Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Day of Unrest

Sunday is not exactly my 'rest' day. With work, three kids, a hubby in full time school, classes to attend, and all the other stuff that makes up life, I have to make sure that I'm well prepared for the week ahead. In case you haven't noticed, nutrition is pretty important to me. I'm loathe to get myself in a situation where I don't have a decent meal backing us up. So, with Saturday being hang out with my posse day, Sunday has been relegated to making sure we have good eats in the fridge so 'quick' doesn't become synonymous with 'crap'.

So, let's go on a pictorial journey shall we? Fun, huh? Join me in my kitchen to see what was up for some of this week's menu. Sorry, I didn't get pictures of my two slow cookers bubbling away some bison roasts that I later sliced up and put in the fridge.

So, here's where you see my dirty little secret. I make my fermented veggies in my giant, ceramic sink. I clean it first! For this veggie mixture I used some easter egg radishes, carrots, purple carrots, green and purple cabbage, green onion, some leek, ginger, and garlic. Oh, some green and red onion, too. I covered it in sea salt, pounded the snot out of it and then packed in jars. I'll give more details in another post.

O.k., this was a problem. Remember those boxes of organic plums I had? Well, aside from the jars of prunes I've made, I needed to come up with some other options. So, here's my plum butter cooking down. See the dirty wooden spoon on the side? I used my tongue to clean up that mess. So bloody good. I cooked those wonderful plums with cinnamon and cardamom. Aye yi yi. Can't wait to eat that with some pastured pork one day.

I'm not big on baking. That's not to say I don't like it, I just don't think there's much place for those sweet "neolithic paleolithic" treats around my waistline. To make matters worse, I hear Kurt Harris' torturous condemnation every time I pick up a spatula. 

Still, with three kids, I do like to whip up a little ditty every now and then and then freeze some for those birthday party moments when the rest of the class has a sugar-loaded cupcake and my little urchin sits there with her bowl of fermented vegetables. Yes, that really did happen. So, my kids are thrilled with a muffin. These are made with coconut flour, ghee, some dried fruit I made, bananas to sweeten, and a mother load of eggs. They are moist and they are divine. That's my ghee in the background. I make it from raw, pastured butter and I mix it with organic, extra virgin coconut oil. We eat it with everything. Everything.

Canned plums. I added some allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. See mom? You can have some at Christmas. I source out the old jars, with glass lids. Newer jars, with the metal lids are lined with BPA. I'm not down with the BPA.

My post workout fuel source. Love me some sweet potats.

A peek in my 110 degree oven. Plums becoming prunes. I store the prunes in glass jars. I avoid buying any fruit in the winter, having prepared some ourselves. I also just don't think we were meant to eat much fruit in the winter (or at anytime really). A little dab will do ya'.

Pummeled and packed into jars. Now I just have to wait about a week and we'll have fermented vegorama.

O.k., so he's not a fermented vegetable or a dried plum, but come on! How could I not show you Pablo the Great Overseer. He perches himself up on that chair and makes sure I'm doing my kitchen duties to his satisfaction. He's a tough one, that little ginger cat. He keeps me on my game.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Preparing For Winter Like the Good Bapka I Am

One of many, many boxes of fruit begging for my attention before the fruit flies devour them entirely.

My Bapka (Slovak grandma) was the best. And please, don't tell me your grandma was the best. She wasn't, mine was. Bapka could bake like nobody's business and she loved me. What more could you ask for? Oh, and strong, that woman was Strong. I remember her showing me how to make perogies, using her arms to scoop under the mound of crazy-heavy dough, trying to show me how to use my strength to stir. My puny arms weren't up to the task at the time. I think Bapka would be happier with my pipes nowadays.

So, my Bapka, she taught me a thing or two, but the most important thing, to me, was how she made us all feel loved by the food she prepared for us. I don't think that just because we eat a paleo diet, void of the gluten and sugar my grandma used, that the lesson is any less profound. Yes, food is fuel, but food is also a ritual, a time and event to enjoy with a sense of community and grateful gathering. I love without food and I love with food. There's many ways that we love. I'm happy that my family eats the meals I prepare and say, "we can feel the love in it". Mission accomplished. Because there really is love in there. That love comes both from the farmers, our friends, who cared for that animal and treated it humanely, with compassion and care and from me as I prepare it. By the way, you can pack love in a salad or slide it into a stew. Love doesn't only come wrapped in sugar. Never mind "only come wrapped in sugar", love shouldn't come wrapped in sugar at all.

Plums becoming prunes. Still about a days worth of drying to be done at this stage.

I'm finding, especially as I get older, that I am really starting to appreciate the old skills that have fallen out of favour in our crazy, give-it-to-me-now society. Hence, my love of fermenting, culturing, and drying food. I'm trying to dig up as many obscure, out of print books as possible in hopes of garnering further knowledge. The new books on food preservation are loaded with jam recipes using pounds of sugar. Not my thing.

Last winter, we successfully ate pretty locally. We didn't have any fruit at all. This year, we've been lucky to have found an amazing organic orchard that's kept us well stocked throughout the summer. I just got our last supply of fruit and I've decided to go on a drying rampage. My kitchen is lined with trays and fruits in various stages of drying. It smells divine

Speaking of drying, did you know that a raisin should actually taste like a grape!? Who knew? I've been drying organic Coronation grapes and the result is this plump raisin with a delicious mild sweetness and pungent grape taste. It's unlike any raisin I've ever tasted. 
Organic Coronation grapes transforming into grapes. These are the grapes that pop out of their skin like an eyeball in your mouth. I think their concentrated skins are what makes them such tasty raisins.

I've also been drying boxes and boxes of plums. We're not huge dried fruit fans here. I don't buy dried fruit except on rare occasion, but it's nice to think that we have some frozen, canned, and dried fruit as a little something to remind us of summer on the impending winter days ahead.

I've gone through dozens of dehydrators. The one I'm buying next is a giant mother of a thing so I'll be saving my pennies for a while. Until then, my oven works fine. I put it on 110 degrees, line my pans with parchment paper and that's it. All it needs is a little time and a few words of loving encouragement. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Skinless Gyoza and Yummy Leftovers for Lunch

The bright yellow colour on the zucching comes from the unrefined, organic red  palm oil they're drizzled with. 

So, I found a big bag of pastured pork at the bottom of my freezer (yes, I'm at the bottom, time to pick up my bulk meat orders). I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, but then I remembered my skinless gyoza idea. I used to love my gyozas, back in the day. Those little bundles of yumminess wrapped in white, tasteless dough. The dough contained the meat and was essential, or so I thought.

Turns out that you can make a pretty fine gyoza, or egg roll for that matter, without the crappy flour wrapping. You just flavour the meat with the right spices, give it a fry in some unrefined coconut oil, make a dipping sauce and you're done. As usual, I made more than enough so that we could make quick lunches for the next day.

I used this recipe (see video below) for my gyozas and his dipping sauce was really good, too. I put mine in some romaine lettuce with some cooked purple cabbage and mounds of cilantro. I wanted to use avocado, but somebody in our house thinks avocadoes are candy and keeps eating them faster than I can buy them (ahem, T, you know who you are).

I had to include the video, his little girl is just too darn cute.
I also cut some young zucchini into spears, drizzled them with organic, unrefined red palm oil (which is delicious if you haven't tried it), sprinkled on a bit of sea salt and thyme and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes. I've had a bottle of palm oil for a while now, but didn't start using it until recently. We're really loving it. This particular type of palm oil is not refined in anyway, is rich in carotenoids and saturated fats and is, therefore, on par with coconut oil for it's ability to withstand heat. I wouldn't buy palm oil from a company that sells 'crude palm' which is a highly toxic, refined product. You can order sustainably produced palm oil directly from Wilderness Family Naturals if you're interested in giving it a try.

