Venison Stew

 

Venison_Stew_2014

I was tempted to call this recipe Venison Bourguignon but since I did not use a Burgundy wine, I felt like an imposter. Although the famous Julia Child didn’t have that issue, you’ll see in the recipe she offers other choices of wines to braise this dish with. Personally, I decided to go with a more humble name for this fantastically flavorful dish. It probably doesn’t do it justice because it is so darn good!

I followed Julia Child’s instructions for Boeuf A La Bourguignonne pretty much to a T, but added some extra spices that go especially well with venison and also changed the main ingredient.

Long time readers of this blog know of my passion for knowing where my food comes from and honoring it by making sure to purchase from as many local farms as I can, or use what we grow ourselves.

I love venison but it is not easy to get. There are deer farms here in Vermont, but the farmers have difficulty getting them processed because of their antlers, so although you can find VT venison in the high-end stores on occassion, it isn’t ever a regular thing. Some of you know I have even tried my hand at bow hunting deer, unsuccessfully, which is the way I would prefer to procure my venison…maybe someday.

Due to its scarcity and my love for it, when I do get my hands on some, either from a store or from friends who have a surplus from hunting, I always treat it with the most respect. Roberto and I often talk about how disappointed we are if we go out to eat and the meal was not all it could be. As animals on this planet, we as humans must eat living things in order to live ourselves. This is something we take seriously in this household and so for us, when food is not treated with respect and done well, we always feel a sense of sadness. Therefore, when I am able to get a rare treat, like venison, I will take the extra time to do all the little steps necessary to bring it to its highest potential, like this venison stew.

I always do my best to treat all my food with the respect it deserves. Cooking is definitely part of my spiritual life. Sometimes, I will take less steps if it is made from something more readily available. But with the venison it was important for me to take those extra steps. So that is why I took extra time to prepare this the way Julia Child did. I often enjoy making meals with “extra steps” on Sundays – we make a general rule of staying home on Sundays and so it is nice to have the extra time to play in the kitchen.

I also added some wild game blend seasoning I have to this dish. It is a mixture of juniper berry, brown sugar, garlic, savory and mustard powder as well as a hint of beau monde, a typical French seasoning that compliments hearty stews. I also added a turnip. I added these extra components because they go great with venison and stews and we like adding them. Although I also like respecting classic recipes and following them (one of the only times I actually follow a recipe, because classics are hard to improve upon), I also believe in using what you like and in Julia Child’s Bourguignon it is more about the techniques than the seasonings. Plus Julia was a bit of a renegade so I don’t think she minds.

Venison Stew
(Serves 5)

INGREDIENTS:

3 oz. organic bacon, if you don’t have a local source, I recommend Applegate Farms Organic
1 TBS olive oil
1 lb. of venison stewing meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, cubed
1 turnip, cubed
1 onion, diced
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp wild game blend
1 tsp beau monde
1 TBS buckwheat flour (or any other flour of your choice, I used buckwheat because I had some leftover freshly ground)
1 cup full bodied red wine (Julia recommends: Chianti, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy, she also recommends accompanying this meal with one of those)
1 cup of beef stock, preferably homemade
1 TBS tomato paste
1 clove smashed garlic
½ tsp thyme
a crumbled bay leaf
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms that have been sautéed in butter

METHOD: Preheat oven to 325 F. Then cut bacon into small square pieces and sauté in oil over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes to brown slightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry the venison in paper towels; if the meat is damp it won’t brown. Sauté it a few pieces at a time in the hot oil and bacon fat, adding more if needed (depends on how fatty your bacon is – pasture raised and organic bacons tend to be lean and therefore don’t produce as much fat) until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the reserved bacon.

In the same fat, brown all the vegetables. If you have excess fat at this time, drain it from the pan.

Speaking of pans, I used my Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Moroccan Tagine to make this recipe, I use it for all of my stews, unless I am using my crockpot. You can also use a Dutch oven, but in any case your vessel must be oven proof.

Return beef and bacon to the pan with the veggies. At this point you can also add your sautéed mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and all your spices and toss. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat everything. Adding the flour will slightly thicken the liquid as it cooks.

In a separate bowl combine the wine, broth and tomato paste. Pour over the meat mixture, and then add the smashed garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then set the lid on the casserole and set in the lower third of the preheated oven. Simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours, checking every 45 minutes or so for liquid. With the tagine, you don’t have to worry, but if you are using something else, check. Add more broth or wine as necessary. As Julia also often recommended, have some wine yourself at this point, while the dish cooks!

