This blog is a place to share my passion for cooking and inspire people to cook more from scratch. With six people in the family, cooking is something that is always on my mind. I want to share some of my favorite foods and recipes and share more about traditional diets (like the kind of food our great, great, great grandmothers would have made). Right now I am fascinated with fermented vegetables, coconuts, seafood with a cerviche twist and organ meats... although maybe not all in the same meal!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A New Home!

I'm excited to announce that I've made the move from blogger to wordpress which means that all future posts on FromProcessedtoPure will be found at my new home

I think this new platform will make it easier to comment and should make it easier to expand to new areas as I will be exploring some new food options in the fall which may include personal chef services and potentially selling some food!  This blog is a first step in this new direction for me and I would be honored if you will move on over with me.  I hope my blog readers will sign up for the RSS feed on the new blog so you won't miss any posts.  I am also going to try to update at least weekly and also build a facebook relationship where you can find me at FromProcessedtoPure

So this is not goodbye but just moving to a new home.  Can't wait to see you there!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Build a Better Burger

Well, it's July 4th so it is hard not to think about burgers and that got me remembering that I never followed up on my ketchup capers!  This is a photo of a burger I made topped with my fermented ketchup that I wrote about a few months ago.  So I thought I'd catch you up on the ketchup (couldn't resist that pun!) and then also talk about how even a few simple changes can take the all American burger and move it from unhealthy to healthy with just a few small changes.

First, the ketchup!  So as you can see, this ketchup blob looks just like Heinz or Hunt's or any other brand of ketchup.... but it is most definitely not.  Instead of high fructose corn syrup and preservatives, this ketchup has only tomato paste, maple syrup, whey, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, cloves and cinnamon.  The real kicker is that it is fermented which means that there is an increase in beneficial bacteria which helps improve our immune system and will aid in the digestive process.

I had experimented with making the ketchup starting with fish sauce but for the moment I've abandoned that route as I think my fish sauce needs more work.  I may try it again using some commercial fish sauce.  But for this round of ketchup, it could not have been easier.  Here's what I did:

Homemade Ketchup:

2 cups tomato paste (preferably homemade) * see note at bottom
1/8 - 1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup whey*
2 TSB apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves

(if you want to make the tomato paste, start with fresh tomatoes, remove the skin by scalding quickly in boiling water and removing skin, then cut in half and squeeze out the seeds and then roast in the oven and then puree.)  If you buy the paste, try to find glass jars as the canned tomato pastes and sauces will have a lot of BPA in them and that would be something to try to avoid.

In explaining how to make whey, the simplest explanation is that it is the clear liquid that you see on top of yogurt.  You can make it by taking yogurt and pouring it into a strainer lined with cheese cloth and let the clear liquid drip into a bowl.  It will take a few hours to do this and if you do it long enough the yogurt remaining will be cream cheese which you can use separately and maybe add some honey.  For supermarket brands, my favorite yogurt is Seven Stars Biodynamic WHOLE milk yogurt.

Put the tomato paste in a bowl and add the maple syrup.  Then put the whey in along with the apple cider vinegar, salt and spices.  You can experiment with more or less spices and also try new ones.  If you want a ketchup with some kick, you could add a dash of cayenne pepper.  Mix together until all blended.  Then put all this in a mason jar and add one more TBS or so of whey over the top of the mix and just put the cap on the jar and let it sit on the counter for 3 -5 days.  That's it!  It really could not be simpler and then you have gourmet ketchup that is health building rather than health decaying.

Now as for the rest of the burger... you can make a HUGE difference in the quality of your burger in splurging on grass fed beef from a local farmer.  If you plan ahead you can save a lot of money by buying a 1/2 or 1/4 cow from a farmer you trust and grind your own meat.  If that sounds like too much trouble, then just go to a farmer's market and buy some grass fed beef.  I know it is pricey... but the quality of what is IN the beef is just so superior and is so much better for you than the CAFO beef that it is worth it to eat less burgers that are high quality and just spend your money on the good stuff.

You can also add a lot to the burger's quality by using real cheddar cheese instead of processed American cheese.  Adding some romaine lettuce or some avacado wedges or any other REAL food would also be a plus.  And for the bun, read those bun labels carefully.  It is very hard to find hamburger buns that don't have lots of preservatives in them.  Of course the best bet is to make your own sourdough buns but again, if that just sounds like more than you want to do, at least look for buns made only from ingredients you can pronounce.  Looking for things like flour, salt, culture and not much else in the ingredients will give you the best health outcomes.

A burger could really be so many different things-- it is a shame that they all have the same name as a fast food burger versus and a grass-fed, homemade ketchup, homemade rolls, quality cheese burger are not recognized by your body as the same thing at all.  The first one will slow you down, clog your system and make you feel bloated while the second one can energize, revitalize and nourish you.  The choice is up to you... What's IN YOUR Burger?

Also posted in Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real food Wednesday

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bacon Pesto Sprouted rice "Sushi"

Today I was in a playful mood experimenting with some raw food projects and it got close to lunch time.  I just finished making some bacon for my kids' pesto BLT's and the idea just hit me.

Why not take that Nori that I have in the pantry and the sprouted rice that I'm making for dinner and just have some fun?   Nori is a good source of fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins and also a great iodine source.  It's always a good thing to find a way to put more green vegetables into our diets.

I cooked some turnip greens and kale in the bacon grease that remained in the skillet and then laid a nori sheet flat on a cutting board.  I then scooped in some sprouted rice, crumbled bacon, cooked greens and pesto and rolled it up to make a fun little sushi roll.  I cut the roll into little bites and then arranged them on the plate before quickly gobbling them all up.

Bacon Pesto Sprouted Rice "Sushi" rolls

Nori sheets (one sheet makes about four "pieces" of sushi)
1 cup sprouted cooked rice
2 TBS pesto (homemade is preferred)
3 - 4 slices of cooked bacon crumbled
1 cup of cooked greens (your choice-- today I had kale and turnip greens) sauteed in bacon fat

Put nori sheet on a flat surface and add scoops of rice, greens and bacon along with the pesto and then roll up as tightly as possible (I think my sushi wrapping skills need some work...) and then slice into thin strips.

I'm excited because I had lots of greens in a new way.  This and an absolutely gorgeous Wednesday with clear blue skies and low humidity is enough to make my day!

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Citrus Salad... Hold the Mayo

When the mercury hovers up into the 90's, I start thinking cool for dinner.  So I started early this morning before it got too hot and roasted a turkey breast so I'd have lots of options for cool salads later in the day.

One of the downsides of chicken salad is that people think of mayo and how that will hold up in the summer heat.  I also think about all the Omega 6 essential fatty acids in the mayo (which most of us already eat too many of and not enough Omega 3) not to mention the soybean oil and other chemicals that I can't pronounce.

So I just flipped things around.  Instead of chicken, I roasted a turkey breast.  Instead of mayo, I made a super Omega 3 ginger-miso-orange dressing that has miso paste and rice vinegar instead of heavy mayonnaise.  It also uses flax seed oil, an excellent source of Omega 3 Fats.  One tablespoon of flax seed oil has 7.7 grams of Omega 3 Fats, which is well in excess of the recommended daily requirement.

I also added some other goodies like grapes, orange slices, avocado, red bell peppers and parsley and I satisfied my chicken salad craving in a new way.

Ginger-Miso-Orange dressing:

3 TBS Miso paste (white)
2 TBS rice vinegar
4 TBS water
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
zest and juice of one orange
1 - 2 TBS flax seed oil

Mix miso paste and vinegar and water until smooth and then add rest of ingredients until blended together.


