Grain-free Tortilla Chips That Don’t Suck – BONUS: Awesome Guac

I hate avocados. They taste awful and are good for nothing. Truly, they are the devil’s candy, eaten out of the devil’s grandmother’s “1960’s Orange” candy dish.

UNLESS… you make the incredibly simple guacamole found at the end of this post (literally, I have hated all fresh avocado until I made the perfect guac this very evening).

In the mean time, check out this simple grain-free tortilla chip recipe. You may decide not go back to corn chips after trying these. It’s like the old saying: “Once you go grain-free, you’ll never have a brain tree.” It doesn’t make any sense, but by God, it’s a saying!

Ingredients:
-1/2 cup almond flour/meal
-1/2 cup cashew flour/meal
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp chili powder
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp onion powder
-1/4 tsp paprika
-1 egg white
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Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Add egg white and mix together thoroughly until they form an even dough.
2. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper, as thinly and evenly as possible. Remove the top layer of parchment paper. Cut the dough into desired shapes for chips (I used a pizza cutter, but you can use a switchblade if you’re a real bad@$$).
3. Move the dough, with the parchment paper, onto a baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes. Use a spatula to remove the chips from the paper. Serve with guacamole or salsa.

Now for the guacamole recipe!

Directions:
1. Slice a ripe avocado in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the green squishy part. Mash it until it’s smooth, imagining the avocado is your high school bully’s face.
2. Add 1/2 tsp. of lime juice, a couple dashes of salt, and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder. Adjust salt/garlic amounts to taste.
3. Stir vigorously, or until your mother says, “Jeez, Brian! That’s enough!” This is especially important if your name isn’t Brian.

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Reading Labels and Other Boring Crap That’s Totally Worth Your While

***This will be a short post, because I’m not concerned with you reading what I have to say. I’m just a lone lunatic. After looking over my brief rantings, I want you to check out the resources toward the end of this post.***

I know making the transition to clean eating is overwhelming and daunting. It can make you want to pull your hair and say, Well, what in the hell CAN I eat???” Here are a few points that may help you discern the real food from the overly-processed.

“Gluten-free”: All that’s gluten-free is not good to eat. Tortilla chips are gluten-free. Cocoa Krispies are gluten-free. Hand sanitizer is gluten free. Gasoline is gluten-free. You should try to avoid ingesting these items, and only drink gasoline in moderation. (I shouldn’t have to say this, but that was a joke. Please don’t drink gasoline. Not even oh-so delicious diesel.)

Oils: Heavily processed oils like corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil and margarine are not the “healthy alternatives” I grew up hearing they were. Even the term “vegetable oil” can be misleading (or an outright lie). A few “vegetable” oils – corn oil (corn is a grain, NOT a vegetable), soybean oil (legume, NOT a vegetable), and canola oil (canola is a cultivar of rapeseed… Wait, rapeseed? No thanks). The oils I just mentioned go through such an ungodly manufacturing process, your body can’t even recognize them as food. The good news – there are others that are also considered vegetable oils which are derived without the ridiculous amount of processing. When looking for oils closest to their original state, opt for those like olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and animal fat.

Labels: You won’t get the vital information from the front of package (such as “all natural”, “gluten-free”, “low fat”, or “possibly maybe hopefully safe for human consumption”). Read the ingredients on the back. If you can’t pronounce it, then it probably isn’t good for you. Also, “natural flavors” is NOT an ingredient… I’ve never had any luck growing a “natural flavors tree”. The details of this “ingredient” are noticeably absent. Oh, and if you see the vague “vegetable oil” as an ingredient, it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that it comes from a quality source.

Of all the literature I’ve read that is geared toward regular people, the following resource has to be one of the most useful and easiest to digest. (Pun absolutely intended.) Liz Wolfe co-authored THIS AWESOME GUIDE that will hit many of the above points in greater detail.

In addition to this guide, I recommend Liz as a source of information and inspiration. She shares her knowledge an research in a way that is not only funny, but also easy for the average person to understand. (In my case, a below-average person.) For some entertaining posts/podcasts/recipes on topics from clean eating, to skin care, to homesteading, check out one of her blogs HERE.

Take the next step. Apply this information. Research it for yourself. Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP! Or, if you have to give something up, give up highly-processed oils.

Husbands CAN Like Vegetables

“How can I get my husband on board with clean eating?” This is a common question I get from women whose significant others are dead set on staying far away from leafy greens. He may fall under one of these categories: Doesn’t like fresh vegetables… Won’t give up *insert junk food name*… Won’t ever try anything new… Is kind of a turd. I assure you: I was once that husband, (sans turdishness).

