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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Growing and Pleasures: Crackers and Jam

Tomorrow I celebrate the birthday of a very special woman.  She is someone who has been in my life since I was 16 (now 35).  I have grown up with her and I respect and love her wholly for the time we have spent together.  I have always looked up to her for strength and knowledge in the true power of being a woman.

When I was younger, she worked at the Women's Center at Princeton University.  She offered me the opportunity to help out occasionally stuffing envelopes and such, meanwhile inviting me to the enlivened world of progressive women's college events.  I attended "Take Back the Night" rallies where I learned that women could have a voice and they could make statements by simply joining together.  During one of these rallies I learned about Ruth Gerson, a most amazing and talented singer/songwriter who I still listen to today.  I was invited to a viewing of "Girls Town" where Anna Grace, one of the main actresses, spoke on the life of growing up female in a hard pressed environment, a world I was not brought up to see or understand.  I even drove her back to the train in my little red Honda Civic and had a chance to grill her on all I had just learned!  This is also the woman who invited me to the talk by Marianne Apostolides on her book "Inner Hunger"   while I was having trouble with body image and hunger disorders.  This is a woman who has propped me up and given me the strength, information and love I needed at every turn.

Last year I was lucky enough to return the gift and took her to an Ani DiFranco and Melissa Ferrick show in NYC.  It's the least I could do.  There is not a lot I could do to top that this year.  I fall back on what I know best for showing love.  Food.


Here is a recipe I constructed with her tastes in mind.  We have shared food, and the creation of food excites us both.  I can only hope this recipe stands up to her extraordinary taste and she enjoys it as much as I do!



 Sprouted Wheat Walnut Rosemary Raisin Crackers



  • 2 -1/2 cups sprouted flour
  • 1 cup yogurt (homemade preferred)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or butter), softened

  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • extra sprouted flour for dusting

Whip the coconut oil or butter, with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, until fluffy (if using coconut oil, it must be solid/cold to whip). Once the oil is fluffy, add the sprouted flour, yogurt, sea salt, and baking powder into the coconut oil. Mix well until a soft dough ball forms.

Combine the raisins, rosemary, and walnuts in a food processor and process until combined and pebble sized. Add to the dough and mix until well combined throughout. Remove the dough and form into a ball.

Sprinkle a large surface with more sprouted flour and place the dough ball on it. Push it down with your hands to flatten. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough and roll out to 1/8 – ¼ inch. The thinner they are, the crispier they will be. Cut into any shape you wish, I made rough rectangles, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment paper on cookie sheet.

Cook for 20 minutes, until browned. Flip and cook for another 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them in the last five minutes to avoid over darkening.

Let cool on a rack and place in an air-tight container. These will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Quick Fig Spread
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 ¼ cup filtered water
  • Squeeze or two of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • ½ tsp black pepper, may use a few cloves, a few cardomom pods, or a few sprinkles cinnamon

Combine the figs and water in a saucepan. Simmer 15 minutes. Add the black pepper or other spices and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Pour into a food processor and add lemon juice and honey (remove any whole spices used). Blend until combined and thick.

Keep in an air-tight container 3-5 days.

These would be delicious served with a good brie or goat cheese.  Enjoy!



Cheri, you have helped to shape the person I am today and that is a person I am proud to be and excited to share with you, and the world, for all the days to come.  Thank you for being in my life.
Lizzard

-And I didn't use sweet spices cause I know you don't like them!



Monday, July 29, 2013

My Indian Kitchen: A Refreshing Summer Meal


Before I jump into today's topic I wanted to write a bit about my experience with the Whole30.  As you may remember I spent the month of June on an elimination diet where I cut out grains, gluten, dairy, sugar, legumes, soy, MSG, and Sulfites.  The beginning was quite hard as my body was detoxing from everything.  I felt sluggish and sleepy most of the time, was also having a horrible time sleeping, and was generally a very grumpy human being!  By the time the third week hit though, I was starting to feel pretty good and was noticing all sorts of wonderful changes.  I began sleeping through the night, a luxury for me as I have not been a good sleeper in recent years.  I also began waking up before my alarm, ready to face the day.  I began to have a lot more energy and I noticed feeling much stronger while exercising.  I also began tasting and smelling things differently.  Amazingly, when I ate fruit, rarely because fruits are not as nutrient dense as veggies, it tasted so sweet almost like candy!  I could smell so many things i hadn't noticed before and in general eating was becoming a completely new experience.

I learned so much from those 30 days.  I learned how to enjoy food during a meal time then move on to the next thing and not desire a snack out of boredom or habit.  I learned how my body reacted to food and how to nourish my body with food in balance.  After the 30 days were over I then learned how my body reacts to the foods I had eliminated.  One sad discovery is that I cannot by any means tolerate corn.  I love Jersey corn during the summer but absolutely do not love what happens to my tummy after eating it.  Oh well, it's a good thing it's mostly GMO anyway so am not missing much!  I also found that my body won't tolerate soy.  I ate very little soy to begin with but now I don't know that I will partake in it knowingly again.  One meal that was filled with soy and a horrible night afterwards leaves me with little desire to eat it!  I would hugely recommend the program to everyone, it is really a wonderful way to get back in touch with your body and break some of those defeating habits around food!  For more information check out the website Whole9life.com


The

I have been on an Indian food kick as of late.  The Hubinator and I just returned from vacation in Florida visiting his parents and we ate quite a bit of it while there.  It is a great way to use loads of veggies and most dishes freeze well so I recommend doubling the recipes to have two meals while just cooking once.  The meal I am presenting today is a combination of North Indian and South Indian cuisines.  We found that the lightness of the meat dish is a surprising complement to the vegetarian fare from the South.  This is by no means and traditional meal but quite tasty none the less.


 
Sookha Keema
Dry-cooked Spicy Ground Meat

Keema is a mouthful of flavor that is great on it's own as an entree with rice or bread or can be used as a stuffing for cabbage or zucchini. I always make a double batch as it disappears very quickly around here!

  • 2 Tbsp Coconut oil or Ghee
  • 2/3 Cup Onions or Celery, chopped
  • 4 tsp Garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp Asafoetida powder, only if using celery instead of onions
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 Green Chilis, seeded and minced
  • 1 lb Ground Meat such as beef or lamb
  • ¼ tsp Turmeric
  • 1 ½ tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Garam Masala, available in most spice sections of the grocery store
  • 2 tsp Lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions or celery and cook stirring constantly until they turn a caramel brown. If using celery, add the asafoetida and mix to combine. Add garlic, ginger, and green chilis, cook a for 2 minutes more then add in the ground meat. When the meat has begun to brown and lose it's pink color, sprinkle in the turmeric and salt. Stir to combine then sprinkle in ¼ cup hot water, cover and reduce heat. Let the meat cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove the lid, the moisture should be completely absorbed by now. If it is not, increase the heat and cook until it is evaporated. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in the garam masala, lemon juice, and cilantro. Serve hot or room temperature.
Note: this is a very dry dish and should not have much in the way of a sauce or any moisture to speak of. 

As I mentioned, Keema is quite tasty with rice or bread.   I am limiting grains and gluten in my diet so I modified the next recipe to fill the space on my plate with out filling my belly with gurgles and discomfort!   Cauliflower is a great substitute for rice.  It holds up well with quick cooking and retains some crunchiness that is quite satisfying.  
To make cauli-rice: Break the cauliflower into small florets, removing as much stem as possible, saving for another use.  Place the florets into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles cous cous or.... rice!  This can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.  It is now ready to be turned into a scrumptious rice dish.

Coconut "Rice"
You can use traditional rice as well, simply follow recipe as written replacing the cauliflower with 2 cups cooked rice.