Cut up roasted turkey breast
1 red bell pepper diced
2 cups red grapes, cut in half
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup parsley cut finely
1 orange, peeled, sectioned and diced

Serve on a bed of romaine lettuce for more Omega 3 super powers. If you want to hit an Omega 3 home run, consider adding some walnuts also!

This dish travels nicely to ball games or to the pool side.  All the fun of chicken salad, but with more Omega 3 super power and none of the baggage of mayo.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tongues are waggin' for this meal

Lengua Vera Cruz

 This meal of beef tongue set at least my tongue a waggin' as I savored the juicy delights of moist beef tongue and the rich flavors of peppers, onions, garlic, roma tomatoes, capers, spanish olives and lime juice.  The inspiration for this meal came from two sources-- the first is from the Natural Chef Program at Central Carolina Community College through the fabulous instructor for my Farm to Table Class, Chef Kelly Burton.  She had us prepare a Lengua Vera Cruz last fall.  The second inspiration comes from the connection that Chef Burton was inspired by Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill fame.

I suppose the real test of learning is to see if you can recreate what you have learned months after the class has ended.  So a few weeks ago I decided to pull out the two big honkin' beef tongues that were in my freezer and see if I remembered enough to create my own take on beef tongue.  I also spoke to a friend named Alice who has a lot of great cooking knowledge and she gave me some further tips on making a brine to soak the tongues so they'd be mouth wateringly tender.

But before I tell you how to prepare the tongue, let me also make a statement about quality.  I prefer to get my meat, but especially anything like offal, from a source I know and trust.  In the case of these beef tongues, they came from the beef of my biodynamic farmer friend Jon Lyerly at Infinity Farm and I have seen firsthand that his cows live in a beautiful environment and are well cared for. 

Happy Cows at Infinity Farm in Cedar Grove, NC

One of the beautiful ponds that cattle can access at Infinity Farm

These cows have plenty of access to green grass and water and as the life of a cow goes, I would say that these cows have a pretty good life.  We honor the animal by using all parts of it and that means getting comfortable with eating some of the parts that most others would just toss aside.  With many people in this country going hungry, I think it is a shame that we would not find ways to make the offal (which many people read as "awful") parts into a tasty meal.  In fact, I have spoken to several farmers who say that the key to being able to run a profitable business is to find buyers for ALL parts of the animal so if you want to support sustainable farming practices, you should try to put some offal into your diet too.  The Natural Chef Program gets their beef tongue from Murray Cohen at Cohen Farm and they, too, have well cared for cows that live a good life and have wonderful products.

So once we have established that these were happy cows who gave their life for our nourishment, it is not so gruesome for me to look into my stockpot and see these big tongues waving in there.  I filled my pot with water and made a salt brine along with some bayleaf and peppercorn and garlic and let the tongue sit in this mix for about two days in my fridge. 

Beef tongues waiting to be prepared... transformed into something appealing!

I then slow cooked the tongues for about 4 - 5 hours in an aromatic mix of bayleaf, peppercorn, garlic, carrot, celery and onion and water and let the meat get really tender.  At that point, you have to take the tongue out and do the hard part of the preparation which is to take that white outer layer off the tongue which is a slow process and I suppose not for the faint of heart.  But once you do that part and slice the meat, it is very hard to tell that this is not just regular beef of any sort.  And the taste is delicious.

Beef tongue needing to have outer cover removed

Sliced beef tongue

 So once you have the sliced meat you can prepare the Vera Cruz style of vegetables to go with it in which I included the following:

Roma Tomatoes cut in wedges with the stems removed, onions sliced julienne style, green peppers sliced julienne style, garlic diced, Spanish olives and capers, lime juice and some cilantro finely diced and salt and pepper to taste.  I saute'd  this mixture in ideally tallow but if that is not available, butter or olive oil would be ok also.

Donna's Lengua Vera Cruz at home

Natural Chef Cafe Lengua Vera Cruz

Once it is all put together and a rice or other grain dish plated on the side, it really makes a tasty meal.  I will tell you that my children did eat this meal and thought it tasted pretty good.... which is high praise for me coming from some very harsh food critics.

