Archive for January, 2012

Pig Trotter…

Pig trotter, which is the foot, is awesome!  Not only is this something found in classical cooking, but we get some good nutrition out of it!  Through the braising process (this is just the cooking method I used below) the connective tissue is softened so much that it falls apart.  That connective tissue as well as a little bit of muscle, is what you eat.  Collagen makes up connective tissue like tendons and ligaments, all of which you are able to eat out of the preparation of this ingredient.  Collagen has been used to help joint health, and is widely used in the world of athletics.  Gelatin is another substance found in the tissue of animals where it is in very high concentration in pigs.  Gelatin is one of the most easily digested forms of protein we can obtain.  Most people know the job of protein in the human body for growth and repair, but what most don’t know is that gelatin provides protection for your gut.  Gelatin will actually help to line your gut giving you protection against sickness, and has been used in treatment for diseases such as Crohn’s and Colitis.

I know it doesn’t sound very appetizing to eat tendons, fat, and gelatin.  However, this is what has been lost with nutrition and food. A good preparation is key to making this type of thing palatable!  People will get grossed out at anything other than a burger, pork chop, or chicken breast and this is very sad.  Some of the best tasting foods and optimal sources of nutrition are the ones that are a little bit more labor intensive and a lot cheaper!  This is one of my reasons for creating this blog! You have got to get out of the box!

We start with the pig’s feet (trotter) to the left, which I bought from Whole Foods.  If you have not taken the time to cure them which I would have, if I had the time… boil them for five minutes in salted water as shown below.

As your pig trotters boil away, roughly chop your mirepoix (standard vegetable mixture for soups, sauces and stews/ braises) of approximately two large white onions, five to eight stalks of celery, and five carrots.  Then mince your six cloves of fresh garlic.  You can add to this, herbs of your choice.  I like to use rosemary, bay leaf and sage as my aromatics for a lot of soups and stews…

In a separate pot with the flame high, saute your mirepoix in clarified butter, avocado oil or animal fat, holding off on the garlic and herbs until last so they don’t burn.  I used a mixture of chicken fat and clarified butter that I keep on reserve…  Once the vegetables start to release their moisture (sweat) and become rather soft, add your garlic, herbs and tomato product.  Stir this mixture together and finally add a bit of nutmeg and then your braising liquid.  You can use vegetable stock or any kind of bone broth.  I used chicken stock which I had made earlier in the week from leftover chicken bones.

Now, add your pig trotters and bring up to a simmer.  Cover your pot with aluminum foil once everything has been added.  Let this cook until the trotters essentially are fork tender or they start to fall apart.  I left mine cooking at a gentle simmer for about eight hours on med-low heat.

This type of thing is very hard to overcook.  You can basically leave it and go do your thing if you are comfortable with your stove…

Once they are cooked, carefully remove them from the broth and pick out all the bone and hard tissue.  What you will be left with is tendon, ligament, gelatin, some fat and some meat.  This is what we want! This is what is good for us.  If you don’t believe this, do your own research on the health benefits of collagen and gelatin and see what you come up with!

If you have decent knife skills or a food processor, finely chop your picked meat from the pig trotters and reserve.  From this point, there are many different preparations and recipes you can do, from a rillette, to soup, to a terrine.  I chose to add this meat back into my broth and make soup because why throw away that nutrient dense broth.  From here, you can season however you like to your particular taste.

So what again, does this give us from a nutrition standpoint?

-A great source of gelatin to aid in a healthy gut.

-Some of the most easily digestible protein.

-Lots of collagen for joint health.

-A healthy source of saturated animal fat from properly raised pigs.  (Yes the saturated fat is good for us!)

Ingredients:

4 pig trotters

2 Lg white onions

celery

carrots

garlic

tomato product (tomatoes, tomato paste, crushed tomato, etc.)

rosemary, bay leaf, sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper

2 qts. bone broth/ vegetable stock/ chicken stock

Hunting and Omega 3 fat

My dad...

How does an Omega 3 fat relate to hunting?  Well, one of the problems related to the typical western diet is the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids in the food that we consume.  Grain fed meats including poultry, the absence of wild-caught fatty fish, and processed foods are the main reasons for the severely unbalanced ratio.  The typical hunter-gatherer diets of our ancestors as well as the cultures that still exist today contain a healthy ratio of about 2:1.  The typical western diet contains a ratio of about 10:1.  This imbalance is a problem because the excessive amount of Omega 6 fatty acids have been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease and inflammation.  One of the objectives of Primal/Paleo diet is to reduce the risk factors of such conditions by eating correctly in order to more closely balance the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid.

Aside from the thrill of the hunt and the appreciation for the animal and what it provides you with, the meat is some of the healthiest and freshest you will find.  Other than just muscle meat, one can use the majority of that animal if you are feeling truly primal.  The heart, liver and kidneys provide a great source of nutrition as far as the fat, mineral, vitamin and amino acid content.  Not to mention, the taste of these organs (offal) is pretty amazing when cooked correctly! Although they may take a little more time and attention to prepare, they are a nutritional powerhouse which is well worth the effort.  I have venison heart from my dad which I will post in the near future on the steps of preparation and cooking!

