Friday, May 27, 2016

Food: A tool for unification, connection, and peace.

I have always been a huge fan of people, I am an extrovert in every sense of the word, I love talking to strangers, being the center of attention, and bringing people together. I also love love love food! So where does extrovert meet food? For me it meets about 9 times a year.

There is truly something special about breaking bread with your neighbor, a stranger, your love, your family, friends, and even the enemy. There is one specific point in history where food literally brought war to a halt. Food brought a war to a halt. That is a powerful reality.  In December of 1914 soldiers who had for months been fighting one of the most gruesome battles of the war, stopped fighting to share food. Here is a video reenactment of the infamous day. (

Food has been a catalyst in so many of my fondest memories, it is the centerpiece of my favorite book, “Like Water for Chocolate.” Food is life, food is friendship, food is love, and food is nutrition. I was fortunate enough to host the second annual pre-Memorial Day BBQ Kickoff this past Saturday, I share that because I am very fortunate to have a wide network of people whom I truly appreciate in my life. There are my rugby brothers and sisters, my family, the food and beverage team, baseball players, writers, designers, architects, engineers, social workers, teachers, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. All of under 3 tents in a small backyard getting to know someone we previously had never met, sharing stories, connecting on personal levels, smiling, laughing, hugging, high fiving, and communicating one person to another. It was beautiful. This was FOOD’s handy work.

One thing I feel we have lost over the last 10 years as American’s,  is the tradition of sharing a meal, we have forgotten what it is like to share hand torn bread with a stranger. It’s easier to post a picture of that amazing meal you’ve prepared than to offer your neighbor a bite. Social media has allowed us to only share or brag about what we have.  And maybe that is just my view, but when was the last time you had more than 4 strangers at your table? When was the last time you broke bread with a family that didn’t speak english? It is uncomfortable, it’s tough. But it’s also rewarding, heartwarming, and unforgettable. I want to challenge you to get outside yourself, prove me wrong, show me how you interact within your communities.

I’ve stated where I see a problem, so how do we challenge ourselves to find a solution? My short answer? Throw a party and invite your friends to bring friends you’ve never met before, prepare that go to dish your friends rave about and make enough for everyone to get at least a little nibble but leave them wanting more.

Two of my favorite memories about sharing food with strangers.
  1. I believe it was either Memorial Day or 4th of July in 2001 maybe. I was stationed in Vilseck, DE as a member of Bravo Company 2/63 Armor, we had a sweet little outdoor patio and grill, I had bought a bunch of flank steak and chicken, two of my battle buddies brought the brats and beer. We invited a handful of new to the unit soldiers, I grilled, we talked we learned about our new soldiers who would ultimately become some of my closest friends. Those men went to battle me they would’ve given the same sacrifice for me as I would for them. And to this day that offer still stands. Food made that happen, being just a little uncomfortable and willing to break bread with a stranger.

2.) It was the winter of 2002, B Co. 2/63 Armor was on our second deployment to the Balkans stationed at Camp Bondsteel Kosovo. Our mission while there was to help keep the peace under the U.N. Flag, we did lots of walking throughout the country and for the most part the families in these communities were timid and often really didn’t want us there, although we were there to help, who in the world wants to be told they need outside help? I surely don’t. On one of our daily security details around the the city of Urosevac. While we were on patrol I could smell the glorious aroma of grilling meat, as we continued around our patrol we came across a gathering of locals playing soccer and grilling whole goats, with the permission of our leaders we stopped and unloaded our battle load packs, we played soccer and I was offered my first taste of “Goat.” To say the experience was spiritual is a fucking understatement. The joy in the eyes of the kids we were playing soccer with, the smell of freshly grilled goat, the caramelized flesh, rubbed with salt and spices, the laughter and joy in all of us. With very little opportunity to communicate verbally, we still found common ground in food and sport, in smiles and handshakes. Those men, women, and children did more for me in that 45 minutes then they may ever comprehend, they taught me about the power of a smile, the vitality of food, and what the meaning of kindness truly is; it’s playing a game with men you don’t know, it’s sharing what small amount of food you have with soldiers you fear, it is the act of breaking bread.
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These stories will always remain with me no matter where I go or how I get there. They are a part of me, they are a part of who I am fundamentally. I want to share these experiences with you so that you can share your experiences with me. Please take a minute and leave a reply to this with a story of how food brought you closer to a stranger, let’s work towards the solution, let's get on the same page and break bread.

A special thank you to the men of Bravo Company 2/63 Armor, the family whom shared their feast, my grandmothers, mom, dad, uncles, aunts, Lisa for giving me the title to this post, and all the fine people who came out last Saturday to the BBQ Season Kickoff! Y’all are fantastic humans. I am truly grateful to have you all in my life thank you.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Recipes: At least 3 of them

So a week ago I told you that I would surely start posting some recipes, this is the first installment of such recipes.

