I sometimes eat mindlessly, especially late in the afternoon at work, but I generally try not to snack. If I’m not hungry, I have no business eating–so I drink tea instead. If I am hungry, I should eat real food that will nourish me and make me feel full–not foods that are engineered by extremely clever people (<–seriously, read that article; it’s amazing) to trick me into eating tons of empty calories via vanishing caloric density.
So I don’t really have a category of recipes I think of as “snacks.” Instead, I have some foods that I think of as “anytime foods.” Pâté is a great example because I am as likely to eat it for breakfast as for a snack as with dinner.
Yes, This is Really a Post about Liver
Liver is great. The visceral “ew” factor may take some getting used to, but liver is the most nutrient-dense food we can eat. Like all meat, it’s a good source of protein. But it packs a punch in other ways too:
- It’s nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A, which is important for eye health, cancer prevention, and healthy skin.
- It is a complete source of B Vitamins, including Vitamin B12, which could be protective against heart disease and dementia, among other things. (Here’s an interesting article on Vitamin B12 deficiency you should read if you don’t eat a lot of meat, or if you love a vegan.)
- It is a good source of CoQ10, which most people associate with heart health, but which is also promising for Alzheimer’s and eye disease, among other things.
- Liver is nature’s most potent source of choline, a nutrient that as many as 100 million Americans are deficient in! It can prevent the development of fatty liver disease and can treat fatigue and insomnia.
The Perfect Snack
Best of all, liver has an unidentified “anti-fatigue factor,” which makes it the perfect solution to “that 2:30 feeling.” This anti-fatigue factor was measured in a (rather sad) study in 1951, where rats were put in a drum of cold water from which they could not escape. The researchers measured how long they swam for until they gave up and drowned. Rats who were fed a standard lab rat diet swam an average of 13.3 minutes before giving up. Rats who were fed a lab rat diet fortified with extra B vitamins swam an average of 13.4 minutes before giving up; the B vitamins do not appear to have boosted their energy much. But Rats who were fed a 90% lab rat diet and 10% powdered liver swam for over an hour before quitting–and 9 rats swam for over two hours before the experiment was stopped and the remaining rats were rescued!
I hope to never need to swim for my life. But I would certainly like to have 554% more energy to tackle my comparatively small challenges.
Whose Liver Should We Be Eating? Are Fava Beans and Chianti Paleo?
It’s important that all your organ meat, including liver, come from the healthiest animals you can find. That means you probably shouldn’t be eating grocery store liver, at least not regularly. But if you have access to a co-op (like The Wedge in Minneapolis) or a trusted butcher (like Clancey’s Meats & Fish in Minneapolis) or a Farmer’s Market, then you should have access to liver from organic (good), grass-fed/pastured (best) animals–and any animal is fine.
Chicken liver has the mildest flavor, and it’s less expensive than duck liver, so it’s a great place to start.
If you have 15 extra minutes, or if you’re not sold on the idea of liver generally, make the original recipe on Healthy Foodie’s site. If you already like liver or are ok with trading off quality for time, here is my slightly dumbed-down version:
- 1/2 lb. chicken livers, with any white connective tissue removed (the butcher can do this for you). Soak them overnight in water with a little lemon juice to make the flavor even milder if you’re a liver newbie.
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 apple, cored and chopped (you can peel it too for a silkier texture, but I didn’t bother. I used a Gala apple. I might do two apples next time to make it a little sweeter, but it wasgood like this too).
- Salt & pepper to taste (I’ll be honest, I forgot to add these and I still loved the output)
- Nutmeg, 1 hearty dash
- 1/6 c coconut milk, full-fat of course (I just used a generous rubber-scraper full. Again, youcould use more if you are not sold on liver)
- 2 tbs coconut oil
Melt your coconut oil in a frying pan and add your onions. Cook about 10 minutes, until onions are starting to get translucent. Add apples. Add livers and cook a few minutes each side, until they’re brown on the outside but still pink on the inside.
Pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and coconut milk. Processuntil smooth.
If you like a creamier texture, you can strain through a fine mesh seive. This will be a pain if you didn’t peel your apple first. You can also add more coconut milk to achieve a creamier texture with less work.
Serve with apples or crudités. Eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack, because liver is an anytime food.
Word of Caution
While you should be eating liver regularly, you probably shouldn’t have it more than twice a week. Remember how liver is nature’s most potent source of Vitamin A? Well, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you eat too much, you can get a headache that doesn’t mess around (it feels like the kind of headache you get from caffeine withdrawal)…and yes, I learned this the hard way, because this pâté was so delicious, I ate almost all of it in 3 days. Next time, I will freeze half of it right away so I am not tempted.
(But on the plus side, isn’t it sort of magical that your body has built-in mechanisms for letting you know what and how much you should be eating? I continuously marvel at what we are capable of.)