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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A New Home!

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Build a Better Burger

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

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

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

Homemade Ketchup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bacon Pesto Sprouted rice "Sushi"

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

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

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

Bacon Pesto Sprouted Rice "Sushi" rolls

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Citrus Salad... Hold the Mayo

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

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

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

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

Ginger-Miso-Orange dressing:

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tongues are waggin' for this meal

Lengua Vera Cruz

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

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

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

Happy Cows at Infinity Farm in Cedar Grove, NC

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

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

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

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

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

Beef tongue needing to have outer cover removed

Sliced beef tongue

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

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

Donna's Lengua Vera Cruz at home

Natural Chef Cafe Lengua Vera Cruz

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rethinking "Fun" Food to combat obesity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Cleansing Lunch

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

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

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

Sprouted Rice, Veggie and Greens Salad

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

honey/mustard dressing

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Occupy Pancakes.... taking back breakfast one bite at a time!

Pancakes are another food that has been hoodwinked by the industrial food system.  While these may look like the same kind of pancakes you could make with a box of Bisquick or Aunt Jemima mix, they are most definitely not.  These pancakes are to Bisquick as hearing your favorite band play live is to going to amateur karaoke night at a drunken bar.  You might be hearing the same words, but it is a completely different experience on a cellular level.  The live music feeds the body and soul while the bad karaoke leaves you feeling cheapened by the experience.  Your cells will recognize the difference in these pancakes as well. 

Organic hulled buckwheat

Organic spelt

For starters, I started with something pure.  In this case organic hulled buckwheat and organic spelt.  With the magic of my new Vitamix grain attachment, I could take a cup of the grain and just whiz it into flour in a jiffy!  I think there are some better grain grinders out there, but since I already had the Vitamix and the grain attachment was just about $100 it seemed like a better deal to just add that than to spend more for just the grain grinder.  Perhaps if I was running a bakery or doing heavy duty grinding I would need something that could handle larger loads, but for home use I am pleased with how the Vitamix grain attachment is working.

I took the flour and then used one of Sally Fallon's pancake recipes which calls for soaking the flour overnight in an acidic medium so that your body can more easily digest the grain.  This concept of soaking grains is something that has been done for centuries around the world but the concept seems to have been lost here since the advent of industrialized food.  There are many benefits to soaking grain as the link I provided discusses in further detail but some of the most important are to reduce the amount of phytic acid, encourage the production of beneficial enzymes, to increase the amount of B vitamins and to break down gluten and make the digestive process easier.  I think part of the gluten free craze is that people's bodies are voting through allergic reaction and other ailments that it is not normal or healthy to eat grains that have not been properly prepared and somehow once again, America missed the memo on that one.

I looked at the ingredients in some of the typical pancake mixes and here were some of the things I saw:  enriched bleached flour (which essentially means that everything good was stripped out of it and then some synthetic vitamins were popped back in), polysorbate 60 (don't know what it is... but doubt it is good for you), partially hydrogenated soybean oil (KNOW it is terrible for you), mono and diglycerides (???--again back to Pollan's food rule if you don't understand it, don't eat it), corn syrup solids (yuk), sodium casenate... you get the idea.

Simple Soaked Pancakes

2 cups of freshly ground flour
2 cups of buttermilk or kefir or yogurt *  (If you prefer to do dairy free you can use 2 cups of filtered water with 2 tablespoons of whey, lemon juice or vinegar in place of the yogurt/buttermilk)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda (I find I like to use less-- like 1/2 tsp because I don't like the baking soda aftertaste that can occur if you put too much in)
2 TBS melted butter

You let the flour sit in the acidic mix (whatever you chose) overnight covered on your counter.  In the morning, you mix in the eggs, salt, butter and baking soda and then just mix up the pancakes as usual.  

Then serve with maple syrup (real) and melted butter.

I think the pancakes are absolutely terrific and it is a way to enjoy a classic food and make it good for you too.  We deserve better than boxed, stale, tired, "fake" food!  So take back your kitchen and give boxed breakfasts the boot and make Laura Ingalls Wilder smile as you eat pioneer pancakes that will make your great, great, great grandmother smile!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Celebrate with a Glass of Kvass!