In addition to tasting pretty good, there are some nice health benefits to eating the occasional offal. 
Cow tongue has vitamins and minerals that help cells maintain themselves and also provides support to the nervous and musculoskeltal system.  Cow tongue contains 3.79 mcg vitamin B-12, almost 158 percent of the daily recommended intake for adults.  This has benefits for both red blood cell production and the nervous system.  There is also a good amount of folate which is responsible for cell growth and maintenance. You can read about some of the other benefits here:  Benefits of eating-cow-tongue.

If we go back in time and remember that people used to eat offal of some kind on a weekly basis, you can see that it was a nice way to get an infusion of nutrients that are hard to get from standard day fare.  I encourage you to give it a try... for the sake of supporting your farmer as well as your own health!

Also published in Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rethinking "Fun" Food to combat obesity

The Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report last week about obesity in this country and it is not a pretty picture.  Sixty-nine percent of adults and thirty-two percent of children in this country are overweight or obese at a cost of over $190 billion annually in chronic obesity related illnesses such as diabetes care.   The recommendations in the report identify five keys to reversing this trend which are:

  1. Integrate physical activity every day in every way
  2. Market what matters for a healthy life
  3. Make healthy foods and beverages available everywhere
  4. Activate employers and health care professionals
  5. Strengthen schools as the heart of health
To be sure this is a complex problem and there are no easy answers to be found.  But as I reflected on these recommendations-- and in particular for me numbers 3, 4 and 5, I see how much work we have to do to make even a small dent in this alarming problem.

Healthy food and beverages are hard to find, and sometimes priced out of reach.  Good luck trying to find nutritious food if you travel across the country in a car.  And at work, you will need willpower of steel to steer clear of the birthday cake in the break room or the muffins served for breakfast meetings.  I noticed recently at a venue that caters to the corporate and executive crowd that they serve cookies and candy during afternoon breaks.  It is simply beyond the willpower of many people, myself sometimes included, to steer clear of candy and cookies during a weak afternoon moment even if alternatives like vegetables are placed nearby.  The siren song of broccoli is just not as strong as the song of an M&M for many people.  At least I think that is true for the culture that most of us in the United States grew up in.  Employers, schools and health professionals know these things to be true, but they don't always walk the walk.

So that's what gave me the idea today to play with my food.  If the packaged goods marketers with their million dollar marketing budgets know how to make food more appealing with fun packaging and visual appeal, maybe we need to try a little harder to make that cucumber or carrot have a fighting chance.  I just finished the Natural Chef Program at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, North Carolina and one of the handy little gadgets in my knife kit is a device that can make wedges in food.  I guess I should know the name of this, but it escapes me at the moment.  But in any case, it can take an ordinary cucumber and turn it into a work of art just by scraping down the sides and making a small divot.

Then as you slice the cucumber, you get a nice little flower.  I made these for my elementary school children's lunch today and one of my kids reported that some of the other kids were asking him how his mom made the cucumbers like that.  You can also do it with a carrot or a strawberry or lots of other vegetables and if that helps to make kids more interested in vegetables then I say let's give it a go!  I greeted my kindergartener today with this snack after school and I think she got a kick out of it.  At least she ate it all up and some chili that I made also.

We as a nation should be horrified that about one third of our children are overweight or obese.  It is one thing when we as adults make the wrong choices, but kids don't really have a lot of choice about the food they are served.  If they eat school lunch, they are at the mercy of us as a society valuing children enough to give them a healthy, nutritious meal.  And it is not always easy as kids don't understand this problem and in many cases they really would rather eat candy or chips.  It means that sometimes they won't like us because we are trying to get them to eat eggs or spinach or fish.  But whether they appreciate it or not, our children deserve a chance to live at least as long as their parents and not to be saddled with diabetes and obesity in childhood.  Whatever it takes to get there, this problem is just too big and too important for us not to get it right. 

