Liver, kidney, heart and other organ meats have historically been staple foods worldwide. These foods are powerfully nutritious and in some cultures have even been considered “sacred” foods. Americans have gotten out of the habit of eating them regularly and purposefully. Steak and kidney pie in England, goose liver paté in France, menudo from Latin America and haggis in Scotland are all examples of organ meats still happily eaten worldwide today. We’re missing out on stellar nutrition at affordable prices when we ignore these foods.
Ounce for ounce liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods around. Just 4 oz of beef liver has more than 100% of fully-formed vitamin A, B12, copper, B2, tryptophan and choline; nutrients that are hard to find abundantly in our diet. It’s also an outstanding source of folate, zinc, B3, B5, protein, phosphorus, B6, iron and selenium. In addition to these key vitamins and minerals it also contains plenty of cholesterol and saturated fat. Those last two are why liver has fallen out of favor in the U.S., but thankfully we have new understanding about the important roles cholesterol and saturated fat play in staying healthy. Let’s not forget to mention that liver also contains important enzymes that assist in our digestion and metabolism, and while there is no government Daily Value for enzymes we know that the more help we can give our bodies with digestion and metabolism the more energy we will have left over for other things such as immune system building and cancer protection.
“I want to eat it but I just don’t like liver.” I hear that a lot. Myself, I really like liver and enjoy a plate of organic liver fried in bacon grease with lots of onions. Unfortunately we are facing a generation of children who’ve never tasted liver at all. They are growing up in poorer health than their parents and grandparents because of their many nutritional deficiencies. That is why I’ve developed several recipes that use liver in stealthy ways.
Try to buy organ meats from pasture-raised sources whenever possible. Not only are you supporting the humane care of animals, you are also getting toxin-free meat and a significantly boosted nutritional profile as well. Animals living outdoors in the sunshine produce meats with higher levels of omega-3 fats and higher levels of vitamin A and D.
Organ meats of any kind can be slipped into ground meat recipes. Hamburgers, meatballs, tacos or spaghetti can all be fortified this way. Use your food processor to mince up liver, heart or kidney. Our family’s favorite is this spicy Southwest-style meatloaf that tastes great hot for supper or cold for sandwiches the next day. Don’t announce to your family that you’ve added anything unusual and no one will ever know!
Chipotle Spiced Meatloaf
1 chipotle chile*, finely chopped 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 of a small onion, finely chopped 1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup whole grain bread crumbs** 1 egg, preferably free range
1/4 cup tomato sauce 2 lbs of grass-fed ground beef or turkey or a mixture
1 tsp sea salt 1/4-1/2 lb of grated or finely chopped liver or organ
1/2 tsp cumin 1/2 tsp dried oregano
*Chipotle chiles come in small cans with about five or six in a can. You only need one for this recipe. Store the rest in a zip-top bag in the freezer. You can chop them easily even when frozen and use them in other recipes like chili, tacos or dip. If you can’t find chipotle chiles in a can then you can substitute a couple teaspoons or more of chipotle chili powder, or regular chili powder.
**for gluten-free meatloaf, substitute 1 Tablespoon of coconut flour for the breadcrumbs
Preheat your oven to 350°. Place the meatloaf ingredients in a large bowl and combine them gently but well using your hands or a large fork. Grease a 9×5″ loaf pan and press the meatloaf mixture into the pan. It will mound slightly over the top. Bake the meatloaf for 30 minutes, add the topping (recipe below) and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 Tblsp ketchup (use a corn syrup-free brand)
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl. At the end of the first 30 minutes of baking, remove the meatloaf from the oven and spread the topping on the loaf. Return to the oven and continue baking for another 30 minutes as directed above.
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