For most of my life, I not only “didn’t like vegetables”, I was actively “anti-vegetable”. I almost wore it on my sleeve as a badge of honor that I was a carnivore, or at the least, a Ramen Noodle-ivore. To give my sandwiches that lettuce crunch, I added… Potato chips.

I was only okay eating canned green beans (the squishy cut ones), canned peas (as long as they had extra salt and hadn’t been convicted of any felonies), and canned corn (a grain, not even a vegetable). How would I ever eat salads, broccoli, or (*gasp*) Brussels sprouts?

Here are a few fresh ideas. If they hit home, let me know, and I can go more in-depth in a future post.

1. Trying to force the issue will not work: Serving up a steaming pile of broccoli with the disclaimer “if you don’t like it, you can cook for yourself” will backfire. In this case, not only will he cook for himself, but he will make the most unhealthy convenience food choice possible (Ramen, potato chips, frozen pizza, chocolate-covered MSG, etc).

2. Bacon! Just. Bacon. My wife warmed me up to so many different vegetables by simply slicing up a reasonable amount of (nitrate-free, uncured) bacon and frying it up in the same pan as some steamed (organic) veggies. It added richness and flavor to them that my uncivilized palate could not yet handle without bacon. Fresh whole green beans and Brussels sprouts were two of the first I was able to warm up to, all thanks to this miracle meat. “Bacon covers a multitude of vegetables,” as the Good Book says.

3. Focus on the positive: After your spouse has started to make better choices, focus on the progress, not on the shortfalls. I am the first to admit I don’t eat vegetables with every meal, but I eat them 10x as often as I did before (probably more… and fresh instead of canned). THEREFORE, I cheer myself on how far I’ve come, not how far I have left to go. Instead of casting a sideways glance and a sigh when your husband pops a pizza in the oven once a week, remember when pizza was on the menu three nights a week. What progress!

I could list several other things, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Most important: BE PATIENT! My wife rarely chided me when I mixed in my former food choices with the real meals she prepared. Before she knew it, I was cooking real food meals we could both enjoy.

Over time, my pantry, fridge, and appetite have evolved. We simply don’t buy junk food any more, because it’s no longer my favorite thing to eat.

…Except tortilla chips. My weakness. OMIGOD. In my defense, I only eat tortilla chips that are grass-fed and humanely butchered.

How to Make Chicken Soup That Doesn’t Suck

Have you ever tried making chicken soup from scratch? Homemade soup tends to be bland, mushy, or downright crappy. Here’s about as easy a noodle-free chicken soup recipe as I can muster without throwing my back out. I put my blood, sweat, and tears into this recipe, but only as a garnish. You can substitute parsley. I hope you enjoy it!

Per serving, this soup will cost you much less than Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. And that’s if you use organic ingredients! If you are on a budget and want to cut costs by using non-organic (not recommended, especially for the chicken) ingredients, you might even be able to make this even cheaper per serving than Aldi’s Chicken Noodle Soup!

Total time – 2 hours
Servings – about 75 cups

Step 1: The Chicken Prep – Ingredients

-2 five-pound chickens
-6 whole carrots, halved
-6 stalks of celery, halved
-1 medium white/yellow onion, peeled and quartered

Directions:

Remove the baggie of gizzards from the chicken and put them in the pot with the whole birds. Add all ingredients to a large stock pot, fill with water (until the chickens are submerged) and bring to a boil. Simmer for 75 minutes, or until meat is very tender and almost falling off the bone.

Remove whole chickens from the pot. Strain out large vegetables from pot (discard veggies, or use them as inexpensive projectiles to throw at the mailman) and skim remaining stock for any solids. After the chickens cool, remove all meat (shred by hand) and place into the pot full of chicken stock. If the chicken has been disrespectful at all, feel free to yell at it a little before placing it into the pot.
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Put any bones/connective tissue/gizzards into a Crock Pot. (These will be used to make delicious/nutritious bone broth… A future post… Preview pic below… Stay tuned!)
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Step 2: The Reckoning – Ingredients

-All chicken flesh you removed from the mutilated, dismembered carcasses
-8 Tbsp butter or coconut oil (one, the other, or a mix)
-2 to 3 medium white or yellow onions, diced
-3 pounds carrots, sliced
-2 pounds(-ish) celery (… I mean, who likes celery anyway? Just enough to give texture and flavor without the whole preachy “celery burns more calories than it contains” angle), sliced, diced, or otherwise cut into tiny, edible pieces
-1 to 2 pounds whole green beans (frozen works fine)

(If you don’t want to chop everything, you can use the soup starter from Trader Joes. I used 3 of them for this, and it took care of the celery/onion. I just added about 2.5 pounds more sliced carrots. Oh, and get a mandolin slicer! They make slicing carrots easy! Check Amazon for good ones under $15.)
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-1 Tbsp sea salt
-2 Tbsp cumin
-4 Tbsp minced garlic
-2 tsp garlic powder
-2 inch peeled, minced ginger (or 1 Tbsp powdered ginger, if you can’t stand to peel and mince it without feeling like a serial killer)
-3 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
-2 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme
-Black pepper (to taste, or until you sneeze 3 times)

Directions:

Heat butter or coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and add sea salt, cumin, garlic, ginger, rosemary, and thyme. Stir the seasonings well and let them cook briefly until aromatic. Add onions/celery/carrots and sauté. (This is a lot of vegetables, so you may need to sauté in a couple smaller batches.) Add veggies to chicken stock. Add green beans and black pepper. Add water to the stock as needed. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Test the flavor of the soup. Quizzing it on state capitals will work fine. Add additional herbs/spices until it tastes how you want it.

Sure, the initial cost seems high ($50-$60, if you shop around to make sure you’re not paying much more than $3/lb for the chicken), but when you’re getting 75 servings, it’s so affordable! And that doesn’t even count the quarts (potentially gallons) of nourishing bone broth that come with it! The 2 hour prep time may appear a little long, but you will save yourself meal prep time for weeks after!

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How to Make Brussels Sprouts That Don’t Suck

I never liked Brussels sprouts as a kid, because they are disgusting. Then I discovered that Brussels sprouts are not disgusting (except for the ones that have an unhealthy attraction to balloons).

If you’ve eaten Brussels sprouts, then you’ve probably had them undercooked, under-seasoned, and absolutely “vegetable-y”. Try this recipe to make some Brussels sprouts that don’t suck!

I really don’t feel like spelling out “Brussels sprouts” every time, because by God, I’m going to use it a lot. I’m going to abbreviate. BS? No, that could be easily misinterpreted. Bru-spros? Sounds like a sports injury. Maybe I’ll just say “sprouts”. You’ll know what I mean.
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Ingredients:

-16 ounces of sprouts
-Butter (from grass-fed cows preferred)/Olive oil (extra virgin)
-Sea Salt
-Garlic Powder
-Cumin

I used a bag of Trader Joes steam-in-bag sprouts ($2.49 for 16 ounces), but you can use the same tip from this post to steam fresh sprouts (can be less expensive).

Directions:

1) Steam 16-oz of sprouts on High for 3 minutes in microwave (times may vary, based on your microwave’s wattage and inherent hatred for green vegetables) until they are to desired tenderness.

2) Put 2 Tbsp butter OR 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and bring to medium heat – very hot, but not smoking (or “poppling”, if you are 5 years old).

3) Toss steamed sprouts in salt, garlic, and cumin. Add sprouts to pan and sauté. Cook 3-5 minutes, or until the outsides are starting to brown.

4) Enjoy, and share with people who didn’t like bru-spros before!

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How to Survive a Snack Attack: a Field Guide

Here’s a popular topic for clean eating: “What is the best way to raise, butcher, and cook my own giraffes without my spouse/the police finding out?”

Well, I’ll be honest… that’s a little outside my scope of expertise. I can’t hide anything larger than a zebra without the law dropping by. What I CAN do, however, is answer the question: “I get hungry between meals or after dinner. What are some real food snacks that are pre-packed or super easy?”

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1. Trader Joes Plantain Chips – I personally love Trader Joe’s Plantain Chips. They satisfy a tortilla/potato chip craving and only have 3 ingredients: plantain, sunflower oil, and salt. They go well with salsa, fresh avocado, or are even good plain! They cost $1.69/bag regularly. Not bad!

Pay attention to the Nutrition Facts, however. They are NOT low-calorie or low-fat. You cannot eat an entire bag and expect NOT to have “the heavy craps” the next morning. These are just a snack, and should be treated as such. “Honor thy serving size and Nutrition Facts.” (Commandment 5. In the Bible. Look it up.)

2. Nuts – If I’m in-between meals, a small palmful of nuts is the way to go. You can even add some dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries to satisfy a sweet craving. I wanted to show you the proper serving size, but when a Googled “a handful of nuts”, I couldn’t share any of the pictures that came up.

Again, Trader Joes is a great place to find some natural nuts for a reasonable price. (WARNING: Peanuts are NOT nuts… they are legumes and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.) Walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and macadamias are a some examples of tree nuts.

After eating a small palmful, WAIT 20 minutes before going to the fridge again. Your body takes a while before it realizes you had fed it, kind of like a Doberman gnawing the leg of a would-be intruder on the front lawn of a Beverly Hills mansion.

