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!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dive in to good times...soup that delivers taste and performance

Crabs, mushrooms, miso, kale, ginger... it's a party in here!

I really don't like recipes in general.  They have their place and sometimes I do use them... especially when I am in new territory.  But soup for me is an old friend and so I usually will just whip up something that suits my mood and what is in the fridge.

I'm still swirling around the ideas of Dr. Terry Wahls about how she improved her MS with diet.  And again-- even without any MS or particular reason to find this so interesting-- I do.  I think it is because on some innate level despite all the skeptics out there who say I'm coo-coo for thinking that diet can have a profound impact on health, I still believe that it can.  I know it is not everything, but I think our society vastly underestimates the power of food on health.

It is somewhat ironic to me that some of the hardest people to even entertain this idea are doctors.  I was at a party several nights ago talking to some doctors there and mentioned Dr. Wahl's story and link to her TED talk.  I told them to look up the link and tell me what they think... I seriously doubt that they will and I'm pretty sure they will dismiss the potential in this story without even looking at it.   

But for me, I keep trying to find ways to get more of those good foods that Dr. Wahls say are good for brain health and health in general into my diet.  And I wanted a quick soup this afternoon after my taxing exercise class with Dr. Stew.  (By the way... lovin' my new running shoes that have been fit with an insert to help stabilize my feet.  I was running my 1/4 mile sprints on about 6 minute mile pace!!!  I can't help but think that my diet is part of why this middle aged momma was the fastest woman in the class today and hangin' not too far behind some men half my age).

OK, I digress.  Now back to the soup... I am looking for ways to get more fish stock, miso, greens and mushrooms in my diet so here's the ingredients I used:  

  • an organic onion, diced
  • 2 tbs coconut oil
  • shitake mushrooms, diced, about two handfuls
  • portobello mushrooms, diced, about two handfuls
  • two cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 cups fish stock, preferably homemade (mine today was home-made by the folks at Whole Foods)  I prefer to make my own but hey, it was Christmas yesterday and I've been busy :) )
  • 1 container of frozen wild crabmeat
  • 2 tbs of freshly ground ginger
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 2 heaping handfuls of chopped kale
  • 1 - 2 tbs of Miso
  • 1 dash of secret fish sauce

What I did:

First I put the coconut oil in a warm pan and then added the onions and let them sweat down.  Then the mushrooms and garlic were added.  After they were nice and soft, I added the fish stock and let that get up just about to a boil.  

Then I added the crabmeat.  After letting it cool a bit I added the coconut water, the handfuls of kale and the ginger.  I took a cup of liquid out and mixed the miso and got that all mixed and soft and then re-added it to the mixture.  Then at the end I added a dash of this very strong green stuff that I got from a Japanese friend who got it from Japan.  I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know it is good stuff and less than pea sized drop adds boatloads of depth and flavor.  If you don't have it, I think the rest of it still would taste good on its own!

So that's my cooking for today... simple, stuff I had on hand, and just chock full of nutrition.  I've downed some serious greens today if you count the sautee'd kale I had for breakfast and my wheat grass shot earlier in the day.  I got some mushrooms, fish stock, ginger and all kinds of good things in.  

I think that's what excites me about cooking... finding ingredients that are actually GOOD FOR YOU and then finding a way to make it taste so good that you can just enjoy the food for what it is and not feel deprived in the least.  GOOD FOOD really does taste GOOD!  Simple as that.  So go ahead... make your own party and invite the good foods that you think your body needs right now and dive right in and enjoy!

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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Tastes Like Chicken!

 Perhaps even I've gone too far this time... but I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.  I didn't mean to go down this road but it is where I ended up.  Here's how it all went down....

Me(Donna):  Walking into the farmer's market on Saturday.  "Oh, there's a line at Fickle Creek.  Must be something good."  So I get on the line.  Plus I needed to buy some eggs anyway.

Farmer's market salesperson (FMS):  "So we have fresh lamb today.  We have roasts, chops, ground lamb, organ meats, all kinds of things.  What do you want?"

Donna:  "I want some ground lamb.  And definitely some organ meat.  What kinds do you have?"

FMS:   "Heart, liver and Rocky Mountain Oysters."

Donna:  "What do you mean, oysters? Like real oysters?"

FMS:  Laughing... "No, not real oysters.  Testicles, lamb testicles.  I had some chef friends make them for me once-- I didn't know what they were or I wouldn't have eaten them.  But they were good!" 

Donna:  Wheels spinning in head now realizing this is a chef challenge... "Hmmm.  OK then I'll take some ground lamb, a heart, liver and the oysters.  

Back at home:  I now am the proud owner of lots of fresh organ meat so I have to come up with some ways to put all these things into use.  The ground lamb and the heart were easy... meatloaf.  And that's another blog post perhaps and the liver is also a slam dunk... pate'.  But what to do with those other.... things.  Yes, yes, what to do.... 

So with the wonders of the internet I learn that Rocky Mountain Oysters, also known as "cowboy caviar," and "swinging beef" is somewhat of a Midwestern delicacy and that there are lots of festivals dedicated to just this food.  I also learn that generally they need to be removed from the outer tough shell, soaked in salt water to purify, boiled, and then usually fried for best results.  I looked over several recipes on the web before setting out my plan of attack.