Also published at kelly the kitchen kop's real food Wednesday 

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Cleansing Lunch

Sprouted Rice, shredded veggies, spinach and herbs in a light honey mustard sauce
First of all, apologies again for being away so long.  Life has a way of getting in the way of my love of sharing my food adventures and I then I feel like I have to deliver something extraordinary as a treat to bring you back.  I don't know if this is worthy enough, but here's what's on my mind today.

I am joyful that it is the Easter season!  But I feel like I've been a day late and a dollar short all Lent so I am not surprised that I find myself today, the day after Easter, on day 5 of my 8 days without meat.  I am listening more to the intuitive healer within myself and I knew I wanted to do a cleanse that I'd heard both my chiropractor/boot camp drill sergeant and holistic doctor say good things about over the past year.  Somehow I just didn't get to it until the end of Lent.  Last night I dreamed about a big juicy steak so I can see that I don't have it in me to be a long term vegan!

However, it is always good to shake things up a bit because life is constantly moving forward whether we want it to or not.  And it is good to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  So, I, Donna, the unabashed enjoyer of organ meats and other unmentionables and flesh of all kinds, is taking a respite from the demands of carnevore-dom.   It has me inspired to eat more of the vegetables that I also love and today I came up with a pretty tasty rendition of a rice veggie salad that I think is worth a blog post.

Sprouted Rice, Veggie and Greens Salad

2 cups sprouted brown rice
6 organic carrots grated
2 organic turnips grated
2 organic, biodynamic (if available) radishes grated
1/2 cup diced organic cilantro
3 cups organic diced spinach
1 biodynamic leek diced
sea salt/pepper to taste
dash of tumeric, oregano and any other herbs that caught my fancy

honey/mustard dressing

1/4 cup lemon juice (or so)
2 TBS dijon mustard
1 TBS honey (I know not on my cleanse but it will be a fragment in my one serving)
3/4 cup olive oil (or so)
sea salt/pepper to taste
1 TBS flax seed oil


Prepare rice per instructions.  The reason I am so excited about the sprouted rice is that you don't have to soak it further before cooking because the sprouting releases more nutrients already.  You can read more about the Benefits of sprouted rice from this link.  But if you don't want to click I will just repeat here that they report that GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) is prevalent in sprouted rice and the Planet Rice folks say "it is an amino acid found in common everyday health foods, such as peaches, green snap beans, and rice. GABA also exists in people and works as a neurotransmitter that nutrition studies show provide a number of health benefits: Lowers anxiety, increases the sleep cycle giving deeper rest, lowers blood pressure, and improves other cardiovascular functions.  The germination process adds a variety of nutrients through the activation of dormant enzymes,while also softening the bran layer.The rice kernel is germinated until the flavor and nutritional benefits are maximized. Subsequently, the germination process is interrupted and the kernel moisture is reduced to pre-germination levels, preserving the nutritional benefits. Germinated / sprouted brown rice has four times the GABA content of regular rice, and over ten times the GABA of white rice!"

While the rice is cooking, shred the carrots, turnips, radishes and cut up all the greens.  I did a quick saute' on the spinach and leeks but put all the other shredded veggies in a bowl.  I mixed the honey mustard dressing with the shredded veggies.

To serve, I plated the brown rice first, then added the saute' of greens next and then finally placed the shredded veggie mix that had the honey mustard dressing on it. 

I find that I am savoring the taste and textures of fresh vegetables as I allow myself to indulge in them more fully during this first part of my cleanse.  I find it is giving me clarity and vitality that one would not expect and I felt like I still had more in the tank after my 3 or so mile run this morning so I take that as a sign good things are brewing.  Regardless of what your food preferences are, I encourage YOU to shake up whatever your routine is and notice what happens.  If you try this rice/veggie salad, I hope it revitalizes you, too!

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday