November 29, 2011 at 6:00 am
So I have a few people in my life who occasionally tease me about my organic ways.
They are just joking, of course, and I don’t really take it seriously.
But recently, someone made a joke about me making my own butter.
I hadn’t ever tried it, but you know how these things work — it wasn’t long until I found an opportunity. (Coincidentally we made it in a pre-school co-op class I am co-teaching. It. Was. AWESOME.)
So now, it’s sort of a new obsession around here. Not only is homemade butter very easy (you don’t have to buy a churn, I don’t care what the Internet says), the kids love making it, and we are finding all kinds of different versions and uses for the stuff.
This past weekend we made garlic-herb butter for homemade garlic bread.
We also love to make cinnamon-butter to go with homemade bread. I know. I am getting a little Little House on the Prairie with all this. But I promise, try it once, and if you don’t find yourself making batches and batches of butter, you are a stronger pioneer than I am.
This is more of a process than a recipe. Homemade butter only contains only two ingredients: heavy cream and a bit of salt. We favor Organic Valley’s heavy cream if you can find it. The salt really makes a difference, but we literally add just a pinch.
We make butter by putting about a half-cup of cream into a small jar. We add just a few grains of sea salt.
Then the fun begins. We shake, rattle and roll that little jar until the magic happens. Shaking is great, but when little arms get tired, it sure is fun to roll it back and forth across the floor.
In just a few minutes, the cream starts to thicken, and eventually achieves a whipped consistency. This is perfect for bread and a great way to covert margarine-lovers who think that the spreadability of that stuff negates the uckiness of the ingredients.
If you shake a little more, the butter will thicken and the solids will seperate from the whey or butter-milk. (Buttermilk is great stuff and has lots of uses!)
We keep our butter in the fridge for a few days. We usually make pretty small batches, and make it often.
To make cinnamon-butter, add a just a shake of ground cinnamon to the cream before shaking.
To make garlic-herb butter, mix in minced garlic and finely chopped herbs when the butter reaches the whipped stage and stir carefully.
To make honey butter, add about a tablespoon of honey to the cream and shake like crazy.
To make citrus-butter, add minced orange or lemon zest to the cream before shaking.
Go ahead and give butter-making a try. And if anyone teases you about your efforts, offer them a bite. They will pretty quickly declare a take-back.
A Shower with Organic Touches
November 10, 2011 at 6:00 am
We spent the end of last week in Nashville, celebrating the coming arrival of a very special little person.
The excited mama and papa had requested a laid-back couple’s shower with a country feel — lots of apple orchard and backyard barbecue.
But the shower featured some very organic touches that made the event unique, like these tiny baby bear honey favors.
We were all so excited to shower this family with good wishes, and of course lots and lots of tasty, organic treats like these mini pumpkin muffins:
Mini Pumpkin Muffins
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 can of pumpkin puree
3/4 cup maple syrup
5 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, chopped
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in eggs, syrup, coconut oil, vanill and pumpkin and sitr until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Bake in greased mini muffin tins in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes.
Good Old Fashioned Chicken Stock
November 4, 2011 at 6:00 am
It was more than a year ago now that a very vegetarian girl asked a couple of Traditional Foods loving friends how the heck to make chicken stock.
The process had never really interested me before, because as a long-time vegetarian, I very rarely had a chicken carcass lying around.
But then because of some food allergies and restrictions, our diet changed pretty drastically, and we started having chickens appear in the kitchen. Still a vegetarian myself, I somehow felt better about using the whole bird.
And so, I began making chicken stock from scratch a couple of times a month.
Do you make stock? Are you wondering why anyone would bother?
It turns out that the stuff is pretty darn healthy, if you are carnivorous. A lot of those old wives’ tales about chicken soup helping with healing really might have some scientific merit.
And around my house, three out of the four of us really like it. It is a great base for soup, of course, and can come in handy for sauces and risotto too.
What I learned from those Traditional Food friends is the important step is adding a tablespoon of vinegar to draw out the minerals from the bone (I know — this from a girl who has shunned eggs and dairy in the past). Also, the gelatin you see floating to the top really is the good stuff, so go ahead and share that with all involved.