Julia recommends serving this dish the boiled potatoes as is tradition, but says it can also be served with rice or buttered noodles. If you wish to serve a vegetable with it, she recommends buttered peas – so do I!

This dish can also be made ahead. To reheat, simmer for about 10-15 minutes, making sure to keep an eye on the liquid amount.

Seafood Stew & My Ongoing Path to Wholeness: Part 1

Fish Stew

 

When I make and eat this stew, which I have several times already in the past few months, I feel like I am aligning with everything I want to when it comes to food in my life right now. I am eating something wholesome, bursting with flavor, absolutely nourishing, not to mention satisfying and when I am through eating, I feel good, not heavy and not deprived.

Over the last few months I have changed my relationship with food. This is probably a process that will be ongoing for the rest of my life, but I hope not. I hope to be the woman in the vision I had a few months ago. Sitting at a large table, outside, under a pergola. We are surrounded by hills of farmland and trees. The sun is warm on my skin and I see it glistening over everything. There is a beautiful breeze blowing and the air smells so clean with a hint of wood fire smoke lingering. There is laughter in the air and the murmuring of a large group of people. The table is crowded with family and friends and it is laden with delicious dishes – homegrown fruits and vegetables, succulent seafood, cheeses, olives, cold cuts, fresh baked bread, wine, various kinds of salads and a gorgeous dish of pasta, glistening with the freshest tomatoes and olive oil, the scent wafting in the air. I make a plate for Alba and then a plate for myself and I eat it all, enjoying each bite, savoring each moment.

In my body I feel light as a feather, nothing heavy weighing me down, physically, mentally or emotionally. In that moment I am happy, so happy I could just dance with glee. I feel free and vibrant, utterly alive and primal and full of the love that is in my life.

Over the past several months upon returning home after an extended trip to Italy, I have come to really embrace Italian eating habits and some of the Italian way of life. Before this last trip, I spent the last 3 years battling Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition that is currently under control. I was overwhelmingly tired, putting on weight quickly, developing some skin conditions and I was reacting to various foods. In my quest for optimum health, I turned towards the Paleo diet since it is touted as an anti-inflammatory diet that is especially good for autoimmune conditions.

I truly believed this way of eating would help me lose the weight I put on, clear up my rosacea and eczema, give me the energy of someone in their early 20’s and allow me to get super fit and buff again. The idea of Primal/Paleo appealed to me because I never did well as a vegetarian (in hindsight, I think being a low-fat veggie for over 10 years led to some of my health issues) and I liked the idea of sticking to certain foods and not having to count calories. All the books, blogs and articles led me to believe as long as I stayed away from the “bad foods” and ate of the “good foods” I would be at my optimal health. It was a done deal I had this thing beat. I was on my way!

In addition to starting a new regimen of supplements prescribed to me by my naturopath and which actually helped IMMENSLY, I also spent a lot of time eliminating foods from my diet – eggs, dairy, beans, corn, soy, refined sugar, in rotation trying to find the magic bullet to feel as wonderful as all the books, articles and blogs I read told me I would feel. Then when it didn’t, I would beat myself up and try to figure out what I was doing wrong.

I concentrated my efforts in the kitchen on making gut healthy foods – lots of ferments like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and yogurt. I made my own condiments and never ate sugar. I also quit coffee and tea. I took probiotics. I made my own bone broth and ate it often. I ate copious amounts of butter and coconut oil; lard and duck fat made regular appearances on my plate. I ate organ meat, fish eggs and fermented cod liver oil. I soaked my nuts before eating them. I drank raw milk.

But even with all of this, my rosacea continued to flare, my eczema didn’t go away, I gained a little more weight (maybe a pound or so a year in total, but it still added up). I still got tired often and my environmental allergies were so bad, I couldn’t take a sweater out of the closet and wear it without washing it first or my eyes would be so watery and I would become so congested I needed to take over the counter allergy medicine just to survive the day – and then I would beat myself up over that because I am the kind of person that doesn’t ever take things like that, and the cycle would start all over again.

On a recent trip to Sardinia in Italy, I was sitting down at an ocean front restaurant trying to figure out what to eat for lunch. I had just been to an Erboristeria (Herbalist) looking for something to relieve my dust allergy that was making me miserable. The herbalist there gave me a black currant tincture. He also told me to stay away from shellfish and when my gluten allergy came up, he suggested I might want to stay away from dairy as well, because those two allergies can sometimes be linked.

