Friday, February 27, 2009

top gators.

so, here's my obligatory top chef-related post. i didn't want to express any opinions because they're swirling around in much easier-to-find internet locations... but YES, it made me angry. and NO, i don't think the right person won. yar. why can't a cool woman be shown standing up for herself?!
in any case, i've decided some alligator exploration is needed.
(there's got to be some better things to do with it than make soup...)

as expected, alligator meat allegedly "tastes like chicken" but doesn't have all of the icky chicken-ness that comes with, well, chicken. and it is lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories. but considerably harder to domesticate, one would imagine! ha.

the next question is, where does one find alligator meat in southern california? certainly we don't have any native los angeles river gators... a couple of quick calls have lead me to think that gator isn't a very popular ingredient around here, but surfa's in culver city said they could get it upon request. frozen. and the farmer's market butchers recommended the many online sources.

here's a few:

so if you can wrestle yourself up a good gator, who can resist alligator balls?

Alligator Balls

1 lb Chopped alligator meat
1 Egg
1 tb Finely chopped onions
1 tb Finely chopped celery
1 tb Finely chopped parsley
2 tb Finely chopped shallots
1 ts Lemon juice
1 ts Black pepper
1/2 ts Salt
1/4 c Bread crumbs
1 c Cooking oil
Flour to dredge

Combine all ingredients, form 1 inch diameter balls, allow to set one hour. Dredge in flour and fry till brown. Serve hot.

or sweet and sour alligator? (couldn't resist, just sounded odd and silly.)

Sweet and Sour Alligator

2 eggs
1/4 cup + 2 tsps all-purpose flour
2 tsps milk
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 lbs alligator tail meat
4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tsps cornstarch
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 8-ounce can unsweetened pineapple chunks
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
hot cooked rice

Combine eggs, flour, milk and salt; mix well. Add alligator cubes, stirring to coat.In 2-quart deep fryer, heat oil to 350 degrees. Deep-fry alligator a few pieces at a time until golden brown. Drain well.In a 4-quart saucepan, combine pineapple juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, tomato sauce, vinegar, corn syrup, garlic salt and pepper. Stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.Stir in alligator chunks, pineapple, bell pepper, celery and onion. Cover and simmer ten minutes. Serve over hot rice.
(recipe source:

and, because i'm a very practical lady, here's some helpful hints on how to survive an alligator attack.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

got any (meat) plans this weekend?

a birdie shared a great idea with me from good eats-- homemade gyros!

looks like another fun use for the new meat grinder. and i'm on the look-out for some sort of rotisserie contraption to fit in our oven. it doesn't need to spin or anything, our oven has a convection setting and i don't object to turning it often... any ideas? one of those stand-alone convection rotisseries looks great-- but not when you have about ten inches of counterspace!

maybe i can rig something up, i'm a resourceful lady...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

what's that in my soup?

here's a nice new york times article on soup, specifically making soup and stocks using bones. they talk to jennifer mclagan, author of bones (and of fat) about why you should make the extra effort and where to find these tasty additions-- worthwhile additions, it explains, because they are available from any good butcher for cheap.. often from fifty cents a pound!
here's her quote:

“It’s the difference between a glass of water and a glass of cream,” Ms.
McLagan explained. “A bouillon cube is never going to give you that.”

and here's her book!

i am inspired.


i came across this wonderful site yesterday. eat wild is a super great resource for any information one could want about grass-fed meats and the small ranches that put the effort into their production.
and here's a list of grass-fed meat producers in california, complete with heaps of information on each ranch, including products, contact info, and web links. we're not just talking about beef either, there are listings for lamb, goat, bison, pork, chicken (and eggs), turkey, duck, cheeses, and even pet foods.
who knew it could be so easy to find so many happy meat sources?!

this week's cut:


(image source:

and since i'm still rather ill, i'll share my recipe for simple lamb soup.
and i'll put a disclaimer here. i don't usually post recipes for a couple of reasons-- one being that i'm not great at following them and the other that i've had to modify my eats so much because of my dietary restrictions i'm afraid my recipes will be incredibly dull and limited to others. so if you are inclined to try a recipe, please just look at it as a springboard and cater it to your own culinary needs!

1lb lamb shoulder
1/4 cup rice flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, washed and halfed, peel on
1 onion, quartered
3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 cup white wine
1 cup brown rice
6 cups water
handful of good, fresh tomatoes, cut into big chunks or wedges
several sprigs of fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

make the stock-
dredge lamb in rice flour and lightly brown in olive oil. then, add white wine, lemon, onion, and garlic and simmer for a few minutes. add 6 cups of water and simmer for at least 3 hours (but it will be better the longer you wait!). add more water if needed.

then the soup-
strain your stock, discarding the onion, garlic, and lemon. keep the lamb pieces and shread them into the stock. add brown rice and oregano and cook until rice is done (about 40 minutes). toss in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

super simple but flavorful. and gluten-and dairy-free, for anyone who cares.

niman: no longer to be trusted.

a few weeks ago, i posted on the mega-natural farm niman ranch. now, it seems that many of their practices have come into question. apparently, bill niman, founder of niman ranch, is no longer in control of the company because of some problems with profitability. now, they are owned by chicago's natural food holdings and the changes they have made have resulted in bill niman saying that he will no longer eat niman ranch meats.

check out the article. how disappointing!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

what your portion should be.