  • 1 Tbsp Coconut oil or Ghee
  • 2 cups riced cauliflower
  • 3 Tbsp raw cashews 
  • 1/2 fresh Coconut, grated (3/4 cup dried, unsweetened, flaked coconut)
  • 2 Green Chilis, stems removed and halved
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp Coconut oil or Ghee
  • 1 tsp Black Mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp Urad Dal
  • 1 tsp Channa Dal
  • 1/2 tsp Asafoetida powder
  • Few Kari Leaves
Heat 1 Tbsp fat in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the cashews and fry until golden brown.  Remove to a paper towel and add the coconut.  Fry until it turns a reddish brown.  Remove as well.  Add in the remaining 2 tsp fat and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, and channa dal.  When the mustard seeds begin to pop and sputter, add in the asafoetida, kari leaves, halved green chilis, cauliflower, and coconut.  Saute for about 5 minutes until the cauliflower just begins to soften.  Remove from the pan and garnish with the cashews.




Vegetable Medley
This is a quick salad to round out a meal.  Many types of veggies can be used, I like a mixture of crunchy and softer veggies including cucumber, carrots, radish, beets (fermented are delicious here), tomatoes, and my most favorite, sprouted beans.  Whatever you have on hand will work.  I have made it with just cucumber and tomato, or even cucumber on it's own.  This salad is very versatile!

  • 2 cups mixed chopped vegetables of choice
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp Coconut oil
  • 1 tsp Black Mustard seed
  • 1 tsp Cumin seed
  • 1 tsp Urad Dal
  • 1/2 tsp Asafoetida
  • a few Kari leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
Combine the veggies and cilantro in a bowl.  Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the mustard seed, cumin seed, and urad dal.  When the mustard seeds pop and splutter, add the asafoetida and kari leaves. Pour over the veggies, add salt to taste and the lemon juice.  Stir to combine and serve.

I love this meal for a busy afternoon when I want something flavorful and fast.  The whole thing can be made in an hour but it tastes like you have been working all afternoon.  It keeps and freezes really well, the flavors meld and improve the next day.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Nut and Seed Milk: No Dairy Needed!



Almond and other nut and seed milks are great substitutes for dairy milks.  They can be used anywhere you would use a dairy milk.  I love having vanilla hempmilk over granola or in my oatmeal.  They are tasty in tea or coffee and can be used in baking.  Almond milk is really easy to make and the recipe translates for pretty much any seed or nut you choose.  My two favorites are almond and hemp.

Almonds are full of "good" fats an minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.  They are also high in fiber and have some protein.  They should however be soaked and preferably sprouted before using them to make nut milk, as nuts and seed can be hard on the digestion.

Use raw, whole, unpeeled almonds. I start soaking either in the morning, or the night before. Check the almonds and discard any that are broken, save for another use.
Combine 1 cup almonds and 3 cups filtered water in a wide mouth glass jar or ceramic container.
Place somewhere away from direct sunlight.  Almonds don't need light to sprout, but don't want to be too cold or too hot. Soak for about 10 - 12 hours or overnight. Rinse the almonds after they have soaked for several hours, then cover again with fresh water and continue soaking.
After soaking for 10-12 hours, or overnight, pour the water off and rinse the almonds with cold water, then drain. The water will be brown from the skins.  At this point you can move forward with making almond milk but I like to take a step further and sprout them for optimal nutrition and digestibility.
Place the almonds back in the glass jar and cover. Leave for another 10-12 hours or overnight, rinsing occasionally.


Your almonds are now prepped to make almond milk.  With any seed or nut you will want to soak them before making milk.  Quantities will be the same.

Place the almonds in a food processor and add 2 cups filtered water and 2-3 dates.  You can also add 1 tsp vanilla extract but it is not necessary.  Whir them around until the almonds are reduced to mere bits.  Pour everything off into a strainer lined with cheese cloth or into a nut milk bag.  Strain into a glass container and refrigerate.  You can then add the almond bits back into the processor and add another cup of water to strain out.  At this point you can thinly spread the leftover almonds onto a baking sheet and allow to dry in a low oven, 175 degrees for 4-5 hrs (keep an eye) or on a dehydrator overnight.  Pack this meal up in a glass jar and use to sprinkle over yogurt and fruit, or crust a chicken breast or piece of fish with it.  It's quite tasty and still very nutritious!  As I have said, this process can be duplicated for any nut or seed you like.  I like to make hempmilk because of the high content of omega-3 and it has a rich, nutty flavor.


Almond Meal Crusted Fish with Creamy Greens

2 filets of your favorite fish.  Tilapia, salmon, or swordfish are mine
3-4 Tbsp Almond meal (leftover from making Almond milk)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Ghee or melted butter
Lemon Wedges
Salt and Pepper

1 Bunch of your favorite greens. Kale, beet, or mustard are mine
Ghee or butter
1/2 Onion sliced
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped large
1/4 cup Almond milk
1 tsp Arrowroot (cornstarch will work but you should invest in arrowroot as it is not GMO)
Salt and Pepper

Combine Almond meal, garlic, ghee, and a little salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Mix with your fingers until the ghee has soaked into the almonds and becomes a crumb.  Rub the fish with a little ghee and sprinkle the almond crumb over the fish and bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes per inch of thickness of fish.

Meanwhile, Wash and chop your greens.  Heat a large skillet, with a lid, over medium high heat.  Add about a Tbsp of ghee and your onions.  Saute the onions until they are wilted and begin to caramelize.  Before they get too brown, add your greens and tomatoes, tossing to incorporate the into the onions.  Cover and turn down the heat.  Cook for about five minutes.  You want the greens to wilt and become soft but not cook down to nothing.  Combine the arrowroot and the almond milk, whisk to combine.  Turn heat back up to medium and pour almond milk mixture over your greens.  Cook until thickened, taste and adjust seasoning.

Pile half the greens on a plate and place 1 piece of fish over top.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Enjoy!






Thursday, June 6, 2013

Whole30 Recipes

Last night I cooked up this delicious stew from (my new favorite book), Well Fed.  As the cooking time went on I adjusted a few things to suit our tastes but essentially the recipe is the same.  I have only made this once but I can tell you, if you have access to fresh herbs, use them.  Dried herbs are fine but fresh ones are divine.

Cinnamon Beef Stew with Orange Gremolata

2-3 lbs beef stew meat cut into 1 in cubes, I used a grass-fed chuck roast
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium carrot, finely chopped approx 1/4 cup (I used 1/2 cup)
1 medium onion, finely chopped approx 1 cup (I omitted)
1 stalk celery, finely chopped approx 1/4 cup (I used 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced approx 2 tsp
2 tbsp tomato paste (read ingredients to make sure it only contains tomatoes, no sugar)
2 cups beef broth (I used homemade bone broth)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (read label for caramel coloring, yuck!)
2-5 cups filtered water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary (1/2 tsp dried)
1 sprig thyme (1/2 tsp dried)
1 sprig sage (1/2 tsp dried)
2 cinnamon sticks

Sprinkle the beef generously with salt and pepper.  In a large dutch oven, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and sear on all sides, do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.  Adding too much at once will steam the meat and you will not get a proper sear.  As beef is finished, remove to a plat or bowl while searing the next bathces.

In the same pot, saute the chopped carrots, celery, garlic, and onion (if using) for 2 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and stir for about 1 minute.

Pour in 2 cups beef broth combined with 3 tbsp balsamic and deglaze the pan.  Stirring heartily to loosen all the browned on bits from the bottom.

Add the beef and it's drippings back to the pot.  Add 1 1/2 cups water, 2 tsp salt, pepper, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, sage, and cinnamon sticks.

Bring to a boil the reduce the heat to simmer and partially cover.  Cook for about 90 minutes.  The end result is not soupy but check during cooking to make sure it does not dry out and add more water, 1/2 cup at a time as neccesary.