I also am curious as to why anyone would want to eat these... except that I know that in general organ meats are very good for you (if they come from a healthy animal) and I am thinking there must be some good stuff to find out about the benefits.  I found an interesting article on the Weston Price website  that discusses some of the history of the food and the author references a 1977 article in Lipid Metabolism of Animals Journal  that 100 grams of raw hog or cattle testicle (I am assuming lamb might be similar?) would have 3 grams fat, 375 mg cholesterol, 26 grams protein and 1 gram carbs and 135 calories.  He speculates that the organ might contain the same elements necessary for reproductive health which would be vitamins A & D, B6, zinc, and the fatty acids EPA and DHA.  

On the LiveStrong Website they say that Rocky Mountain Oysters would be a good source of natural progesterone.  The article says "Progesterone is a hormone produced by women prior to ovulation. In women, progesterone aids in the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Men also produce progesterone, though in much lower amounts than in women. Progesterone is beneficial to the body in a variety of ways, including stimulating the thyroid gland and regulating its production, aiding in the production of collagen, reducing inflammation and increasing immunity. Some foods contain enzymes that are metabolized into progesterone when consumed, providing a natural boost of progesterone."  So they seem to think eating these things could be beneficial to your health.

There was a video circulating on the internet from Dr. Terry Wahls, a doctor who greatly improved her MS from eating lots of veggies, wild fish, grass fed meat, seaweed and organ meats.   I figure if it was so helpful in her health, it is probably helpful for most people even if they are not dealing with MS or any serious disease.  The video itself was quite compelling so I think I've just had organ meats on my mind lately and been looking for a way to get more in me. 

And so I did.  Here are roughly the steps I took:

You have to remove this outer layer of tough skin so I did that with, of all things, my boning knife (figured it would be very sharp and helpful).

Second, I soaked the "stuff" in a salt water mix for over an hour which removes the blood an impurities.

Then I par boiled this for about 15 minutes making sure they looked "cooked."  I added some vinegar to the water in the pot.

Once it was boiled down it looked like this and I sliced it into small pieces.

I made a mix of coconut flakes, salt, pepper and turmeric and alternated putting the coconut coating on the chunks and then dipped into wine and then went back to the coconut coating and dipped them in milk before one last dip in the coconut mix.  I figure since I was trying to maximize the health benefits that coconut flakes would be a better choice than cornmeal.

Then it was fried in a mix of pork fat and duck fat.  I have to tell the truth... they tasted GOOD!  It kind of tasted like a chicken nugget.  I know it is a lot to get past the idea of what it is, so I don't blame you if you can't go there.  There is some great irony in the fact that this particular meal is very affordable (less than $5) and highly nutritious but yet repulsive on some level also.  However, if you are going to honor the animal you might as well use every part because to throw something away when there are people starving for nutrition is also somehow not right.  Ancient cultures knew this but our modern culture has lost these important lessons. 

The custom of eating organ meat once a week has some wisdom.  I don't know that we need to go to these uncomfortable places every day but to sometimes stretch ourselves can have health benefits.  Fortunately there are so many other organ parts without baggage-- somehow liver seems benign after this experience-- that one may not need to revisit this particular place very often at all.  But I have found that it is the place that we DON'T want go, is sometimes the place where we most need to go.  We need to become more comfortable being uncomfortable.  So if this whole story repulses you, perhaps it is somewhere you should go...

Let me know if any of you take the journey and also if you know any more about the benefits of eating Rocky Mountain Oysters! 

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

A New Day

Avacodo, Grapefruit, sprinkles of cinnamon, paprika and dehydrated Kale chips drizzled with Olive Oil
I've been away so long that I don't know quite how to return!  My last post was in October....let's just say I was a bit busy the last month or so and I'm sorry to have been away so long.  But it is a new day and a good way to rejoin you is with a different twist on breakfast.

I had this mix of avacado, grapefruit, cinnamon, paprika and kale chips drizzled with olive oil.  I am drawn to breakfast lately because I think it is the meal with the most room for improvement.  Most people if they are trying to be healthy can do lunch and dinner pretty well.  But breakfast has these cultural norms of cereal, danish, pastries, bagels, toast etc. and so many of these things are NOT the best fuel to start your day.  They just end up as sugar in your body so you're not much better off than if you just ate a candy bar to start your day.

So I'd like to inspire you to become a non conventional breakfast eater.  Once you throw out our cultural norms, there are so many wonderful foods to be eaten as we break our fast from a long night of sleep.  The avacado, grapefruit mix has some great health benefits that might inspire you to dump your cereal box once and for all.

That dash of cinnamon can go a long way.  On just a quick google search of cinnamon I found a cinnamon's health benefits site listing all these health properties such as having a regulatory effect on blood sugar, fighting yeast, reducing the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells, having an anti-clotting effect on the blood, and improving cognitive function.  It also is a good source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium.  

The benefits of avacado are also many.  A good site for avacado's benefits are listed here.  Avacados are good for your eyes and heart as well as being an excellent source of glutathione, which is an antioxidant thought to be helpful in preventing cancer, heart disease and slowing the aging process.  One cup of avacado has 23% of the daily recommended folate intake and avacados have also been shown to lower cholesterol.  

