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On Struggling

On Struggling

A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of going jogging. This might not sound fun to a lot of you, but to me it is. The weather was perfect—probably 77—and the sky was clear. Just like last weekend, when I wanted to jog but literally did not have the strength.

Usually when I’m jogging, I think about the scenery, and watching for approaching cars, and, most often, how much longer (and farther) until I can stop. I count down the distance and the minutes, rarely going farther than the distance I have established as an appropriate maximum, and often running less than that distance.

That’s the thought that predominates: stopping early. Not jogging, but stopping, and sometimes, when I get a couple of miles away from home, I kick myself for running so far out and assume that the jog back is going to be torture, and that the only way to survive it is to suffer.

This day, though, things were different. Everything around me was very still—the grass was blowing gently in the breeze, but there weren’t any cars around. Everything just was.

So I decided that for the last mile, I would focus on every single strike of my feet on the pavement. I focused on my toe spread and striking with the ball of my foot, and lifting my knees with my quadriceps. I felt each strike pulsating through my calves and into my knees as they absorbed the impact, just grateful that they still have their original parts and seem to work without too much complaining.

And then, the unexpected happened.

I had assumed that thinking about each strike would make the last mile even more tedious. If you’ve ever tried to get into shape after being unwell—or just not exercising—you probably have experienced the “pain” of your goals being misaligned with your current state. Having not really jogged in several months, I assumed that thinking about every single foot strike would make the whole segment much more tedious than it would be if I simply were to think about something else.

Because that’s what we do when something is tedious. We think about something else. Especially when something is tedious—when it’s a struggle, which generally means we are expending any energy—we don’t want to think about it. Doing the dishes, folding laundry, taking out the garbage, watering the plants—all things we think are drudgery, so we don’t think about them. (But those are the little moments that make up our lives!)

Thus, we keep doing the same things, over and over. In my case, it is setting a goal to run a 5k in twenty-four minutes and never, ever getting there. Or saving more money. Or being a nicer person, or a better manager, or a better wife, or a more patient mother, or generally more empathetic. Or–present.

So, I asked myself this question: “If I don’t have the mental fortitude to think about each foot strike as I jog, why am I jogging? Why am I engaging myself in this particular struggle if I don’t have the discipline to pay attention to it and actually engage in it?”

The answer is simple: I assume it will be painful, or else not fun. Because it involves exerting energy, and sometimes sweating, and breathing hard, and potentially looking dumb. (Always looking dumb. No amount of neon jogging gear compensates for middle age and a red face.)

But those things are not actually painful—they’re actually opportunities for renewal and growth. Exerting energy properly produces growth and refinement. Sweating removes impurities from one’s muscles. Breathing hard also floods my muscles and brain with oxygen. Working really hard burns up all the trash in my body and cleans up my muscles and mind.

The jog turned into one of my most memorable experiences in 22 years of running, because I learned this from it: the things that I perceive as a struggle are simple learning experiences—and, struggle does not equate to pain. In fact, I felt much better after jogging than I did before. I may have looked a little worse for wear, but it felt really good. I felt light and joyful at the end. It may have been one of my only jogs in months, but it was my best jog in months.

 

Cider-Braised Ham Hocks

Cider-Braised Ham Hocks

The hock is an often overlooked cut of pork. It is the portion of a pig below the ham or shoulders and above the trotter.

The hock is a tough muscle, lean muscle that requires slow cooking in order to a pleasurable eating experience. Given that it is a commonly used muscle, it is full of flavor, much like the ham.

Cider-Braised Ham Hocks

2017-04-01
: 4-6
: medium

By:

Ingredients
  • pasture-raised hocks
  • 1 cup of homemade chicken stock
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes chopped
  • 1 sliced onion and some celery
  • salt
  • and a certified organic dry apple cider with no added sugars
  • 2TBS butter
  • another cup of chicken stock
  • mustard - this is organic horseradish mustard
  • a diced shallot
  • heavy cream
  • and salt
Directions
  • Step 1 1. I get things going by sprinkling salt on all sides of the pork
  • Step 2 2. I put the hocks, two at at time, in my pre-heated and oiled enamel cast iron braiser for browning.
  • Step 3 3. I sear the top and bottom of the hock Once sufficiently browned, I remove the hocks and brown the other 2
  • Step 4 4. Next, I add the onion and celery with some salt. My goal is just to sweat them, not to caramelize
  • Step 5 5. Now it is time to add the sweet potatoes.
  • Step 6 6. With the sweet potatoes slightly softened, I add the hocks back to the braiser
  • Step 7 7. I add the chicken stock ….. and then the cider
  • Step 8 8. I lid the braiser and put it into a preheated over set to 325˚F for 2 hours.
  • Step 9 While the hocks are braising I prepare the the mustard cream sauce.
  • Step 10 9. To start the sauce, I melt the butter in a saucepan
  • Step 11 10. Next, I add the shallots and a pinch of salt
  • Step 12 11. Once the shallots are sweated, I add the chicken stock. If you want a thicker sauce, only add 1/2 cup
  • Step 13 12. Now I add about three spoons of mustard
  • Step 14 13. And then I add the cream – only about 1/4 cup or so
  • Step 15 14. I just let that simmer and reduce

After 2 hours in the over, the hocks should be ready.  I am serving the hocks over sautéed cabbage.  Once plating the hock I spoon both the vegetable cider mix onto the hock as well as the mustard cream sauce.  The sauce is a little thinner than I would have liked.  This could have been reduced further or I could have added less chicken stock.

