Archive | May, 2013

Hard Cider Review: Angry Orchard Iceman

16 May

Depending on your guiding philosophy of paleo feasting, there are many different answers to the question of which sorts of alcohol are paleo. The most strict interpretation is no alcohol at all. The people who to focus more strictly on carbs than other metrics tend to favor hard liquor. Those who advocate more for ensuring that all foods consumed maximize the health benefit will typically stick to red wine. From a historical perspective, mead was certainly our ancestors’ earliest fermented beverage. In terms of minimal processing / additives and natural ingredients, home-brewed mead, cider, or wine are your best bet.

I am less strict about carbs than most paleo devotees (I’m also fat and okay with that), and while I do like a nice scotch, I tend to gravitate toward my home-brewed mead, or sangria (my version: red wine, oranges, honey), or hard cider. I used to really love beer, but when I discovered that the reason most food makes me sick was gluten, beer had to go forever. Now I refer to hard cider as “beer” because that way I can pretend I live in a world where I can have a cold beer after work.

So, I drink a fair amount of cider. I’m going to start posting reviews of some of my favorites.

We’ll kick it off with a new discovery — Iceman from Angry Orchard. This is an ice cider: the pressed apple juice is partially frozen before fermentation, and the frozen water removed to yield a concentrated, sweet juice that is then fermented to perfection. Basically, it’s a very similar process to freeze distillation except done before fermentation and not afterwards.

The finished product is without equal. I think I can safely say I have never tasted a cider this wonderful. The nose is pleasant and fruity. It has a full body with perfectly tiny bubbles, and is sweet but not cloying, smooth, and infinitely drinkable. The flavor profile is very well-balanced. At 10% ABV, it’s suitably fierce; this is a sipping cider, not a chugging cider.

A bottle (750mL) runs around $14-16 retail; it’s somewhat hard to find as it’s a limited run, but worth the hunt.

Container Potatoes: Gardening Anyone Can Do

14 May

I’m pretty sure potatoes are the absolute most controversial food when it comes to paleo / primal eating. I don’t eat them every day, but I do eat them. If you aren’t opposed to potatoes, you may be interested to know that they are dead easy to grow. Potatoes are kind of a miracle plant that turns dirt into food even under poor conditions. If you have any yard space at all, you can plant them in the ground. If you have no yard space, though, or want a method that makes for a simpler harvest, read on:

Potatoes grow well in containers

Potatoes grow well in containers

Potatoes are really easy to grow in containers. The down side is that the soil to grow them in and the container itself are usually more expensive than just buying potatoes. This pot is one I have had for a long time, and the potting soil in it is, I’m sure, long since devoid of any organic value. So if you have a container, especially a large one, that has outlived its usefulness, this is a great way to revitalize it. I amended the soil with some compost since we had plenty. There are lots of ways to repurpose other items to use as pots, too, and you can sometimes make your own “potting soil” a bit cheaper by mixing vermiculite/pumice, compost, coconut coir, etc. (although this isn’t always any cheaper than just buying potting soil).

You can buy special seed potatoes, but I rarely do. I started growing these potatoes when several weeks worth of produce-bin potatoes sprouted and I wanted to cut my losses somewhat. As long as you start from organic potatoes that have already sprouted, you should be fine. You can plant each potato whole or you can cut the individual “eye” sections apart.

Plant the potatoes fairly deep. If you have the wherewithal, plant the potatoes in a container that’s only partially filled. As the vines grow, gently cover them most of the way with more soil; this will cause the plant to produce more tubers and makes better use of a deep container.

After a couple of months, start poking around gently in the soil to see how big the potatoes are getting. I like to harvest them when they are still tiny, like this:

I often feel like small potatoes

I often feel like small potatoes

These were washed then fried whole in tasty fat for my dinner Sunday night.

The easiest way to harvest is to dump the contents of the container onto a tarp and sift through until you find potatoes.

You can also let them grow much longer and get actual decent-sized potatoes this way. I have been told and am currently experimenting with, but can’t yet confirm, that you can harvest a round of new potatoes (like these) then re-plant the vines and grow more. If you want to do this, you have to be very careful about digging up and replanting the plants to keep them intact.

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The first garden salad of the year

14 May

The first garden salad of the year

This is from a couple of weeks ago, but I found this picture on my camera and had to share — my first salad with all the things growing in the garden! Greens, herbs, flower petals… it was awesome! Salad should be a happy food, not a self-punishing food.