During the last 15 minutes of cooking, make the gremolata.  In a small bowl, mix the parsley, orange zest, thyme and garlic.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and herb stems from the pot.  Ladle into bowls, top with a bit of the gremolata and enjoy!

This can be served over a veggie puree like cauliflower, sweet potato, or carrot/parsnip.  You could also serve it over Cauliflower Rice, yummy!

*The leftovers can be frozen for dinner next week, just make sure to leave some out for your lunch tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Updates, Re-dos, and a Week of Intensely Real Food

Whew! Well, I have made it to day 5 of my personal food challenge (A Journey of Healing).  Day 1 was a haze of chopping, steaming, sauteing, and eating, I ate so much that day yet felt hungry all day (funny how cravings feel like hunger).  Day 2-4 were zombie-like, sleepless, grump-fests, that I personally would not like to revisit.  However, I realistically have to examine what was, and still is going on in my body these days.  Imagine life, up till 5 days ago: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner all consist of grains, dairy, sugars, protein and veg, snacks in between consist of the same.  All the food, to my mind, was healthy (except for occasional splurges).  Fermented foods graced my plate, lots of veggies, and the grains were prepared for easy digestion.  Now, Imagine life, 5 days since: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner all consist of Protein and Vegetables.  That's it.  That's everything, 3 large meals and no snacks, Protein and Vegetables.  So what is going on in my body?  I am experiencing the "Carb Flu".  My body and brain are adjusting to not having sugars from carb dense foods like grains and legumes, no sugar from dairy, no sugar from honey or maple syrup, no sugar from booze, no sugar from sugar.  I am experiencing for the most part, sugar withdrawal.  My body is craving anything that will provide that sugar spike that it thinks it needs.  My brain exhibits that by making me feel unsatiated and unfulfilled.  All of this added together equals a grumpy human being, stay away, stay far, FAR away!

And then, day 5 happened.  I slept through the night.....mostly, the first time in days that I had more than 2 hours sleep.  I woke up before my 7:30 alarm and jumped out of bed with my mind racing towards all the projects I want to get done today.  I exuberantly  cooked breakfast for both my self and the hubinator, eggs and cheese for him and a fried egg (in coconut oil) with red flannel hash and fermented beets for me, who's sounds tastier?!? I am now banging out this much needed post for my recently neglected audience, meanwhile, my brain is planning and organizing the rest of my day.  I feel....awesome? No, I feel friggin amazeballz!
 .........

I am excitedly looking towards the weeks ahead of me.  I already see changes in my mental and physical body but I realistically know, this is just the beginning.  I am creating new habits and patterns, I am rebooting my body, and recharging my brain.  I can't wait to get to day 12, day 20, and finally day 30.  I will definitely keep you all posted along the way.

I believe so fully in the positive effects this challenge will have on my body and mind I thought I'd give you a taste of what this first week of food looks like.  If you are not ready to commit to a Whole30 but want to know what it would be like to give it a try, you can use these menus to help you along.  You will get some benefit from 2 weeks, your body will begin to heal and perhaps, you will be feeling so good, you will continue on for 2 more weeks and possibly beyond.

But first I would like to share a re-do with you.  My Bulletproof Tea didn't stand a chance on this food challenge, so I had to give it a make over. The original included milk, sugar, butter, and loads of caffeine, big no-no's.  But what to do? I looked pretty hard at what dairy like liquids are allowed (no, dairy-free creamer is not an option) and coconut milk is pretty heartily endorsed.  I then went to the speciality tea section in my local Wegman's, and found a yerba mate, with spearmint and raw cacao, to mimic the sweetness of sugar.  I then fell back on my old friend coconut oil, doubling it up.

Here's my new method:
steep tea in boiling water with 3 cardamom pods and 3 cloves.  In a small blender jar, combine 1/4 cup coconut milk and 1-2 tbsp coconut oil.  When tea is steeped, pour it into the blender jar (removing the spices) and whir it up for a creamy, latte like, energizing morning cuppa.





Breakfast
Breakfast Jumble
1 cup ground pork, cooked
1/2 apple, chopped
1 cup butternut, cubed and cooked
1/4 tsp ea unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, paprika
Melt 2 tsp coconut oil in a fry pan, add all ingredients and fry until warmed through and brown.  Serve with 1/4 cup fermented saurkraut.
Variation: 1 cup brussels sprouts, cooked in place of butternut

Savory and Tangy Chicken for Breakfast
1 cup ground chicken, cooked
1 cup kale, cooked
4-5 grape tomatoes, quartered
garlic
Heat 2 tsp coconut oil in pan and add tomatoes.  When the tomatoes soften add garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add kale and chicken and fry until heated through and browned. Serve with 1/4 cup fermented beets.

Egg Foo Yong
I halved the recipe and replaced the chicken with ground pork.

Red Flannel Hash
I used coconut oil instead of ghee and had fermented beets on the side instead of pickled beets cooked in.  

Begin your week by cooking up enough of the veggies and meats to make each recipe twice.  Store it all in the fridge in containers, scooping out what you need when it comes time to cook.  By cooking each recipe twice you have a great way to vary what you eat each morning and not get bored.  Each of these recipes are great for lunch too!


Lunch
Killer Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
1 breast of chicken, cooked and cubed
1/2 apple,cubed
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp slivered almonds
1/8 tsp ea poppy seeds, celery seeds
2 green onions, white parts only, chopped -optional
3 tbsp Olive Oil Mayo
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, add salt and pepper to taste.  Fill butter lettuce leaves with the chicken to make a lettuce wrap.  Fill out the meal with a handful of kalamata olives and a small serving of fruit.

Kale and Sweet Potato Chicken Patties
1 lb ground chicken
1 cup sweet potato, cubed and cooked
1 cup kale, cooked
sprinkle of nutmeg and garlic powder
1 egg
coconut oil
Combine chicken, veggies, spices, and egg in a bowl.  Combine and shape into 4 oz patties.  Either cook or store in fridge, ready to cook.  Heat oil over medium high heat and fry for 4-5 minutes each side.  2per serving
These are great served with a large garden salad with lemon and olive oil.

Chopped Salad
1/2 cucumber, chopped
5 grape tomatoes, quartered
5-6 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
leftover lamb or steak, cubed
2-3 tbsp Avo-ziki
Combine everything in a large bowl.  This is a complete meal.

Scotch Eggs (from Well Fed)
2 pounds ground pork
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon dried chives
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
8 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
1 bag (2 ounces) fried pork rinds (optional)
2 large eggs, raw (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the ground pork in a large mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, tarragon, parsley, chives, and garlic. Knead with your hands until well mixed.
Divide the pork mixture into 8 equal servings. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten it in your palm into a pancake shape. Wrap the meat around a hard-boiled egg, rolling it between your palms until the egg is evenly covered. This is much easier than it sounds. If the meat sticks to your hands, moisten them with a little water. Place the meat wrapped eggs on the baking sheet. If using the pork rinds, place them in the bowl of the food processor and process until they resemble bread crumbs; pour them onto a plate or in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat the raw eggs. Gently roll each meatball in pork rind crumbs; you want just a thin dusting. Then roll each meatball in the raw egg and roll a second time in the crushed pork rinds to evenly coat. Place on the baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes, then increase the temperature to 400 F and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until the eggs are golden brown and crisp.
*These are a Whole30 must!  Make a lot of these at the beginning of the week.  You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Delicious with a salad dressed with olive oil, raw apple cider vinegar, and mustard.  

Cook up a bunch of chicken breasts seasoned with garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Make a bunch of sweet potato and kale patties, make a few (sugar-free) salad dressings.  Stock the fridge with mixed salad and hearty greens, a few cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives and you are ready for a week of lunches.  These recipes can be duplicated for the 2nd week and you can mix and match with breakfast items for a wide assortment of meals.


