We bought the land for our small ranch about a year and a half ago … and we did it knowing it had been deeply ravaged by the stewards who held it before us. There were years of over-grazing, years of fertilizing, years of seeding non-native plants, years of what, in my humble opinion, amounted to serious abuse, with very little care for the future.
But when we found our piece of paradise, we saw hope in the land. We weren’t discouraged by the Mullein or the Thistle that had overtaken about 1/3 of the acreage. We weren’t daunted by the overabundance of prairie dogs.
We relished the site of eagles flying overhead finding their sustenance in the pock-marked landscape. We appreciated the fox den, although we’ve never seen the inhabitants. We admired the silver coyote who works with the badger to help reduce our prairie dog population. And we were amazed by the siting of an endangered black-tailed ferret.
We had the land witched and found water.
We seeded with native dry land grasses (with the help of our very best neighbors Ashley and Shannon from Red Fox Farm.
And we planted a few trees (5 quaking aspen make up our “grove” right now … and an autumn blaze maple seedling sits boldly in the front yard of the house we are planning and brought us so much happiness when we saw the bright red of the leaves last Fall …
… a sign that our soil is perfectly acidic for the apple and pear trees we will plant this year!).
So while our plans start and stop and move forward and bump into roadblocks, we know that we are working WITH the land to bring it back to life. We are honoring the soil, and treating the land with respect. We are holistically (albeit slowly) re-establishing the natural order of things.
Twenty years ago, I knew I wanted something different, but I’m not sure I would have expected that THIS would be my dream … or that it would be such a challenge to achieve … or that I would WANT to work this hard to make it happen…
And so another day passes, and with it another opportunity to be grateful …
The not-so-littles in our house LOVE Caesar Salad.
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 …
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.
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?
Which makes me even more happy to share this SUPER SIMPLE (only 5 ingredients!) family favorite recipe with you all.
CAESAR SALAD DRESSING
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
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 …
I just totally overshared and re-wrote the O’Mamas About Page … it’s a total overshare. But it’s important as I’m exploring the future of this page and of our lives … the experience of building an organic and sustainable life …
I want O’Mamas to be a place where we can all overshare about this experience of living an organic, clean, simple and sustainable life … being an organic mama … being a woman who cares about the health and happiness and consciousness of my family, my friends, my neighbors and the world around me…
We’re about to hit a cold snap and my garden is not ready for it. And I’m not sure I am, either!
I read today that we’re in for freezing/cold rain and temps in the 40s and low 50s starting Wednesday. So regardless of my emotional readiness, all those beautiful green tomatoes on the vine? They are going to be super unhappy.
But I’m going to share a few secrets I’ve been acquiring these past few years living above the 45th parallel so that I’ll be enjoying sweet tomatoes through the first or second week of October.
First thing I did this morning after feeding, watering and releasing our chickens was pick all the yellowish and orange almost-ripe tomatoes from the garden Then I put them in a pretty bowl on the credenza in our dining room … RIGHT NEXT TO a BIG BOWL OF APPLES.
Have you ever noticed how fast your bananas go brown when they are in a bowl with a few apples?Here’s why: Apples of nearly all variety release a hormone that will ripen almost any fruit or vegetable in the vicinity.
So I started keeping the apples in the dining room … to save the bananas because I was getting tired of making banana bread!
That’s also why we don’t store apples in the same room as our potatoes or garlic. It’s why when the avocados from the store are too hard, I pop them in a brown paper bag with a few apples to ripen them … it generally takes only a day or two to have perfect guac-ready avocados.)
It’s why when we DO store apples in the same place as any other fruit they have to be individually wrapped. But even then … those pesky apple hormones are strong. So we really DON’T store apples near other foods.
Which is why we are now storing the not-quite-ripe-tomatoes in the dining room, next to our big bowl of apples. It does wonders to the almost ripe tomatoes that will suffer most if we dip below freezing for a few days in a row. In a few days, I’ll have bright red beautiful tomatoes that will be perfect to make some of our favorite tomato sauce.
But what of those precious little greenies on the vine?
Three days with lows in the high-freezing will NOT be good for these sweeties. I could wrap the tomatoes and hope for the best.
Or I could look at the long-term forecast and realize that this cold snap may very well be the beginning of the end of the incredible summer we were blessed with this year … in which case, it’s time to pull the plants.
But I refuse to give up on the tomatoes.
I’m friends with a lot of farmers and homesteaders. I am not afraid to admit when I don’t know something. So I ask a lot of questions.
Two years ago I got some incredibly useful advice from my friend Jenny at Sabo Ranch. She said that if the tomatoes aren’t ready to pick (aka, they are super green and won’t ripen in the bowl to sweet garden goodness), then pull the ENTIRE PLANT and then HANG THEM UPSIDE DOWN in a protected area (greenhouse, garage, garden shed, etc …). Apparently, there are still nutrients and goodness in the roots when they are pulled, and if you put the plants upside down, that goodness will travel down the stems and into the tomatoes …
I’ve never taken pictures of it … maybe I’ll do that this year and share them on Facebook or Instagram? (Not sure I’m ready to share an image of our over-crowded garage shrouded in upside-down tomato plants.)
This will be my third year following her advice and I’ll tell you this … it has increased my tomato yield by at least a third each year. Our summer is just not long enough for all the tomatoes I want to grow! And now I don’t have to let them freeze on the vine.
You’re here (thank you, by the way!), so you know I’m passionate about living a simple, clean, sustainable life … one that is unprocessed, free of toxins, preservatives, chemicals, poisons and additives. I’m obsessed with the food we eat (how and where it’s grown/raised/processed), the way we garden, the way we live …
But the place where I was totally letting myself (and my family) down? Make-up and beauty products. (And now maybe you’re sort of laughing because getting beauty tips from someone who uses egg-white soap and coconut oil as her skin-care regime and only wears mascara and eyeliner once or twice a month and lip-gloss only a little more frequently is kind of laughable).
I am so on it when it comes to feeding my family good food and making sure there’s no poison in our garden. I’ve got unsprayed organic straw as insulation for our chicken coop so the pesticides to make it into our backyard eggs. I know the farmers who raise the meat for our freezer or fill our milk jugs and know they don’t spray their fields so the grass the animals are eating is all organic goodness.
But I am totally guilty of half-a$$ing it when it comes to beauty products. Sure, I buy paraban-free shampoo. I make sure if we do put on sunscreen that it’s approved by the non-profit watchdog group www.ewg.org. But I’m a complete failure when it comes to make-up. I have been totally lazy about it. With my lack of beauty routine blindly I figured I can’t be getting THAT much exposure. NOTE: It’s not like I need to be “done” in the morning homeschooling and caring for chickens.
Then I read that there are thousands of cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting, potentially toxic ingredients in daily-use beauty products and only ELEVEN of them are banned in the United States (1,400 are banned in the European Union and Beauty Counter has taken things further, banning 1,500 harmful ingredients from their products).
So if at that moment in your life one of your favorite yoga teachers shows back up in your life with mascara that’s not going to poison you? And it actually works! And feels good? And does make your lashes look longer? (Thank you, Jen!) … Oh … and it’s from a company that’s partnered with and approved by one of my favorite watch-dog non-profits, www.EWG.org?
Maybe that’s a good time to start listening … and start learning … and start sharing.
If you know me at all you know how uncomfortable I am about multi-level marketing companies. Not that I don’t like the products … I LOVE my essential oils. My sister-in-law swears by her Keto-lifestyle. But the “selling” is really a challenge for me. I’m struggle with the idea of “building a team” or “trying to recruit you.” Because I want you to know that if we’re hanging out, it’s not because I want to sell you something, it’s because I truly want to hang out with you! I’m simply letting you know where I am on the path to create the life I want for our family.
All that said … I am going to admit that at very long last I’ve found a company that seems to reflect all the things I tout on this blog and in my life, one that encourages a clean and simple life that helps reduce the toxins in our home and does it fairly and with integrity … so without further fanfare, I’m joining a B E A U T Y + R E V O L U T I O N!
And I’m here to help you if YOU want to join the revolution, too!
So … Take a moment to consider your make-up and personal beauty products … decide for yourself if you’re exposing yourself or your loved ones to chemicals that don’t belong in your body. And if it’s time for you to switch things up … click the link, or direct message me for more information!
I was looking to make an easy on-the-go nourishing breakfast treat to get us out the door for skiing this season because the truth is getting chores done and out the door by 7:30 am on any given Saturday isn’t the easiest for this family.
And these breakfast cookies take all of 5 minutes to mix and 18 minutes in the oven so they totally fits the bill.
(The kids can even help make these … yay! Teaching moment — fractions made easy and fun and the reward is a tasty treat when all is said and done!)
Also, when you eat as many bananas as we do, you’re sure to have a few over-ripe ones every now and again, so this is an excellent way to put them to tasty use.
3 over-ripe Bananas
1 1/2 c. Rolled Oats
1/4 c. Raw Chia Seeds
1/2 c. Chopped Walnuts (I’ve also been known to add pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and or chopped hazelnuts … so long as the nuts add up to about 1/2 cup, it’s all good)
1/3 c. Dried Fruit of Choice (we used tart cherries today but I’ve also made them with dates, blueberries, apricots and raisins)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. to 1/3 c. Grade B Maple Syrup (most people like them sweeter than we do, so I figured the nutrition using caloriecount.com using 1/3 cup of syrup)
Preheat oven to 360 degrees (F).
Mash the bananas. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well-combined.
Spoon “cookies” onto a parchment covered cookie sheet.
Makes 14-16 Tablespoon-sized cookies.
Bake for 18 minutes.
Breakfast-on-the-go … an easy snack … a treat for your next potluck. Woohoo!
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 shareda new recipe with me.
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 …
… this works GREAT with frozen strawberries and rhubarb.
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
Combine all the ingredients in a high speed blender.
Blend and then divide into individual serving cups. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (best to leave it over night) and enjoy!!
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.
It’s just so … buttery.
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.
But here’s what I use for 10 servings (assuming one serving equals two eggs, asparagus, ham and one English muffin)
2 bunches of fresh Asparagus (bottoms trimmed)
Sea salt & cracked pepper (to taste)
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.
1 large sauté pan filled with water
1 TBLS apple cider vinegar
10 farm fresh eggs
5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 stick melted salted butter
fresh cracked pepper (to taste)
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.)
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!
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.
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 …
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.
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 …