Tag Archives: paleo

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

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

 

Love Me Tender, Chuck

Although we are vegetable farmers, there are few things we enjoy more than a tender succulent roast, slow cooked in the oven (or crock-pot) that yields multiple meals. We are so fortunate to have easy access to beautiful grass-fed beef and lamb, along with milk-fed pork at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market where we are seasonal vendors.  In fact, Karin Uebbing from Woodbridge Dairy Farm in Byron Center, Michigan and I have decided to collaborate on a cookbook.  Bits, Bones and Pieces  will highlight the many ways to enjoy beef and pork; even those unusual cuts that sometimes baffle us.  During this process, I am learning a great deal about dairy farming and raising healthy livestock, and Karin (not to mention her family) are expanding their culinary horizons.  It certainly seems like a win, win!

Karin, who is known for her straight forward assessments of how she sees things has said, “All farms are like humans; no two are exactly the same and one type vs. another type is not good or bad, simply different.” Woodbridge Dairy Farm is one of the many farms going the extra mile by making the decision to build a sustainable, well-run farm that uses traditional methods that include the elimination of chemicals and pesticides, and utilizing pasture rotation for an environment that produces healthy livestock.  As a customer, I enjoy knowing where my meat is coming from, as well as the satisfaction of supporting another farmer in their quest to produce a quality local product.

Farmers are often passionate people to love to share their commitment to their farm and the customers they serve. They patiently answer question from folks who don’t necessarily know what they do, or how they do it.  For them, big is not always better.  In fact for many, quality is far more important than quantity.

Love Me Tender Beef Chuck Roast:

  • 3-5 lb grass-fed chuck roast
  • 3 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 1/2 cups whole shallots
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and separated
  • 6-8 whole carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 cups whole small potatoes
  • 1 cup good red wine
  • 3 cups homemade beef stock (unsalted commercial in a pinch)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Beautiful 4 lb grass-fed beef roast

Beautiful 4 lb grass-fed beef roast

Seared to perfection

Seared to perfection

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Dry roast with paper towels.  Generously salt and pepper.
  2. Heat ghee in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add  the whole shallots to the pot, browning them on all sides.  Remove the shallots to a plate.
  3. Throw the carrots into the same very hot pot and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.  Reserve the carrots with the shallots.
  4. Turn the burner on high and add a bit more ghee to the very hot pot (make sure your fan is on!). Place the roast in the pot and sear it for about 2 minutes on each side until it is nice and brown all over.  Remove the roast to a plate.
  5. With the burner still on high, deglaze the pot with a red wine, scraping the bits from the bottom with a whisk.  Add the beef stock.  Place the roast back into the pot and top with the shallots, carrots, garlic, potatoes and herbs.
  6. Cover and place in oven for 3 hours.  The roast in tender when it’s fall-apart tender. This can take up to 4 hours total.  Serve with vegetables.  Pass sauce.

Serves 4-6

Ready for roasting

Ready for roasting

“Never eat more than you can lift.”  —Miss Piggy

Liquid Gold

It’s March 1st and winter still has us in her clutches, with no sign of letting go anytime soon.  I tell myself “no problem” and head into our basement to see what vegetables are still holding up.  I find both white and orange sweet potatoes and carrots still in good condition.  I dig around the freezer and find a quart of homemade chicken stock.  I grab some onions and garlic and head back upstairs.

Whenever I want to make soup using root vegetables, I find I like to roast them first.  It always gives the soup much more depth, not to mention those warming smells in the kitchen.  As I’ve mentioned both in my previous blog Basics With A Twist, and this one, I always lean toward the savory,  I enjoy herbs and spices and love what they do to food.  It’s really ethnic cooking at its finest.

With this soup I’ll roast the sweet potatoes and carrots to make a puree for the base.  While they’re in the oven I will toast cumin and coriander seeds.  Toasting whole seeds releases a flavor far superior to purchased ground spices; you’ll find the scents exotic and sensual.  Although you can grind them in a spice mill, I prefer to use a granite mortar and pestle. I also use shallots, rather than onion, and brown them slightly.  I like how the sweetness of the root vegetables pairs with the intensity of the spices.  Puree it altogether with a bit of apple cider vinegar and it really comes alive.  I enjoy topping it with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and chopped cilantro.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup:

  • 6 cups sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups carrot, peeled and sliced into 2 inch sections
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 1/2  cups shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 14oz can full-fate coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Perfectly roasted veggies

Perfectly roasted veggies

Toasted cumin and coriander seeds

Toasted cumin and coriander seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cut sweet potatoes and carrots; place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt.  Toss until well coated; place on large sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven for 40 minutes or until soft; turning vegetables halfway through. Cool.
  2. While vegetables are roasting, place cumin and coriander seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat and toast until lightly brown.  Grind in mortar and pestle or in spice grinder.  Set aside.
  3. After vegetables are cool, place half of them in a blender with some of the chicken stock and puree until smooth;  pour into large bowl and set aside; repeat with remaining vegetables and stock.
  4. Melt ghee and olive oil in large pot.  Add sliced shallots and pressed garlic.  Saute on medium until soft.  Add ground cumin, coriander, salt and ginger.  Stir for 1 minute.  Add cinnamon and cayenne.
  5. Pour half of vegetable puree into pot with shallots and blend with stick blender until smooth.  Add remaining puree and coconut milk.  Heat on low until warmed through.  Add apple cider vinegar and mix well.
  6. Ladle into bowls, topping with a few pepitas and chopped cilantro.

Serves: 6-8

Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold

“Soup is a lot like a family.  Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.”  —-Marge Kennedy

 

Toxic Thoughts

Can we talk?  I mean really talk?  I love liver…always have.  Maybe it’s my German heritage.  I know, I know, some of you have to get past the yuck factor; but when you get past all those toxic thoughts, you’ll learn it is one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat.  Yet how do I convince all you skeptics out there?  After all, its been appreciated for thousands of years, and recently advocated by Paleo enthusiasts.  Why, its developed a bit of a cult following.

So let’s start by stating some nutritional information.  Liver actually contains, gram-for-gram, more nutrients  than any other food!

  • Nature’s most-concentrated source of vitamin A and vitamin B12, and rich in all other B vitamins
  • Great source of folate (folic acid is the synthetic stuff found in vitamin pills)
  • Rich in copper and chromium
  • Co-Q10 for heart heath and antioxident benefits
  • High quality protein
  • Contains an “anti-fatigue” factor (making it great for individuals fighting anemia, like me!)

Another misconception is that liver stores the toxins and therefore is not safe to eat.  It is true that liver is a detox organ.  But it is not true that liver is where the toxins are stored.  What it does store is a motherlode of critical vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidents.  These are what help the liver get rid of the toxins in the body–not trap them inside.  One caveat I do strongly suggest is insisting on grass-fed liver from pasture-raised chicken or cows.  The term “you are what you eat” does not only apply to humans.

So there it is…I suspect that if you were inclined to eat liver before, you will continue.  If you have never tried liver, I urge you to give this recipe a shot.  It’s savory, rich and delicious.  Who knows…you might just like it.

Sauteing with fresh rosemary and vermouth

Sauteing with fresh rosemary and vermouth

 

CHICKEN LIVER PATE:

  • 3 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 lb grass-fed chicken livers
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, cleaned, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2/3 cup white vermouth
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 cup ghee, (plus a little additional for melting on top)
  • Sea salt
  1. Melt first 3 Tbsp of ghee in a large skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add the livers, onions, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the livers are browned.
  2. Add the garlic, vermouth, mustard, lemon juice and rosemary.  Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is gone.  Allow to cool.
  3. Process in a food processor with 1/4 cup of ghee.  Season  with salt to taste.  Place in individual ramekins or mold, pour melted ghee over top to preserve.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours.  Freeze additional ramekins for future use.  Serve with crackers, coarse mustard and pickled red onions.

Serves 8-10 total

And so GOOD for you!

And so GOOD for you!

 

“Laughter is an instant vacation.”  –Milton Berle

Feel The Warmth

I’ve lived most of my life as a Michigander.  I love how the seasons change the landscape in front of my writing area.  Today the stillness of winter has struck just the right cord within me.  I feel the warmth of the wood-burner,and the sounds of Val getting our morning coffee.  I watch the birds at our feeders, their small feathered body’s puffed out against the cold.  In that stillness, resides a sense of gratitude and the accumulative effect is one of peace.  This inner peace is much needed as we head into the next phase of my physical journey.  I have been referred to a hematologist for a bone marrow biopsy and thorough blood workup.  A suspected blood disorder is looming large.  Again, we learn patience and perseverance.

Val built our home on 52 consecutive Sundays; you can feel the love seeping through the structure.  This is our house of God.  It is a home that has seen much history and celebration.  Today our neighbor Lynne, my older brother Bill and his girlfriend Deb are coming for dinner.  There are few things I enjoy more than filling our home with the scents of cooking and the anticipation of sharing that meal with those I love.  Good food is often like that, an invisible bridge connecting us to each other.  An expression of goodwill that transcends the simplicity of the moment into something larger, more intimate and we bask in its warmth.

Today’s meal will be a wonderful Brazilian fish stew called:  Moqueca De Peixe.  With aromatic garlic, onions, cilantro and red bell pepper, it has just the right amount of heat, which is tempered with the addition of coconut milk.  Loaded with tomato, fish and shrimp, it is a big bowl of warmth.  It invites you to eat the shrimp floating in the broth with your fingers.  I smile when I see Bill’s eyes closed with enjoyment.  This is why I cook.

Sauteing aromatics

Sauteing aromatics

BRAZILIAN FISH STEW:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs firm white fish, cut in 1 inch pieces (I use cod)
  • 2 lbs wild caught fresh or flash frozen shrimp (21-24 count)
  • 2 Tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 14.5 oz cans Muir Glenn Fire-Roasted chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing soup, chopped
  • 2 cups clam juice or fish stock
  • 1 cup home-made chicken stock (or if you’re using a commercial product, make sure it’s stock not broth)
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 whole lime, cut into wedges

Instructions:

  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  Add the ghee or olive oil to a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add onion and saute until soft, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the red bell pepper, green onion, garlic and bay leaves. Saute for 10 more minutes or until vegetables are softened.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste, combine well and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and fish stock or clam juice, along with the cilantro and simmer until hot but not boiling, about 10-15 more minutes.
  4. Finally, add the coconut milk, fish and shrimp, including their marinade.  Cook until shrimp looses its opaqueness, about 3 minutes.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish liberally with additional cilantro.  Pass the lime wedges.
  6. Kiss the cook.

Serves 4-6

Just the right amount of heat

Just the right amount of heat

 

 “Worries go down better with soup.”  –Jewish proverb

Not The Same Old……..

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

It’s always a little disconcerting, but change is hard.  I did things a certain way for so long that when the need arose to upend my culinary avenues, I experienced a certain sense of loss.  When this feeling would raise its ugly little head, I would repeat the following mantra, “Don’t cling to the past, embrace the new!”   I needed to set my “Curious George” free.  So I did.  Similar to learning a new instrument, a new sport, a new hobby; cooking within certain parameters didn’t have to be boring.

I also recognized that my personality and sensibilities also needed to be acknowledged.  For example, my addiction to snacking (particularly crunchy, salty) would have to be addressed.  I found that the “out of sight, out of mind” approach worked well after I got through the first 2 weeks.  I also had healthy choices on hand, like apples with almond butter, when I needed a snack.  I have always chaffed under restrictions, so I didn’t want to follow some plan like a religion.  This requires that I honestly evaluate how I feel after each meal.  Even the new can lead to healthy habits over time.  I would need to befriend: patience and persistence.

The past week here in southwest Michigan, has been bitter cold.  With wind chills as low as -25 degrees, our wood-burner has been working overtime. Soups and stews were definitely on the docket. We stocked up on winter squash in late fall at the farmer’s market: butternut, spaghetti and acorn.  I’m particularly fond of butternut.  Its so versatile.  When it comes to soup, butternut is my go to squash.  Typically made with Granny Smith apple to accentuate its inherent sweetness; I always lean toward the savory.  I also prefer to roast the butternut, rather than boil it.  It takes a little longer, but the depth it creates is worth it.  I nestle in some Bosch pear slices while I’m at it as an unexpected garnish; and the oven helps keep our kitchen warm.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or gluten-free in a carton)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp Maldon salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Braggs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 lb bacon, chopped, fried until crisp, drained on paper towels
  • 1 Bosch pear, cored and cut into sixths,
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh chives
Roasted Bosch pears

Roasted Bosch pears

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1.  Cut two butternut squash in half from top to bottom, remove seeds, rub cut sides with olive oil and place cut side down on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until soft when pierce with fork.  Let cool.  Scoop out flesh from each half and puree in blender or food processor in batches with chicken broth. Set aside.
  2. Roast Bosch pear on parchment paper for 20-25 minutes until soft and caramelized.  Set aside.
  3. Heat small dry skillet on medium-high.  Add cumin seeds and toast until fragrant and slightly browned, about 1-2 minutes.  Grind in mortar and pestle.  Set aside.  If mortar and pestle is not available, use ground cumin.
  4. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil on medium heat.  Add shallots and saute until soft about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, ginger, salt, cinnamon and Aleppo pepper and saute an additional 2 minutes, being careful not to brown.
  5. Add pureed squash, chicken broth and apple cider vinegar to pot.  Simmer on medium-low until heated through.
  6. Serve in individual bowls.  Garnish each bowl with a slice of roasted pear, sprinkle with bacon and chives.

Serves 4-6

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”     —–Albert Einstein