caesar dressing … it’s not just for Romaine

The not-so-littles in our house LOVE Caesar Salad.

Love.

It.

And not just because of the crunchy herby croutons that are super satisfying coated in garlicky, citrus-y, creamy Caesar Dressing. (Although I would be ignoring the facts if I didn’t admit it was the crispy bits that got our oldest, most bread-loving and significantly salad averse to try it.)

I wish I could tell you that she made the discovery of her love of this salad at home … eating lettuce grown in our garden … with croutons that I loving made with staling homemade bread …

No.

It was at our local favorite pizza joint Gil’s Goods, in Livingston, MT. Firstly, I am a huge fan of Gil’s, who, as far as I’m concerned, offers the best S.O.L.E. food around… (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical). If we’re going out to eat pizza (or pretty much anything on their homey menu), Gil’s is definitely my place of choice.

And secondly, I’m not suggesting this would work for you, but in my experience the littles are sometimes more willing to try new flavors at a restaurant than if I just plop it on their plates and tell them to dig in. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been making this simple and delicious Caesar Dressing for nearly 20 years … Until they tried it at Gil’s, there was no getting them to even take a bite at home. (I don’t fight them over food … they either eat what’s on their plates or they don’t eat … sometimes they don’t eat.)

Now, though, we’re past that hurdle and we’re all enjoying more salads at home … which is lucky since the lettuce is starting to grow and it’s my favorite food of Spring and Summer.

And I’m here to tell you that this Caesar Dressing is NOT just for Romaine lettuce.

Seriously.

We’ve had it on mixed greens and power greens and spinach and kale …

Actually, my favorite way to have a Caesar these days IS with kale.

Remember two (maybe it was three) years ago when Kale was the new super food?

There was all sorts of excitement about how antioxidant and awesome it is? How it’s a great source of calcium and manganese and phosphorus? It’s high in iron, has Omega fatty acids and a healthy dose of fiber? Sounds too good to be true, right? But then there were all those concerns about how uncooked kale is challenging to digest and not good for folks with Thyroid issues?

Yeah … well … I like kale. And I don’t want to cut it out of our diet because the good things are just too good to ignore!

And happily(!), there’s science that shows doing a fine chop on kale and either cooking or adding citrus like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar breaks down the bad and makes all the good available to us!**

Whew!

Which makes me even more happy to share this SUPER SIMPLE  (only 5 ingredients!) family favorite recipe with you all.

CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large Cloves Garlic (grated)
  • 1/2 cup Avocado Oil (or Extra Virgin Olive Oil is nice, too)
  • 2 TBLS Mayonnaise
  • Juice from one lemon (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 cups loosely packed Ribbon Chopped Kale or Romaine Lettuce (or any other lettuce you like)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan & Asiago Cheese
  • 1/2 cup herbed pita chips

DIRECTIONS:

For the dressing: Combine the garlic, olive oil, mayo, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce in a jar and shake until well-combined.

For a KALE Caesar:  If you’re using baby kale, just make sure it’s cleaned and dried before chopping. If you’re using “adult” kale, de-vein after cleaning and chop into fine ribbons.

If you’re using adult kale, cut into ribbons and then coat with about 1/4 cup of the dressing and massage it well. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 hours in the fridge). Just before serving, toss with the rest of the dressing (or dressing to taste), cheese and croutons.

Extra dressing lasts in the fridge for about a week.

(PS – the Kale version is a GREAT salad to bring to a pot-luck because the longer it won’t get soggy and limp while sitting on the food line.)

For ROMAINE or any other lettuce, just toss and go …

Eat it up, YUM!

-J.

PS – here’s another (oft-requested) dressing I make at home because I haven’t bought salad dressing in more than 2 decades!

Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Mason Jar Ranch Dressing

 

 

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.

fall

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

plain & chocolate mini cheesecake bites (GF, refined sugar-free, paleo-friendly)

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for something I can bring to a potluck that’s going to tasty AND good for you AND look cute on a serving dish. (Should I not admit that? I mean … don’t you like it when stuff looks cute?)