(image source:

so, i've been giving the "stop eating red meat to save your planet" thing a lot of thought. it is pretty tough to know that a meat-based diet is bad for the environment, but i'm trying to put it into perspective. upon further research, many experts recommend cutting your (red) meat portions down to 4 per week and restricting them to the size of a deck of cards. so, i'm pretty much rolling my eyes while writing this. how much meat does one really need? and isn't the deck-of-cards thing how we are supposed to determine meat portion sizes anyway? and do we really need to have red meat every day? switch it up! be creative! there are so many other options out there, i've decided these principles mostly would change the eating habits of the fast-food, white bread, meat-and-potatoes crowd.
harvard revised the usda food pyramid (as seen above) and you can see that it focuses on whole grains, good fats, fruits and vegetables, supplemented with lean proteins and red meat. just because i'm carnivorous doesn't mean i have to have a steak for every meal, but i think that doing so a couple times a week keeping in mind the deck-of-cards portion will do me a heck of a lot more good than harm (especially since my particular diet doesn't allow me proteins of the vegetarian variety.)

so, here are a few examples of meat portions from the typical American diet.

mcdonald's quarter pounder

serving size - 6 oz.
calories - 430
fat - 21 grams protein - 23 grams

outback special steak

serving size - 12 oz.
calories - 820
fat - 50 grams
protein - 90 grams

bk original whopper

serving size - 10.26 oz.
calories - 720
fat - 43 grams
protein 31 grams

in and out double double hamburger

serving size - 11.64 oz.
calories - 670
fat - 41 grams
protein - 37 grams

(all stats from
as you can see, all of these options are considerably over the recommended 3.1 ounces of meat (with only half of that being red) per day. in conclusion, i'm officially over feeling guilty for my meat consumption.
oh, and if you're checking my math on the sandwiches, i do know that the serving size includes the bun and toppings, but if you refer to the smallest portion - the mcdonald's quarter pounder, a quarter pound equals four ounces, going over the limit with one little meal.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

beef and your planet.

well, i don't like this. i'm definately an advocate of eco-friendliness and humane treatment of animals, but gotta eat, right? especially those of us who have found animal proteins to be absolutely necessary in our diets...

"...swap half of that protein now supplied by meat with soy by 2050, and “you could expect [projected] emissions to decrease on the order of 70 percent,” he said. Take the next big step — eliminating all meat in favor of soy — should drop the protein-associated carbon footprint of Western diets a whopping 96 percent."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

lady butcher vs. soy protein

alternate title: keep soy out of my meat!

you can get adequate nutrition while on a vegetarian diet by eating the right combinations of grains, legumes, and dairy products, which is why i had to revert back to my carnivorous ways when i began developing and discoving my food allergies. my conclusion is that fermented soy (tempeh, miso, etc.) on occasion isn't a bad addition to any diet, but a diet dependant on soy for protein is not ideal-- especially for women and children. if you are choosing vegetarianism, please don't be lazy about it. all of the processed, packaged vegetarian food options may look like a fun and easy way to eliminate meat from your diet and be "healthier," but think about these things--

  • soy has one of the highest amounts of pesticides of any food we eat
  • over 90% of soy is genetically modified
  • soy may speed up the aging of brain cells
  • increased soy consumption disrupts hormone balance, often disrupting women's menstrual cycles*
  • babies on soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent of at least 5 birth control pills per day
  • soy has been linked to countless thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism in women, and in asian countries that eat large amounts of soy, rates of thyroid cancer are staggering
  • soy is the primary ingredient in many processed foods
  • and, since the government started subsidising soy farming in 1998 (nearly 70% of soy profits are from the government), soy production has raised 25%, resulting in soy being crammed in everything from hamburgers to bread


*refers to unfermented soy products

and for people like myself with allergies, it is quite bothersome that soy has found its way into the american diet just like corn has-- as an additive to nearly every processed food product, even many meats! in fact, there have been several reported allergy-related deaths linked to soy in unsuspecting meat products. so, think about that next time you order your late-night 2 for $1 tacos...

*not vegetarian as sometimes speculated, soy is actually the third ingredient in a j-box taco, behind beef and water.

so, do your research. here are a couple of places to start.
is soy healthy?
the whole soy story

Friday, February 20, 2009

healing powers of the chicken.

so, i'm feeling a bit under the weather today and spent the night last night chugging large amounts of broth (yes, i burnt my tongue. hmmph.) i got to thinking about whether chicken soup really is a miracle cure for what ails you and whether the chicken is special (why are turkeys left out of this?)
i thought maybe it was psychological-- a comfort food that mom made when you were sick it was cold outside, but it does seem to have some real healing benefits. not surprisingly, many of them come from the veggies and not just from the chicken.

chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, a substance released when boiled. this amino acid is similar to the drug acetylcysteine, which is prescribed by doctors to patients with bronchitis. it thins the mucus in the lungs and hot chicken vapors have been proven more effective than hot water vapors in clearing out your nose.

carrots are the best natural source of beta-carotene, which body converts to vitamin a. vitamin a helps prevent and fight off infections by enhancing the actions of white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.

garlic has powerful antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal properties . it is used to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and assists in treatment of heart disease and cancer.

contain protein, calcium, vitamin a, b complex, c and e. they also contain sulfur compounds and have anti-inflammatory effects. like garlic, onions contain the antibiotic oil allicin, which gives them their pungent flavor.

celery is a carminative, diuretic, tonic, and nervine. used to promote restfulness and sleep, celery is also excellent for relieving rheumatism and gout. its high magnesium and iron content is invaluable as a food for blood cells and because of its anitspasmodic properties, celery is good for all lung conditions, including asthma and bronchitis.

parsley contains two components that provide unique health benefits-- volatile oils including myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene and flavonoids including apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin. the activity of parsley's volatile oils qualifies it as a "chemoprotective" food- a food that can neutralize particular types of carcinogens like benzopyrenes from cigarette and charcoal grill smoke.

sea salt:
sea salt in particular contains a natural balance of sodium, magnesium and potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure and promote good health. mineral salts create electrolytes that carry electrical currents to cells throughout the body. electrolytes are necessary for enzyme production and enzymes are responsible for breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, muscle function, hormone production, etc. electrolytes and enzymes are linked to healthy immune function, proper regulation of bodily fluids, and adrenal health.

black pepper:
black pepper contains volatile oils, alkaloids, proteins and minerals. it aids in healing by acting as a circulatory stimulant, diuretic, cerebral stimulant, infection-reducer, diaphoretic (induces sweating), astringent (tightens mucous membranes) and stimulates sinus drainage.

so and if you choose to use turkey instead, i think you can still feel like you're getting good healing powers from the veggies as well as from the turkey because turkey is naturally low in fat without the skin, containing only 1 gram of fat per ounce of flesh. a 5-ounce serving provides almost half of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid, and is a good source of vitamins B, B1,B6, zinc and potassium. these nutrients have been found to keep blood cholesterol down, protect against birth defects, cancer and heart disease, aid in nerve function and growth, boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, and assist in healing processes.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

sausage shoppers?

so, do you think i could sell pretty little packages of artisan sausages on etsy?
i don't see any problems with it in their terms of use...

heirloom livestock?

the american livestock breeds conservatory has opened me up to a lovely world of farm animals that are facing extinction because of all of the fun breeding and genetic engineering factory farmers are doing. i suppose most people wouldn't think about this, but can you imagine if eventually only one breed of dog existed? and what would that look like? probably a 20-pound hairless hypoallergenic sad looking creature, right? well, that's pretty much what we've done to chickens!
i was reading yesterday that beef can be as complex as wine-- everything from the breed, what the animal is fed, its living condition, and its treatment factors into the taste of the meat. are there fancy groups of people who have beef-tastings like wine tastings? and how can i get in on that? it is just sad that we've limited ourselves to the most generic foods we can manufacture, so we can feel warm and fuzzy, blindly wandering into familiar restaurants to taste the same double cheeseburger in new york, tokyo, or sydney...

and i think i found a new purse book!

also, do i need one of these? seems kind of absurd, but am i just inappropriately refusing to jump the new technology bandwagon to be quickly left in the dust?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

cotton candy?

(image source:
nope, no candy here! that's pork floss! way more tempting to me than vegan bacon salt. think they make it in pink?

more beef stats.

just came across this article what's your beef that i thought was noteworthy. nothing new, but a good little guide to what all of the confusing labels we see on meat actually mean (natural, organic, grass-fed, etc.). at the end of the article, there is an interview with betty fussell, author of raising steaks. neat-o!

this week's cut:


and here's a link to a elk-butchering diagram- well, technically this is goes for any large game meat, which i think i'm on a kick with... maybe it is leading me to taking up a new hobby? we'll see about that.

i think that hunting has been completely misrepresented, perhaps because of hunting purely for sport or perhaps just for meat. the Native American outlook is something to be admired (in my opinion, at least), which is almost reverent. the animals are respected and every part of them used - protein for food, bone for implements, sinew for cordage, fur, feathers, rawhide and leather for clothing... this might be politically incorrect, but i don't understand holding an objection to wearing fur or leather or to hunting (for food, not for sport) but eating meat or being vegetarian/vegan but still wearing fur or leather. to be a good steward of our "resources," shouldn't we be willing to use all parts of an animal? (e.g. last week's buffalo diagram!) i would also like to think that if i am willing to eat meat and wear leather/fur, i would be willing, even just once in my life, to see the process all the way through, from hunting the animal to seeing it on the table. this may not be for everyone and i know i have to accept that, but i think it would be a very rewarding experience. i guess i am still working through my thoughts on this.

just from a health standpoint, i'm pretty fascinated by what i'm learning about the nutrition of eating meat from animals who live in their more "natural" states. i wonder if meats like buffalo and elk would still be lean if they were factory farmed? and are they leaner than beef and chicken in general, or only than meat from factory farmed cows and chickens? i was quite surprised to look at a package of elk from broad leaf game and find that it only had 120 calories and 0 grams of fat! don't get me wrong, i'm defiantely for having some fat in my foods- gosh, i could eat piles of bacon- but it seems so bizarre that there would be that much of a discrepency between tasty game meat and, say, ground beef.

and if you are so inclined, check out these websites:
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (click on the carnivore's kitchen link!)
Wild Eats

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

my first go at sausage making.

my sausage making experience was everything i'd hoped for. my friend over at tryharder and i made a day of it, starting out with a return trip to huntington meats. let me continue my raving of this excellent butcher-- they were amazingly helpful and when i told them what my mission was, the guy who was helping me got a big grin on his face and pulled out a ragged notebook filled with all of their personal sausage recipes and gave me lots of ideas! how great is that?!

so anyway, they sold me heaps of casings with storage instructions (in the fridge in tupperware with a really lot of salt-- they keep for a long time and then can be rehydrated) and five pounds of pork butt (fyi- total cost: $18). he offered to grind it for me, but i took pride in saying, "no thanks, i'll do it myself!"

so, i think i will just share this process in a photo essay. i will say, at least for a first-timer, it is a two-person job. maybe after a few more tries i will get the hang of it and try it solo, but it is more fun to bring a friend along on the meat fun!
here's the pork after i trimmed the fat and cubed it up.

feeding it through the grinder.

here are the meat worms coming through the other side.
seasoning the ground meat. (we pan-fried a little piece to test for flavor after mixing)

feeding it into the casing. (this was the tamest of the pictures...)

loooong sausage!

twist, and done!

i tweaked the chorizo recipe a bit but i would definately recommend it. nice and spicy with good flavor. will be great to cook with big pots of rice and veggies, but tasty enough just grilled up plain! what flavor should i try next?