I almost had a melt-down at the table reading the menu. There was all this beautiful food on it that I couldn’t eat – all the pastas, the pizza and the bread. But then there was all the amazing cheeses and of course, being on the sea, tons and tons of shellfish. Since I was trying to be grain free and stick to my paleo diet, I was pretty much living on meat – prosciutto, mortadella and salami in all their various forms, as well as some delicious Sardinian sheep cheese. There was some fruit and yogurt involved in my meals as well, but if I was going to try cutting out dairy again, that was going to leave me with a very boring diet. It was just too much. I was asking too much.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream in frustration. I wanted mussels in marinara.

I remember looking across the table at Roberto and saying: “I feel like a self-flagellating nun in the land of decadence and debauchery”. He ordered the mussels and a glass of wine, he made me eat the mussles. I felt better.

After that moment I realized I was the one who was making myself miserable. Yes, I have a gluten allergy, but that’s it. Why was I depriving myself of all grains, beans, sugar, etc. ? I realized that for years now, I had been waking up every morning thinking that I was “unhealthy” and wondering if I really would ever be healthy again. I was identifying too much with my condition and letting it become a part of me. From that moment I knew I had to be the one to take control of this situation. So I started eating gluten free pasta and bread everyday and enjoyed several gluten free pizzas. I even had my first Coke in 20 years (in Italy they are still made with cane sugar). It was cathartic.

JennEatingPizza

When I came home I was determined to lose the weight I had put on over the years, between the Hashimoto’s and my diet. I found a wonderful book Flat Belly Diet! Gluten-Free Cookbook: 150 Delicious Fat-Blasting Recipes! and despite its cheesy name decided to work my way through it. It was tough, because I don’t really believe in diets and calorie counting. But I had also started to believe that I would never lose this weight again. Being in Italy, I talked with someone who had lost 40 pounds. How did she do it? She went on a diet. Was she worried that the weight was an underlying problem to a bigger health issue? No, she just ate too much and needed to rein it in. What a simple perspective! So I decided to try this book, the recipes looked delicious and I was excited about getting some new dishes into my repertoire. Within a month of eating this way I lost 10 pounds. After 2 months, I didn’t stick to the diet, but used techniques and the portions I had learned from the book to keep my eating in balance and have since lost another 5 pounds. Something that even the strictest version of the Paleo diet couldn’t do for me. After 3 months of eating this way, there has not been a return of Hashimoto’s flare ups, which was another concern I had and so I really feel like this is successful for me.

I came to learn that being a food lover doesn’t mean I always have to indulge, nor do I have to prove that all you have to do is eat high quality food in any amount and all will be well. I believe that food quality is still the most important thing, but I learned that I can’t stuff myself everyday and expect to remain at the weight I want. I can still enjoy amazing food, just smaller portions and make sure my meals are really balanced.

That is where this chowder comes in. Although everyone in my family, my husband, my father in law and even Alba, loved the recipes from the book, I felt the need to let my cooking creativity flow again and one day I made this chowder from leftovers and pantry staples. It was touted one of the best recipes I ever made and we have had it often since that first time.

It is full of delicious flavors, lots of wonderful vegetables and absolutely satisfying. I like to enjoy a steaming bowl of this with a nice slice of gluten free bread smeared with butter.

INGREDIENTS:
2 TBS olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 russet potato, diced
salt and pepper
1TBS turmeric powder
1 cup veggie broth (if not using homemade, I like Pacific Foods Organic Vegetable Broth
1 can organic tomato sauce
½ cup white wine
4 whole tomatoes diced (or 2 cans)
1 can filtered water
1 lb of seafood (fish, clams, shrimp)
2 TBS capers
1TBS lemon juice

METHOD: In a large soup pot heat the olive oil, then add the vegetables, salt and pepper. Once veggies are getting soft, about 5 minutes, add the turmeric and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the veggie broth, tomato sauce, wine, diced tomatoes and wine. Cover pot and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes and other veggies are tender.
Add seafood and continue to cook until cooked through – less time for shellfish and a bit longer for fish. I like to use halibut or cod for this, and I usually let it simmer in the broth for about 7-8 minutes. If you are doing a mixture of fish and shellfish, cook the fish for about 5 minutes and then add the shellfish.
Once all the seafood is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the capers and lemon juice.

Serves 6 dinner sized portions

5 Easy Ways to Preserve The Harvest: Herbs

Herb Harvest_Alba 2014

Happy Harvest, Blessed Equinox! Autumn has arrived!

Any regular readers of this blog know that the autumn is my favorite time of the year. The colors are so vibrant after the lush green of summer, the air is crisp and that crispness seems to make food taste so much better!

Today is the first day of autumn, the official equinox will happen tonight at 10:29 PM, EST. This is the perfect day to give thanks for the bounty of the season, all those delicious garden fresh fruits and vegetables that we have been enjoying all summer and that we can now harvest and use to prepare foods to keep for the leaner, colder months and let us not forget about our herbs, those wonderful plants that bring such wonderful flavors to our foods.

I love having a nice big herb garden although I admit that some years I am not very good about preserving the harvest. This year I decided to make it a priority. We didn’t have a very big vegetable garden this year – it was an unseasonably cool summer this year here in Vermont. So I concentrated on my herb garden. I had a variety of annuals and perennials and I really tried to make the most of the harvest this year.

I hope you enjoy these five easy ways to preserve your herbs and some delicious recipes to go with it, so you can enjoy your harvest all winter long!

DRYING HERBS:

Hanging from rafters

The easiest way to preserve herbs is to dry them. Some herbs are better for drying, than others because there are more natural oils in them and therefore they retain their flavor better. Herbs I particularly like for drying are: oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, savory and anything in the mint family. These herbs will retain their flavor for about 6 months to a year depending on how you package them after drying.

It takes about a week for most herbs to dry. Those that are very oily and have woody stems, like rosemary and sage might take a few days longer. The best place to dry your herbs is in a well-ventilated place that gets a lot of natural sunlight. In my fantasy world I live in a little cabin in the woods with herbs hanging from the rafters in the kitchen. So that is where I decided to dry my herbs this year, and they did very well.

Thyme

You know your herbs are dry when they crumble easily at the touch. Dried herbs should look much like they did while they were in the ground, the same color and have a strong smell.

thyme in bottle

You can see in this picture, I have some thyme from last year on the bottom and the thyme I just harvested and dried on top.

Once your herbs are dry, you can package them for storage. I prefer glass bottles. I usually save any old glass spice jars, and then re-use them for this purpose.

COMPOUND BUTTERS:

Compound butter

Compound butters are another great way to preserve the harvest and add some excitement to winter meals. Several years ago I made an herbal compound butter with maple to rub under the skin of my Thanksgiving turkey. I couldn’t locate that recipe, so I made up one of my own. I am looking forward to putting this on my turkey this year. However, I made extra. I might toss it with some roasted sweet potatoes or winter squash or perhaps put a dollop in the pan when I am cooking chicken. Making compound butters is really very easy and is a great way to enjoy your herbs.

Autumn Maple Herb Butter

INGREDIENTS:
16 Tablespoons of softened butter (I use Kerrygold)
8 TBS of fresh herbs minced – I used a combination of sage an rosemary, equal parts
1 teaspoon of black pepper
3 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup (from Vermont of course!)

METHOD: On a large flat plate place the butter and spread it out a bit. Don’t work it too much or it will begin to melt. Sprinkle the herbs, pepper and drizzle the maple on top, then gently fold everything into the butter.

TO STORE: I found these wonderful Ball Frozen Herb Starters to help me preserve my herbs this year. So using a spatula I filled the cubes until all the butter was gone and then froze it over night. The next day, I popped them out and put them in a plastic freezer bag and then back in the freezer to be used later.

PRESERVING HERBS IN BROTH:

broth

I always have bone broth on hand. If you don’t you can always use some organic free-range chicken (or vegetable) broth. I like Pacific Organics in a pinch. This is an easy way to get you a step ahead when making soup in the winter. I love a good chicken soup, so I created a quick Chicken Soup Starter.

Chicken Soup Starter

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups fresh herbs, minced (I used a mixture of sage, rosemary, winter savory, parsley and thyme)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD: Mix the herbs and the garlic together. Place the herb mixture into a silicon freezer cube, fill to the top and then press down. Continue doing this to all the cubes in the tray until all the herb mixture is used up. Mix the salt and pepper in the chicken broth and then pour on top of the herbs. If the chicken broth is thick, it might not fill in around the herbs. I had that problem with mine. So I used a chopstick to swirl everything together, this left a little more room in the cube and so I just added more broth to fill the cube to the top.

