A thorough inquiry

Chili-stuffed Peppers

Chili-stuffed Peppers

Chili-stuffed Peppers

This is a really simple approach to chili that works with a variety of spices that you might have on-hand (as long as that includes chili powder!):

  1. Place a pound of seasoned 80/20 ground beef in a cold saucepan
  2. Put the saucepan on the stove at medium heat
  3. Allow the beef to cook, stirring every few minutes, until the water from the meat has evaporated
  4. Cook for a few more minutes to brown the meat, stirring a bit more regularly to avoid burning
  5. Add 1/2c of tomato sauce and 1/2c of water, reduce heat to a simmer (you could do 1c of tomato sauce, or water and tomato paste)
  6. Add a first round of spices, I used something like: 1t garlic powder, 1t smoked paprika, 1T chili powder, 1/2t clove powder
  7. Simmer for 30m, then add another round of spices. I used 1t smoked paprika, 1T chili powder, 1T cumin. You can also add a bit of lime juice or vinegar.
  8. Simmer for another 30-60m or so, adjusting liquid as necessary, until the beef is nice and tender and the desired thickness is achieved
  9. Do a final adjustment for spices and seasoning

Chicken Curry (in a pinch)

Habanero chicken curry

Habanero chicken curry

Since I’m not in my main kitchen, I often find myself keeping fewer ingredients on hand. So when I have a couple key ingredients and an idea for a dish, I typically have to make some compromises with the rest. For this curry dish, I used frozen chicken breasts instead of something tasty like thighs, standard supermarket curry powder, and no cream or coconut milk. Not ideal, but it was quite tasty!


  • 2 chicken breasts (thawed)
  • 1/3 head of cauliflower
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1-2 habanero peppers
  • 2-3t of curry powder
  • 1-2t chili powder
  • 2t cumin
  • 2t olive oil
  • 2T butter
  • 2-3t flour


  1. Dice the onion and cook in a large pan on medium heat with olive oil and salt until translucent
  2. Add chopped tomatoes, finely diced habaneros, and spices, continue to cook
  3. In a separate pot, steam the cauliflower until almost fork-tender
  4. Add butter to the onions and tomatoes
  5. When the butter is melted, add the flour and continue to cook for a couple of minutes
  6. Cut the chicken breasts into even cubes
  7. Add the chicken, salt
  8. Adjust for liquid level: the chicken will release liquid while it’s cooking, but if the pan is too dry you can add a tablespoon or so of water at a time
  9. When the chicken is cooked and the desired thickness is reached, mix in the cauliflower and some chopped cilantro
  10. Taste and adjust for salt before serving

Spicy Bun-less Burgers

Veal burgers with curried cauliflower and tomatoes

Veal burgers with curried cauliflower and tomatoes

These simple burgers are inspired by this habanero-in-protein recipe. Not overly spicy, but very bright and delicious.


  • 1lb ground meat (I used veal — lamb or beef or poultry would work)
  • 2 habanero peppers
  • 2tsp minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Dice the habeneros to your preference for appearance and heat distribution
  2. Whisk the egg in a large mixing bowl
  3. Combine the egg with habaneros, minced garlic, and pepper
  4. Add the ground meat
  5. Salt — I do this after adding the meat because I’m accustomed to judging the amount visually. Be liberal!
  6. Using moistened hands, form into 4 evenly-sized balls. Don’t over-work or over-compress.
  7. Place in a pre-heated skillet at medium heat
  8. Smash into shape using a spatula, making them thinner than you want them to end up after cooking
  9. Leave them completely alone until browned on one side, then flip once

Braised Chicken with Cracklings

Braised Chicken and Cracklings

Braised Chicken and Cracklings

Braising is an easy way to get wonderfully tender chicken, but what about crispy skin? The braising liquid will prevent the skin from getting crispy in the oven, but luckily we can achieve it by adding one more step to the cooking process.

All that’s needed for this recipe is a whole chicken, a couple of sprigs each of rosemary and thyme, salt, pepper, and a braising vessel (I used a roasting pan covered with heavy-duty aluminum foil).

  1. Remove everything from the cavity (neck, liver, &c.)
  2. Salt and pepper the cavity generously
  3. Place the whole sprigs of herbs directly in the cavity
  4. Place the chicken in the braising vessel with 1/2c of water (the chicken will release some water as well)
  5. Cover and cook in a 350F oven for 20-25m/lb (2h for a 5lb chicken)
  6. Remove the chicken from the oven and collect the skin — it should come off easily
  7. Cover the chicken and allow it to rest while the cracklings are made:
  8. Chop the skin into small pieces
  9. Cook in a skillet at medium to medium-low heat for 20-30m until the fat has rendered and the skin is crispy. Rendering will take some time, so be patient and don’t allow the skin to brown too much early on. You can add a bit of oil or water at the beginning to get things started.

We don’t season the outside of the chicken like we normally would because the cracklings will be reduced in size quite a bit when we render them and we don’t want to over-salt — they can be seasoned while they are being made.

The cooking time is a bit more flexible for braising, so this is a good recipe if you don’t have a meat thermometer handy.

Braised Lamb Shanks

This year for New Year’s Eve, we decided to make a couple of old favourites: bacon-wrapped dates followed by braised lamb shanks and risotto. We’ve made the dates before, but I thought that there is room in this dish for a bit of acid and some more flavour, so we made some rosemary mustard filling.

Finely chopped rosemary and stone-ground mustard

Finely chopped rosemary and stone-ground mustard

  1. Slice the dates length-wise and remove the pit
  2. Use a small spoon to fill with desired filling
  3. Wrap with bacon of choice (we used European back-bacon)
  4. Bake at 450F until bacon is crisp (~20-30m)
Rosemary mustard bacon-wrapped dates

Rosemary mustard bacon-wrapped dates

Next up were the shanks. After seasoning with salt and pepper, we simply browned them in our tajine, added sliced garlic, rosemary, and ~3/4c of chicken stock, then covered and braised in the oven at 300F for 3h.

