Monday, September 26, 2011

Basic Beef Broth

This recipe is as old as the hills.  There are many many versions of it on the internet.  I'm going to include two here so that you can make whichever you like depending upon time, ingredients and of course energy level.

Basic broth has been considered a healing food for generations.  It is now strongly recommended both by WAP  (Weston A Price, see resources page) and GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome: again see resources page) to heal the digestive tract and to keep us healthy.  On GAPS it is supposed to be taken daily as either a meal or a drink.  WAP recommends adding gelatin from cartilage or knuckles or even powdered unflavored gelatin packets.  And, by the way, the fat is supposed to be consumed not drained off.  According to both WAP and GAPS, animal fat from pastured animals is good for you and essential to normal digestive functioning.

Any basic stock consists of:

  • Onion, celery and carrot
  • Meat and/or bones and/or cartilage/knuckles
  • Filtered water
  • Celtic sea salt, peppercorns, herbs such as parsley and thyme
I made my first beef stock in my slow cooker and it is kick ass!  I did the super easy version; toss everything in and walk away.  There are several versions that recommend roasting the meat in the oven first to add a layer of flavor but heck the stuff I made is chock full of flavor.  Be sure to use organic ingredients and Celtic sea salt.  This reduces toxic load and adds helpful trace minerals to the stock.

Makes roughly 5 pints

2lbs 100% grass fed beef oxtails (make sure it hasn't been grained off*) with bones
3 large carrots
3 stalks celery
1/2 large onion
1t peppercorns
1 bunch fresh parsley
several sprigs fresh thyme
1t Celtic sea salt

  1. Peel onion and cut into large chunks.
  2. Cut nasty looking bits off celery and carrot and cut down to fit in slow cooker.  For mine this meant cutting in half.  The larger the bits the better.  Don't bother peeling.  Just rinse and cook.
  3. Place meat in cooker.  Add everything else.
  4. Cover ingredients with filtered water leaving at least and inch from the top edge of cooker.
  5. Set on low, cover and walk away.
  6. Several hours later come back and skim off any scum that has risen to the surface and discard.
  7. Check again several hour later and skim again if necessary.
  8. Cook a minimum of 8 hours preferably 12-24.  I think I cooked mine closer to 30.
  9. Remove large pieces and discard.  Reserve meat and marrow if so inclined.
  10. Run broth through a fine mesh sieve or through cheesecloth to remove pieces.
  11. Fill clean storage containers with broth.  Let come to room temp and then freeze (this is the easiest storage method by far).  
  12. Meat and marrow can be added back into broth as desired and can even be pureed first.
  13. To reheat use stove top.  It is rumored that the microwave destroys the nutrients in the food but I haven't seen any science behind that claim.
To add a layer of flavor to the soup (I haven't done this yet so I can't make any claims that it makes it way better than it already is), roast the meat and vegetables in a 350F oven for about an hour until the meat is nicely browned.  You can deglaze the roasting pan with stock, water or red wine and add this to the slow cooker if desired.  Honestly the soup is fantastic as is so I'm not sure this step is worth the extra trouble.  Maybe if I were feeling better myself I would give it a go but honestly the broth is wonderful without this step.

*In the US, meat processors are allowed to call cattle that has spent up to one month eating a grain diet pastured if it was grass fed prior to the grains.  However, the body chemistry of the cows change in this short time and many of the benefits of pasturing are lost in the graining off of the cattle.  Make sure the beef you purchase is 100% grass fed and has NOT been grained off.

See U.S. Wellness Meats on the resource page for more information about the benefits of eating 100% grass fed beef.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

New Food Adventure

When I first started this blog I had no intention of waxing philosophical about food.  I just wanted to share easy to make recipes with other chronic chicks.  However, I'm embarking on a new food adventure so today is a story and some resources rather than a recipe.

I've heard directly and indirectly from a couple of people that fully recovered from CFS after doing a major dietary overhaul and a third with severe CFS who is in partial recovery.  Now realize that the diet may have had nothing to do with the recovery.   It might be just coincidental.  However, since no one has done any studies we just don't know if they are related or not.  I figure what the heck.  Lets give it a go and bump my diet up from organic to the next level.

Our food has been basterdized so badly by BigAg that I personally have had bad reactions to various food stuffs:  Post Cereal gives me severe intestinal cramps (GMO corn or soy?), wheat causes severe brain fog and plumbing issues (again GMO), regular milk makes my PMS intolerable (growth hormones?).  Our food just isn't what it used to be.  We've messed with its DNA.  We've shot up our cows with growth hormones and antibiotics and genetically engineered chickens to have such large breasts that their legs are too weak to hold them up (see Food Inc).  As a result, I wouldn't be at all surprised that regular commercially produced food at least aggravates CFS or at worst hinders our body's ability to heal from its assult.  Our cows are injected with god knows what when they are alive.  They are fed grains which they aren't designed to eat and makes them so sick they have to be shot up with antibiotics.  After they are killed, the meat is injected with industrial salt and water to "enhance the flavor" and the left overs from butchering are ground up, bleached to kill off the bacteria and added to hamburger as filler to bump up the profit margin.  No wonder we are all getting sick.

I have been organic for almost 20 years.  It used to be easy to get organic meats and lightly processed organic foods in the regular markets.  However, over the last two years I've noticed a change in the availability of these foods.  BigAg decided to get in on the act.  Now I can only purchase "naturally raised" meat and there is large amounts of sugar in everything even organic chocolate milk and organic yogurt.  I can only get organic salad that is in a bag and boxed.  There are now white flecks in the "all natural" ground turkey.  Dean Dairy, one of the most egregious commercial dairies, has bought out every organic dairy in my area so it is now next to impossible to purchase milk that is not produced by them, even when it has an organic label on it.  Dean controls 80% of the milk supply in MA.

