Monthly Archives: August 2013

carolina pork BBQ

Crockpot Carolina Pork BBQ

I grew up in Arkansas, in a small town that was half an hour away from an even smaller town that had the best BBQ in the galaxy: Craig’s Bar-B-Q. The food is so good there that when John Edwards was running for president he had his tour bus go out of the way to make a stop at this place. And DeVall’s Bluff (where Craig’s is located) is not the sort of town you accidentally go through. It’s out of the way no matter where you’re going. But, the BBQ at Craig’s is so good that it’s totally worth it.

It’s the kind of place that the term “hole in the wall” was made for. If you didn’t know what it was, there’s no way you’d stop there and think, “I’ll buy something from this place and put it in my mouth.” It looks like a complete dive on the outside, and the inside isn’t any better, with old dark wood panelling and tables that wobble without the random things shoved under the legs, and a general atmosphere of shabbiness.

craig's bbq

But once you bite into one of their sandwiches, you don’t give a fig about the wobbly tables or the grease-stained walls. You just want another one.

This is my husband enjoying his Craig’s BBQ. He grew up in Pennsylvania, and had literally never had a proper BBQ sandwich before this moment. He didn’t KNOW he’d never had proper BBQ before, but he knew it the minute he bit into one of these babies. (Incidentally, why is it impossible to find decent BBQ north of the Mason Dixon line? I have never understood this. But it’s true.)

craig's bbq

I miss those BBQ sandwiches. Fiercely. It’s probably just as well that living in the Northeast only leaves me with pale imitations of BBQ, because this way I’m not really tempted by anything. The sugars in these sauces are pretty over the top. I tried to make my own BBQ sauce without (or with greatly reduced) sweeteners, and it was just not worth it. At least not when I’m remembering the magic that was Craig’s.

So I decided to try to go a completely different route and attempt a Carolina BBQ instead.

Carolina BBQ is vinegar based, instead of ketchup/molasses based, so it’s much easier to figure out a reduced-sweetener version. Also, I don’t have fond childhood memories of Carolina BBQ embedded in my head making me dissatisfied with anything that’s not exactly authentic, so I can play around a bit more.

(If you have fond childhood memories of Carolina BBQ dancing around in your head, I have no idea how this will hold up for you. We thought it was delish. But you’ll have to judge for yourself!)

This recipe does have some whole food sweeteners in it, but not much. What makes BBQ good is that combination of sweet and tangy, and so it’s impossible to leave it out altogether. However, it’s not much, and this recipe will be just fine for people who aren’t affected as much by whole food sweeteners, or who have gotten their inflammation under control and are just maintaining now. This recipe is simple in that it doesn’t take much work at all. But it’s time consuming since it involves a lot of brining and slow cooking. So plan ahead! 

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zucchini brownies

Grain-Free (and amazing!) Zucchini Brownies

Zucchini. Tons and tons of zucchini. I like it and all, especially in Creamy Shrimp Linguine,  but really…how much zucchini can one person eat? And yet I keep getting it in my CSA share.

So last night I went on a search for things to do with my abundance of zucchini, and as soon as I saw the idea for this recipe I knew I wanted to try it. As in, immediately.

So immediately, in fact, that when I discovered I was short on cocoa powder (gasp! horror!) I sent my 12 year old daughter out to the neighbors in her pajamas in search of some. At 9:00 at night. And when those neighbors weren’t home I sent her back out to the other neighbors to ask them. That’s how desperate I was to do this thing.

Ah, children. God’s little way of helping us do all the unpleasant, embarrassing things we don’t want to do ourselves.

Fortunately that neighbor was home, and awake, and in possession of cocoa, and willing to give me some. (Thanks, Tracy!) So I plopped in all the ingredients – changing up some things according to my whim at the moment – baked it, let it cool for about 20 minutes, and….

zucchini brownies

Oh. My goodness.

So good! It’s not necessarily like my old Baker’s Chocolate recipe that had 2 cups of sugar in it – but it is hands down the best attempt at better-for-you brownies I’ve ever tried. (And, believe me, folks, I’ve been TRYING.)

Before now, none of my attempts were at all worthy of sharing with you guys. But this one totally is.

What makes it special is that it’s really fluffy – spongy and springy – and yet at the same time is really, really moist. It just kind of dissolves in your mouth. And so chocolatey! Really, really chocolatey. There’s no hint of the zucchini in it at all, except for the fact that it’s so wonderfully moist and tender.

zucchini brownies zucchini brownies

Also, this recipe has no flour. At all. Of any kind. It just has almond butter as the main ingredient!

I’ve been able to have foods like this, made with whole food sweeteners, just fine recently. (Well, I had to go through a detox after vacation, but after that I was fine.) Not everyone will be able to, though – in the beginning I wasn’t. So if you’re still sensitive to any kind of sweetener be sure to tread carefully with this! But if you’re able to have whole-food sweeteners in moderation, then this is definitely a recipe to try out!

What else are we supposed to do with all those zucchinis this time of year?

zucchini brownies

Grain-Free (and amazing!) Zucchini Brownies
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-12
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup natural almond butter
  • 1 cup zucchini, grated VERY fine
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 10-15 drops liquid Stevia extract, or to taste, optional (I used Trader Joe's organic)
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder (preferably dark)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (or whatever nut you prefer)
  • 1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients except Stevia together in a large bowl. (Make sure the zucchini is grated finely if you want to disguise it thoroughly!)
  2. Taste the batter, and if you think it needs to be sweeter add more honey or 10-15 drops of Stevia extract.
  3. Grease an 8x8 baking dish with butter or coconut oil, and then pour in the batter.
  4. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.
  5. Let cool slightly before cutting into it, or it will fall apart!

