When I was a kid I didn't like much in the way of real food. I mostly ate frozen pizza, chicken nuggets (nothing like these) and tater tots, Kraft mac n cheese, and well, you get the picture.
As I became a ‘grown-up' my palate matured, and I gradually found a liking for things like tomatoes, beets, and asparagus that didn't come out of a can. This evolution has continued, and this year I discovered my love for two incredibly nutrient dense foods: oysters and liver.
I love talking to people about liver – the pursed lips and the wrinkled noses are just so predictably fun, and understandably so!
Liver is not a main-stream American food. Most of us (including and especially myself) have been trained as children to scoff at liver right along with brussel sprouts, and other “strange” foods. But liver is so incredibly good for you, it's worth learning to love.
So what makes liver so wonderful?
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation:
Quite simply, it contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food. In summary, liver provides:
- An excellent source of high-quality protein
- Nature's most concentrated source of vitamin A
- All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
- One of our best sources of folic acid
- A highly usable form of iron
- Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
- An unidentified anti-fatigue factor
- CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
- A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA.
With a list like that, I decided that liver was a food worth acquiring a taste for.
Growing up in a household where the Standard American Diet reigned, you can probably imagine that liver was definitely not gracing my fork, let alone my weekly diet. And though my Pennsylvania Dutch mom has always been a huge fan of liver and onions, I needed some good ‘starter' foods to ease myself and my family into eating liver on a regular basis.
After a bit of experimenting, I found a few ways to put liver on our plates at least 2-3 times per week (including leftovers) and have everyone (including my 5 and 1 year olds) asking for seconds.
Here are my family's 4 favorite ways to eat liver:
#1 – Spaghetti Bolognese – (a.k.a. tomato and meat sauce)
sells a ground beef/liver blend which makes any standard ground beef dish into a nutrient-dense power house. You can make your own blend by processing liver from grass-fed beef, bison, lamb or pork in your food processor and then mixing with your ground meat.
The amount of liver you use can depends on your bravery – start with 10% and move up to 50-60% as your taste buds approve.
To make the bolognese, saute an onion and some garlic in a pan with some good fat (I usually use left-over bacon fat), then brown the meat and break it up as small as you like.
Add your favorite tomato sauce and allow to simmer so the flavors mingle, then pour over brown rice pasta, or if you prefer to avoid grains – pour over roasted spaghetti squash or zoodles.
I also like to slow cook shredded cabbage in bolognese sauce for a meal reminiscent of ‘pigs-in-a-blanket' of my youth. Essentially, you could use this blend for anything calling for ground beef – meatloaf, chili, and so much more.
#2 – Chicken Liver Pate
Pate is a great gateway food for learning to love liver because this stuff tastes like a delicious, buttery rich spread. If you're not so sure, start with a thin layer on a delicious sourdough bread and gradually layer more on.
Try chicken, duck, or even foie gras if you have the budget for it. Chicken liver pate is affordable and easy to make at home –
#3 – Braunschweiger
This is my new favorite – A German classic sausage similar to liverwurst but with a mild flavor and soft, even texture.
The one I like is made with beef, beef liver, and seasonings, though technically it could be made with pork, calf, veal, beef, etc. I order mine online, store it in the freezer, and my family (kids included!) eats about a pound per week with breakfast, lunch, or snacks.
#4 – Burgers
Yes, the good ole American classic can be a nutrient-dense rock star. My hubby is the burger maker, and he mixes our beef/liver blend with grilled onions and pan-fries them in bacon fat.
Top with cheddar from grass-fed cows and a dollop of cultured ketchup and serve with a side of sauerkraut – you've got yourself a pretty perfect meal that the whole family will love. Oh, and don't forget that you're eating liver too!
There you have it! With options like these, there's really no excuse to not man-up and eat some liver.
It's your turn!
What are YOUR favorite ways to eat liver?