Uncategorized, What is FOOD?

Making a Mountain out of a Molehill.

Mountains Like Molehills
Image by liesforaliar via Flickr

I have reviewed a lot of diet menus lately and I have noticed that most serving sizes call for 4 ozs of protein (beef, chicken, fish or pork, etc).

Initially when affronted with the seemingly small serving size of 4 ozs, I felt gyped. Four ozs! That seems so small. In a world where we are conditioned that bigger is better, where mammoth sized burgers are the standard, where buckets of chicken and racks of ribs are the norm, 4 ounces seems so…well, puny.

However, if you are like me and like to eat mountains of food, the best way to do so may be the following. I have found that combining those few ounces of animal based protein with tons and tons of non starchy veggies makes an extremely filling, low carb, low-calorie and healthy meal.

First off, we have to figure out what four ounces looks like. Without getting involved with measuring cups, scales and the like, I’ll make it easy for you. Most meats, chicken, fish, etc. are sold by the pound. All you do is buy 1 lb of your whatever meat you want and take it home. Once you are home, simply lay it on a cutting board and cut it in half.  Then, take that half and cut that half in half again. Voila!  Four 4-ounce portions ready to cook. Don’t worry if it is not exact. The food police will not come and arrest you. Wrap the other 3 pieces up and freeze for another time.

Saute 1 pound (or more) of your favorite non starchy vegetable (broccoli, string beans, spinach, asparagus, etc) with a little garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, pepper etc. and add  your newly measured, sliced or cubed 4 ounces of protein and stir till cooked through.

Depending upon your taste, I like to add a tiny amount of chili paste, sesame oil, chopped onion, chopped celery, diced water chestnuts, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Consume the entire mountain of food – guilt free.

Making a mountain (of healthy yummy veggies) with a molehill (of your favorite meat) is the perfect way to eat till you are stuffed without feeling cheated.

Chow for now.

What is FOOD?

How Do You Cook Short Ribs?

I was wandering aimlessly through the aisles of Whole Foods yesterday morning, looking for some inspiration for dinner that night.

When I asked my kids on the way to school in the morning, what they felt like for dinner, my 7-year-old paused, tilted his head in thought, and after about 30 seconds of “hummmmm, urrrrr, ummmms” piped hopefully, “Mom, make the big chicken“. “Yeah, mom,” added my 9 old hopefully, “Make the turkey-chicken.” For those of you who have read my earlier post, “Taste just like…Chicken?” they were referring to the local, all natural, organic, fresh chicken that they sell at our neighborhood farmers market. However, as the “chicken lady” only comes to the market on Saturdays which was still days away, looks like we were out of luck.

As I knew that I would be making a “Big Turkey-Chicken” on Saturday, I decided to steer clear of buying any poultry. I meandered through the seafood section and seriously eyed a slab of fresh cod filet. I changed my mind last-minute, as I was just not in the mood for seafood.

I steered my still-empty cart over to the meat department studying all the different cuts of meat in the showcase. Boneless Short Ribs – $7.99 lb. caught my eye. Positioned next to it lay another lovely pile of Bone-In Short Ribs for $6.99. I decided right then and there that I was going to make Short Ribs. The only problem was that I have never cooked this cut of meat before and had zero idea as to what to do with it.

“How do you cook short ribs?” I asked the man working behind the meat counter. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Well, it depends if you are cooking the boneless or the bone-in. He went on to elaborate that the boneless short ribs were heavily marbled and would be excellent simply pan seared and served like a steak. Motioning to the bone-in short ribs, he suggested to cook them slowly in a dutch oven or a slow cooker for several hours.

A lady beside me chimed in, “Actually, both would work well in a slow cooker. The bones give the dish a lot of flavor.”

Sold! I bought 1 lb of each and went home.

It’s been a while since I used my good old Crocker. After much trial and even more error with my crock pot, (read my previous post, “Making Peace with my Crocker” for explanation) I have finally mastered the fine art of crock pot cooking.

For those of you who have read my past rants over that ridiculously time-consuming and sloooooooow cooking apparatus, the key to crocking is to just let it sit and stew. Don’t do ANYTHING other than leave it alone the entire time your meal is cooking. Every time you lift the lid off the Crocker, you lose the equivalent of almost 1/2 hour of cooking heat. So, please learn from my mistakes and do not lift the lid every 1/2 hr (as I did with my first experience with the slow cooker). Don’t worry, the food will not run away.