Dinner

I will be adding recipes throughout this week.  So far I have been taking it easy on myself due to the amount of cooking I am doing and accommodating the hubinator as well.  I stocked the fridge with an assortment of portioned proteins, fish, lamb, chicken, and pork and precooked veggies, lots and lots of veggies.  At dinner I cook the protein with some spices.  Then heat up 2 types and 2 cups worth of veggies and dinner is done.  Make an extra portion or protein and you have leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day.

I promise I will give you some scrumptious, mouth-watering recipes but I don't want to share them until I have tested them.  I am not holding back, dinner has been really boring, but really nourishing.  Enjoy!









Friday, May 31, 2013

A Journey of Healing.



"Discover the Whole30 and Change your life in unexpected ways" -It Starts With Food, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig
I am embarking on a new journey.  Tomorrow I will begin a program of food elimination to determine if any of the foods I consume on a regular basis cause inflammation leading to pain in my joints and general body.  For the last year I have been suffering mysterious pains that many a doctor have not been able to diagnose.  I have had diagnoses ranging from Rheumatoid Arthritis to Fibromyalgia to Bursitis to something as simple as having over flexible joints.  None of these diagnoses seem to fit and yet I am exhibiting symptoms that would fit all of them.

There is a firm belief within the nourishing foods community that what you eat can affect your body in ways that go beyond weight and general health.  I truly believe that what I am eating has short and long term core effects on my immune system and the health of my joints.  Some of you may be saying "Duh" some may be dismissing me and changing the page.  Hopefully, most of you are intrigued and want to know more.

I picked up the book "It Starts With Food" by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig on recommendation from a friend of mine.  I figured it would be another self help, nutrition read that I would store some of the information in my reserves of food knowledge but, something about it seemed different.  Something made me want to read it cover to cover rather than skipping through to the "good" parts.  What was different about this book as opposed to the many, many others that sit on my book shelf?  It made sense, really made sense.  The description of the program, the science behind it, the engaging prose, it drew me in and clicked.


Sitting here on my bed, writing this, I glance at my bedside table littered with prescription bottles of anti-inflammatories, pain killers, muscle relaxers, and anti-depressants.  The spoils of many a doctor's attempt to medicate me and alleviate the mysterious pain just long enough to let me get my 8 hours of sleep.  My heating pad is never far and my freezer has ice packs of all shapes and sizes.  I spent 2 days at the beginning of this week immobilized and resting due to the pain I felt after enjoying a short nature hike.  This has become my journey of the last year.  A journey of waking up each morning wondering what or if I am going to hurt, second guessing whether my knees or ankles will support me.  Always waiting for the tingling and swelling in my hands to dictate how I will spend my day.

 Anticipation is what I feel tonight.  Almost giddy, my refrigerator is filled with the nutritious foods that will sustain me through this first week of my Whole30.  Foods that will help me heal, foods that will nourish my body and help it rebuild, foods that are whole and real, not filled with chemicals that my grandmother never heard of much less could pronounce.  My prescription bottles will be replaced with supplements such as Fish oil and Magnesium.  Fermented foods, filled with living bacteria that will restore my gut to a healthy balance, will grace each meal plate.  Pizza will no longer be a once a week treat, bought or homemade.  Chocolate and a glass of wine will no longer be my evening wind down.  Anticipation, yes, nerves, definitely.  This is only for a month I keep telling myself.  This is a journey about discovering a healthier, happier me.  A mental and physical reboot of sorts.  A journey of healing myself from within.

The Whole30 is an elimination program where inflammatory foods are removed for a month then slowly re-introduced to examine their effects on your body.  During the 30 days you eliminate soy, sugar, dairy, gluten, grains, legumes, and alcohol from your diet.  The program is based on the Paleo lifestyle however, it also eliminates items that are allowed when eating Paleo.  The focus is on eating foods that make you healthier such as, grass-fed and pastured meats, seafood, eggs, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like coconut, avocado and olive oil, nuts and seeds (in moderation).  These are all foods I enjoy and eat regularly.  Please read this page for more on the philosophy behind the Whole30.

Over the next month I will be sharing with you my experiences, menus, and musings about my Whole30 journey.  I have prepped well for this and mentally am ready to embark.  Please reach out to me if you have any questions or are interested in doing a Whole30 for yourself.  Below I have included a few links that have helped me prepare as well as my Whole30 pinterest page so you can see some of my inspirations and recipes that will keep me going for the next 30 days.  Enjoy!

Whole30 Learn about the program and book "It Starts With Food"
Whole30 -Facebook Connect with others
Pinterest -Whole30, it's happening My inspirations
Free Downloads Shopping lists, quick start etc
The Foodee Project An extensive compilation of Whole30 approved recipes
The Clothes Make The Girl -I am highly enamoured of this site and can't say enough about the book "Well Fed" by the same author
Balanced Bites -Another wonderful blog resource but the book by the same author "Practical Paleo" is one I could not recommend more highly. Even if you don't do a Whole30, get. this. book.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wild Edibles; Foraging for Real Food

A sunny spring day in New Jersey always makes me itchy to get outside and play around.  The Hubinator and Pups seemed to have the same idea so we donned our hiking boots, strapped the harness onto the dog and headed over to Willingboro Lakes Park for a hike.  With the breeze blowing and the sun shining we crossed what appears to be an overgrown parking lot, we walked towards the sandy trails surrounding Olympia Lakes.  The site used to be host to American Bandstand dances and the remnants of those days are apparent, over grown concrete structures and the rusted out leavings of bulb lit signage.  As we traversed the weed cracked concrete I noticed the first signs of wild edibles.
Poking up through the scrub there were the un-mistakable round heads left after an onion flowers and goes to seed.  Onions pop up first in Spring, all you have to do is walk out to the yard and pull 'em up.  Rinse them off and there you go, fresh onion!
There is a plethora of "weeds" we can eat. Used medicinally or nutritionally, we are able to forage a good amount of nutritional plants. A weed is simply a plant that grows where we don't want it however, it has a place in the environment, edible or ornamental.  You can find so many wild edibles while on a walk, you just have to know what to keep your eyes open for.

We quickly came across a thatch of Wild Blackberries.  I know they grow all over this area but I didn't think I would find them in such mass (hopefully no one else knows to look for them).  I will be back with bushels! 

If you are looking for edible berries in the wild, all green, red, or black conglomerate berries are edible.  When green, they need to ripen so check back.  When red, they may be ripe so taste and check back if bitter. When black, they are ripe.  Conglomerate berries are when a large number of seed heads appear on one "berry" (like raspberries or blackberries).

The first year in our house we began to see conglomerate berries on a few trees in the back yard.  As summer wore on the Hubinator exclaimed, I know those berries!  I had no knowledge at the time so ignored him.  When his mother visited that summer she immediately said they were
mulberries.  Well, gosh be gone we had a new food source in our back yard!  We instantly began taking care of the trees in a way that would produce more berries, now we have enough to eat fresh and make jam every summer!  Mulberry trees can be identified by their serrated, shiny, heart shaped leaves.  The leaves alternate (not opposite) as they grow down the branch and they have a rough, almost hairy underside.

After crossing the expanse of the old parking lot we entered the wooded area.  As the pooch meandered along, sniffing all the new smells, and my eyes open to more wild edibles I spotted the distinct leaf shape of nettles.

