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

growing a bountiful garden in cold climates

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Abby’s guest-posting at Modern Alternative Mama today … here’s a preview:

… Yesterday at the grocery store, I noticed small conventional limes were $1.50 each.  I knew it must be mislabeled, so I double checked with the cashier.  She said unfortunately that the price was right, and it was one of many foods on short supply, resulting in much higher prices.

These sort of situations always leave me uncomfortable, longing for the old days when we weren’t so dependent on the grocery store.  It’s another confirmation that, regardless of where I live, I will always grow food.

I live in Montana, where we still have occasional snow showers until early June (and sometimes longer).  This is our fourth summer here, and every year we’ve managed to grow a bounty of food.

If you’re like me and still want an organic garden, but don’t have California sunshine at your disposal,there’s still hope!  Here are a few ways I manage to grow a large garden in a cold part of the country.

To keep reading, click here …

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.

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(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?

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

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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

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

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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.

Find us also at:
Pinworthy Projects @ The Domestic Superhero

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.

 

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.

tsukemono (aka lacto-fermented Japanese cabbage salad)

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

Jeanne here.

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

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

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

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

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1 gallon fermentation crock (affiliate link)

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

Vitamix mallet or a potato masher (not pictured)

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

lead-free glazed saucer

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

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

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

unbleached organic cheese cloth & a rubber band

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

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

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

 

INGREDIENTS:

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

 

DIRECTIONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

another week, another giveaway – $50 kohl’s gift card

The winner of the Vitamix Giveaway was announced here, but we’re not ready to let go of our giveaway mania.  We have so much to be thankful for this year … and you all are on the list.  We so appreciate that you all read our posts, enjoy our recipes, and engage in the conversation.  Thank you!

So we’re going to keep on giving …

For the next three days, you can enter to win a $50 gift card to Kohl’s.

Kohls $50 giftcard giveaway // Dec 2-9

Maybe you need a new outfit for the office party?

Or (since we’re a real food blog) maybe you’re looking for a new stainless steel sauté pan?  Kohl’s carries Cuisinart.  Fiesta Ware.  They have cast iron.  Stainless steel.  They even have a few pieces of stoneware.

Or maybe your dreams of all handmade wooden toys for your kids Christmas are fading fast and you need to get your hands on any Batman related paraphernalia ASAP!  (They also have a few Melissa & Doug toys … but our local store just doesn’t carry that many.)

Whatever the reason, we’ve got you covered.  Enter below using the Rafflecopter widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GOOD LUCK!

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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