mother’s day, 2014

Jeanne here.

I wrote this a few years ago now.¬†But I was looking through old files, cleaning up the mess that is my computer, and stumbled upon it. And since it’s Mother’s Day, it just seems appropriate to share it because …

Well …

Because like most people, I love my mom. And I don’t mind bragging about her ūüôā

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If you’ve met my mom, you are probably already aware that she’s one of the most loyal, passionate, compassionate, fearless, resourceful, bend-over-backwards-to-help-anyone-women you know. And that’s if you’ve spent five minutes with her.

If you are in her circle of friends or family she will stand by you, support you, defend you, love you and honor you until her own heart breaks.

And on top of that, she’s actually funny … laughs from the depths of her soul and knows how to enjoy the moment she’s in. She may hold onto hurt, but she lets go of pain (which is not a contradiction if you think about it for just one moment). And for as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an example of what’s good in the world.

So you can probably also imagine that, having this woman as a mother, it’s a bit challenging to come up with just one special memory … and the list of things she’s done to make a difference in my life is pretty much endless.

I could tell you about the road trips she and my grandmother made to visit me in Washington, DC ‚Ķ hours upon hours on the road, only to be relegated to eating over-cooked penne with store-bought sauce, drinking red wine with my girlfriends on the floor of a basement studio apartment ‚Ķ three of us later sleeping on a full-size futon … and then being willing to trek around the corner in her pajamas to my favorite local coffee shop. I didn’t have a coffee maker and for some reason would NOT let them get dressed before we had coffee and they were both game to make the walk …¬†I wish I had a picture of this … kick myself daily for not capturing our slumber parties on film.)

Or I could tell you about the Christmas we spent at a condo in Hilton Head. No Christmas tree in sight, so my mom whips out a 3-inch butter knife adorned with a mini evergreen and we spend the next three days taking pictures¬†holding¬†the ‚Äútree.‚ÄĚ (Somehow I don’t have any of the photos, but I promise, this happened and if you were there you might have laughed)

I could also tell you about how, raising seven kids on the income of a nurse and a mailman, she was miraculously able to create a world in which we had no idea how hard they had to struggle to make ends meet. We had a beautiful home that was meticulously clean and equally welcoming. Good food in our bellies. Magical Christmas mornings and very few cares in the world.

That’s one good mom, in my estimation.

But the moment that just blew me away was five minutes after my daughter was born.

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I thought MY life was flipped upside down by her birth. I was pretty scared. My job was on the line. My future was up in the air. And to be honest, my whole perspective just took a 180 degree shift.

And my mom was a rock.

She was amazing.

Actually, she completely blew my mind.

She changed everything.

She somehow convinced her boss to switch around her work schedule and got in the car at the crack of dawn (or earlier) every Monday morning and drove two plus hours in horrible traffic from Indio to Los Angeles so she and and my retired-step dad could spend four days a week living in a small guest room caring for our little girl.  She fed, bathed, played with and loved my daughter like no one else. I never had to worry about what it would be like to leave her with a stranger.

She gave me the courage to face each day with a smile. She laughed at me when I got too ‚Äúnew mom crazy.‚ÄĚ And she gave me the confidence to take a step back and make changes in my own life for the sake of my daughter ‚Ķ the way she made changes for me.

It was her example that gave me¬†¬†‚Äúpermission‚ÄĚ to change my life for my daughter’s.

It was her passion and compassion that inspired me to quit the 14-hr-a-day job so I could spend time with my daughter, even though it meant giving up some of my precious independence to do it.

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My Mom has always lived by example. She puts the people she love higher on the priority list than ‚Äústuff‚ÄĚ and her heart is where¬†my¬†heart resides.

I have a phenomenal mother.

And I am thankful.

 
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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! ¬†I love you!!

good (for you) cooking fats

Before you spritz that vegetable cooking spray in your pan …

WAIT!

Put the vegetable oil down and step away from the stove!

Seriously.

If you’re still cooking with vegetable or canola oil, I want you to consider that canola oil is only five percent saturated fat (WHICH IS NOT A GOOD THING). The¬†process to extract the oil from the rape seed requires high heat, hydrogen, solvents, bleach, deodorant, etc, to make it palatable. It has a high sulphur content, and¬†goes rancid quickly and easily, which makes it difficult for our bodies to digest.

Thankfully, there are finally reports reaching the mainstream that are showing what Weston A. Price knew in the 1930s when he was doing his research on the benefits of traditional diets. Saturated fats are not the enemy.

The news is out: Saturated Fats are not bad for you. 

good fats

I know a lot of people who live in fear of fat.

They cook with teflon or add a squirt of cooking spray to the bottom of the pan. Butter their bread with margarine. Drink low fat milk. Eat non-fat yogurt. And they do it on the order of their heart-conscious doctor.

I’m not going to tell you to ignore the advice of your medical professional. I’m not a doctor, after all.

But I’m going to ask you ton consider that you share¬†this¬†article with him/her. Ask about the new research. Engage him/her in a conversation to understand¬†where the recommendations come from.

In her¬†book¬†Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, PhD, shares pages and pages of evidence refuting what she calls the “Diet Dictocrats” with studies from all over the world that suggest we¬†need¬†fat. She states simply “Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. Fats as part of a meal slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes.”

It may not change your world.

It certainly may not change the mind of your doctor.

The evidence hasn’t yet swayed The American Heart Association, but the evidence is clear. And it’s worth a conversation, at least.

So now what?

What fats belong in your cupboard?

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COOKING FATS

Some fats are good for cooking. They have a high smoke-point and retain their nutrient dense composition at high heat. They help us absorb nutrients from high protein foods. And they have a stable shelf life. These are the primary cooking oils/fats that we use in our kitchen:

  • Avocado oil – Nutritionally, avocado oil is right up there with olive oil boasting serious amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s also¬†a good source of complex proteins, lecithin, beta-carotne and vitamins A, D and E. But unlike olive oil, the mighty avocado oil has a really high smoke point (500 degrees), a stable shelf life and a very subtle aromatic flavor.
  • Butter – raw, organic, pastured, locally sourced butter is your best bet, as it’s not going to be quite so nutrient dense from cows eating a primarily grain-fed diet. We love Kerrygold Irish Butter because it is grassfed, the only ingredients are cream and salt, and there are no artificial colors.¬†When we’ve got raw milk from our local herd-share, I’ve even been known to make my own.
  • Coconut Oil – unrefined, cold pressed, organic, coconut oil is a great source of lauric acid and has antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial attributes. It’s also so readily available these days. We use coconut oil a lot. In baked goods. For frying. For popping popcorn. In smoothies. In French Toast. We use it topically (on minor abrasions and sunburn). We just love the Coconut Oil.
  • Chicken, Duck, Goose fat – choose duck or goose over chicken for more omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. And look for a reputable source. I’m going to admit that we only use chicken, duck and goose fat on¬†rare occasion. I’ve not found a reasonable and reliable local source for it.
  • Lard – If you can find a healthy source of lard (from sustainably, pasture-raised pigs), lard is stable and good for frying and is an excellent source of vitamin D. I love fresh homemade tortillas … and the difference between ones made with lard versus ones made with vegetable shortening is¬†UNREAL.¬†It’s worth a little homework to find good lard.
  • Beef & Mutton Tallows – The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends use of beef and mutton tallows, but I’ll admit it … I’ve never tried them. If you do, can you let me know how it goes?
  • Peanut & Sesame Oil – good for occasional stir fries, but contains a high percentage of oleic acid, so both should be used sparingly.

EAT RAW (never heat)

These good-for-you oils are staples in our diet. We use them in salad dressings and smoothies, but never in the skillet as heating them destroys their nutrient dense composition and makes them really difficult for your gut to process.

  • Olive Oil – extra virgin, cold pressed is the way to go. We’ve been reading a lot about how finding “pure” olive oil can be a challenge these days as some of the biggest purveyors in the US have been found to have unwittingly been importing olive oil adulterated with soy and vegetable oils. Ugh. So, take some care to make sure when you buy Olive Oil you are getting Olive Oil!
  • Unrefined Flaxseed Oil – Extremely high omega-3 content!! So good for you. ¬†But keep it refrigerated!
  • Grape Seed Oil – We use this primarily because of it’s similarity to Olive Oil. And it’s got a smooth buttery taste. We’ve used it often to make our own mayonnaise, but the green color can be a bit of a turn-off.
  • Nut Oils like Walnut and Macadamia¬†– Both are so tasty, but very expensive, so we use these sparingly in salad dressing. Walnut oil has to be stored in a cool dry place to avoid oxidization.
  • Red Palm Oil –¬†similar to Coconut Oil in that it’s one of the few available vegetable saturated fats. There is some controversy about the palm oil industry, so we don’t often choose this oil. But from a traditional food perspective, this is a vegetable oil that has been utilized for more than 5,000 years.
  • Sunflower Oil¬†– choose cold pressed sunflower oil to preserve Vitamin E and eliminate free radicals produced during other production methods. But keep in mind that it doesn’t contain the good Omega-3 fats. We primarily use this in our homemade mayonnaise these days because it’s nearly flavorless and it’s not “green” like Grape Seed Oil.

RANCID OILS/FATS TO AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE

In the “good ol’ days” oils were extracted using cold pressed or expeller pressed methods that retained the integrity of the “food” in our food. I don’t want to seem old fashioned. But my personal¬†problem with fats like Canola, Margarine, Shortening, etc, is that the process to make them is so volatile (involving solvents and bleaches and deodorizers) that what’s left for consumption has little resemblance to food. If it has to be deodorized because it smells rancid and unpalatable, chances are, it’s rancid and unpalatable. And I don’t need a chemist to trick my body into eating something it shouldn’t.

That said, these are the fats and oils that we’ve scrubbed from our kitchen:

  • Canola Oil – has a high sulphur content and is typically rancid because of the high heat used in the extraction process.¬†There are studies now showing that canola oil can contribute to¬†a vitamin E deficiency (which we need for a healthy heart).
  • Corn Oil – on it’s own, corn oil might not be awful, but since more than 85 percent of the corn on the US market is GMO corn and contains high levels of the pesticide glyphosate, it’s hard to find pure organic corn oil and we avoid it.
  • Cottonseed Oil – first of all, it’s made from the inedible cotton plant. Secondly, it’s near-impossible to come by a non-GMO cottonseed oil because it’s one of the big-4 Monsanto GMO crops. It’s everywhere (margarine, shortening, box cereals, processed cookies, crackers, et al). But it doesn’t belong in the cupboard.
  • Margarine & Vegetable Shortening –¬†the process to make margarine and shortening is called hydrogenation.¬†It goes something like this: Cheap oils (like soy, corn, cottonseed or canola) are mixed with a catalyst (tiny metal particles like nickel oxide) and then pressurized with hydrogen gas to turn the oil into a solid at room temperature. Then emulsifiers are added to correct the texture. It then has to be “deodorized” by “steam cleaning” at extremely high temperatures and bleached to eliminate it’s unnatural grey color. And finally, to make margarine, food coloring and flavors must be added to make it taste more like butter.
  • Soybean oil¬†– like Corn Oil, it’s so challenging to find organic soybean oil. And despite the high levels of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, I’ve read too often that soy is an endocrine disruptor that we avoid also soybean oil.
  • Vegetable oil –¬†the conventional factory process to make vegetable oil involves overheating the crushed seeds, washing them with toxic solvents to extract every last bit of oil, destroying healthy antioxidants in the seeds and resulting oil just isn’t something I want to feed my family.

So now it’s time to clean the cupboard …

… and use more butter.

xo,

Jeanne

Q: What healthy fats do you use and how do you add them to your diet?

I don’t usually weigh in on celebrity gossip

But this Gwyneth Paltrow thing is really getting under my skin.

Like Gwyneth Paltrow, I worked in the movie business. And while I wasn’t a “star” getting called to Wisconsin on a moment’s notice, I had my fair share of work trips to New York and London and Atlanta and West Virginia. And before I retired from the business I was working on a film that was getting ready to shoot in Mexico, which would have sent me (and maybe my family) out of the country for about 6 months. (I can look back now and be thankful¬†that project fell apart so I was given the opportunity to take stock and rethink my life.)

Also like Gwyneth, I am a real foodie (although I’m not friends with Mario Vitali). I am a recipe developer (many of my successes appear on this blog, and we’re working on our first cookbook).¬†And I’m passionate about creating a “conscious,” natural and sustainable life for my homeschooled kiddos.

So I’ve had the good and lucky fortune to be a working mom¬†and¬†a stay at home/work at home mom. I feel uniquely qualified to have an opinion on her awfulness.

And part of me wants to sympathize and feel sorry for her out-of-touchedness. Because it really is so sad that she is so out of touch.

But I can’t.

Because it’s pathetic.

And disheartening.

Who on earth does she think she is to comment on the “ease” of living life of woman with a “regular” job? No doubt her nanny takes care of feeding and bathing her children, getting them to school, bandaging their hurts. Her assistant takes care of scheduling her calendar (making time for pilates and yoga and whatever other meditation time she needs). I have little doubt her housekeeper does the laundry. Her gardener takes care of the lawn. She doesn’t do her own grocery shopping. She probably doesn’t make her bed or clean her own toilet.

And she certainly doesn’t do those things when she’s working on a movie set for 14 hour days … for about 3 months of the year … a movie set where her children are welcome (unlike the kids of almost every other person on set).

Let’s consider what a day is like for a movie star on a film set. I’ll give you this: they often have to arrive early (pre-dawn) for make-up, hair and wardrobe. Sometimes they are showered. But since they’re about to have their hair and make-up done by someone else, it’s not as though they have much to do before leaving their homes except wash their bodies and don clothing. And a reminder: they’re not the first ones on set … there’s a whole team of people (Hair Stylists, Make-up Artists and Costume Designers/Dressers) who have to be ready to greet the star. And then what about the team who have to be ready to make the first scene ready to shoot when the sun comes up?

Her “consciousness” is clearly limited to her “uncoupling.”

And we are left to listen to her erudite pomposity… to get Paltrow-fied descriptions our our relationships via Slate.com (I’m apparently “magnanimously bound” to the love of my life) … to read and re-read her declaration that moms who work 9-5 jobs have it so much easier. (By the way, do you know anyone who actually has a 9-5 job? Everyone I know who works outside the home works 10-14 hour days. And most SAHMs work just as much.)

And her ability to see outside herself and her pristine elitist world … ugh … I struggle to find words for how much I dislike her.

Ugh.

Thanks for letting me rant.

xo,
Jeanne

Now back to our regularly scheduled food blog!

 

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?

stone soup

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.

 

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 saut√© 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.