When I started the whole eat healthy home cooked meals I had only intended to help my wallet and my waistline in one fell swoop. It worked. I started shopping with a list of ingredients that would serve as breakfast, lunch, dinner over the next 7 days. I think the biggest thing for me was creating a plan, as one of my favorite American generals once said;

“A good plan executed violently now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”-----General George S. Patton Jr.

You can take out the violently part here since it’s most likely not the best approach to grocery shopping. Although an all battle royale grocery shopping game show is something I would likely enjoy. None the less, let us get back to situation at hand. A good plan, so what I do is search through some of my cookbooks old recipes from restaurants past and put together a few simple ideas that will help me eat affordably and healthy throughout the week. So receipes I seek are the ones that have bulk potential, stews, soups, braised meats, chili, roasted or slow cooked proteins. Cooking something that can be transformed into multiple dishes is the key. For instance, if you roast a whole chicken you get 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, and couple wings, how does that transition into multiple meals? The chicken breasts are two lunches reheated later with some fresh veggies, the thighs can be a dinner with some quinoa, or pulled apart and used in tacos.

Make a plan, execute your plan, look for inspiration in books, online, magazines, and then create your own cooking experience. The one thing that has stuck in my head with no exceptions is this: A recipe is simply a guide to your own culinary adventure. You don’t have to take a recipe word for word. Enjoy the process, enjoy the journey, and get yourself into the kitchen and have fun.

The three recipes below will feed you for a week. If you have any questions or comments please share them and let me know how you are enjoying your cooking experience.

All the best and happy cooking.

NW Elixirs GrassFed Beef Chili

This recipe will make enough Chili for you to enjoy for 2-3 days depending on how many people you are cooking for. The recipe was just something I put together while on this eating clean journey I started about a three weeks ago.

16 oz. Ground GrassFed Beef
1 Tbsp Olive oil
8 oz. Yellow Onions, julienne
2 oz.Jalapeno, split and sliced thin
8 oz.Cremini Mushrooms, sliced thin
1 10 oz, can Diced Tomatoes
1 8 oz can Kidney Beans
6 oz. Red Bell Pepper, diced
6 oz. Celery, sliced thin
2 tsp Cinnamon, ground
1 tsp Cloves, ground
2 Tbsp Salt
1 Quart Bison Bone Broth (in the nutrition section of your local grocery store)
2 Fl. Oz. Buffalo Trace Whiskey
2 Tbsp Jubal’s 92.5 Hott Sauce


  1. Heat oil in medium sauce pan.
  2. Add ground beef, cook until browned then add spices stir to combine and remove from pan; set aside for later.
  3. Add onions, cook until slightly borwn.
  4. Add remaining mushrooms, and stir to combine with onions and cook slightly.
  5. When the little brown bits start adding up on the bottom of the pan, deglaze with whiskey and stir until whiskey has completely reduced.
  6. Add remaining vegetables and stir to combine. Allow to cook together for 5 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes and kidney beans, again stir to combine and cook for about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the Bison Broth and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  9. Turn off heat, and serve over your choice of quinoa, rice, potatoes, yams, or whatever starch you’d like. You can also just eat this beautiful creation on its own as a soup.
  10. And don’t forget to top each bowl of goodness with Jubal’s 92.5 Hott Sauce created by NW Elixirs.

Braised Brussel Sprouts w/Bacon


2lbs of Brussels sprouts (cut in half)

oz.  Good Bacon (cut into ½” lardons)

oz.  White wine

2Tbs NW Elixirs #3 Hott Smoke

alt and pepper to taste


In large sauté pan render fat from bacon once bacon is browned nicely, add sprouts and get a nice golden brown color on the outer leaves. Deglaze pan with white wine and season with salt and pepper, add #3 Hott Smoke. Place into a roasting pan, roast uncovered for 8 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool in pan.

NW Elixirs Hott Quinoa

1 cup uncooked quinoa (any variety — white or golden, red, or black)
Olive oil, optional
2 cups water or broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tbsp Jubal's 92.5 Hott Sauce

Fine-mesh strainer
2-quart saucepan with lid


  1. Rinse the quinoa: Measure 1 cup of quinoa and place into a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly with cool water for about 2 minutes. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing. Drain.
  2. Toast quinoa in saucepan (optional): Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat, and add the drained quinoa. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute to let the water evaporate and toast the quinoa.
  3. Add liquid, Jubal's 92.5 Hott sauce, and bring to a boil: Stir in 2 cups of water or broth and the salt. Bring to a rolling boil.
  4. Lower heat and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to the lowest setting. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes: Remove the pot from heat and let stand for 5 more minutes, covered. Don't peek!
  6. Fluff and eat! Remove the lid — You should see tiny spirals (the germ) separating from and curling around the quinoa seeds. Fluff the quinoa gently with a fork, and serve.  If any liquid remains in the bottom of the pan or if the quinoa is still a bit crunchy, return the pot to low heat and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Eating isn't easy: But it should be

Eating isn’t easy: But it should be

So if you’ve been following me on the Facebook or Instagram I’m sorry for all the hash tag clean eating photos. Well I’m not actually sorry; I hope you have found some ideas to cook at home as well.