When we were done eating I got to making the kids' lunches. I just ripped up some of the romaine that was left, threw some olives, leftover cabbage and zucchini, fresh cilantro, and some gyoza patties into the mix. I drizzled it with some leftover sauce and gave them a lime to squeeze on before they ate it. It was really, really good. Oh, they got a nectarine, too. That was the last of our insanely delicious nectarines, straight from the organic orchard about an hour away. We're already looking forward to eating that amazing fruit again next summer.
Kids' lunches done in 5 minutes flat.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Foraging in the City

My sink full of crabapples compliments of an elderly neighbour, nature, and some determined pickers.

Hubby and I have become pretty keen on backyard foraging (ours or somebody else's will do just fine). We've raided the library shelves for books on edible plants, seeds, fruits, roots, and nuts. It's unbelievable to think that all of this food is around us and we just walk on by, wondering what we should go buy at the market.

Once we started learning about all the food, all the free food, at our disposal, our walks in the forest, or even just in our neighbourhood, took on a whole new meaning. We check out what stage the black walnuts are in, if the squirrels have annihilated the hickory tree or if there's one or two left for us, where the good oak trees are so we know where to go when the acorns start falling. The list goes on and on. It brings an awareness to the season, the weather, and the bounty that surrounds us.

This weekends foraging was pretty pedestrian, but wonderful nonetheless. Hubby and daughter numero tres were walking down to hockey registration when they came upon a tree dripping with over-ripe crabapples and another one with massive, golden pears on it. So, they came home, strapped on some bags, grabbed me and off we went.
The pear tree was literally bowing down, begging people to pluck the heavy pears off of it.

One of the nice things about homes with old fruit trees in them is that they often have old people living there that can no longer pick them. We asked the owner for permission to pick her trees and ended up chatting with her for a while. She didn't want any, but suggested that she'd love some of the preserves I was going to make with them. Reminder to self: bring Beverly some canned pears.

We came home with bags and bags of fruit. I froze some, dried some, and preserved some. Even sweet hubby, tough guy that he is, was in the kitchen canning pears. He actually even confessed to liking it.

Our next assignment is acorns. I'm eyeing up those trees every day, waiting for the moment when they're just right, but before the squirrels figure that out too. Native Americans used to use acorns as flour. That's what I plan on doing too. Why buy crappy almond flour when you can make your own acorn flour? I'll keep you posted in Foraging in the City Part Deux. In the meantime, look up you never know what's there for the munching.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mouse Melon Lunch in Ten Minutes Flat

I found these adorable mouse melons at the farmer's market last year. They're more novelty than deliciousness, but they were definitely a hit with the kids. The look like little, baby watermelons, but they taste more like a cucumber.

Super quick lunch again today. I chopped up the mouse melons with some avocado and threw in some roughly cut cilantro. I drizzled on some homemade vinaigrette gave it a toss with a few sprinkles of salish. I sliced up some of the awesome grass-fed beef summer sausage we get from our farmer. This sausage is cured by dry smoking. There are no nitrites/nitrates or filler used. Instead, the farmer has the butcher use a small bit of ascorbic acid for the curing process. Iit's absolutely heavenly.
I also threw in a handful of sauerkraut for extra probiotic goodness. In all, it took me about as much time to eat as it did to make, but I felt clear-minded and energetic afterwards. The sauerkraut, as are all cultured and fermented foods, is especially good to stop any post-meal sweet cravings.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lazy Girl Lunch

Instead of going with my default of frustration every time I have someone tell me they "wish they had time to eat well", I thought I'd try something new. So, here goes. I'm going to show everyone how truly lazy I am in the kitchen. Yes, my name's Tara and I'm a lazy chef.

Take exhibit a. Here we have my lunch. How long did it take to make? Five minutes. I swear, just five minutes. Last night for supper, we had bison hump roast with roasted veggies consisting of brussel sprouts, cauliflower, shallots, and mushrooms. I make bone broth every weekend and have loads of it in my freezer. It's a definite staple in our home for everything from sauces, soups, curries, and just to sip out of a mug.

