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!

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When it's Raining Greens

A freezer tray full of turnip cubes!
I don't know about you, but thanks to the bounty from my CSA (Thanks Jon!) I have been swimming in greens these past few weeks!  There's turnip greens, beet greens, kale, tatsoi, chard, arugula, spinach.... the list goes on an on.  

So I've been in overdrive coming up with ways to eat all the greens coming into the house.  One of the ways I help shrink the load in the crisper is to take some of the greens and steam them and then quickly put them in ice water to stop the cooking process.  I then puree' the greens and pour them into ice cube trays.  Once they are done I pop them in bags in the freezer and when it is time to make my smoothies, I can pop a cube or two into the smoothie. 

The bonus of this is that you are getting cooked greens in your smoothie which reduces the oxalic and phytic acid content.  This should make it easier for your body to get the nutrients in leafy greens.  I've found that as long as you don't put in too many green cubes, they will fly under the radar and your kids won't even notice them.  I have found that using a lot of frozen blueberries and strawberries will keep the general color of the smoothie still in the blue/purple hue which seems more appealing to my kids than green smoothies.

So don't get greedy.... maybe just pop one small cube into your normal smoothie and that way you'll be adding some extra greens into your food and you'll be clearing your crisper out of all those big leafy greens at the same time!

Also published at Real Food Wednesday

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dr. Kraut Makes House Calls!

OK, well maybe not in person, but I felt like I hit the Daily Double when I went to my local library and saw that they had a copy of a fermentation workshop with Sandor Katz, aka Sandor Kraut and master of all things fermented.  Considering that I've not had good luck with our library lately in that either most things I want to borrow are either already checked out or not even carried, I was so excited to see this video available for viewing.

If you are not so lucky to have this in your local library, I would say it is worth a purchase which you can do here at Fermentation Workshop.   (And no, I'm not sponsored for saying that!  Although I have found Sandor's books and videos to be very worthwhile so if this ever finds it's way to Sandor Katz please let him know I am happy to endorse his products!  I'd love to get to one of his workshops someday)  Sandor is known for his book Wild Fermentation which is a wonderful resource on all things fermented with tips on making bread, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and Kimchee, yogurt, beer, wine and all kinds of other things you might not have considered.  He is also well known for his workshops that he gives on various fermented topics in Tennessee and also around the country.  If I had unlimited time and funds and didn't have the responsibilities of motherhood, I certainly would have liked to have seen him recently at the Freestone Fermentation Festival in California.  So the wonderful thing about this video is that until you can work it out to see Sandor in person, you can learn quite a bit just from watching his video!

What I love about Sandor Katz is how he makes the whole process of fermentation seem less daunting.  He just gets right in there and chops away and makes you feel confident that you CAN DO THIS!  You don't need special cultures, you don't need fancy equipment and you don't need to stress about it.  I remember when I made my first batch of fermented veggies several years ago; I tasted just a wee bit of it and waited to make sure I didn't keel over!  Sandor addresses the fear that most people have about food left at room temperature and I admit a few years back I was no exception.  He explains how fermentation is actually one of the safest ways to preserve food and how all the good bacteria that you need is right on the vegetables so you don't need to stress about thinking this is a complex process.  

In fact, one of the blessings of my adventures in fermentation is that I am less bacteria phobic than I used to be.  It is not that I don't appreciate that there are bad bugs out there, but that part of the best way to defend against these bad bacteria is to build up your supply of good bacteria and when you ferment foods, you do just that.

I was so inspired after watching Sandor's video that I went out and bought a large ceramic platter that makes a wonderful base to squeeze lots of vegetables at one time and I made a gigantic new batch of kraut filled with many of the seasonal vegetables in my CSA farm box for the week.  The kraut should be ready in a few weeks and I can't wait!

Also posted at Real Food Wednesday