Everybody in this breakfast is adding something of value and the grapefruit does too.  Grapefruit's benefit's, listed here, include aiding in weight loss, providing vitamin C, lycopene (which helps fight tumors and cancer), liver tonic benefits and also digestive aids along with many other benefits.

The sprinkled dehydrated kale chips add some crunch and their own powerhouse of contributions.  Kale may be the most nutritious vegetable on the planet with health benefits listed here that include being rich in carotenoids and flavenoids, having anti-inflammatory properties, and being rich sources of vitamins A, C and K among it's many, many benefits.

Paprika's benefits, listed here include megadoses of vitamin C that can be 9 times more potent than the vitamin C found in tomatoes.

Finally, the olive oil is beneficial in so many ways including being a source of monounsaturated fat which can lower LDL cholesterol and having polyphenols which have cancer fighting properties.

To make this perfect, I should have included some protein.  I actually have some dried anchovies so that would make an excellent addition and more crunch too.  You could add a side of the protein of your choice.

Of course with all these foods, you should seek out the BEST that you can find so that you actually get these health benefits.  I was fortunate to have my olive oil from Chaffin Family Orchards, and my grapefruit just arrived on a truck from Florida this week from my daughter's jump rope fruit sale, and my kale and greens from visits to local farms.  

I say we need to get our food WORKING FOR US to help us be healthier, not bringing us down.  What has your breakfast done for you lately?

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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On my way to Turducken!


The fun at culinary school just keeps on coming!  This week we made Chicken BRT which apparently is Boned, Rolled and Tied.  (Since we are de-boning the chicken to do this I wonder why it is not a DRT... but I digress!) 

While I still have to work on my deboning skills a bit more, I think I am getting the hang of the idea.  It really is kind of a distant cousin to the Turducken of sorts as that's what you are doing with the duck/chicken/turkey is deboning them all and then stuffing one inside the other.  I don't think I am ready for that yet, but I see endless flavor combinations to the Chicken BRT.  I made the same pear, spinach and onion mix at home that we made in our farm to table class last night.  Here's what our class meal looked like:

I was so pleased with myself for essentially getting the idea down at home today as I totally messed up my chicken cutting last night and ended up with chicken breasts!  You basically start with a whole chicken:  

You have to start at the center and then find one of the breast bones and gently pull the breast away from the bone using a boning knife.  Repeat on both sides being careful not to cut into the skin below.  Then you have to slit the legs and carefully remove the bones while keeping the legs and skin attached to the chicken.

When done you have a flat surface that looks something like this... I am sure better butchers would have a prettier display but most of all just make sure you get all the bones out!  Then you place the stuffing mixture which in this case was saute'ed pears, onions and spinach.  

Then you roll it all up like this:

 You have to use kitchen string to keep it all together.  You can see a little tear where I cut through the skin and some of the spinach/pear/onion mix is showing through!  Then you bake at 450 degrees until you reach an internal temp of 165 degrees which will probably take between 45 min to 1 hr.  

Out of the oven it looked like this:

The tender juices were amazing inside the chicken.  The stuffing really helped keep everything moist!  Here's a photo again of the finished slice:

And then because nothing should go to waste, take the bones and make stock!  So you get the building blocks for two meals out of the one chicken!  Maybe by Thanksgiving I'll be good enough to tackle the Turducken!

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Get your Pretty On!

Spicy chicken over squash/veggie medley salsa with Citrus Salad
One of the lessons from culinary school that seems to be swirling around in my head is how you should make food not just good and good for you but also pretty.  The first thing we do is see the food on our plate, and if it is plated in an attractive and pleasing manner you are already at an advantage before you even get to the first bite.

So instead of tonight's same old, same old chicken, I had the idea to get some pretty on instead.  Now I also had a problem to solve which was what to do with all the summer squash sitting on my counter.  Since I'm kind of a low carb gal lately, I was thinking if I chopped up the summer squash in a nice small dice and then added some of my other veggies and made them into a small dice as well, I could make a kind of veggie "non-pasta" pasta that would make a nice base to go under my chicken.  So dice, dice away I went knocking down the zucchini, onions, dandelion greens, squash, garlic, green peppers and probably a few other veggies that I am now forgetting.  I also thought if I diced up some dates that I had that I could put a little sweet into the mix and inspired by one of my cooking instructors, I took it up a notch and put some cumin, cinnamon, paprika, salt/pepper, and tumeric into the mix.  Then I got the idea to pop some coconut milk in which made a nice sauce and then I just let that all simmer while the chicken was cooking in the oven.

For the chicken I put some lime juice over the top, then took those babies up a notch too with the same cumin, paprika, tumeric, salt/pepper, cilantro spice mix.

Finally for the salad I had some fabulous arugula and mixed greens and also chopped up some fresh radishes, peppers and put mandarin oranges on top to keep the citrus theme.  A quick dressing of lime and lemon juice, honey, olive oil, flax seeds, sea salt, pepper and olive oil finished the dish.

Then at the end I just took a few extra minutes to try to make a nice balance on the plate to serve up to my family.  Take that, boring chicken night! 

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

Super Immunity Hijiki-Shiitake Wraps

The immune boosting ingredients are just popping out to jump start your immune system!

In my cooking class we spent some time this week talking about menu planning for specific health reasons.  I decided to look into immune boosting foods since cold and flu season are right around the corner and I thought this would be something with broad interest.