Lamb “Steak” with Winter Storage Vegetables

Lamb “Steak” with Winter Storage Vegetables

Lamb “Steak” with Winter Storage Vegetables

This is another guest recipe post from Chef Michael R. Murray of Part-Time Permies 


Choose a tender cut of lamb (rib chops, loin chops or top butt)

Marinate overnight with a small amount of fresh lemon zest, red onion/shallot slices, sprigs of thyme, bay leaf, and lightly salted and peppered.  Keep the marinade items large so you can remove them later for cooking and lightly coat the meat in vegetable or olive oil to help transfer flavor and begin a light cure.  A small dash of Worcestershire sauce or A1 can be added or even a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning based on your taste preferences.

When you are ready to cook the meat, you can either grill or sear in a heavy pan.  Re-season lightly with salt and pepper.   If you are grilling, make sure to remove as much marinating oil from the surface as possible to prevent flare ups and darkening.

Using a hot pan or grill cook until 120-125 degrees on an instant read thermometer to achieve a medium rare to medium temperature after resting the meat for a few minutes before serving.

If you are pan cooking you can remove excess grease and make a quick pan sauce with a touch of redwine or simply adding an ounce of butter and letting it brown.  When the butter smells nutty quickly add a dash of redwine or malt vinegar to the pan and take it off the burner.  Swirl the vinegar into the butter and pan drippings to create a quick and flavorful sauce.

Using your stored root vegetables or favorites like onions, beets, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sun chokes, sweet potatoes or even squash prepare them in similar sized, large chunks of 1 in. or greater.  Remove the peel where dirty or tough and choose to leave some peels on if desired.  It doesn’t take more than a piece or two of a few varieties to end up with a large bowl of cut vegetables!

Keep tougher vegetables together separate from softer ones.  In a large bowl sprinkle vegetables with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Add a touch of fresh or ground herbs like thyme and rosemary some minced red onion or shallot if you are not also roasting onions in your medley.  Optionally, I like to add some rough-cut orange or lemon zest and mustard seeds or crushed coriander seeds.  Toss the vegetable and spices with olive oil and spread on sheet pans or baking dish.  Roast at 375 for tougher items or 400 for softer items until lightly browned on the edges and softened.

Re-toss the roasted vegetable and check seasoning.  Adjust if needed and add a few drops of honey if you want a sweeter flavor.  Hold until ready to serve and gently reheat.  Add fresh chopped herbs like parsley or dill if desired.  Great to serve warm with the grilled lamb!  Also nice as a chilled or room temperature “salad”.

Variations can also include adding some apples or pears, roasting Brussel sprouts along with items like pumpkin seeds, dried fruits or nuts, chunks of bacon or smoked meat to create complex flavors.  This recipe can be very adaptable for using whatever you have around the house and adding a few extras in spices or other vegetables and accompaniments to fit the season or dish.

Chef Michael R. Murray CEC

February 2017

 

Braised Lamb Riblets with Coconut Curry

Braised Lamb Riblets with Coconut Curry

Braised Lamb Riblets with Coconut Curry

This is a guest recipe post from Chef Michael R. Murray from the Part-time Permies website and YouTube channel.  Thank you chef!

Note:  Use up to 0.75-1 lb. raw weight of lamb riblets per person for an entrée as the bone and inedible portion is significant but will help flavor your curry!

Braised Lamb Riblets with Coconut Curry

2017-02-21
: 4

By:

Ingredients
  • 4 lbs. Lamb riblets/breast
  • 4 ea. Cloves garlic minced
  • 1 ea. Small onion diced
  • 2 ea. Small carrots cut in 1 in. pieces
  • 3 ea. Bay leaves
  • 2 ea. Big sprigs of fresh thyme (small amount of dry may be substituted)
  • 1 tsp. Coriander
  • ½ tsp. Cumin
  • ½ tsp. Red pepper flake or whole dried chili of choice
  • 2 Tbsp. Curry powder of choice (Jamaican, Madres, etc.)
  • 8 oz. Stock (chicken, vegetable or water)
  • 1 can Coconut milk
  • ¼ bu. Fresh Cilantro leaves and stems
  • ½ ea Lime-fresh squeezed juice
  • To Taste Salt
  • To Taste Pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut the riblets into portion sizes of a few bones ea. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Sear in a heavy bottom pan until top and bottom side are golden brown.
  • Step 2 Sweat the diced onion, garlic and pieces of carrot of a minute of two in the drippings until aroma develops.
  • Step 3 Add the curry powder, cumin and coriander stirring and cooking until they foam a little or “fry out” in the oil. Add a touch more cooking oil if needed.
  • Step 4 When the curry has incorporated into the oil and fragrant watch for it to begin to separate back out of the oil or about to stick and burn to the pan. Then add the water or stock.
  • Step 5 Add the chili, bay leaf, thyme and can of coconut milk.
  • Step 6 Adjust the liquid level to just barely cover the riblets and bring to a simmer before turning to a low heat.
  • Step 7 Cover the pot and let simmer on the stove or in a 325 degree oven until the riblets are tender (about 1hr-1.5 hrs.) Add liquid if is begins to run low.
  • Step 8 Once the meat is tender remove the bay leaf thyme stems and hot pepper.
  • Step 9 Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper or even a small spoon of brown sugar.
  • Step 10 Add the chopped cilantro and squeeze of lime juice right before serving.

Be creative and adapt the recipe to your liking.  Add potatoes, root vegetables, tomatoes, sweet peppers or other items and make the braise into a stew.  Add more heat and chilies or remove them.  Add cardamom, turmeric, mustard seed/oil, or browning liquid as desired.  This is a simple Caribbean style recipe but can be adapted in many ways or prepared with SE Asian or Indian curries.

Recommended to be served with fresh steamed rice  (jasmine, basmati , or long grain)  yucca or starch vegetable to soak up all the flavors and juices.

Chef Michael R. Murray CEC

February 2017

Watch the video here:

Primal Pumpkin Pie

Primal Pumpkin Pie

Primal Pumpkin Pie from Scratch!

Two years ago, we made our first pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin, and we were hooked. We repeated it last year—but maybe with too much cardamom!—and this year, we’re testing out a couple of minor variations. This is a primal pumpkin pie—we use cream in it. Other people use coconut milk: use what makes you happy, but make sure it’s the right amount.
For this recipe, you’ll need a few ingredients

Crust
1.5 cups of coconut flour
Two tbs of honey
Four tbs of coconut oil—add more if your dough is too dry
Dash of cinnamon (more…)

DIY Bedside Table

DIY Bedside Table

We made our first piece of furniture for our new (small!) home. When we bought the homestead, we had different plans for the house…plans that did not include living it! One year later, after months of renovation, here we are! But, we’re here without our nice furniture from our old home—because it’s just too big for this place.
We decided that instead of buying a whole new set of furniture that likely would include some toxic chemicals and not be the exact dimensions we needed, that we would build some pieces to suit our new place. Thanks to the DIY blogosphere, we have inspired plans for making several tables and shelving units, the flagship of which is a kitchen table—the centerpiece of the home of foodies (gluttons?) like us.
After some brainstorming and enthusiastic exploration of Pinterest, it seemed prudent to start small and learn everything we can about making furniture: so, we started with a bedside table—one that’s a similar style to the kitchen table we’d like. And it turned out okay!img_6524
Check out the picture of the almost-finished product. It’s a modern night stand, so it’s very simple, structurally: just a rectangle on some legs.
We found the plans from a lifestyle blog at mayanrocks.com. We built a maple table that’s 27” high, 18” wide, and 16.5” deep, and we used metal pipe fittings that are 20” high for the legs. We kept it simple: we did not stain it or seal it, but we did sand it.
We did a few things differently:
We used pipes for legs, rather than hairpin legs, because I was worried that the hairpin legs would dent our soft cork floor, and I was feeling uncharacteristically cheap. I’m not a fan of the pipe legs and will buy the hairpins next time!
We also changed the size, but out of necessity: I didn’t do some math right (hey, the first step is admitting an error, right?!), so we needed to decrease the width from 20” to 18” to get enough cuts out of our slick maple.legs
And as you can tell, we didn’t stain it, because the maple we bought is beautiful…we also didn’t use fancy nails. We use our brad nailer.
The supply list for this project is short. You might even have some of the supplies already. (more…)

Our Path to Making Sausage

Our Path to Making Sausage

Our Path to Making Sausage

“Look darling, they have bacon and sausage!” my wife exclaimed as we found a pork vendor at our local farmers’ market.
“Hmmm”, I thought. “Let me make sure”.
“Excuse me, sir. Can you tell me about your management practices for the pigs? You know, how are they raised?”
“Glad you asked! My pigs are all raised on pasture and receive a supplemental feeding of non-GMO grains and legumes – basically just peas and barley. I have a lot of wooded areas on the farm in which the pigs love to forage. I use permaculture practices to raise healthy, happy hogs!”

(more…)