So I'm done with traditional food markets.  This summer I've been shopping at the local farmer's market and been delighted with fresh picked lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.  I've been eating salads every day and they are so good I've stopped putting dressing on them.  I don't want to hide the taste of the delightful vegetables and raw milk cheeses.

I've also been buying free range farm fresh eggs there.  Did you know that fresh eggs sink when put in water?  If they float they are old.  I've also noticed that the shells tend to be thicker and the yokes more golden in color than the eggs from conventional laying hens.  Granted there is little difference in taste but there are studies showing that the free range eggs have more of the good stuff in them and less of the bad stuff.  Win win.

I just recieved shipment of my second order of grass fed, organic, free range beef; organic free range chicken and certified humanely raised pork.  It is spectacular!!  It is shipped frozen solid overnight.  The meat is cheaper than the fake "all natural" (there is no regulation on "all natural" label so it can mean anything) stuff from the supermarket.  I just had the BEST hamburgers ever!

I've been thinking about a diet change ever since the elimination diet this past spring, also known as The Diet From Hell.  Since it had such a bad effect on the CFS maybe I could make changes that would improve my CFS so I've been reading about three different diets, Paleo, GAPS and WAP (Weston A Price).

The Paleo diet is based on an older form of diet.  The basic philosophy is that we've eaten a certain way for thousands of years.  Thanks to genetic selection we are designed to eat certain foods and these foods will make us healthy.  Lots of meat, organ meats, animal fat, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds.  No dairy and no grain as these are both "modern" inventions.

I've also been reading up on the GAPS diet which claims to heal the body through healing the gut and you heal the gut through diet.  There have been about a half dozen scientific articles just this last week on gut bacteria.  Good vs bad and how diet changes the type of bacteria present in your poop.  They've actually healed people that have had guts problems by doing a poop transplant.  I know.  Ick.  This is still in the experimental stages but hey it is now becoming clear that the gut is very important and shouldn't be ignored.  There is a whole protocol to this diet and I haven't read up on it yet but you can go here for more info by clicking the link below.

I've also joined Weston A. Price Foundation.  Dr. Price was a dentist who traveled the world back in the 1930s.  He studied the teeth and bone structure of indiginous peoples.  He found that people that had good health and long lives also had good teeth and good facial bone structure.  He also found that they tended to eat the same things: animals including the fats, bones and organs;  some food is cooked but a portion is consumed raw; they consume fermented foods including fruits, veg, meats, and dairy; seeds, nuts and grains are soaked, sprouted or fermented to neutrulize the bad stuff in them; they have a diet high in saturated fats; they eat salt; they consume raw grass fed dairy (goat, sheep or cow); they eat bone broth.  They don't eat sugar or refined grains.

I had read about him a few years before I got sick and found the idea interesting but I was too busy to get involved with the labor intensive food.  I was too busy figure skating.  Now it seems like a good idea.  I just received their lit packet in the mail and their magazine is on the way.  I've already purchased "Nourishing Traditions" and "The Fourfold Path to Healing" which are books written by the current WAP president.  The first is a cookbook based on WAP diet and the second is an odd combination of ailments with descriptions and then a healing method using food, supplements, exercise and meditation for each ailment and yes CFS is one of the listed ailments with the "cure".

Bascially I'll be borrowing from all these traditions.  I'm only going to change one thing at a time.  I've already started with my meat supply.  I had my first hamburger with no adverse effects.  That was my first cow in 30ish years.  I just purchased two small 6oz steaks for my next cow experiement.  I've cut way down on my grain consumption.  I'm still drinking full fat dairy and eating full fat yogurt.  I've just ordered yogurt culture and cheese culture so I can make my own sugar free yogurt with full fat milk.  I'm looking for a source of raw milk.  As soon as I find one I'll be incorporating raw milk and raw milk yogurt into my diet.  I've managed to purchase excellent raw milk cheeses at my farmer's market and love them on my salads.  I bought mason jars so when I get some grass fed beef bones I can make beef stock.

I swear I can feel a difference after only one week of wholesome meat and few grains and very little sugar.  My daily diet runs something like: poached or boiled free range egg on wilted organic spinach topped with raw milk cheese for breakfast, grilled free range meat and two organic vegetables for dinner, huge salad with tuna or egg or chicken or raw cheese and nuts on it for supper, fruit for dessert.  I've been drinking black tea with milk, one glass of full fat milk for dessert, water with lemon all day and this week I tried Kombucha which is fermented black tea which I like a lot.

This week has been great.  I've had more energy than I've had in months.  I actually drove one day!  I was out of the house three days in a row.  I walked around my back yard yesterday and had two visitors this week.  I'm pooped today and resting but I would never have been able to do this a month ago.  Is this due to diet?  Is it one of those CFS flukes?  Who knows?  I'm going to keep plugging along with the new diet.  You'll start to see some of the results here as I develop new recipes.  My first one might be for yogurt or yogurt cream cheese.  Both are really easy to make.

BTW, as you might be able to tell I'm not a purist.  I experiment.  I keep what works for me and chuck the stuff that doesn't.  And hell, I do have to eat chocolate fairly regularly.  Although, I have gone off milk chocolate.  It is too sweet so dark chocolate it is!!