Thursday, September 9, 2010

Broiled Bacon-Fat Smeared Broccolini

Can you think of a more delicious sounding veggie?  Imagine bacony decadence coupled with crisp-tender, sweet broccolini that's ready in 15min or less.  Is your mouth watering yet?

Let's take a brief interlude on the What To Drink series of posts to go back to my roots and post a recipe.  I know, I know, it's been awhile.  Why?  I have been trying out some N=1 experiments (more on those later) and cheating intermittently while vacationing and entertaining out of town guests.  That is life and now more than ever I can definitely understand why food is a drug.  It can benefit your entire being when it's on, and carry one hell of a punch when it's not.  When I am normally so dialed in, faltering is felt.  Big time.  And I am not just talking about nausea/stomach ailments or loss of energy after carb-heavy meals.  I am talking about outright depression.  Food is a drug, for good or for worse.

So when I am dialed in, what is life like?  I have made it as simple as possible so it is easy to follow.  I don't have to plan or put in much effort at all.  When I am on the diet, I am really just eating meat and vegetables.  I am trying the low-carb thing, so I'm choosing low-carbohydrate vegetables instead of fruit and starches.  You would think the reduction in possibilities makes like harder, but it's actually just the opposite.  With too many choices, I'm overwhelmed and don't always make the best choices.  With fewer, I can focus more on the food itself and find myself sticking to newfound favorite staples that aren't much fuss at all.  There's hardly a "recipe" to speak of.  Life can't be simpler.  Or more delicious!  Seriously, I crave this fuel for the taste, satisfaction, high energy, and high spirits that follow.

Here's the formula that has totally revolutionized and reinvigorated my diet:
  1. Pick a meat (like poultry, pork, beef, or fish) and choose a cut you have on hand or buy it from the store (remember to focus on grass-fed/pasture-raised/wild-caught/organic meats).
  2. Pick a veggie.  For ease, make it a quick-cooking (like a broiler/grill crisp-able) or no-cook veggie (like salad, assorted vegetable sticks, or carrots). 
  3. Prepare the meat and quick-cooking veggie the old fashioned way by grill, broiler, or hot pan with little more than salt, pepper, and sometimes a cooking fat if needed/desired.
  4. Add a fat like bacon or guacamole/avocado if you didn't use plenty of cooking fat.  
So it boils down to: meat, vegetable, and fat.  That is ALL I have to think about to have a meal.  Simple.  And I can taste and enjoy every single component because I'm keeping it simple.  Naked so to speak.  I can also use this strategy to buy already cooked components from the grocery store, like mackerel canned in olive oil tossed over packaged salad greens with the juice of half a lemon or a splash of vinegar (here's the basic recipe: Salad from the Sea--scroll down to the bottom to find it).  Simple and satisfying!
    Here are more examples of my 30-minute or less dinners:
    • Meat: Grass-fed beef burgers, salted, peppered, and cooked in grass-fed, raw butter (Organic Pastures for the win!) topped with guacamole and/or bacon and/or leftover melted butter from cooking (Note: these could just as easily be grilled, but we don't have a grill)
    • Veggie: carrots to dip in guacamole (perfect substitute for chips, especially if you cut them in half so they are more dip-grab-able) or use lettuce leaves for burger tacos
    • Meat: Grass-fed steak (ribeye or NY are my favs), salted, peppered, and seared in a hot pan/grilled
    • Veggie: Broiled Bacon Fat-Smeared Broccolini (recipe to follow!)
    • Meat: Rotisserie pasture-raised chicken (store bought)
    • Veggie: salad greens alone (like crunchy snack-able/dip-able romaine hearts) or with a simple oil + citrus acid dressing, or raw, cut veggies and guacamole
    • Meat: Farm fresh eggs and chicken-apple sausage and/or bacon
    • Veggie: Wilted baby spinach sauteed in bacon fat or butter cooked in the same pan as the eggs and sausage
    • Meat: Toaster-oven broiled wild-caught fish (just cooking fat smear, salt, and pepper)
    • Veggie: arugula salad with a simple oil + citrus acid dressing

    Lunches are even easier using precooked roasted turkey breast or leftovers from dinners (always make more than you need!) and cut veggies or a salad.  Add some nuts, avocado/guacamole, cooking fat, bacon, or skin for some fat.

    Breakfasts are the staple of which I NEVER tire: farm fresh eggs and chicken-apple sausage cooked in raw, grass-fed butter or bacon fat, and perhaps a green veggie to wilt in the pan like spinach.  

