Tag Archives: healthy eating

Morocca-Tori

I’m always looking for inspiration in the kitchen.  When it comes to regional cuisine, a classic dish can often inspire me to bend the rules.  For example, I love Italian Chicken Cacciatore, with its tomatoes, garlic, onions and capers.  The challenge for me was, its traditional breading always sat a little heavy.  Why not lighten it up, leave the breading off, use Moroccan spices, chickpeas and feta?  The result?  Something similar, yet completely different in tone.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the chicken completely and replace it with roasted butternut squash or zucchini.  The real focus is what the regional seasoning does in relation to everything else.  The Moroccan or North African seasoning called  Ras El Hanout (which means: “top of the shop”) can contain anywhere from 10-100 different spices. I’ve included my version of this savory spice combination.  I highly recommend making it yourself, as you can easily control the heat. I’m hooked on it and keep finding different ways to use it.  You can also find it manufactured by several companies like McCormick or the Teeny Tiny Spice Company. Served over rice, couscous or quinoa, with a simple side salad of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette and you have a dinner that’s comes together quickly and is sure to please.

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Moroccan Chicken Thighs:

  • 6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced vertically into thin strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Ras El Hanout*
  • 1 28 oz. can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice, couscous or quinoa

*Kim’s Ras El Hanout:

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add a bit more if you want more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all the spices together and store in airtight container.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter and olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add Ras El Hanout and simmer an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.  Take off heat.  Spoon about a 1/2 cup of the sauce into a 8 x 8 casserole dish.  Place chicken thighs on top of sauce.
  4. Sprinkle chickpeas around chicken.  Spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle feta over sauce.
  5. Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, or until bubbly and chicken thighs are done.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with minced parsley.
  7. Serve over rice, couscous or quinoa.

Serves: 3-4

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“The forest not only hides your enemies, but its full of your medicine, healing power and food.”  —African Proverb

Beyond Lettuce

I’m a huge fan of salads.  I could eat one everyday, particularly since we grow so many ingredients for them during the farm season.  When I was on a restricted diet following my recent surgery (the first 10 days were liquids) what I missed the most was a variety of texture.  God, just give me some crunch, something to chew!

Often times, when purchases from the farmer’s market are limited and the choice of lettuces from the grocery store are packed in plastic containers, picked over a week ago, you simply have to get out of the box.  If you want texture you have to get beyond the Honeymoon Salad (lettuce a lone!) and look for more seasonal fare.

There are many veggies that work beautifully in the winter for salads.  Try combining both fruit and vegetables like pear and butternut squash or kale, chickpeas and pomegranate seeds.  Nuts such as almonds, pine nuts or pepitas, hard-boiled eggs and hard or soft cheeses also work.  Try all kinds of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or one of my favorites: Brussels sprouts.

Any type of cabbage pairs well with the smokey taste of bacon or pancetta. This gives you the option of making a warm dressing with some of the fat by adding something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar.  Get creative! Seasonal winter salads can be warm or cold.  They can be the center or side of a meal. You are only limited by your own imagination!

Brussels Sprout Salad With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette:

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  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 generous tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and sliced thin using a mandolin or knife
  • 3 ounces shredded Pecorino cheese
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  1. Whisk together vinegar, mustard, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small Pyrex measuring cup.  Add shallot, cover and heat in microwave for 30-60 seconds or until steaming.  Stir, then cover and let come to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
  2. Cook bacon in deep 12-inch skillet over medium-heat until crisp, stirring frequently.  Drain bacon on paper towels.  Add shallot mixture off-heat, stir until combined.  Add shredded Brussels sprouts and toss with tongs until dressing is evenly distributed and sprouts are slightly wilted, about 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer to serving bowl.  Add Pecorino, dried cranberries and almonds and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Serves 4-6

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“What a wild winter sound,— wild and weird, up among the ghostly hills…. I get up in the middle of the night to hear it. It is refreshing to the ear, and one delights to know that such wild creatures are among us. At this season Nature makes the most of every throb of life that can withstand her severity. ”  –John Burroughs, “The Snow-Walkers,” 1866

Beautiful Bones

As a foodie, farmer and cook, I enjoy doing many things from scratch.  With my surgery a week away, I’ve been organizing recipes for my 10 day post-op liquid diet and wanted to include some homemade chicken or beef broth. I recently came across the benefits of bone broth.  Although similar to stock, bone broth is more rich in flavor and nutrients, making it a healing food.  Gelatin, found in the joints and knuckles of bones, is one of the most prominent “super foods” for healing a troubled digestive system.  It protects and heals the mucosal lining of the digestive tract and helps to regenerate cells.  It also aids in the absorption of nutrients.  Marrow, found in the larger bones such as the femur, helps to strengthen bones and connective tissues, as well as supporting the immune system.

Bone broth is a time-honored tradition with a long history.  It is not an accident that chicken soup was given for ailments from colds to upset stomachs.  Its soothing qualities help support the immune system.  it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can find.  It protects your joints with natural glucosamine, and the glycine in it helps us sleep better.  Bone broth is a rich source of collagen that will feed your skin, hair and nails.  The title of “super food” is well deserved.

Bone broths of all kinds are inexpensive to make and will reward you ten-fold with flavor and nutrients not found in any commercial product.  Be sure to choose your bones carefully from 100 percent grass-fed and finished cows, pastured chickens, and wild-caught fish.  Seek out a local, sustainable farmer or fisherman.  I have found that I prefer to make bone broth from chickens in a crock pot, and beef broth in the oven.  The choice is up to you.  Either way, the bottom line is that you will end up with the most rich and healthful broth you have ever tasted!

Beef bone broth ready for the oven.

Beef bone broth ready for the oven.

Beef Bone Broth:

  • 4 lbs. beef marrow and knuckle bones
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar (I prefer Braggs)
  • 2 stalks of celery, halved
  • 3 carrots, halved
  • 3 onions, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Handful fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Filtered water (as much that will fit into your Dutch oven
  • Himalayan pink salt
  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Place all ingredients in large Dutch oven and bring to a boil.
  2. Place in oven for 18-24 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Let cool, remove bones and vegetables.  Strain through wire sieve lined with cheesecloth.
  4. Season with Himalayan pink salt to taste. I start with a teaspoon.
  5. Chill in large bowl.  Lift off extra fat.  Pour into quart Mason jars.
When chilled, you can see the gelatin, nutrient-dense richness of this broth.

When chilled, you can see the gelatin, nutrient-dense richness of this broth.

“Good broth will resurrect the dead.”  —South American Proverb

Never Too Much!!

We’ve all heard by now the growing importance and benefits of fermentation.  During the growing season when cucumbers, zucchini and other vegetables are so abundant you might be tempted to drop them anonymously on your neighbors doorsteps; it’s a great time to think about the winter larder.  I enjoy putting up food.  There’s nothing better than opening a jar of summer in the middle of winter.  It helps me to appreciate the life we’ve chosen and the obvious health benefits.

I enjoy both the color and flavor of pickled squash.  This recipe is flexible enough to use any squash that seems to be coming out of your ears.  Summer squash, zucchini (any variety) or my favorite, patty-pan.  I select small or medium sized squash as you don’t want the seed cavity to become to large, otherwise your pickles become mushy.  I also don’t use the amount of sugar typically recommended in many recipes; I find the brine way too sweet for my taste.  I typically triple this recipe if I’m hauling out all the canning stuff anyway. These little gems have become family favorites.

Fresh and abundant

Fresh and abundant

Patty-Pan Squash Pickles:

  • 4-6 patty-pan squash, washed, halved vertically and sliced 1/4 inch thick (approximately 12 cups)
  • 2 medium sweet onions, halved vertically and sliced in 1/4 inch thick half moons
  • 2 red, orange, yellow or combination, seeded and sliced in 1/4 inch pieces equally 4 cups
  • 1/3 cup pickling salt
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1 cup can sugar
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
Ready for the pint jars

Ready for the pint jars

 

Toss squash, onion and bell pepper strips with pickling salt in very large bowl.  Cover vegetables with ice cubes.  Cover and let stand for 3 hours.Sterilize pint jars, and prepare lids.  While jars are boiling, drain vegetables, but do not rinse, discarding brine and any unmelted ice.  Combine vinegar, sugar and spices in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Pack squash into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Cover with hot brine leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Seal and process jars for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water and let stand for 24 hours.  Make sure each jars seals by pushing in the middle of each lid.  They should not pop.  Refrigerate after openings.  Makes 4, 1 pint jars.

Healthy & delicious patty-pan pickles.

Healthy & delicious patty-pan pickles.

 

“There may be many metaphors for living…. but we have to do the living.”

 

Abundance 101

Often times, during the growing season fatigue sets in at the end of the day and preparing a meal takes a back seat.  For the past two farm seasons, I’ve been in the process of healing from a major intestinal bleed-out and have not be able to actively weed or harvest vegetables along side Val and our farm hand Zac.  After two days at market, it literally takes the next four or five to rest and recover.  Val my ever-ready bunny continues to be the mover and shaker at Brickyard Farms.  She deals with the additional workload without complaint, always upbeat and positive.  My “job” is to keep up with the bookkeeping, marketing and prepare a decent meal.

I’m embarrassed to admit in the past I have typically approached meal planning with what do I feel like cooking?  Rather than, what do we have and how can I use it creatively?  It has taken time to really grow into a sense of place on our farm.  That left over feeling of entitlement from my previous life sometimes blocks recognizing the incredible abundance we have here.  With 5.5 acres of chemical-free vegetables and easy access to local cheese and meat; why would I choose to cook anything else?  So my current mission is to create meals using only the vegetables  that we grow before anything else is considered.  I allow myself a wide array of condiments and spices, but the foundation comes from the farm.

This week there are carrots, potatoes and tomatoes for starters, so I opted for a roasted concoction inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi.  It was the first time I had added a dressing to warm veggies.  The result made me weep with the realization that there is no lack of anything, only an overflowing abundance.

Warm out of the oven ready to be tossed with the dressing.

Warm out of the oven ready to be tossed with the dressing.

Roasted Vegetables With Caper Vinaigrette:

  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut in 3 inches lengths (for larger carrots, halve lengthwise and quarter)
  • 4 medium red onions, cleaned, peeled and quartered vertically
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium red skinned potatoes, skin on and chunked or quartered depending on size
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.  Place the onions and carrots in a large bowl and add the olive oil, thyme, rosemary, garlic, 1 tsp salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  Toss well and spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes.

While the onions and carrots are roasting, prepare the potatoes.  Add the potatoes to the pan and toss to coat.  Return to the oven and roast for an additional 40-50 minutes.  When the vegetables are cooked through and have taken on a golden color, stir in the halved tomatoes.  Roast for an additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, capers, maple syrup, mustard and 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables as soon as you take them out of the oven.  Remove head of garlic. Place roasted vegetables in decorative bowl and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Place garlic head on top.  When serving break up head and squeeze garlic paste on each serving.  Pass the Kleenex.

Unexpected lusciousness!

Unexpected lusciousness!

Don't plan on leftovers.

Don’t plan on leftovers.

“The key to abundance is meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thoughts.”

                                                                          —Marianne Williamson

 

Spicy Chicken Little

Spring in Michigan is often a practice in patience.  Just when you think she’s here for good, you wake up to a hard frost or an inch of snow.  Our tomato starts in the greenhouse struggled against stiff north winds and low temperatures.  Yet hope for spring returns when you step inside that greenhouse and are greeted by a bright green hum.  You plant seeds with the hope that each one produces the miracle called a plant.  It’s an exercise in faith.  I could never live in an area of the country where the seasons never change.  Seasons remind me to pay attention to the earth’s rhythms. As farmers, we are hyper-sensitive the many signs that nature provides; our livelihood depends on it.

Today, after helping our neighbor Lynne start rehabbing her pontoon, I wanted something simple and fast for dinner.  I love recipes that use ethnic flavors with common ingredients. Inspired by a recipe from the NY Times, I made some slight alterations and came up with a dish that balances warm spices with cool yogurt.  The arugula sprouts and baby potatoes, reminded me of the newness of spring.  You can adjust it to feed a few or a crowd.

Roasted Chicken With Baby Potatoes and Spicy  Yogurt:

  • 2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1-2 lbs. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2  tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. sriracha or thick hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, plus 6 lemon wedges
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1-2 cups arugula sprouts
Spring fresh, arugula sprouts

Spring fresh, arugula sprouts

  1. Combine chicken and potatoes in a large bowl.  Season with 1 tsp. of the salt and all of the pepper.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sriracha, cumin and 3 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Pour over chicken and potatoes and toss to combine.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Arrange chicken thighs and potatoes on sheet pan in a single layer.  Roast for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until everything is golden and slightly crisped.
  3. While the chicken cooks, whisk together the yogurt, chives, garlic and lemon zest.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To serve, spoon yogurt sauce over chicken and potatoes.  Scatter arugula sprouts over mixture.  Drizzle remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil and squeeze a few lemon wedges over the whole thing.  Pass extra yogurt sauce.

Serves: 4

Contrasts in flavor

Contrasts in flavor

“Each experience leaves an imprint, its transformation into something useful is a choice.”

Cabbage Rolls Revisited

I love cabbage rolls.  My mother-in-law Elsa made them for me the first time in the early 80’s.  she mixed beef and pork together with onions and rice, placed them in cabbage leaves and tied them with thread.  She called this peasant-food.  Her son John and I called it heaven.  The first time I tried making cabbage rolls I was surprise just how bad I was at getting the leaves separated from the head in one piece.  I kept saying, “It can’t be that hard!”  I decided to get out of the box and approach it differently.  Why not turn it into a casserole I thought?  It would be less time-consuming and we could enjoy it more often.  While I was getting out of the box, I decided to use ground lamb, different spices and feta for a different take on it completely.

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Assembling the ingredients

Doing the cabbage ‘rolls’ as a casserole allowed me to follow my own whimsy.  I could shake it up a bit with non-traditional spices and be able to enjoy more cabbage in the process.

Lots more cabbage!

Lots more cabbage!

Cabbage and Lamb Casserole:

  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs), core removed, halved and sliced into 1/2 inch sections
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large farm-fresh egg
  • 8 oz (1 cup) crumbled local feta
  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (11/2 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I use our own canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I also used homemade)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish with ghee.
  2. Cut cabbage in half, core, then slice in 1/2 inch wedges.  Place the wedges in casserole dish so they overlap each other in two rows.
  3. In a large bowl, use your hand to combine the lamb, onion, egg, rice, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, feta, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper.  Place mixture on top of cabbage, leaving a 1 inch space round the sides of the casserole so that the cabbage shows through.
  4. Combine the tomatoes and chicken broth in a medium bowl, then pour the mixture over the meat.  Cover with foil (shiny side down).
  5. Bake covered for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes.

Serves 6

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

New Traditions!

New Traditions!

“A smiling face is half the meal.”  —Latvian quote