recipes

Herby Lamb Meatballs

herby lamb meatball dinner

You know when you move to a new city and have to find all new…everything –  a new hair person, nail place, dry cleaners, car place, etc.? We’re right in the middle of all that right now. It’s like every day there’s a new reminder that we’re the new kids on the block. Don’t get me wrong, I love it; the change is fun and exciting. But wow, you don’t realize how comfortable you’ve been in a place until you have to start all over again. Like, what a luxury it is to be able to hop in the car and know exactly where Target is and how long it will take you to get there (without having to consult Siri). Or to be able to get in and out of the grocery store  super fast because you know exactly what they have and where to find it.

Grocery shopping can be one of the most routine things we do. I usually make my big trip for the week on Sunday and typically pick up the same staples – a whole organic chicken, a bag of lemons, greens, onions, etc. And after awhile of this it’s almost like you go into autopilot – you go in, walk the same aisles, grab the same things and get out. You’re so focused on your routine and completing it you probably don’t even see what else is on the shelf.

That’s when shaking it up can be a really really good thing. When your surroundings change it’s an opportunity to try new things and perhaps expand your palette… that is, if you choose to look at it that way. So, on my first grocery excursion in our new neighborhood in Austin I could have gotten all bent out of shape when I didn’t find my usual whole organic chicken. But, I held it together and got adventurous… and that’s how these delicious herby lamb meatballs came to be.

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make meatballs

The Natural Grocers by our house doesn’t have a full butcher section like our old grocery store, but they do have an excellent section of high quality, organic, pastured, grass-fed ground meats. So, we’ve been on a meatball kick lately, trying out different meats with a variety of herbs, spices and seasonings. My mom is probably getting quite a kick out of the idea of me – the one who once couldn’t even look at ground beef – making meatballs. For years she’s tried to pass down the job of hamburger patty-maker. I may have gotten over my fear but it’s still not happening, Mom. 😉

Anyway, ground may not be the sexiest of cuts, but it’s much less expensive. If you’re wanting to incorporate more organic, pastured and grass-fed meats, it’s a great option to help you save a little money. And these meatballs are damn good, if I do say so myself. If you’re not into lamb you can make them with any other ground meat, like beef or turkey. Serve the meatballs along with your favorite sides. This time we roasted carrots, parsnips and turnips and sautéed up some kale with onion. Ooh, everything was so delicious, colorful, satisfying, and above all, no one was missing the chicken…

Moral of the story, you never know what you might discover with a little change. So this is my challenge for you: Break your routine, try a new store, go without a list. See what you see when you’re out of your comfort zone and the blinders are forced to come off. Keep an open mind, explore, ask for help, learn, and try something new or maybe even something that that once scared you. Who knows, you just might find what you’ve been missing…

cook meatballs

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Herby Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients

1 lb ground lamb (or other meat: beef, turkey, chicken, etc.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a small onion, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup water

Directions

Combine ground lamb, garlic, onion, thyme, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well using your hands. Form into balls, about 1 inch thickness.

In a medium saute pan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add meatball and cook 1-2 minutes until seared, then flip each one to sear the other side. Cook another 1-2 minutes until lightly browned. Add water, cover pan and let simmer about 5 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with your favorite roasted vegetables and sautéed greens.

recipes

Whole Herb Roasted Chicken

I used to say I could be a vegetarian simply to avoid ever having to handle raw meat. I  had no problem eating it, but I didn’t like to touch it. Ick! So I mostly stuck with vegetables. And crudites became my comfort zone. Now, I am a little more mature and can handle touching a chicken breast. But there are plenty of other things about the meat we buy and eat that deserve an “Ick.” There’s the close quarters, poor conditions and cruel treatment to the animals… the questionable feed, antibiotics, hormones and additives. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new here, but if I am, read up so you can make informed choices about the meat that you do purchase.