So off I went to the library to do some research on immune boosting foods and I found some good inspiration in the book Super Immunity Foods.   One of the recipes in the book called attention to the combination of Shiitake mushrooms, which are a good source of an immunity building compound called lentian, and apparently this becomes even more powerful when paired with the sea vegetable Hijiki.  So using these two ingredients as a starting point, I tweaked one of their recipes and started to add even more immune boosting foods to create a wrap so darn healthy that I don't even know where to begin.

Another chart that I found useful in looking for immune boosting foods came from a chart I found on the internet from the World's Healthiest Foods and if you scroll down a bit on this link you'll find a chart that lists some super healthy foods for the immune system along with a mention of what immune boosting compounds they contain.

Donna's Super Immunity Hijiki-Shiitake Wraps

1/4 cup dried Hijiki  (a type of seaweed)
6 - 8 oz Shiitake mushrooms
2 tbs coconut oil
2 carrots diced small
1 squash diced small
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic diced finely
1 Tbs grated ginger
1 cup diced Tempeh (a fermented soybean) * (If you prefer, you could use diced chicken or fish instead)
1/4 cup Tamari sauce
Homemade Sauerkraut if available (optional but worth it!)
Sea Salt/Pepper to taste
Lacinto Kale (several big leaves)

Soak Hijiki in cold water for ten minutes to hydrate and soak Shiitake mushrooms in warm water also for 10 minutes.  Rinse Hijiki and discard water.  Put coconut oil in hot saute' pan and then add onions, carrots, squash and then garlic and ginger.  When nice and soft then add the Tempeh, mushrooms and hijiki and Tamari sauce and also salt/pepper to taste.  

In a pot of boiling water quickly blanch large Kale leaves and then put in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Place the wrap on a plate and then add a dollop of homemade sauerkraut and then put a larger amount of the Hijiki-Shiitake mushroom mix on the wrap as well and then roll up the kale to make a wrap.

Here's a photo of just the Hijiki-Shiitake mix:

This is so tasty and full of immune boosters!  The Kale has Vitamin A, E and K to enhance the function of white blood cells, increase the responses to antigens and provide antiviral protection.  The homemade sauerkraut if you have it is a great source of probiotics that will boost immunity and has so many phytonutrients that you get from all the colors used in making the kraut.  Onions and garlic contain sulfur and flavenoid phytonutrients to provide antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties and the Shitake mushrooms contain lentian to strengthen the immune system.  According to fats expert Dr. Mary Enig, "coconut oil has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of the medium chain fatty acids/triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil and have been known to researchers since the 1960s."  Ginger is beneficial for the digestive tract and has anti inflammatory properties.  Tamari, which is a fermented soy sauce, is a good source of Vitamin B3 and B2 as well as minerals such as iron, phosphorous and manganese and also has free amino acids.  Tempeh, which is fermented soy and in my opinion healthy only because the fermentation process, is a source of Vitamin B12 and also B2, B3, and B6.  Unfermented soy products such as Tofu can be dangerous when eaten in large amounts.  I don't want to get off topic here, but for the dangers of unfermented soy I recommend The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla Daniel.

Now the best news about all of this is that my youngest daughter actually ATE this mixture tonight for her dinner!  I felt like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams... if you build it, they will come!  You have to just keep on letting your kids try these new combinations of foods and when you least expect it, your child will eat some of this stuff!  I honestly did not think my daughter would eat mushrooms or Tempeh or any of this stuff but she DID and SHE ENJOYED IT!  So never give up on trying to introduce these kinds of foods to your kids.  Her little body got such an immune boost and that in turn, gives me a giant smile and probably an immune boost myself!

Also posted at

And Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Change your mood, change your kraut!

A light and clean kraut!
I'm feeling light and clean right now and so when it was time to make my latest batch of kraut, I knew I wanted to keep it all green and light this time.  A lot of times I like to add beets or red cabbage and you end up with a red looking kraut, but not this time!

Today I stuck with organic green cabbages, organic granny smith apples, organic onions, organic and biodynamic garlic, organic ginger root, organic dill spices and Celtic salt to make a light, lean kraut.

It never ceases to amaze me how many options there are in kraut making land.  There is never a need to make the exact same kraut twice and really with the differences in temperatures at different times of the year, the fermentation process is always going to be a little different each time.  Somehow the notion, however, that you can change your kraut to suit your mood, almost like making a fashion statement of deciding which scarf or accessory to wear each day is one of endless amusement for me.  Feeling like you need to bulk up?  then make a heavy kraut with beets and richer spices... feeling spicy?  then add extra peppers! 

Perhaps because I have recently been learning about the wisdom of some Ayurvedic principles of understanding that there is a time and place for different foods depending on how your feeling, that using your mood to help you decide what to ferment is an intriguing notion.

Making a tasty and pleasing kraut is as much of an artistic undertaking as painting the perfect picture or penning a powerful poem.  There is an endless palate of flavor, texture, color and olfactory choices.   I'd like to live in a world where people make fashion statements by the kind of kraut they create... perhaps if I plant the seed in your mind you will join me in the quest for the perfect kraut to suit your mood!  Let me know what you decide to make.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Apples Elevated to High Art

Our Baked Apple with Molasses Cookie
In my Natural Healthy Chef Cooking classes, I've been getting all kinds of great ideas about how to take ordinary foods and elevate them to a new level.  This baked apple dessert that we prepared for last week's Farm to Table Dinner is a great example!

