Cauliflower Faux Fried Rice



So. Yeah. This cauliflower craze. It’s a love and hate thing. I love that I can eat some of my favorite evil comfort foods without furthering the heart disease caused by my love-affair with The Pig. Often healthful recipes meant to mimic comfort foods are almost universally straight up disastrous.  Or maybe I’m just THAT much in love with all that is intent on shortening my life on this planet?  That means I’ve tried  a lot of utterly disappointing faux recipes involving cauliflower. Failures include recipes that still taste like cauliflower, those that are too soggy, ones that fall apart, and ones that are too dry or have no flavor,  and on and on AND ON. After a lot of trialing, I was finally able to conjure up some stir fried rice that comes really, really (I mean really!) close to the real deal. Indeed, this stuff was so good that it instantly transported me to eating fried rice as a child in the old international food court that used to sit off of N. Market Street.  When I make this, I make a vat and eat it all week. It’s seriously that addicting.

The keys to whipping up some of this delicious faux fried rice include pre-cooking the ‘rice’, squeezing the liquid out of the cauliflower rice, getting a little caramelization on the rice, and adding some flavorful ingredients. The caramelization/drying step takes a little bit of time, but no longer than cooking a pot of rice and busting out a wok. Also, feel free to get a little freaky and throw in whatever ingredients you like best–just like fried rice, this little gem is forgiving.  Be prepared to fall in love with something that is actually good for you!

Faux Fried Rice (Cauliflower Fried Rice)

  • 1 head cauliflower, riced, steamed, and squeezed free of liquid
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup of frozen green peas
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 4 ounces of ham (or pork, or chicken, or shrimp)
  • 2 tsp Sesame oil
  • 1 TBSP Ponzu sauce (in the ‘international’ section of your grocery store or make some)
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 1 TBSP rice seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • scallions for garnish

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Rice, steam, and squeeze the fluid out of your cauliflower like the technique used in our cauliflower crackers and cauliflower tater tots. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread your cauliflower mixture in a thin layer. Cook until lightly browned a slightly dried a bit.  This step adds flavor, decreases the familiar cauliflower flavor, and helps the ‘rice’ grains stay separated when adding the other ingredients (don’t skip it!). Cool your cauliflower rice on the pan. Break up any clumps and set aside.  Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add your carrots and saute until beginning to soften. Add your onions and saute until translucent. Add your peas and saute until just heated through. Remove all vegetables from pan. Place the ham in your pan and cook until edges are browned. Remove the ham from the pan and add to the vegetables. Assure the pan is adequately lubricated with oil. Add your whisked eggs and scramble, leaving them in bits about half the size of your pinkie finger (any smaller and you lose their texture and flavor amongst everything else). When you are done scrambling your eggs, return the ham and vegetables to the pan. Add your cauliflower ‘rice’. Add 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 TBSP ponzu sauce, 1 TBSP soy sauce or liquid aminos, 1/4 tsp white pepper, and 1 TBSP rice seasoning. Stir gently to incorporate the ingredients and heat the cauliflower rice through. Serve and enjoy tremendously! If you’re in the mood to wrestle with a little food guilt, serve your healthy fried rice with Shanghai Red Cooked Pork Belly or Chinese Red Cooked Beef. Grilled chicken or shrimp would be a great pairing too. You won’t be disappointed!



Cauliflower Tater Tots


Everybody loves a tater tot. Eh-vreh-body.

cauliflower tots

Tater tots and ligers. Both favorites.

A place The Hubbs and I hit up a few times a year has straight up ol’ skool tater tots and ketchup. Before going there, I had not indulged in a tater tot in about 20 years. And then, just like that, I was totally obsessed. For obvious health reasons, being obsessed with tater tots is not a good thing. So, I set out to make a healthy alternative.  A good place to start for carb-bread substitutes is cauliflower.  Man, I was pleasantly surprised! A little snappy sauce and they’re a perfect guilty pleasure packed with nutrients. AND they’re baked. You’re welcome!

Cauliflower Tater Tots

  • 1 head of Cauliflower, riced, and squeezed of it’s liquid
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 TBSP almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • salt to taste

Prepare a baking sheet with a parchment sheet that has been lightly sprayed with high-heat cooking oil or cooking spray. Rice, steam, cool, and de-juice your cauliflower like the technique used in our cauliflower crackers.

cauliflower tater tots

Cut your head of cauliflower into florets

cauliflower tater tots

Next up…the Cauliflower is ‘riced’ and steamed. Doing so allows us to get the most moisture out of the cauliflower when you give it the big squeeze.

Next, add the eggs, cheese, almond flour, onion powder, white pepper, and salt.

cauli tots

Throw in all of the other ingredients and mix well.

Mix the ingredients well. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the space where your hand meets your fingers, form your cauli tots by gently squeezing and rolling a small amount of the mixture while lightly tapping down the ends to create the familiar barrel shape. Place your tots on the parchment, leaving a bit of space between each one. When all of your tots are lined up, spray the tops lightly with high-heat cooking oil or cooking spray.

cauliflower tots

Your tots are ready to pop into the oven. Having tots without the guilt and carbs is so worth the wait!

