on gratefulness* … happy thanksgiving!

I was 25 years old the first Thanksgiving I spent alone. It was the latter half of the 90s. I had recently moved to Los Angeles. I was two weeks into a new job (my very first job in the movie business, which was a huge deal to me at the time) so I couldn’t get the time off to travel home. And, to be totally honest, I didn’t have the cash to spend on an airline ticket … and I was too proud to ask my parents for help.

In retrospect, I think I thought it was something I wanted. I wanted my roommate to disappear for a few days. I was desperate to have our 550 square foot apartment to myself. To be able to read a book without interruption or have to listen to “bad” music coming from the other room. I looked forward to eating whatever food was in the fridge without worry about who paid for the milk. To not have the television on 24 hours a day. I was looking, I thought, for some quiet.

My boss and her fiancé had offered the “new kid” an obligatory invite to dinner at their home. But I turned it down, completely confident it would be awesome to not have any plans. I didn’t know many people in Los Angeles at that point, but the thought of spending it with my 30-something boss, her boyfriend and their parents made me cringe with anxiety way more than the thought of spending the day alone.

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But waking up in Sunny Southern California on what in my past had always been a chilly November day … on a day that had always been one of my favorite holidays … separated from the people that I love and with no plans on the horizon … It was strange. A noiseless void and a deeper quiet than I had known before. In my apartment. On the streets. In the nearby park where I walked my dog. In my mind’s eye, it was an emptiness not unlike a post-Apocalyptic world that is both serene and eery and full of a loneliness I hadn’t known possible.

Twenty years later and I’m still surprised by the length of that day and how much I missed my Mom. I missed slicing apples and making pies while my sister chopped celery for the stuffing. (It was always my job to make the pies.) I missed the laughter in the kitchen. I missed my Grandmother’s constant wiping up water spots on the coffee table made by sweaty glasses of soda and cider and beer and wine. I even missed the bickering and the flare-ups of old family arguments that seem to only rear their head at holiday gatherings.

At 40-something, with two kids, and having spent more than my share of holidays at home with all our family here in Montana, you’d think I’ve be over the emotional trauma of that one singular day.

But each year, as we fall into Daylight Savings Time and the Holidays loom large, it always comes rushing back. And while it wasn’t clear to me then (or for years after, for that matter), I now realize the Truth of what that day was. That day was, by far, my most utterly grateful Thanksgiving because it made me truly aware of what’s important and worth being thankful for.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with love and laughter and gratefulness …

xo,

J.

Three of my favorite Thanksgiving Recipes:

 

*note: reprinted with permission from the Neighbors of South Bozeman Magazine, Nov. 2016 issue

it’s not too late … to make mind-blowing cranberry sauce

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

We have so much to be thankful for this year … not the least of which is the opportunity to spend the holiday with loved ones …

… We are grateful to have health in our bodies …

… love in our hearts …

… and good food for our bellies.

And this year, I have three responsibilities at the dinner table:

Tarte aux Pommes

apple-apricot-tart

Goat cheese stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto (I still haven’t looked up a recipe for this … I might just wing it).

And cranberry relish, which happens to be one of my favorite Thanksgiving treats.

You may recall that last year I shared with you this delightful version with ginger and tangerines.

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But this year … I’m gonna mix it up.

I made the honey ginger cranberry sauce.

But I’m also making Jalapeño-Cilantro-Cranberry Relish. Go ahead. Call me nuts. I don’t care because this relish is SO delicious. Every time I make it I wonder why I don’t make it all the time.

Just like the Honey Ginger version … this is NO COOK EASY PEASY … just put everything into a food processor, pulse and voila! Yum-o-licious side dish!

jalapeño cilantro cranberry relish sauce

Jalapeño-Cilantro-Cranberry Relish

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bag of cranberries (washed and picked through)
  • 1-2 jalapeños (seeded)
  • 4 tangerines plus zest of 1 tangerine
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 bunch of cilantro

DIRECTIONS:
In a food processor, put two peeled tangerines and the honey. Pulse until it’s a golden liquid and then add cranberries. Pulse until well chopped. Add jalapeño (start with one … add another or half if you think it needs more kick) and the zest. Pulse again.

Remove from processor and stir in chopped cilantro, and the other two peeled and chopped tangerines.

Chill for at least 3o minutes and up to 3 days (it will firm up in the fridge).