Beet Kvass all dressed up!

I have a lot to celebrate today.  I just finished up a big work project and the kids in my afterschool math program just took their last contest of the year.  To savor the moment, I took a break and had a nice glass of Kvass.

Beet what?  Yes, that is beet kvass, a drink generally thought of as a tonic.  In the traditional diet classic book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morell, she reports that this drink is known for promoting regularity, aiding digestion, alkalizing the blood and cleansing the liver.  She also says it is good for kidney stones.  She references a book called Ukranian Dishes by Lubow Kyivska and in the book Kyivska says that no Ukranian home was ever without its beet kvass. 

It is a very simple drink to make.  It is just a few beets cut up coarsely and then some whey, sea salt and filtered water.  You put this on the counter for several days and you are rewarded with Beet Kvass which can then stay in the fridge for a long time but probably won't because you'll drink it up soon (however it tastes even better if you let it sit a few more days in the fridge before you break into it).  

I happen to actually like the taste of this stuff so I drank my kvass in a fancy glass and savored it like a fine wine.  Perhaps when one has been eating fermented foods for so long, these things actually start tasting good!  They do to me.

There is something magical about beets and fermented beets apparently are like an exclamation point; they just make everything about the beets more nutritious and in a form your body can easily absorb.

 Here's how Sally makes her Kvass:

3 medium organic beets, peeled and chopped coarsely
1/4 cup whey
1 TBS sea salt
filtered water

Put the beets in a mason jar and add the whey and sea salt and then fill the rest of the jar with filtered water.  I sometimes find that cutting back the salt to about 3/4 TBS is the right mix for me.  The whey can be made by taking yogurt in a strainer and letting it drip through a cheese cloth into a bowl for several hours.  The clear liquid that strains through is the whey and if you do this long enough, the yogurt will become cream cheese!  (bonus cheese making lesson).  

That's it, you just put all the stuff in the jar, stir it together, and let it sit on your counter with the lid secured.  In three days, you will have a slightly sour, very pleasing tonic that you can drink in the morning and at night at about 4 oz each.  There is no alcoholic fermentation going on, just a nice development of lactic acid that is a great probiotic and a healing drink.  If you grated the beets you might get into the alcoholic type of fermentation but this drink is not about that.

When you get down to the bottom of the jar with just a little liquid still left, you can refill with filtered water and start the process all over again by making another batch letting it sit on the counter again for three days.  It won't be quite as potent the second time around, but it is still good.

So from those humble 3 beets you can get a gallon of healing tonic that will do all kinds of good things for your body!  If you become a fermentation regular like me, somewhere along the line you will find that you actually enjoy the taste!  I find it cleansing and energizing and I can almost feel on a cellular level how it is doing good things for my body.  Cheers!

And apparently I'm not the only one yapping on about the beauty of this kvass.  Here are a few other bloggers who love the stuff as much as me:


Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crunchy mom makes crunchy chips!

Sweet Potato Chips

There's a crunchy mom video that was circulating around the internet that made me laugh and also got me thinking about these crunchy sweet potato chips that are super easy to make and fit right in with the crunchy mom lifestyle!

 We start with the humble sweet potato and your new best friend for this job, the mandolin slicer.  I put the link not because I endorse this particular one (I have no horse in the race), but just to show you what one looks like.  Essentially, they are slicers that allow you to get a very fine slice, which is vital to the success of the veggie chip!  I found that my food processor did not allow me to get a thin enough slice which makes for more of a chewy chip.... and it turns out that chewy does not make for a good chip!

So it is as simple as this .... take the sweet potatoes and slice paper thin with a mandolin.  Then mix in some good quality olive oil and a mix of salt and pepper.  I also like to throw in a little cinnamon and let the sweet potatoes get wet but not drenching wet.

Then, if like the crunchy all star momma you want to be, you have a dehydrator.... well it is as simple as can be to put the chips on the trays and let them dehydrate at about 105 degrees F for several hours until they are well, CHIPS!  If you don't have a dehydrator, an oven on a warm setting will do but just know you may lose some enzymes and raw food status as you will likely have the oven over 118 degrees F.  However, they will still be crunchy and tasty!

Sweet potatoes are a great source of carotenes, vitamin C, B6, manganese, copper, biotin, pantothenic acid and dietary fiber.  They provide glutathione, one of the body's most important internally produced antioxidants.  Additionally unlike other starchy vegetables, sweet potatoes have been shown in animal studies to help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve response to the hormone insulin.  

So next time you feel "crunchy," reach for something like these sweet potato chips that you can feel good about and still get your crunch on!

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I get by with a Little Help from my Friends!

My take on Three Stone Hearth's Blessed Beet Salad
 Humming the Beetle's tune as I write this, I want to give thanks to two "friends" for inspiring my family dinner last night.  The first "friend" is Jessica Prentice of Three Stone Hearth  in Berkeley, California.  I read Jessica's book, Full Moon Feast a few years ago, but it remains a powerful inspiration source for me.  Jessica is offering a Blessed Beet Salad this week at Three Stone Hearth and the ingredients are Beets, celery, fennel, oranges, olive oil, parsley, lemon juice, lime zest and juice, garlic, salt, anise seed and black pepper. 

I'm not exactly sure how she prepares it, but I roasted some beets and then peeled them when they were nice and soft.  I then cut up some fennel (which I deviated a bit and did a quick saute in butter), cut up the oranges and then made a "sauce" with the olive oil, parsley, lemon juice, lime juice and zest, garlic, anise seed and black pepper.  I also just now realize I forgot to put in the celery (however it was still delicious).  Maybe that was part of the destiny for what I needed yesterday!  I drizzled the sauce over the warm beets and oranges and fennel mix so that the flavor would be soaked in by the warm beets.  I think the salad could be served warm or chilled.  It was a delightful burst of citrus yet with depth from the beets.  The anise seed and lime zest added extra complexity to the flavor.  Best of all, my kids actually ate some of it and seemed to enjoy it! That's big news here because I have not had a lot of luck getting them to eat beets.

My Take on Rick Osborn's Best Pot Roast Ever
I found it to be a perfect companion for the pot roast that I was inspired to cook from my newest "friend", Rick Osborn, who boasts a "best pot roast recipe ever!"  I met Rick this weekend in Baltimore, Md at the FourFold Path to Healing conference. The weekend, a blog post perhaps in itself, was jam packed full of information and insight and amazing food.  Rick turned out to be on both my flights this weekend and attended the same cooking class with Monica Corrado (excellent!) and also attended many of the same lectures throughout the weekend.  As much as I learned from all the "official" speakers from the conference, I learned quite a bit also from just the terrific people at the conference and Rick was one of those people.  It turns out he does executive coaching and he also is a bit of a renaissance man in general as he has a wide range of interests and made for great company.  I think it is great that Rick understands that what you eat also plays an important role in helping you reach your maximum potential.  If you are seeking any coaching, I would recommend you check out Rick's website.  

Now to me saying "the best pot roast ever" is quite a statement and I thought I should check it out.  I was looking for a nice family dinner for my family last night since I'd been away for a few days and so I gave the recipe a try!  Of course, I hardly ever follow a recipe to the letter and so I added several more vegetables to the mix beyond the carrots and onions including some zucchini, squash, green beans and a small potato or two.  (I like one pot dinners and I wanted to add a few more veggies).  I also found some grass fed beef with the bone in and so I added the bones (which I removed before serving) to up the flavor and add hopefully some extra minerals.  

I've got to say,  it was super easy and absolutely delicious.  I never thought I could tackle pot roast mid week but with this simple recipe as a guide, I will do it more often!  My kids and husband and I all thought it was the best pot roast ever so thank you Rick!

I think it is wonderful how if we are open to receive the gifts of this world, there are people we will meet that can help us on our path.  Some of them, like Jessica Prentice, we may not meet in person (yet) and sometimes they may be the person you are sitting next to on your flight.  So be open to listen to what other people are all about, and you may be amazed at what amazing gifts will come your way.  My dinner on Monday night, with a little help from my friends, is a great example.  May you meet the people you need to meet today and be open to receive their gifts while at the same time always looking for ways to be a gift yourself to someone else. 

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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ketchup the way Ketchup was meant to be!

One of the sad things about our SAD (Standard American Diet) diet is that most of us don't know that some of our staple foods used to actually have health benefits!  Ketchup is a great example.  As Sally Fallon describes in her cookbook Nourishing Traditions, "ketchup provides us with an excellent example of a condiment that was formerly fermented and therefore health promoting, but whose benefits were lost with large scale canning methods and a reliance on sugar rather than lactic acid as a preservative."  She goes on to explain that the word "ketchup" comes from the Chinese Amoy dialect "ke-tsiap" or pickled fish-brine or sauce.  So traditional ketchups had a fish sauce as part of the fermentation base.  

As I mentioned in my goals for 2012 post, I want to become a "fermentation guru" this year... whatever that means!  I guess to me it means I need to get busy learning how to ferment new things and ketchup was on the list.  I had two resources that I looked at to make my attempt on ketchup, one was a recipe from Fallon's Nourishing Traditions and the other was from Jenny McGruther's Nourished Kitchen blog.
In my spare time (if only I had some!), I am taking her online fermentation class.  I am sure if you google fermented ketchup there are a lot of things that you could find out there as well.

In any case, I am intrigued a bit more by Fallon's recipe because she calls for actual fish sauce... and as with many things in her book... you find that to make the fish sauce itself is actually a job in itself so you can take a 3 day detour making the sauce before you can actually get around to making the ketchup!

So off I started today making the fish sauce and lucky me I just so happened to have a bunch of anchovy fish heads in my freezer so I could get started making the sauce.  (yes, it does occur to me that I am one of the few people in this country who put fish heads in their freezer knowing they WILL come in handy at some point!  If you have read this far.... there is a good chance you may become one of these people too!)

Fallon's fish sauce calls for 1 1/2 pounds of small fish, including heads,  3 TBS sea salt, 2 cups filtered (very important) water, 2 cloves garlic mashed, 2 bay leaves crushed, pepper corns, several pieces of lemon rind, 1 TBS of tamarind paste (optional) and 2 TBS whey.

She suggests putting all the fish pieces in a wide mouth mason jar and then adding the salt as you pound down.  You then add the remaining ingredients on top and make sure all is covered in water adding more if needed. This sits on the counter with a cover for about 3 days and then the liquid is strained out and that is the fish sauce.

Okay, that was a bit of a detour... but that is because I need that fish sauce to try out Fallon's ketchup recipe later this week!  For today, I made a variation of Jenny's recipe and used the following:

I made 6 cups of tomato paste from scratch using tomatoes that I took the skin off of and then seeded and made into a paste.  I put the 6 cups of tomato paste into a bowl and added about a half cup of maple syrup, 3 tsp of sea salt, 1 and 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 3 tsp cinnamon, a dash of chipotle powder, 6 tbs raw apple cider vinegar and then 3/4 cup of fresh whey.  Jenny likes to use allspice also but I did not have any of that on hand so I experimented with the spices I listed to come up with something that tasted good to me.  There is room for much creativity in coming up with just the right mix of spices to suit your taste.

I mixed all that up and put it in a half gallon mason jar and put a cloth over it to cover as I let it sit for 3 days on the counter.  I am hoping to get some yummy ketchup in a few days and then get busy making Fallon's ketchup recipe which is similar but includes fish sauce instead of the vinegar and also adds some garlic and cayenne pepper.  

The most important thing is that this kind of ketchup actually has lactobacilli from the fermentation process that gives you the good probiotics that your body needs for optimum health.  The high fructose corn syrup stuff in the store is a far cry from what ketchup was meant to be.  So be brave, my friends, and experiment with making some ketchup on your own... the way it was made for centuries before these last 100 years.  You'll find a nice twang and it will give you an extra pep of energy too.  

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

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake!

Almost guilt-free Flourless Chocolate Cake!
So let's face it, sometimes it is nice to have dessert.  And every now and then you should just have something wonderful and fully enjoy it!  

But if you can come up with a WIN-WIN, where you can have something wonderful and it can have some redeeming nutritional qualities too.... well that seemed to me worth a blog post!

I kind of stumbled onto that something wonderful yesterday.  We had a special guest for dinner and I wanted to make dessert.  But since it was mid-week I felt like trying to also make it somewhat healthy.  Off to my cookbook library I browsed and I found my inspiration in Eat Fat Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.  They had a recipe for Flourless Cocoa-Coconut Cake and I tweaked it a little to make it my own.  

By the way... I suppose I broke a lot of rules by not making this dessert in advance to check it first before serving it to company.  I kind of like the challenge of flying without a net sometimes! And then I had the audacity to change a few parts of the recipe based on my instincts and what I had on hand.  However, I did whip up a tried and true baked apples dish just in case our guest wasn't a chocolate kind of guy... turns out he seemed to like chocolate just fine!

So I tweaked Katherine Czapp's recipe that is in Fallon's book and here's what I came up with:

Cocoa-Coconut Cake

7 tablespoons sifted arrowroot powder
1/3 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup coconut crystals
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut crystals
1 cup dried shredded coconut

Cocoa-Coconut Frosting:
1  7oz can of Taste of Thai coconut milk (even better if you can make your own coconut milk)
1/2 to 3/4 cup Artisana Coconut butter
3 TBS cocoa powder
1-2 TBS coconut crystals  

After preheating the oven to 350 degrees, I put some coconut oil in a pie plate... if you have a springfoam pan, go ahead and use it.

Then sift arrowroot, cocoa and cinnamon and set aside.  In a clean bowl beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until frothy and then add 1/4 cup of the coconut crystals and set aside.

In another bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla for about 3 minutes and the remaining coconut crystals.  Then with a spatula fold in 1/3 of the whites mixture into the yolks and fold in gently.  Alternate folding in egg whites with adding the dry cocoa mixture.  After all that is mixed in, add the coconut flakes last.

Pour batter into pan and bake in oven for about 30 minutes or until cake pulls away from pan.  Let cool and then add frosting.

The cake looked and acted like chocolate cake but it had no flour and no white sugar.  The eggs contributed protein, the coconut flakes have nutritional value that you can read about here and the coconut crystals have a very low glycemic index and contain 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad spectrum B vitamins and a nearly neutral pH. The coconut butter in the frosting has saturated fats which provide structural support to the membranes that protect our cells.  The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut butter provide an almost immediate source of energy to your body and might even help speed up your metabolism.  Can your standard chocolate cake make any of these claims?

Who knows for sure if my guest liked the cake... but he said he did and he did eat it.  And my children gobbled it up and some had seconds.  In fact the reason the photo above is so small is that is all the cake that was left the next day when I took the photo!  So that tells me there was something tasty about that cake or no seconds would have been served.  It was funny to see my kids grimace a bit when I mentioned that there was coconut in the cake as they don't like to know the details of what goes in all my creations... but they only eat the things that taste good to them so I am calling this one a winner!  And really a win/win because they got their taste and I got my nutrition too.  Let the people eat cake!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Salmon worth Swimming Upstream For!

I just want to give a quick shout out to the The Wild Salmon Company and my farmer friend Jon Lyerly who hooked me up with the most amazing salmon I've ever had!

I can't say that I did anything terribly fabulous with it... I just broiled it and made a simple butter/garlic and herb sauce that I drizzled on top and let it glow over a glorious green garden medley.  I'm still in a green phase so I had some asparagus, lettuce, sauteed kale, and a diced green and red pepper salad with avacado.

But my point is that you don't really have to do anything "special" with food this good.  Fabulous food is just, well, fabulous!  You don't always have to slave with hundreds of ingredients and special techniques.  

Somehow once you start to care about food all of a sudden these people just "appear" in your life.  I've been friends with farmer Jon for many years now and he's been a special food influence in my life because he introduced me to biodynamic agriculture.  So when he told me that one of his friends had some salmon that she had caught over the summer and would be selling it, I knew I wanted some.  I didn't even know the exact price (although it turned out to be very reasonably priced) but I trust Jon and his food knowledge and I just knew it would be something I would enjoy.  

I was not disappointed.  Just like the Saturday Night Live Skit, it was "like buttah."  Just melt in your mouth, flake into perfection, full of flavor, fall into dreaminess... wonderful.  Nothing at all like the farm raised or color injected substances that sometimes are passed of as Salmon.  It should not even have the same name as farm raised salmon, because Heidi's salmon was absolutely DIVINE.  

I don't know Heidi personally, but I feel like I know her a bit better after looking at her web page.  And I'd like to know her better.  She's a cool lady.  She's been an Alaskan fisherwoman for over twenty years and went out on boats for years with her dad and now has her own operation.  I like her for her sense of adventure, for her love of nature, for her dedication to sustainable fishing practices.  I like her because she reminds me that you can make a living doing the things you believe in.  That life is not easy, but a life worth living is going to have some difficulty and struggle in it.  

When I "meet" cool people like this, it inspires me to be the best "Me" that I can be.  I hope you'll be inspired to learn more about Heidi's salmon and also to just pay more attention to getting to know all the suppliers of the food you consume.  It is an immensely rewarding process that changes you for the better once you start paying more attention.  So thank you, all the "Heidi's" and "Jon's" of the world for caring about the food you harvest and produce and for doing it with integrity. 

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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 in Food, Fitness, Faith and Folly

I think I've been stalling writing my goals for this year because this is primarily a blog about my journey in FOOD.  But it is also a soulful journey for me.  And so from time to time a bit more of me than just food pops up which may be more than you want if you are coming here just for my recipes and food sharing tips. 

This low key post will be my compass for the year; a bit of a preview, if you will, on the things I am likely to explore for the coming year.  As I shared in my last post, I felt there was something powerful about putting these private thoughts "out there" because they hold me accountable.

So here goes....

  1. Make weekly menu planning part of my routine:  The reasons for this are many-- when I don't plan, I end up making lots of extra grocery trips and those "I just stopped in for bananas and beef" trips end up being "how did I just spend $100?" trips?  I know that eating well does cost money-- but better planning may be a budget tamer.  I also think it will help me get better at understanding my food costs so that if I decide to become a personal chef or do some professional food work that I will have a better handle on understanding what things actually cost.  
  2. Drop my body fat % another 3% points and get my thighs 1.5 inches slimmer on each side and lose 5 more pounds:  I made so much progress last year on the fitness side and I want to keep building on my good habits.  The way I plan to achieve this is by continuing to challenge myself in workouts doing more of the cross-fit type workouts and also by continuing to look for new exercise adventures.  I am giving serious thought to doing a military style mud run in a few months because it scares me a little and I think I need to keep pushing my comfort zone to get stronger both physically and mentally.
  3. Become a fermentation Guru!  I have an online class that I have signed up for on fermentation and I should be learning to make ketchup, mustard other condiments, more fermented drinks, vegetables... you name it!  So any time I get the chance to explore the wild side of fermentation, I am going to do it.  In culinary school they talk all the time about the TDZ... the temperature danger zone of being 41 - 135 degrees which is the temperature range where bacteria grow the fastest.  There is something ironic about the fact that this "fear" area is also the same area that can enhance the nutritional content of food through the cultivation of beneficial bacteria.   
  4. Feel all the things I need to feel:  This one probably sounds a little "new agey" or something.  It stems from the wisdom that came from losing 20 pounds last year-- in some ways losing the weight is the easy part (and yet it was no picnic), if that makes any sense.  When you detoxify your body, you also need to do the difficult inner work to detoxify yourself of your own fears and weaknesses or at least learn to accept yourself more fully in spite of these weaknesses.  This is important work but not always fun.  Many people never go here and maybe for some that is a valid option.  But I am feeling like it is the only path to true growth.  So I hope to spend more time this year reflecting inward in my own spiritual journey.
  5. Have more food, in life, in everything! I have a passion for food that heals and I want to have more fun enjoying that myself and sharing it with people I care about.  I want to carry this into all aspects of my life... and that might mean enjoying reading more stories aloud with my kids or laughing more or whatever... but for my food blog I hope to convey my love of the joy of making new creations and sharing FUN food adventures!
 So there you have it... these are some of the places I hope to "visit" this year and would be honored if you come along for some of the ride! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The power of putting your intentions "out there."