Pop your tots in the oven and bake for 12 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Roll each tot a quarter of a roll and cook 5 or so minutes until the new bottom is browned. Repeat the quarter-turn roll and cook another 5 minutes or so until the bottom is browned. Repeat the roll one last time to make sure all sides are browned and crisp.

cauliflower tater tots

Ermagahhhhd. Tots! Even Napoleon Dynamite would stuff these into his pants pockets!

I’m a big fan of serving these tots with a mayo-ketchup-horseradish sauce. After all, if the tots are all full of goodness you can get a little cray cray with your condiments!

Cauli tots

Eat them up!

Cured Egg Yolks


So, I’ve decided to conquer the yardbird. It seems I tend to tackle certain foods or techniques every season. Three was the season of shortribs and braising (and waist expansion). The season of learning how to master my smoker. The season of soups. The season of the barbecue. I really tend to avoid chicken. It is just so much work. And I usually love the skin or sauce more than the actual chicken. But I’ve decided I will conquer that yardbird (Yaahdburhd if you’re into the correct southern pronunciation)! To get going, but not ruin my day, I decided to start where the chicken started…the egg. Don’t worry, I’ll move on to the whole chicken later, but we’re starting with something I already love. Now that we know why we’re tackling this egg, why cure it? Salt. Fat. Umami. Fun. Need I say more? And hey, if the Zombie Apocalypse hits, you’ll still be able to eat like a king!

Don’t go thinking I’m some kind of culinary genius. Salted, cured egg yolks have existed for a long time in the form of Bottarga. Bottarga is salt cured fish roe sacs. Don’t worry a bit, with shad roe season starting here, we’ll be making some of that too! I digress. Salted hen yolks have a slightly salty, fatty, magical flavor. They’re quick and easy to make and can totally transform pasta, salads, and soup. Just use a fine grater or micro planer to give your dishes a little dusting. I’m practically drooling thinking of a yukon gratin with sage and a little dusting of cured egg yolk.

To kick off your cured egg yolk addiction:

  • 1 container, about 2 inches high, 8 inches long, and 6 inches wide
  • 2 cups of Kosher salt
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks (freeze the whites in ice cube trays for later use, make a little Angel food cake, or make some cloud bread)

Thoroughly mix your salt and sugar and place a decent layer in the bottom of your container. Make four little nests in your mixture with the back of a spoon. Separate the whites and yolks. Place each yolk in its nest.


Just look at that little golden globe of goodness!

Gently cover with the rest of the salt-sugar mixture. Place your lid and tuck into your fridge. Let sit for 1 week. After the week has passed, gently remove the yolks from your mixture. They will be slightly translucent and the firmness of a dried apricot.


You can see the difference between fresh egg yolks going down for a little salt slumber and those that I’ve just dug out of their cozy cocoon.


These little gems are like adult salty jelly beans!

Rinse in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.


Don’t be afraid of the cold water rinse. It’ll get rid of excess salt and the yolks won’t melt.


Good morning sunshine!

Place in a dehydrator set at 145 degrees. Dehydrate for 3 hours or until firm.The yolks will continue to firm up as they cool. Grate, grate, grate away! They’ll last a month in a sealed container in the fridge, but I guarantee they won’t stick around that long!


Serious goodness. I prefer the uber thin tendrils produced by a micro planer, but the slightly more dense shavings produced by a grater work well too and may stand up to robust dishes a little better. Either way, just get that goodness on there!


15 Real World Tips for Eating Rooter to Tooter


For most of my adulthood, I shied away from liver with the extent of my interaction  consisting of picking at a fried chicken liver or two.  Even then, the livers were smothered in a sauce.  I’d like to blame my Dad (a.k.a. The Pirate) who so aptly described butcheries and food-packing plants, WHILE I was reading Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle‘, WHILE I was eating a hotdog. I was nine years old. I haven’t eaten a hotdog since.

Then, about 10 years ago I became more concerned about the source of my food and in visiting farms where my food was grown or raised, I actually met the pigs that became the bacon. And just like that, my belief in ‘rooter-to-tooter’ eating was born.  If an animal dies to sustain my life, I should at least try to be respectful and not waste their gift.  Over the last 10 years, I’ve opened my mindset and taught myself to eat all kinds of foods I wouldn’t have considered in the past:  liver, blood pudding, sweetbreads, tripe, knuckles, heart, marrow, tongue, and so much more.  I actually found other cultures do a very good job of using all of the bits of an animal and I learned in turn to appreciate the foods and cooking techniques of other cultures in the process.


All the glory–from rooter to tooter! (Image from Baju BBQ Porknography)

I’m telling you, embracing rooter-to-tooter eating is all win, win, win. It’s not only ethical and tasty, but until everyone else figures out the unique experience of cooking with the odd bits, it is also pretty dang cheap.  In order to help you embrace the beauty (and fun!) of whole-animal use, I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Take one or two at a time and before you know it you’ll be in full swing.