Lamb shanks with garlic and rosemary

Lamb shanks with garlic and rosemary

A risotto recipe will have to be a separate post, so here’s the finished dish:

Lamb shank with basic risotto

Lamb shank with basic risotto

Flank steak and bacon potato salad

I thought I’d post a very summery dinner we did a little while ago before the leaves turn brown. Here’s what went into the very simple and very bacon-y potato salad:

  • Bacon mayonnaise (thanks to Brad for the suggestion of using bacon grease instead of oil)
  • Potatoes
  • Homemade bacon bits
  • Finely diced dill pickles
  • Herbs and spices (salt, pepper, fresh dill, chili powder, cayenne)


Dinner potpourri

After concluding our plant-based diet experiment, we still had some pantry and freezer items to finish up, so we’ve mostly been on a ‘diet break’ for the past few weeks. This has had a few interesting effects, including fairly rapid muscle (re)gain for myself. Too many variables have changed to really draw any conclusions, other than it seems that a low-protein, low-calorie plant-based diet combined with intermittent fasting probably won’t give you great gains in the gym.

At the moment, we’ve ended up eating something fairly close to what the Jaminets prescribe over at The Perfect Health Diet. I’ve also incorporated small whey shakes throughout the day — mostly to increase thermogenesis in order to resolve low body temperature issues while at work. This in itself probably qualifies as an experiment, so I might get into how that’s going in greater detail later on.

Here are a few examples of the dinners we’ve been eating lately:

Pulled chuck roast with spicy miso sauce over pea shoots and jasmine rice

Chili-rubbed BBQ pork tenderloin with mashed sweet potatoes

BBQ pork loin with mashed potatoes and baby bok choy


I’ve been experimenting with various mayonnaise recipes recently, and have come up with a nice basic starting point with few ingredients that doesn’t require any appliances to prepare:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp lime/lemon juice or vinegar (I like lime, personally)
  • up to 1/2c or so of oil*
  • pinch of salt
  • (optional) 1 tsp of dry mustard or 1.5-2 tsp mustard of your choice

Add the yolk, citrus juice or vinegar, and mustard into a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk briefly to combine. I like to place my mixing bowl on a damp cloth on the counter so that I don’t have to hold it with my non-whisking hand (important for the next step). Whisking continuously, slowly add the oil (quite slowly at first, then a bit quicker as you go) until the desired consistency is reached. I really like keeping my oil in a standard kitchen plastic squeeze bottle for handiness and ease of dispensing.

The mayonnaise will increase in viscosity as more oil is added, and you can stop at any time when it’s appropriate for your dish! Season with a pinch or so of salt (always to taste), and add any fresh herbs or additional flavours that you feel like!

* Choice of oil is critical to the overall flavour of the mayonnaise. I recommend a very high-quality unrefined, cold-pressed oil such as extra-virgin olive oil (the good stuff, not the 4l jug from Costco), or perhaps something more exotic. As always, Mark Sisson has a great guide for choosing oils from a health perspective.

Plant-based Conclusion

Last week marked our return from vacation, and the conclusion (for now) of our plant-based diet experiment. It lasted 6 weeks, and we were extremely happy and satisfied with the food. It was a great opportunity to cook with a bunch of new ingredients and prepare some more traditional dishes from around the world. We would have continued with this diet if it weren’t for two things: GI distress and poorer body composition.

When we first started eating a very high fibre diet, I assumed it would take around 4 weeks to adjust, digestion-wise. During this time I experienced a lot of bloating, gas, and cramping (as might be expected), but it seemed to taper off somewhat at 3-4 weeks. However, a moderate and constant amount of gas and bloating persisted, and this wasn’t something I was used to or particularly keen on tolerating. I felt as though most of the legumes and grains that we ate were properly prepared (legumes soaked for at least 24 hours, sprouted grains, etc.), so it’s not clear whether or not these symptoms could be fully resolved on a diet including these foods for us. A possible alternative would be to base meals around starchy tubers, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. We may consider this approach for the future.

The body composition issue (decreased muscle, increased fat) was not severe, though still fairly disheartening. This is something that wouldn’t be an absolute show-stopper for me in the long run, but at the same time, who doesn’t want to be more lean and muscular? Since the diet was very high in carbohydrate, I did avoid any additional added fats. This meant no nuts, no added oils (not even for cooking), and choosing plenty of low-fat staple foods such as lentils and rice. Of course, if you believe Taubes, it makes perfect sense for carbohydrates to drive fat storage, but I was trying to give the other side a shot with this experiment.

So what’s next? A diametrically opposed experiment, of course. More details to come, but here are some dinners in the meanwhile.

Wild Alaskan salmon with fresh mayonnaise and cold-pressed camelina oil

Rib steak with home-made dill mayonnaise

Lamb loin chops with parmesan

Simple slow-cooker refried beans

This is an absolutely dead-simple recipe for refried beans that I’ve used a few times for burritos and spicy rice bowls:

  • 1-2c dried pinto beans (1c will yield 2 generous servings)
  • water
  • spices

Add the dried pinto beans (you can first rinse them or otherwise clean off any debris) and enough water to cover by at least 2″ to the slow cooker. Cook on the high setting for 8 hours. When they’re done, drain the beans, reserving the very murky brown cooking liquid. Mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth, then switch to a spatula or wooden spoon and mix while slowly adding a tablespoon at a time of the reserved liquid until you reach the desired texture. Season to taste! Last time I chose cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt.