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Root Love

I’ve been doing a little hibernating lately.  It only seems appropriate during the shortest days of the year, and in soggy Portland.  My menu these days reflects my desire for warming, grounding, nourishing foods.

Chicken and root vegetables in white wine

Into my dutch oven start some chicken thighs cooking in white wine, added golden beets, turnips, parsnips, celeriac, rutabaga, garlic cloves.   Simmer in white wine with bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary, peppercorns, whole fennel seed, and a can of diced tomatoes, until the chicken falls off the bone, and the roots are tender.

Eat up and then go back to your good book by the fire!

roots and thighs

Grain Free Goji Berry Granola

I wanted to find a solution to what to eat with greek yogurt when I need a quick and easy snack/dessert.  Having discovered that I am much healthier and happier when I avoid grains in my diet, I’ve been missing my homemade granola.

seeds and such

Into a bowl I started tossing seeds and such.  Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chopped almonds, fennel seeds, ground cinnamon.  I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter and honey together, and tossed with the seeds until they were coated.

Next I spread it out on a sheet tray and baked in a slow oven (300)  until toasty and almost done.  Then I added some large flake coconut and put it back in the oven for a few minutes (watch it closely!) until toasty brown.

"granola"

After the mixture cooled, I added a few handfuls of dried goji berries (AKA wolfberries).  While I don’t usually indulge in dried fruit because it delivers such a big shot of sugar, goji berries have actually been helpful in balancing blood sugar, they are high in antioxidants, and protect the brain and the eyes.  If you are interested in reading more about goji berries click here.

Grain Free, Goji Granola

Store in an airtight container.  Eat as a snack or sprinkled on greek yogurt with berries.  Mmmmm.

Muffin beginnings

Still on my domestic roll here:

Grain Free Banana Raspberry Muffins

Makes 10 large muffins

6 eggs

1 banana, mashed up in the eggs

vanilla (I used a lot- like 2-3 tablespoons.  yes, really!)

cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 tablespoons coconut butter, melted (not coconut oil, but the actually fleshy buttery coconut spread-really hard at room temperature, but delicious and spreadable if you heat it up)

1/2 cup honey, melted

Mix together the wet ingredients.

almonds and coconut flour

1 cup whole, raw almonds

1/2 cup coconut flour

Grind finely in food processor.

1/4 cup flax seeds

Add to wet ingredients.

dry and wet

Mix together and add frozen berries of your choice.  I used raspberries, and I put in about 1 cup and a half.  Fresh berries would work too, but it is January.

Spoon into buttered muffin pan, bake at 325 until done.  I know, that’s skirting the issue.  But it’s true!  You want to check them after about 15 minutes and see how they are coming along.  Then every 10 min or so after that.  You can tell that they are done when they are browned on top, maybe cracking a little, come out of the muffin tin easily.  By all means, break one open and test it!

These muffins are high in protein, good fats, and fiber.  And fairly low in sugar.  They keep well and are a handy snack to have around!  I’m going back to my den now!

raspberry muffins

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Anyone out there have tomatoes piling up?  Attracting fruit flies?  Tired of BLT’s? (Never!)

tomatoes from MY YARD!

I realized today that if I didn’t act, and act TODAY my tomato harvest would be fruit fly food.

 

I had yellow tomatoes, green stripey tomatoes, and red, red tomatoes.

 

If I mixed them all together I would create a really attractive brown tomato sauce!  So I made Cream of Tomato Soup with the yellow and green ones, and Roasted Tomato Sauce with the red ones.  I’m pretty pleased with the results, so I thought I would share!

Cream of Tomato Soup Indian Style

Saute in coconut oil:

  • ginger, onion, garlic

Meanwhile toast your whole spices in a dry skillet:

dry toasting spices

  • cumin, coriander, black pepper corns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds

Grind the whole spices and add them to the onion mixture.  Add a healthy dose of turmeric (if I’d had fresh turmeric I would have used it, but dried ground turmeric is fine.  Remember how good it is for you?  Anti-inflammatory?), and a dash of cinnamon.

Saute the spices for a minute. Then add a bunch of cut up tomatoes.  I used yellow and green ones which worked great with the turmeric which is bright yellow too.

Add a little chicken stock or water to get the tomatoes to start breaking down.  Put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for a while, checking occasionally and stirring.  When the tomatoes are completely broken down, puree the whole she-bang.  I used my trusty Vita-Mix, but those immersion blenders work well too.  After pureeing the mixture, put it back in the pot and add a can of coconut milk and salt to taste.  Heat it gently at this point.  You don’t want the coconut milk to boil.

lunch. check.

 

 

Depending on how sweet your tomatoes are you might want to add a handful of sugar, honey, or maple syrup to balance out the acid of the tomatoes.  I decided against that.  I portioned out the soup (after eating some, of course) for lunches for the next few days!

 

 

 

Next up:

Roasted Tomato Sauce

The recipe is thus:  Cut up a bunch of tomatoes, toss with olive oil, salt, fresh thyme, oregano, and rosemary.

red tomatoes ready for the oven

 

 

Roast in a 350 degree oven until they break down and start to dry out a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

herbaceousness

 

 

Add some fresh garlic and chopped basil and spoon over  spaghetti squash, roasted cauliflower, zucchini ribbons, or…. pasta!

I spooned mine into a jar, and froze it for some winter day when I need to conjure up the bounty of these last fall days!

 

 

 

 

 

after roasting

 

 

Tomato’s nutritional claim to fame is high levels of a carotenoid called “lycopene.” Carotenoids act as anti-oxidants in the body and high intake of lycopene has been found to be protective against prostate cancer.  Lycopene is what gives tomatoes, watermelon, and guavas their pink/red color.  Lycopene is more available to the body when tomatoes are cooked, and they should be cooked with some oil to aid absorption.

 

super satisfying for any time of day!

Salmon Cakes

2 cans wild salmon

2 eggs

1 1/2 T coconut flour

1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

1 scallion, chopped

1 shallot, diced

1 T grated fresh ginger

1 t grated fresh horseradish

splash of tamari

fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

mixing the mix

Melt some coconut oil in a skillet.

melting coconut oil

Fry the salmon cakes until browned on both sides.

Browned salmon cakes

Spicy pickle diakon (with fresh turmeric), purple cabbage sauerkraut, turkey burger, bacon.

Yesterday I was reminded that I actually have some followers out there!  Hello people! I have some pictures to share from the last few months. They are all the things that I wanted to blog about but never got around to it!

Calcifer

Meet Calcifer, our new stove

Baking Gluten Free Blue Cornmeal Biscuits

Roasting Chickens and Vegetables

Roasted Delicata Squash With Fennel Salt

Yesterday I catered a lunch at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral where I served a red quinoa salad.  It was a hit with the crowd and requests were made for the recipe. I can recreate the ingredients, but not the proportions.   It is really flexible though.  Do not worry about proportions.    For the record, the salad I made was heavy on the vegetables, light on the quinoa.  Many people have not heard of quinoa, and many who have think that it is a grain.  In fact it is an edible seed and has a great nutritional profile.   Click here for nutrition data on quinoa.  It is gluten free, high in amino acids (protein), and fiber.  It is delicious, easy to cook and very versatile!

Here’s what I did:

Cook the red quinoa in chicken stock. (cooks just like rice 1:2 quinoa:liquid).  Let it steam a little in the pot so it gets fluffy.  Let it cool.

Chop a bunch of veggies.  I had broccoli, scallions, green cabbage, shredded carrots.

Make the dressing.  In  a food processor, combine:  cilantro, mint, fresh lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, salt, olive oil.

Mix the cooled quinoa, the raw veggies and the dressing.  Chill until ready to serve.  Just before serving, toss with crumbled feta cheese.

Red Quinoa Salad

Today I whipped up my favorite gluten free corn bread to go with the leftover salad for lunch.  This recipe is thanks to my sister in law, Betsy.

Blue Corn Cornbread

Did you know, that one more thing to worry about when it comes to nutrition, is if our food has been genetically modified?  Corn is one of the most genetically modified crops along with soy, canola oil, and tomatoes.  In order to be safe, make sure you are getting organic corn products (if it is yellow or white corn).  Blue corn and popcorn are not genetically modified.

Blue Corn Bread

Preheat your oven (oh, my lovely Calcifer!) to 450 degrees.  Preheat an 8 inch cast iron skillet in the oven.

In a small bowl mix 2/3 cup blue cornmeal with 2/3 cup boiling water.  It should make a stiff batter.  Add 2 eggs, 1 T honey, and 1 1/2 cups almond/hemp/soy or buttermilk.  Stir to combine.

In a larger bowl, mix 1 1/3 cups blue cornmeal with  1 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda.

Mix the wet into the dry.  Add chopped bits of ham, bacon, scallions, green chilies, cheese…

Meanwhile, after your skillet gets hot, add 2 T butter to the hot pan.  Swirl it around until it melts and coats the inside of the pan.  Pour the excess into the batter and stir in before adding the batter to the hot pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or so, until it is firm, lightly browned on top and has a lovely crack around the edge.

Lovely golden crust and blue bread

Butter from grass fed cows is the perfect accompaniment

Zydeco Beans

Zydeco Beans

Last night sitting on the back patio at a friends house, we engaged in a lively discussion of the meaning of the word “penultimate”.  It means “second to last.”  It got interesting though when you consider our negative connotation of “last.”  We don’t think of coming in last as the “ultimate” do we?  I liked the analogy that Holly brought up:  Think of climbing a mountain.  The last part is the peak, the highest part, the goal, the… ultimate.  In the Tour de France, Philip pointed out, the penultimate stage is the second to the last stage.  What does this have to do with pickles you may be asking yourself?  Those who know me well, know that I have been a bit fascinated with pickling things for quite some years now.  Before medical school I used to spend my summers canning and pickling, but in the busy years of school I have discovered the blessed “quick” pickle.  And believe me they are a blessing.  The are so easy to make.  Last christmas I made a bunch of pickles for a party and Sadie said I needed to write a “Pickle Manifesto”  for my blog.  I have been thinking about that ever since.  Writing a manifesto is just too big of an assignment for me.  That’s why I have a blog instead of a cookbook.  Also too big.  My life is very busy.  I just barely have enough time for a quick pickle and a short blog post.  Therefore, consider this my penultimate pickle manifesto, and be pleasantly surprised, but don’t hold your breath for the ultimate pickle manifesto to be written.

Do pickles have health benefits?  There are many health benefits of traditionally fermented pickles.  Fermented foods are a great way to increase the beneficial flora in our digestive systems.  The quick pickles that I have been making are not fermented however, they are bathed briefly in vinegar and spices.  I find that they are a delicious way to eat more vegetables, which has to be a good thing!  I speculate also that if pickles were eaten before meals, the vinegar would stimulate the production of digestive enzymes which primes the stomach to be able to digest the upcoming meal.

One of my favorite pickle cookbooks is by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, Quick Pickles: Easy Recipes with Big Flavor, and lately I have been using The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich, which is chock full of every kind of pickle recipe you could imagine.

Just to illustrate my pickle crazed state, I confess I spent yesterday in 100 degree Oregon weather canning pickled beans.  I was dripping with sweat, but happy.  Here is the recipe, adapted from The Joy of Pickling:

Zydeco Beans

3 pounds yellow wax beans trimmed to fit into a pint canning jar

6 garlic cloves, 6 fresh serrano peppers, 6 dill heads, 6 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

31/2 cups white wine vinegar

31/2 cups water

2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher

Into each of 6 clean pint jars, put a garlic clove, pepper, dill head, and teaspoon of mustard seeds.  Pack the beans vertically into the jars fitting as many as you can in each jar.  Packing the Beans

In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil.  Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the beans, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Close the jars with two piece caps.  Process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Store the cooled jars for at least 3 weeks before eating them.  Store in the refrigerator after opening.

Wax beans

Wax beans

This week's CSA offerings

This week's CSA offerings

I am crazy in love with the turnips that we get from our CSA.  They are the white things on the right, a little bigger than the radishes.  If your only experience with turnips involves the overgrown purple and white root vegetable that has been sitting in the bin at the grocery store too long, I ask you to set aside your preconceived notions of the turnip.  This week was our first vegetable pick up of the season.  We have been members of the Sauvie Island Organics CSA (Community Supported Agriculture to learn more about community supported agriculture or to find a farm near you click on the link) for about 5 years now.   They do a bang up job of raising the most delicious, nutritious, variety of vegetables that come straight from the farm to us every tuesday from May to late November.  The first year we became members it was a challenge for my family of four (two teenaged boys) to eat all the vegetables every week.  I actually (gasp) started eating vegetables for breakfast!  Instead of a vegetable side dish at dinner we would have two or three different veggies.   We all know that as confusing as nutrition advice can be, everyone agrees on one thing:  Eat More Veggies! Now, five years later we easily consume our weekly treasure chest of fresh, organic vegetables.  And can I put in a plug here for feeding kids local, organic, real vegetables as opposed to slimy, “baby” carrots and bags of prewashed salad greens?  Organic, farm fresh food actually tastes better people!  Kids will eat it!    And when vegetables are as fresh and vibrant as these are, you really don’t need to doctor them up too much when you cook them.  A little olive oil, a sqeeze of lemon and some good salt (you know how I feel about that) is the only “recipe” you need!

Is it not true however that most things in life can be improved with bacon?  And that is my favorite thing to do with the Hakurei Turnips!  Sautee up a couple of pieces of bacon which has been cut into small pieces with kitchen shears.  Add some onions or leeks if you like.  Quarter the turnips and add them to the bacon.  Let them cook for a while in the bacon fat, stirring occasionally.  After about 10 minutes or so add a splash of vinegar.  Sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar.  (As an aside, I keep dried burdock sliced soaking in a jar of red wine vinegar and use it for salads and things like this.  The burdock adds little flavor, but I feel I am adding a wonderful herbal tonic for my liver and blood whenever I use it!)  Cover the turnips with a lid of some sort and let them steam in the vinegar for a few minutes.  Then uncover and keep cooking until they are browned and fork tender.  Depending on the size of your turnip slices you may need to steam them in a little water also to get them cooked all the way through.  But be sure to brown them up a the end of the cooking time.  Salt and pepper to taste.   And don’t forget that the greens are delicious too!  Cook them up separately or throw them in near the end of the cooking time of the turnips.  Nutrition facts for turnips can be found here.   Turnips are a cruciferous root vegetable, a member of the brassica family and share similar health benefits to cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower.  They are low in calories (so don’t feel guilty about the bacon), high in vitamin C, and fiber.

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