  1. Stock is the gateway food. Making really, really good stock (or consomme) is a great way to use the lesser-used bits of the animal. Collagen gives great stock or consomme that satisfying mouthfeel or body. Bones, joints, feet, and tendons release their collagen when braised. You’ll be more comfortable and confident once you get used to seeking out the weird bits, handling them, and successfully producing stock. Then it’s on to other uses! Don’t forget you can save bones from a roasted chicken, ham, or otherwise in the freezer and use them in your stocks too.
  2. Braise or stew ‘a mess’ of greens or beans. Every time I cook collards or field peas of any type, I start by braising some ‘weird bits’ meat until it is falling off of the bone and the water is transformed into a flavorful liquid. Great cuts for this are ham hocks, smoked neck bones, smoked pork cheek, or pig feet. My preference is for neck bones as they become tender quickly and impart tons of flavor. Make sure to pull the meat and throw it back in at the end.
  3. Learn how to braise.  Most of the tough, connective-tissue laden meats are turned into silky, soft meat clouds when braised low-and-slow in a slightly acidic, flavorful liquid (think tomato paste, wine, vinegar, or citrus additions). You won’t regret it.
  4. Bacon and cracklin’. Make use of the pork belly (not stomach, but belly meat) by making bacon. Bacon can, of course, be eaten straight away but it can also be made into pork candy or bacon jam. Use up pork skin by making cracklings.
  5. Learn how to make sausage. Natural sausage casings are made from thoroughly cleaned animal intestines. Varying types of sausages use different parts of the small and large intestines of different animals.  For example, cow bung is used to make bologna. Small sausages might use sheep casings which are a bit smaller than pig casings. Now you know.
  6. Eat marrow. Marrow is nutrient dense. It’s also delicious. Ask your butcher for marrow bones, soak the bones in salty water for a bit to clear out impurities and blood, rinse, and roast until the marrow is soft. Then get in touch with your inner caveman and use a butter knife to pick out the marrow. You should absolutely look like a monkey trying to get termites out of a nest with a stick. You may even growl at whoever is brave enough to be elbow deep in marrow bones you.  If you can’t plop it in your mouth, spread it on toast.  The fat that gathers in the pan during roasting can also be used in cooking (umm, hello best grilled cheese of your life! Bone Marrow Bread Pudding anyone?).
  7. Get friendly with pate or mousse. Pate and mousse mix fat in the form of eggs and cream with liver and often aromatics such as caramelized onions and cognac. If the taste of liver turns you off, know that the fat tempers the fumigating minerality of the liver. Serve with sweet and pungent items and the liver flavor will be almost completely tempered. My favorite pairing is with a tart cherry compote in a bit of a rosemary and Madeira base, quality Dijon-style or grain mustard, and buttered and toasted baguette rounds.
  8. Get a bowl of Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup. Not only is it delicious, but it can be ordered with tripe (stomach). The tripe is generally cut into very thin strips that are cooked until tender and practically disappear among the noodles. I’d bet if you didn’t know they were there, you wouldn’t notice them!
  9. Learn how to make a civet. A civet is essentially stew thickened with animal blood. This technique is centuries old and is used around the world. If you don’t have access to fresh blood (i.e. you didn’t kill and dress the animal), you can use a bit of liver blended with heavy cream as your thickener. Either way, you’re making use of animal parts that would otherwise be discarded. I made Rabbit Civet with this recipe from Hunter Angler Gardner Cook as an inspiration and it was incredibly delicious.
  10. Embrace hogshead or head cheese.  This gem is actually made by braising the head of the hog in order to soften up the meat (um, pig cheeks anyone?) so it can be picked from the bone. The braising also releases collagen. The pulled meat is placed into a dish with some of the collagen-rich liquid, chilled until firm, and then sliced. Yes, it’s pretty much the meat version of tomato aspic. I make a version with aromatic vegetables, pork shoulder, pig feet, and pig knuckles since it’s almost impossible to find pig heads.
  11. Embrace blood pudding/sausage. Blood pudding is merely sausage made from fat (all sausage has fat), some blood from the same animal, and a binder such as oatmeal or rice depending on the region from which the sausage hails. Everyone has always talked so poorly about blood sausage that I never even tried it. I vehemently snubbed it actually. Then I had a couple of glasses of wine at the Glass Onion and gave it a whirl (after all, Chris Stewart seems to be seriously good at offal cooking, so I couldn’t go wrong). It tasted like an adult version of Salisbury steak. Yep, hooked.
  12. Use caul fat. Caul fat is essentially the greater omentum of certain animals. It is most often wrapped around other meats to hold them together during cooking. It can also be used to surround pate. Some sausages make use of the caul fat as a casing.
  13. Love your organs: I know, I know. Organ meat. That’s why this one is listed after you’ve tried a few of the above. Don’t knock organ meat, though. It can be incredible if prepared correctly (and disastrous if not). For example, Tacos La Lingua (beef tongue) have some of the most tender meat I’ve ever eaten. Barbecued beef heart in the yakitori style is divine (go try some at Myles and Jun Yakitori!). I dream of sweetbreads prepared in the French manner (thymus and/or pancreas; St. Jack in Portland, OR made a delightful tarte with grilled sweetbreads, whipped butternut squash, caramelized onions, and Gruyere).
  14. Strip your pig (ears, tails, feet): Ears and tails can be fried. I’ve had thin slices of ear, fried, and served on a simple salad with buttermilk dressing (thank you again Glass Onion). Feet (and knuckles) can be braised until the tender meat falls off of the bone. Pair it up with some homemade sauerkraut for a real treat.
  15. Chitlins. I still haven’t mastered this one. I swear I’m trying. Maybe hitting up the SC Chitlin’ Strut will help?  They can be braised or fried. All recipes welcomed!