    Pretty simple!  Just make sure you have plenty of meat, plenty of veggie, and plenty of healthy fat (monounsaturated and saturated).  Thinking of your meals in terms of just these three things makes life SO much easier!  Cooking is no longer a chore and neither is meal planning!

    What Is Broccolini?

    Broccolini is sweet broccoli.  It has thin, slender stems still attached to the small florets.  The sweetest and most tender are those with the thinnest stalks, as opposed to those with thicker, woodier stems.  Broccolini isn't really baby broccoli, as I once thought; instead, it's a cross between Chinese broccoli and regular broccoli.  Surprisingly, this new variety was just introduced in the US in 1998!  Broccolini is definitely kid-friendly since it is a finger food (even when cooked) and naturally sweeter than regular broccoli.  Like most veggies, it's most nutritious when raw and only needs quick cooking.  It's rich in vitamins A and C as well as fiber, potassium, and iron.  I imagine many of the benefits of standard broccoli still apply.  See more at The World's Healthiest Foods.

    According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, cruciferous or Brassica vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, radishes, arugula and some other greens.  There are some promising links between eating these veggies and preventing cancer.  While high intake seems protective of cancer, make sure you aren't iodine deficient.  There is a possibility of hypothyroidism if you eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables and you are iodine deficient.  Find out more about iodine deficiency at this information page also from the Linus Pauling Institute.  

    Okay, enough with how good the damned veggie is!  I mean, it's a vegetable, so it's nutritiousness is a no-brainer, right?

    On to the recipe!

    Broiled Bacon-Smeared Broccolini
    All the porky deliciousness of bacon plus good-for-you, sweet, crisp-tender broccolini?  Need I say more?
    Cooking Time: 15min or less start to finish, prep and all

    Bacon fat (reserved from cooking bacon--can store for quite some time sealed and refrigerated or on the counter-top.  What?  You don't have any on hand?  What a great excuse to make more bacon!)
    one bunch of broccolini per diner (you want those with the slenderest stems instead of thick and woody)


    This is so simple it is hardly even a recipe.  Let's see how few breaths it takes to recite: Take broccolini, cut off end of stems, rinse, shake to dry, place on broiler-resistant baking sheet (like stainless steel--NOT non-stick unless you like the high-heat-released toxins), drizzle on the cooled, liquid bacon fat or lather on the solid-yet-soft bacon fat (there is no such thing as "too much"), salt, pepper, arrange with thickest stems placed in the middle of the sheet, and whack in the broiler (I use the LOW setting and the top rack) for 3-5 minutes.  Check for a color change to a more bright, emerald green.  If your broccolini were especially slender, they might be done right now.  Make sure you don't let them get floppy (unless you like them overcooked).  If you want more cooking, flip them, put them back in, and wait 3-5 more minutes (varies broiler to broiler), then test for desired doneness.  I like mine still very crisp, but not hard-crunchable.  The stalks shouldn't be floppy, but should still yield when you try to cut them.  Remove from that hot sheet once done, serve hot or at room temperature (cold is a little weird with the solidified fat clinging to them), and sop up leftover bacon fat with the florets.  Um... yum!

    NOTE: since the broiler and grill are roughly equivalent, you could probably quickly grill these using the same recipe (but beware of fat flare-ups).  Perhaps you want to dry cook them and then drizzle on the melted bacon fat after.  Yum!

    Also, these last a few days when sealed and placed in the refrigerator.  I just reheat them briefly if desired and they still remain crisp and delicious.  So make more and have some leftovers for more easy meals!

    Now you have more tools in your nutritional toolbox to revolutionize your diet too!  Let me know how it goes!

    Steamed Broccolini


    1. EXCELLENT post, I missed you!I agree about food being a drug. I too have been experimenting as of late regarding my eating. I find I really do enjoy eating Paleo 90% of the time. I do allow myself a once a week treat of a sm cup of soft serve however. I find that if I'm to strict it only back fires and turns into a major binge.
      BTW: What brand of Chicken Apple Sausage to you buy??

    2. Hi Trixie,
      Thank you for the comment! I use Aidells Organic Chicken Apple Sausage--definitely the best I have found since trying out the different sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free varieties out there. They are also local to the Bay Area! :)

    3. Thank you Kristy!
      BTW: How do you know how much to eat at a sitting?? I mean, 3oz meat..4?? Trying to listen more to my own hunger clues.