Listen … I am not above bringing boxed brownies on occasion because the Ghirardelli Brownie Mix at Costco is just kind of perfectly easy (I sub coconut oil and use eggs from our backyard chickens so there not as bad as they could be, I guess …)

But if I want to bring something that looks and tastes good, and my gluten-free friends can enjoy, these are my go-to.

At least they are now.

NOTE TO SELF: Apparently a little recipe testing apparently goes a long way because these Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free, Paleo-friendly dessert bites don’t feel like they are missing any of the decadence of any other sugar and grain-laden dessert. And that makes me happy. Especially the plain ones. The chocolates are good. But the plain ones … yeah … I can’t be alone near the dessert table when there’s mini cheesecake bites.

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Plain and Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 1 c. hazelnut meal (or almond meal)
  • 1 TBLS pure maple powder
  • 3 TBLS melted butter

Filling: 

  • 16 oz cream cheese (two 8-ounce packages)
  • 2 tsp. stevia
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 large eggs (room temp)
  • 1 TBLS raw cacau

Whipped topping:

  • 8  oz whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp. stevia
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F)

Line two mini-muffin tins with 24 muffin liners

First comes the crust: Stir together all the dry ingredients and then dd melted butter. Mix until thoroughly combined

Add one heaping teaspoon to each liner and press down into the liner. (Reserve leftover crust mix to sprinkle on top of the cupcakes.)

Bake for 8-10 minutes (until very lightly browned).

Remove from the oven and cool while preparing the filling.

For the filling: In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and stevia at medium speed until light and creamy.  Add the vanilla and salt. Then beat in the eggs on low, until well incorporated.

At this point, using about half of the batter, fill the liners of ONE of the mini-cupcake tins with the plain cheesecake batter. If you’re only making plain cheesecakes, fill the second tin. If you’re looking for a mix of chocolate and plain, replace the bowl of the stand mixer and to the second half of the mixture add the cacau. Mix until well-blended and then fill the second tin’s liners with the chocolate batter.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the centers of the cheesecakes don’t jiggle when the pan is tapped. Open the oven door (at least 1 foot wide) and let the cheesecakes cool to room temperature – about 1.5 hours.

For the whipped topping, combine the heavy cream, stevia and vanilla in a clean stand mixer bowl and whip until peaks form. I load the whipped cream into a ziplock bag, cut the end off one corner and then use my pseudo pastry bag to top each mini-cupcake and then sprinkle with just a pinch of the reserved crust crumble.

Perfecto.

Refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Happy pot-lucking!

j.

cinnamon coconut custard cake (a GF recipe review)

cinnamon coconut custard cake
Every once in a while I find myself pinning something and going back to it again and again and again …

and again …

and again …

… until someone gives me an excuse to make it.

Like today, when it just so happens that the husband of one of my BFFs is having a birthday and my very pregnant friend’s kitchen is mid-remodel and she can’t bake a cake for the love of her life.

Thursday also happens to be a very unscheduled homeschool day for us. No ballet. No violin lessons. No skiing or horseback riding. No piano or art. Perfect time to have school in the kitchen (measuring, weighing, blendering, baking, chemical reactions … can you think of a better way to introduce science and math to a 3-year old? Me either!!)

You see, since the New Year I’ve been working to eliminate grains from my diet. I’m not going “strict” paleo, but more paleo. Lots of veggies, some protein, good fats (like Coconut Oil and Ghee) and limited grains and sugars.

And if I’m gonna make a cake for someone, I would like it to be a cake that I can eat, too!

So this is the pin that caught my eye …

cinnamon coconut custard cake

Looks pretty moist and cake-like for a grain-free cake, doesn’t it??

Guess what? … it IS!

It’s moist.

It’s just this side of sweet perfection.

And if you like coconut, it’s deliciously coconutty goodness.

But I have to admit I struggle to follow recipes. I mean … I saw white chocolate chips in this cake and I don’t like white chocolate, so … no white chocolate. I didn’t even replace them, although I THOUGHT about swapping in some pecans or hazelnuts.

I imagine it’s because we’re at a higher altitude than the original baker, but it took at least 10 minutes longer in our oven to firm up and cook through.