WOOHOO for Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a Blessed and Joyful Holiday!

 

eggs Benedict a la Julia … I know what we’re having for Father’s Day Brunch

When I was introduced to holidays with my husband’s family, I was introduced to a whole host of new family food traditions. It’s one of the many blessings that comes with joining families, I think.

I love making Nana Ivy’s Molasses Cookies with the littles at Christmas. And while I haven’t yet been given the family pilaf recipe, I look forward to eating it at Thanksgiving. But my favorite of favorite dishes has to be Eggs Benedict for Easter (and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) brunch.

eggs benedict with blender hollandaise sauce

It’s just so … buttery.

Salty.

Creamy.

Delicious.

Honestly, it just seems so decadent.

It requires “all hands on deck” to get it served hot and to the table for everyone. (Someone manning the poached eggs and asparagus, another on English muffin duty, and a third on the hollandaise … I love it when there’s a kitchen full of activity.)

And with the advent of the modern convenience of a blender … there’s just no excuse not to make eggs Benedict.

There are so many blender hollandaise recipes online these days.  And so many are inspired by the great Julia Child There’s this one from simply recipes. I love and have used this one from Tori’s Kitchen. Even Food Network has one.

But here’s what I use for 10 servings (assuming one serving equals two eggs, asparagus, ham and one English muffin)

eggs benedict - blender hollandaise sauce

Asparagus:

  • 2 bunches of fresh Asparagus (bottoms trimmed)
  • Avocado oil
  • Sea salt & cracked pepper (to taste)

Meat:

  • You don’t have to use meat (we have enough vegetarians in the family that not everyone gets meat on their plate). But we have made Eggs Benedict with spiral ham, Canadian bacon, bacon, prosciutto, pancetta … Pick your favorite, pre-cook it the way you like it and set aside until it’s time to prepare the plates.

Eggs:

  • 1 large sauté pan filled with water
  • 1 TBLS apple cider vinegar
  • 10 farm fresh eggs

Hollandaise Sauce:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 stick melted salted butter
  • fresh cracked pepper (to taste)

English Muffins:

  • If we’re lucky, my Cowboy-sourdough-bread-master-husband makes fresh sourdough English muffins. Otherwise, since it’s generally for a special holiday, we find the best English muffins we can and set someone on toaster duty. (This is a job we’ve even given to our 5 year old because any time we can engage the littles in food prep, they are more likely to be game to enjoy the food.)

eggs benedict with blender hollandaise sauce

DIRECTIONS:

First things first:

MEAT & ASPARAGUS – pre-cook your meat and asparagus and set aside.

For the asparagus, I toss the asparagus in a little avocado oil and layer in a roasting pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, turning at least once while they are in the oven.

POACHED EGGS – Fill a large sauté pan with water (leaving about an inch from the lip) and add ACV. Bring to a boil. (My sauté pan is a 12-inch stainless steel pan and I can poach about 6-8 eggs at a time).

While the water is coming to a boil …

HOLLANDAISE SAUCE – Add egg yolks and lemon juice to your blender and blend for about a minute. The eggs will get a little frothy.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan careful not to brown or burn the butter. It’s important to keep the moisture intact in the butter. When it’s fully melted, turn your blender back on a low speed and drizzle the butter into the eggs. Keep in a warm spot (in a bowl of warm water?) until you are ready to use. (Use within 30 minutes … if it needs thinning before serving, add a tablespoon of warm water and blend again.)

POACHED EGGS (cont.) – Very gently crack eggs into the boiling water. Let cook for 3 minutes.

In those three minutes, prepare English muffins, meat and asparagus on individual serving plates.

Remove the eggs from boiling water using a slotted spoon and add to the serving plates. Top with Hollandaise, a touch of cracked pepper and have a HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

With love,

Jeanne

 

SHARING @

Domestic Superhero
Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Irish Soda Bread – just in time for St. Patrick’s Day

I’m Irish on my mom’s side. (Shout out to the Donnelly and Murray clans!)

But my mom doesn’t make Irish Soda Bread because one of her best friends Ann (who is Irish), makes great Irish soda bread and for years shared it with our family on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you have a best friend who makes great Irish soda bread, you don’t have to. (Not that my mom needs an excuse not to bake Irish soda bread because not everyone loves to be in the kitchen, right Ma?)

I don’t have Ann’s recipe.

But my friend April also makes amazing Irish Soda Bread.

Like I said, YAY for friends!

But April doesn’t live in Montana. So she shared her recipe with me nearly two years ago and all my Irish soda bread cravings were abated. This is easy and delicious and I bet you will love it as much as we do.

Also … yes, there’s white flour and brown sugar in this recipe. We make sourdough or long-rise bread for daily consumption, but this is a “memory” food for me, and I don’t want to mess with the recipe since it’s something we enjoy only a few times a year.

irish soda bread

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz white flour/bread flour*
  • 6 oz whole wheat flour
  • 1 oz rolled oats (whiz them up if they are big)
  • 1 oz wheat germ (I used 1 oz ground flax seed because I didn’t have wheat germ)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • a little less than ½ TBLS cream of tartar
  • 1 TBLS baking soda
  • ¼ Cup brown sugar (preferably dark brown)
  • 22 oz plain unsweetened kefir (I used 2 1/4 cups of plain whole milk yogurt)
  • for the BOTTOM of the pan – 1 small handful of rolled oats
  • for the TOP – 3 TBLS of seeds of your choice (1 TBLS of each: pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds, etc.)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  While preheating, put in a cast iron dutch oven that’s been rubbed with Olive Oil. (Or, if you’re like me and don’t generally cook with Olive Oil, try Avocado Oil.) The dutch oven (with the top on) should be in while preheating the entire time.

Mix everything in order with a wooden spoon, except the kefir (yogurt).  Once the dry ingredients are mixed, add the kefir (yogurt).  Stir until combined.  The dough will be sticky.  Don’t over mix.

Take out the preheated skillet.  Sprinkle more rolled oats on the bottom of the pan.  You don’t need to cover the bottom, just sprinkle a small handful.  Pour the dough into the pan, and you should hear a sizzle.  Make sure the dough is touching all sides of the pan.  Top with combination of three or four of the following (I used pumpkin, chia, sesame and a few more rolled oats): pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds, etc. Cover.

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Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to bake for another 20 minutes**.  The crust should be browned and solid.  Take the bread out of the pan to cool.

Makes ONE loaf.

irish soda bread 2

Everyone together now: “THANK YOU, APRIL!”

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

xo,

Jeanne

* at our high altitude in Bozeman, I add an extra quarter cup of bread flour
** also at our altitude, I bake for 35 minutes, but am leaving April’s recipe the way she makes it because so many of our readers don’t live at this altitude!

honey ginger cranberry sauce

IMG_2178 Jeanne here.

The Thanksgiving countdown has started in our house … 16 days?!?!  (Where has this year gone?)

So don’t be surprised if you see more than our fair share of side dishes O’Mamas-style in the next two weeks.

One my every-year responsibilities for about the last 20 years has been to make the cranberry sauce.  A job I gladly took on because I was the only one in the house who refused to eat cranberry sauce from a can because fresh homemade cranberry sauce takes about 15 minutes to make and is so much better than all congealed and gelatinous.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?)

But as the years have passed my cranberry sauce has evolved. I started with the recipe on the bag (Cranberries and sugar and water).  Then I started replacing the water with juice (orange juice, lemon juice, apple juice).  Then I started adding fruit (anything citrus).

But there was always sugar.  (Unrefined, maybe, but sugar nonetheless)

A few years ago I tried it with stevia, but then I realized that I don’t actually like the taste of stevia.

So I was back to sugar.

And then it was all about jalapeños and grapefruit.

Evolution.  That’s the name of the kitchen game.

Now I’m obsessed with ginger.  For the wonderful kick it adds to most any dish.  For the Ayurvedic health benefits.  For the exotic complexity it adds to even the most simple dish.

And I recently acquired 12 pounds of local raw honey.

Ginger + raw honey = yum

Ginger + raw honey + tangerines + cranberries = WOW … where has this idea been all my life?

So here’s this year’s recipe …

Tangerine Honey Ginger Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries (picked through and washed)
  • 2 ripe tangerines
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 3/4 cup raw honey

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined.  Transfer to a glass or non-reactive container and refrigerate overnight.  Pick a pretty serving dish, garnish with a little cilantro or tangerine wedges, and be excited for leftovers when you can add this to a turkey sandwich. 🙂

Makes a little more than a pint.

What’s on your side dish menu this Thanksgiving?  Share your ideas in the comments, please, because we’ve only got 16 days and I have a lot more experimenting to do!!!

 We’re linked up:
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
Delicious Obsessions

ways kids can help out and give back during the holidays

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The holidays can be hectic and overwhelming, filled with high hopes and even higher expectations.  And now that we are officially six days into the holiday season (if you include Halloween in the season), we are doing our best to teach the kids that this time of year isn’t about the commercial hooha that’s marketed pretty much everywhere they turn.  We want them to know that the experience is more important than the trimmings.  That showing compassion, spending quality time together and being generous with others is what makes for the happiest of holidays.  Not so easy in a world that streams advertising aimed at kids who can’t even read yet.

One of the things we know too well is that kids LOVE to help.  They do.  It makes them joyful.  Have you ever known a 2 year-old who didn’t want to put dishes into a dishwasher?  Especially the really breakable ones?  That were passed down to you from your great grandmother from the “Old Country?”

Or maybe you’ve noticed that kids (all ages) LOVE to learn new things.  Again, they do.  They are sponges who want to absorb as much information and stuff as we can throw at them.  It gives them great happiness to be the one who knows the “truth.”

We figure, if we give our kids the opportunity to help and to learn over the holidays, there is no way for them not to have a happy season. 🙂

So we’ve been looking for ways to include our kids in the holiday planning, prep and partying.  Sure, some of these things would be quicker and easier and prettier and maybe even more “perfect” without little hands helping, but who wants perfect?

Read the whole post today in our guest post for Modern Alternative Mama …

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last minute cookout inspiration!

I heard on the news this morning that Americans will eat more than 150 million hot dogs today.

Which is a lot of hot dogs.

And I’m hoping that if you’re eating hot dogs, they are made with beef raised with no added hormones or antibiotics, from cows that ate a vegetarian diet.  Uncured, unpreserved and that have no nitrates or nitrites added. (Applegate Farms makes a good one.  And so does Painted Hills Natural Beef.)

But don’t stress about it.

Seriously.

One day …

One hot dog …

Today’s a day to think “Big Picture,” like our forefathers did 🙂

And for those of us not eating hot dogs today, or for those of us looking for last-minute inspiration for something nourishing and tasty to bring to the family cookout, here are a few ideas culled from our archives and the archives of our favorite real food bloggers …

photo

MAIN COURSE

SIDES & SALADS

DESSERTS/SWEETS

DRINKS

PicFrame

a birthday party …

It’s not smart to plan an outdoor birthday party in April for preschoolers in Montana.

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This photo was taken by Abby two days before the scheduled party.

Got it.

Lesson learned.

Thanks, Mother Nature.

Sure there were two days for the snow to melt, but the forecast wasn’t really in our favor.  So the white-out was a great reminder.

Snow-fall aside, we still had a little one turning four years old.

We still had 12 of her friends coming over.

And we still grandparents visiting.

A cake to make (strawberry, please, with pink icing).

And a playlist to put together.

Plus …

Our backyard is big.

Perfect for a party for 12 kids, 17 adults and 2 dogs.

But our house is not.

We live in a two-bedroom cottage from 1943.  It’s charming.  And we love it.  But it’s not so perfect for 12 kids, 17 adults and 2 dogs.

So with a high of 40 degrees and more snow in the forecast the day before it all was set to happen, we needed a back-up plan.

And we were really lucky that there was a cancellation at a local Rec Center.

We just needed to change the time of the party.

So a few phone calls and texts and we were good to go.

Except that I’d been planning for an outdoor party for weeks.

I had been culling hoola hoops.

Sorting musical instruments.

Ordering balloons.

And the Cowboy had purchased a 4ft x 10 ft scrap of canvas from a local tent store (for a whopping $10) and we had made plans to have a big finger-paint station stapled to the fence in our backyard.

Now what?

Well … I just figured, if we could do it in the backyard, we could figure out a way to get it done in a recreation center.

I am also not too into over-coordinating where kids are concerned.  (It drives my mother crazy.)  But I find that the more expectations I have, the less likely they are to conform to my plan.  I firmly believe that if I present the kids with things that will engage their imagination, the day will transform into  free-form fun within the framework that’s in front of them.

So I made a strawberry cake with pink cream-cheese frosting (as requested by the birthday girl).

strawberry cake
(no red dye #5 in this cake … just good old fashioned berry puree added to a vanilla cake recipe and more added to the frosting recipe and we were good to go)

Packed up the balloons, the hoola hoops, the paints and the canvas and headed out.

Oh … and Abby offered to take some pictures so we wouldn’t have to worry about that on top of everything else.

So I’ll let her photos tell the rest of the story.

the sun came out, melted the snow (it was a balmy 40 degrees), and the kids got to play outside for about an hour!
The sun came out, melted the snow (it was a balmy 40 degrees), and the kids got to play outside for about an hour!
cake with candles
I made a homemade “banner” using construction paper and two bamboo kabob spears. We added a few candles and I don’t think she missed a store-bought-theme cake one bit.
fingerpainting
Yes, those are garbage bags with holes cut into them for arms and heads … and yes, it feels weird putting them over the head of a little one … but I didn’t want any mamas mad about paint spots on party clothes!
happy kids
I love “jazz hands” … nothing makes a photo more fun than a bunch of kids with “jazz hands.”

Happy kids = happy mamas = success!

How do you celebrate birthdays in your house?

xo,

Jeanne

 

the easter basket doesn’t have to be empty even if there’s no candy

peeps

Who doesn’t love a Peep?

And Jelly Belly jelly beans?

Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs?

Cadbury Creme Eggs?

Big rich waxy chocolate bunnies wrapped in printed aluminum foil?

Malted Eggs?

Pastel colored M&Ms?

Wow … the list is loooong (it would be much longer … just think about it!).

And the sense memory is even longer!

I mean … when I was a kid, the Easter basket was all about the candy.

I love the memory of waking up to the pastel colored basket with cellophane straw filled with treats upon treats … of digging through the technicolor green “grass” to find all the jelly beans.  Making trades with my sisters … “I’ll  give you the Reese’s Peanut Eggs and make your bed if you give me your Cadbury Creme Egg!”  (The Cadbury eggs were prime in our house.)

And Peeps … man … this is a tough one for me.  My college roommate and I nearly lived on Peeps because they were a fat-free treat and that was the food fad of our days … I even shared a Facebook post with her last week with a recipe for a Peep Martini because every time I see a Peep I think of Karen and smile and want to call and talk to her for hours.  (By the way, she is still one of my best friends and favorite people in the world.)

And these are just a few of the reasons it’s such a challenge, now that we’re committed to a real food lifestyle, to wrap our heads around changing what goes into a an Easter Basket, right?

Because now we know how bad high fructose corn syrup is.  And now we wonder what makes those chocolate bunnies so waxy and can’t decide if it’s delicious or gross?  (It’s gross.)  And have fleeting concerns that any candy wrapped in aluminum might be leaching the aluminum?? (I honestly don’t know the answer to that … just crossed my mind this morning when I was thinking about this post.  It’s probably a little paranoid.)

So when we take away all the HFCS … all the preservatives … all the processed milk chocolate and GMO candy, what’s left?

empty basket

I mean … is it Easter without a Peep??

… We probably shouldn’t forget the origins of this holiest of holy days.  As I’m just not sure that on that very first Easter there were folks looking for a sugar high.  So basically, yes, I think it’s safe to say it might still be Easter without the candy.

But we want our kids to wake up with the same enthusiasm and be thrilled with discoveries inside their baskets.

Last year, we filled our baskets with books and sunflower seeds to plant and bunny ears and plastic eggs filled with homemade mini vanilla butterfly cookies and an empty Pez dispenser and handwritten notes from E. Bunny.  As a special treat, our little girl got a “Spring scarf.”  And my Mom sent us some chocolate (so that ended up in Mommy and Dada’s basket … And yes, there was a bag of jelly beans… old habits die hard 🙂 IMG_0896

This year, we’re planning on losing the beans, adding Abby’s Coconut Balls (which we might dip in homemade dark chocolate).  More butterfly cookies (we used our basic vanilla cookie recipe, small butterfly cookie cutters, and a homemade pink icing that’s colored with mixed berry juice).  Another book and a new pair of bunny ears (last year’s headband cracked about 2 months ago and we’ve struggled to play dress-up without proper bunny ears).  And some wildflower seeds.  We’re planning a new flower-garden spot for our backyard, and it’ll be fun to plant them with the littles!  (And we’ll probably give in and add a new horse to the little guy’s basket … suckers that we are.)

What’s going into your baskets this year?

xo,

Jeanne