Nettles are delicious and nutritious.  They are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.  When dried and made into tea they can help alleviate allergies and hay fever.  They can also help with high blood pressure and headaches.  Look for an egg shaped leaf that is highly serrated on the edges.  The leaves will be opposite from each other and the plant looks similar to mint.  They will have a hollow stem and little furry spines (ouch, don't touch).  There are no poisonous plants that mimic nettle so don't be worried if you mis-identify.
Nettles can be gathered and used in a pesto, they can also be sauteed and used in risotto or stirred into pasta like spinach.  They are delicious enough on their own to be made into nettle soup or nettle tea. 
*Be very careful when harvesting nettles as they do sting and can cause a rash.  Wear gloves when handling until you have steamed them.

We rounded the lake, remarking at the sheer amount of nettles and blackberries and vowing to come back soon.  The woods broke and we were back in the bright sunshine of the parking lot.  Happily already writing this post in my head, I spied one more wild edible out of the corner of my eye.  Amaranth, one single, lonely stalk.  A single stalk is really nothing of note except that I can harvest the seeds and plant a patch in my garden for next year. Both the leaves and seeds of the amaranth plant are edible.  If you are lucky enough to come across a large patch you can harvest the leaves throughout the summer and steam or saute them the way you would a light green.  In fall however, grab a few friends and a few new, clean frisbees and head out to your found or cultivated patch.  Tipping the flowering end over the upside down frisbee, rub vigorously between your hands to release the chaff and seeds.  Harvest as much as you can, spread on a tray and leave to dry overnight.  The next day lightly blow across the tray and the chaff will blow away, leaving the edible seeds.  Pick out any bugs and keep in an airtight jar.  To cook: using a 1-2 ratio of amaranth to water, boil for about 20-25 minutes.  Use where you would use rice or other grains.  Delicious.

What a delightful way to spend a warm Spring day.  Next time we will bring some bushels and scissors with us and collect everything we can carry.

A few more wild edibles you may find in your backyard or a nearby hiking trail:
Sassafras is the main ingredient in File powder which is used for thickening and adds that unique flavor to gumbo.  You simply need to pick a few leaves, wash, and lay flat to dry then run them through your food processor.  Sift the powder and store in an airtight container.  You may also make a tea out the dried leaves or cleaned roots.  The tree can be identified by it's distinct tri-lobed and bi-lobed, mitten shaped leaves.  When crushed, the leaf emits a bright lemony, slightly fruity scent.


Purslane is abundant in the hot summer months.  My backyard is overrun by it.  I love purslane season.  It has a grassy flavor similar to watercress or slightly spicy like arugula.  It is delicious mixed into potato salad or cucumber salad.  It is also delicious on it's own, sauteed with some popped mustard seeds and cumin.  Purslane is high in beta-carotene as well as magnesium and potassium.  You can identify it by it's fleshy succulent leaves and resembles a mini jade plant.  The new growth on the ends of the stems is edible as well as the leaves.

Last but not least, we can't forget our friend, the Dandelion.  There are so many wonderful uses for this little plant.  I don't think I could capture their uses better than Health Extremest, but I can tell you, the newly grown leaves are delicious in soups or a salad.

So get out there and harvest some wild edibles, fill your salad bowl with some of these wild greens and feel the satisfaction of sustainably and deliciously feeding yourself.  Enjoy!


*Make sure you harvest from an area where pesticides are not used. 
*My identification information is 100% true to my knowledge and research however, please use your best judgement when harvesting for yourself.  If you are unsure of the plant species, go home, do a little more research for yourself, and then decide whether or not to eat it.  There are some great field guides available for wild edibles in your area. 



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spa Day: Recipes for a Rejuvenated You


 


Occasionally I go to a spa for some pampering but more and more I am making products for treatments at home.  I like to know what ingredients I am putting on my body.  One rainy afternoon when the Hubinator was out of town and I had nothing pressing to do (or I was forgetting everything I needed to do), I decided to give my self a little pampering.  This is a really nice way to treat yourself well and feel relaxed and rejuvenated without having to get out of your PJs or spend big bucks.  The only part I missed?  A massage.  Oh well, I guess you do have to leave the house for that.

Some supplies you will want to have on hand before you begin:

Therapeutic oils:
As you may have guessed my first choice is coconut oil however there are many others you can use:
  • Avocado and Apricot Kernel -deep moisture, best for very dry, itchy, or mature skin
  • Grapeseed, Jojoba, and Olive -great for most skin types
  • Almond -all skin types, especially for oily skin

Good quality herbals:
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Calendula
  • Dried Rose Petals
  • Herbal Tea bags -if you like the way it tastes you probably like the way it smells

Cupboard Items:
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
*You won't need all items.  Use the following recipes to assemble what you need, and keep them on hand for the future.

Misc:
  • Bowls
  • Towels
  • Candles
  • Boiling water
Prepare your bathroom; create a serene, quiet, and comfortable atmosphere.  Clear the area around your sink, remove anything from the rim of your bathtub (you know your face wash and shampoo are sitting there), light candles, get in a bathrobe or comfy pajamas, put on your favorite tunes,  and relax!

The order I put these treatments together in maximizes the effectiveness and benefits to your skin.  I've included a few recipes for each step, choose the best ones for your skin type.  If you have sensitive skin, please be gentle with it and everyone should test unfamiliar ingredients first to make sure you do not have a reaction.

  1. Cleanse
  2. Exfoliate
  3. Steam
  4. Mask
  5. Moisturize

Begin by boiling 2-3 cups of water while you prepare your treatments.  Once the water is boiling add your herbs to infuse.  When your treatments are mixed, line them up next to your sink in the order that you will use them.

Cleanse:
Oil cleansing is a wonderful way to remove dirt and leaves your skin balanced and smooth.  You skin really likes oil, I promise!  You can read all about the method over at Thank Your Body, I like to use coconut oil mixed with olive oil but choose any oil from my list above.

Honey is also a great cleanser, it is anti-bacterial and really gentle.  It too will balance you skin and will also brighten, minimizing some of those dark spots.  I recommend using local raw honey, but what you have on hand is fine too.  Pour about a tablespoon into your palm and rub your hands together to warm and soften it a bit.  Then smooth it onto your face, focusing on trouble spots first.  Then wet a washcloth with very warm water and hold it to your face for a few seconds, remove while wiping away the honey.  Repeat with the warm washcloth as many times as needed to remove the honey.
You want to start with a clean face, removing as much surface dirt as possible without stripping your skin of it's natural oils.
These methods will thoroughly clean your face without the use of harsh chemicals present in most commercial cleansing products.

Exfoliate:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mixing to make a paste.  Wet your face and gently scrub in a circular motion.  Rinse off with warm water.
Heavy -1 tsp baking soda + 1 tsp water
Light -2 tsp Coarse Sugar + 1 tsp Oil (of choice)
Lightest -2 tsp coarsely ground Oats + 2 tsp Oil (of choice)
Exfoliating removes dead skin that has built up and will leave your face soft and smooth.
*Baking soda can be harsh, do not use if you have sensitive skin.  I use this once a week, then supplement with the other two for general exfoliation.

Steam:
Mix 1/3 cup of Lavender and 1/3 cup of Calendula or 4 bags of your favorite herbal tea, steep for 10 minutes in boiled water.  Take your steeped herbs in boiling water off the stove and place it in your sink.  My sink accomodates a small saucepan if yours doesn't then strain the herbs and pour in the water (to keep herbs from washing down the drain, not good).  Lean over the sink and cover your head with a towel, essentially creating a steam room.  Stay for 10 minutes or as long as you can stand.
This really opens up your pores and allows for the mask in the next step to sink in and do its job.
*You can dry and save the herbs or tea bags for one more use.  Make sure they are thoroughly dry before storing.

