I like butter, a lot. So when I heard I could make butter healthier and still keep the deliciousness, I was pretty sure I was being punk’d. And off I went to the test kitchen (aka my kitchen).

Ghee is not a secret if you are a yogi or a cross fitter or desperately lactose intolerant; it has been around for thousands of years. But if, like me, you are a native midwesterner who was raised on a daily three squares of meat and dairy, than ghee is a bit of a mystery to you.

Here is the deal, ghee is similar to clarified butter (like for crab legs). It is butter from grass fed-and also sacred-cows that has been cooked to remove the milk solids (lactose, whey, and casein) and the water. Ghee  originated in India and is still commonly used in South Asian, Iranian and Arabic cuisines, Ayurvedic medicine, and religious rituals.

Nutritionally, ghee is a more concentrated source of fat than butter since the moisture and the milk solids are removed during its preparation. One tablespoon of ghee has 13 g of fat and 117 calories versus butter, which has 11 g fat and 100 calories per tablespoon.

Why ghee in your kitchen?

  1. Ghee has a higher smoke point than many other “healthy” oils so it is good for frying and sautéing.
  2. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and has a shelf life of up to 3 months.
  3. It can replace butter for those who are lactose intolerant because the milk solids have been removed.

Why ghee in your body?

  1. It is high in butyrate which is a short-chain fatty acid essential to the colon and the intestinal ecosystem.
  2. Ghee can reduce inflammation when applied to the skin and is used to treat burns in auyrvedic medicine. It can also be used as a skin moisturizer.
  3. This oil is rich in fat soluable vitamins A, D, E, and K.

There are some studies that show this delicious oil may reduce the risks of cancer, lower your cholesterol and support weight loss. But let’s not go crazy here. Keep in mind that it is butter, not magic, and still contains the saturated fats that should be kept to a minimum.

You can buy ghee at most well stocked grocery stores, but I suggest making your own because:

  1. it is easy
  2. if you are thinking about ghee, you have already gone all-in on the health food thing, so you might as well take it to an extremely unnecessary level. That’s how we like to do it around here.

Let’s Make Ghee

Start with  unsalted butter from grass fed cows. Try not to eat this butter before you turn it into ghee; it is amazing on a spiritual level, as the Hindus already know (even though technically, the butter in the photo is Irish. But whatever). 8 oz of butter makes about 6 oz of ghee when all is said and done.


Line a sieve with two layers of cheese cloth and strain the oil into a small container. The milk solids will catch in the cheese cloth and the strainer and you should be left with only the oil. If it looks like maybe you still have some milk solids in there (white cloudiness or graininess) strain it again, I did.
I strained mine twice and then put it into the refrigerator to firm up, but you can leave it on the counter or in your pantry, too.


A vegetarian raised by wolves

Full disclosure, I was not raised by actual wolves. I was raised by “The Wulfs”, a large German-American family in Clinton County, Iowa.

Like many midwestern families, or those of German heritage, the “Wulf Pack” eats a diet heavy in meat and dairy.  A meal doesn’t feel like a meal unless it featured a serving of meat; breakfast sausage, lunch meat, steak or pork tenderloin, etc. And all my life, I was right there in the middle of the pack three times a day.

Flash forward to right now. Nearly 20 years in liberal Northern California and more than 6 years of yoga practice have rendered me a vegetarian.

So what? Well, in California, being a vegetarian in extremely easy because 1) nobody cares and 2) the regional cuisine offers a wide variety of vegetarian- friendly options. But at the end of July I’ll join the Wulf Pack at the family cabin in Northern Minnesota for our annual pack gathering where we will drink beer and wine, grill stuff, and have a really fabulous time doing it.

This is anxiety inducing for me because my move to committed vegetarianism is relatively new and I feel I’ll have to defend my rationale to the pack leaders (my mom, her siblings, and my cousins). I also don’t want to be considered “high maintenance” because I now have a “special diet.” So I had better hone my answer for just exactly why I would make such a choice and do some strategic thinking about what I’m going to eat that week.

Vegetarianism, technically veganism, is prescribed in a yoga practice because it supports the ideas of equality, compassion, and nonviolence, which are central to the yoga philosophy and required to attain enlightenment.

All of those things are great, but yoga is not the reason I became a vegetarian; I strongly suspect I would have found my way there regardless of my spiritual path. I have never felt great about where our meat comes from and what animal farming (on any scale) does to animals and the environment. I have also come to believe that a meat-centric diet isn’t that healthy for a person. When you live in a farming community, it is hard to own those thoughts.

Now I am all grown up and I live in suburban Santa Rosa, California. My meat comes from the grocery store, processed and packaged, with all the dirty work taken care of for me. But  my life experience and the media remind me on a daily basis what is required to put a steak or a pork chop on my grill or a chicken in the oven. And for right now, I’ll pass the tofu please.

The Wulf Pack 2015


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