • higher in beta-carotene
  • greater levels of antioxidants
  • higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • higher amounts of omega-3 fats and a more favourable ratio of omega -6 to omega-3 acids
Although grass-fed can be a little pricier, it's definitely worth it, both in taste and nutritional value.  I'm not used to roasting a whole sirloin tip and usually use this cut for stewing beef and braising.  I found this amazing recipe from Paleo Joy and adapted it for my roast.

Preheat oven to 325 F

1 4 lb grass-fed sirloin tip roast
1 onion, cut in 6
6 cloves of garlic
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 fennel, sliced and chopped
1/3 cup red wine or broth
1 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil

Herbs (you can use any blend of herbs you desire, these are just the ones I had on hand that day)


Ready to go in the oven!
Mix desired herbs together with coconut oil and massage over roast.  Place roast in a roasting pan with chopped vegetables, wine/broth, and water and place in the oven.

As this cut can dry out easily, it's recommended that you baste it every 20 minutes.  A bit of a daunting task, but well worth it in the end.  I also covered it with foil after the first hour to prevent the surface from over roasting.

This 4 lb roast took roughly an hour and forty minutes, but the general rule for roasting beef is 18 - 22 minutes per pound.  Roast will be done when it reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees using a meat thermometer.  Because this cut is generally leaner, it's best served medium rare.

Beautiful medium rare!
This was a BIG roast and gave us leftovers for a week!  I would definitely buy this cut again.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Let Nothing Go To Waste!

Roast a whole chicken?  Don't throw out that carcass!  Barbecue some chicken legs or bone in breast?  Save those bones!  There is still some deliciousness to be squeezed out of them and if you just take the time, you can have a delicious homemade stock.

I make a new batch of chicken stock about twice per month.  Perfect to make on a lazy Sunday, stocks are great for additions to other recipes, for making soups or my favourite, warmed up with a little sea salt and enjoyed as a nourishing drink.

After the chicken is roasted and we've enjoyed our meal, I remove all of the meat from the carcass and refrigerate for weekly leftovers.  The carcass is placed in a large freezer bag and tossed into the freezer until I'm ready to make my stock.  This also goes for any other bone in roasts we make: turkey, duck, venison, beef, lamb, pork, etc.  Nothing goes to waste!

If you can get extra chicken backs, necks and feet from your butcher, these make a great addition and are full of gelatin. You can also make a stock using a fresh whole chicken, just be sure to remove any extra fat from the neck and glands and remember, free range chickens are best!

Homemade Chicken Stock

Time: 4 or more hours  (Lazy Sundays work best)


1 whole free-range chicken or fresh/frozen chicken carcass (extra backs, feet and necks if available)
1 large onion with skin on, halved
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2-3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
small handful of peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and fill with water (about an inch above the ingredients).  Bring to a boil.  You'll notice a white scum start to form and collect on the surface.  Remove with a spoon, discard and reduce the heat.  Simmer for a minimum of 4 hours.  The longer you simmer your stock, the richer and more flavourful it will be.  I usually simmer for roughly 6 hours.

After 4 or more hours, remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon.  If using a whole chicken, allow to cool, remove meat from the carcass (reserve for soups and other delicious recipes like yummy chicken salad).  Strain the stock into a large bowl.  If you want to remove the fat, you can place your bowl of stock into the fridge and allow the fat to rise and congeal.  Skim this off and discard.

ladle stock through cheesecloth
Lay cheese cloth in a wire mesh strainer and place over cleaned stock pot.  Ladle stock through the cloth/strainer.  Once strained, ladle stock into clean glass jars using a funnel.  If you are planning to freeze, make sure you leave plenty of room as the liquid will expand.  Failing to do this may cause the jar to crack and this is an unfortunate waste (that I am all too familiar with).  Fill the jar to just the curve in the glass.

Allow to cool on the counter and then place in the fridge overnight.  You can transfer jars to the freezer the next morning; this gives it plenty of time to cool.

Take out a few days before use or you can place in a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer to slowly warm the liquid.

Remember, save your bones!