The good news is there are more options available now beyond conventional – organic, free range, cage free, pasture raised… but some of these terms are pretty loosely defined and can be interpreted all sorts of ways. When buying chicken, opt for organic or pasture raised. Organic means the chickens were given no antibiotics, no hormones and only organic feed, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the animals’ living conditions. Pasture raised means the birds spend their waking hours on pasture and are only housed at night or in severe weather conditions. They’re free to forage for grass, grub and crawlers — as nature intended — but their diet may also be supplemented with grain. Remember though, pasture-raised does not mean organic and vice versa.

Like all things, you get what you pay for and higher quality meats are more expensive – sometimes twice as much as conventional. Go for quality over quantity. This is the protein and fat that’s used to rebuild your muscles. It’s no place to be cheap. But if you’re eating meat three times a day, that can add up fast. The thought hurts my debit card… and colon. Eating that much meat can be extremely taxing on your digestive system, especially if not accompanied by lots of fiber-rich vegetables to keep things moving along, if you know what I mean.

With some planning though, you can actually save money and make up for the added cost of organic. Like my shopping math? But really, with a little economical thinking, you can get more for your money. For starters, try buying the whole bird. It’s seriously about the same price I used to pay for two organic chicken breasts. And you get a whole chicken. I wondered why no one had told me this before? And why had I only been eating chicken breast?? How blah.

What I once relied on Eatzi’s to feed me, I now make for myself. And holy chicken thighs! This is so much better. Cheaper. And healthier. I’ll buy a pasture-raised or organic whole chicken and either roast or boil it; then use the meat throughout the week, adding it to stir fried veggies, soups and salads. I use whatever herbs I have on  hand (or that came in the poultry herb mix) – rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage – for the outside seasoning. And on the inside, I stuff it with aromatics like onion, garlic and lemon. The end result is one tender, juicy, delicious whole chicken. Cut it up, remove the meat and have it ready to add to your favorite vegetable dishes.

If roasting a whole bird isn’t old-school domestic enough for you, wait till I tell you about what you can do with the bones… That’ll be another post. For now, I give you the best herb roasted chicken you will ever put in your mouth. Mmmmmm.

Whole Herb-Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

1 whole chicken
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 yellow onion
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 lemon, halved

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry chicken well and place in roasting pan. Combine chopped herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil and mix well. Stuff the inside of the chicken with onion, garlic and lemon. Rub the outside of the chicken with the herb mixture covering the top, bottom and all sides. Place roasting pan with chicken in oven and bake 45 min – 1 hour. Chicken is done when the crust is golden brown. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. When it’s done it should reach 180 degrees.

organic

Organic Schemanic?

There are two different stacks of strawberries in the produce section, but one is two dollars more. Why? And is it worth the price? As if the grocery store wasn’t already an overwhelming place for the decision-making challenged there’s yet another choice we have to make. But when it comes to some foods, organic versus conventional is an important one. The latest dirty dozen list just came out. These are the foods in the produce section that have the highest concentration of pesticides on them. If you’re debating between going organic or not, this is a good place to start. But first here are a few answers to some general questions about organic….

What does organic mean?

Organic means that the food was made without pesticides, there are no synthetic ingredients in the fertilizer, and no bio engineering, genetic modification or radiation was used. When something is genetically modified that means its genes have been altered. Scientists add new genetic material into the mix to make plants and produce (even animals) last longer or become resistant to a certain pesticide.

Are the pesticides and chemicals used in conventional farming harmful?

All of the chemicals and pesticides that go into growing conventional produce ends up in the food. And when we eat it, those chemicals and pesticides go into our bodies. We are talking about agents designed to kill things here. Now consider this. Our bodies are a combination of chemical reactions. Everything from digestion to PMS is chemistry happening inside us. What happens when we add a new chemical (er, several) into the equation? That’s the thing. We don’t exactly know. Studies are being done to see just how these chemicals can interfere with digestion and absorption of the nutrients in produce.

Why is organic so much more expensive?

