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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Monday
Jul132009

Old-Fashioned Food: Liver and Onions (gluten free)

 



Back when I was a vegetarian - a die hard, dedicated, well-balanced vegetarian, may I add - I would have never, ever thought that I would prepare the meal I ate tonight for dinner.  I can not stress that enough.  My former self would be horrified at my current self.  

My current self, however, looks back with respect.  In fact, sometimes, I wish I still were vegetarian.  Living a meat free life, in theory, is so much more in line with my general philosophy of non-violence and respect for all living things. I enjoyed living low on the food chain.    I don't like American meat-centric culture and the grossly huge portion sizes.  From a culinary point of view, cooking meat is way more complicated than cooking vegetables.  You have to worry about bacteria and food poisoning.  And if you are a responsible meat eater, you have to do your homework.  Why?  You don't want meat from an animal that has been treated with antibiotics or hormones or raised in cramped conditions eating unnatural feed.  The commercial cattle industry feeds cattle corn, which is silly - ruminants shouldn't eat corn, they should eat grass.  This topic leads into a discussion of the horrible use of land by the commercial cattle industry.  The amount of farmland dedicated to growing corn and soy for animal feed is staggering.  This land is slowly being stripped, because these commercial crops aren't being properly rotated.  That land could go to growing food for people, rotated with using it for grazing cattle.  But instead is going to grow food (corn and soy) for animals (cattle) that shouldn't eat that type food anyway.  I could go on about commercial food production forever.  But I won't.  There are lots of books, films, and studies out there from authors and filmmakers and scientists who are far more educated about this topic than I.  So, moving on.
Why don't I eat vegetarian anymore?  Because despite my fairly well-balanced, 10 year vegetarian lifestyle, I was unhealthy.  I was overweight. I had terrible acne.  I had really bad atopic dermatitis.  I had a hard time building muscle, despite going to the gym and leading a really active lifestyle (training for and completing a triathlon!).  I had a really hard time lostig weight.  My digestion was a disaster.  Then, back in 2006, I got sick for about 3 months and just couldn't get better.  I was doing everything right - I worked out, I ate a ton of fruits and vegetables, didn't drink a lot of alcohol, and had a whole bunch of natural remedies I'd employ for all sorts of things.  But nothing worked.  I got antibiotics from the doctor, and still couldn't get better.  They tested me for anemia, and it turned out I was, in fact anemic.  After some soul searching, I took the plunge.  I started eating meat, influenced by my own intuition and reading Dr. Peter D'adamo's Eat Right for Your Type.    He recommends O blood types eat meat, and avoid vegetarian diets.  While I don't buy into D'adamo's recommendations 100%, from my experience and the experiences of many others who have read and followed this book, I think there is definitely something to his overall philosophy.  
Eating meat again was the best thing I could have done.  I gradually introduced the meat, and found my body handled it like a champ.  And darn if I didn't get better real fast.  Seriously, the 3 month period of illness ended within weeks. I was shocked.  The anemia went away.  I felt stronger.  I was able to build muscle.  I started losing weight, without changing anything else about my life.  My energy went through the roof.  So, I completed another triathlon, and then a 300 mile bike ride around Minnesota.  
What does this have to do with liver?
It doesn't just have to do with liver, or even just with meat.  It has to do with the universally accepted notion that vegetarianism is a "healthier" life choice than living as an omnivore.  I don't agree with this notion.  In my opinion, your diet needs to be an individual choice. Just like some of us can't eat gluten and others can eat all the gluten they want, some people do well eating meat, while others just plain don't.  In fact, some people thrive eating meat, while the next person finds they feel totally disgusting eating it.  You need to make the decision that is best for you.  And when you find the diet that works for you, do your best to eat as consciously as you can within that diet.  
If you choose the life of an omnivore, choose quality meats and seafood, and be moderate with your portions.  Don't make it the focus of your diet; just because you eat meat doesn't mean you should sit down to meat, meat, and more meat.  Try thinking of yourself like a meat-eating vegetarian, and shift the focus of your meals to vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, with meat and other animal products on the side.  And by choosing meats from producers that raise hormone-free, anti-biotic free, organic meats you are supporting responsible, sustainable agriculture.  