So I started this eating home cooked meals thing because well; I am on a very thin budget and my love for restaurants and bakeries had to take a backseat for a little while. As I started this journey I figured I’d share my photos and try to write more recipes for them as well. So that’s the backstory of where all the #eatclean posts came from. Now for the stuff you’ll want to argue with me about.

Recently I have had the opportunity to work with my hands on a local farm with a family I know and respect. The trip to the farm is short and sweet, it’s a brisk 13 miles from my front door about a 15 minute drive. Why is that important? Because I live in a place where that kind of fresh food is available just 15 minutes away. Quite often these fine folks are at farmer’s markets just down the street from my house. I realize that is not the case in many cities throughout the United States, in fact there are places in America that people are starving and have no idea what farm fresh spinach looks like. To me that’s a big problem, that is insane! How can we live in what people argue to be the “greatest country” in the world yet we have neighbors, friends, family, and community members that are starving? In order for me to really elaborate on this point we have to look to our American History, luckily we don’t have to travel to far back to find some points of interest. Let’s start in the 1930’s, an era of American History often remembered for the “Great Depression,” a time in America where the unemployment rate hit its high at 23% in 1932, in the following years leading to up to America’s participation in World War II the very disputable number of deaths related to famine were 7 million Americans. Yes this is a staggering number. But compare it to an even more staggering number, 90 million Americans in 2016 are obese. Now this is as a much an opposite argument as I can come up with. Now this doesn’t mean that 90 million people are dying from starvation or even suffering from that. But what it means is there is a severe breakdown in our food system.  It is easily arguable that more than 7 million Americans are dying from food annually.

So how did we get here? How is it that we still have food insecure Americans alongside severely obese Americans? In my humble opinion it comes down to how we are eating and the food that is available to those Americans that are suffering through poverty. Did you know that in America we produced almost 719 trillion calories per day? That is a huge number of calories. Shit, okay back on track what’s my point? Come on Andrew get to it already…

So what it comes back to for me is how we educate and how we provide for one another, yes I know I am starting to sound like a dirty socialist, take care of our neighbors, live happily together share your food with a starving child. I know I am the worst. If you seriously think that taking care of our communities is a crazy thought you should really consider that statement. Nonetheless, in today’s America you can buy 2 “Big Macs” for $5. TWO BIG MACs for FIVE DOLLARS! But in the same day you can not buy 2 “organic” apples for that price. That is insane. What does that say about the fast food we are consuming? What does that mean to the community members that need help the most? It means you won’t starve but you will get sick, if you have a diet of what is “affordable” then odds are you may find yourself in an obese state of living. Fast food is full of crap that ruins our bodies, that negatively affects our mental state of being. I’m not saying that all our problems in society lead back to food, but come on let’s at least look at it. Let us imagine a society where we all have access to fresh food, we all know how to prepare that fresh food, and there is enough for everyone to eat it. The cost of health care would drop, our kids would know what fresh spinach tastes like, and our farms would be bolstered with increased funding to make even better options available.

Now, I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to eating shit food. But I had to make a change to my diet based on not only my income but also my health and weight concerns. In just over 21 days of eating home cooked meals, I saved $175.00 and lost 20 pounds. Yes I am lucky, I am armed with the knowledge of cooking, I grew up on a farm where all we had was home cooked from the garden, caught from the creek, and hunted in the woods. I don’t subscribe to any specific diet, I’m not a paleo eater, nor do I believe in the “organic” stamp. I do believe in education, nutrition for everyone, and sharing fresh food. I do believe that we can become a healthier society if we educate our community members on how to cook that beautiful fresh spinach, I do believe if given the opportunity to cook at home society would fall in love with food all over again. Each year I grow my own garden, this year I’ve taken it to the next level, instead of a giant green lawn I’ve added a big raised bed for fresh vegetables, I’ll pickle my own okra, I’ll make my own tomato sauce and can it, I’ll share the excess produce with my neighbors. I am committed to being an example of what we can do together. So I’ll continue to share my recipes, my food adventures, and my ramblings of why the organic stamp is a sham.

If you made it this far; thank you. You’re beautiful, you’re wonderful just the way you are. If you want some suggestions on how to cook something shoot me an email. I love y’all just the way you are. Thank you for reading. All the best and happy cooking.