super veggie-packed oven baked meatballs

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Dinnertime view from our Vancouver rental on the 33rd floor. A new perspective for the littles and a new appreciation for me for families raising kiddos in a super-city environment.

Sometimes the kiddos will ask for veggie stir fry for dinner.

Sometimes our little girl will beg for a red pepper for a snack.

Sometimes the little guy will demand a salad.

Sometimes.

But they are kids.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes getting them to eat veggies is a challenge. Or at least it was a challenge. Until I figured out that they will eat almost any vegetable if it’s inside a meatball.

Broccoli. Carrots. Peppers. Cilantro. Parsley. Kale. Spinach. Bok choy.

If it’s in there, they will eat it.

So when we’ve had “one of those days,” I take whatever veggies I have on hand, chop them fine (use a food processor if you want it super tiny) and toss them in a big glass mixing bowl with a pound of beef, an egg, some bread crumbs (or cooked quinoa), onion and garlic and we’re good to go. Actually, it’s enough meatballs to feed us for two or three meals. So after dinner I freeze the leftovers for crockpot usage at a later date.

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See the strange “orange” tint to this photo? It’s not a filter. No. It’s the light in our rental kitchen. SEVENTEEN pictures of one plate later (kids were done eating by the time I took this one), I thought there might be a revolt.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound of ground beef (preferably grassfed organic)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs (a paleo option is 1/2 cup cooked quinoa or 1/4 cup of almond flour)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese (could substitute with Parmesan)
  • 1/2 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup broccoli* (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro* (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt & pepper

*Broccoli and Cilantro can be replaced with carrots, bok choy, red or green peppers, spinach, kale, parsley, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, etc. Whatever veggies you have handy.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With about a teaspoon of sesame oil (or your favorite cooking oil), lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine egg and bread crumbs. Add the meat, cheese, onion, garlic, veggies, salt & pepper. With clean hands, mix it all together until it’s evenly blended. Form into 2-inch meatballs. Twelve meatballs fit in the pan, so I bake them in two batches. I usually salt the meatballs with a pinch more after they are in the pan.

Bake for 20 minutes. (If you make smaller meatballs, they won’t need 20 minutes.)

Makes 24 2-inch meatballs.

Serve with pasta or over quinoa or on their own. Slather them in sauce or gravy or leave ’em plain. And feel happy that the fam is eating their leafy greens!

with love from Vancouver,
J

stone soup – a perfect winter supper

Do you remember that children’s tale of The Stone Soup?

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A tired and hungry old man arrives in town and removes a special stone from his satchel and then starts reminiscing about stone soup with onions … and salt beef … and cabbage … and mushrooms … and the list goes on and on. By the end, he “magically” (with the help of the entire town) creates a most delicious and nourishing soup.

It’s a beautiful story. And a great lesson about the benefits of working together and a wonderful example about how everyone has something to contribute.

Last week, we were prepping to leave for a two to three week road trip to visit my husband while he’s working in Canada. We had more than a few veggies left in the fridge I knew would go bad if we just left them there. So, with two helpful sets of little hands, we set out to make our own Stone Soup.

It was so good we ate it for dinner, and then dinner the next night, and then (at their request) the kids ate it for breakfast before we left for skiing on Thursday!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Tbls sesame or sunflower oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
  • 3 stalks celery (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/4 c. leftover tomato sauce
  • 7 c. broth (bone or vegetable or water)
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 small-medium carrots (chopped)
  • 1 medium sweet potato (chopped)
  • 1 – 2 stalks of bok choy (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 c. cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 c. green beans (cut in thirds)
  • 2 c. leftover cooked brown rice or quinoa
  • Sea salt & pepper (to taste)
  • no stone required

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in a dutch oven and sauté chopped onion until translucent. Ad celery and garlic. Then add tomato sauce, rosemary and thyme and broth or water. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to simmer and add carrots, sweet potato, bok choy, tomatoes, green beans. Add salt and a dash of pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  About 10 minutes before serving, add leftover rice.

This is sure to warm you on these cold winter nights (or mornings).

NOTE: A traditional stone soup might also have a salted beef or leftover meat of your choice. 

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almond milk – for when the cows stop giving it up

I just found out that the cow from whom we get our milk is pregnant!!! Very pregnant, apparently. So she’s starting to wean her other baby. And not really producing much milk anymore. And unlike at factory farms where they might induce lactation with chemicals or medication, our family farmer wants to make sure our little lady is healthy and restored and ready for the task at hand (giving birth and caring for her new calf). So no more milk for us at least until May.

It’s a nice coincidence for me that this falls right in the middle of that cleanse I was telling you about, as I’ve given up dairy for the short term. I haven’t, however, given up tea and coffee. And I like a little milk in my soaked oatmeal or millet breakfasts. I’m still making sourdough pancakes a few mornings a week for the kiddos. And the kids love their granola.

So while Twyla (the cow) isn’t lactating, we still need a little milk in the house.

Enter almond milk.

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Which I know I can buy in a carton.

But I have a yoga-teacher friend who made fresh almond milk while I was sitting at her table one afternoon during a playdate between her son and our daughter. It looked super easy. Took next to no time at all. It was frothy, creamy and oh-my-GOOD-delicious. And I’ve not been able to enjoy the carton-version since.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 6 pitted Medjool dates (optional)
  • 1 pinch sea salt (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

First things first, soak the almonds overnight (up to 48 hours, but change the water every 18-24 hours) in a non-reactive container like a glass mason jar. The longer you soak, the thicker the milk will be. I’m pretty satisfied with the consistency of the milk around 18 hours.

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Rinse the almonds and put them in the container of a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix or Blendtec) or food processor. Add the water, dates and sea salt. Puree until pulverized and you’re left with a frothy, creamy mixture.

Strain the almonds through a cheese cloth and a fine mesh strainer into a medium sized bowl. (If I don’t have cheese cloth, I’ve also just strained them through a fine mesh strainer and been content.) Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for up to four days. (Note, if you don’t use it right away, you’ll want to shake it up after it sits in the fridge for a bit as it will separate.)

Makes a little more than 2 cups of creamy sweet almond milk.

NOTE: I generally make only two cups at a time because it’s so delicious fresh. Also, I add the dates because I like the subtle sweetness they add to the milk. The dates are optional. No need to add dates if you don’t want them. And lastly, I only remember to add the salt about half the time. The difference is pretty subtle, but adding the salt will keep the milk fresh in the fridge for an extra few days, I think.

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garden 2014 … step one: DREAM

… I had a dream last night that the strawberry patch I planted last year grew baseball sized purple strawberries.  So cool.

But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.

As our mailbox fills up with seed catalogs, my brain inevitably fills with incredible dreams of the possibilities for this year’s garden.  And the more I think about it, the more I realize how important it is (today) to spend some time dreaming and reflecting.  Reflecting on past years’ gardens, dreaming of tomorrow …

NOTE: See that picture of Abby’s greenhouse?  I’m also dreaming of her garden … I can’t help it.  She’s got a killer greenhouse and I look forward to the day when she can help me figure out how to build mine.  (Put that on your to-do list, Ab.  I’m gonna need lotsa help.)

I’ve been dreaming of all the roasted vegetable salsa, pizza sauce, pesto, broccoli salad, roasted beet salads, bone broth, tomato sandwiches, kale salads, kale crisps, green smoothies, roasted cabbage salads, fermented veggies, stir fries and grilled veggie sandwiches … the list is really too long, but oh so fun to let my mind wander …

And then I REFLECT on what was growing last year …

I didn’t plant enough garlic (which plants in the fall, so I took care of this by planting 40 more bulbs this year, devoting a 10ft x 2 ft bed entirely to garlic).  I didn’t plan enough kale.  I planted too many golden nugget squash.  Too many zucchini.  I always want more tomatoes.  And I’m devoting an entire bed to herbs this year (in part because we’re getting chickens and I keep reading how beneficial herbs are to raising organic, unmedicated chickens who lay beautiful and healthy eggs!)

And then I do a REALITY CHECK

Because as much as I love eggplant parmesan and I think roasted peppers are on my list of favorite veggie bits ever … my experience growing eggplant in Montana’s short summers has not been super productive.  And my attempt at growing peppers?

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Not so successful.

Unless (like Abby) you’ve got a greenhouse or a wicked cold frame, growing warm, Mediterranean deliciousness can be a challenge in Zone 4.  I’m not saying you can’t succeed growing eggplant and peppers.  My friend Chris is the KING of Montana eggplant.  He gave me a start two years ago and it’s the only time I’ve ever successfully grown an eggplant in Montana.  But I’ll be honest and tell you I kept that plant inside until July and then never moved it into the garden but let it grow in a pot on our back porch.  I brought it inside if the temps were dropping below 45-50 degrees (more nights in the summer than I like to admit).  And the yield from this Herculean effort?  One.  Small (4 inches, maybe).  Beautiful.  Eggplant.  (That I did not photograph?!?!?)

Okay, so … reality check.  Figure out what will grow where you live.  (Don’t know your zone?  Or why it matters?  Click here to find out.)

And then think about your space … Where is your garden?  How much room do you have?  And what are you looking to accomplish?

We have limited garden space (10 raised beds of varying size in the backyard, a more freewheeling in-ground garden in the front yard (chives, mint, rhubarb, roses, tulips, a few ornamental bushes), and two garden boxes alongside our front porch which are already planted with strawberries and mint.

But I want to grow enough food to avoid the grocery store’s vegetables for at least a few months of the year.  Not that I won’t buy avocados or ginger from the Coop because I can’t grow them in my backyard … I just like being able to walk outside or, once fall arrives, go to our cold storage and pluck out the food we’ll need for dinner.  It makes meal-planning a lot easier when the choices are all right in front of me.  So I’ve got to dream about all the foods we like to eat and then figure out how much of each thing we need to grow.

Which brings me to STEP TWO: PLAN (and order your seeds/starts)

And then on to STEP THREE:  PLANT

STEP FOUR:  TRANSPLANT (getting things in the garden)

And finally … the best step … STEP FIVE:  HARVEST (and see your dreams come true!)

What are your garden dreams for 2014?

Want to know what goes in to planning a garden to feed a family of four for 6-8 months?  More on that next week.

 

How we eat real food without letting it consume us.

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Spoiler alert: We do the best we can.

When I started learning about real food (and everything that goes along with it), it was without a doubt all-consuming.  What started as a change from conventional green peppers to organic, quickly spiraled into a revamp of not just the kitchen, but all areas of my life.

We changed what we would buy at the store, and how we would prepare the food at home.

We emptied out the medicine cabinet and gradually changed how we deal with sickness.

We ditched the bottles of lotions and shampoos and beauty products filled with chemicals we couldn’t pronounce.

And while I am FOREVER thankful for these things, I am the first to admit it can take over your life.

Here I am, five solid years later, and I feel I have a much healthier balance in my life.  I’m still just as passionate (possibly even more) about eating organic, avoiding genetically modified food, keeping toxins out of our home and embracing the outdoors (and sunshine) as much as possible.

I’ve heard a lot of people in the real food world talk about following an 80/20 rule, meaning that they eat right 80 percent of the time and allow for slip-ups and splurges the other 20.  I’d say we fall into that category, except somedays it’s 90/10 or 50/50 or something of that sort.  Anything we do in the home is healthy.  We buy as organic as possible, filter our water, rarely use chemicals for cleaning, etc.

I firmly believe that the additional money we spend on these things is an investment into our future health and wellness.  And in terms of organic food being more expensive… yes, yes it is.  No one is going to argue with that.  But if you take a look at your budget and see how much $ you spend going out to eat or driving through Starbucks (both of which we do on occasion), you’ll find there are some ways you can save to have a little extra to contribute to healthier foods.

But back to the point of this post… how do we live this “alternative” lifestyle without letting it consume our lives?

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We take advantage of convenient foods.  

All kids like hotdogs, and mine are no exception.  We buy organic ones from Applegate, and they are easy to throw in the toaster oven when we’re in a pinch.  I go through seasons of making kombucha and yogurt, but to keep it easy I generally buy these at the store.   My two year old and I have been known to suck down a small (who am I kidding?!) large bag of organic chips with salsa if no one is there to stop us.

We teach our kids about making healthy eating choices, but don’t let them stress about it. 