Monday, February 16, 2009

adventures in sausage making!

oh, how i love random holidays...
here's my plan for the day:

playing with my new toys!!!

so that's the surprise! the super-amazing man got me the kitchenaid meat grinder with the sausage stuffer attachment for valentine's day! he was so proud- he discovered it before i did. i was so excited to show him the sausage-making video when i found it last week, and when i pressed play, his face fell. "you spoiled my surprise!!!"

don't worry. still the coolest gift ever, the gift that will keep on giving.

i think today i will try this simple chorizo recipe, since i'm craving something spicy. mmm... i'm not usually big on recipes, but i'll give it a shot.

further thoughts on post-vegetatianism

"...I can't claim I felt emotionally neutral as I took these creatures in my hands, my fingers registering downy softness and a vulnerable heartbeat. I felt maternal, while at the same time looking straight down the pipe toward the purpose of this enterprise. These babies were not pets. I know this is a controversial point, but in our family we'd decided if we meant to eat anything, meat included, we'd be more responsible tenants of our food chain if we could participate in the steps that bring it to the table. We already knew a lot of dying went into our living: the animals, the plants in our garden, the beetles we pull off our bean vines and crunch underfoot, the weeds we rip off the potato hills. Plants have the karmic advantage of creating their own food out of pure air and sunlight, whereas we animals, lacking green chlorophyll in our skin, must eat something some formerly living things every single day. You can leave the killing to others and pretend it never happened, or you can look it in the eye and know it. I would never presume to make that call for anyone else, but for ourselves we'd settled on a strategy of giving our food a good life until it was good on the table..."

-barbara kingsolver in animal, vegetable, miracle

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NOT murder.

much excitement ensued when i opened my email this morning to find a message entitled "meat is NOT murder" from good friends and fellow food lovers matt and bj barber (matt coined the "happy meat" phrase, must give credit where it is due!). last night, they were invited to a fabulous and exclusive dinner party featuring fresh roasted elk from montana that was hunted, prepared, hand-carried on an airplane, and perfectly cooked by their friend and documentary filmmaker shonda. shonda began hunting in montana handful of years ago under the influence of a boyfriend and she hasn't looked back!

they filled me in on all of the details of the wonderful and simple meal. i don't know much about cooking elk (yet!), but they said that the meat is so lean that it must be cooked very delicately... as you can see, it is very pink on the inside.

it received rave reviews-- very flavorful and filling and prepared with bacon on top.

see, sarah palin didn't totally ruin female hunter stereotypes... ehhh...

sorry, couldn't resist.

thanks, barbers!


oh, huntington meats, you met my expectations--

you provided us with possibly the loveliest custom-sliced filet mignon we've had for our valentine's day meal, and you answered this lady's nagging questions with ease- even to the point of digging through the freezer so i could inspect packages of elk and venison.

--we'll find out tomorrow if you will exceed them.

farmers' market finds

yesterday, we visited the santa monica farmers' market to check out the fresh-from-the-farm meats. we arrived right before closing time so things were winding down, but i did get the chance to briefly talk to a couple of the meat-vendors.

the first vendor we came across was a farmer for rocky canyon. he had a pretty wide selection of grass-fed beef and humanely raised pork, along with fresh eggs, homemade sausages, juice, sweet potatoes, pomegranates, apples, eggplant, onions, melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers (in season, of course).

my excitement came from kathy lindner of lindner bison. she is incredibly warm and helpful; you could tell she really had a passion for bringing her customers top-notch, tasty products. their story is great-- kathy tried bison meat and loved it so much that her and her husband decided they had to leave their jobs and dedicate their lives to raising bison! their backgrounds helped out of course, him having a lifelong passions for farming and her being a descendant of margaret carlston, the "cattle queen of montana," but now they commute between their southern california home (and farmers' markets!) and the ranch in northern california. how inspiring! i'd like a 20-lb. assortment please, with bison tenderloin, some burgers, meaty soup bones, and jerky... and toss in a few bones for the pooch, please!

here's a picture from their ranch--

also, i learned a new buffalo (or should i say "bison bison") fact from their website:

"Is bison the same as buffalo? It should be. When America's pioneers saw bison for the very first time, they had no name for it. Because it looked similar to a European animal called "buffalo", that's the original term that stuck. For years the word "buffalo" has been used interchangeably with the species name, "bison bison". But when it comes to food labeling, it's another story.As it turns out, labeling laws are so loose in our country, if we were to label our meat "buffalo" we could be selling water buffalo, cape buffalo or North American buffalo. Even if it were North American buffalo, we legally can add up to 49% beef to the ground meat product, still call it buffalo, and not tell you. It's all perfectly legal. Because of this, Lindner Bison from the beginning decided to label our meat by the species name (bison bison). That way, our customers will never have to wonder what they are actually getting from us."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

always keep one in your purse!

just a preview of the goodness that the man got me for valentine's day...

this perfect pocket-sized guide is an excellent reference for all things meat. the chapters include beef, veal, pork, lamb, poultry and other game birds, game and other domesticated meats, and sausage and cured meats. each cut is detailed with a general description, recommended amount to buy, how to store, preperation instruction, and flavor pairing ideas. fantastic resource!!
i think it will be a great help in my next project... (a girl's gotta have some secrets!)