This time, I knew what to do. I carefully unwrapped the short ribs from the brown butcher paper. I then seared the short ribs on all sides until brown and beautiful. many recipes call for dredging the ribs in flour, however as this is the I Love FOOD Diet and flour is a no-no, I skipped that recommendation. I then placed my freshly seared meat in the Crocker. In a separate bowl,  I mixed 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/3 cup of rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of hoisen sauce and 1/2 cup of red wine. I poured the dark liquid over the meat and topped it with 3 chopped scallions, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger and  2 carrots.  I then pushed the “low setting” button and pried myself away from the Crocker for the next 8 hours.

What came out was an utterly delicious, restaurant quality, rich and satisfying meal. I served the short ribs with roasted cauliflower and liberally poured the juices over the meat and the veggies. Yummy!  Finger lickin, lip smackin good. 🙂

Tip: If you want to thicken the sauce, simply puree the carrots and stir it in the crock pot with the juices.

Chow for now!

What is FOOD?

Making Peace with my Crocker.

slow cooker barbecue ribs
Image by Maggie Hoffman via Flickr

As we are coming to the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I have decided to do what many of us pledge to do every New Year… I decided to make amends.  Life is too short to dwell on the past. And in the spirit of the I LOVE FOOD DIET and the coming New Year, I have decided to make peace with my Crock Pot.

My main bone of contention with my Crocker (a.k.a. Slow Cooker), was that not only did it take up valuable real estate in my tiny NYC kitchen but that it cooked so damn sloooooooowwwwly.

I have been known to posses little patience and have been guilty of being (at times) somewhat hyper and energetic. Watching a Slow Cooker cook is like watching a pot of water boil… only it never boils! It just sloooooowly simmers.

However, I have learned that this is actually not such a bad thing. There are many cuts of meat that benefit greatly from the slow cooking process. Cuts of meat, especially less expensive cuts like chuck roast, brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, etc. often contain large amounts of connective tissue and tough muscle. The slow cooking process breaks down all those tough and chewy fibers, rendering the meat juicy and tender.

Earlier last week, I was having a craving for Ribs. As I do not have access to a BBQ in my apartment, I mistakenly selected the “quick and speedy” method of cooking ribs. Instead of the suggested 6 -7 hours of slow cooking, I diligently followed the instructions for the speedy method.

The “rapid cook” method involves boiling the porcine rack in a huge pot of water for 1 hour. After that, drain and pop the boiled ribs in the oven with your favorite seasoning. I had purchased a low carb dry rub from Whole foods and carefully sprinkled the seasoning onto the ribs. I then followed the directions and baked them in the oven for another hour.

Well, I should have followed the expression, “Good things come to those who wait“. In my earnest to cook and eat these ribs, I chose not to wait. And because of my “not waiting” , good ribs did not come my way.  The rapid cook method made this meat turn out burnt, dry, stringy  and chewy. 😦

Never one to give up, the next day I decided to give my Crocker ANOTHER chance to redeem itself. As some of you may have read in my past post (That Crocker is a Killer!) , I have had some rather unsuccessful experiences with that behemoth on my countertop. My first foray with the crock pot resulted in a 3rd degree burn on my husband’s hand. The second time our meal came out a little better, but still I was not sold on my Slow Cooker.

Well, looks like three-time’s  a charm as I was FINALLY able to make a decent low carb meal in my Crock pot.

KISS – Keep it simple stupid seems to be way to go. This acronym first coined by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer of the spy plane Lockheed U2 during WWII, still rings true today. Instead of trying to “out-wit” my Crocker, I was going to KISS it. 

I simply rinsed the 4lbs of ribs in cold water, plopped them in the Crocker, added one diced onion and 1/2 jar of sugar-free BBQ sauce and pushed the button.

Restraining myself from lifting the cover every 5 minutes and peeking into the Crocker was harder than the real prep work. I forced myself to get our of the house and do some holiday shopping. Three hours later, I came home and immediately ran over to look at my bounty in the Crocker.

WTF??? These ribs were as pink and raw as they were before I left the house! “Is this thing even on ???” I asked myself, as I furiously started feeling around the back of the Crocker for the plug. Yep, it’s plugged in. I then remembered from my last experience that the Slow Cooker does not really kick in until the next 3 -4 hours of cooking. I pried myself away and calmed myself down with a glass of wine grumbling to myself that this thing is so damn slow.

Finally 4 hours later (7 hours in total), I lifted the lid.

It was sooooooooo worth the wait. These slow cooked ribs were so tender and delicious. They were practically falling off the bone. Even my youngest son, who barely eats anything , helped himself to seconds. 🙂

I guess this Crocker is not so bad after all.

Happy Holidays and Chow for Now!