Now go forth with confidence and curiosity into the world of odd and weird bits. Do you already have a favorite rooter-to-tooter recipe?  Feel free to share in the comments.  Up to track down those weird bits so you can fully experience the rooter-to-tooter lifestyle.



The weather’s starting to cool here a bit and that means it ‘s the perfect, perfect time to set up camp on the back porch and break out all of the barbecuing toys.  And barbecuing toys mean ribs, ribs, and more ribs. Some associate ribs with the sweltering, surface-of-the-sun heat of mid summer, but I much prefer them when the weather starts to turn and football is in gear.  There’s no way to cook ribs quickly, so that lends itself to a few hours of watching football, having some bevvies, and hanging out. Just when everyone’s getting tired of chips and dips and their adult beverages are getting the better of their appetite control…enter the rack o’ ribs.  Started when everyone arrives for festivities, they finish up right when everyone is ready to chow down.

If you do a quick search of The Interwebs, there are hundreds of ways people swear by to get that juicy, tender, fall off the bone rack of ribs. I listened to none of those. Nope. I went straight to the source of the best ribs I’ve ever eaten. Dad. The Hubbs, the dogs, Pam and Dad and I hung out one afternoon and I decided it was time for the Pirate Incarnate to relinquish his secrets. I was terrified I’d mess them up (since we were all there for dinner!), but with the guiding hand of The Pirate Master I learned all I needed to know–and it was surprisingly simple.

It seems there are several keys to good ribs. A good rub. A good sear. A low and slow braise (aka the ‘Texas Crutch’). Time, time, and more time. A little patience (*hums Guns and Roses*). And a good sauce to finish ’em on the grill. It’s not hard and the reward is a tasty, tasty pile o’ meat. Win, win!


Mmmmmmm. Riiiibs.

What you’ll need for some Homer Simpson, lip-smacking, finger-licking ribs:

  • (2) racks of pork ribs
  • Gas grill

For the rub:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup salt
  • 1 TBSP paprika
  • 1 TBSP dried celery
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper

For the Eastern North Carolina sauce: (This sauce is fully adjustable and not a science; Adjust to preferences)

  • 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar ( I use Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar)
  • Tomato paste (I use about 1 TBSP–but you may like more or less; Adjust to taste)
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar (use dark if you like a bit of molasses flavor)
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • For more heat, feel free to add hot pepper sauce, like Cholula Hot Sauce)


  • Apple juice, apple cider, beer, or stock for braising (I’ve even used water in a pinch!)


Blend all rub ingredients in a food processor or in batches in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Rub generously into ribs. You should have enough to cover (2) racks of ribs. Let rest at least an hour, covered, on the counter to bring the temperature of the meat up to room temperature. If you’re a good planner, you can cover your rubbed ribs and let them chill in the fridge over night. Just make sure to bring the ribs up to room temp prior to cooking.

In the meantime, mix your sauce ingredients thoroughly and heat to simmering. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat, and cool.

After your ribs come to room temp, heat your grill to Hinges-of-Hades hot. Quickly sear the ribs, about 5 minutes per side. Turn your grill off. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.


Perfectly seared ribs

After searing the ribs, wrap each rack in a double layer of aluminum foil with a quarter cup or so of liquid (apple juice, apple cider, beer, or stock work well).


See the bit of liquid at the edge of the ribs. You just need a bit to effectively braise the ribs.

Close the packets tightly, folding the edges neatly and tightly. You don’t want the steam to escape as we are essentially braising the ribs.


See the neat, tidy folds that close the package? No wadding up of aluminum foil allowed. You don’t want steam to escape and you want to be able to get in and out of the packets quickly to test whether the ribs are tender.

Pop the packets into a preheated 325 degree oven and cook until the meat begins to pull away from the bone a bit and the meat is fork tender but not falling apart.


Ribs after the crutch.


See the meat pulling away from the bone? Yeah…that means melt in your mouth goodness.



When the meat is tender, about 2 hours, remove the packets from the oven at allow to sit (still wrapped) for 10-15 minutes. Heat your grill to approximately 400-500 degrees. When you grill is at temp, unwrap your ribs, and coat with sauce. You can use the North Carolina Vinegar sauce or a sauce of your choosing (Mustard sauce is a favorite in these parts and a good, smoky tomato-based sauce works well too). Place the ribs on the grill and cook 2-3 minutes per side, working only to achieve crusty bits, color, and caramelization of sauces as the ribs are already cooked at this point.