Mask:
Mix up your mask.  Apply all over your face avoiding your eye area.  Leave for 10-15 minutes.  Wash off with warm water.  I like to use the hot water washcloth method described above.
I keep frozen cubes of yogurt for just this use.  It's also a great way to use up the last of your yogurt if it has gotten a bit too strong tasting to eat.  Pour yogurt into ice cube trays and freeze.  Keep in a plastic bag in the freezer.  When ready to use simply place a cube in a bowl and allow to defrost, usually about 1/2 hour.
Mix 1 Yogurt cube or a couple Tbsp of Yogurt with 1 tsp Honey.  Add one or many of the following:
  • 1/2 Banana, mashed -The potassium in the banana will help even your skin tone and Vitamin A and E will help with fine lines and wrinkles
  • 1/4 Avocado, mashed -The fats in the avocado are great for moisture
  • 2 tsp Whole Oats or Oat Groats -Great for sensitive or "trouble" skin, they soothe and nourish and help reduce any inflammation.
  • 2 tsp Lemon Juice -Tones and balances your skin, helps reduce dark spots.
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon and 1/4 tsp Nutmeg -helps alleviate inflammation or acne
Moisturize:
I end the whole experience with a good slathering of coconut oil.  I don't recommend this if you need to leave the house (or if friends are due) it can be a bit greasy.  If you want a less oily appearance then use Jojoba or Almond oil.


I like to do a mini version of this every few weeks but if I have a couple hours to spend I add one more step, a bath!
After applying the mask, sink into a tub filled with warm water (hot water is drying to your skin) scented with essential oils, add some oats, or milk, or leave the water plain.  Relax and breathe deeply while you let the mask do its work.  After about 10 minutes, stand up and apply an exfoliant to your entire body, my Coco-Coffee Sugar (or Salt) Scrub is perfect here.  Do this while the tub empties.  Once you have rubbed and scrubbed, turn on the shower to rinse your face and body.  While you are still wet, smoothe a small amount of coconut oil or oil of choice all over your body THEN towel off.  If so desired, apply a body lotion......upcoming post "Homemade Body Butters"!

Now that you are relaxed and rejuvenated go, have a glass of wine, watch a movie, paint your toenails, even go to bed.  Mostly though, Enjoy!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Time runs away and why I plant perennial herbs

You know how life occasionally takes over and you feel like you have too much to do in too little time? Well, than was my week/ weekend thus far.  Gardening season is a very busy time for us, then add in a hubinator who travels and is currently travelling? As a professional homemaker and aspiring homesteader, I greatly feel the loss of those two extra hands. I also try to spend that time wisely, while I don't have another person to worry about.  It's a mixed blessing. That's when life gets away from me and important projects can get lost in the melee of revelling in freedom to make a mess in the kitchen and not have to clean up for dinner, or testing oddball recipes.  Needless to say...this week has been a busy one.
I have had a happy reception to my new blog and FB page, I have had followers and friends tell me they love the content. I have even had some requests about future posts. I value you and your input. This is why keep going, these comments are what keep me posting. I am so pleased to hear you like what I have to say.
That being said, I hated that I haven't gotten to my regular Monday post and I know you all understand. So I will leave you with this little snippet on gardening with herbs, inspired by an old friend of mine.

When you plant herbs, choose perennials, don't waste your time on annual herbs.  Herb bunches are cheap enough to buy, even organic but the plants don't produce enough for the time or space spent on cultivating them.

Dedicate space for thyme and oregano permanently in your garden.  Italian Parsley is biennial, meaning it will last a couple (or more) years.  Lavender and Bee balm are two that I choose to plant because I love the smell, the flower, and they are great for tea.  The only exception to my rule is basil.  Basil is quite prolific and will continue to bush as you snip off the tops for use.  And fresh basil is so tasty!  Allow enough space however, some herbs can take over, like mint.  I found oregano growing up through the weed cloth in between boxes at the start of the year!



Friday, May 10, 2013

Carrington Farms Coconut Oil


Carrington Farms Coconut Oil is by far one of the best coconut oils I have tried.  In the big wide world of coconut oil it is hard to pick one that is not only quality but one that is not hard on the wallet, especially if you use it as much as I do (remember my post, Coconut Oil; Beware, It's and Obsession)?  I have bought a few small jars of other brands in the past but have not been happy with either scent or taste, I wasn't as educated then either so was picking blind. However, when I found Carrington Farms in my local club store I quickly researched the company and reviews on my phone and just as quickly threw 2 54 oz. containers in my cart!

Folks, this stuff is wonderful!  It is Organic, unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin, coco-nutty goodness in a jar.  Even if my club store stops selling it I will purchase wherever I can (here).  The smell and taste are like opening a coconut and eating or smearing it on your body.  When I cook with it though it doesn't have an over powering coconut flavor so I can easily use it in place of other oils that would break down when heated.  I have also used it an many of my homemade cosmetics and remedies, leaving my skin nourished, soft, and sweet smelling, I swear it has reduced the fine lines around my eyes since I started applying it before bed.  I have even used it to make a remineralizing toothpaste because of it's antibacterial qualities.

Check out their other awesome products Carrington Farms

I love Carrington Farms Coconut Oil so much I am giving away a whole 54 oz container! If you are a newbie to coconut oil or a veteran user, you will be hooked once you try this one.  I am so excited to be able to share it with you!  Enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway **Sorry to my out of US readers, I cannot offer this giveaway :( It does not mean I do not love you though!  Thank you for your support!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bullet proof Tea

Good Morning Folks!
Awhile back I came across a recipe on one of my favorite blogs The Wellness Mama for Bulletproof Coffee.  I am no longer a coffee drinker but instead enjoy a big cup of tea in the morning.  I wanted to adapt this recipe to my own tastes and make it work with tea.  Some of the ingredients are gonna make you say "Has she lost her mind? Gross, oil in my tea (or coffee)?"  Really kids, this tastes good and is so good for you!



Don't laugh at my Harley cup, I could have photographed one of my handmade pottery cups but this is actually what I drink my morning tea out of!







Bullet Proof Tea (or coffee) 
  • 1 tsp Coconut oil (work your way up to a tablespoon)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Assam, Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, or even just a bag of Lipton
  • 2-3 Cardamon Pods
  • 2 Whole Cloves
  • Sweetener of choice, to taste
  • Grass-fed Raw Milk, optional to taste
Combine the Cardamom pods, Cloves, and tea, if using loose, in a tea ball or sock.  Dollop the Coconut oil in the bottom of your cup with your sweetener of choice.  Pour boiling water into your cup and add the tea.  If you are using a tea bag the spices will simply float to the top and you can remove them when done steeping.  Add milk, if desired, and steep for 2-3 Minutes.  Remove tea, give a stir and enjoy!  Wellness mama suggests you whir it up in a blender to emulsify the oil for a smoother consistency (she also uses grass-fed butter, not there yet for me).  I however like the fact that the oil coats my lips and I have the added benefit of instant lip balm while I sip my tea.  Not everyone likes an oily feeling with their morning drink however, so whir it up a bit if you want!
You can check out Wellness Mama's recipe for Bullet Proof Coffee Here.

I buy the majority of tea from a good friend Butiki Teas. She has an amazing, wide assortment of teas and tea wares. She really does her research to bring you the best quality teas available.  She has a new Irish Breakfast coming out this week, I can't wait to try it!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Weekend Drive in the Country, Preserving the Bounty, and How to Find Local Foods. May has Arrived.



KohlrabiLasparagus

We've had glorious weather recently in Southern New Jersey and I definitely caught a case of Spring Fever! This weekend I picked up my sister from play practice and headed out through beautiful Eastern PA, on back country roads, to my favorite farm for my weekly purchase of raw, un-pasteurized, fresh milk. When I called them earlier in the week to reserve my weekly milk (yes, it is so popular you have to reserve it) I was told they were already out of eggs for the weekend. Since I pass a couple of other farms selling eggs along the way I decided we would meander the way to our destination and hit up some of those farms. Let me just paint this scene for a moment; The weather is 70 degrees, the sun is shining, the car windows are open, and *EEK* Top 40 is on the radio (not my music of choice but hey, my sister is 10). Ignoring the wailing of "insert popular songstress here" I turn to my other senses and view the beautiful countryside and hills surrounding the base of Buckingham Mountain. Spring is in full force and the are trees bursting with pink and white flowers, the smell of the Earth awakening is in the air. Everywhere I look I see beauty. As we drive my sister turns to me and asks "Why do you drive 45 minutes away just for milk and eggs when you can go to the grocery store in 5 minutes?" Very good question. I answered "Because the eggs we are about to buy were laid by chickens less than 4 days ago, the milk was in the cow less than 2 days ago. They are the freshest they can get and I know the farmers who sell them to me. I've seen the chickens and cows in the pasture, I know they are well cared for. That is really important to me." Her response "Eww!". Oh well, she'll appreciate it when she gets older.

  The farm I decided to stop at is Milk House Farm Market. They are located in a beautiful old farmhouse with a big red barn in back. I have always wanted to stop, it just calls to me, but have never been in the position to do so. When we pulled up there were chickens scratching around the yard and a little old lady filling egg cartons from a large basket of freshly pulled eggs. I have died and gone to heaven! When we walked into the small market room in front I was greeted by baskets of radishes, beets, a few small tomatoes, herbs, jars of honey, and a refrigeration case filled with eggs, milk, yogurt, and butter. Oh my gosh, I have died because this is definitely heaven! The little old lady came through from the back and greeted me, arms full of egg cartons. "Honey, you arrived just at the right time, we've just pulled fresh eggs and a few of the cartons even have our famous blue ones. We're known around here for them." she brightly said to me "Well that is just what I am here for." I responded with a huge smile. We chatted for a moment or two, I learned that they keep a variety of laying hens, they are open 7 days a week, and only stock vegetables, fruits, and herbs they can bring in from their fields and surrounding farmers. I also learned their strawberry plants are bursting with fruit and that I MUST come back at the end of the month, but make sure I arrive early in the day. She was so sweet and the energy was so welcoming, I will most certainly be back later this month to stock up on strawberries.

EggsFresh eggs in hand we piled back into the car and travelled the 5 minutes to Birchwood Farm and Dairy. I love pulling into this tucked away farm, as soon as you come up the short driveway the land just opens onto beautiful pasture. I walked in and the young lady greeted me by name, I guess I go often enough now. They carry fresh raw milk, homemade yogurt, ice cream, eggs, organic fresh orange juice and a wide variety of pastured, grass-fed meats. A few weeks ago I purchased a chuck roast from them and it was so tender and delicious. Their spicy Italian sausage is wonderful (although very spicy) and the short ribs are to die for! I cannot wait until later in the season and they have bacon, nitrate free and salt-cured. I like to buy a large cut of meat when I am there, they raise all the livestock and use a local butcher to process the meat. Talk about getting to know your community. Its really important to me that I know my farmers and they know me. I'd never be greeted by name at the grocery store and who knows when the eggs were laid or how the chickens were kept. This relationship makes food that much more nourishing and meaningful. After securing my purchases in the back seat we started our drive home. Feeling happy and content I settled back in the driver's seat, gazed again at the pastures, and quite honestly didn't even notice that "insert popular songstress here" was continuing to wail on the radio.


There are many things I love about May, planting season is fully upon us, everything is blooming and the Earth is alive again, and Farmer's Markets re-open for the season. Being avid gardeners, the hubinator and I grow a large variety of vegetables that we both enjoy during the season and preserve for eating over winter however, we can't grow every single thing we might want. Enter Farmer's Market. I love waking up Saturday morning, preparing breakfast, and filling up my tea cup to take with me to my local Farmer's Market. Feeling the warm sun on my shoulders I walk through the local agriculture center and take in the heaps of produce brought in by the farmers in the surrounding area. My first stop is always the mushroom man, he hails from Kennet Square, PA (mushroom capitol of the US, ya know) he has the most beautiful shitakes, portobellos, and interesting varieties like Hen of the Woods. Next stop is Busy Bee Farm, she carries pesticide free lavender and a variety of local honeys, did you know eating honey from local bees can help reduce allergies? Yup, it builds up a kind of immunity to the flora in your area! After picking up some fruits and veggies I end my rounds with Made in the Shade Lemonade, the cucumber-mint is to die for. I like to supplement my home grown veggies with veggies from the market but my favorite aspect is that I can buy bulk amounts that I wouldn't be able to grow at home and stock up my cupboards for winter. This month I will stock up on strawberries over at Milk House. There are a few great resources on the web for locating Farmer's Markets and pastured grass-fed meats and eggs in your area. I keep an eye out for local magazines that are often offered for free at your *OOF* grocery store (we all need toilet paper every once in awhile). Or contact your local extension service, they can point you in the right direction. Here are a few of my favorite websites:
If you don't have the space or desire to grow your own fruits and vegetables then Farmer's markets are definitely the way to go. Not only are you getting the freshest organic produce but you are also supporting your local farmer, I am sure you have seen the bumper stickers "No Farms No Food", well it's true. Let's bring our dollars back to our communities and support local agriculture. I've touched on preserving your bounty a few times. Its quite easy to do and really there is nothing like making salsa in December from tomatoes that actually taste and smell like tomatoes. Each month during the summer season I will bring you recipes for preserving fruits and vegetables that are coming in during each month. I may even throw in a recipe you can enjoy with out preserving! I am not here to teach you how to can, I don't dare proclaim myself an expert, I have done a lot of reading on the subject and I know what has worked for me. I urge you to read up on canning basics before you try to do it for the first time. It's really not hard but there are a few things you should know, I still check the internet or my books for processing times everytime I make a new batch. I will provide canning times in the recipes I use but please, do some research and use your personal best judgement. A few websites I hands down trust are:
Now that I've gotten the fine print out of the way......
strawberries




Preserving the Bounty: Strawberries

Freezing is a great way to preserve your berries. Fill your sink with water and add 1/4 cup Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. Submerge the berries gently, swishing around to remove any dirt. Drain and place between two kitchen towels to dry. Place on baking trays that fit in your freezer, the idea here is to freeze them separately so they don't freeze into a big clump, you can skip this but it will be harder to use them in the future. Once frozen, place in a freezer storage bag. Voila!

Oven drying or dehydrating strawberries is another wonderful way to preserve them. Clean your berries and slice them. Very lightly grease a baking sheet and spread the berries in one even layer. Bake in an oven set at 150 degrees or the lowest setting you have. Check your berries every few hours, once they begin to shrivel flip and continue to check. They are fully dehydrated when they have shrivelled quite a bit and are no longer sticky to the touch. Store in an airtight container 6 months to a year. With a dehydrator set to 125 allow to dry for 8-10 hours or until fully dried. These are delicious as a snack right out of the jar, sprinkled over cereal, or mixed into your favorite granola or trail mix.

Strawberry Preserves
  • 4 Cups Strawberries, crushed
  • 2/3 Cup Unsweeted Fruit Juice -If I am feeling industrious I will crush & strain a few extra berries, otherwise apple juice or even water work well here
  • 3 Tbsp Low/No sugar Pectin -I use Ball RealFruit Brand
  • 1/2 Cup Honey or Organic Sugar -Optional, I do not use sweeteners
Prepare water bath, jars, and lids. Combine all the ingredients except sweetener (if using) in a saucepan. Bring to a hard boil stirring continuously. If you are using a sweetener, add it now and return to a boil for a full minute. Remove from heat, occasionally some scum will rise to the top, this is absolutely normal and should be skimmed. Fill ½ pint jars to ¼ of an inch from the top. Wipe the rim with a clean cloth to remove any spills. Place lid on top and screw on rim until finger tight. Gently place in water bath making sure the jars are covered by 2 inches of water. Bring water to a steady boil and process jars for 20 minutes. Remove jars from water bath and place on a dish towel on the counter to cool. Sit back and enjoy “pop pop pop” sound of your jars sealing. After Preserves have cooled check to make sure all of them sealed, fully tighten the rim, and put away in a cool dark place to enjoy over the winter! If any have not sealed then place them in the fridge and enjoy within 3 weeks.

