Bees, Flowers, Berries and Cream.

August 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

 

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I was sitting outside on my patio and watching the bees furiously going from flower to flower. I noticed a pattern, they would alight on a flower and then leave immediately. Off to another flower, and then the same thing. The flowers didn’t seem to interest them. There was nothing there for them.

The flowers they spent a lot of time on were the old fashioned ones. Foxgloves, hollyhocks, old fashioned roses.

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As beautiful as the others were, the ones I bought at the nursery because they had the most beautiful cascade of blooms, the bees wanted nothing to do with them. Same with the hummingbirds. The blooms were beautiful but sterile. It disturbed me and I thought about that for awhile.

It’s the same with our food….beautiful specimens of peaches but with no taste. Red ripe tomatoes that taste like cardboard. And that means there’s nothing there for our nourishment…..like the canary in the coal mine, the bees are telling us to beware.

Luckily more and more people are realizing that eating healthy is really pretty simple. I just read that McDonald’s is closing a lot of it’s “restaurants”, a good sign for the organic and healthy food movement.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts for the day. Now on to dessert.

My currants, blueberries and raspberries are all ripening at the same time, at least enough to get a big bowlful for dessert tonight. You can make this with pretty much any fruit that’s really summer ripe, try the farm stands and farmers markets.

Take a handful of berries, I like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and add them to a sauté pan with a little butter and honey. Mash some of them, either with a fork or potato masher. Warm them just a little, you’re not cooking them, just melding the flavors together. Scoop onto individual plates and pour some really good cream over them. I grated a little lemon zest over them too. It’s delicious, gluten and sugar free and couldn’t be easier. And healthier!

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Making your own Nut Butters

June 12, 2014 § 2 Comments

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It’s pretty much the easiest thing in the world to do. Put nuts in food processor and turn on.

You’ll know exactly what’s in it, and what’s not: bad things like hydrogenated oils, sugar, (do we really need sugar in everything?) and preservatives. And organic nut butters are expensive I’m sure you know!

It would be a good thing if people started making foods like this from scratch. Picking up a jar of peanut butter from the store is easier, sure, but seriously, home cooking is where health starts. Do we really not have that extra 10 minutes? Besides, there is something rewarding about taking a batch of nuts and turning them into smooth and creamy butter. Really, it’s true. Only 3 requirements: a food processor, some nuts and time. Usually about 10 minutes from start to finish, depending on your food processor. You could make this in a Vitamix too, I don’t have one so I’ve never tried it.

And the taste is so fresh, and much “nuttier” is how I would describe it.

Here are a few “recipes” to get you started!

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Basic Peanut Butter

 

Take 3 cups roasted, unsalted organic* peanuts and put in food processor. Use the steel blade.

Start processing. After a minute or so, stop engine and scrape. Resume.

Nuts will go through several stages, from coarsely ground, to finely ground, to clumpy.

You may have to scrape the sides occasionally, then keep going and you’ll see it start to turn creamy.

After about 3 to 4 minutes you’ll have the best, smoothest, nuttiest peanut butter you’ve ever tasted!

If you want it a bit chunkier, add a few peanuts at the end.

Almond Butter

3 cups raw organic almonds

1/2 tsp sea salt

Process as above, adding salt at the end

 

Coconut Almond Cashew Butter

1 cup almonds

1 cup cashews

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 to 2 TBL melted coconut oil

Add all nuts and coconut flakes to food processor and process until nuts turn creamy, scraping down sides occasionally. Add coconut oil at the end.

 

Store all in refrigerator when done.

You can roast the nuts in all these butters, to concentrate the nutty flavor. A 300 degree oven for 10 minutes on a cookie sheet. Let cool before processing. Try adding some extras, like chocolate chips, coconut flakes, cinnamon, a little bit of maple syrup or honey, raisins. Add at the end and stir in with a spoon.

And experiment with different nut combinations too. Throw a few peanuts into the almond butter, or pistachios into the peanut butter. Or try sunflower or pumpkin seeds stirred in for an extra flavor and nutritional boost. You really will wonder why you haven’t been doing this all along!

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*peanuts are one of the most carcinogenic and pesticide laden things you can eat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck Fat, Leaf Lard, Why and How to Use It

January 12, 2014 § 2 Comments

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I rendered leaf lard today.

Many of you will know what I’m talking about but just as many, if not more won’t have a clue. We know where duck fat comes from, but leaf lard is not made from leaves. Here’s an explanation:

Leaf lard is pork fat. It comes from the “soft” fat around the kidneys and loin of the pig. It has a very neutral flavor, not at all pork-like or meaty. My mother always used lard for cooking, and duck fat was the prized fat above all others.