Finish the ribs on the grill for sticky sauce that’s finger-lickin’ good. Eastern North Carolina sauce can be placed prior to the ribs going back on the grill and/or afterward.

Remove your ribs from the grill and allow to rest, loosely covered in aluminum foil, on the counter for 10 minutes. Create some elbow space and grab your brew.  I highly recommend an American Lager with BBQ (hello Pabst Blue Ribbon!). Trust me, it’s better than it sounds!  Commence to digging in!

**Note the conspicuous lack of plated pics. Taking time for plated pics was not an option. I had to get all up in it or there would have been none left!**

Chinese Red Cooked Beef


Home-cooked Chinese food is typically not ‘my thing’.  I’ve just never really taken the time to learn the techniques or accumulate the tools. It might also have to do with a few of my Mom’s failed attempts at Chinese cooking back in the 70’s (Public Service announcement: By no means should Betty Crocker or Redbook recipes be your guide to Chinese cooking!). And then I read a recipe for Chinese Red-cooked Beef. Truth be told, I practically slobbered all over the cookbook. For those that don’t know (I didn’t), Chinese Red Cooking is a soy sauce-based braising method, more properly called hongshao and popular in Shaghai, which imparts a dark red-brown color to beef and the sauce.  Soy sauce, bean paste, rice wine or sherry, and/or caramelized sugar work to impart the red coloring and provide a deep savory flavor. Warm spices like star anise, cinnamon, and ginger give incredible flavor. Think of it as another version of your favorite slow-cooked stew sans veggies. Jack. Pot.

Due to the ‘low and slow’ cooking method, fatty cuts with a lot of connective tissue work best. Your mind should skip to rib meat (commonly called ‘beef fingers’) or short ribs. Don’t forget about your friend pork belly either. All you need is a bit of patience and some time and you’re good to go. There are no crazy techniques or super specialized equipment. Simple gets the job done here.

Instead of blanching the beef in boiling water like most recipes, I opted to sear the beef to add more meaty goodness and depth of flavor.  Call me crazy, but the browned beef bits make a difference in the end result. Also, don’t skip the caramelized sugar part–it adds depth too!

Chinese Red Cooked Beef

  • 2 pounds of beef fingers
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried orange peel (you can substitute fresh zest if necessary)
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 red chiles, diced (or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1.5 cups water or beef broth (low or no sodium); as much as needed for appropriate liquid level

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve. Continue to cook on medium heat, watching carefully, until golden brown. If the sugar crystallizes at the edge, push it back into the liquid with a wet pastry brush. Once sugar is caramelized, remove the pan from the heat, wait about 1 minute, and add the Sherry. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Shanghai Beef

Just starting in the carmelized sugar process. Don’t skip this step! It adds depth of flavor.

Chinese Red Beef

The water has been added and the sugar is a handful of minutes into cooking. Notice the faint golden color. Watch very closely as the sugar can go from caramelized to burned in seconds.

Red braised beef

The color is a bit darker, but we’re not done just yet!

Shanghai beef

There we go! Nice dark color but not burnt. Burning the sugar will give you bitterness instead of deep flavor.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Completely dry beef with paper towels or bar towel.

braised red beef

Just like any other time you sear meat, dry thoroughly. Too much juice on the surface leads to the meat steaming at the surface instead of undergoing the Maillard reaction which gives the nicely browned surface. You want that browned crust to build layers of flavor.

Heat high-heat oil (beef tallow works best) in a pan until almost smoking. Place beef with a bit of room between each piece (crowding the pan begets steaming the beef, not searing), and sear the beef until well browned on all sides.  Remove the beef from the pan to a plate.

braised beef

Sear your beef. Be patient. When the beef forms a good crust, you’ll be able to turn it without it sticking to the pan. The key is to dry the meat and have a well-heated oil. Don’t crowd the pan and allow the pan to return to temp between batches.

Drain fat from pan.  I know I usually hold high disdain for those ‘fat-drainers’ out there, but trust me on this one, you’ll make more fat during cooking. Reduce heat to medium low. Add dry spices to the pan and heat for about 1 minute. Add your red pepper flakes here if you’re not using fresh chilies. Add the soy sauce or liquid aminos. Add the ginger, garlic, and peppers. Deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom with the edge of a wooden spoon. Once all the good bits are worked free from the bottom of the pan add the sugar-Sherry mixture. Return the beef to the pan, placing it evenly in one layer.

Chinese beef

Add the beef to the super flavorful sauce. Practice patience. Or maybe tie yourself up Houdini-style. It’s going to be hard to resist the aromas emanating from the kitchen!

The liquid level should come up to about 1/2 the level of the top of the meat. Add water or low sodium beef broth if needed to achieve the appropriate liquid level.  Bring the beef and liquid mixture to a simmer, place the lid, and tuck it away in your preheated oven. Cook until the meat is fork tender and the fat and connective tissue is dissolved, about 3 hours.

