Monday, July 8, 2013

Work that pork. Actually, there's barely any work.

It's way too expensive to eat healthy. I don't have the time to cook. I love X food too much to stop eating that way. I don't want to just eat vegetables. Those are some of the excuses I hear often when people are on the food, health or weight loss topics. Although I normally let people have their moment and let them make these non-sense "arguments" I know they are not real barriers that can keep you away from eating good food: food that is amazingly delicious and nutritionally rich for you as well.

Eating healthy does not have to be expensive. If there is something that is omnipresent in this country -besides pharmacies, of course- are supermarkets. We have supermarkets that range from the "We sell unknown brands only" to the high end markets filled with gourmet item after gourmet item. Choose one that is time and cost effective for you and stick to eat... I mean, stick to it. Most importantly, take advantage of the sales on the produce and meat departments. Foods that are in season will be cheaper and will taste better. As long as you don't start adding too much crap to your food (you may have to excuse my French) you can always turn it into something delicious, and better for you than regular pick up. Just use your imagination, or keep reading, and sharing, my blog every week.

I have a good example for you. I was at the supermarket, and I saw that short ribs, country style, were on sale, $2.50 a pound. I didn't think it twice, and asked the butcher to get me five of them ribs. Those were a bit over two pounds, and just about $5.50 for five generous servings (in your face, McD's). I know these are fatty girls, but they'll do just fine. As I have stated before, one, I love ribs, and two, if you cook something calorie dense, just pair it with a light side dish and you are done. Do not complicate things, or you'll be giving up soon.

For my ribs I made a quick and simple dry rub. I started with rock salt, added pepper, chili powder and cumin. I knew I NEEDED to add achiote. Achiote is one of my favorite seasoning. Many people are not too familiar with achiote, but they should be. Its English name is annatto. It's a red seed as small as a peppercorn that releases its beautiful red - orangey color when it interacts with oil. In Puerto Rico, we either infuse the oil with the whole seed and use the oil to cook (think of all those yellow rice dishes you've seen) or we use it ground to season meats. In the US you can find it either in the spice section or in the Hispanic section of many supermarkets. Even though achiote isn't used in everyday cooking by non-Ricans, it is used massively by the dairy industry, to give cheeses, especially cheddar, their yellow color (yep, otherwise they're white, just like the milk they are made of). It has the most delicate, still complex flavor, mmm. Anyway, the point is that I added it to my dry rub. I also added some brown sugar to bring out the flavors. What? You added sugar? - Come one, you only live once, get over it.

I mixed my ingredients and rubbed my ribs (sounds kinda funny, ha?). I used grape seed oil to sear the meat, about two minutes per side (all sides), and then I just covered it and transferred it to the oven to be cooked at 400F for 1hr. Then I had time to shower, relax, set the DVR, and watch my Spanish TV court show while the food was ready.

OMFG. There are no words to describe how good this food was. Ok, maybe there are and I just don't know enough English to use them... These ribs were mind blowing good. The meat was tender and juicy (spoiler alert: it microwaved awesomely the next day), but there was such a nice crunch on the outside. Oooh... They were perfect. The taste was kinda nutty (and I felt kinda naughty with such pleasure), courtesy of the achiote. Those were deep, complex flavors because the cumin and the achiote pair well together and the sugar balances the flavor. The ribs released quite a bit of fat in the Dutch oven, so before serving them I set them in a plate to let them drain and rest a few minutes. I didn't blot them to take additional oil out; it really wasn’t necessary, and I didn't want to taste paper towels with every bite. That's where I draw the line, people.

Calorie wise, this ribs are probably around 400-500 calories per serving. I really don't care because they are wholesome, fresh, and there is no MSG or high fructose corn syrup involved in their making. It's all natural, and the body knows very well how to digest natural food. I actually worry much more about eating a 100-calorie snack full of artificial ingredients. Eating well is a balancing game. If you are worried about calories just plan ahead, so you can save enough to enjoy this kind of dish later. And then just enjoy it.

We get it; I'm indulging with this dish. To compensate we had to have a light side dish. My better half made a garbanzo salad. It had cucumbers, peppers, and onions, and was dressed with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, nutritious, and darn good. You can see most of the ingredients are very light and low calories. Actually it was less than 150 calories per serving. And the garbanzos work hard for their money. You can enjoy guilt-free every calorie because they have fiber and protein, and vitamins and minerals, and so on. Mmm... Maybe I should be a garbanzo spokesperson. 

There you have it. Five servings of amazing food, for less than nine bucks total. It really doesn't get any better than that. You are lucky if you can feed one person with nine bucks in a fast food restaurant nowadays, and this feeds five, is actually good for you, and it has an amazing flavor. It takes under ten minutes to season and sear the meat. The extra hour you can use to do whatever you feel like doing while the oven does the work for you. And then you go and enjoy your dinner. Fin. No excuses with this simple, humble, unpretentious, super RICO dish. You're welcome.

On the road shortcut:
2.25 pounds of country style short ribs
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of achiote
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons of grape seed oil

Combine all spices together, and rub them into the ribs. In a big, oven-safe, stove top-safe pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil on the stove. Sear the ribs for about 2-3 minutes per side. Cover and cook in the oven at 400F for an hour.


  1. Yum! They look great! I know what you mean about not worrying about eating whole natural foods even if they're higher calorie... But I still fall into those 100 calorie snack traps! They're just too easy and portable. :/ maybe I need to try making some homemade granola bars next. ;)

  2. Thanks! I think it's ok to have those snacks as long as you are aware of what you're really having. But I bet your granola bars will taste better, lol.

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