Organic farming just takes a lot more work for a lot less produce. Organic farmers have to do a lot more weeding by hand and also lose a higher percentage of their crop to pests and run the risk of a total loss. Organic farms also have their crops on a rotation in order to keep the soil healthy and nutrient rich. Conventional farming has gone the way of clearing land and planting large fields of cash crops every season of every year without ever giving the soil a break. You’re able to grow more food year round this way, but it depletes the nutrients in the soil because there’s never a time to replenish. That means fewer nutrients in the food that comes from it and the taste isn’t quite the same either. For instance that tomato isn’t quite as juicy and sweet. Then there’s also the costs associated with being certified organic, which can be quite high.

Then why does conventional fruit look brighter and bigger?

You know those strawberries you get at the grocery store that are the size of your fist and bright red, but when you bite into one it’s not sweet? Conventional methods breed larger strawberries, apples, you name it. They also use chemical ripening agents to bring a fruit to its peak artificially. It’s cheaper and easier when you don’t have to wait for nature to take it’s course.

How do you know you’re getting organic?

The sticker on your produce has a PLU#. If the number starts with a 9, then it’s organic. If it starts witha 4, it’s conventional meaning conventional farming methods were used including pesticides, etc. And if it starts with a 7, it’s local.

What foods have the highest level of pesticides?

As a good rule of thumb, anything that’s porous, fragile or grows 100 percent underground is more vulnerable to pesticides. So things like peaches, berries and potatoes will have a higher pesticide count than say a cantaloupe that’s fruit is protected by a tough skin. Try picking up the organic version of these when it’s available and just see if you can taste a difference.

The Dirty Dozen

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Bell Peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes

Read the full 2010 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides from the EWG.

organic

Is organic really better?

Researchers in London report that organic foods have no nutritional or health benefits over conventional foods. (See the journalist in me telling both sides of the story?)

I can see this … I mean, an apple, is an apple, is an apple.

If you’re only comparing the amount of fiber, calories and vitamin C in the fruit, then yes, I guess an organic and conventional apple may have the same nutrition facts. But what this study isn’t looking at is:  What else is on that apple?

That’s the important question when it comes to choosing organic versus conventional. And all the other stuff (pesticides, chemicals, growth hormones, etc.) that’s on that apple – how do those things affect our overall health?

media

You’ll Never Look at Dinner the Same Way…

A little scared?

Don’t be. Ignorance may be bliss, but not when it’s in the form of a cheeseburger giving you E. coli poisoning. Rare? Not so much. Food-related illnesses happen to an estimated 76 million Americans a year. A gross figure that could be helped with some responsibility.

Food Inc., a new documentary out in theaters, points out just how far removed we are from where our food comes from.

Consider this scenario:  You go to the grocery store, pick up a package of chicken breasts, a marinade, box of pasta, jar of sauce and a bag-o-salad. In an hour it will be dinner. But have you ever asked where those chickens were raised? How were the tomatoes in that pasta sauce grown? Probably not. It’s OK, I didn’t either.

We’ve come a long way in how we get our food. And we’re really efficient at producing large amounts of food at a low cost. But it’s coming back to bite us.
Now we have new strains of E. coli, antibiotics, pesticides, artificial food additives, and whatever else is or may be in the foods we eat every day. And then there’s the taste. Tomatoes are supposed to be sweet when they’re ripe! But I suppose ripening with chemicals just doesn’t have the same effect.

If that’s where the movie ended though I wouldn’t be wasting my time and yours. We’ve heard most of this before. We’ve seen the E. coli spinach on the news and heard about what goes on in meat processing plants. Yes, “Gross,” but that’s not the point. The point is that WE (the consumer) get the last word. We have control over the foods we buy and eat. If you don’t want antibiotic-pumped chicken, don’t buy it. If you don’t want Coke with high-fructose corn syrup, don’t buy it. If you don’t want genetically-modified tomatoes, don’t buy them.

Eventually the food companies will change. They’ll have to in order to stay in business. Organic, free-range, local food will become more accessible if it’s demanded. The power is in the wallet.

Intrigued? See for yourself.