They eat cake at parties and french fries at restaurants.  My four year old is starting to ask questions about organic, and for a while was asking me if this or that was “gutten” free.  (Which is sort of funny, because our family has never followed a gluten-free diet.)  They eat a wide variety of vegetables (mainly raw), and on occasion they will choose those over something too sweet.  Sort of like below when my 2 year old choose lemon and kale salad over homemade sugar cookies.

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I have to keep myself in check. 

I was a bump on a log in the beginning of my health food journey.  My biggest beef was with meat (pun intended), and I couldn’t bear to eat at a resturarant that didn’t have an organic option to choose from.  It wasn’t fun for anyone, and I chose food over friends/family more than i’d like to admit.  My favorite restaurants are still the ones who offer those options, but I try my best to be flexible.  I also have to keep myself in check to not let my love for real food become an obsession.

I will never, ever turn back on my love for real food, but there are so many other wonderful things in this world to care about, too!

-Abby

baked (soaked) oatmeal

We’ve been waking up super early these days to hit the slopes.

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But I’ll be honest, the kiddos would rather not wake up as early as we need to to get a good warm breakfast in their little bodies before we hit the road.  So I’ve been looking for portable breakfasts that are easy to take in the car.  Egg tacos are a favorite.  Bacon, a green smoothie and hot tea with raw honey is another.  But last week, I decided to bake some soaked oatmeal into a breakfast cake and low and behold …

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Portable.  Delicious.  Nutritious.  And keeps ’em satisfied for a morning on the slopes until we stop for a hot cocoa break  late-morning.

A total winner.

And easy to make the night before, so long as I’m organized enough to remember to soak the oats 12-24 hours beforehand.

(In case you don’t remember why we soak our grains before using them … grains, like oats and flour, barley and millet, et al, have something called “phytic acid” and other anti-nutrients that make them harder for humans to digest, and make it more difficult for our bodies to access the nutrients in this nutrient dense food.  Soaking the grains in an “acid bath” of apple cider vinegar and water, or whey, buttermilk, lemon juice, etc., helps break down the phtyic acid and make the grains more digestible and nutrients more accessible and usable.)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups Organic Rolled Oats
  • 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar or 1 TBLS fresh Lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 1/2 cup Raw Honey
  • 2 Eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/3 cup Coconut Flour
  • 1 tsp Aluminum free Baking Powder
  • 1 Tbls Chia Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 4-6 tsp Blueberry Preserves (or your favorite jam or your favorite berries) – TOTALLY OPTIONAL

DIRECTIONS:

The Night/Day Before:  Put rolled oats in a glass or non-reactive bowl/jar and cover with filtered water by about 1 inch.  Add ACV or lemon juice.  Stir to combine and cover.  Set aside in a warm place in your kitchen for 12-24 hours.

When you’re ready to bake:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse the oats.  Really rinse them.  In a fine mesh strainer, for about 2-3 minutes until the water almost runs clear.  (It will likely never run perfectly clear, but get it close.

Mix the warm coconut oil with raw honey and whisk until combined.

Add the vanilla and eggs.  (The eggs need to be room temperature.  Cold eggs will not only re-solidify your coconut oil, but will also make the oatmeal less moist and less cakey).

Then add the coconut flour, baking powder, chia seeds and sea salt.

Last but most important … stir in the rinsed rolled oats.  Careful to not “over mix” … you just want to coat the oats with the egg-honey-oil mixture.

Pour into a well-greased 8 x 12 baking dish.

(OPTIONAL STEP:  Top with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dollops of your favorite jam or berries)

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.  (I cut leftovers into servings and store in the fridge for quick serve snacks during the week.)

NOTE:  If we eat this at the table in the morning, I’ve been known to cut it early and top with a pat of raw pastured butter or a little cream.

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And then she was happy …

Makes 12 servings.

paleo Asian lettuce wraps

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It’s Jeanne.

I don’t know about you, but I found 2013 a complicated year.  Lots of ups and downs.

My beautiful mother-in-law had a stroke and then passed away.

We were negotiating a short sale on a piece of property out of town on some incredible acreage and pretty much got taken for a ride by the owner before the deal fell through.

My car was in the shop more in 2013 than in the five years I’ve owned it.