And of course, I made this to celebrate a birthday, which to me means it needs frosting. So I whipped up a quick cream cheese vanilla coconut icing and sprinkled it with shredded coconut.

Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy.

The hardest part of today was waiting to sing Happy Birthday!

One more time … here’s the recipe by the Holistic Health Herbalist. If you’re looking for a tasty grain-free, refined sugar-free dessert … I like it!

xo,

Jeanne

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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

… We are grateful to have health in our bodies …

… love in our hearts …

… and good food for our bellies.

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

Tarte aux Pommes

apple-apricot-tart

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

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

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

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But this year … I’m gonna mix it up.

I made the honey ginger cranberry sauce.

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

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

jalapeño cilantro cranberry relish sauce

Jalapeño-Cilantro-Cranberry Relish

INGREDIENTS:

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

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

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

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

WOOHOO for Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a Blessed and Joyful Holiday!

 

coconut rice – the easiest side dish you’ll make this week

One of my favorite things about living in Montana is that when out running errands it’s never a surprise to run into this site …

cow 1

Almost every time, I want to pull over and spend time just watching the cows.

And if I happen to have my camera, I try to get closer so I can get a better view.

cow 2

But then …

cow stalker

I realize I’ve overstayed my welcome …

And I go home and make Coconut Rice to calm my nerves.

Because no one wants to be stalked by a cow.

coconut rice

And because there are very few easier, more delicious and more comforting side dishes than fluffy coconut rice.

Why white rice? 

I’m glad you asked! I’m going to invite you to read Butter Believer’s really simple explanation about white rice may actually be the healthier rice choice.

But I’m also going to be super honest and admit that … I LIKE white rice better than brown rice. I like that it’s fluffy and aromatic and goes with almost anything (including garlic baked chicken) and I like how easy it is to make and I love that my kids love it.

So … there you have it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 c. Coconut Milk
  • 1 c. Filtered Water
  • pinch Sea Salt
  • 1 c. Long Grain Rice

DIRECTIONS:

Combine Coconut Milk, Filtered Water, Sea Salt and Long Grain Rice in a stainless steel saucepan and give it a good stir. Turn the burner on high and bring the mixture to a boil. Just as it begins to boil, turn the heat to it’s lowest setting, cover with a tight lid and let simmer for 17 minutes. At the end of 17 minutes, remove from heat (DO NOT UNCOVER), and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

 

strawberry rhubarb chia “pod”

Do you remember my friend April?

She sent me this recipe for Irish Soda Bread that … well … if you haven’t tried it yet you are really missing out on some serious yumminess.

A few months ago, April asked me if I had a recipe for homemade chia “pods” so I sent her our link to this one.  It was my first attempt at the “pods” (aka chia pudding) and it’s still one of our go-to portable snacks/desserts. It’s also one of our most-searched and clicked links ever. (I’m still embarrassed about the photos in that post. Not embarrassed enough to retake them, but still …)

Anyway, I’m happy to report that it started an obsession in April’s kitchen that just can’t be contained! She has since inspired me to make chocolate chia pods, cherry vanilla chia pods, chia pudding parfaits and most recently, she shared a new recipe with me.
strawberry rhubarb chia pod

Awe…

Some…

Sauce.

Tart. Sweet. Totally refreshing. A PERFECT summer treat.

And, if you’re like those of us with outdoor Montana gardens and still waiting on your June strawberries …
strawberries - omamas.com
… this works GREAT with frozen strawberries and rhubarb.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/4 Cups Rhubarb (rough chopped)
  • 2 Cups Strawberries
  • 2/3 Cup Chia Seeds (black or white, both are nutritional powerhouses)
  • 2 Cups Coconut milk
  • 1 TBS Grade B Maple Syrup
  • zest from one lemon

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all the ingredients in a high speed blender.

IMG_5542 Blend and then divide into individual serving cups. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (best to leave it over night) and enjoy!!

And thank April … I did.

Makes 8-10 servings.

 

SHARED on:  Kelly the Kitchen Kop

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

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

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

eggs benedict with blender hollandaise sauce

It’s just so … buttery.

Salty.

Creamy.

Delicious.

Honestly, it just seems so decadent.

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

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

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

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

eggs benedict - blender hollandaise sauce

Asparagus:

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

Meat:

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

Eggs:

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

Hollandaise Sauce:

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

English Muffins:

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

eggs benedict with blender hollandaise sauce

DIRECTIONS:

First things first:

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

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

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

While the water is coming to a boil …

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

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

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

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

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

With love,

Jeanne

 

SHARING @

Domestic Superhero
Kelly the Kitchen Kop

hazelnut cake …

I met Michaela von Schweinitz last summer at a Cowboy Cookout at my friend Steph’s. She is a gorgeous German ex-pat film director living and working in SoCal. Michaela was the only other woman there in Cowboy boots…

Did I mention she’s German? Because I’m always looking for ways to connect to my grandfather’s heritage I often find myself being drawn to people and food from the Old Country.

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it’s not just food that connects me to my grandfather’s heritage … sometimes it’s blonde babies picking flowers in the mountains …

So I whipped out my one year of German (technically, it was a one-credit elective called “German Folk Songs” during which we sang German folk songs for an hour each week) and utterly embarrassed myself with nonsensical conversation.

Thankfully she overlooked my lameness.

And even though we only met once and emailed two or three times, I now believe her to be a lifelong friend.

I firmly believe this to be true because she shared recipes with me.

Her first recipe was for a salad that I dream about. It was the salad she brought to Stephanie’s cookout and now I check our beets in the garden daily so I can make it again. It’s the sole reason I planted beets this year. So I think about Michaela nearly every day as I weed and water in the garden.

And the second recipe is even better than the first …

image

She told me she makes this cake as a breakfast treat for camping trips. The hazelnuts remind her home. And it’s a nourishing, delicious and easy way to reconnect with her past.

And the fact that it’s paleo-friendly, gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian … it’s a tasty treat for almost any get-together and almost everyone can have some (except for those with egg and nut allergies).

The original recipe calls for 2 cups of ground hazelnuts, 1 cup sugar, 5 eggs, hot water and 2 drops of bitter almond aroma. And makes a 9×12 pan.

But I don’t want to have that much of this cake sitting around our house because I will eat the whole thing.

We don’t use sugar too much these days (except in homemade kombucha), so I needed to find an alternative.

And in the almost year that I have had the recipe, I have not remembered to pick up bitter almond aroma at the grocery store … not once.

So I’ve made a few adjustments.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup hazelnut meal (Bob’s Red Mill sells it pre-ground, or you can grind your own.)
  • 1/3 cup pure grade B maple syrup
  • 3 eggs (separated)
  • 1 TBLS hot water
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and put the rack on the lowest setting.

Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper and oil the paper with coconut oil.

Separate the eggs into two bowls and refrigerate the whites.

Whisk the egg yolks with vanilla, hot water and maple syrup into a cream. Whisk until it goes beyond frothy and almost Zabaione-like (a very loose custard). Add the hazelnuts and mix well.

I use the whisk attachment on my immersion blender to beat the whites into a stiff “snow.”

And I have to quote Michaela’s email for this next step …

“With a tool my friend in Germany calls ‘Kinderfeind’ because with it she scrapes the last bit of dough out of a bowl leaving nothing for the kids to ‘nash.’ I very carefully add the ‘snow’ to the nut mix. I just don’t know how you call this tool here.”

*I call it a rubber spatula or rubber scraper, but I’m calling it a ‘kinderfeind’ from now on. It’s a PERFECT description.

NOTE: DO NOT OVERMIX THE EGG WHITES AND HAZELNUT!

Gently spoon into your baking dish.

Bake for 40 minutes.

*The original recipe bakes for 60 minutes … the smaller glass pan takes less time.

Turn off the oven and let the cake rest in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and remove from the pan and let cool completely.

It’s incredible breakfast cake, but I’ve been known to nosh on it all day, and serve it with a dollop of whipped cream for desert.

Makes 8 servings … (or one serving, if there’s no one else in the house to share it, or the kids sleep late and you’re alone with the cake for too long? … not that I would ever eat an entire hazelnut cake … ever … seriously.)

I’m going to take Michaela’s advice and bake this for camping this year. It’ll be a great compliment to sunrise over the Gallatin Mountains …

 SHARED on:  Kelly the Kitchen Kop

balsamic brussels sprouts – an easy and delicious side

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I heard a story on NPR a few weeks ago about impoverished Chinese women who live in remote regions of China. The story was about the struggles these women endure to raise their families and work the land as their husbands, forced by their economic situation, are emigrating to cities for months at a time to work low-wage factory jobs to send little sums of money home.

For about three and a half seconds I thought … yep … that’s my life.

You see, my husband works in the movie business and has been in Vancouver, Canada, since January working on a film. He won’t be home until mid-August. And we miss him something fierce.

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It’s so easy to feel frustrated because I’m alone with the littles all day every day. That running to the store is never just a quick stop. It involves car seats and carts and hand holding and kids asking for things we don’t need or I don’t want them to have. It means being the good guy and the bad guy (sometimes at the same moment). It means saying “no” often … and refereeing a lot of sibling squabbles. It means being strategic about finding time to take a shower. It means taking out all the garbage. Mowing the lawn (or shoveling the snow … depending on the day). Washing all the dishes. Cleaning up all the messes. It means trying to make sure the littles remember how much their dad loves and misses them.

It means not having strong arms around me when things get overwhelming.

And then I came to my senses and got over my pity party because to compare our struggles with that of a Chinese peasant who might not have a roof over her head and works in the fields every day not because she happens to like gardening, but because if she didn’t work the fields her children wouldn’t eat … yeah … I got over my pity party fast.

And then I decided I needed to step it up with regard to how I approach these months our Cowboy is away.

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You see, it’s easy to get depressed and want to just sit in the house and watch movies all day. And in the midst of our snow-heavy winter, with short days and cold dark nights, it seemed like a totally okay option.

But the littles don’t deserve to be short-changed on experiences because it might make my day a little more complicated.

And that’s not just about making sure they got to the ski hill, or get to ride horses, learn to swim and go to the park. It’s about little things, too. Like making sure we sit down to a civilized meal at least once a day. It’s about giving them opportunity to try new activities and new foods.

Because even though I’m a real food blogger and spend way more time than I should caring about the food that goes into my body and that of our littles, I am still human, and it’s easy to slip into the pattern of making something easy for dinner, which is not always the “good” choice. It might be organic pasta with butter, but it’s still pasta with butter. Or sourdough pancakes. Or egg tacos. Carb-overloaded ease. I still have a responsibility to expose the kids to a varied diet of good greens and grassfed-pasture-raised proteins even if it takes me a few minutes to prepare.

To be honest, they don’t love it all. Some nights I’m sure they would prefer pancakes. But once in a while there’s a moment when even I’m surprised by what they like.

For example:

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups of Brussels Sprouts (quartered)
  • 1-2 TBLS Avocado Oil
  • Sea Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • 1 Shallot (finely chopped)
  • 1-2 TBLS really good Balsamic Vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and quarter Brussels sprouts and toss in one to two tablespoons of avocado oil and then put them in a roasting pan in a single layer.

Turn the oven to 400 degrees and place the roasting pan in the preheating oven.

When the oven reaches temperature (it takes ours about 10 minutes to hit 400), stir the Brussels sprouts and let them roast for another 15 minutes.

A few minutes before the sprouts are done, sauté the chopped shallots in just a dash of oil until they are translucent. Remove the shallots from the heat, add the Balsamic Vinegar. Then take the sprouts from the oven and toss with the balsamic and shallots. Serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Surprisingly easy to make tasty Brussels sprouts that go great with steak or fish or chicken or on a big leafy salad. They look elegant and taste delicious. I would serve these at a dinner party, for sure, if my life was about dinner parties these days. Since it’s not, I’ll just keep sharing them with the kiddos and be grateful for whatever challenges this life has to offer.

xo,

Jeanne

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