3. Eggs – You can hard-boil a dozen at a time and have them at the ready, or you can fry/scramble a couple in a jiffy. Add some salt and pepper, and you have a snack that can satisfy a savory craving. The eggs have some protein that will tell your body, “I just ate something, so quit bugging me!” (The same goes for a reasonably-sized chunk of cheese made from grass-fed cow’s milk.)

4. Dark Chocolate – The darker, the better. Like, 85%+. Organic fair-trade source preferred. I don’t often have a craving for sweets, but when I do, this hits the spot. Again, keep an eye on the serving size. One or two small squares will do the trick. (“The trick” just so happens to be a modern twist on the old “make the Statue of Liberty disappear”, but without the Copperfield-esque greasy Euro-coif.)

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The main idea here is that you will not need (or even feel the urge) to snack if your main meals are balanced. From my own experience, when I eat meals balanced with plenty of vegetables, some protein, healthy fats, and a carb/fruit, I usually don’t crave snacks.

The other question I have been asked: “I’ll be traveling out of state. I usually double-fist gas station Red Bulls and Doritos. What is an easy way to take a healthful snack for the road?”

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With very little pre-planning, you can throw some hard-boiled eggs, Applegate lunchmeat, tomatoes, 2-ingredient fruit bars, plantain chips, nuts, and cheese in a cooler.

This should help give you clean energy (if you are also solar powered, try leaning out the window!) that will get you to your destination without unexplained sweating and feeling like there’s a tiny person in your stomach trying punch his way out.

I hope this helps! If you have ready-made or easy real food snack ideas, please share!

Other reference: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/05/kid-snacks.html

Make Your Own Lotion (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Animal Fat)

Tallow, n., \’ta-(,)lō\ — 1) the white, nearly tasteless solid rendered fat of cattle and sheep used chiefly in soap, candles, and lotions, and 2) the butter-looking runoff that smells quite a lot like French fries, made using a thoroughly gut-turning process, that leaves your hands smelling like a slaughterhouse.

Here’s a handy-dandy recipe to make your own all-natural moisturizer, plus my own experience.

Ingredients:

-2 to 3 pounds of suet (raw fat/trimmings, purchased from a local farmer, or from a guy who performs liposuction out of the back of his van)

-5-quart Crock Pot, or other electrically heated earthenware

-Cheesecloth

-2 heat-safe bowls

Directions:

Step 1: Cut the suet into 1/2″ pieces or smaller. Be careful to remove any bits of meat from the fat. This will help the cooking process to have a less-potent scent.

I grabbed the biggest, sharpest knife I had. After I removed the wrapping, I set the log of cow fat on the cutting board. As I pressed the knife in, the pieces of fat began to fall apart into cheese curd-like bits. After two or three attempts to cleanly cut the suet, I realized it was useless. Even trying to use the tip of the knife to remove the meaty bits from the pure fat was frustrating.

It became apparent that I could save time and effort by simply breaking the fat into bits using my bare hands. I felt uneasy as I used my fingernails to separate small bits of meat from the gristle. At that very moment, I realized I would not make a very good serial killer.
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Step 2: Cook the suet in a Crock-Pot for 90 minutes on low, or until the tallow has completely separated from the solid trimmings. This is essentially a way to render fat at home.

The first thing I did after starting to heat the suet was to wash my hands. Good lord, my fingers had a thick layer of waxy fat which smelled intensely of hoof and organ meat. (Paramedics described a similar smell when they came upon Elvis in his Graceland bathroom.) The house began to fill with the aroma of a McDonald’s, if that McDonald’s used pure animal fat for their fry grease and didn’t have a ball pit that smelled like urine.

Step 3: Use a cheese cloth to strain the tallow into a heat-safe bowl. After straining, set the remaining solids aside.

This is a two-person job for sure. One person holds the cheesecloth/bowl, and the other pours the tallow/solids and asks why in the world they were doing this in the first place.
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Step 4: Enjoy the fruit of your bounty!

Apparently, the tallow soaks into your skin better than many other organic oils/lotion alternatives. You can even mix in your choice of aromatic essential oils if you don’t want to smell like French fries (but who doesn’t want that?). It will keep for up to a couple of months in the fridge, or a few weeks at room temperature (again, not unlike McDonald’s fries).

The solids are called “cracklins”. You can fry them up in a pan and top your favorite food with them – eggs, salads, chili, etc. Especially etc. They have the consistency of fried bacon fat and are actually quite delicious.

I hope this has been a chance for you to live vicariously through me. Vicarious is definitely an upgrade. Usually, I’m just a cautionary tale.