Product Review: Coconut Secret Ecuadorian Crunch Chocolate Bar

13 May

Until very recently, I’ve never been much of a chocolate fan. I don’t know, it’s not that I hated chocolate, I could just kind of take it or leave it. And in most cases, if you offered me a choice between flavors, I’d pick “not chocolate.” But lately I’ve started to really appreciate chocolate, really, really good chocolate in particular, as a great not-too-terrible indulgence (as opposed to the gluten free lemon bar I ate earlier today, which was a straight-up quite bad for me indulgence).

So imagine my excitement when I found this:

Coconut Secret Ecuadorian Crunch chocolate bar — it has no soy, and it’s coconut-sugar sweetened! OMG! Hos is this possible!?!?!? It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? The only thing that could possibly make this more paleo is if it were dairy free, and rest assured their other bars are, but I really, really wanted milk chocolate.

So, how does it stack up?

THIS

IS

SO

AWESOME

Absolutely delicious. It has a wonderful flavor and mouth-feel, and the crunch is really appealing. I can’t detect any grittiness in the chocolate itself, but that may just be because there are all these other texture experiences going on. The flavor is the very best that milk chocolate can be, which to me is a very comforting taste.

I will definitely buy these again. It’s a little pricey (at my grocery store, $3.49/bar), but worth it.

Tonight’s Dinner Plan:

12 May

Baby potatoes (stay tuned for a post on growing potatoes in a container), baby radishes with pasture butter and flake salt, and hard-boiled eggs from my coworker’s happy hens. Other than the butter and salt, everything was home-grown by us or someone we know! Score!

ETA: I decided this was inadequate in the Green Stuff department, so I wilted some cabbage raab in butter to go with. It was from the farmers market, so not home-grown, but locally grown.

Have I mentioned how much I love love love this time of year? Eat ALL the things!

E(again)TA: I took a terrible picture of my dinner:

Simple dinner mostly from the garden

Ugh what an awful picture, I fail at blogging.

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Three Ways to Eat Radishes

12 May

Three Ways to Eat Radishes

I like tiny radishes, so I harvested the first round of them from our garden. Here are my three favorite ways to eat radishes:

1) With flake salt. I like Murray River or Fleur de Sel.
2) With olive oil and flake salt.
3) With really nice soft butter and flake salt, a traditional French pre-meal nibble. This is like a paleo answer to bread and butter before a meal and it’s EFFING AMAZING.

Can’t wait to eat these!

Stuffed Grape Leaves

12 May

I can’t call this a recipe because I haven’t worked one out, it’s more like a “food idea.” But it’s a really good idea — paleo stuffed grape leaves! Our grape vines have such pretty soft leaves right now, and I really like stuffed grape leaves, and I’ve always wanted to make them at home with fresh leaves… so I figured why not?

Here’s what I ended up with:

paleo grape leaves

Stuffed fresh grape leaves

Before I started I did some poking around online for advice and came back with two things that seemed critical:

  1. Steep the leaves briefly in boiling water before starting, until they turn from bright green to dull green.
  2. Cut out the vein/stem at the very center of the leaf, where it attached to the petiole.

Other than that, I winged it. Here’s what I did:

  • Picked leaves that were still tender.
  • Put them in a tempered glass container, poured boiling water over them, let them sit until they turned olive green.
  • Drained and rinsed with cold water.
  • Made the filling: I had some grass-fed beef cut for stir-fry that I hand chopped (albeit with a pretty dull knife, so it’s more accurate to say I smashed it a little) then mixed with garlic, salt, and a Georgian (the country, not the state) spice mix that someone gave me some years back and that I don’t really know anything else about except that it’s yummy. I eyeballed the filling-to-leaf ratio and I didn’t get it quite right, but it turned out okay.
  • Separated the filling into little lumps, put a lump in the center of a leaf, and wrapped, making sure to completely enclose the meat and stick the leaf back to itself well.
  • Put each bundle in a steamer basket, then steamed them all for about 15 minutes.

Traditionally dolmas are served cold, but I ate mine hot. I drizzled a little olive oil on top and sprinkled on some coarse salt. This is great as a snack, or a party appetizer. They would be even better with lamb (which would also be more traditional), and you could add other vegetables to the filling easily.

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