The reason this wild game is not only very tasty but also very healthy, is that it has a natural, seasonal diet.  This is something that cows for example, don’t have the luxury of.  They are fed whatever they are given, whether it be grain, corn or grass.  Grass fed red meat is what is recommended that we eat because it is the closest to the natural diet that these animals would have in the wild.  Therefore, the meat that the animal will provide has a more natural make-up as far as the nutritional value.  This nutritional value I am talking about is mainly the balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fat ratio.  By eating better quality meats such as grass-fed or game, we can help bring our ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fats to a healthier balance therefore, reducing some risk for disease.

Alaska–My transition to Functional fitness and a Primal diet…

In 2007, after I had graduated college, my father and I went on a trip to Alaska.  My uncle lives in Bethel and certainly lives an Alaskan lifestyle!  During the King Salmon run up the Yukon river in the summer…my uncle is fishing.  During the moose hunting season in the fall, he is out hunting.  Everything up there is very expensive, so it is customary to take advantage of what the wilderness can provide.  This is a way of life that is virtually lost in many other parts of the country, especially in the city.  With my background in cooking and nutrition combined with my passion for fitness and the outdoors, I am trying to keep that healthy lifestyle alive and educate people on why all that stuff is important in regard to health.  My effort is to not only talk about the importance of nutrition and fitness to health but also show the process of how what you eat comes from its natural form to the dinner table whether from the woods or the sea.  Though I have grown up hunting and fishing, it wasn’t really until my trip to Alaska that I really felt the appreciation for hunting…and how your meat gets to the table.

Camp for the first few days...

We spent a total of about two weeks camping, in the tent, in the middle of nowhere, during one of the wettest months of September Alaska has ever seen!

My dad in camp

Living in a tent when there are 40+ MPH winds and pouring rain in the woods makes one feel very humble to say the least…especially if you wake up in the middle of the night having to go to the bathroom!  Those of you who have seen the movie “The Edge” with Anthony Hopkins can understand… We were in grizzly country!  When my uncle told us to sleep with our rifles loaded next to us, that tends to make you feel slightly uneasy.  Needless to say, I appreciate a warm bed in a house!

We had packed with us freeze-dried meals made by Mountain House, I believe.  Though not the best source of nutrition, this trip was not intended to be a survival challenge…it was a hunting trip.  We did hunt for ducks and ruffed grouse though, to have some real meals once in a while.  Believe it or not, hunting up there is a lot of work!  Moose, though they are massive and seemingly clumsy animals are very illusive.  They can move through thick woodland like ghosts!  When you are hiking through knee-deep mud, swamps, ankle-grabbing bogs and thick woodland you start to appreciate fitness a little more!  The second moose that we got is pictured below with my uncle and I.  We got this on the last night of our trip.  This is a 48in. bull…(size is measured by the distance from the farthest point on each paddle)  I will explain later, how this all relates back to my transition to functional fitness…

48 in. Bull Moose, my uncle Mike and I

So, I am sure most of you don’t know what it’s like to break down a 1200-1400 lb. animal into manageable pieces.  Let me just tell you that one leg of that animal weighs about 120 lbs. of awkwardness!  Shouldering that awkward leg and walking over uneven ground and through knee-deep mud is one of the harder workouts I have ever done.  At the time I did not train for functional fitness whether it be Crossfit or olympic weightlifting, therefore, struggled with the task at hand.  I can remember my dad and uncle giving my shit about how I spend so much time at the gym, this should be easy!  This was the turning point.  I realized that what I did at the gym did not translate over to really anything in real life.

I eventually found Crossfit.  What drew me to Crossfit was the method of functional training.  I currently coach Crossfit, and am a personal trainer as well.  I am not the Crossfit coach who thinks Crossfit is the only way.  It has led me into olympic weightlifting which I am following programming by Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics in CA.  I have realized the benefit of this type of training from an athletic standpoint.  I am in the best shape of my life.  Stronger, faster, more flexible, better endurance… When this type of training is coupled with good nutrition, you are essentially building an optimal you.  Now how does hunting a moose have anything to do with good nutrition?

Quality of food plays a huge part in optimal nutrition.  You should be putting a lot of thought into what you feed yourself as far as quality.  Meat and vegetables bought from Wal-Mart do not have the same nutritional quality as the meat and vegetables bought from a local organic farm.  This moose meat is all natural.  It does not have added hormones and is as fresh as fresh gets.  The quality of this meat in terms of the fat that you ingest from it has a better ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids.  Essentially, you can compare that to the same qualities you are looking for with grass fed meats.

Seared Sea Scallops, Mango, Cucumber and Avocado Salad, Cilantro and Lime

-Seared Sea Scallops

-Avocado, Cucumber and Mango Salad

-Lime and Cilantro dressing

I created this quick and easy dish during the summer when the ingredients are in season!  It is important to try and cook with the seasons not only for optimal flavor but also for the nutrition.  Vegetables from their natural growing season are grown in optimal climates where the plant can draw from a natural source of nutrition.  Sunlight and temperature obviously affect photosynthesis which will affect the growth of the plant.  Artificially grown tomatoes taste dramatically different than a seasonal garden tomato, and other vegetables are the same way.  There is some research out there talking about seasonal vegetables and nutrition so I won’t get into that.  I’m just making a recommendation to eat seasonally.  It will taste better, and will be healthier for you.