If you choose to be a vegetarian or a vegan, or choose to live raw, or choose a fruitarian lifestyle, or liquitarian, or whatever, the same thing applies.  Choose whole foods that are organic and responsible, focussing on whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. I think a lot of vegetarians - my former vegetarian self included - get hung up on vegetarian convenience food.  Heck, it is possible to be a pretty junky vegetarian, living on processed veggie burgers, protein bars, microwaveable meals, canned soup, packaged rice mixes, and fancy snack chips and crackers.  While they might be meat free, and might even be organic, they are still highly processed food items that have been stripped of their nutrients and take up lots of resources in the production, packaging, and shipping processes.  Truthfully, I am of the belief that making choosing a responsibly raised cut of meat, especially from a local farmer, is a more sustainable choice than purchasing a processed vegetarian "burger" anytime.  
 I've been on a Weston A. Price Foundation kick the last couple months, delving into Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions and her collaboration with Dr. Thomas Cowan on the The Fourfold Path to Healing, and learning about about the benefits of old-fashioned, traditional foods and preparation methods.  Bragging about the benefits of raw dairy products, butter, cod liver oil, coconut oil, meats, and lots of cultured foods this is the exact opposite dietary philosphy of the book I was toting around last summer, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.  He suggests a nearly fat free, vegan diet centered around a lot of macrobiotic principals and traditional Chinese dietary therapy.  While these books differ in a lot of things, they share the philosphy that ultimately, a diet should based around vegetables and include lots and lots of cultured foods.  I passionately love both books, and see a time and a place for the information in both. 
Anyway, back to the subject of this post: liver.  On that note, I've been reading a lot about organ meats and the incredible nutrition they boast.  Liver is chock full of vitamin A, iron, and essential fatty acids.  In fact, organ meets are a particularly high source of DHA, EPA, and AA, which are all required by the body, but are often only acquired from food sources.  The World's Healthiest Foods website has a great write up about liver, check it out.  So, when I was at the co-op, and saw that the responsibly raised beef liver was only  $1.99/lb (what?!?!?!!??!?), I had to try it.  I got a just under a half pound of liver for $.92.  You can't get a can of decent tuna for $.92.  Hell, you can't get an organic nectarine for $.92.  Did you know that 4 oz of raw liver has a whopping 22 grams of protein?  Based on what I payed, this protein was about $.025 per gram.  That is the most nutritionally dense $.025 I have ever seen.
I cooked it up old school, using a recipe from Sally's Nourishing Traditions, a.k.a.. my favorite cookbook.  And damn, this liver was good.  Seriously.  It was delicious.  Although, in my opinion, if you cook up just about anything with butter and loads of onions and it would be delicious.   As I sat down to my tasty liver and onions, I gave thanks to the animal that died to give me the nutrition.   Sure, sometimes I wish I were vegetarian.  I really wish I could  be happy and healthy eating nice little salads and tempeh and all sorts of nuts and seeds and sprouted grains.  But it wouldn't be healthy for me.  I do better with some animal protein in the mix.  My skin is softer and smoother, my hair is healthier, my muscle tone is much better, and I have more energy.  And besides, it turns out I'm allergic to many of those delicious vegetarian protein sources (soy, eggs, most nuts).  God, how I miss tempeh, you have no idea (or, maybe you do).  In fact, I would almost kill for a tempeh, avocado, sprout, and tomato sandwich on the amazing sprouted wheat berry bread I used to buy.  With the exception of the sprouts, I'm allergic to all that stuff (seriously).  Sad.  Sure, I could try surviving on beans, cashews, sunflower and hemp seeds, goat and sheep yogurt, and the protein from whole grains, but it wouldn't be worth it to me.  I just don't think it is what my body needs.  
The lesson?  Make the dietary choice that is right for you; listen to your body and make responsible choices.  As time passes, your body and nutritional needs might change, and you need to honor those changes by making the appropriate dietary adjustments.  For me right now, it means eating a modest serving of meat most days of the week.  For you, it may mean something else.  Bottom line: find the foods that nourish you, and have the strength to nourish others.

LIVER AND ONIONS (gluten free)

adapted from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions
serves 2
1/2 pound sliced liver (sliced in 1/4-inch to 3/8 inch slices)
1/3 c gluten free flour of choice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 T butter or ghee
2 cups onions
1 T olive oil
  1. Rinse liver and pat dry.  Dredge in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper.
  2. In a heavy skillet over high flame, saute the slices in butter, flipping as necessary.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes, until liver is just cooked through.  
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat olive oil, and saute onions until carmelized and soft.
  4. If liver finishes cooking before onions are done, keep warm on a platter in the oven.
  5. Serve liver hot covered with onions.  I recommend eating it with a side of tasty sauerkraut.  Yum!
OTHER LIVER RECIPES:

 

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Reader Comments (5)

This liver looks great, Kim! I was just reading Julie/Julia last night. Julie made Julia Child's liver recipe and Julie said you have to surrender to the liver to enjoy the experience. Candice Pike just recommended your blog. I also use NT as a bible. Have you read The Vegetarian Myth:Food, Justice, and Sustainability? Sally Fallon was quoting the book on a recent interview and we're interviewing the author, Lierre Keith, for our Podcast soon. She was vegan for 20 years and it destroyed her health.
Thanks for your blog. I love great recipes and photos. I will retweet about you. Are you on Twitter? I'm ONL2.

July 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Payne

Amen, sister! Wery well written, I couldn't have said it better myself. I would LOVE to be a vegetarian myself but I also have difficulty developing muscle tone without eating meat. My brother is a "junk food vegetarian" and he has a lot of health problems. I still avoid beef but anything else is fair game and I do well with that. I agree that as long as meat is not the centerpiece of our meals, it can be very healthy to include some meat in our diets. I totally subscribe to a lot of what people like Weston Price & Michael Pollan have to say about eating what out ancestors have evolved to eat.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by - love your blog!

July 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

Thank you for the very well-balanced post. I am also loving Nourishing Traditions, especially the cultured foods. Have you noticed any difficulty using whey to culture w/ your dairy allergy? I haven't gone back to whey since my daughter was diagnosed w/ the dairy allergy, so I'm curious if you've noticed anything.

We have many of the same food allergies and blog at
www.everythingfreefood.blogspot.com

Thanks again!

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

Hi Lindsey! I've stumbled your blog before - it is great! Yes, we do share many allergies/intolerances. I look forward to exploring your site more in-depth. Glad to see another Nourishing Traditions lover out there : )

Acutally, I have not used whey yet in any of the culturing projects, I always just use the extra salt - so I don't have any good advice on that topic. I am not allergic to dairy though, just a little lactose intolerant. Other than butter, most cow dairy just doesn't sit all that well for me, so I don't eat it anymore. Sheep and goat dairy are better - especially raw and cultured - so I do those in moderation sometimes.

Since I"m not allergic to cow dairy, I'm thinking I could try using cow whey, and just see how it goes. But have been a little hesitant, and haven't wanted to buy a ton of cow yogurt just for the whey (I would need to give away the rest of the strained yogurt cheese!)

Since goat yogurt is so expensive, it is hard to justify buying enough at once to get enough for a cultured recipe! I just started getting raw goat's yogurt a few weeks ago, and that is working well for me, So, I want to get some raw goat milk and just start making my own yogurt to save on the $$. Once I start that, I know for sure I'll be trying out whey!

Wow,what a long-winded response... : )

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim

I so relate to this post. In fact I'm working on a post for my own blog for next week about my experiences with veganism as I still suffer from vegan envy. I'm an AB blood type which means I can go a long time without meat but I can't be a full time veg 24/7. It's funny you have liver here because I my former veg self would of hated it now I love it as well as lamb kidneys. I always feel so energized after eating animal organs.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia Biesen
Sorry, no comments/questions allowed right now.
Hi reader! My schedule as full-time grad student with two part-time jobs doesn't allow me the time to manage comments. I hope you enjoy what you find and can figure out answers to any questions you may have. xo