Friday, February 13, 2009

another hollywood butcher

remember sam?

the housekeeper and the butcher, what a classic love story. mmm, and what's hotter than a man who knows his way around the kitchen and will wear matching outfits on date night?

weekend plans?

i'm going to try to make my first journey to the butchers at the farmers market at 3rd and fairfax. hopefully, i will be able to hit huntington's meats and marconda's and report back.
i am particularly excited about huntington's exotic meats!

costco findings and clarifications

here's some information regarding the state of costco's meats.

costco's high end meats (available online) are mainly supplied by niman ranch, the um, costco of natural livestock. i'm not saying that like it is a bad thing, just stating a fact. niman ranch actually partners with family farms and basically enables them to maintain their livelihood while providing an alternative to "factory farming."

that said, the meats they provide are "natural," not organic. here's the difference. in order to be certified as organic, all of the grains the animals eat (that's right, they are pasture-raised early in life and grain fed later) must be certified organic, which would raise consumer costs exponentially. would it be worth it? guess that's up to us. anyway, natural meat (according to the USDA) means minimally processed meats with no artificial ingredients. but they also claim to raise their animals without antibiotics or hormones and on 100% vegetarian feed.

and here's why they are the "costco" of natural farming-- they lord over about 600 small farmers who provide meat to chipotle (yes, that chipotle, the one previously owned by mcdonalds) and hundreds of other restaurants ranging from chain to relatively high-end across the country. is this a good thing or a criticism? that's for you to decide!

regular costco meats (think: kirkland signature brand) are all USDA choice, the second highest ranking on the meat scale which means 4-8% fat with modest marbling and free of artificial ingredients, hormones, and antibiotics.

here's some fun facts:

-costco sells about 150 million lbs. of ground beef annually
-they are the largest buyer of USDA choice meats (check out this article)
-the company has more than 50 million cardholders, many of whom pay a $50 annual fee
-Costco obtains its beef from four major suppliers—Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill Meat Solutions Inc., Greeley, Colo.-based JBS Swift & Co., Kansas City, Mo.-based National Beef Packing Co. LLC and Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based Tyson Fresh Meats Inc.
-many fresh meat selections are cut by in-store butchers- each location typically has between five and 25 butchers, depending on volume...
here's a good article on the stats, if you're interested.

this was just based on bits of research i did. i'm not sure what my conclusion is and honestly, i am not currently a card-carrying costco member. when i have visited costco, i get very excited by their wine, cheese, meat, and produce sections, but completely freaked out that if i want to buy sugar, i have to buy twenty pounds and toothbrushes come in packs of twelve.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


do you think they do distance learning?


sausage video!

now this is what i'm talking about!!! yesssss (click the "watch the demo" link)
soon i will be selling my homemade sausages on the street corners next to the ladies selling the little turtles and pirated dvds!

how to cook a wolf

this article is great! MFK Fisher was the original food-recessionista and her book "how to cook a wolf" is full of spunky advise on how to live and eat well in tight financial times. written in 1942, she really knew how to make due with less, dealing with depression-era food rations- and boy, was she clever and feisty! i think i need to buy this book immediately, though i suppose she would suggest i visit my local library.

these quotes just make me feel warm and fuzzy.

"...but anyone in the world with intelligence and spirit and the knowledge that it must be done, can live with her inspired oblivion to the ugliness of poverty. It is not that she wandered at night hunting for leaves and berries; it is that she cared enough to invite her friends to share them with her."

"...perhaps this war will make it simpler for us to go back to some of the old ways we knew before we came over to this land and made the Big Money. Perhaps, even, we will remember how to make good bread again ... For probably there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."

recession-proof your meats

a relevent discussion for today may be how to maintain a realistic food budget and still eat good-quality products... here's my eating/cooking/shopping tips of the moment:

eat in! why go out for a steak dinner when you can make a great one at home? even if you buy the best cuts of meat you can find, i guarantee it will be cheaper than paying for a mid-quality restaurant steak. steak cooking is so easy with just a few tools. i usually just marinate it for a few hours in red wine (or 100% cranberry or cherry juice), olive oil, garlic and onions, then sear it in my fabulous cast iron skillet while the oven preheats to 400ish, transfer to a baking dish and cook until the internal temperature reaches about 135 on your trusty meat thermometer for medium rare. while your steak is in the oven, reduce your marinade juices with the meat juices in the skillet for a tasty sauce. don't forget to let your meat rest before slicing! you'll have a perfect steak every time with almost no effort. (and look here! slashfood finally confirms that my dad did teach me the best way to season cast iron.)

stock up on stocks! not the store-bought ones- make your own. much cheaper if you do it frequently, and so much tastier! i buy cheap hunks of meat and boil them to death with onions, garlic, lemon, and whatever fresh herbs i have around. then, i freeze the stock in small containers and use it in soups for weeks-- and you also have lots of low-fat cooked meat to shread on salads or fill sandwiches for days! my favorites are the turkey thighs from whole foods-- huge hunks or organic turkey for less than $3 a pound (or 99-cents a pound if the butcher mischarges you like he did me this week)= yummy food for days. one more plug for whole foods: they also sell additive-free bacon. no nitrates for this lady!

don't disregard "big box" or discount stores completely! costco's meat sells for about a third of the price of grocery store meat- and often is higher in quality. not for the faint of heart- unless you're feeding multitudes of people or shop with meat-loving friends- dividing and freezing that ten-pound pork loin will be necessary. fresh and easy also has decent meats for cheap if you have one in your area-- just make sure to read the labels carefully. their sell-by dates can be tricky, and not all of their meats are happy.

simply eat smaller portions of meat! in meal prep, i try to fill half of our plates with fresh fruits and veggies and cheap, healthy staples like brown rice or sweet potatoes. then, we can be satisfied with little bits of the good stuff without breaking the budget. remember, meat portions need only be about four ounces, or the size of your palm or a deck of cards.

that's all for now! happy (cheap) eating!

now everything can taste like bacon

now, if this was really about bacon, you know i'd be for it.
but no, this is bacon salt, a bacon-free, kosher, vegetarian way to make everything taste like bacon. i'd like to say that i'm happy for all of the diet-restricted bacon lovers out there, but really, why not just eat the bacon? i'll let you investigate the ingredients for yourself- they are a bit tricky to find.
and yes, they are also the proud makers of baconnaise.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

what i want to eat on valentine's day

leave it to jamie oliver to make the yummiest lady butcher-friendly dishes!

check out the recipe. and i hear lamb might be on sale at whole foods? and with a $25 purchase, you get a free pound of ground beef? that's what the birdies say...

reality tv.

otherwise, i will just do this.

field trip!

here's a list of los angeles-area butchers from the LA times. guess i'll start making my way through them!

Alexander's Prime Meats, Howie's Ranch Market, 6580 N. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 286-8871. Nearly all prime-grade beef from Harris Ranch. Dry-ages sides of beef.
Beef Palace Butcher Shop, 5895 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 846-0044. Midwestern Angus beef, choice and prime. Dry-ages beef hindquarters and whole lambs.
Bel Air Prime Meats, Beverly Glen Market Place, 2964 Beverly Glen Circle, L.A. (310) 475-5915. Premium veal chops, certified Black Angus beef dry-aged on the premises, game. Smokes meat on the premises.
El Toro Gourmet Meats, 23522 El Toro Road, Lake Forest (949) 855-0215. Hormone- and antibiotic-free beef from the San Joaquin Valley.
The Farms, 2030 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 828-4244. Midwestern certified Angus beef, choice and prime.
Harvey's Guss Meat Co., 949 S. Ogden Drive, Los Angeles, (323) 937-4622. Midwestern beef, choice and prime; Napa and Colorado lamb; Kurobuta pork; game. Ages on premises.
Huntington Meats & Sausage, Los Angeles Farmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St., (323) 938-5383. Harris Ranch beef, prime grade exclusively. Wide variety of sausages.
Jim's Fallbrook Market, 5947 Fallbrook Ave., Woodland Hills, (818) 347-5525. California beef, game; makes corned beef.
Marconda's Meat, Los Angeles Farmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St., (323) 938-5131. Prime Angus beef; also Montana-grown Piedmontese beef, from a breed of cattle naturally low in fat. Ages lamb three weeks.
Owen's Market, 9769 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 553-8183. Harris Ranch beef, mostly prime grade, aged 2 1/2 weeks on the premises. Special-orders game.Pacific Ranch Market, 7540 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 639-9792. Iowa beef, choice and prime grades.
Taylor's Ol' Fashion Meats, Howie's Ranch Market, 14 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-3344. Prime and choice Midwestern beef.
Vicente Foods, 12027 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 472-5215. Four kinds of beef: Midwestern prime, certified Black Angus, hormone-free Angus and Kobe.
Whole Foods Markets. To find a store, check the phonebook or go to Midwestern Angus beef raised to the market's orders; some meat is dry-aged (most have aging facilities on site). Also pork, lamb, venison.

the little birdies say marconda's meat and huntington meats and sausages at the 3rd and fairfax farmers' market are the best "old-fashioned" butchers, and harvey guss is the winner for wholesale.
perhaps one is looking for a lady butcher apprentice?

movie anticipation

i have lots of little girl excitement for the julie/julia movie coming out later this year. i recently read julia child's my life in france and then julie & julia. i am so fascinated by french cooking... such an interesting combination of simple ingredients and recipes that read like science experiments! i actually highly recommend both books. my life in france is particularly fun with the new found discovery that julia child was a spy, and julie & julia will inspire any food lover, blogger, or slightly misguided lady in her late twenties. gosh, to think that she simply started cooking and blogging and now she's being immortalized in a meryl streep movie?!
check out her blog for hours of fun.
(she has a current blog as well, above is the link to her 365 days/536 recipes one)
and maybe eventually i will be inspired to make that aspic i've been talking about.

this week's cut:

buffalo! or american bison, if you prefer.

(image source: - possibly a school project?)
what a great little image! not only can american bison be used for tasty and healthy meats, but also for clothing and accessories? something to think about, you fashionistas out there! look for it in the 2010 collections...
i only recently discovered the wonders of buffalo meat. my parents have long been telling stories of the traveler's club international restaurant and tuba museum in okemos, michigan - and they finally were able to take my husband and i there last summer. they have a very impressive and informative menu and as well as having quite a tuba collection and artisan beer selection, are huge buffalo advocates. their menu told me that buffalo meat has many wonderful qualities:
-40% more protein than beef
-lower in fat and calories than beef-- and than chicken, pork, and salmon-- and actually lowers cholesterol
-much less likely to contain all of those pesky hormones and more likely to be free range
and my favorite, and what got me started on eating it--
-buffalo is the only red meat that is non-allergenic!
maybe next week, i will explore the strange world of the beefalo.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

poultry stats.

my intro to the world of poultry, beginning with chicken. barely meat, but worth considering.
-there are more chickens in the world than any other bird-- over 24 million!
-chickens naturally have a lifespan of five to eleven years, but commercial chickens are often slaughtered at six weeks; free range at fourteen; egg-laying at twelve months (for use in heavily processed food, like pet food and... baby food?!)
-before 1910, chicken was mostly a "special occasion" food in the U.S.
-whole, ready to cook chickens were not commonplace until the 1950s; most chickens were cleaned by the local butcher or at home!
-until 1960, chickens were primarily raised on family farms, with eggs being the priority
-chicken and their eggs used to be "seasonal," but through the use of vitamin D, they can be kept inside, ready to produce, year-round; therefore, in 1900, average egg production was 83 eggs per hen per year and in 2000, it was well over 300
-there is no federal law that regulates the humane treatment of chickens, meaning chickens are routinely debeaked, live their lives in complete darkness, are "selectively bread" to essentially create fatter birds, and fed heaps of antibiotics and hormones

and this is just for my dad, whose childhood pet chickens mysteriously disappeared one day--
-chickens are omnivores, so why not let them roam around your kitchen? they can eat anything from leftover baked goods to stray lizards and insects, but are probably best left to feast on your lawn
-the "urban hen movement" (check it out! fun blog.)
-eggs of pastured chickens contained 34% less cholesterol, 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A, twice as much omega-6 fatty acid, and four times as much omega-3 fatty acid as the USDA standard
and just some fun articles about chickens as pets:

and if you're really ambitious, here's some (quite graphic) information on raising chickens for meat.

and maybe later, sheep.


Monday, February 9, 2009

beef from the southern hemisphere

Of course, we all know that Argentineans produce and eat more beef than anyone in the world. Wikipedia said that Argentina produces annually about two 240-gram steaks per person worldwide and has six steaks more standing on its pastures and Argentineans eat 68 kg-- yes, that's almost 150 lbs-- a year per capita, but my upcoming trip to Buenos Aires has prompted me to do some research on such statistics. Maybe I'm a skeptic, but my dad has always said 67% of statistics are made up on the spot, so... that's my excuse.

Is there some sort of cow overpopulation problem? Does everyone keel over from heart disease at the age of 38? Are they lazy about their food choices? Or is the meat just better and healthier in places that, well, aren't America?

Okay, let's tackle that one question at a time.

Maybe there is a bit of an overpopulation problem. Since the 16th century, cows have been enjoying and populating the land. Argentineans began exporting their vast quantities of beef in the late 19th century, and then, well, supply and demand, etc.

Well, according to the interweb at, about 2,000 people die from heart disease each year in Argentina, putting them around pretty high at number 14 on the list, but no where near the U.S., where heart disease kills nearly 24,000 per year.

Are they lazy with their food choices? Nah, I'm definitely an advocate of eating what is of quality locally. Why import Australian lamb when you've got the best beef in your back yard? And there's lots of other wonderful things to consume in Argentina, like wine! But seriously, from what I've read, the food is very similar to that of continental Europe- Italian and Mediterranean influenced with lots of fresh, tasty options, like, um, sausage, empanadas, and yerba mate! And you know they must have lots of that great Chilean produce that fills our markets all winter.

So, that leaves me with the question-- is the meat really better and healthier there? Possibly. They have also banned the use of rBST hormones in cattle and use very limited amounts of antibiotics (unlike the U.S.). Their cows are grass fed instead of corn fed like Americans, er, American cows, which make them naturally lower in fat but somehow more flavorful. Grass-fed beef is also less likely to be contaminated! The cows hang out in picturesque pastures like this happy fella...

(image source:

So, will it be tastier?
I'll report back in April!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

pork cookers

just in case you were wondering, this is what 54 pounds of pork loin from costco looks like:

not bad, 'specially for $1.99 per pound. i wanted to take a moment to talk to the heavily tattooed and pierced butcher-dude, but he wasn't having any of it.

and here's what it looks like when crock-potted:

Friday, February 6, 2009

book of the week:

(image source:
Okay, stick with me here.
This is actually a really great book. I would go so far to say it may be useful for all genders! Don't be fooled buy the cutesy design elements (I actually think they're pretty great, but I'm a sucker with anything with stitching), there is quite a bit of substance inside. Essentially divided up into three categories, beef, pork, and lamb (no poultry or fish!), each section explains the different cuts of meats with instruction on purchasing, cooking, and serving, with a separate chapter on marinades.
Just a happy surprise to add to your meat library.

discount dilemmas.

I visited a local discount grocer last night in search of cheap (but still good quality) cookie ingredients for a weekend project. My husband disappeared while I was hunting for mustard seeds (don't worry, not for the cookies!) and reappeared with a slightly horrified look on his face.
"Unhappy meat," he said.
Oh no! I'm getting to him, too! The state of the butcher/packaged meat area was nearly unbearable. I didn't think I would be so affected, but I couldn't help but think of how the animals had to have been treated to be able to sell huge styrofoam- and shrink-wrapped flat packages of steaks for 88-cents a pound, piles of greyish goopy chicken legs and mystery meat sausages... Don't get me wrong, I'm all for paying reasonable prices for food, but I hate that having a lower income results in this horrible chain reaction that leads to mistreatment of animals and extremely low quality products... but I digress.
I did find a great deal on Tillamook butter that may have been a bit closer to the expiration date than the regular grocery stores would stock-- and the alcohol section was pretty great, too!
Also, if you're ever in Oregon, you must visit the Tillamook factory. How exciting is it to see fresh cheese being made?! Come hungry, they have free samples, and excellent homemade ice cream. Mmm, sales pitch.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

this week's cut:


(image source:
kosher? nah, but hey! bacon is worth it!
betcha didn't know this fun fact: pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, providing about 38 percent of daily meat protein intake worldwide. thanks, wikipedia!
a co-worker suggested crumbling crispy bacon on oatmeal for breakfast. i opt for cream of rice and wow, is it tasty.

Monday, February 2, 2009

meat grinders and custom sausages

i am so inspired by the gentlemen at wurstkuche (, a new belgium beer and sausage restaurant in the downtown la arts district. although they don't make their own sausages, they have offer a really great variety, including veal/rabbit/white wine and alligator/hickory-smoked pork and lots of tasty brews and sodas. pretty neat to see young locals experimenting with meats.

makes me want to invest in one of these:

(image source
super classy kitchenaid meat grinder attachment! i love my kitchenaid and use it often, but don't think i've ever consumed something i've made in it. i wonder if you can attach a pork casing to the end for sausage making? hm, what would i make first? maybe something with lamb... how about a custom sausage station for a restaurant idea? put your meats, seasonings, and veggies or cheeses in a dish, bring it to the meat grinder, and then grill them up?

looks great, but...

and on a lighter note!