Variation: Add ½ tsp cracked black pepper for a spicy twist

Coconut Oil; Beware, it's an Obsession!

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Coconut oil has become wildly popular in recent years, so much so that since I began research for this post last week, 4 of my favorite blogs posted about it's benefits! It has been a well kept secret for ages in coastal areas and warm climate countries. Predominately used for cooking, the flavor is most often associated with Asian style curries or many of those fruity drinks folks purchase on beach vacations. It is high in saturated fat but due to it's chemical make-up it breaks down in your system quickly before it can be converted to fat leaving it immediately available as energy.

There are so many uses for coconut oil apart from cooking. First the obvious, it is highly moisturizing, leaving your skin feeling supple and replenished.  It has a warm scent that is gentle and does not linger.  It is both anti-microbial and anti-fungal so when used topically it will promote healthy skin regeneration, not pimples!  It works wonders on the under eye and chest areas where skin is more delicate and prone to wrinkling.  Lastly and my favorite, it actually can help you lose weight and feel more energetic, this comes back to it's chemical make-up because it is a saturated fat you feel fuller for longer but it doesn't turn into fat easily in your body.  Some women have claimed that their cellulite disappeared when they started taking 1-2 teaspoons a day orally (WOW)!  What is not to love about this wonderful oil?

I first picked up a large container of coconut oil after reading of the health benefits of cooking with it.  One fact that really got me was that since it is solid at room temperature it is less susceptible to becoming rancid, lasting often up to two years.  Also it is not a highly processed or refined oil such as our supermarket canola or vegetable oils and won't break down and oxidize when heat is applied aka. cooking.  Nor is it GM which cannot be said for many of the "cooking" oils out there.  Here is a great description of when and how to use fats from one of my favorite bloggers over at Empowered Sustenance.Hers was the first blog I ever read when I first started my real food journey.  She has a great little print out for quick reference.  While you are there you should definitely browse her blog, she is chock full of information!

coco-oil2Currently I purchase Carrington Farms brand Coconut oil in my local club store but there are many varieties available in smaller quantities so you don't have to commit right away (remember this stuff practically never goes bad).  Tropical Traditions is a well loved company, and Spectrum and Nutiva brands are available in most health or whole food markets.  I quickly found the amount I am using on a daily basis it is best for me to go with larger containers.

Coconut Oil Recipes

Coco-Coffee Sugar (or salt) Scrub

This moisturizing and exfoliating scrub can be used daily however, if you have sensitive skin, use it 1-2 times a week to keep your skin smooth and soft. If you choose to use salt rather than sugar make sure you use the scrub before shaving as the salt can irritate freshly shaved skin. This is a great use for those coffee grounds that would normally be trash.
  • 1 Cup Coffee Grounds
  • 1 Cup Organic Coarse Sugar or Coarse Sea Salt
  • 1 Cup Coconut Oil
Slowly melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over low flame. Pour into a pint size mason jar or other airtight container and mix in the coffee grounds and sugar or salt.

Skin Smoothing Deodorant

This deodorant passed the workout test! Mind you, I did sweat, and you are supposed to, but I did not stink. Commercial products contain many harmful chemicals that are absorbed through your sweat glands and into your system. This will keep you smelling fresh and your body will begin to heal from the chemicals in commercial products and you will begin to sweat less! This is a small recipe that can be doubled when you decide to switch over completely.
  • ¼ Cup Coconut Oil
  • ¼ Cup Arrowroot Powder -cornstarch may be used
  • 1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 5 drops Tea Tree, Rose Absolute, Lavender, or Essential Oil of your choice
Cream the first 3 ingredients together in a bowl. Add the essential oil and mix until combined. Store in ½ pint mason jar or other airtight container. Apply a small amount with your fingers or a make-up sponge as you would commercial deodorant.

Coconut Oil Face Cleansing

You won't believe me until you try it but your skin will be clearer and cleaner by using this method. As with most new and healing regimes, sometimes your skin gets a little worse before it gets better. There will be a short grace period before you see the major results but, please, stick with it. I promise you will be so happy you did!

  • 3 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 3 Tbsp Jojoba Oil
Slowly melt the coconut oil in a small sauce pan over low heat. Add the jojoba oil and pour into a small glass airtight container.

I learned about this method of cleansing from Thank Your Body and decided to try it with coconut oil.  I have been very happy with the results.

To Use:

Pour a ½ tsp amount into your hands, rubbing together to warm, if the coconut oil has resolidified make sure you get a bit of both oils in your hands, they will recombine. Begin rubbing into your face using slow, massaging circles. Take your time with this, relax and enjoy the facial massage. Turn on the hot water and heat until it's the warmest you can take but not enough to burn. Wet a soft cloth and hold to your face for 10-15 seconds then wipe your face gently to remove the oil. Repeat a few times until the oil is removed. Apply a very small amount of oil under your eyes and if needed to dry points on your face.

Grain-free Banana Pancakes

  • 1 Banana, mashed
  • 2 Eggs
  • Sprinkle of warming spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 tsp Coconut oil
  • ¼ Cup Homemade or Greek Yogurt
  • Handful Berries
Whisk together Banana and Eggs in a bowl. Heat Coconut Oil over medium heat, preferably in non-stick skillet. Pour in Banana mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 5-7 more minutes. Remove to a plate, top with the yogurt and berries. Enjoy!

Coconut Oil Mayo

This may be for a real die hard coconut oil fan. I made it the other day replacing the oil called for with coconut oil. The hubinator did not notice, simply thought it was a bit tart I however, enjoyed it immensely but would not use it to replace mayo in a ham sandwich for instance. It would be great for a tropical coleslaw, as a dip for battered fish (fried in coconut oil of course) or for a curried chicken salad. You can substitute half the coconut oil for olive oil if desired. This mayo can be fermented as well for a longer lasting fridge life, simply add 1 Tbsp of Whey and leave out for 7-10 hrs for the bacteria to do their job.

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp table salt
  • Ground Pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 Cup Coconut Oil
Gently melt Coconut oil in small sauce pan, set aside to cool slightly. In food processor, combine yolks, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper until combined, about 10 seconds. With machine running, gradually add oil in slow steady stream, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and process 5 seconds longer. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Quick and Easy Everyday uses for Coconut Oil

Apply a small amount to cuticles and callouses before bed.

Dab a bit under and around your eyes to soften skin and reduce wrinkles.

Add a teaspoon to your morning coffee to help moisturize from within.

For Curly Hair: Apply a small amount to your hair and comb through after conditioning to help tame frizz.

For Straight Hair: Apply a small amount to your ends after towel drying and let hair air dry or heat style as usual.

Use a thin layer of coconut oil instead of shaving cream.

Apply a small amount to your body before you towel off, while you are still wet from the shower and your pores are good and open from the heat.  Towel off and go about your usual routine.  Great for winter when your skin is extra dry.

*Many of the recipes used here are adaptations of recipes I have found on the internet.  I have played around with them until I found what worked best or tasted best to me.  I urge you to experiment with the quantities, making small batches at first to find what suits your skin best.  As with most new things, test it out before slathering your body with it!  If you are concerned about any essential oils mentioned, please use the best quality available and definitely test on your skin!