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!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Loco for Coco!

   Coconuts, that is.  While I am having some technical difficulties today and don't have a fun photo to add, I didn't want to let that stop me from talking about the coconut convergence that I see unfolding in the mainstream media these days.  I'm not sure how many saw this article, Once a Villian, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World, by Melissa Clark that appeared on March 1st in The New York Times.  Clark discussed how coconut oil has been released from its "evil" status and is working its way up the health food chain.  Just the mere fact that Clark mentions so many people with different points of view jumping on the coconut band wagon shows that there is a shift happening.  You've got the vegans, scientists, traditional foods folks, Whole Foods and voices from the mainstream media all holding hands around the coconut tree ready to create a Kumbaya moment!
   I don't have a specific recipe to share today, but rather feel inspired by my recent trip to Salzburg, Austria and touring sites from The Sound of Music to talk about my favorite things about coconuts and get folks to share some of theirs too!  In my head I am singing "Coconut drops on Roses, warm coconut broth, brown paper packages with coconut oil inside.... these are a few of my favorite things...."
   So in tribute to the newly repositioned coconut, here are some of my "favorite" things about Coconuts!

  • Putting a tablespoon of coconut oil in warm water twenty minutes before a meal can help you feel fuller and more satiated so that you don't eat as much!  From Eat Fat, Lose Fat
  • The smell of coconut oil as you open the jar is a symphony for the senses!  When you put coconut oil on your skin as a moisturizer, you get the bonus of a bit of fragrant "coconut" perfume...which I much prefer to chemical perfumes!
  • You can even use coconut oil as a natural deodorant!
  • A tablespoon or two of warm coconut oil can be slipped into a smoothie at the last moment to add some healthy fat at the last moment.
  • Coconut milk elevates chicken soup from mundane to memorable.
  • It's great to take a small jar of coconut oil on trips in your luggage as it is shelf stable and will ensure you have a source of good fats handy when you travel.
  I'd love to hear some of YOUR favorite ways to incorporate coconut oil into your lives!  What is your best coconut recipe or way to enjoy this fabulous oil?

This posting was also posted at Real Food Wednesday on Kelly the Kitchen Kop's site.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Make Friends with your Farmers!

Just a quick post today to give you the link to the blog at Emerson Farm.  My friend Mary Beth has done AMAZING work with the biodynamic garden at the Emerson Waldorf School in Chapel Hill and I see that she has put my blog on her link for recipe ideas.  Well the first rule of cooking is that you have to have good ingredients and the best way to do that is to go right to the farm!  So I want to return the favor and link back to her garden blog.  This garden has some great produce.  I can still taste the lovely sorrel that I had in the garden last year.. and even more fantastic is that my kids LOVED the sorrel too!  I have been there several times and just connecting today is a good reminder that I need to make more time to get out and help more often.  I wish every child could experience this garden... and every adult too... as it takes the best of community gardening to a new level by following biodynamic practices.  This is a great example of how we need to be in community.  Farmers and cooks need each other to blossom to our fullest potential.  So here's to you, Emerson Farm!  Thank you for growing such wonderful, healthy food and for sharing this gift with our community.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Radiation Reduction Soup

Bonito/Kombu broth with beets and other vegetables to detoxify
My heart goes out to the people of Japan.  The real radiation exposure in addition to the stress of worrying about this exposure must be draining beyond belief.  I am praying that this nightmare ends soon.  As a mom who loves cooking and has a strong nurturing streak, I find that when people are in pain I always think about what kind of food could possibly offer some comfort.  In thinking about what kind of food to make, I was inspired by the newsletter from Dr. Cowan's office last week. 
Who is Dr. Cowan and what is his advice about Radiation exposure?
Dr. Cowan is a wise anthroposophical doctor and principal author of The Fourfold Path to Healing.  Dr. Cowan practices in San Francisco, California and his March 17th newsletter was giving general advice about ways to help the body deal with any potential increased radiation exposure.  His comments discuss the benefits of naturally fermented miso, sea vegetables like kombu, beets, greens, good fats and lacto-fermented vegetables in helping the body detoxify after radiation exposure.  He also talks about simple steps such as taking epsom salt baths every few days to help aid the body's elimination channels.

A Soup Recipe with Detoxifying Ingredients

So my inspiration for this soup was to combine as many radiation reducing foods as possible into a tasty soup that will be good for all of us.  Even if your area is not experiencing excess radiation, we can all eat this to join in solidarity with the people of Japan. 

Radiation Reduction Soup Ingredients:
2 quarts filtered water
6 pieces kombu
1 cup bonito flakes
1 - 2 tbs coconut oil
1 green pepper
2 beets
1 zucchini
2 garlic cloves
1-2 tbs of grated fresh ginger
a handful of tatsoi greens
a few tbs of coconut cream
How to make the soup:
Make the broth first
I started by making a simple kombu/bonito broth by taking two quarts of filtered water and putting 6 pieces of kombu into the water and letting it reach a full boil.  After the boil, I reduced the heat and put in 1 cup of bonito flakes and let that steep for about 1/2 hour.  

Next, Saute' the veggies
Meanwhile, in another pan I took 1- 2 tbs of virgin coconut oil and saut'eed 1 diced green pepper, 2 diced beets and 1 diced zucchini.  I also added 2 garlic cloves chopped and a handful of tatsoi greens cut chiffonade style. 

Mix everything together
I then strained the kombu/bonito broth and put the strained liquid in with the vegetables.  I reserved a small amount of liquid to mix with a heaping tablespoon of naturally fermented miso and then mixed that into the main soup mixture.  I added the ginger and salted/peppered to taste and then added a few tablespoons of coconut cream to add a rich background flavor.  And for one more detoxifying boost, add a little sauerkraut or fermented veggies to the mix as you serve the soup.  

How does it taste?
I had a little taste tonight and I enjoyed it quite a bit; so to my taste it is GOOD and GOOD FOR YOU... the best combination of all.  I expect it to be even better after a few hours and the flavors can get more properly acquainted.  May this soup help all of us to let go of the toxins in our world, whatever they may be.  

Also posted at Real Food Wednesday by Kelly the Kitchen Kop

For more beet recipes, click here for Foodista!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One Minute of Kraut Making: An unfiltered look

(watch in full screen if possible as there are some small fonts on the video)

If a picture tells a thousand words, a video should reveal even more and hopefully be a jump start for visual learners who want to take a peek at the kraut-making process.  I just happened to be making some sauerkraut this week (doesn't everybody?) and without any plan in mind, I asked the kids to take some video of the process just to give you a better idea of what is involved.  There's even a few comments from the peanut gallery.... that would be my kids who love teasing their mom about her unusual food habits.  Of course they don't know this yet, but some day they are going to thank me for giving them all this healthy food!  The filming is not perfect, I didn't dress up my work area or have a big production plan, I just wanted to show you that making kraut isn't as hard as it seems.  Essentially you chop up a bunch of vegetables, add some salt and squeeze the salt/veggie mix until you get a lot of liquid releasing from the veggies.  You can put this in a jar, or in my case, a crock, and then you just let nature take its course.  If we wait for the house to be perfect, or all the perfect equipment or ingredients, we will miss the chance to just get better at making kraut by doing it.  Every time I ferment something I learn a little more and I experiment with different herbs and flavors to come up with new kraut variations.  Go ahead and chop up some veggies and add some salt and see what happens!
After a long day of making kraut, go out and celebrate at your favorite German restaurant!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day goes tropical....

I was thinking you may already be simmering your corned beef and cabbage for tonight's St. Patrick's Day meal, so what can I do to give your day an extra boost of green?  I went tropical for my inspiration on something quick and easy to try for lunch so you can be green all day long!  In "Virgin Coconut Oil" by Brian and Mariannita Jader Shilhavy which was written for Tropical Traditions customers, they have some great recipes featuring coconuts and with the avacado in this one it ends up a nice shade of green, naturally.  There's no need for green food coloring when nature paints with such beautiful shades of green. The avacado soup includes 2 avacados, 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice (I added the juice of half a lemon), 2 cups chicken broth (or try with coconut water or even water if that is all you have handy), 2 tbs dry sherry, 1 cup Coconut Cream concentrate (this is not coconut oil but rather a creamier paste that is usually sold near coconut oil or in the baking aisle or my preference... order directly from Tropical Traditions at ), 1/2 tsp salt and 2 pinches cayenne pepper.  The recipe says to puree the avacado and lemon juice first in a blender and then add the broth and sherry.  Pour in a bowl and whisk in the coconut cream concentrate and then season to taste with the salt and cayenne pepper.  I happened to use my new toy the Vitamix and just blended it all in there.  It wasn't clear to me from this recipe whether they intended it to be served warm or as a cold soup.  I think you could do either, depending on your own preference.  I had mine cool this morning for breakfast and I am just waiting for all the good energy I am going to have this morning from my healthy fat infusion.
  A serving delivers a whopping 84 g fat with 67 g saturated.  Now I know some of you are just thinking, let's wheel her in for an artery roto-rooter cleaning right now!  I don't know that I can convince you otherwise at this point but I want to plant the seed that there are some other voices out there that say we are a (good) fat starved people and that our bodies need fat and protein to thrive. A researcher named Uffe Ravnskov, who has a website at  has all kinds of interesting information about various cholesterol myths and in fact has written a book called "Fat and Cholesterol are good for you."  Even if you don't agree with his premise, why not at least check out his website and see if some of his ideas are not worth reconsidering.  You may do an Irish jig when you find out you can enjoy healthy fats in your diet!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Munich: a tour through food

Exploring a cheese shop in Munich's Viktualienmarkt

I know it has been too long since my last post but I hope to reward you with the sights of the food from my recent trip to Germany.  I was lucky enough to be able to use some frequent flyer miles and hitch a ride in the back of the Lufthansa plane to accompany my husband on his business trip to Munich.  While he was hard at work, I set out across the city of Munich exploring all the local food options.  And what a treat that was!  From the bretzels to the pate' to the cheese and on to goulash, pork chops and of course SAUERKRAUT.... I just spent 5 days in foodie heaven!  And that's not even counting the beer, which even though I am not a big beer person must say was also very tasty!  My favorite place to visit was in the Viktualienmarkt, which is Munich's local farmer's market with a rich display of local produce, meat and cheese providers. They even have a special sauerkraut booth!
Local produce at the Munich Viktualienmarkt
How could this booth be CLOSED on my day to visit??
Sadly some of the market shops were closed on the Monday (SAY IT ISN'T SO but the sauerkraut booth was closed!).  Some of the booths were closed because of all the hoopla leading up to Fausching (what we'd call Fat Tuesday).  For Fausching there are costumes everywhere and music and of course beer flowing freely for several days leading up to Fausching on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday).
A celebration for Fausching in the U bahn (subway)

Marienplatz City Center and glockenspiel

Look at the meat and fish on the buffet!
One of the things that struck me most was how EASY it was to have great food.  Instead of lots of chips and candy and fast food, there were ample places to buy pate', various meats, cheeses and food that gives you proper fuel.  These booths were set up by street vendors all over the plaza at Marienplatz (where the famous Glockenspiel clocks chime), and there were unbelievable spreads of food at every department store.  My German friend Dagmar told me about the food buffet at the department store Karstadt and it was a feast!  
A buffet station at Karstadt
Venison Goulash (note there are no noodles....just mushrooms and sauce)
  One evening we went to the local beer garden more popular with the Munchners (the locals of Munich) called Augustiner Beer Garden.  I noticed how organ meat was much more commonplace on the menu with things like calf's sweetbread and liver dumpling soup.  Even roast knuckle of pork was also on the menu.  I wanted to order the minced lung of veal "sour" with bread dumpling but the waiter said this was not proper for a lady... whatever that meant!  So I went ahead and ordered the venison goulash with cranberries and potato dumpling and I must say it was DEE-LISC-OUS so everything worked out fine. 
   It just went on like that day after sumptuous day!  I had the browned calf's sweetbread and milt sausage with home-made potato and cucumber salad at the more touristy Hofbrauhaus, liver dumpling soup at the Karstadt buffet, and a tasty bretzel on a day trip to Salzburg, Austria.  I think I was born in the wrong country!  I actually do have some German in me on my mother's side and married a man with strong German heritage so maybe that's why I liked the food so much!  There may be a German food paradox as well as most of the people I met were quite slim and stylish save for a few men who clearly spent too much time in the beer halls.  How can they eat this way and stay so slim?  I think it is because they eat real food and don't snack all day on junk food like we do here in the USA.  I can report from my own experience that I didn't gain any weight even after five days of feasting as I limited the bread treats (had only 1 bretzel and pastry...which were SO GOOD!) and tried to eat only during mealtime.  I certainly slathered on the pate' with duck fat and had my fair share of pork and liver so go figure...  
All in all, I left the country desiring to make more of my homemade kraut and to keep exploring what locals eat around the world.  Back home, I feel a bit like Cinderella when her carriage turned back into a pumpkin.  After five days in the land of fairy tales and inspiring castles of Bavaria, I've returned home to scrubbing my floors and the daily routine as a mom to four busy children.  But I leave with wonderful memories and a spark that I didn't have before that will inspire me to reach new heights of culinary exploration back here at home!