Now I know many of you are probably thinking fat is bad for you, avoid it at all costs. It leads to heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. etc. But the exact opposite is true. Our bodies need saturated fat, plain and simple. Our brain needs it for proper functioning and cognition. Our liver needs it to protect us from the negative effects of alcohol and drugs. Our lungs are coated with a substance made up of saturated fat. And we need it for calcium absorption. So using these fats in your cooking is a good way to get it. You can sometimes get leaf lard from a butcher and duck is easy to come by.

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Lard and duck fat are excellent fats for frying as they have a high smoking point. Things like fried chicken or doughnuts are best fried in these. You can add a tablespoon or two of either when baking pies or pastries for flaky crusts. Potatoes fried in duck fat with sea salt is a meal in itself. You can also make a warm vinaigrette with duck fat, substituting it for some of the oil. And like my grandfather did, spread duck fat on a piece of dark rye bread and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. He had this for breakfast every day, sometimes with a slice of raw bacon on it!

Back to the rendering- I had a large portion of leaf lard that I got from Sleeping Dog Farm a while back and decided to render it. Quite easy to do really. Just grind or cut the lard into small chunks then put in a large pot and into the oven at 300 degrees, stirring once in a while. The fat will slowly release from the meat after about an hour. Just strain it through a piece of cheesecloth then store the fat in jars. Be careful that the fat doesn’t get too hot and burn or the lard won’t be clear. But even if it’s not it’s still terrific. The taste won’t be as neutral but still ok. You’ll end up with crackling which some people eat on salads and such but to be honest my family wasn’t too excited about them. So I’ll feed them to my chickens tomorrow.IMG_1478

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The fat rising to the top.

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What remains is the crackling.

To get duck fat, simply roast a whole duck. You’ll want to pierce the fatty parts with a needle so the fat can drain out, then simply scoop it up as the duck roasts and put into a jar.

Both these fats will keep about a month in the fridge or you can freeze them. Give them a try, traditional foods are the best!

Eat More Liver: Pate with Bacon and Walnuts

December 30, 2012 § 2 Comments

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Listen up everyone, we all need to eat more chicken liver. Really, these little organ meats are loaded with protein and health giving vitamins and minerals:

Vitamin A which is so important for eyes and bones. Vitamin B 12 which helps to build healthy red blood cells. Riboflavin (Vit B 2) minerals such as selenium and iron.

It also has a fair amount of cholesterol, but do not be afraid. Cholesterol is your friend, not your enemy, to quote Dr. Joseph Mercola. We need it for so many things including hormones and neurological functioning.

And chicken livers are quite inexpensive, even the organic ones, which you must buy. After all, the liver is a filtration system for toxins, and we all know that conventionally raised poultry is pumped full of antibiotics, hormones and pesticides.

So try and add more chicken liver to your diet. Fry them up with bacon and onions, add to stuffing, soups, and scrambled eggs. There are many delicious recipes out there, and the Silver Palate Cookbooks have several easy recipes for pate, mousse and crostini.

 

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Here’s a delicious chicken liver pate from the Silver Palate which I think you’ll make again and again. It takes no time, just remember to make it the day before you want to serve it so the flavors can blend.

 

8 slices bacon, diced

1 pound organic chicken livers

1/2 cup brandy

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 medium yellow onion, minced

1/4 cup good mayonnaise

1 tsp dried thyme

large pinch ground nutmeg

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 TBL chopped Italian parsley

 

One day before serving, fry the bacon in a medium size pan until crisp.

Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Saute the livers in the hot bacon fat over medium heat until brown on the outside but still pink inside, 4 to 5 minutes. remove from the pan and reserve.

Pour the brandy into the pan over medium heat and stir, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom.

Add the cream and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1 cup.

Process the livers, onion, and reduced cream in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until smooth.

Add the mayo, thyme, nutmeg, salt to taste, and lots of pepper. Process until smooth.

Add the diced bacon, walnuts, and 3 TBL parsley and process just until blended.

Transfer the liver mixture to a crock or decorative serving dish and refrigerate covered overnight.

Garnich with crumbled bacon, parsley, or walnuts and parsley if you wish.

 

Serve with crusty bread or crackers.

Makes about 3 cups.

 

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Bacon and Onion Tart

September 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

Here’s a delicious and simple (always has to be simple for me) recipe using ingredients you probably have in your kitchen at all times: bacon, onions, milk, eggs, and flour. The pan is heated before you add the batter which will make it puff up, like my asparagus tart, to get that Yorkshire pudding effect.

