Seared Scallops

 

Why can’t I write a simple post anymore? Seems like everything I eat, and therefore blog about, it not just food, there is always something else going on there. I guess the more conscious I have become about where my food comes from, the more stories are behind it. And in light of being transparent with you, my readers, I have been talking more lately about personal struggles along the way. I mentioned a few posts ago that we are trying to start a family and towards that goal, we have been trying to eat more seafood lately. Living in a landlocked state, although it boasts many rivers and lakes, there unfortunately doesn’t seem to be a lot of access to good fresh or local seafood. I would love if someone in my area that knows of a good place to get some local trout could let me know, though!

So since local seafood has been impossible to find up until this point, we have always tried to navigate the murky waters of cost vs. freshness vs. sustainability vs. etc. and murky waters they are. I eat a fair amount of canned tuna and salmon (wild caught), but Robert o is allergic to both of those. We both enjoy canned sardines and anchovies, yet, they are far from local. We also found some delicious canned mackerel from the coast of Maine, which we were so excited about, until we couldn’t seem to find it anywhere anymore. But recently I found an unlikely source for frozen wild caught salmon, cod and flounder.

DUN, DUN, DUN… Costco. Now I am NOT a fan of big box stores, and shop locally the majority of the time, but there are just a few things at our Costco that are not only good products, but budget friendly and fall into the category of “doing the best we can for now” or “why would I buy the exact same product for double the price just because I can buy it from a non-box-store?”. For example, imported cheeses – we can get a large container full of buffalo mozzarella from Italy for about $9, the same price that we can get at the local shops for ONE ball of the same stuff. Same goes for REAL Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto from Parma. I am the first one to shop locally, but I am also a thrifty consumer and I won’t overpay by double for something I can get for much less somewhere else for the exact same thing. That just doesn’t make good sense.

The second problem with seafood in this house is, aside from pan searing and making fish cakes (which we LOVE), I never know what to do with seafood. I also never know what to serve with it. We have not bought it much in the past years (except when we lived in Florida) because of the whole sustainability issue. But since we are trying to eat as well as we can, in hopes of boosting our fertility, we are making some hard choices.

But scallops are easy! Frozen seafood, like the sea scallops are also something we get from Costco, and nothing can be easier than pan searing them in butter and lemon juice. I like to serve them up simply on a bed of soft creamy polenta, or as an appetizer with some fresh homemade aioli and capers. We eat them as a snack this way, or sometimes a meal, served with a side of veggies. They are sweet and delicious, and so easy to prepare that we make this dish about twice a month. We try to eat some form of seafood at least 3-4 times per week. Right now, at this point in our lives, doing the pros and cons of everything, here we are.

Do you have any food situations in your life like this that you wish were different? Any local folks know of any gems I am missing?

Mother’s Day Brunch

 

(mom and me)

 

I know I am a little late with this. Mother’s Day has come and gone for this year. But I have had some things on my mind. For the past month or so, when it comes to blogging, I have been standing on my soapbox, discussing issues related to food, that are close to my heart – body image, omnivorism, homesteading, food sovereignty… But I am back to recipes now, and even though I made this for Mom on Mother’s day, this would be a great menu for any Sunday brunch and why not have one this weekend?

Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil
Local Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Local Maple Sausage Patties
Grain-free Coffee Cake
Homemade Yogurt and Berries with Maple
Fresh Brewed Coffee with Local Cream
Pear Bellini

I was blessed this Mother’s Day to have my mom in my company. See, she lives in Florida, and with us in Vermont, it isn’t easy to get together to celebrate all the special days in the year. But this year she decided to come to visit us for Mother’s Day and I wanted it to be special and memorable. I searched all around for a local place doing the typical nice Mother’s Day Brunch buffet, but was disappointed with the offerings. I was lamenting this on facebook, and someone suggested I make brunch myself, and that is exactly what I ended up doing. It ended up being great!

 

(Grain-Free Coffee Cake from The Spunky Coconut)

I recently purchased a copy of The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts: Gluten Free, Casein Free, and Often Egg FreeHealthy Diet Cooking Books) and I was really excited to try some baked goods. Kelly, the author, and The Spunky Coconut herself, uses a lot of white beans in the base of her baked goodies. Since I like to cook as grain free as possible, this really intrigued me. It has literally been YEARS, since I had a coffee cake, but I used to love them, so I decided to try Kelly’s grain free version. The cake was delicious and power-packed with nutrients– between the beans, the eggs and the nuts, it is full of good for you goodness, but not at the expense of flavor or texture – one of the biggest issues I have had with gluten-free baking. The only thing I would change about the recipe is to cut the amount of nuts. It was a bit too crunchy, where we would have preferred cakey.

 

(Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil)

The other main dish I prepared was a baked egg dish with eggs from our sweet hens, chanterelle and local oyster mushrooms, fresh chives from the garden and local goat cheese, all drizzled with the last of the white truffle oil we got in Italy, while with Roberto’s mom. It seemed a fitting way to honor her in the meal, even if she couldn’t be with us to share it.

We also had roasted potatoes, maple sausage from Applecheek Farm delicious locally roasted brewed coffee from Barista’s Beans, and homemade yogurt with local blueberries and currants (both harvested last year and frozen for winter eating), drizzled with local maple syrup and to top it all off, pear bellini (sparkling wine/champagne and pear nectar).

 

(Farmchic Tablescape)

It was an elegant (for us!) and casual brunch all at once and we had a lot of good laughs and enjoyable conversation all together. We had flowers on the table and fresh linens, which is about as fancy as we get here on the homestead!

Grain-Free Coffee Cake from The Spunky Coconut

Set oven to 325 F

Add to food processor:
2 cups of room temperature cooked beans – navy or great Northern.
6 eggs
¾ tsp vanilla liquid stevia *
1 tsp vanilla extract*
1/3 cup honey*
*I didn’t have the liquid stevia, so instead I just used a little extra honey with the vanilla extract
Puree well

Add:
¼ cup coconut oil, liquefied
1/3 cup coconut flour
½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Puree well, pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan

Crumble Topping:
Puree:
3 cups walnuts (I used soaked almonds, since I am allergic to walnuts, and next time I think I will use @2 cups instead)
2 TBS ghee or coconut oil
½ cup coconut sugar
1 TBS cinnamon
Spread the crumble over the top of the batter. Using a fork or knife, really swirl the topping into the batter, and pat the topping down. Bake for about 25 minutes. Great hot, or cold from the refrigerator, store in the fridge.

Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil

INGREDIENTS:
2 large fresh oyster mushrooms
A palm full of reconstituted dried chanterelle mushrooms
2 TBS butter
2 TBS fresh chives
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
5 large fresh eggs
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
Salt & pepper
1 TBS white truffle oil

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium sized cast iron skillet sauté the mushrooms with the butter. Add one TBS of the chives. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on the bottom of a silicon round cake pan. Scramble eggs in a separate bowl with salt and pepper, add the sautéed mushrooms and chives to the eggs and then pour into the cake pan and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the egg is cooked and drizzle with the truffle oil.

Smoked Mackerel Salad and My Journey from Vegetarian to Omnivore

 

Have many of you bought a fish like this? With the eyes still there? This was a new experience for me. Even though I am no stranger to the cycles of life and how food gets to my plate, I never bought or ate a whole fish before. I have not really cooked much seafood in my kitchen career, but I do enjoy it. I love smoked fishes, and there is a store sort of near to us called Healthy Living, that actually sells several varieties of whole smoked fishes. The last time we were there, they had this guy, for about $9, which is a steal if you are used to buying smoked fillets. So with an adventurous spirit, I bought it, bones, fins, eyes and all.

Funny story interlude…so Healthy Living also has a great variety of local meats and sustainable seafood– things like pork, beef, venison, lamb, duck, chicken – pretty much you name it, it has probably graced their shelves at some point. So I like to go every so often, and buy a small variety. So on the day we bought Mr. Mackerel, we also bought some Highland grassfed beef, duck rillettes, some venison shanks, several packages of chicken wings, pork belly, cans of tuna, fresh marinated anchovies etc. That was all we bought – no veggies, no fruit, and no dairy. So we get to the check-out line, and our cashier was kind of scowling at us. Her lips were pursed and her nose wrinkled like she smelled something really foul. As she was scanning our box of meat, she was only touching the corners of the packages and moving them across the scanner as quickly as possible. Then it dawned on me, and I said “I hope you aren’t a vegetarian”, and she responded, “No, I am a vegan, actually”. SCREEEECH. Talk about a clash of cultures.

But it really got me thinking about my days as a vegan (all 6 months of them), and I felt like, even though we take very different approaches, this girl and I both care about the welfare of animals and are taking action to opt out against the inhumane slaughter of them for human consumption. She was young, so you never know where her path might lead. When I was a vegan, and a vegetarian (for 10 years) I never in a million years would have thought I would raise animals for meat. But once I saw first-hand how animals can be raised humanely and with love and respect, for consumption, and how feeding your family from the sweat of your brow and your own hands is more honorable than buying non-meat items that are subsidized by the government, (like soy, a major vegetarian protein and something I ate a lot of) to the detriment of us all, animals included…and when I learned enough about the natural world that I had been so disconnected from, and learned that even if I was a vegetarian, in order to eat, animals had to die, I decided there had to be a better way, a way where I could take full responsibility for the food on my plate while at the same time take my place in the natural world, as a part of it- and this is one of the reasons I do what I do on the homestead – because I love animals and because I am an animal. To the cashier that probably sounds so backwards, but I have been forward, back and back again!

 

So anyway, back to Mr. Mackerel…like I said, I love smoked fishes, and I wanted to showcase this beautiful fish in a nice spring dish. I decided on a mackerel salad. Mackerel is packed with protein and essential fatty acids. It has a nice meaty texture and smoked it is just delicious! One of our favorites. To make the salad, I mixed together half of the fish (after I opened it up, took the bones out, etc) with 2 hard -boiled eggs, capers, roasted red peppers a splash of red wine vinegar and a touch of homemade mayo. I then served it on a bed of greens. We dined al fresco on the porch looking at the mountain and admiring the buds on the trees, the greening of the grass and the beautiful tulips in bloom.

Also, don’t forget – you have a few more days to enter for your chance to win the book Root Cellaring, and to get your very own Leftover Queen Award  ! I want to hear your tips -what are some small things do you do in your kitchens that make you a “Leftover Queen”?

Revelations in Eating: My (almost) Grain-Free Experiment

 

Doesn’t this look tasty? It is a lemon tart – not only is it gluten-free but grain-free. I made it as part of our Beltaine or May Day feast. Spring seem to be making a stronger appearance here in the North-North East and on April 30th we celebrated by blessing the fields, soon to be planted, and our animals. We also had our first fire pit of the year and enjoyed this amazing tart (see recipe info at the end of the post)…there is also fun contest info at the bottom of this post – so don’t miss that! Here comes another long one…I can wait until you get settled…:) OK, here we go.

Over the past few years I have tried a number of modified eating plans. I don’t use the D-word “diet”, because it alludes to something you do for a short period of time and then after go back to an un-healthy way of eating. “Lifestyle Change” doesn’t quite fit here either, because I already lead a pretty healthy lifestyle. For me it is not about “healthy” – it is about optimum health, about feeling the best I can and as someone who has been “tired” most of her life and can be “moody” – both to the point where it is sometimes a hindrance, I am always looking for the magic bullet to put everything back in balance. I believe food can heal, so put those two together and you have a person who has been tweaking her way of eating here and there for optimum health, for the past decade, at least.

This is not an easy post to write. I have shared a lot with my readers about my life on this blog – my thoughts on food, health, food politics and even religion over the past year. But talking about body image and health struggles are not so easy. There are just as many things wrong with our society’s demands on people to “fit in” as there is with our food system…and don’t even get me started on body image. But these are all things we struggle with in some way.

When I posted on my facebook page that I was going to be doing the 4-Hour Body “diet” for a month, people were very interested in the whys, the hows, etc. I started posting photos of many of my meals to give people examples of how to eat this way. I did not start this eating plan to lose weight. Well, it wasn’t my main motivation in any case. My main motivation was to detox from grains and sugar and this “slow carb” plan seemed very sensible. I will state for the record that I don’t agree with everything in the book and I am not a Tim Ferris advocate. I just like the simplicity of the food plan – no “white stuff” (grains, flours, potatoes), no sugar and no dairy (although I was allowed one TBS of cream in my coffee in the morning and I didn’t give up my daily kefir).

These past few months have been interesting. Despite raising chickens, I stopped eating eggs because Roberto and I are trying to start a family and have been unsuccessful thus far. I heard from several different friends that food allergies or sensitivities caused problems for them conceiving. I was told by my doctor to not eat gluten (a known sensitivity I have) or eggs. So in order to make up for the lack of eggs (and I eat a lot of eggs), I started eating more grains, a food group that I have had issues with my whole life. For several months I ate this way. My strength started to wane, I was tired all the time, my body felt like lead most days and my moods were not as good as they should have been. I was easily overwhelmed which is not a good thing in my busy life. I do happen to trust my doctor with my health, and yet sometimes doctors aren’t 100% right and your body tells the real story. I think that was the case with the eggs and I am glad I listened. I started eating eggs again, having 2 with dinner one night, and the next morning I was feeling better. Then I started the 4-Hour Body plan.

I took all my measurements the day I started the plan because I have “problem areas” just like everyone else. I heard a great many people successfully lose weight with this plan, I had put on a few extra pounds gorging on grains, and so I figured it would be fun to see if I lost those stubborn pounds I have had my whole life, in addition to the extras I gained from the grains.

Monday marked my one month period…and of course the sheet with all my measurements? Gone. I was very upset about this. I felt that I had worked really hard this month keeping away from grains, starchy foods and sugar (of any kind, including fruit) and I wanted quantitative results. Someone said that maybe that was the Universe’s way of telling me the numbers don’t matter, it is how I feel that matters. I must say that I do feel better. But like many, I have struggled all my life with body image, and when I look in the mirror, my brain does not give me an accurate representation of what my eyes actually see. So for me it is important when monitoring change to have something real and tangible to go on, because I can always convince myself that I feel better.

Regardless of all of that, a few important lessons came out of this experiment:

1) Do not entrust your husband with important papers, like measurements, just as an example…lol

2) On Saturdays, according to the 4-Hour Body guidelines, I was allowed to eat anything I wanted – a “binge” day. Which is why I say my experiment were “almost” grain free. My “binges” were raw or cultured dairy products, soaked buckwheat pancakes, breads made with quinoa or oats and potatoes for the most part. Oh and ice cream, and I realized those things had no negative effects on my body or mind when I introduced them back in. So going forward I will continue to eat buckwheat, quinoa and oats.

3) The only foods I really really missed were my buckwheat pancakes. Potatoes came in second and dairy products third. That surprised me, because I am crazy about cheese, but it is the truth.

4) Soaking my grains before eating them makes a world of difference. I have talked before about why I soak grains for digestibility. During those few months I wasn’t eating eggs, I was eating a variety of gluten-free breads and baked goods that I did not make, and therefore were not soaked, and I believe that was the real detriment in all of this.

5) Eggs are vitally important to my health. There are certain foods that my brain and body just love, that helps me stay in balance emotionally and physically – one of those foods are eggs, another is buckwheat.

6) Exercise is a must for me. The balance between hard physical work (in the form of strenuous farm chores, or exercise) and lots of healthy fats keep me sane and joyful.

7) My body is the way it is and I am at my ideal body weight. This is the hard one, and one that I will have a hard time remembering the lesson. Like I said, I have been tweaking for decades, I have done low carb, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, South Beach, low-fat, WAPF, and now 4-Hour Body. When I was a teen, I was an exercise addict to the point that it wasn’t healthy for me and even with all that, I have never ever had a flat stomach or a tight ass. I know what you are saying – few people do. I know that too, but it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with the fact that I don’t. I may have legs like tree trunks (one of the things I love about my body and something I have worked hard for this last year), but I have been conditioned through books, TV and movies to believe I should have a flat stomach and a tight ass and I fight that conditioning every day.

8*) The way I have eaten over the past (almost) 2 years, using the guidelines of the Weston Price Foundation (for more info read the PDF Healthy4Life) and applying Michael Pollan’s 80/20 rule to those guidelines helped me to lose 10 lbs in 2009, keep it off and maintain my weight for the past 2 years. A feat that no other way of eating ever has, and it has sustained me through rigorous weight training, kettle bell programs and the physical demands that running a small homestead requires. When I stick to that, the majority of the time, I feel awake, happy and strong. Some days I don’t, but I am not perfect and probably never will be! I have to remind myself that I am not Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Sarah Connor, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to be the healthiest and strongest I can be.

9) That said, I do believe that different things work for different people. I wish I could tell you that we are all programmed the same way, and you could just learn from my experiments, and what your magic bullet is, but I can’t. But one thing is for sure– whole foods, local foods, seasonal foods, non-GMO, non-packaged, non-processed and non-industrialized foods are best for everyone. But the ratios of carbs to fats to proteins may vary. I also believe, although I have had many argue with me, that if we eat the food our ancestors ate most of the time, we will feel better.

So what will I eat going forward? I will eat what we grow on the homestead and meats and veggies from local farms. I will be sticking to the Weston Price Foundation Guidelines. I will be sticking to buckwheat, quinoa and oats in the grain department. I will enjoy healthy fats. I will joyfully eat and drink full fat dairy. I will eat potatoes. I will gorge on berries, especially when they are in season. But I will limit my starchy foods to 1-2 servings a day at most. Some days I might not have any. And I will eat eggs to my heart’s content* I will also continue exploring my various cultural heritages through food.

What my readers can look forward to:

1) More Let’s Get Cultured! posts on making cultured dairy products at home
2) More homemade (and lacto-fermented) condiments
3) Experiments in grain free desserts and baked goods
4) More Gluten-Free and Grain-Free recipes
5) Egg recipes!

*Before I stopped eating eggs, I got my cholesterol tested (so did Roberto). My general doctor described our results as “perfect”. She said it was clear we ate well and took care of ourselves. This is on a diet of 2-3 eggs per DAY, full fat dairy, other animal fats, butter, etc. But I will state for the record that the sources of our foods are good quality – grass-fed animals and pastured animals, organics, non-GMO, local and sustainable, etc. To me, that is what makes all the difference.

Gluten and Grain Free Lemon Tart
From The Spunky Coconut (the pie crust) and Simply Sugar & Gluten Free (refined sugar free lemon curd – the only think I changed was substitute honey for agave) – if you like Amy’s Lemon curd recipe, you are sure to love all her other recipes! The Foodie Blogroll is giving away 8 copies this month – so please go check it out!

Also, don’t forget the Leftover Queen Awards and Giveaway going on until May 15th! I want to hear your tips -what are some small things do you do in your kitchens that make you a “Leftover Queen”?

Leftover Queen Award Contest and a Giveaway!

 

(This time last year…Spring 2010)

I have been talking a lot recently on this blog about living a life of truth and honor and how that relates to food and lifestyle choices for me and my family. Some of our choices may seem extreme or out of reach to others, and that is where the importance of “baby steps” comes in. Small things we can all do and do in fact do, every day between busy lives and hectic schedules to affirm or re-affirm our commitment to the environment, the food system and other major themes which choices result in the quality of our health and livelihood.

Sometimes it is hard to know where to start, but we can all learn from each other and in learning from each other, I think we will also realize how much we are already doing to this end.

For me, The Leftover Queen is my way to share the simple ways that I follow this path every day. My cooking philosophy is largely built on making incredible, yet simple meals with what you already have on hand, leftovers, etc.– “waste not want not” pretty much sums it up. It is about sharing tips on how I make sure to have the materials on hand (my own “convenience foods”) to make delicious and healthful meals for my family and also how to make the things we eat every day from scratch – things like cheese, yogurt, kefir and condiments and how to grow your own – whether it is a garden or animals for eggs, dairy or even meat.

So I want to hear from you, my dear readers, so we can learn from each other – what tips do you have or what are some small things do you do in your kitchens that make you a “Leftover Queen”?

A tip can be something as easy as this one:
When making pancakes, double the batch, and then freeze them for a quick breakfast or snack during the week by popping them in your toaster or warming in the oven.

Leave a comment with your tip in the comment box, and when you do, I will send you this cool Leftover Queen Award. You can display it on your blog or website, proudly!

The Leftover Queen Award

I am not in this alone though! I am doing this together with my friend Outlaw Bunny who is also known as the “Upcycling Queen”. If you are crafty and into DIY, check out the contest she is running alongside this one, and you can win both awards!

To make this even more fun, and since we are in the beginning of garden season, I will be giving away a copy of Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & VegetablesCanning & Preserving Books) to one lucky person who has commented on this post! This is a great book about the art of root cellaring. If you have always wanted to store and preserve delicious vegetables for winter eating, this book is an enormous resource. It gives ideas and designs for root cellars for any living situation, even if you live in an apartment.

If you tweet about this contest, let me know in another comment and you will have another chance to win the book.
This contest will close on Sunday May 15, 2011. I will be contacting the winner on Monday May 16th. The winner has until Wednesday May 18th to respond or another winner will be chosen.