Cooking Challenge: Organ Meat

Mushroom and Liver Meat Sauce Spaghetti

Recently, my husband gave me one of the best compliments I might have ever heard: “You’ve made a believer out of me that healthy food can be delicious.” Mission accomplished! This healthy diet has been a challenge at times, especially for my husband. I am so grateful for his willingness to try new things, but there are some items that are just off the table for him, literally. A couple of weeks ago, I (secretly) incorporated a particular item into one of his favorite dishes just to see if he would notice. Guess what? He didn’t  🙂

Comparing recipes of the generations before us to what we eat today, there’s one big difference that stands out to me: organ meat. Just look at the old cookbook your grandma still has on her bookshelf and you’ll find a recipes for liver and onions, fish head soup and gizzard gravy. Native Americans always made sure to use and eat the entire buffalo. Some of the most exquisite restaurants are known for their unique use of organ meats as Anthony Bourdain explores in his tv show No Reservations. And liver pate is a staple to many European diets, but a rarity here. While the thought of eating tongue or brains might disgust you (it does me!!), there’s a lot to be said for the nutrition they provide.

As Dr. Cate points out in Deep Nutrition, “offal meats are rich in vitamins, especially the fat-soluble vitamins, which can be stored in our fat reserves for months.” It’s why she names it as one of the four pillars. Our livers keep the excess vitamins and minerals on store for when they are needed in the future. Eating a healthy liver helps your liver be healthy. Liver is dense in nutrients, providing one of the best food sources of Vitamin A, B and C, beating out or matching the levels that a same size serving of dark leafy vegetables can provide (a regular chicken breast sure won’t do that). Eating the eyes in fish head soup will provide lutein for your eye health. And the fatty acids in brain and nervous tissues help build your brain. And many of these contain high amounts of omega-3’s, which are good for your heart. Dr. Cate recommends eating organ meat at least once a week, so although I was highly skeptical, I figured I could try it, at least once. I bought some calf liver at the store – good news, it’s pretty cheap… I guess because no one wants it – and brought it home to try and work some magic. It turned out delicious, so if I’ve convinced you too to try organ meat, here’s an easy way to start: Mushroom & Liver Meat Sauce Spaghetti.


  • 1 pound organic, pasture raised ground beef
  • 1/2 cup organic, pasture raised calf liver
  • 1 container sliced baby bella mushrooms (optional)
  • homemade or store-bought organic marinara
  • organic quinoa pasta (or spaghetti squash for carb free)

Liver & Beef

I put the liver in a food processor and ground it up, then mixed it in with the ground beef and browned in a saute pan on medium heat.  I seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper, as always.  Meanwhile, I sauteed the mushrooms in another pan in butter and boiled the pasta. 

Saute mushrooms and meat

Once everything was cooked, I put the meat, mushrooms and sauce together in a pan to mix and warm the sauce.  To serve, I put some pasta in each bowl and covered with the sauce.  This was so hearty and delicious! I promise that if you like spaghetti, you will love it.  

 Do you think this is a recipe you could try?

Why I’m Not A Vegan

If God wanted us all to be vegetarians...

In my search for the truth in health, one of the main controversies I’ve encountered has to do with whether meat and animal products are healthy for us.  I’ve seen Forks Over Knives and I think it’s a great documentary, with thought-provoking research and many convincing points – I absolutely recommend it.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, it examines the claim that most, if not all, degenerative diseases could be prevented and may be even cured by switching from our current animal-based, processed foods diet to a whole-foods, plant based diet. I agree with almost everything in the film, especially the healing abilities of proper nutrition, but I’ve had a few hesitations. History tells us that for thousands of years, humans hunted animals for food, which enabled them to survive, thrive and populate the earth with healthy children. Not only have humans hunted for generations, but they have developed ways to cook animals in a way to extract every possible bit of nutrition from them. Our ancestors fully understood the nutritional benefits as it helped them grow strong and protected them from disease. I don’t believe that we just happen to like the way meat and dairy taste, but that it tastes good for a reason.

When I wrote about my inspiration, I mentioned that the basic theory for healthy eating centered around authentic world cuisine.  When I say world cuisine, I’m not talking about the Italian fettuccine alfredo or Chinese sweet and sour chicken you might get at a restaurant today; I’m talking about the traditional, homemade & homegrown food from nations all over the world.  And when I say traditional, I’m not referring to Grandma’s fried chicken or chocolate chip cookie recipes made with Crisco; we’ve got to go back a few hundred years before scientists started creating fake foods that saved cooking time and money.  Many of the traditional ingredients and methods of cooking happen to be the ones you find in common across the world and across history, as they were the most successful for maintaining and improving health. Today, the best example of cuisine that has remained mostly unchanged in modern times is French.  The reason? They’ve always been kind of, well, arrogant, so their ingredients and techniques have remained the same for ages and continue to be studied by chefs in culinary school today.  When I think of French cuisine, I think of many foods in the Four Pillars: slow-cooked meat, rich broths, and healthy fats; I wonder if it’s a coincidence that they have much lower risks of heart disease and are known for being thin rather than obese, quite opposite of two of the worst epidemics we suffer from in America today.

