Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Goodness of Liver

I love liver. Love it. What's that you say? I'm crazy? Well. Maybe. Crazy or not, I love it. I like it prepared all sorts of ways. Chicken liver pâté is one of the best foods ever, especially with rice crackers. There are a lot of health benefits to eating liver, too, so if you can find a way to enjoy (or at least not dislike) it, do! It's inexpensive, to boot, due to American's general distaste for it, so you can have one of the most nutrient dense foods around for an average of less than $3/lb (here it's around $2.75/lb or so unless we're talking chicken liver, then it's around $1.50/lb). Most cultures actually prize liver for its great health benefits. I even read about one culture that views it so highly humans cannot touch it with their hands! They have special sticks that they move it about with. That may be taking it way too far, but the cultures that prize liver above steak really know their stuff. Liver contains more nutrients gram for gram than any other food in the world. See why it's so special? In cultures where food is more scarce than America, the most nutrient dense foods are rightly the most sought after. Liver is high in:

Vitamin A
Vitamin K
B Vitamins

And more! And all of these nutrients are highly bio-available in liver, too, truly making it the best natural source of these nutrients.

The Weston A Price foundation writes, "Liver’s as-yet-unidentified anti-fatigue factor makes it a favorite with athletes and bodybuilders. The factor was described by Benjamin K. Ershoff, PhD, in a July 1951 article published in the Proceedings for the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.

Ershoff divided laboratory rats into three groups. The first ate a basic diet, fortified with 11 vitamins. The second ate the same diet, along with an additional supply of vitamin B complex. The third ate the original diet, but instead of vitamin B complex received 10 percent of rations as powdered liver.
A 1975 article published in Prevention magazine described the experiment as follows: "After several weeks, the animals were placed one by one into a drum of cold water from which they could not climb out. They literally were forced to sink or swim. Rats in the first group swam for an average 13.3 minutes before giving up. The second group, which had the added fortifications of B vitamins, swam for an average of 13.4 minutes. Of the last group of rats, the ones receiving liver, three swam for 63, 83 and 87 minutes. The other nine rats in this group were still swimming vigorously at the end of two hours when the test was terminated. Something in the liver had prevented them from becoming exhausted. To this day scientists have not been able to pin a label on this anti-fatigue factor."
Isn't that fascinating? I think so. Eating 4 oz of liver twice weekly is ideal. David and I try to make that goal and recently I came up with a new method for preparing liver that even he loves, whereas before he ate it because he knew it was healthy, not because he thoroughly enjoyed it. The "recipe" is a little vague, because that's just the way I cook, but I'll share it anyway and whatever slight variations you may make, I'm sure it will still be delicious as well as nutritious! 

Spicy Liver & Onions
Serves 2

Two slices beef liver, approximately 4oz each
around 1/4 cup rice flour
Seasoned Salt
1 med/lrg onion, sliced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
Pinch of brown sugar

Preheat a skillet with coconut oil in it to medium heat; combine rice flour with a few shakes of Seasoned Salt (I envision myself sprinkling the Seasoned Salt on either side of each slice of liver, to get the appropriate amount; this has worked great for me so I never bother to measure). Dredge both sides of the liver in flour/salt mixture. When pan is hot, add liver. Allow to cook, undisturbed around 3-4 minutes, depending on the heat of your stove. Lift a side and check for dark/golden brown color. Once it's dark/golden flip it and cook it another 2-3 minutes or until the same color on that side. Remove from pan to a cooling rack. Add sliced onion to the pan, along with the pinch of brown sugar. Allow to cook until they begin to soften, then add jalapenos and continue to cook a few more minutes or until jalapenos begin to lose their bright green color. Top liver with onion/jalapenos and serve immediately. Delish!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Apple-Pear Spice Muffins

This time of year it is impossible not to want to enjoy those warm, nostalgic fall foods like apple pies, muffins, chicken and dumplings! But what are you to do if you're now eating grain-free? You can call it a fad-diet if you want to (and many do), but what anyone who has suffered themselves to go grain-free knows is that it is worth it, and while it may in fact be the current fad, for those of us who are serious about our health, we'll likely be avoiding grains to varying degrees for the rest of our lives!

But. As healthy as I believe going grain-free is I still want those comfort foods from my childhood that we'd bake in the fall; those things that filled the entire house with their intoxicating scent, and warmed the very cockles of our hearts (seriously, my cockles are warming and fuzzy just thinking about the autumn delights of days gone by!). All the lovelies filled with the sweet warmth of cinnamon and ginger, the apples and pears baked to perfection in golden flaky crusts; so soft and tender (never mushy), the pumpkins and even the savory stews slow cooked in the crock pot until the meat was so tender you could cut it with a spoon, and served with a huge homemade biscuit, so fluffy and buttery you could eat it plain. Ah, those were the days! Ignorant bliss! When I thought that eating a whole wheat cracker was one of the healthiest things I could do for myself! *sigh*

Yesterday was rather chilly (though nothing compared to today! 2PM and 45 degrees!) and put me in such a mood for all things autumnal. I lit pie scented candles, I brewed spiced pumpkin coffee, and then when those things were not enough to satisfy, I threw together a recipe for grain-free muffins that were certain to assuage my need for sweet spiced perfection! I based it on my chocolate muffin recipe but omitted the chocolate and replaced it with a variety of spices. I also left out the flax because I'm running low and have two orders to fulfill for my Etsy shop on Monday morning. So really there is very little about it that is the same as my chocolate muffin recipe, but I digress! Back to the yummies at hand:  By the time I was halfway through and had all the dry ingredients combined I was ready to sit down and eat it just as it was, so sweet and spicy was the dry mixture! Yes I did taste it. This is how one must bake when they bake without a recipe in hand, you see? So without further blatherings, here is the thing that you desire:

Apple-Pear Spice Muffins

Dry Ingredients:
6 tbsp almond flour (I like Honeyville Grains blanched almond flour best)
1 tbsp coconut flour
3 tbsp stevia powder (I use Stevia in the Raw)
2 tbsp Ideal Brown (Ideal brand is the only one I know of that makes "brown sugar" xylitol)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
pinch of allspice

Combine dry ingredients together, set aside.

Wet Ingredients:
1 egg
2 tbsp chunky applesauce
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp molasses*
1/2 -1 tsp vanilla
2 slices of pear, cut into small chunks (I had small homegrown pears on hand from a friend and used the half that didn't have bug holes in it, but I think that half of a pear would work out to about 2 slices of a regular sized/store bought pear)

Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl, including pear. Combine with dry ingredients and spoon into prepared mini muffin cups. I didn't grease my liners and perhaps should have; the muffins did stick just a bit to them, though not terribly.

Also, I realize that the Ideal Brown is not a common household product, even for those who try to keep their sugar intake low. I have it because of my etsy shop, but if you don't have it as I suspect, you could use regular xylitol, or other sweetener of choice and add just a tad more molasses and it ought to turn out well.

Yield: 12-14 mini muffins

*I am aware that I called these sugar free and then added molasses, but 1 tsp only has about 3 1/2g sugar in it, so divided between 12-14 muffins, I think that still qualifies.