An optional step is roasting the carcass. I don’t, but I do enlist the help of little chicken pickers like one friend suggested in order to get all the meat off the bones.
I am still adjusting to our new diet, which seems to be ever evolving anyway. But if I am going to buy chicken, I want it humanely raised, antibiotic-free and organically fed. I also want to use every bit of it.
Homemade Chicken Stock
Chicken carcass, picked clean (roasted or not)
Fresh filtered water
1/2 of a large onion
3 carrots, washed but not peeled
2 celery stalks
a large bunch of parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
In a large pot, add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 4 hours or as long as you can. Drain and transfer to jars. We do freeze ours for later use, or refrigerate it if we are going to make soup the next day.
Celebrating Fall Flavors: Quinoa Salad
October 4, 2011 at 6:00 am
I am having a small, somewhat creepy love affair with quinoa lately.
I hope you can forgive me. But what other grain packs in so much protein?
And quinoa, like so many grains is so versatile. My new favorite way to eat it is in this Fall Salad.
Served chilled or at room temperature, these flavors really bring in all the good things of the season, and do so dairy- and gluten-free.
This salad will definitely be making an appearance on my Thanksgiving table, and probably quite a bit before then too!
Fall Quinoa Salad
2 cups cooked quinoa (prepare 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water or stock)
1/3 cup celery hearts, chopped (add some leaves — the flavor is really amazing)
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of two limes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Toast pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, but watch carefully. To cooled quinoa add celery, pecans, cranberries and parsley. In a small glass bowl mix lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Pour over the top of the salad and mix thoroughly.
Do you have a favorite quinoa recipe to share? Please add it or link to it in the comments below!
Peanut Butter Cookies for Friday Tea
September 16, 2011 at 6:00 am
Friday tea is becoming a nice new routine around here.
It seems like we all need a little something special to celebrate the start of the weekend.
And so, we make a little tea and a treat. And take a deep breath because the work of the week is almost done, and the work of the weekend is almost here!
This week, we made these amazing Peanut Butter Cookies from 101 Cookbooks. Heidi Swanson and her blog and cookbooks are wonderful resources for healthy, whole food recipes and ideas.
Her cookbook Super Natural Cooking is one of my favorites — and often spends months at a time on my kitchen counter never making its way back to its proper home on the bookshelf.
These cookies are so delicious. But I have to show extreme self-control because the batter is really, really good too. It is egg-free, so a little taste or two won’t hurt.
That’s the other cool thing about these cookies — there are only six ingredients, and they are ingredients we almost always have on hand.
We used to the spelt flour option, and kept a close eye on them so they were still chewy in the middle. Yum. The perfect way to start the weekend!
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Some days you need a (slightly healthier) cookie
August 5, 2011 at 6:00 am
Some days you just need a cookie.
I had a day like that this week. And so I made a batch.
But I tried to make them a slightly healthier version of an old favorite.
Note to store manager: That’s what I was doing in the baking aisle Wednesday …. Trying to figure out how to health-up a Nestle recipe, NOT trying to shoplift cans of pumpkin puree.
Here is what I came up with:
Peanut Butter Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter (that bright yellow pastured stuff from a company that likes cows), softened
3/4 evaporated cane juice
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 fresh eggs from a farmer you know or a company you like
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 cups whole rolled oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 cup of Sunspire Peanut Butter Chips
In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter with sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix until just combined. Add chips and carefully mix by hand. Spoon rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment-lined sheet and bake 7 to 9 minutes.
Then eat a happy healthier cookie!
Whew. That was a close one.
EWG releases updated ‘Dirty Dozen’
June 15, 2011 at 6:00 am
People sometimes ask me if we buy everything organic. The truth is we don’t.
We try to eat a healthy diet, shop for lots of local foods, and buy organic whenever we can. My guide for prioritizing is the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.
The lists were just updated for 2011, and apples now top the Dirty Dozen list. Fruits currently in season like those delicious peaches and nectarines above (as well as cherries) remain on the list.
I have a print-out of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen that I take with me when shopping. It helps me to remember to buy organic lettuce and potatoes, for instance, and regular pineapple and avocados, which helps our weekly budget.
When people ask me how to start eating organically, my first suggestion is always to start with the Dirty Dozen list and to transition to buying those fruits and vegetables from the organic section (which I know can be a challenge in and of itself — some supermarkets don’t even have an ”organic section.”)
Another great option this time of year though is farmer’s markets, and although often a farmer’s stand might not say “organic,” the farmer might produce food without using pesticides. True organic certification is really expensive, so talk to your local farmer — you might be able to get a super food double-whammy by buying local and pesticide-free!!
Happy Organic Shopping!
Fast Food: Things with avocados and cabbage
June 2, 2011 at 6:00 am
In Week 2 of my cleanse, and the food restrictions are forcing me to get creative in the kitchen. I’m actually having a lot of fun.
Or I’m hallucinating from the hunger.
Either way, I think these photos say it all. Good, clean food can be delicious (and colorful)!
The top photo is part of this week’s more intensive detox. It is mostly vegetables, with a nice big serving of basmati rice. I sauteed some portabello mushrooms in olive oil with garlic, onions, red peppers, cumin and crushed red pepper flake. Also on the plate is a quick guacamole, cabbage (sprinkled with lime juice), chopped tomatoes and a wedge of lime.
This second photo is of some doctored-up black beans and brown rice. I made the beans in my slow-cooker, so they were nice and soft and flavorful. I added some chopped baked sweet potato, more avocado, more red cabbage and tomatoes. The whole thing is sprinkled with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. You know what it really needed? Some cilantro. Can’t wait until it really pops up in the garden!
Cleansing. It really is torture.
May 12, 2011 at 6:00 am
The cheeseman is back! And he has new friends!!
It is always with mixed emotions that we head out to the farmer’s market for the first time — we are so excited only to get there and see four booths.
Last year it was freezing cold, and we tried to find something to buy, finally deciding on some onion sets.
But this year, the weather is HOT. Like 94, so it just felt like a day to go to the farmer’s market and get some berries or something summer-y, only to buy cheese, hummus and olives. (Still good.)
We were really hoping for rhubarb, which would have been a lovely find, but at least the cheeseman is back, so that’s something. Back with his Thai Basil Jack and aged cheddar older than my kids.
Really, the farmer’s market is part food, and part experience for us anyway. We love the little stands, the friendly folks, the strollers and flowers and now this year there is a pizza stand. That would have been so fun last year on our first farmer’s market foray — a hot slice of pizza in the 40-degree weather, but not today, when it has decided it is summer here, at least for a day or two.
Oh farmer’s market — you hold such promise of things to come …
Do you have a favorite farmer’s market where you live — what is the part you look forward to the most each year?
Building a Co-op Pantry
May 4, 2011 at 6:00 am
Have we talked lately about co-oping?
I’m a big fan of co-ops. We don’t have a local co-op store, but I belong to two mail-order ones. One is Frontier — from which I order supplements, beauty supplies and things like castile soap. The other is a grain co-op, and I am using it to start building a pantry.
Several months ago now, we did a series here on living organically on a budget. I loved hearing moms talking about how they ate really, really well on the cheap.
This is a constant struggle here, and something I hear time and again from people who are living with a budget but who want to make healthy eating a priority.
One thing many of them had in common was eating “from the pantry” so to speak, or stocking up on items they use a lot of in bulk, and only shopping really regularly for fresh fruits and vegetables.
As the farmer’s market season approaches here in our town, I am looking forward to cutting back on time at the supermarket.
One way I hope to do that is through taking advantage of the organic grains available through my co-op. My favorite things to order now are rice, oats, flour, sugar substitutes, beans and lentils and popcorn. Recently I have tried ordering pasta and more alternative grains.
Of course, you don’t need to belong to a mail order co-op to buy your grains in bulk. Lots of brick and mortar co-ops and natural food stores offer organic grains in bulk at a reduced price.
So I’m looking for ideas! Do you purchase a lot of organic grains in bulk? What is in your pantry? And do you have a favorite go-to pantry meal?
I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts in the comments!