Today marks my 1 year "anniversary" as a blogger!  I started my first post with a list of five goals for the past year and I when I went back to look at them, I realized that I did accomplish most of them.  In some cases I exceeded my goals.  Before I can put my new goals out there, I feel like I need to express some gratitude for the people who helped me this past year and reflect on what I have learned in the process.

So, in abbreviated form, here's what I put "out there" for last year:
  1. Lose 10 pounds-- did this and more.  Lost about 15- 20 pounds in last yr and saw body fat % drop by about 1/3. What worked for me was saying it to others, finding a supportive gym community (thanks all the peeps at O2 Fitness! And the body pump and pilates crew.  And thanks Kat for believing in me during some personal training sessions early in the year), continuing to find some new challenge to shake things up when I hit a plateau (Thanks Ramblin Rose and the two triathlons that I did but would never have thought I could do!, Dr. Stew and Total Body Fitness, Terrance and bootcamp), the midnight run ladies (you know who you are... the fun faces I meet at the corner really early when it is still dark and push me to run when I sometimes would rather be sleeping!) and really walking the eating walk of putting the right foods into my body (Thanks Dr. Cowan for suggesting Liberation Diet, and thanks Kevin Brown for your encouragement also).
  2. Keep learning about traditional food preparation-- because this is not as "measurable" a goal, it is hard to say but I count this as a "win" because I keep doing that every day.  I had no idea that I would start in the Natural Chef Program at Central Carolina Community College this past year, but because I knew I was looking for ways to strengthen my culinary skills, it just felt right to jump in when I found out about the program.  I also kept learning on my own to cook healthier and do that every day.
  3. Eat More GreensI know, also not terribly "measurable" but I DID eat more greens this past year.  And I did get the Vitamix that I wanted... (thanks to my husband for getting it for me for my birthday :) and I have to say that I use that thing every day...multiple times.  I started adding more pureed greens to smoothies, to soups, to meatloaf; you just never know where you will find greens lurking!  Even Kale Chips! which turned out to be one of my most read blogs of the year.  I have even made some progress in getting my kids to eat a bit more greens so I am counting this as a "win" also.
  4. Eat More Oysters:  I made several trips to Squid's during happy Oyster hour last year and I have added putting canned oysters on salads in a pinch when I need some protein.  I am laughing out loud as I write this because I totally forgot about this goal until now and just realized that maybe that was part of why I was drawn to try those Rocky Mountain Oysters!
  5. Keep the Crock Crankin'And yes, I did that also.  There are times, like right now, when my crock is empty and so I have not achieved all I wanted, but I made many, many batches of kraut this year and enjoyed both eating and sharing these with friends so I'm going to say 4.5 out of the 5 goals set for the year.

I don't think I would have had that success if not for this blog and putting those "intentions" out there.  So if you are one of the 4,000 hits that came to my blog this past year, Thank YOU for helping me!  I hope that somehow by sharing some of my story, I might be able to help others as well.  That's what really motivates me and brings meaning to this reflection.

I'd like to inspire anyone who has read this far to find a way to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given them and use them to help others.  It helps to write some of our goals down--some stretch goals and some most likely to be attainable with some effort on our part.  While it is good to be as measurable as we can in stating our goals, it is also ok to just note an interest area and then be open to new opportunities as they arise. 

So now that I have expressed my gratitude, I feel ready to write my  2012 goals but I think I just wrote a post already!  I'd rather savor the lessons of 2011 and I will put my 2012 intentions in my next blog post!  I know you are too!  Hope you'll journey some more with me in 2012!

 Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop