“Greek” Green Beans

 

I am going to start off by stating clearly, that I  make no claims to the authenticity of this recipe.  I got it from one of my very first cookbooks, ever, when I was still in high school. “Greek Green Beans” is just what we have been calling it for years. The book is called A Little Greek CookbookCooking, Food & Wine References) and it was given to me by my mom as a gift when I discovered my love for Mediterranean cuisine. There are some great tasting recipes in there and I have been using it ever since.

I have been making this dish for about 20 years now! I have only eaten something similar in one Greek restaurant that was near my house growing up –Athens Grill, so maybe it is a regional dish? The restaurant was a family restaurant, owned by Greek immigrants from Athens. I loved their food so much and begged my mom to take me there often! We used to get gyro platters, or souvlaki served with Greek salad, pita bread and the best French fries ever. Sometimes we would eat at the restaurant, al fresco, on little wrought iron tables right off the parking lot. Other times, we would take it home to eat while watching a movie. I thought it was the best food ever. What I wouldn’t give to pop over there for lunch today!

In the cookbook, the name they give this recipe is Fasolakia Freska or Green Bean Casserole, in English. It is a simple recipe with a lot of flavor. I am making it tonight to accompany some pan seared fish. But it also goes well with chicken or beef dishes, and of course lamb. Sometimes I like to sprinkle feta cheese on it, and eat a large bowl full for lunch. This is a great recipe to double – and it is also one of those recipes that tastes all the better a day or two later. It has a large amount of olive oil in it – but don’t skimp on it – that is what makes this dish so rich and flavorful.

Normally I follow the recipe as is, but sometimes I might add Kalamata olives for bite, or pearl onions instead of the sliced onions, for pretty. You can also omit the potatoes, but that would be silly.

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb of fresh green beans, topped and tailed (I have also used frozen with great success)
1 large onion, finely sliced – or half a bag of pearl onions
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 cup olive oil
14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
This is not part of the recipe, but I usually add some oregano as well.

METHOD:
Slice beans in half, rinse and drain. Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil until pale golden. Add beans and potatoes and sauté together until well coated in the oil. Add the tomatoes and seasoning. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes or until beans and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a little hot water to keep from burning. This can be served hot, or at room temperature.

Isn’t it fun trying something from one of your favorite restaurants? I thought so too.

The Bleater Sisters and Why I Grow My Own

(Iona and Inga, affectionately known as,”The Bleater Sisters”, getting acquainted with Claire, their new herd-mate)

If you haven’t seen my new blog, Got Goats? , please check it out. There are some great pictures and cute animal videos on there of our two Alpine Goats, Astrid and Claire as well as our two newest additions, two Shetland sheep – Iona and Inga. We have had some fun adventures getting to know them over the past week. I was joking on facebook over the weekend, that I have a new idea for an exercise video – “Getting in Shape with Sheep” – get a sheep or two, a nice big outdoor pen and a sheep lead, and then try to catch them. I promise, you will be in shape in no time!

So why all the animals? Yes, they are cute and good for your glutes, but that is not the reason we have them (well, not entirely, anyway). In the past year, since we moved to our little homestead in Northern Vermont, we have acquired 16 more animals, bringing us to a total of 19 animals under our care. For some people, it may seem like a lot. Some days, it FEELS like a lot. But it has become what we believe is vital for our health and our ability to thrive.

Moving from city or suburban life to the country has its growing pains, but for us, it was something we just had to do. Disillusioned with being a slave to the system that lets you have just enough money to pay the bills every month with no security was too risky for us. In a world becoming less and less secure every day, we decided to do away with things we didn’t really need and put that money into tangible things, practical purposes that will serve us over the long run in these hard economic times. So we have no cable, no iPods, and just one car. I cook the majority of our meals from scratch and we buy animals and seeds to feed ourselves, a small price to pay for security.

Food prices are increasing, the economy continues to plummet and they are finding everything from Staph to Ammonia in supermarket meat. Eggs, vegetables and peanut butter are getting recalled at an alarming rate.

(Delicious farm fresh egg, from our hens)

We have just had enough and have decided to take full responsibility for our health and food. As one of my heroes, Joel Salatin says, we have chosen to “opt-out” of our modern food system. This system is built on misinformation, disease – both for the animals we eat, and for us. Our food culture in the great USA, has become one based on fear, not food. Many people think is OK to eat supermarket meat with ammonia and processed foods full of additives, but raw milk, straight from the animal, is illegal in many states, and eating a raw egg from your own backyard hens or making your own lacto-fermented condiments gets people up in arms. This is pure madness and the only way I see out of it is to grow your own, or buy from local farms and businesses that you know and trust. Not only is this the best way to keep yourself healthy, but it contributes to keeping your local economy robust, and helping your neighbors to make a living doing one of the most natural things humans can do – providing fresh food.

I have been talking a lot recently about food sovereignty and the loss of our birthright to fresh, real foods. Another one of my heroes, Winona La Duke asks “How can you talk about sovereignty, if you can’t feed your people?” I believe this is why there has been an increase in young and women farmers in the past decade. People know that our food system is sick and are trying to help turn the tide by becoming active participants in making a better, more sustainable food system. In March Sedgewick, Maine became the first US town to declare Food Sovereignty for its people. What does this mean? It means that consumers there can choose to purchase local food from any food producer without the interference of government regulations. So if you want to buy eggs or raw milk from your neighbor, you can without the government stepping in, regulating it.

(My favorite local farm, Applecheek).

I have talked on this blog before about why I support local farms, and why I became a homesteader. It all comes down to whether you believe that you have the right to choose for yourself and your family what foods to eat. We are raising a lot of our food now because we don’t believe that the majority of food out there, at grocery stores, chain restaurants, airports, rest stops, etc. are safe. We personally believe that un-healthy food has become so much the norm, that it has basically infiltrated the entire food system. Restaurants and grocery stores more often than not, get their food shipped in from faraway places, rather than relying on the bounty of their own town, state, region or country for that matter. To us, that is about as broken a food system as you can get. By raising our food and purchasing from local farms and businesses, we are using our dollars to vote for something else. We are voting for a strong and healthier future, physically, and economically. The sheep, the goats and the chickens are all part of that future.

(The first egg from our flock of heritage breed hens)

But in order for me to sell eggs, or in the future dairy products to my neighbors or local community, I have to be in constant fear of breaking some rule or regulation that has no place. If people are allowed to risk cancer and liver cirrhosis everyday by smoking and consuming alcohol – all legal and sanctioned by the government, why in the world should it be so bloody hard to sell milk or eggs to your neighbor? I promise that I will get back to posting recipes soon. But these issues seem to be getting worse and worse every day and it is hard to post about recipes, when there is so much at stake, things that are just basic human necessities and rights, things that are so important for our future.

If these issues are important to you, here are some suggestions:
* Check out Local Harvest to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies. They also have an online catalog. Many local farms provide CSAs, herd-shares or farm-shares. In most areas you can find produce, dairy products and eggs locally.

* If you live in a big city, find some farms outside the city limits and talk to them about starting a buying club. You will be surprised that many already do this. Check out your local health food store and ask them to start carrying local products and if you do shop at the grocery store and they ask you when you are checking out if you found everything you were looking for – tell them no, you are looking for local produce/milk/eggs, etc. Voting with your dollars, meaning where you chose to buy your food, makes a big impact on the food system. The more people who “opt-out” or demand local food, the more the stores will have to start catering towards that. So be heard!

* If you have a yard of any kind, you will be surprised at how much you can grow. If local ordinances allow, and many do, you can raise a few backyard chickens for eggs or pygmy goats for milk. One of the best books about that is The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!Outdoor & Recreational Area Gardening Books). But even a small container garden on a patio or balcony can keep you in fresh veggies and herbs through the warm months – which are right around the corner, so start planning! If you want to learn more about raising backyard chickens for eggs or meat (one of the easiest animals to raise for food), check out my friend Diana’s post at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Urban Chicken Keeping 101. Or if produce is your thing, check out Nourished Kitchen’s guide to Cold Weather Container Crops you can grow at home!

I don’t expect everyone to start homesteading and I know many people right now don’t believe they have the resources to find or buy good food. But it is out there, most likely not too far from you, and surprisingly affordable. Buying meat in bulk or subscribing to a CSA is cheaper than buying certain cuts of organic meat or organic produce at the grocery store and it is fresher too. Farmers want your business, they want to feed their local community and many will work with you to help you get the good stuff reasonably. You never know until you ask!

You don’t have to eat a 100% local or organic diet to make a difference either. It is about baby steps and small changes. Even if you make a commitment to buy what you can locally, or to buy only US produce, it is a lot. Don’t become dogmatic about it, or make yourself crazy, but do what you can and if you do what you can every day over the course of a year those small changes will make a big difference.
* Most importantly, keep up to date on local, state and federal regulations and ordinances that affect your ability to grow your own food or buy food direct from farmers or neighbors. If you disagree with what is happening to our food system, please let your voice be heard.

 

This is post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. Link up and share all that you do to live a simple and intentional life!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos (or Bowls)with Kefir Cream

 

I love the combination of black beans and sweet potatoes, it has been a staple combination in my kitchen for a long time, as illustrated by a post I wrote 4 years ago! A blast from the past: Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans and a Food Philosophy! Fun to see that my food philosophy has remained the same since way back then, too.

When we used to live in Saint Augustine, Florida, we had a Saturday morning tradition. We would go to the farmers market and load up on veggies, fruits and other supplies for the week, and on our way out, we would get two black bean and sweet potato burritos to go. Then we would stop at the beach on the way home and enjoy our breakfast listening to the waves crash, a great way to start the weekend off, right.

It has been a while since we had black bean and sweet potato burritos, and so we decided one night to make them. I always have a variety of presoaked, partially cooked beans in jars in my freezer. This makes cooking beans for a dish very convenient, plus cheaper and tastier than beans from a can. I also have gotten into the habit of partially cooking some sweet and white potatoes in bulk as well, so they cook up fast when needed.

So I basically just combined these two elements I already had. I finished cooking the beans in homemade chicken stock. Then I transferred them to my cast iron skillet where I sautéed them in coconut oil, added spices like cumin, coriander, hot pepper and basil, then mashed them. While I was cooking these, I cut up the sweet potatoes into chunks and drizzled them with olive oil. Then I roasted them in a 425 F oven for about 15 minutes.

To assemble the burritos, I placed some of the smashed beans on a brown rice tortilla, added the sweet potatoes, some grated cheddar cheese, hot sauce and my favorite salsa, then topped it with kefir cream before rolling them up to eat. You can also add jalapenos, guac, or anything else you like in your burritos. If you are grain-free, which I am this month (maybe longer), you can just make a bowl of all these yummy ingredients and skip the tortilla!

The kefir cream was an accident. I was straining it one morning, and had to run outside for some reason or other. When I came back in, the kefir had separated from the whey (the whey was in the bowl under the strainer) leaving a luscious cream in the strainer. So I tasted it, and it was just like sour cream – absolutely delicious! If you don’t brew dairy kefir at home, you can just use a good quality sour cream, or delicious quark .

This is really a quick meal to whip up especially if you have the ingredients on hand already and partially cooked. This is why I always encourage people to take part of their weekend, like I do, to spend an hour or two in the kitchen getting prepped for the week. It saves a lot of time and hassle later in the week and ensures that you have time to feed your family delicious and healthy meals all week long, when life is a lot more hectic, with very little effort.

INGREDIENTS:

@ 1 cup of black beans

@ 2 small sweet potatoes

Optional: brown rice tortillas, salsa, guacamole, kefir cream, sour cream, quark, hot sauce, jalapenos, shredded cheese, etc.

Everything is to taste! Use what you have on hand! How easy is that?!

This served 2 adults 2 burritos – and there was a little bit of leftovers that we used for breakfast the next morning and served with eggs.

Irish Stout Lamb Stew and Colcannon

 

 

I keep posting the last of my winter recipes in the hopes that I get them in before they are irrelevant. I think this is my last one! If you live in New England, this post will most likely hit the spot on a day like today. We woke up this morning to more snow, but now it has changed to rain. Mamma Nature sure is temperamental this time of year! She is as old as the dawn of time, so I imagine she has the right to her own ways of doing things!

This post is long overdue. In fact the meal graced our tables in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day or All Snakes Day, if you are of the Pagan persuasion. But there were some things I needed to get off my chest before I posted any more recipes. I am still really interested in people’s thoughts on sustainability, local foods, etc. So please feel free to get your two cents in on the comments on that post.

Anyway, for me March 17 is not a religious holiday at all. It is just a day where I can celebrate Irish culture and food, with millions of others of Irish decent all over the world! I love the picture above. In fact it makes me laugh. In the photo most of my ancestries are accounted for: Irish stout, served in a stein made in Germany that says Scotland on it! Pretty funny, right!?

Anyway, this was a really hearty and delicious meal. The stew was easy to put together. I browned the lamb cubes in coconut oil (my favorite oil to brown meat in, as it has a high smoke point and it seems to brown more evenly) in my cast iron skillet. I then deglazed the pan with about 1/3 cup of stout and cooked until the liquid evaporated. Then I drank the rest of it, while I cooked! I used Murphy’s Irish Stout. I am of the opinion that it is better than Guinness. I threw the meat in my tagine along with cubed turnips, chunks of carrots, onion and some garlic. I spiced it with salt and pepper, thyme and beau monde seasoning. I added a little more stout and put a few pats of butter on top. Then I cooked it at 350 F for about 2 hours. It came out super tender and extremely flavorful.

For the colcannon, I sautéed thinly sliced green cabbage in my cast iron skillet. I then added some cider vinegar, and put the lid on. I let it cook down for about for about 15 minutes over low heat. I had boiled 2 large potatoes earlier, which I mashed and stirred in with the cabbage along with a splash of cream and a nice healthy portion of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and serve. It was a wonderful side dish, which we really enjoyed.

The leftovers were even better the next day!