We started with Granny Smith apples and cut them in half, cored out the seeds with a melon ball tool and used a paring knife to trim the edges.  We then put a pat of butter in the middle of each apple, added some nut based strudel (which really could be a mix of anything you like), added some cinnamon, maple syrup and  just let them bake in the oven.  After about 40 minutes, the apples just melt in your mouth and the toppings mix together to make a fabulous sauce.  

When you carefully plate the apple and add a molasses cookie, you've created a work of art!  A little whipped cream wouldn't hurt if you have some handy too.

You could even start this just before you start to serve dinner and chances are good that you'll have an impressive fall dessert that will wow your dinner companions.  It could work on a weekday or be elevated to even higher levels if you plan it with a fancy dinner as well.  If you stick to nuts and the maple syrup for the topping, you can have a gluten free dessert if you ditch the cookie or make a gluten free cookie instead.  Switching the butter to coconut oil will make it a vegan dessert if you are looking for that option.  

Go ahead and play with all the options as you find the perfect masterpiece to end your fall dinners!

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Homemade Biscuits with Sausage, Egg and Cheese

Hot out of the oven biscuits!
I keep trying to dance the dance of making "good for you" food that my kids WILL EAT!  It doesn't help to make a fabulously healthy meal but then not have my kids eat it....

So while I'm not a huge fan of the  carbs in homemade biscuits for myself, I am happy to treat them every now and then!  And if you can use this as a delivery system to get in pasture raised eggs, cheddar cheese and sausage from healthy animals, you are starting your day with some good protein.  This made from scratch biscuit actually does have some pretty good things in it and I have a way to make the biscuit that makes it even healthier for you when you soak your flour in buttermilk overnight.

I got my inspiration for this recipe from this month's Bon Appetit' (September 2011) magazine where chef John Currance, owner of Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, MS shared his biscuit recipe.  I've never been there but it sounds like my kind of place to eat!  I see that the chef spent some time in Chapel Hill working at Bill Neal's Crooks Corner so he comes from cooking royalty as far as this town is concerned.  I'd put Big Bad Breakfast on my list of places to visit should I find myself in Oxford, Mississippi!  

For my adaptation, I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil because vegetable oil has too many Omega 6 essential fatty acids in a world where we already have too many of them.  I say just nix the vegetable oil out of all your recipes and use coconut oil instead.  He also says you can use lard, and that is fine with me-- I like animal fats if they are from healthy animals but I didn't have any lard handy and I also am a big coconut oil fan so I used that.  I changed the sugar to coconut crystals because they have a lower glycemic index and actually still have some trace nutrients so for a sweetener it is one of the better choices.  I also reduced the amount of baking powder and soda and am going to give you an adaptation that shows you how to soak the grains first as that helps to make the grains more digestible.  I didn't do that for this time just because I didn't think of it the night before but I will show you both ways so you'll have the information should you decide to try it!  

Donna's a little "better for you" Biscuits!

6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 coconut oil or lard
4 cups all purpose flour (non bleached)
2 Tbsp Coconut Crystals
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp Celtic sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to your taste)
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

If you were soaking the grains, you would mix the flour with room temp buttermilk and set out on the counter overnight covered with wrap.  In the morning you would just add the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and proceed as the recipe states here.  I know the concept of soaking grains seems so foreign to most of us that you never see it in a recipe but soaking grains overnight in an acidic medium helps to break the grains down and makes more of the nutrients available for your body to digest so it is something to consider doing, especially if you have a hard time digesting grains.

Otherwise, you start by turning oven to 400 degrees F to preheat.  Then blend flour and butter, coconut oil, coconut crystals, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in food processor.  Pulse until you get a course meal.  If you have not soaked, here is where you add the buttermilk as in the photo below:

Adding buttermilk

Then you fluff with a fork and knead lightly to have a doughy mixture which will be about 3 turns of the mix.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and pat dough out to about 1 inch thick and fold over repeating process about five times.  Then roll out the dough and cut biscuits as you will see here:

Getting kids to help makes them more likely to eat it later!

Then put the biscuits on a cookie sheet greased either with coconut oil or on parchment paper and put in the oven for 12 - 15 minutes.  You'll be rewarded with "heaven in a bun" as my daughter said!  And then put some nice butter inside with eggs, cheese and sausage and you've got a filling breakfast that will hold your kids full all morning!

So then on the next day if you have the biscuits already made, you can put the biscuits in the oven on warm and put cheese and precooked bacon and eggs inside and you will have these fabulous biscuits ready whatever time your kids need to have breakfast!  I am usually up about an hour before they come down for breakfast so I just have them all ready to take out of the oven warm and serve to whichever child is ready to head out the door!

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Donna Moment

Oh, how I love when I get a chance to just be me!  It is not that I don't love my family dearly, but when you have four children it is good for your sanity to sometimes be alone.  

I had the chance to get over to our fabulous local farmer's market and delighted myself with all the food available for purchase.  I feel so fortunate to live in an area where there are so many great farms and farmers that produce such healthy food.  After shopping in my own private Idaho bliss, it was time to go home and make lunch.  

The house was still quiet so I indulged myself with a lunch that perhaps only I would love... certainly I think it was too weird for anyone in my family to consider eating.  But to me, it was perfection on a plate.  I just took all the great things I bought at the farmer's market and put them together to make a salad of sorts...
 I bought some Kimchee from The Farmer's daughter, some roasted red peppers from Peregrine Farms (where they roast the peppers for you right on site!), some purslane greens, and some pecans from the pecan guy... his name escapes me at the moment but he has great pecans and I buy them whenever I can.  I finished up with some goat cheese and made a delightful salad that I enjoyed in complete peace!

While the photo is blurry, I hope you can see the vibrant colors and flavors in the dish.  I'm not even sure what to call it as there are so many things going on but I felt like it was an explosion of flavor and I enjoyed every bite.  The Purslane greens are loaded with vitamin A, Omega 3 fatty acids (apparently more per serving than any other leafy vegetable plant), Vitamin C, and some B complex vitamins too.  When you add in all the benefits of the homemade Kimchee, this lunch is almost too healthy to be allowed!  It just shows that good taste can be GOOD FOR YOU too!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Give yourself a boost with some CLO!

Here's just a mini post today to pass along my "cyber friend" Kelly the Kitchen Kop's giveaway to get some free Cod Liver Oil.  Perhaps those not in the know will gag at the thought of Cod Liver Oil, but I have found this stuff to be great for keeping the kids and the whole family healthy and for protecting teeth from cavities.

Kelly is offering a giveaway for some free Cod Liver Oil from Green Pastures at this link Kelly the KItchen Kop's Green Pastures Giveaway

Even if you don't win the giveaway, I say you'd be giving yourself a gift if you check out the Green Pastures site.  I seriously love their stuff and you can get the CLO (Cod Liver Oil) there if you don't win.  (By the way, one of my little fun hobbies is to make up acronyms for everything... bjb is big juicy burger, cpc... is clean plate club, pdt is pretty darn tasty!  It is so funny how my kids know all my little lingo and can usually figure out my new codes when I make them up.)  I hope that adds some fun to their childhood to have a silly mom sometimes....

Anyway, I'm not getting any freebies for the post except hoping to win Kelly's contest too, but I really do use and think very highly of the Green Pasture's products so check them out if you want!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Turning back Time...

So today's "food" post turns out to be more about fitness, but it is related to food also because I am learning how to be a more conscious eater.

Around last summer it kind of hit me that there was a bad little trend on the horizon.... One where I seem to weigh my age plus 100.  Now this equation worked out just fine in my teens and twenties and was sort of OK in my thirties too.  But when I realized the trend was continuing into my 40's it kind of hit me that this could get ugly in the next few decades if I don't stop the trend.  I suppose I've been lucky in that I really have never worried about my weight for most of my life and I've never really done any funky diets that damaged my body.

But as I said, the 40's have been a different story and I decided last summer that I needed to make some changes.  I actually started going to a gym regularly and I started to think more about when and what I was eating.  The 9 pm trip to the fridge for a tablespoon of peanut butter with a sprinkling of chocolate chips, the mindless eating of a wad of cheese just for opening the fridge.... well these were things I knew I had to change if I wanted to see any results on the scale.  And I will say change comes, but not always as fast as you want.  But if you keep doing the right things for long enough, I think the change does come eventually.

I have now lost about 15 pounds since last summer and lost some body fat and gained muscle too.  A big breakthrough for me this week is that when I stepped on the scale today, the tens digit was a 2 as in I could officially say that my weight is in the 120's... never mind that it is barely true.... give me time to fix that!  But it is a big breakthrough nonetheless because that puts me back to the weight I had in my twenties.  

I feel like a huge shift happened on our most recent vacation.... normally it is just hard not to gain about 5 pounds when you drive almost twenty hours across the country in two days and then spend a quiet week visiting family.  Especially when you are in new places and there are chocolate treats in every new store and restaurant that call out your name like a siren song as you sleep....  But not this time.  I didn't reach for the chocolate treats!  I didn't snack in the car!  I kind of put a plan together for meals to eat on the trip... things like canned oysters and my homemade sauerkraut and I drank some green tea to give me a little boost.  But no in between meal snacking!  Which I repeat that when you spend 10+ hours in a car is very hard to do!

And this vacation I made it a priority to keep up my regular exercise schedule which it turns out I really enjoy!  And the reward for keeping up these good habits is that I lost 1 and 1/2 pounds on my trip away even while still managing to have a few scrumptious desserts at the end of meals (I think it is best to indulge at your lunch meal because your body has more time to deal with it).  I just didn't eat snacks and didn't eat after 8 pm but otherwise I enjoyed great, REAL food and did allow myself a dessert every few days.  

So to all out there in cyber land I say keep doing the right things and I think you will see results at some point.  It has taken me a year to make this much progress so don't expect huge changes immediately if you want to make healthy changes that will last a lifetime.  I'd still like to get my BMI down a few more points just for safe keeping, so I intend to keep on keeping on and doing the right things!  I wish for you, too, to turn back your body in time!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rainbow Slaw

In these dog days of summer, it is hard to even think of turning on the oven when there is a constant oven on outdoors.  So when it came time for lunch, I started searching for a cool alternative. 