All that said, let’s get to the point: why I’m not a vegan.  First of all, I fully understand and respect that some people have strong beliefs in protecting the rights of animals and don’t eat them for those reasons. In fact, I too have a serious issues with how most animals are farmed today, in unbelievably cruel and unsanitary conditions, as well as the fact that they are given unnatural hormones and harmful antibiotics. I could rant for hours on the topic (and recommend lots of documentaries if you’d like to see it for yourself), but, basically, that’s the reason I have chosen to only buy organic, hormone and antibiotic-free, pastured/free range (plus raw and local, when possible) animal meat and products. I also agree with the problems of environmental effects that modern farming due to an animal-based diet has created, but I also think the same can be said for produce farming – we are destroying the nutrients in our soil and plants with pesticides, toxins and genetically modified seeds.

Veganism and vegetarianism are not certainly not bad, and I absolutely believe that you can live a life full of nutrition and enjoy many benefits to your health. These diets rightly put the focus on whole foods and plants, instead of depending on meat and dairy for nutrition.  However, I want to make a case that there are health benefits of animal meats and products, when they are from good sources and cooked properly, as well as point out a few differences I’ve found between a vegan diet and an authentic world cuisine diet:
1. Animal meat cooked on the bones and broth made from animal bones provide essential nutrients, mainly collagen, to our joints, ligaments, tendons, arteries, skin, and hair.
2. Animal organs are extremely rich in vitamins, often more than can be supplemented with fruits or vegetables.
3. The anti-cholesterol and low-fat campaigns are myths.  We need healthy fat in our diets, and nature (not science) makes the best, including butter, eggs, and bacon.
4. We’re born dependent upon milk and it should remain an important part of our diet, as long as it’s organic and raw (or fermented like yogurt and cheese). Pasteurization and homogenization destroy the probiotics and fat molecules that help us maintain strong digestive tracks, immune systems, brain function and bones.
5. Wheat (unless it’s sprouted) becomes a staple for many vegans, who turn to bread and pasta as fillers, and, even if it’s “whole wheat” or “multi-grain,” it’s not quite as healthy or natural as it’s advertised to be.
6. Lastly, while definitely not true of all vegans, the lifestyle often necessitates the use of many processed, manufactured foods to supplement meals for those that don’t know how to cook or have trouble incorporating all the necessary nutrients to a vegan diet. These processed foods contain many harmful ingredients, mainly soy, vegetable/canola oils, and sugar.

I’ll be expanding on these points in future posts. I’m so excited to share what I’ve discovered in the coming weeks and hope this has peaked your interest a bit.  If you want to keep up with future posts, you can subscribe to my blog on the sidebar to the right to get an email whenever I post something new.  And, I’d love to know, which of the topics above are you most interested in learning more about?

– Christine

My Inspiration – Deep Nutrition

A few months ago, some dear friends loaned me a book that changed my perspective on health forever – Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, written by Dr. Catherine Shanahan and her husband, Chef Luke.  I was first inspired by Dr. Cate’s own personal story: after visiting many doctors and trying to use what she had learned in medical school to solve her unexplained health issues, she finally found healing by studying, at Luke’s suggestion, nutrition. It’s a miraculous story, and I don’t want to spoil it in hopes that someday you’ll read it too, but it’s what finally gave me hope for finding my own healing.

Since Dr. Cate is an expert in genetics, she uses this book to connect the dots between nutrition and it’s effect on our genes.  I can be quite the critic, so although I struggled at times through this science-heavy book, I appreciated the fact that she explains the biological reasons behind every claim she makes.  Essentially, our genes have been shaped by what our ancestors ate, and continue to be influenced by every bite we take.  You don’t have to go back as far as Paleolithic times, diets for which we have very little evidence, to find out what makes our bodies survive and thrive; you only need to look at the traditional cuisine of authentic cultures that exist worldwide today and have endured the test of time. Dr. Cate’s theory is the “Four Pillars of Authentic Cuisine:”

  • Meat cooked on the bone
  • Organs and offals
  • Fresh (raw) plant and animal products
  • Fermented and sprouted foods

Thankfully, our genes bounce back very well, so it’s never too late to make a change.  I’ve only been following this nutritional method (though I’ll admit, not as closely as I should, hence my resolution) for a few months and I’ve already seen a dramatic change in how I feel.  More than that, I’m making a difference in the lives of my future children by passing down my genetic wealth and giving them a real chance to be happy and healthy.

Deep Nutrition is full of so much great information that one post, or even a few, would not do it justice.  I’ll spend the next few weeks delving into these four pillars and the topics discussed in the chapters of this book, as well as share some recipes that I’ve created to follow these ideas in a practical world.

Which of the four pillars are most surprising to you?