 

sugar

National Geographic Article on Sugar

An interesting article came out in the National Geographic this month. It talks about the history of sugar and how it came to dominate Western culture, even going as far as to be the leading impetus for exploration and expansion of the English Empire! It also talks a lot about the health concerns about sugar, and how our increased sugar consumption has a direct correlation with the increase in obesity and disease. I find it interesting to see such an article in a mainstream source such as National Geographic, since I’m used to finding most of my information from alternative and natural health sources.

Some quotes:

“In school they call it the age of exploration, the search for territories and islands that would send Europeans all around the world. In reality it was, to no small degree, a hunt for fields where sugarcane would prosper.”

“By the 18th century the marriage of sugar and slavery was complete. Every few years a new island—Puerto Rico, Trinidad—was colonized, cleared, and planted. When the natives died, the planters replaced them with African slaves. After the crop was harvested and milled, it was piled in the holds of ships and carried to London, Amsterdam, Paris, where it was traded for finished goods, which were brought to the west coast of Africa and traded for more slaves.”

And here’s a huge one!

“And yet there was no stopping the boom. Sugar was the oil of its day. The more you tasted, the more you wanted. In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”

Wow!!

And I love this one:

“And in the 1960s the British nutrition expert John Yudkin conducted a series of experiments on animals and people showing that high amounts of sugar in the diet led to high levels of fat and insulin in the blood—risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. But Yudkin’s message was drowned out by a chorus of other scientists blaming the rising rates of obesity and heart disease instead on cholesterol caused by too much saturated fat in the diet.”

Well worth a read!

nat geo

dressing

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

I was in Whole Foods the other day to bulk up on my spelt supply (since flour from their bulk bins are lots fresher than the packaged stuff on the shelves) and on my way in I was stopped by someone giving free samples in the entryway.

I didn’t really want to stop, because we all know that the real price of those “free samples” is being guilted into buying the thing afterwards. There’s this unspoken, “Hey, I just gave you free food and you’re NOT going to buy my product?! What kind of rude ingrate are you, anyway?” thing that happens. But he was very persistent about his invitation to sample his wares, in a way that made me feel rude to just sweep by.

“You have to try some of this salad dressing!” he said. “It’s personally made and bottled by my family with all natural ingredients. What kind do you want to taste?”

He had little cups with a few pieces of spinach in each one, and different dressings on top.

“Well,” I said, “it depends on what’s in it.” I thought I was being clever, here, because I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be able to eat what was in the dressing. Sure out.

“Just olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, dry mustard, and salt!” He answered. Drat!

So I tasted it, and it was good!

I told him so. “Mmm, good!”

He grinned, sensing a sale. “I have a goal to beat the world record for most salad dressing sales in one day, and I just know you’re going to help me out!”

“There’s a record for the most salad dressing sales in one day?”

“There’s a record for everything.”

Huh.

“So, what kind do you want? They’re only $6.50 each! All natural, and supporting a family business!”

“Ah, em…” I hedged. “I’ll, ah, think about it and come back.”

His face fell and every trace of affable humor disappeared. He looked pretty ticked off, honestly. Granted, his assumption that I wasn’t actually going to return was right, but still. You need to retain your salesman mask, man. Come on, now.

I felt bad. (Because I have this whole problem where I want people around me to feel good about everything, which is basically an impossible thing to do.) But there was NO WAY I was going to pay $6.50 for that dressing! I mean, oil, vinegar, lemon, mustard, and salt? Do you know how CHEAP that is?

His sales pitch of “see how simple this is” actually is only proof for how simple it is to make it yourself.

What’s that? You don’t think it’s easy to make dressing? Let me tell you a little story.

Last spring I chaperoned a field trip with my son’s class to Snipes, the farm near us. After they took a tour, the kids picked lettuce and then stuck a bunch of stuff in a blender to make dressing.

Did you catch that? A crowd of 9 year olds stuck a bunch of stuff in a blender and made dressing. See?! So, you now have no excuses.

And, they all loved it. I heard kids left and right saying, “Can I have more?” and “This is the best salad ever!” So I took a picture of the recipe that was hanging on the wall.

recipe

Anyone can do this. You literally take all that stuff, stick it in a blender, and blend away until it’s nice and creamy. That’s it.

I pretty much stick to the recipe. For the herbs, I just put in whatever sounds good that I have on hand fresh. Sometimes I don’t put any in at all. Sometimes I add lemon juice. You pretty much just start with the basic ingredients, taste, and go from there. I’ll also add a little water to thin it out a little, and that seems to help it not get so solid (and makes it more pourable) after being in the fridge.

But, it’s seriously simple, and seriously yummy. If you’ve been looking for a basic salad dressing that doesn’t have all the sugars and non-food ingredients of store bought, this is it!

dressing

Yum yum!

dressing

Note: I usually double or triple this recipe so that I have it for a while. A single recipe will serve 4-6 people, but not leave any left over.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ Tbsp grated parmesan cheese (the kind from the deli section, not the stuff on the shelf!)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp water (omit if using lemon juice)
  • Optional: 1 tsp fresh herbs (whatever you have on hand)
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • Optional: Juice of a lemon (if you have it on hand)
Instructions
  1. Take all the ingredients, put them in a blender, and blend until they're nice and creamy. Unless you have a super-high-powered blender, mince the garlic first or it won't chop up right. That's it. You can experiment with different vinegars (red wine, apple cider, etc.), different kinds of herbs, things like mustard, or whatever else sounds interesting to you.