With this basic recipe you can create savory tarts all day long, which I’m sure you’re dying to do. Try sausage or ham. Add a little bit of cheese, like goat, mozzarella or even blue. Saute small matchsticks of zucchini with cherry tomatoes, or onion and peppers. Try different herbs like sage or oregano. Just look in your fridge and I know you can find some interesting combinations. Remember you want the vegetables and meat (if using) to be almost completely cooked before you put it in the oven.

And a word about bacon and bacon fat…don’t be afraid of them! Saturated fat is not the devil it has been made out to be. Our ancestors ate plenty of it but their pork came from pastured animals and not laced with nitrates. So make sure your pork, and all meat and eggs, comes from pastured animals. It costs more, but isn’t it worth it?

Ingredients:

6 oz. nitrate free bacon, cut into small pieces

4 TBL butter

2 medium onions, sliced thin.( I used one red onion and one yellow)

1 1/2 cups flour (I use white spelt)

2 tsp dry mustard

1 1/4 cups milk (I used half and half)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and pepper

fresh thyme

 

Heat bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain but save the bacon fat and pour into a large  cast iron pan. (Or you can use an ovenproof baking dish, approx. 9″x 11″. You want to have about 3 TBL of fat. If not, add butter or olive oil) Set aside.

Into the skillet add the butter, onions and salt and pepper to taste. (Remember the bacon will be salty)

Saute onions until soft and caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk flour and mustard. Add milk and eggs, whisk again.

Let batter rest 10 minutes.

While it’s resting, place baking dish with the bacon fat into the oven and heat it for a good 10 minutes. You want the fat sizzling when you pour the batter into it, which you will now do.

Sprinkle with the bacon and onions, some fresh chopped thyme and bake until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.

You could sprinkle with some Parmesan too if you’re like me, I add Parmesan to just about everything!

The original recipe came from Saveur magazine, I used what I had on hand, like red onions and the half and half.

Kombucha – Home Brewed Elixir for Life

July 3, 2012 § 9 Comments

You know something has gone mainstream when you see it in Williams Sonoma. I saw the make your own Kombucha kit in their catalog and that’s a good thing. But you really don’t need to spend $70 on a home brewing kit. Kombucha is so easy to make at home and if you drink it daily, which you really should, it can be quite costly. Bottles of it sell for about $4 in stores.

I have a batch of Kombucha always brewing or fermenting actually. For those who don’t know about it, Kombucha is a sweetened “tea” that is brewed using a SCOBY, or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. This scoby, or mother, or mushroom as some people call it, feeds on the sugar in the tea and turns it into a wonder drink. It has a strong, tart taste which may take some getting used to, almost like a mild vinegar. But when you know how good this stuff is for you you’ll get to like it. Really!

Number one on the list is detoxing the body. And we all know how many toxins there are out there bombarding us. Kombucha is a cancer fighter, balances your body’s PH, good for our digestive health, helps fight candida overgrowth, is a probiotic powerhouse and boosts energy. There are many articles on the health benefits, here’s a good one.

And don’t worry that Kombucha is a new fad, it’s been around for over 2000 years. I recently found out that my German grandmother used to make it.

Making your own supply is super easy. You’ll need a few basics supplies: Tea, black or green, organic sugar, and a Scoby. A glass jar, plastic or wooden spoon for stirring (never use metal to touch the Scoby), cheesecloth or other breathable fabric to cover the jar and a rubber band. For detailed instructions and a video to help make the first batch, check out the Cultures for Health website. Then you save some of the brew with the new Scoby to start your next batch.

If you don’t have a Scoby to start with, not a problem. You can start your own using a store bought jar of raw, unpasteurized unflavored Kombucha such as Synergy. You mix this with about a cup of black tea (don’t use herbal tea) which has been sweetened with a small amount of sugar. (a few tablespoons will do) Put this in a glass jar, cover with cheesecloth or even paper towel, secure with a rubber band and leave it undisturbed for about a week. You’ll see the Scoby forming on top of the liquid in the jar.

Here is the new Scoby is forming on top of the old one I am using to start my new batch. Once it’s done and you’ve saved some of it for the next brew, you can flavor the Kombucha. I add some fruit to different jars. One has lemon slices with a small amount of grated ginger in it. Another has slices of pineapple. Lemon and orange are really good.

You can give away the old Scoby to your friends so they can make their own. Or you can let it air dry and smear it with a little bacon fat and give it to your dog. It’s good for them too!

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