what I learned about simplicity in an apartment with one spatula

Jeanne here.

We spent most of February in a small furnished apartment in Vancouver, Canada, visiting our dear Cowboy while he works on a movie for Paramount Pictures.

And what became more evident than ever during our time there is: we have too much stuff.

Not in Vancouver. But at home.

We spent three weeks and each little had one small box of toys (both boxes fit between their carseats for the road trip and they packed the boxes themselves), five books, a shopping bag of craft supplies (markers, paper, scissors, tape, paper bags), one notebook each with a special pen included, and enough clothes to last 5 days. And while they missed a few of their favorite toys (like the dollhouse and barn), neither ever asked for more or whined about not having enough. There were very few fights. We stayed busy and entertained, and the only TV they watched was the local PBS station while I made dinner.

It was awesome.

So of course I came home and removed SEVEN FULL BOXES OF TOYS from their school/play room.

simple toys

(I haven’t yet brought the boxes to our local Good Will, but if we can make it a month without them asking for these toys, they’ll make their way to a new home.)

But the lesson goes beyond reducing the clutter for the kids.

Because I made breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner nearly every day we were there … in a small kitchen equipped with one spatula, a whisk, one frying pan, a sauce pan, a medium sized pot, one baking dish, a set of three nesting mixing bowls, one really good knife (which the Cowboy brought with him) and a Vitamix.

Baked chicken. Meatballs. Soups. Salads. Smoothies. Pasta. Poached eggs. Pancakes. Bacon. Fried eggs. Burgers. Soaked oatmeal. Steak. Sautéed veggies. Rice.

The meals were simple (we had a very limited supply of spices and herbs to choose from), but there wasn’t one that didn’t satisfy. And I did it all with one spatula!

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Not only was cooking everything that we needed possible, but clean-up was a BREEZE. I cleaned while I cooked. I used fewer prep dishes. Fewer prep dishes means fewer dishes to wash. Fewer dishes to clean means a happier mama as doing dishes is one of my LEAST favorite chores. And fewer dishes also translated into cleaner kitchen.

Lesson learned.

My first step was to realize that we don’t need FIVE whisks. Seriously. That’s how many whisks we’ve got in our utensil canister. And FOUR spatulas. And too many wooden spoons to count. See?

not simple utensils

So I’ve removed more than half of the utensils. And two thirds of our pots and pans.

simple utensils

Like the toys, I put them in boxes and set them aside. They are there if I need ’em.

But if I make it a few months without reaching for the boxes, we might be having a garage sale. Anyone want some wooden kitchen toys?

#simplifylife

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

garlicky garlic baked chicken

Jeanne here.

The Cowboy (aka my husband) has been working in Canada for a few weeks, and the littles and I were finally able to make the drive to meet up with him just a few days ago at his sublet apartment in Vancouver, BC.

A word about Vancouver: holy COW is it expensive! But that’s not news. It was reported last week to be the most expensive North American city for living. And I believe it. $11 to park in public parking lots. $7 for one package of wipes because I accidentally left our wipes at the apartment and really needed them but didn’t have an extra 30 minutes to drive home to get them. $40 for lunch for one adult and two toddlers at a pizza joint near the Cowboy’s office. Crazy.

And we’re deep in the heart of downtown. Skyscrapers. Asphalt Jungle. Coffee shops on every corner. Hot dog carts and soft pretzels on every other. Rear Window living as no one closes their shades on the 33rd floor of a high-rise. Aquariums. Art galleries. Science World. Museums. And it never gets dark. The lights from all the buildings keep the rooms lit almost to dusk even at 2 am.

I’m amazed at how amazed I am.

I mean, I lived in Los Angeles for 16 years. And before that, I lived in Washington, DC. I’ve worked on movies in San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit and Albuquerque, and spent a lot of time in New York and London, so it’s not like I’ve never experienced city living. I’ve only been in Montana for 4 years. Well. Almost 4 years. It’ll be 4 years in June. But I’ve come to really like seeing stars at night. And not hearing the constant hum of cars. And sirens. I guess I’ve really done it. I’ve gone Montana.

I could wax-nostalgic for hours but what I really wanted to say is that we are here for two weeks and I don’t want to eat out for every meal. I also don’t want to stock a second kitchen like ours at home so I’ve been making simple foods and it turns out that the kids and the Cowboy are pretty happy about it.

A few nights ago, for example, I made this:

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Looks a little boring, right? Baked chicken and a salad.

But I’ll tell you something: It’s five ingredients. 20 minutes. And it’s flavorful and made for four happy eaters. So happy, in fact, that I made it again a few nights later.

Garlicky Garlic Baked Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbls sesame oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic (rough chopped)
  • 3 Tbls grade B maple syrup
  • sea salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts. Patting the chicken dry seems to help ensure moist chicken. One day I’ll figure out the science of it. But in the meantime, I highly recommend patting it dry. Set in a non-reactive roasting pan and season the chicken with salt and pepper. (We use glass or ceramic. I’m happy to say that the owner of this apartment left one glass baking dish.)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the chopped garlic and sauté until translucent. Remove from the heat and add the maple syrup. Pour the mixture evenly over the chicken. I lift each chicken breast to let the mixture get under the meat as well.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the maple syrup gets all frothy and the liquid from the chicken runs clear.

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Remove from the oven. Let stand for 2-3 minutes while you plate your side dish (we had a mixed green salad with pink lady apples and a balsamic honey mustard dressing). Slice and serve.

What do you feed your family when you’re on an extended trip that’s not really a vacation?

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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even real foodies need a cleanse once in a while (aka a delicious cabbage & cashew salad)

cabbage&cashew salad

Jeanne here.

Even though I’m 14 years into this ‘real food’ thing, I still feel like I need to “clean it up” a few times a year.

I cut out dairy. Meat, fish and poultry. Wheat. Alcohol. And tomatoes (they are really acidic, and at this time of year, they are just not locally available in Montana anyway).

What else is there, you ask???

I eat a lot of sautéed or roasted veggies. Baked sweet potatoes. A lot of big salads with kale and spinach and chard and butter lettuce and cabbage and avocados and blanched green beans. Soup. Quinoa. Brown rice. Soaked oats and millet. Apples. Berries. Bananas.

Sounds boring, right?

I know.

But honestly, I’m surprised every time about how much I love the food during a cleanse.  It takes me about two days of eating bland clean food to remember that just because I’m on a cleanse doesn’t mean I can’t have food I love. I remember that I’ve got turmeric in the cupboard. And cardamom. And cloves. Ginger. Black pepper. Toasted sesame oil. Rice wine vinegar.

And it only lasts about 10 days, unless I’m feeling really ambitious and strive for 40!

So for my next few posts, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite “cleanse” recipes.

Like this cabbage, celery and cashew salad with an Asian inspired toasted sesame dressing.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 head of cabbage (shredded or chopped to bite-size bits)
  • 3 stalks of celery (thinly sliced on the bias)
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 3 scallions (chopped)

for the dressing

  • 2 Tbls toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbls rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbls liquid aminos (or soy sauce or coconut aminos)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 Tbls sesame seeds

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Add all the dressing ingredients to a small mason jar.  Shake to combine.

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Pour over the salad and toss to coat.  Serve immediately, or let it stand in the dressing for up to an hour.

Do you know the happy dance? Because you might want to learn it so you can celebrate this simple and simply delicious salad.

PS – I use this dressing all the time. Not just on cabbage. It’s wonderful on a kale salad. Or with a delicate lettuce like watercress. Or on butter lettuce. It’s just plain tasty.

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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?

lone pepper

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.

 

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.

butter …

A few weeks ago I opened our refrigerator and found FOUR FULL GALLONS of fresh raw milk.  And there was NO way it would all stay fresh long enough for four of us to drink it.  I mean, the littles like milk, but to expect a two year old to drink a gallon in just a few days?  Not reality in our house.  Maybe if he was 15.  But I’m not ready to imagine his sweet little face a teenager …

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… You can’t make me.

So what to do with FOUR FULL GALLONS of fresh raw milk?

Besides ice cream?

And milk shakes?

And yogurt?

And kefir?

It seems so obvious.

Butter!

Cultured Raw Butter!

Why not?

I have a KitchenAid (affiliate link).

And a Food Processor.

I have access to the internet.

And by the way … Cultured Raw Butter is nutritious (a great source of vitamin E and Vitamin K, contains nutrients essential for childhood brain and nervous system development, saturated fats in butter have strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties … for a great list of the benefits of raw butter, check out this link from body ecology.)

Anyway … I had enough milk that I tried TWO ways to make butter.

In the KitchenAid … which (despite the assertion by THIS blogger that it takes less than 10 minutes), this took about 45 minutes of serious whippage in a high powered stand mixer.

And in a Food Processor (which just about burned out the motor after an hour in our Cuisinart).  The motor and body of the machine was hot to the touch for nearly an hour after processing.

This is what I did:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups room temperature fresh raw cream (NOTE: you can use pasteurized cream, but raw cultured cream has more nutrient availability and tastes pretty darn amazing)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

Put the cream in the stand mixer and turn it on (start at a low setting, make sure you either have a spray-shield or towel in place) and turn it up slowly so as not to spray your kitchen).  Leave it on the highest setting until the liquid separates from the butter (can be from 6 to 40 minutes)

Pour off the liquid, then take what’s left of the solid and strain it in a fine mesh strainer.  Press on the butter until no more liquid comes out.

Put the butter back in the mixer, add the sea salt and mix on high again.  If any more liquid comes out, discard it.  Do NOT add it to your buttermilk because it will be too salty and ruin the flavor of your buttermilk.  NOTE:  the more liquid you get out, the longer it will last in your fridge.

The yield, with 2 cups of cream, was about 4-6 oz. of butter and about a cup of buttermilk.

We made buttermilk sourdough pancakes with our first batch … and it was FANTASTIC.  So fun … so nutritious … and totally delicious.

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When I do it again (which is likely to be today or tomorrow, because I’ve got about 2 cups of heavy cream being wasted in the fridge and that just hurts), I’ll go the KitchenAid route.  And not just because of the 15 minutes, or because I don’t want to destroy the motor on the food processor … the results in the stand mixer were a clear winner:  better texture, better taste, and more usable buttermilk.

NOTE:  The main reason it was better buttermilk in the stand mixer is that I didn’t add the salt until after straining the buttermilk.  (Pathetic Confession: it wasn’t until I was bout to actually make butter that I realized buttermilk is the milk that skims from the cream when one makes butter … doh!)  As for texture and taste … the stand mixer made for an easier-to-spread tastier butter.  I can’t account for the difference in taste since I used cream from the same batches of milk.  It could just be that I had a pinch more salt in in the stand mixer … or adding the salt after skimming the buttermilk means more of it stays in the butter and less strains off into the buttermilk.  I’ll have to experiment more to figure this one out.