As with much of my cooking, I started out looking to use what I had in the kitchen rather than be guided by a particular recipe.  I had some lovely beets that were striped purple and white and some carrots, turnips, basil and other assorted greens.  I think I had a bit of fennel as well and I also had some apples that I diced which added a lot of flavor.  If I had walnuts and or pecans on hand, those would have been perfect too.  I used the grating attachment on the food processor and just went shred happy.  

The resulting mixture was a perfect lunch for a hot day once I made a little dressing.  I almost hate to influence you here by telling you what I made as a dressing because there are so many ways to play it from here.  I chose a simple dressing with lemon juice, sea salt, some grated ginger, a dash of maple syrup and olive oil to dress my salad.  But there are so many options here and I think it shows how you can never get bored with vegetables if you allow yourself to be creative on the final dressing.  

To make this a full on meal, you could have added a few sea scallops or if you are looking to eat on the cheap, even some canned oysters or wild salmon in a can sprinkled on top would have been a great ending as well.  If there is any lesson from this rainbow of slaw, it would be to keep trying new combinations and not be afraid of the results.  In general, I have found that as long as you keep adding things that you like, the dish has a way of turning out just fine!

Also posted at Real Food Wednesday

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Bounty-full Breakfast

First, I should say hello again as I've taken a bit of a summer break for the past few weeks.  I think it was the summer trips and having my kids underfoot all summer long that I almost seemed to have lost my way to the computer!  Or maybe it is that they have been making movies and on the computer lots instead.  Whatever the case, at least I have lots more Vitamin D after spending so much time outdoors!  

Today I seem ready to share another summer impromptu meal.  I have a ton swirling in my head, I just have to get to the computer to record them.  Thanks to my great CSA box from Farmer Jon at Infinity Farm, I have no shortage of fabulous summer veggies to work with!
Diced veggies before meeting their egg partner for breakfast!

As I looked at what to eat for breakfast this morning, I saw all my veggies from yesterday's farm pickup.  I thought why not start the day with some of these extra vegetables so I started dicing away.  There was fresh garlic, zucchini, peppers, basil, tomatoes and I also added some roasted beets.  Once I sautee'd all those veggies in coconut ghee, I added two pasture raised eggs to make a simple veggie scrambled eggs dish.

Scrambled Veggie Eggs!
I finished the dish off with some goat cheese and ate a very satisfying and energy-packing morning breakfast!  Simple, fast, tasty and most importantly, great for you!

A girl can dream... perhaps one day my kids will think this is a fab breakfast too and will join me.  Until then, I am thankful that they do eat generally good things for breakfast just not as adventurously as their mom.

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

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Farm to Table Lunch

The fields at Infinity Farm where I picked the veggies for lunch
Today had a big impact on me... I worked all day from 9 am until 6:30 pm as the caterer making and serving food at the Biodynamic Farming Conference in Cedar Grove, NC with featured speakers Walter and Susan Davis Moora.  But instead of feeling tired, I feel incredibly energized because I was doing something that I truly love.  I got to create a menu of wonderful food grown in a biodynamic farm and take this nourishing food and make an aromatic and gustatorily pleasing lunch for people who appreciated the meal.

The process of making this lunch started just about a week before when my daughter and I drove up to the farm to talk to my good friend Joy Kwapien and brainstorm about the menu.  We went out to the fields and looked at the food of the moment and came up with a menu for the weekend.  I had the job of creating the Saturday lunch.  We picked baby carrots and potatoes directly out of the ground and I also snagged some zucchini and onions that had just been picked as well.  

So I had a big box of vegetables on my dining room table this week and I worked each day on parts of the menu for this weekend.  I had to make chicken stock for the soup and I used the chicken meat for my curried chicken salad.  I had fermented some vegetables from the harvest about a month ago and let them make their debut this weekend so I could serve a fermented vegetable salad as well.  I grated zucchini for what seemed like days for use in the soup and muffins.  The potatoes and the carrots had to be carefully scrubbed. 

When you start from the field, you have lots of dirt that needs to be cleaned off.  This is something that is lost when you buy food from a grocery store... most people have forgotten that food grows in dirt and that dirt is well... dirty!  When we connect to the dirt it brings us back to the land and somehow this allows us to go deeper into our true selves.  As odd as this sounds, I thoroughly enjoyed washing the potatoes and the carrots.  Even my daughter was mesmerized with this as well.  I let my five year old daughter help me with the washing job and there was such joy in her face to get to work with a big pot of water and vegetables to clean.  I don't know why children love bowls of water but they really do! 

Here's the meal I served today at lunch with great joy:

Fermented Salad of spring vegetables
I took radishes, beets, red and green cabbage, carrots, kale, onions, juniper berries and perhaps a few other veggies that I am leaving out and chopped them very thinly.  I added celtic sea salt and caressed the vegetables until they released their juices and relented into submission.  I placed them carefully in a crock where they fermented for about a month until they were ready to be served today.

Cream of Vegetable Soup
I made Sally Fallon's Potage Bonne Femme or Cream of Vegetable Soup with the bonus of having all the vegetables come directly from Infinity Farm.  The recipe has:

2 medium onions chopped (I used spring onions)
2 carrots peeled and chopped
4 tbs butter
6 red potatoes
2 quarts chicken stock (homemade)
fresh thyme (I used dried oregano because I had that on hand)
4 zucchini trimmed and sliced
sea salt and pepper to taste
served with a dollop of creme' freche

You melt the butter in a pot and add onions and carrots.  Cover and cook until soft.  Add potatoes and stock and bring to rapid boil.  After skimming, reduce heat and add herbs.  Add zucchini and cook until tender.  Puree soup.  Serve with a dollop of creme freche.