(image courtesy of
yes, it looks great. and mail order can be a great option for high quality meat, but the only problem i have with it is if you're really trying to get great meat, why can't you explore local options?

still makes me hungry though!

therapy: a backstory.

i always thought it was a scam; some sort of excuse for being picky or weak or just plain scared. i still don't have it figured out, but i guess that's why i'm working through it now.

when i was young, i ate whatever i wanted. i will clarify-- i ate whatever my parents made. they made everything from scratch and shopped at co-ops and farmers' markets-- not exclusively, but often. my dad ran the sound system for ethnic festivals at hart plaza in detroit when i was young and at the end of the festivals, vendors would toss cases of food. my wonderfully resourceful dad saw it as a great opportunity and would bring home ethiopian food, indian, thai and greek before it was available on every corner, enough to feed an army! some of my most vivid childhood memories were grudgingly eating curried eggs behind the door in the corner of the living room... and the day my dad came home with a case of brussel sprouts and turned them into soup. vats of the lumpy green stuff seemed to fill the freezer for months. i can still taste it! i was made fun of for my pesto pizza in elementry school, a result of a case of wilting basil and several smoking blenders.

so how did i get here? eating an organic banana and brown rice cake (ingredients: brown rice, salt. gluten- and wheat-free.) and looking forward to my plain buffalo burger i'm planning for lunch? i decided to stop eating meat my junior year of college while studying abroad in ireland. it was my first time living on my own and since i didn't eat much meat and honestly, raw chicken is just icky, i thought, why not? i'll cut out meat for a while and see how i feel. i knew how to make complete proteins with whole grains, beans, and dairy. i grew up eating tofu, drinking chai with soy milk. i woundn't live off of pasta and potato chips or fake vegetarian bacon, i would be healthy. i looked into the big brown eyes of the cow that lived across the street and promised it i would not eat it or its family members anymore. and so it went, for six years.

i don't know what to blame it on-- overconsumption of processed soy products and nuts, stress, not enough variety in my diet (hey, i was single and making $11/hour!), or simply a cycle my body went through, but two years ago, i just started rejecting all sorts of foods. i began to cough to the point of choking after meals; my breathing was strained and my throat tight. then one night, after a dinner of almonds, cashews, cheese, and dried papaya, my body had had enough. my stomach wretched and throat tightened. i took a handful of benedryl and had my roommate drive me to urgent care. but having no medical insurance,we just sat in the waiting room for a couple of hours, finally deciding that if i didn't get worse, i would just pay $90 to go to a clinic in the morning instead of $500 for the emergency room.

after that, i stopped eating nuts, but the mild-to-moderate symptoms didn't subside. most days, i would cough, feel my throat tightening, my tongue buzzing, aching, and going numb. i thought i was going crazy. i didn't want to be alone. i remember one night my roommate and my boyfriend were both out of town, so i drove to a 24-hour store at midnight and wandered around for hours because i wanted someone to find me if i keeled over.

a few months later, my boyfriend fudged some paperwork and added me to his health insurance so i could have allergy testing. at the point of my first appointment, i had lost about fifteen pounds and was completely confused. my doctor wanted to put me on anxiety medication, but that seemed wrong. he did a blood test and called me at 7am the next day. "well, it looks like you have some allergies," he said. then he proceeded to list off nuts, peanuts, beans (yes, that means coffee! chocolate! vanilla!), wheat, soy, corn, oats, eggs, trees, flowers.. you know, food! air! life! "you had asthma as a child, right?" he asked. no! i didn't!!! then he hung up.

i immediately made an appointment with an allergist for more extensive testing and for the next few weeks, at spinach, tomatoes and cheese. the prick test from the allergist confirmed everything that my first doctor found, and that i also should stay away from pineapple, grapefruit, and spinach! now, i was really at a loss. i immediately started eating meat again, starting with chicken and beef broth and slowly adding more, but my weight kept falling. i went to my regular doctor every week for the next month, but he was unconcerned as he watched my weight drop to 114 (i'm five-foot-eight) and told me that i could survive on cheese. my throat was feeling a bit better, but i barely had the energy to get out of bed! i saw ear, nose, and throat specialists and the allergist a few more times, but the solution seemed to be to take a daily allergy pill, carry and epi-pen, and avoid what bothered me.

at that time, eating meat again was not a choice, it was a matter of survival. but in the following months, i started to question my relationship with food. maybe vegetarianism wasn't as healthy as i had thought. maybe i didn't enter into it for the right reasons (laziness? fear of cooking it improperly and getting sick? sadness for cows?). all i knew was that if i ate even a few bites of meat, i immediately felt strong and healthy. what i was questioning was the quality of the meats available to the average american. lunch meat was not an option. everything had fillers that i was avoiding-- various starches, corn syrup, etc. products containing nitrates just seemed wrong. i never wanted to be in a bag about food, but i became an obsessive label-reader and never ate out. it has taken a long time for me to enjoy food again, and i'm finding new excitement in bacon, lamb, really good steaks, and pots of soup with homemade stocks, vegetables, and rice. maybe these are the foods i should have been eating in the first place!

needless to say, i love food. i love cooking and baking and i want my food to be the best. i need you to tell me my cookies are better than the rest, to ask me for my recipes so i can tilt my head and say "hmm..? i just.. made it," with faux modesty. but i've always known that the secret to good food is good ingredients. margerine, processed white sugar, and imitation vanilla will not make good cookies. i cook for others all of the time, even though i can't eat much of what i make. it isn't accurate for me to think that i'd be entering into the butchering world as a masochist-- just the opposite, really. i want to provide people with healthy, happy meats, foods that i can have a hand in preparing and consume myself! i wouldn't be a trustworthy baker if i'd never tasted my breads, i'd be a mediocre dessert chef without sampling my pies! but i can learn how good meat looks, feels, and smells, how the animals are raised and slaughtered, the best way to butcher the meat, and innovative methods of preparation-- and i can participate in the feast that results! perhaps the best way to take care of animals is to feed them well, let them roam free, and then responsibly use them for meat.

i know my story is not unique, but perhaps it provides an unexpected backstory to my inspiration. i will try not to be so long winded and humorless in the future.