So I'm wondering if it's just my husband and myself needing to adjust our tastebuds, or if I'm doing something wrong when it comes to Paleo foods. It seems like no matter what I'm cooking, I'm finding it really unsatisfying to the taste buds.
With a little background, I really hate vegetables. They've never tasted good to me, I've always had to eat them with something else. The only ones I ever ate without a sneer have been corn, potatoes, beans....IE: the one's I can't eat now! I -LOVE- fruits, but I think I eat too much of them vs. veggies.
I've tried cooking up beef as a pot roast with mushrooms, onions and carrots with italian seasoning and fresh ground pepper. I've tried roasted chicken with mushrooms and onions and lemon. I've tried coconut milk curried chicken.
Now I should say that all the meat we can afford currently is not pastured, it's commercial, so I figure that may also be a factor. Our weekly budget is around 100$, and we seem to hit it every week just trying to buy produce and meat.
The only time I seem to enjoy food is when it's got a flavorful sauce...which means it's probably not paleo. I don't know how to recreate the flavors that pop without resorting to sugars and the like. I also like bacon and sausage, of course, but that can't be all I eat meatwise of course. I use coconut oil to fry up my meats, but they still feel one dimensional.
I come from a vegetarian background with a mother that didn't cook, so I can handle a lot of bland food, but it seems to really be affecting my husband. I don't want to just melt cheese over everything or salt it to death or resort to a pantry of canned frankensauces.
Has anyone else experienced this? Do you have any tips?
What are your cooking methods? Different methods can go a long way towards adding flavor.
For instance, pot roast. It is quite easy to just throw a roast in a pot with some seasonings, veggies, and liquid and cook it, but it will be very lackluster if you do it that way. To make a flavorful roast I would first marinate it overnight in a mixture of herbs/spices/salt (parsley, garlic, crushed bay leaves, juniper berries, and pepper is nice - moisten it with a spoonful of oil or fat and rub it over the roast) and finely chopped veggies (carrots, onions or leeks, celery). The next day, heat some fat in a large pot and sear the roast on all sides until it looks nice and brown and there's brown stuff (called fond) on the bottom of the pot. Remove the roast, add the marinade veggies and cook until they begin to brown as well, scraping up the fond from the pot bottom as the veggies exude some water - this equals tons of flavor. If the brown stuff won't start dissolving, add in a splash of water to help it along once the veggies have browned. Then push the veggies up against the wall of the pot, add some extra veggies if you like (mushrooms or potatoes are good) put the roast in the center, and pour in enough water to come halfway up the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover, lower the heat and cook for several hours until it's tender. When the meat is done, remove the veggies and meat from the pot and boil the sauce down a little bit if it's very watery, then thicken it a little, either with arrowroot powder or by pureeing some of the veggies and adding them back in.
Basically any time you can saute something, do it until it gets brown and then deglaze the fond off the bottom of the pan with something (stock, water, wine) and you will get a ton more flavor and extra sauce to boot. Like, cook pork chops in a pan in bacon grease with some salt and pepper, then deglaze the pan with some chicken stock and whisk in some butter and you have a tasty pan sauce to pour over the chops.
Also you haven't mentioned salt. I always use sea salt to taste and it will really go a long way towards making your food yummier.
You can roast just about any vegetable with salt, garlic and olive oil (or whatever fat you're using) and it'll come out with a really rich flavor. My husband grew up with canned or boiled veggies, so usually thought eating vegetables as a bland, soft chore. I turned him around once we started roasting.
Crank up your oven to 450 and let it roast till brown. Depending on the vegetable and how large you cut them up, it could be 10 - 30 minutes. For example, asparagus probably takes about 10 minutes while cauliflower (with curry powder!) takes closer to 20.
You don't HAVE to eat a lot of vegetables (nutritionists all over the world would be gasping in horror at that sentence, but I believe it's true.) Eat lots of fruit. Really, you can. A paleo diet doesn't have to be low-carb. Eating too much fruit is unlikely. They have fiber and water content (And the sheer bulk of the food) which makes over-eating them hard.
I share your preference of fruits over vegetables. I mean, I like raw carrots because they can be sweet like fruit but I don't much care for anything else.
Also, tubers like potatoes aren't really forbidden. It's not Neolithic, and it is part of many hunter-gatherer diets. I like potatoes too. I actually like them better than sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes don't go well with anything, but potatoes are very versatile and lend their texture well to a variety of condiments.
Try watching cooking shows or reading recipes for flavor combo inspiration and to learn techniques like deglazing and reducing for au jus, braising, how chefs season and roast or grill meat, etc. I'm not talking about begin a slave to recipes - I never follow them. No one has to be a chef or have a recipe to be able to cook, but I think we've lost a lot of knowledge of cooking technique in the past couple of generations that we can learn again from shows and cookbooks. I know I have and my taste buds are happy at last.
If you are opposed to using salt (i am not, i just use it sparingly now) you can use bacon and or bacon grease to flavor up just about any meat! You can brush it onto chicken before broiling or baking, it will give the skin a salty crispy texture. You can add a piece or two to a skillet, let it brown, remove it and pan fry a rib eye in there and will get the same salty crispy result. Same goes for most veggies! Just crumble the bacon back up and add it to your greens at the very end. I use bacon as my "oil" to season and cook all the time. I love the flavor it lends.
This is an example of something I made this morning using many of the suggestions above - bacon, spices and herbs.
2 large & thick slices bacon (OK to use more)
1 lb ground buffalo
few cloves garlic, minced
fresh rosemary (dried OK too, but I have a rosemary bush outside)
1 yam, roasted in oven
Cooked bacon in the oven, then used grease to brown the minced onion. Then added buffalo and browned that. When close to done, crumbled the bacon, added the garlic with a generous amount of chipotle powder, herbs and a little salt. Stirred it around and added a splash of water to distribute the chipotle powder. When meat fully cooked, sliced the roasted yam and added that to the meat.
Result was spicy, smoky (from chipotle and bacon), salty, plus the added flavor of herbs and browned onion; and sweet from the yam. Delicious! And not so hard to do.
Point is that just browned buffalo (or ground beef) might have been boring but with a few more simple ingredients and extra effort it can be really good.
Additional comments - definitely learn to brown then braise; and I really like chimichurri too.
Also, if you're into roasting a whole chicken, or turkey, brining it for a few hours before hand makes for the tastiest, juiciest bird ever. Add aromatic herbs to be brine, whichever ones you enjoy... I even add orange peel.
One tip for seasoning with salt and pepper. Make sure that you season often during the whole cooking process. I used to always just season early and late in the process, but now that I'm seasoning just a bit every time I add an ingredient to a stew, or every time I check on the doneness of my roast, the taste is much more subtle and rich.
Don't forget the pepper, the king of spices. Pepper has a very recognizable taste if you just add lots at the end, but it really enhances flavours if you use it as I describe above.
Flavour enhancers that I use a lot, these are mostly non-paleo, but are used in small amounts except for the tomatoes:
Also, you should try ethnic food. Vietnamese and Thai food is really good, even without the traditional starches and sugar. Do a great taco with pulled pork, wrapped in lettuce. Ghanaian stews are amazing, palm oil makes everything awesome. I often make Indian curries with lambs hearts, they are great as well. Kebab, without the pita, with some nice harissa and yoghurt sauce.
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