Zucchini Muffins
This is a recipe I adapted from a Betty Crocker cookbook tweaking the recipe to make it healthier.  
3 cups shredded zucchini put in food processor
1 and 2/3 cup brown sugar (you could also use rapadura or coconut sugar)
2/3 coconut oil (Betty Crocker uses ve-ve-vegetable oil... I can hardly even say it.... I just don't use vegetable oil because they go rancid so quickly so use a real fat such as butter or coconut oil.  I have had great luck with baking with coconut oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs (I used Infinity Farm's pastured eggs fresh from the farm... I even got to pick them out from under the chicken!)
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts if desired
1/2 cup chocolate chips if desired
1/2 cup raisins if desired
After heating the oven to 350 degrees, mix the zucchini, sugar, coconut oil and eggs in food processor.  Then add the remaining ingredients and pour into muffin tins.  Bake for 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
Curried Chicken Salad
 This is a slight variation on Sara Foster's Curried Chicken Salad which includes:

Lots of shredded cooked chicken (I used the meat from two organic chickens after I had made stock for the vegetable soup).
1 red bell pepper cut up
1 green bell pepper cut up
2 diced granny smith apples
1 bunch of cut up red and green grapes halved
1 cup or so of raisins
a few cut up green spring onions
toasted coconut flakes
parsley cut up if you have it (I didn't have it today)
mix in curried dressing to taste along with salt and pepper

For the dressing:
1 cup or so of mayonnaise (I prefer homemade mayonnaise)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (I didn't have it today so I left it out)
1/4 cup honey
juice of one lemon
sea salt (about 1 tsp or so to taste)
black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and adjust as needed to taste.

Mixed Greens Salad
 This is actually part of the salad for dinner but I made a similar salad for lunch that had freshly picked arugula directly from the field, some cut up green peppers from neighboring Whitted Bowers Farm, some walnuts and tossed with a homemade lemon and olive oil dressing.

The energy from the meal was amazing.  As a group gathered to learn about biodynamic farming, they appreciated the efforts of the cook and it was an honor to cook for such an audience.

After lunch I sat in on a session led by Susan Davis Moora about finding our true destiny and becoming our best self.  The wisdom and energy from this session are still with me and I know that this positive feeling that I have from the day is a sure sign that cooking is one of the paths that I need to follow.  Thank you everyone there today for inspiring me and for all your positive energy and thoughts!  
Also posted at:  Real Food Wednesday

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quiche can gobble up more greens!

My cooler full of greens!

So I am feeling very blessed to have this problem of figuring out what to do with all the fabulous greens that keep coming my way from my CSA (community supported agriculture) box from Infinity Farm in Cedar Grove, North Carolina.  Once I get my boxes on Tuesday, I put some of the greens on ice in a cooler until I can figure out ways to get them all in the fridge.  My inspiration tonight was finding a use for the green onions, sorrel and swiss chard.

And then it came to me.... Quiche!  I'm calling this "Use up your CSA Greens Quiche!"  I like to create as I go but I took notes as I whipped up this creation and my taste testers of my son and his friend say this one's a winner!  I'll leave my trail below on how I converted these greens into quiche.

Use up your CSA greens Quiche

(preheat oven to 350 degrees)

1 and 1/2 cups roasted almonds
1/3 cup coconut ghee
2 slabs of bacon
4 green onions
1/2 to 3/4 bunch of Swiss Chard, chopped in strips
2 cloves garlic crushed
handful of sorrel greens
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fennel
2/3 cup of heavy cream
3 eggs
salt/pepper to taste
1 cup Gruyere cheese grated
1/4 cup Parmagiano Reggiano cheese grated

Quiche almost done cooking... still have a bit of browning left!

Step one:  Make a quick crust
I just ground up 1 1/2 cups of almonds and added about 1/3 cup of coconut ghee (you could use just coconut oil or butter) and mixed it all up in the food processor which made a paste that I put on just the bottom layer of a pie pan.  (If you want to make a flour crust, go ahead!  I've been kind of on a lower carb kick lately so I opted for a quick nut crust.)

Step two:  Get your skillet working
I cut up the bacon and put it in a skillet and cooked it down and then added the onions, swiss chard, fennel and garlic.  At the end I added the sorrel.  

Step three:  mix the wet ingredients 
I beat the eggs in a bowl, added the cream, salt/pepper and then grated the cheeses and put them all together.

Step four:  Get the greens in the pie plate
Put the cooked greens and bacon mix into the pie crust.

Step five: Add everyone else to the party!
Pour the egg/cheese mixture over everything. 

Step six:  Into the oven
Bake at 350 degrees until the quiche sets and a knife comes out clean (about an hour).

There are so many variations and certainly feel free to add whatever greens you have on hand for your quiche.  I like the way all those greens cook down and now I've got a great quick meal that I'll probably use for breakfasts and lunches.  The quiche is barely even out of the oven and it's already 1/4 gone.  But no problem, I've still got lots of greens so I may be making another quiche pretty soon!

Also posted at Real Food Wednesday