So, I threw the stock in a pot, put in some cubed leftover hump roast, threw in the leftover veggies and cut the tops off my beets to get some extra green stuff in there. I then snipped up a piece of wakame seaweed directly into the pot and heated it up for a couple of minutes. That's it. Super nutritious, filling, incredibly satisfying in that soul-comforting type of way, and delicious.

Take away message: a.) always cook more than you need so you have leftovers for a couple more meals  b.) bone broth is your friend  c.) eating well means planning ahead not slaving in a kitchen.

Stay tuned for my incredibly complicated meatloaf soup recipe.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fake Food, Big Bucks

Someone save that child.
I just came back from a jaunt to the grocery store. I had to pick up some green onions for the Kimchi I'll be starting later today. Every now and then, I like to take a walk through the aisles like some voyeur scoping out the new horrors being pumped out by the pretend-food factories.

How did we get to this place where the further we move away from real food, the more we forget that this stuff in the grocery store, this packaged, creamed, preserved, boxed and cellophane wrapped compilation of indiscernible ingredients is not food? Why do we buy it? I mean, why do we buy it literally, yes. But, why do we buy it, on a metaphorical level?

There was a vat of Kraft peanut butter being advertised as the latest and greatest food.  "It's NEW"!!  Hooray! Kraft has developed a new food product.  Time to celebrate. The peanut butter was "whipped" so it's easier to spread and use as a dip, or so says Kraft on the bottle. The bottle is full of pesticide laden peanuts, trans fats and a couple types of GMO sugars. Why do we agree to pay more for cheap chemicals? How have we been convinced that a peanut is not worth as much as a pretend peanut?

Awww... look at the cute little bears ready to bring you to heart attack heaven.
Peanuts should not make up part of anyone's diet due to the aflatoxin content, a carcinogenic mold, and because of the issues with consuming legumes. But still, I can't help but shudder when I see them take an already harmful food and look for ways to make it worse (more profitable).  Why have factory farmed dairy products when you can have factory farmed dairy products that are pasteurized and full of sugars and flavourings? Why eat pasta when they can sell you a sauce full of vegetable oils, artificial flavourings, and preservatives? Dump the pasta and the pasteurized dairy altogether. Why pay more for something that was detrimental to health even before they started making it worse?

They're trying to convince us that we can't do it ourselves anymore. We're losing our ability to preserve food, to store it, to culture and ferment foods the way our ancestors did. I can't tell you how many people I meet that marvel that I make my own stock or preserves. When we lose our ability to do these things, when we opt for simple, we teach our children what it is to trade health, tradition, independence for easy. The problem is, it's not easy in the long run. It's not 'simple and quick' when we are diseased, depressed, and fat.
My little laboratory. Kefir, raw milk yoghurts, butter, and creme fraiche, ghee, some kombucha, a jar of red wine vinegar with its mother, some kefired homemade apple cider, sauerkraut, lard, pastured bison tallow, and some raw grass-fed sheep cheese. Yum.

There's a great satisfaction, beyond the physical benefits, of creating and producing foods that are healing and nourishing. We teach our children by our example. They love us, they admire us, they believe us when we pick up a bucket of whipped peanut butter and tell them it's o.k. to eat it. We have to do better.

Further reading:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chocolate Baby Formula

Enfamil has discontinued its chocolate baby formula due to heavy criticism. Of course, there's still vanilla. You could always add a squirt of Nestle Quik and voila!  Instant fun.

I must have a pretty narrow group of comrades because I don't know a soul who would eat this, never mind feed it to their child. If you're interested in getting a peek into why our society's health has gone to hell in a hand basket, go check out the Enfamil page and scroll down to the bottom where the angry mom and dads are demanding Enfamil bring back the chocolate because their babies loved it, damn it.

No wonder our Canadian health care system is crumbling under the pressure of disease. I say Enfamil and all of the other junk food peddlers start contributing a % of every crap product they sell into our health care system. That way, when people inevitably get sick from all this pretend food, it will be the corporations who pay the price, not the individual taxpayer who is spending crazy amounts of money on quality food, gym memberships, and alternative care practitioners (ahem.. o.k., rant over).
Now, bacon formula.. that's something I could get behind.