Updated!!!! Cheap Eats: Meats!

With the rising cost of food, it's always nice to find "cheap eats" that are nourishing, sustainable, and affordable. Here are my "meat principles":

  • Meat must be raised on pasture
  • Meat must be raised on a farm that is farmer-owned
  • Meat that meets the criteria above contains healthy fats like CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid, therefore fatty meat is good!
  • A little nutrient dense, good-fat laden meat goes a long way!

OK, so with that in mind, here are my top 3 best deals for "Cheap Meats"and a recipe. These recipes are kid-tested and mother-approved!

What: Chicken Skins (Pacific Village)

Where: New Seasons Market

Price: Free (ask the butcher)

I grew up in the south, the land of Fried Chicken, and let's be honest and say what every kid inherently knows to be true: Chicken Skin is the best! I know, I know, I know. Fat is bad. Well, not true! If you want the "Skinny on Fats" look here.

Suffice to say, if you want filling, low-carb snacks that satiate, then try Fried Chicken Skins:

Fried Chicken Skins

1 lb chicken skins (from pasture-raised animals)

Sea Salt to taste

Herbs and Spices of your choosing (organic, MSG-free)

Place Chicken Skins in Skillet. Season with salt and favorite seasonings. Cook on medium until you have "cracklings". Drain on paper towel or wire rack until completely crispy. Eat as is, or serve on top of a green lettuce salad.

What: Beef Liver

Where: Azure Standard or Abundant Life Farms

Price: $3.00-$5.00 per liver (one liver can go for several meals)

It's amazing what organic, fresh, pasture-raised liver tastes like compared to the alternative. It's night and day! When cooked right, liver is delicious, and I used to vow I would NEVER like liver. For a great article on the benefits of eating liver, go here.

What: Nitrate-Free Bacon "Ends and Pieces"

Where: New Seasons Market

Price: $1.99 per pound!

With nitrate-free, naturally cured bacon clocking in at around $5.99 per pound around town, I was so excited when I recently noticed a bin of "ends and pieces" of bacon. I purchased a pound, and was happy to see that a pound is quite a bit! Half the time, I cut bacon into bite-sized pieces anyway, or I just use the fat when cooking greens. The following recipe incorporates both the liver and the bacon:

The very Best Liver and Onions with Bacon

1/2 a beef liver, cut into strips (cover in lemon juice, and marinate in the fridge for 4 hours)

1 cup of bacon ends and pieces, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 onion, thinly sliced into rings

In a cast iron pan, throw your bacon and onion slinces. Carmelize the onions over medium heat in the bacon fat. When onions are limp and golden, remove them and the bacon to a plate, leaving the bacon fat. Throw in the drained liver strips and fry until brown on all sides. You want them to remain tender. Overcooking will result in tough liver! Serve with the bacon and onions. Enjoy and feel good!

Alternative Option if you (or yours) Liver-phobic:

Follow the recipe above. Take 4 cups of beef or chicken broth and heat to warm. Place liver, onions, and bacon into blender and this makes a lovely soup!

Leftover "Sneaky Liver Rice" A Meal in Itself!!!!

This recipe is in the same spirit as the option above. Place about a cup's worth of leftover liver/bacon/onion combo into the blender or food processor. Add 1 cup of chicken or beef stock or water. Puree the begeebers out of it until it's totally liquid (I use a VitaMix).

Take this 2 cups of liquid and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of brown rice and any additional seasonings (for some ideas, see below) and cook as usual.

Serves 4 adults as a main dish.

Seasoning suggestions:

*For an Italian dish: Add 2 Tbs prepared pesto to the boiling liver broth. When rice is finished, top with grated parmesan or raw cheddar, carmelized onions and garlic, and some freshly cut flat leaf parsley (or any fresh herbs). This is delicious with pancetta and makes a lovely poor man's "risotto primavera" when you add seasoal veggies such as peas, fava beans, broccoli, and asparagus. My whole family devoured this dish!

*For a Mexican dish: Add 2 TBS of tomato paste to the boiling liver broth, in addition to 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, and 2 tsp dried oregano. You can also add about 1/4 tsp of chili flakes if you like things a little bit spicy. Add two cloves of minced garlic and some sliced green olives (optional) and you will have yourself a very hearty dish. Don't forget to top with fresh cilantro and cotija cheese! I served this to guests (one pregant who couldn't keep anything down!) and got rave reviews.

*For an Indian dish: Add 4 tsp curry powder OR make your own: (1 tsp fenugreek seeds, 2 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper. Cloves and cardamom are good too!) Toss in some frozen peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking and top with cilantro.

All by itself, any version of Leftover Liver Rice is sure to please and definitely can suffice as a nourishing, complete meal in itself! Just don't tell anyone what was in it until they are finished eating!

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Thrifty Oreganic Tips: Healthy Snacks on the Go!

"Ideally, we would eat all of our meals sitting down...."

So begins Sally Fallon's chapter on "snacks" in her life-changing cookbook, _Nourishing Traditions_. Since reading this book and thus changing the way our family eats, I have found that snacks are less needed then they were before. Some of the reasons why I think we don't eat as many "snacks" (I give my 3 year old 1 snack around 4:00, but that's all!):

  • Traditional food diets emphasize more healthy fats, including saturated fats like butter and coconut oil, which when eaten with meals make us feel satiated until the next meal.

  • Drinking lacto-fermented beveraged throughout the day, like beet kvass, kombucha, and kefir really satisfy a desire to "snack" because they are filling and nutrient-rich. I will devote a whole post on how to cheaply make these at home!

  • Raw, whole milk from grassfed cow, when consumed with each meal adds fat and many bioavailable nutrients that satiate the body.

Why do we want snacks? If you are feeling hungry all day, you're probably not consuming enough fat. Eating a "carby" breakfast such as boxed cereal or a muffin is a surefire way to be starving at 10 am. A breakfast of eggs & bacon, soaked oatmeal, or a power smoothie, along with a glass of milk, keeps me going all morning long. I'm rarely hungry for lunch, but I make and eat it out of duty because if I don't my blood sugar will go crazy and I'll just crave "snacky carbs" all day long!

A great way to sneak in extra fat is to use coconut oil. One of our favorites is coconut bark such as is explained on this website. It's very satisfying, and when I eat a little bit first thing in the morning, it really helps me wake up and feel immediate energy. It's very versatile,too. Add whatever you have on hand!

If you must snack, here are a few tisps to make them healthy and thrifty!

  • Green Popcorn: (Tastes remarkably like Veggie Booty)

Pop some organic popcorn. Smother liberally with melted virgin coconut oil and Kerrygold Butter
(available at Trader Joe's for the best price!) Sprinkle the popcorn with about 1 tsp.of spirulina powder and 1 Tbs of Gaylord Hauser's Vegetable Broth Powder. Add Sea Salt to taste, and enjoy a delicious and healthy snack!

  • Crispy Waffles/Pancakes:

We always freeze leftover waffles/pancakes. They make delicious snacks,just toast and add lots of butter and sugarless jam, honey, or nut butter. I will be soon posting about my newfound favorite waffle recipe!

  • Crispy nuts & Cheese:

Soak almonds or walnuts (this activates their enzymes) in water with 1 TBS salt for 12 hours. Drain and dehydrate on a baking sheet in a warm oven until crispy (about 12 hours). Serve with slices of cheddar cheese and enjoy! Note: I realize that nuts are not cheap, but because they are so nutrient-dense, you don't gorge on them and they last a while. Costco is where I buy my walnuts and almonds, but I'm hoping to begin ordering them from a farm directly.

Bottom line: The rule for thrifty eating is getting the most nutrition for your dollar. If your meals consist of enough fat and nutrients, you will likely not need much in the way of snacks, which means less impulse purchases, less carb eating, which means a slimmer waistline!

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Editorial on Laziness

Maybe it's because I was FOB all day Tuesday due to this nasty bug that hit SW Portland with a vengance (so it seems!), but as I slept and slept, and cooked not and cleaned not, I got to thinking about laziness. Perhaps it was also watching my dear little lettuce seedlings wilting as I could not water them, or my garden spot desparately in need of weeding and preparation so that I might actually plant said seedlings.....whatever it was, laziness was on the mind.

Not in a self-accusatory way, mind you. We all need our rest. In fact, I've come to appreciate the annual (if that) stomach bug that plagues our house (it has been three years since we were all wiped like this, thankfully) and call it the "spring detox"and a good excuse to be, well, FOB*.

But when one who strives to be thrifty and a DIYer no longer has her strength, one quickly realizes the place for "convenience food" in the home. Ideally, it would be a week's worth of nourishing, organic, all-natural meals frozen individually (and homemade of course), and a jar full of freshly cultured kombucha in the fridge, and homemade applesauce to pull out of the freezer, and of course, good old chilcken broth!

A stockpile, if you will, for those times with you must (or want to!) be lazy!

Thankfully, Trader Joe's is in some ways the next best thing. Ok, well for my budget it is. The next best thing would be having your mother in law who cooks everything from scratch come camp out in your house for a week, but that's not always possible ;)!!! But I was thankful that TJ's carried affordable and relatively "natural"

*Free range chicken broth
*Rice crackers (we don't do wheat)
*Sparkling water with lemon (for those upset tummies)
*Frozen "comfort food" that's wholesome (TJ's claims their products do not contain MSG)

So, in a pinch, they can help. Ideally, next time this hits I'll have a better arsenal (although I was able to make delicious chicken broth in the crock pot and forget about it until I needed it) for fighting the flu bug with natural foods.

So, back to the regular schedule postings to come! As soon as my appetite comes back, that is! It's no fun blogging about food when it makes you queezy!

As always, thanks for reading!

*FOB: A summer camp term, meaning "flat on back", used to indicate rest time. FYI

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