And the love of my life/husband (who I affectionately call our Cowboy), who was home with us for more than 20 months (during which time our daughter fell totally in love with him), went back to work 1,100 miles away, leaving me and the little ones pretty heartbroken (although thankful for the work) and raking more leaves and shoveling more snow than we’re used to.

So those are the downs.

As for ups … well …

Our gorgeous niece Samantha married the love of her life in one of the most beautiful ceremonies I’ve ever not been to (they got married in Wales in an intimate storybook wedding that, if you have 3 minutes to spare, you might actually find yourself falling in love again, too).

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I learned to ski.  And I love it.  And at 40-something, that’s something.  (Something that’s definitely up and down considering the amount of time I ended up on my bottom.) The Cowboy skis like a pro.  Our 4 year old skis (she learned two weeks before I did and she’s way better than I am).  And our 2 year old has been on skis a few times (including this morning).

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So now I’m looking forward to it being a family activity until I can’t stand up anymore.

But the one thing that was a total “up” last year was my weight … by 10-15 pounds.  Which is also a total down. :-/

I wrote about it once before … eating organic doesn’t make you skinny.  There’s a lot involved in weight loss/gain.  Stress.  Hormones.  Physical activity.  Emotions.

So it’s probably not a surprise that I’ve started this year with a commitment to not only be conscious of what I’m eating, but how much and how often.  I cut out refined sugar a long time ago.  But I’m still an emotional eater and during time of stress can totally overindulge on bread, pasta, ice cream and chips.  So I’m reducing my bread and pasta intake.  I’ve stopped (for the winter) making homemade ice cream.  If I don’t have it in the house, I won’t be able to eat it.  And I’m cutting my portions by about a third.  I’m also writing down everything I eat.  It just helps me stay on track.  (So far today … it’s 3 pm and I’ve been up since 5:30 … I’ve had soaked coconut oatmeal (no almonds), half a banana, a 12 oz. latte, one cup of bone broth, 2 cups of kombucha with chia seeds, an apple, and one piece of homemade long-rise cinnamon raisin bread with raw cultured butter.)

That does NOT mean I’m going to reduce the flavor or start eating “diet” food.  Nope.  Can’t do it.  Don’t want to do it.  Couldn’t be less interested in bland or poisonous food, thank you very much.

Now, just two weeks into the new year, I find myself completely drawn to lettuce wraps.  I mean, I’m a sucker for a good taco (fish, bean, beef, chicken …).  And it’s almost as good wrapped in a few butter lettuce leaves as in a homemade flour tortilla.  Almost.

But I don’t want to eat Mexican food every day of the week (although if Abby were writing this post, I’m pretty sure she’d disagree).  Sometimes (especially in Winter, it seems), I want warm Asian flavors.  Hoisin sauce.  Fish sauce.  Thai Peanut sauce.  Hmmmmm …

So that’s where these Asian-style Paleo Beef Lettuce Wraps make their appearance.

And, just like the Paleo Sweet and Sour Chicken dinner I’ve been making, the kiddos totally love it (although, to be honest, they’d rather just eat the filling and leave the lettuce for the rabbits we might get one day).

Asian-style Paleo Beef Lettuce Wraps

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Head Butter Lettuce (leaves separated, washed and dried)
  • 1 lb Grassfed Ground Beef (or chicken or turkey)
  • 1 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Yellow Onion (chopped)
  • 1 Small Red Pepper (chopped)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp Liquid Aminos
  • 2 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 2-3 TBLS Hoisin Sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and dry the butter (or bib) lettuce leaves and set aside.

In a large saucepan, brown the beef.  Once browned, drain the liquid and remove the meat and set aside.

In the same saucepan, add the olive oil and sauté the garlic, yellow onion and red pepper.  (I have also added about 1/4 chopped carrots to this recipe when I have them in the house and they add a nice sweet crunch, but are totally optional).  Once the onion and garlic are translucent, add the Liquid Aminos, Sesame Oil and Hoisin Sauce.  Stir to coat the veggies.  Then add the meat back into the pan and stir to combine well.  Taste the concoction … if it needs a touch of sea salt for your taste, add just a pinch at a time.  The amines are salty enough for us, so we don’t add any sea salt to this dish.

Enjoy!

Makes about 8 lettuce wraps.

the only pasta sauce our 4 year old will eat

We grew up eating Bolognese pasta sauce that my mom would throw together in what seemed like five minutes and everyone at the table (seven kids and two parents) was happy to eat seconds and thirds and however much was in the pot.  (NOTE: We just called it “meat sauce” because we’re not Italian, and as a 5’11” blonde, I couldn’t pretend to be.)

We had it with spaghetti or rigatoni or elbow macaroni.  We had it on Sundays.  We had it on Tuesdays.  We had it on holidays.  With salad.  Or without.  It was just a go-to dinner.  And if I’m being honest, I still expect my mom to make it the first and/or last night we are there visiting and she has never let me down.

So the fact that our 4 year-old daughter won’t even consider eating another spaghetti sauce shouldn’t surprise me.  And yet … even if I make this incredibly delicious homemade sauce (which I do … often … because everyone else in the house loves it … and we grow a lot of tomatoes and basil) … she snubs her little nose at me and would rather just have butter and cheese.

Which means I needed to ask my mom how she makes her sauce.

But the night I needed it (because I had promised to make Grammy’s sauce), I couldn’t reach her on the phone.

So I winged it.

Whew!

Lucky for me, I’ve been eating this sauce 40+ years and have pretty good taste buds.  Because two plates later the littles were asking for more and I was the most popular mom in the house.

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a blurry pic is all I could get (I didn’t want to totally disrupt her dining experience with a photo session for the blog … but can’t you see the relief on her face? “Finally, Mom!”

And now, like my mom, I find myself throwing together this easy bolognese (meat) sauce once a week or every other and we’ve got kids clamoring for dinner.  Yay!!

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Easy Bolognese Pasta

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage (no casing)
  • 6 cups tomato sauce of your choice (we either use tomato basil sauce from our garden, or two jars of an organic tomato sauce with no added sugar, like Full Circle Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups Asiago cheese
  • 3 cups (dry) pasta (looking for a gluten free pasta? Ancient Grains makes our go-to favorite right now)-affiliate link

DIRECTIONS:

Heat a large saucepan.  Add the oil and chopped garlic and sauté until the garlic is translucent.  Add the sausage (which, without the casing, looks a lot like ground meat) and let it brown.

If you use a beef or bison sausage, you may want to pour off some of the liquid (fat) that separates from the meat.  We use a lean turkey sausage because that’s just what’s available at our local grocer.

Add the tomato sauce and lower the heat and let the sauce simmer.

Meanwhile, make your pasta (follow the directions on the packaging).  When the pasta is a few minutes from ready, turn the heat back up on your sauce, add the cheese and stir until the cheese has melted and combined with the sauce (changes the sauce from a saucy red to a cozy deep orangy-red).

Drain your pasta and serve.

Makes about 6-8 servings of pasta sauce.

tsukemono (aka lacto-fermented Japanese cabbage salad)

We have a guest post today over at Modern Alternative Mama about how (and why you would want to) remove added sugar from your diet.  Click here to check it out!

Jeanne here.

Remember our post from yesterday about simple and effective ways to combat cold/flu season?  I thought you might want another (super easy) lacto-fermented veggie salad that goes with just about anything.

And I’m not sure if you need more evidence to support your decision to make some lacto-fermented veggies, but if you’ve read Sandor Katz [most famous for his book “Wild Fermentation” (affiliate link)], he’s got a great quote about why it’s so important to have fermented foods in our diets:

“In the normal scheme of things, we’d never have to think twice about replenishing the bacteria that allow us to digest food.  But since we’re living with antibiotic drugs and chlorinated water and antibacterial soap and all these factors in our contemporary lives that I’d group together as a ‘war on bacteria,’ if we fail to replenish [good bacteria], we won’t effectively get nutrients out of the food we’re eating.”

That pretty much nails it for me.  And is one of the primary reasons we started fermenting foods (that and I have a love of pickles and sauerkraut 🙂
Here’s what I use to make a simple lacto-fermented tsukemono (Japanese cabbage salad):

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1 gallon fermentation crock (affiliate link)

  • You don’t need to buy a fermentation crock (Abby uses the insert to an old crock pot).  The point is, it should be non-reactive and large enough to hold about a gallon of goodness.

Vitamix mallet or a potato masher (not pictured)

  • I use this to “mash” the cabbage before adding the water.

lead-free glazed saucer

  • There are stone weights you can buy that are made specifically for the crock.  But I’ve never needed one.  A 6-inch saucer turned upside down with a rock on top of it does the trick just fine.

a large rock (or a mason jar filled with water that can act as a weight)

  • I use this to hold the saucer pressed down and in place over the veggies so they remain covered in the saltwater through the process

unbleached organic cheese cloth & a rubber band

  • This is to keep any dust or impurities out of the veggies while they are fermenting.

1/2 gallon mason jar (or 4 quarts, 8 pints, or any mixture of the above)

  • After the veggies are fermented (about 5-7 days), I transfer them to mason jars to store in the fridge.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small head of green cabbage shredded
  • 2 medium carrots julienned
  • 1 daikon radish julienned (optional)
  • 1 piece of dashi kombu (thick japanese seaweed … about 2 inches by 4 inches) (optional)
  • Sea Salt
  • Filtered water

 

DIRECTIONS:

Add the cabbage to your crock and sprinkle with two tablespoons of sea salt and mix to coat the cabbage.  (I use sea salt because of the trace minerals in the unbleached, unprocessed salt.)   Using the VitaMix mallet, I “mash” the cabbage for about 10-20 minutes doing my best to squeeze out as much of the natural liquid in the cabbage as possible.  Then add the carrots and daikon radish and stir to combine.  Add four cups of filtered water.  If the water doesn’t cover the cabbage by about an inch, add another 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt.  (That’s the ratio … 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of salt) until the cabbage mixture is covered by about an inch of water.

Place the piece of dashi kombu on top of the vegetables.

Place the saucer on top of the dashi on top of the cabbage and PRESS DOWN until there’s no more give.

Place the rock on top of the saucer and cover the crock with the cheese cloth.

Put in a warm spot in your kitchen (out of the sunlight) and let it rest.

I check the veggies daily to make sure they are still covered.  With clean hands, I press on the rock to make sure things are nice and squished down.

After 5-7 days, I remove the rock, the plate and the dashi and transfer the cabbage, carrots and daikon to the glass mason jar and move the mixture to the fridge.  It’s ready to eat, and I add it as a side to most meals 🙂

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NOTE:  You can use this method is almost ANY vegetable (cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, onions, scallions, garlic, cucumbers, et al).  It’s easy and delicious.  This is my go-to because I LOVE the delicate Japanese pickle flavor.  But like I mentioned earlier, Abby has a recipe for Mexican Fermented Veggies that I’ve also used and is delicious (goes great with all things Mexican).

white wine & lemon kale salad

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Hello again!

After a month of practically no blogging, it feels good to be back!

And for all of you with resolutions to eat better (ironically, it’s one of my resolutions as well), here is a DELICIOUS salad to try.

This recipe started from a family member recalling a delicious salad she had in a restaurant.  We made it a few times, but then my husband perfected it after discovering what was missing: white wine.

When he gets in the kitchen, these two things are guaranteed to happen: it’s always incredible and there are always 4,000 dishes to clean. (What is it with men in the kitchen?  I’ve heard my husband isn’t the only one who feels the need to use every single pot, pan and utensil to cook up a meal.)

Even though we’ve made this salad five out of the last seven nights (seriously), I’ve hesitated posting about it because I haven’t been able to get anything better than a quick iPhone photo.

So please don’t judge a book salad by it’s cover lame picture.

I hereby declare this is my favorite salad ever.

White Wine & Lemon Kale Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bunches of kale
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup almonds (or pecans or walnuts), finely chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 cup dried unsweetened cranberries, finely chopped
  • For the dressing:
    • 1 cup olive oil
    • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
    • 4 tablespoons white wine
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a large mason jar.  Secure lid and shake well.

After washing and drying kale, chop it up.

In the food processor (or by hand), chop and shred cheese, nuts and cranberries.

In a large bowl, pour dressing over kale and mix well.  Start by using only 1/2 of the prepared dressing, and then add from there.  My family loves dressing, so we use almost the whole amount.

Add in cheese, nuts and cranberries and mix well.

Now eat! (And resist the urge to lick the bowl)