Chinese Red Briased Beef

If I didn’t learn from past mistakes (i.e. blistered and/or skinless mouth), I’d dig right in straight from the pan. This stuff smells righteous!

Remove the meat from the pan to a plate.Remove star anise from the pan liquid. Boil the sauce until it is glossy and reduced to about a cup. Chop or break meat into chunks.

Chinese Beef

You. Have. No. Idea.

Serve meat, drizzled with sauce, over rice or with your favorite steamed or sauteed vegetable. We love to pair it with Bao Buns picked up from a local Asian market, Kimchi, and wilted bok choy. Other veggies such as broccoli, broccoli rabe, bok choy, kale, or spinach pair well too. I’m not ashamed to admit this deliciousness never makes it to the table..strictly a stand around the kitchen table, getting jiggy with the beef-bao bun combo, and rolling eyes in delight. Enjoy!

Chinese red-cooked beef

Dig in! Kimchi, bokchoy, and bao buns make delightful additions!

Cucumber Sour Cream and Onion Chips

Cucumber Chips

MMMM…Potato Chips. I can’t even bring them into my house. Especially Sour Cream and Onion potato chips. Seriously–I.Have.No.Will.Power!

I’m not the only one that has a potato chip fetish, er, problem.  In recent years the potato chip market generated over 16 billion in revenues per year. I don’t turn my nose up at any chip but I’m a complete and total sucker for Sour Cream and Onion potato chips.  I don’t know that the chip is where it’s at when talking about Sour Cream and Onion chips.  After all, I have been known to lick the powdery dusting off of them when in a glassy-eyed potato chip daze. So, in my continual search for eliminating processed and high glycemic foods in my diet, I began thinking about ways to get the same Sour Cream and Onion fix without all the muffin top-inducing effects of a traditional potato chip. I think Wilford Brimley had it right….

Cucumber potato chips

Yep. Tha ‘Beetus. Nobody wants it.

After trial and error, I think the Cucumber Sour Cream and Onion Chip is where it’s at. Cucumbers are flavor neutral enough to not get in the way of the tart flavorings and can be easily sliced thin enough to get some crisp on when placed in the dehydrator. Cooled and packed in a Ziploc with a desiccant pack, they’ll stay crisp enough to keep around for a week or so.  Feel free to make double or triple the recipe…these things are seriously addictive. We can’t even wait for them to cool down before we’re going at ’em like rabid dogs. Trust me on this.

Cucumber Sour Cream and Onion Chips

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 TBSP Light Tasting Olive Oil
  • 2 TBSP Cultured Buttermilk Powder
  • 1 TBSP onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Food processor or mandoline (get yourself a handheld one here)
  • Dehydrator with mesh inserts (allows drying of smaller or thin items)

Whisk olive oil, buttermilk powder, onion powder, dill, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl.

Cucumber Chips

Mixing up the ‘chip’ flavoring. The cultured buttermilk powder really does the trick!

Wash and peel your cucumbers as the skin can get a little bitter when dehydrated. Slice your cucumbers at about 2-3 mm thickness.

Sour Cream and Onion Cucumber Chips

Thin slices = less time until you eat chips!

Working in small batches (about 1/2 cup), very gently toss the cucumber slices in the olive oil mixture.

Cucumber Chips

Gently coat the cucumber in the olive oil mixture. Working in small batches will help prevent the salt in the olive oil mixture from drawing out too much water from the cucumber and/or causing the cucumber to fall apart.

Place in single layers on dehydrator racks and dehydrate according to manufacturer settings until crisp.

Sour Cream and Onion Cucumber Chips

Ready to dehydrate. The waiting is the hardest part. Make enough for a week if your dehydrator is large enough. You’ll need them.

Mine generally take 6 or so hours at 135 degrees.

Cucumber Chips

Super crisp and melt in your mouth if cut at 1mm…the crisp and body of a potato chip at 2-3mm. Either way you’re going to need a lot of these…they’re just too good to put down. Forget a standard potato chip…I’m not even looking back!

Cool completely and store in a Ziploc with a desiccant pack in the refrigerator. Next time your snack attack hits…reach for your cucumber chips and you won’t have to feel bad for a minute!

Who needs Crackers and Chips…I’ve got Cabbage!

Cabbage chips

Need a little chip for your work week (or any other time) snack? Try cabbage chips! They’re big enough to hold some serious eats and let you snack until your heart’s content with no guilt. Beach season here I come!

‘Tis the season of sweat. The more your parts aren’t sticking together, the better. Am I right?  Much like the rest of the country, I’m always looking for ways to reduce my habitus.  Cutting back on carbs always seems to work wonders.  But what’s a girl to snack on during movie time? Or who’s gonna help you with your hummus, guacamole, or olive tapenade during lunch time? Cabbage, that’s who. Wait, what? Are you suddenly conjuring ideas of digging into a steamy bowl of braised cabbage while renting 50 Shades of Grey? Flashes of guacamole atop your pile of shredded cabbage? Probably. But that’s not what I mean.

So, undoubtedly you’ve heard of the A-lister favorite, kale chips.  Yes, they are good, but they’re a bit like seaweed, get soft fast, and there’s no putting any kind of dip on a kale chip. You could make up some cauliflower crackers, but they do indeed taste a bit like cauliflower (amazing, I know).  So, in my hunt for something with a least a little crunch, no grains, fairly flavor-neutral, and big enough to put some dip on…I found cabbage.  Much like using collards in place of bread or wraps, using cabbage in place of chips or crackers wipes out grain consumption and reduces carbs and calories.

Trust me, try these and they’ll be a new tool in your fight for wearing your favorite thong bikini!

Cabbage Chips

  • 1 head of cabbage (use regular or savoy), separated into leaves, stems removed
  • Salty water for blanching
  • Ice bath
  • Paper towels
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dehydrator

Gently peel the leaves of cabbage away from head, keeping the leaves intact. Remove stems and blanch. Plunge leaves into ice bath. Drain and pat dry with paper towels (or tea towels to reduce waste). Cut leaves into desired size (for crackers I usually split larger leaves down the middle and keep smaller leaves intact).  Place the leaves in a single layers in your dehydrator and season them to taste with salt and pepper.

cabbage chips

Cabbage leaves ready for dehydration. Three hours until crunchy goodness.

Dehydrate according to your model’s directions until the leaves are crisp.  Mine took 3 hours at 135 degrees. Let the chip-crackers cool completely. To keep them crisp all week, place them in a large Ziploc bag with a desiccant pack and store in the fridge.  Feel free to snack away–that thong bikini will still fit!

cabbage chips

These chips hold up. Although they’re difficult to dig into dip with, they’re perfect for smothering in guacamole, salsa, hummus, tapenade, or otherwise. They’ll bend a little, but won’t crumble like kale chips. They’re the perfect go to instead of crackers or pita bread points.

The Mightly Collard Wrap

Collard Wraps

The mighty collard. Once saved for cookin’ up ‘a mess’ on New Year’s Day and now making an appearance in your work week lunchbox!

The mighty collard. They’ve been eaten in the South for centuries and around the world since at least Ancient Roman times. African, South American, and Middle Eastern countries all have their own methods of preparing them as main or side dishes. Generally in the South, we slow braise ‘a mess’ of them with salted or smoked meat, onions, pepper, vinegar, and a dash of sugar (and sometimes tomato). It’s an all day event that can both warm and stink up a house.  Summertime in the South where temperatures are hotter than the hinges of Hell is not the time for a bubbling cauldron of greens no matter how delicious the outcome.

If you still want to get in some of the great properties of collards (vitamin C, fiber, and antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer properties) but want to maintain your ‘air of elegance’ during the heat of summer, try using them as sandwich wraps instead. It’s a great option for those sensitive to wheat or grain and they are super easy to make, keep for days in the fridge, freeze easily, and pack a ton of flavor. For those looking to shed a few pounds in order to squeeze into your speedo, they only pack a few calories per leaf. You can also use the same preparation here and then slice thinly and add to cold salads. If you’re daring, try blanching mustard greens or horseradish tops to use as your wraps or in salads.  It’s best to prepare a mess ahead of time and vacuum and freeze in batches to save yourself some work.

Collard Wraps

  • Mess of whole leaf collards (usually come in 2 -3 bunches), stems removed
  • Salty water for blanching
  • Ice bath

Working in small batches, blanch collards and submerge in ice bath. Drain on layers of paper towels. Layer in groups of 2-3 leaves for each wrap and place in an airtight container for use during the work week. Alternatively, layer in groups, roll up, and vacuum pack. Freeze for later use.

collard wraps

Blanched collard with stem removed. Blanching makes the collard less leathery and a bit more sweet.

collard wraps

Layer 2-3 blanched leaves, making sure to overlap the slits where the stems once lived.

I generally use 2-3 leaves per wrap, overlapping the slits where the stems once lived (otherwise your stuffing sneaks out).  Spread your filling out and proceed to wrap like burrito.

collard wraps

Spread your filling out a bit along one edge.

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Collard burrito!

I keep enough for 3 or so wraps in the fridge to use during the work week. I always have some on hand since we work in big batches and freeze them. No more running to the store for bread or wraps (they defrost quickly in their vacuum bag in a sink of warm water)! Thinner greens like mustard or horseradish take a little care in handling so they don’t tear. Try mustard greens with egg salad and bacon or horseradish greens with grilled beef. You won’t be disappointed!

collard wraps

Low carb, grain free wraps AND collardy goodness year round. Win! Win!

Who Needs Easter Ham Anyway!

Bunny cow

Who says you have to have ham for Easter???

Easter brings back memories of a big ol’ Easter Ham. You know the one. All glazed and dotted with whole cloves. Maybe you threw some pineapple slices and maraschino cherries on for old times sake. Yeah, that ham.

Ribeye Roast recipe

Oooohhhh…decorative and painful. So painful.

Traditionally hogs were slaughtered in the Fall and without refrigeration pork was cured for Spring. Voila, Easter Ham. Don’t ask me what 1950’s foodie added pineapple, Maraschino cherries, and cloves (did I mention Maraschino cherries smell like that starfish I dissected in 7th grade??).  The process of turning fresh pork into ham is indeed magical, but I’m challenging you to give up the ghost and go for a standing rib-eye roast instead. Take it up a notch, enjoy the budding warmth, and bust out your grill. That’s right, pull out your outdoor speakers, blare some Winger (yes, Winger), pour yourself some wine, and drag the dog beds grill side. I’m a pork lover and I promise you I’m not looking back. That ham is gladly reserved for those cute little ham sandwiches your Grandma made on dinner rolls.  This Easter I’m all about the beef!

Cooking a standing rib-eye roast might seem daunting, but trust me, with a few basic skills you’ll have this thing mastered. Better yet, you’ll impress the h-e-double-hockey sticks out of your friends and family!

Grilled Standing Rib-eye Roast

  • 5 pound (usually 3 ribs) rib-eye roast, bones included.
  • 2 TBSP cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper corns
  • 1/8 tsp dried sage
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 dried bay leaf
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • kitchen twine
  • 30 charcoal briquettes & your charcoal grill
  • Lotsa time to kill, Girl’s Best Friends, Winger’s Greatest hits, bevvy of choice

Prepare your roast by rinsing and patting it dry with paper towels. Cut the bones away from the roast (save them!).  Some say to trim the fat to 1/8th of an inch.  Go ahead if you’d like, but if you trim fat in my house you will surely end up with broken fingers, a bloody nub, and a black eye. Seriously. Don’t. Do. It. You can cut fat off later if you want (I might very well look at you in disgust if you do), but cutting it off beforehand sacrifices flavor and juices in my opinion.


Why would you cut OFF the fat????

Coat roast in a thin layer of oil. Place all spices in a spice grinder.  Or try your trusty, dusty $10 Mr. Coffee grinder saved just for spices and grind spices until powdery. Mix with your salt and spread on a rimmed cookie sheet.

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Put all of your spices into your grinder of choice and grind until powdery.

Grilled Standing Ribeye Roast

Mix well with your salt and spread evenly on a rimmed cookie or baking sheet.

Press the roast and bones into the salt until evenly coated.

Grilled Prime Rib

Salty goodness = crusty grilled goodness. Don’t be afraid of the salt!

Truss the roast and bones together. Hit up this video at 15:01 or so to see the best and quickest method for trussing your roast. It’s a bit ‘slight of hand’ but a good skill to learn for any large roast. Set your roast aside and cover with a clean tea or kitchen towel. Let rest 2-3 hours (don’t skimp on time people! This desiccates the outer layer to make a righteous crust).  You want the roast to be room temp when you put it on the grill.  And no, you won’t die from the roast sitting for 2-3 hours in a 68 degree house. Remember you’re going to cook it and you have stomach acid at about a pH of 0.8.

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to throw your Easter Hunk O’ Beef on the grill, light about 30 briquettes and let burn until they’ve formed a thin coating of white ash. Once covered in ash, make a dual layer pile of charcoal on one side of your grill. Let the grill heat 5 minutes and scrape clean. Place your roast fat side down and sear until all fat covered sides are brown, about 10-12 minutes (depending on your fire heat).

Grilled Ribeye roast

Sear that thing!

Once browned, insert a constant read thermometer (not touching the bones) and place the roast with the tips of the bones away from the fire.  This puts the thickest part of the roast towards the heat so it cooks more evenly.

Cooking Rib Eye Roast

Place the roast with the thickest portion towards your coals. This will help the roast cook more evenly.

Be careful of flare ups in the beginning when the fat is rendering.  Do you see that little spot o’ burn in the picture above…that’s a result of flare ups.  Don’t cry for me Argentina, it’s a small spot and will work itself out in the end. Much more burn though and you’ve spent a lot of time and moo-la making a charcoal lump. Place your grill lid on, grab your bevvy and settle in. You’re going to cook your roast until about 125 degrees for medium rare. We went up to 135 for a medium-medium rare.  This can take 1.5 to 3 hours depending on the size of your roast and the heat of your fire.  The roast will ‘rest’ on the counter for about 15 minutes and the temp will raise 10-15 degrees so don’t fret about under cooking it a bit. No matter what temp you like, cook the roast 10-15 degrees cooler and let it rest.

Grilled prime rib

That twine has seen better days….but dang! That meat looks good. If the crusties I picked off are any indication, it tastes just as good as it looks!

Ribeye roast

Come to mama!

Slice that awesome thang to desired thickness and serve with horseradish sauce, taters, and your choice of veggies (we had balsamic grilled asparagus and it was delightful!). I promise you won’t miss that pineapple-cherry-clove Easter Hamnanigans.

Grilled prime rib

Fixin’ to get real in tha house!