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, May 24, 2011

I "TRI" ed it... and I Liked it!

As we approach the warm weather season and the mid year point, it is a good time to think back to my New Year's Resolutions for the year.... one of which was to sweat more often and improve my overall fitness level.  I also wanted to lose a few pounds.

So one thing I did this weekend was a great nod to the above.... I finished my first ever Triathlon... Ramblin Rose Triathlon hosted by Endurance Magazine.    I call it a "sensible triathlon" in that the distances were pretty reasonable... 225 yds (9 laps) of swimming, 9 miles of biking and 2 miles of running.  While I initially decided to enter this about 6 weeks ago and was thinking that my goal was just to finish it, I'm now thinking I should set my goals a little higher because I did better than I expected.  The thing that I am proudest of from the whole event is how much energy I still had at the end of the race.  My run time for the last two miles was the 19th best time out of the 111 women competing in my age group!  

And the thing I credit for that is my diet.  Instead of eating fake goop during the race, I had two pastured eggs and fresh biodynamic spinach cooked in coconut ghee a few hours before the race along with a banana and some coconut water just prior to my event.  I was running on real fuel and I think that helped me from feeling any kind of stomach upset or cramps during the race.  When I was training, I was running 10 minute miles so I was really surprised to see those times when I looked at the final race stats!  

I can say for certain I am fitter than I was 6 months ago.  There's no way I could have done this Triathlon as well several months ago and I have noticed that my clothes fit better and that I seem to be more "toned."  I also read about the Liberation Wellness diet and started to incorporate those principles into my diet as well.  If you click on the Liberation Wellness site in the previous sentence, you can see me post as a guest blogger for Kevin's site from time to time also.  I encourage you to read Kevin's book to gain more insight into his message.  He advocates eating REAL food but allowing more time between meals which is possible when you fuel up on sustaining food.  Even though my weight loss efforts seem to be at a stall for the moment, I am still seeing good progress overall.  I've lost over 5 inches from my waist and hips and my body fat dropped over two percentage points.  It is good to measure things beyond pounds because pounds don't tell the full story. 

I must say it was quite a kick to be in "competition."  It made me feel younger and more alive to be outside cycling on a beautiful day and to be running and swimming as well.  I'm glad I took on this challenge!

Also posted at  Real Food Wednesday
and a slightly different version as a guest poster on the Liberation Wellness Blog

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Krazy for Kale Chips

Kale ready to go into the dehydrator
I've been getting boatloads of greens from our CSA share with Infinity Farm lately and needed some way to handle all these extra greens.  I've also been thinking I need to use my "mac daddy" supreme Excalibur Dehydrator more.... so the perfect solution was to experiment and make my own dehydrated kale chips.  There is a brand of kale chips called Rhythm Chips that were my inspiration for today's experimentation.  I looked at their ingredient list which includes kale, zucchini, onion, cashews, lemon juice, vegan nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, garlic, parsley and salt and spices and then looked through my kitchen to see what I had on hand.

I got to use all my snazzy appliances today so I cranked up the Vitamix and emptied everything I had that was close into the "mac daddy" blender and here's what I came up with:

One onion roughly sliced
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp or so of sea salt
about a half cup of Braggs apple cider vinegar

I also saw these goodies and decided to throw them in too:
a tsp or so of dijon mustard
a tsp or two of worcestershire sauce
a tsp or two of Bragg's liquid aminos
a dash of Tabasco sauce
a tbs or two of coconut ghee melted (can't resist a chance to get those yummy fats in there!)

Essentially I blended all this in the Vitamix and made a dip and added a bit of water at the end to make it liquid enough to be able to dip the kale into this mixture and then place them on the dehydrator trays.
dipping the kale in its "bath" before dehydrating
I put the dehydrator on low setting and then after a few hours was delighted by the crispy crunch of these delicious kale chips.  They may not be exactly like my favorite store brand, but I've got to say they were pretty darn tasty!  So I solved two problems today... I cleared out some crisper space by using up the kale and I added a snack to the pantry that my kids are eating!!  I encourage you to go ahead and make your experiments and adjustments as you make your own kale creations.  I think an oven on the lowest setting would also work if you don't have a dehydrator and also any blender could mix up all the ingredients for a dipping sauce.  Have fun making your own creations!

Also posted at Kelly the KItchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday 
and Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever!

