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!

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