    4. Hi Trixie,

      I really struggle with the portion size. Sometimes I feel like a bottomless pit. My turn off switch is really delayed, so I can stuff myself before I feel full. If I eat more slowly and cut up my portion, that helps.

      Like a lot of people, I also need to work on distinguishing real hunger from the satisfaction and enjoyment of eating. That's why I *try* to keep my portion of meat in my three meals to around 4-7oz when I weigh it and load up on green veggies/salad I can munch on without feeling like I am overeating too terribly. The trick for me is to stay away from sugars, fruits, starches, and nuts so that I don't overload on carbohydrates and can eat a little more liberally if it's just meat, vegetable, and fat. I definitely feel best eating those.

      I wish I could say I have it down-pat, but with everything, it's a journey. Hope yours is going well for you!

      Best wishes,

    5. Thank you Kristy for your feedback, it is SUPER helpful. I'm so glad you weigh your portions as well. I don't do a good job eyeballing portions either. I also have found 3 meals a day works best for me. I don't feel compelled to snack or eat in between meals anymore. I don't eat cheese anymore, but have dairy in the form of half n half in my coffee as well as butter on my veggies. I usually have 3oz protein for breakfast, 4 at lunch and 4 at dinner. I have one piece of fruit a day usually in the morning. I'd like to eventually cut it out and see if breakfast holds me longer without it,but right now the farmer's market has the most amazing apples! If you could, I'd love to see what an average day of food looks like for you. Do you eat differently on days you Crossfit??? Thank you for all your support:)

    6. Hey I just saw your message via modern paleo so welcome aboard. I have already found your site and added it to my links. I really like it.

    7. Thanks, Dan! I'll add yours to my blogroll now too! :)

      And Trixie,
      SO glad that I am helpful here! Sounds like you and I are a lot alike with food. I usually have my only fruit at breakfast too and can definitely understand about those farmer's market fruits right now! It has been hard to be off fruit for awhile. For me, a typical day looks like:
      Breakfast: 2 eggs + chicken apple sausage
      Lunch: two chicken thighs with skin + small salad with broccoli and greens, drizzle of oil oil and lemon juice or splash of balsamic
      Dinner: 8oz (or so) ribeye with one bunch of bacon-smeared broccolini

      I have been dabbling in some whey shakes right now for an N=1 experiment I'll blog about at some point, but above is pretty typical but I may sub out the steak for burgers and lunch salad and chicken thighs for turkey breast, skin or cooking fat, and carrots. Really I just mix and match the items from this post.

      I eat the same on CrossFit days and usually work out around noon so I can eat lunch right after. And I don't forget to take loads of fish oil (6-8 high percentage DHA and EPA ones with breakfast and 6-8 at dinner) to help recovery too!

      Hope this helps! And I have definitely found that we are all very different when it comes to food. My husband and I can eat the same foods and he'll lose weight or feel differently than I do even when we have the same input (albeit different portions...usually ;) ).

      Experiment, experiment and hopefully some of the suggestions I provide and experiences I write about help you find your own choices that work!

    8. Yes, we do sound a lot alike! If you like I can email you my food journal,might give you some meal ideas:) I'd love to hear more about your whey shake experiment. BTW: Do you feel half n half & butter to be bad choices?? I have stopped eating cheese, but have kept these fats in my diet.

    9. I love this blog and all the suggestions

    10. Thanks for the feedback, Lishele!

      And Trixie,
      Sorry I didn't respond to your last post sooner! I also eat butter and occasionally indulge in cream or half and half. I thought I was doing great getting my K2 (see Whole Health Source blog) and CLA from pastured dairy fat, but then I saw The Heart Scan Blog's take on the AGEs that make butter not so great, to put it mildly. I think we can probably find something awful about everything we eat and it's just up to us to make our own decisions, as informed as possible given the current research. For now, I like having butter in my diet. :)

    11. I just came across your health and fitness blog. Your article about the health aspects of plain and simple foods was especially interesting. I especially liked your comments about keeping a proper diet down to meat, vegetables, and fat-but the good kind, no candy allowed. I am adding you to my favorites. We're in the same industry, the business of encouraging health and fitness. We market a product called The AbStand: We would love for you and your readers to check out our ab workout product. Any feedback would be appreciated as well. Thanks!

    12. Great post! I had read at another point in your blog about broccolini (I admit to wondering if it was some kind of pasta made out of broccoli -- lol). And I don't know why it never occured to me before to top my burgers with guac -- I almost had burgers last night but it sounded so boring I elected for something else instead. Thanks for sharing!!! :D