Picking the lovely berries at Whitted Bowers Farm in Cedar Grove, NC
Now is the time of year to enjoy fresh strawberries so eat up!  My daughter and I had a wonderful time picking just over twenty pounds of fresh strawberries recently at Whitted Bowers Farm , a certified biodynamic and organic farm in Cedar Grove, North Carolina.  If you don't get up to the farm in a hurry (they say they may close this year's U Pick by May 18th), you may still be able to buy some at the Carrboro Farmers' Market.  In fact this Saturday the 14th is the Strawberry Jamboree at the market which should be a wonderful chance to taste a wide variety of different berries. 

A nice view of the berry fields!
A close up of the fresh picked berries
There's just something so tasty about red, ripe, juicy strawberries!  If you've tasted some of the bland ones from the supermarkets in mid winter and compare it to a fresh from the farm juicy Whitted Bowers berry, you can wonder how they are even called the same thing!  It just goes to show that there is a "season" for everything and that try as hard as we may to outsmart mother nature and have strawberries all year long, there is really no way to beat the unique joy of eating a food at the peak of its season.  

As if just the joy of a peak season strawberry isn't enough to celebrate on its own, the Whitted Bowers strawberries are extra fabulous for another reason.  Not only are they organic, but they are also biodynamic!  Now perhaps that doesn't mean much to you, but I think it should for several reasons.  First of all, strawberries are one of those foods on the Dirty Dozen list, meaning that they are in the top 12 foods for having pesticide contamination on the food if not organic.  You can see a link to find out the other top 12 offenders from this CNN Link to the Dirty Dozen most pesticide exposed fruits and vegetables.  So for me personally, I really go out of my way to buy organic strawberries or I just don't eat them.  

But the even more exciting thing about Whitted Bowers' berries and food in general is that they also go the extra MILE to be certified by the Demeter association for biodynamics.  Now to explain all about biodynamics would be a whole blog post in itself, but perhaps at first glance it is just good to know that the certification standards for Demeter exceed the standards of the US National Organic Program and the Stellar Organic Certification program.  Rob Bowers, from Whitted Bowers Farm, once described it to me briefly as biodynamics being that the farmer pays attention to everything when it comes to farming.  He wants to know what the planets are doing, he wants to know that the land is being nourished between seasons, and he wants to learn as much about the natural cycle of nature as possible to be able to farm in harmony with nature.  The Demeter association says Biodynamic farming is a holistic and regenerative farming system that is focused on soil health, the integration of plants and animals, and biodiversity. It seeks to create a farm system that is minimally dependant on imported materials, and instead meets its needs from the living dynamics of the farm itself. It is the biodiversity of the farm, organized so that the waste of one part of the farm becomes the energy for another, that results in an increase in the farm’s capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes the farm sustainable.  To learn more about biodynamics, you can click here.  There are also a lot of recommended readings from the site at Whitted Bowers farm.

In celebration of all things strawberry, let me leave you with a link to one of my favorite children's books that is read on utube at this link:  The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear.  Yes, indeed, there's only one way to keep that red, ripe strawberry from the big hungry bear.... we'll cut it in two, share half with me, and we'll both eat it all up!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kraut Uncrocked!

If you check back to my post of March 20th, you can see video of when I spent hours chopping cabbage, beets, onions and a few other veggies and put them all in a crock to ferment.  Well, the wait is over and late in the afternoon of Easter I opened the crock.  If you've never opened a crock before, I thought this video that I have attached might help demystify the process.  

I thought it fitting to open the kraut on the joyous day of Easter as I realized these veggies had been fermenting for most of Lent, waiting and preparing to become something better and it was a treat to be rewarded at the end of the day with this delicious sauerkraut.  No matter how many batches of kraut I make, they are always going to be just a little different depending on how long the mixture ferments (this time I did about 5 weeks), the temperature over the time of fermentation and also the mixture of vegetables and herbs that I put in the kraut.  I have so enjoyed sharing this kraut with some of my friends and neighbors and have especially enjoyed it in our family during meals.  A few tablespoons at the start of every meal is a wonderful way to get the digestive juices flowing.  

There is something amazing about how you can take pedestrian cabbage and salt and elevate this food to a symphony of tangy, sour, sweet and juicy just by letting time pass.  And while this is I suppose a "processed" food, it is the one case where the "processing" actually increases the nutrient value of the food so that's a process I can feel good about.  There are not enough hours in the day to think about all the different variations that are worth trying... more herbs this time, maybe more ginger, a bit less onion... the list goes on and on.  I think it could be a life's work to perfect the right mix of sauerkraut combinations and I certainly think that would be a good life to keep working on it!

I hope you enjoy this home peek at the uncrocking of the kraut.  I know the video is not perfect, but my goal is to help you get more comfortable taking on these home fermentation projects yourself, so I trust you will forgive any imperfections in filming.

Here's the film to enjoy!

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