HERBAL VINEGARS

vinegars

If you have a large bulk of herbs and you have dried as much as you will need for the season, I find that making herbal vinegars is the next best thing. It uses up a lot of herbs and you can use the vinegars on many things – salads, drizzle on grains, rice, and vegetables. You can even take a tablespoon of it for a healing elixir. This article by herbalist Susun Weed sheds more light on this and gives wonderful directions for how to make these vinegars. I made several this year: oregano vinegar, cilantro vinegar and one with sage, rosemary and thyme.

PASTA SAUCES

Every year I make pesto from the basil in my garden. I really like adding arugula to it and sometimes I make a pesto using cilantro (one of my favorite herbs). I don’t find that either basil or cilantro dry very well, so if you have an abundance of these herbs (or parsley, chives) I recommend turning them into compound butters, vinegars or making pasta sauces.

This year I made a different kind of sauce as well. My favorite chef, who is also a dear friend, Bruno Staccioli lives and cooks in Tuscany. A few years ago, he and my other dear friend Grazia De Tommaso wrote a lovely cookbook called Cucinar Cantando which is now also a small café, opened by Grazia in Colle di Val D’Elsa a year or so ago where she cooks local rustic specialties.

I was lucky enough to receive one of the first 11 special addition copies of the book and it is still to this day one of my very favorites. The recipes are simplicity at their best.

Bruno makes the most mouthwatering delicious food – all local and seasonal. One of my favorite dishes he makes is pasta with a butter and sage sauce. It is very simple, literally butter, sage, garlic and topped with parmigiano. But it is mind-blowingly delicious! The first bite brings me right back to a fall day in Tuscany, the clean crisp air with the scent of wood burning. Paired with a beautiful glass of red wine and I am in heaven. To read more about my adventures in Tuscany, click here

So I decided to do myself a favor and make up a batch of this sauce, in compound butter format that I can just toss on the pasta when I feel like a quick amazing dinner.

Butter and Sage Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
16 Tablespoons of butter (I use Kerrygold)
13 leaves of fresh sage, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced

METHOD: I made this recipe just like the compound butter recipe at the top.

Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

 

Fresh Figs with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Reduction

I know it seems strange that my last two posts have been about wintery soups and now I am here slapping you in the face with a full-on summer dish. But that is the game that Mother Nature plays with us – bringing us out of those cold dark days and into days full of bright greens and colorful menu options. When we just can’t take any more cabbage, and root vegetables, Mother Nature bring us a summer bounty full of fresh baby lettuces, snap peas and later tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, stone fruits and these little beauties.

Just look at the color of that fig – if that isn’t a sexy show stopper on your spring and summer table, I don’t know what is! It is the perfect hue of spring green.

I am also pleased to tell you that this little snack is not just gorgeous, but also super easy to prepare and only requires 3 ingredients – figs, cheese and balsamic vinegar. There is very little prep work and it is absolutely delightful to eat. Win, win, win! Beautiful, fresh and elegant. Perfect for sharing with friends and family. There is just something magical about the pairing of figs and balsamic vinegar. The sweet, syrupy richness of the vinegar cutting through the sweetness of the fig is unparalleled.

asset_BestBloggersContest

I have entered this recipe in this month’s Better Recipes Best Blogger Recipes Ever contest featuring Potluck and Party Food. If you bring this to a potluck or party I can guarantee that it will be the hit recipe!

If you have a great potluck and party recipe, please enter your recipe too. The more the merrier! The winning blogger each month will win a full page feature in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine! That means if yours is one of them, thousands of new readers will discover your voice. You will also win a $1,000 cash prize and be guest editor for a day!

Please check out my recipe and if you like it, I would definitely appreciate your vote in the contest. You can vote every day, so if you really like the recipe, think about voting more than once. Thank you and enjoy!

Meaty Minestrone Soup

 

Meaty Minestrone

I know I have been promising this soup recipe for some time now, and since many of us are still experiencing winter weather, I decided it is still relevant for the season!

This is a great way to use your homemade bone broth. It is loaded with lots of delicious vegetables and the combination of grass-fed beef and pastured pork sausage makes it very hearty. So hurry up and make some today before the weather gets warm again!

Meaty Minestrone

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound of grass-fed beef
½ lb of sausage (I used homemade Italian sausage : Pap-Pap’s Italian Sausage made with pastured pork)
3 cups of mushrooms (I used baby bellas, cut in half)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 TBS olive oil
6 cups of homemade bone broth (I used a pork and chicken combination)
5 small potatoes, chopped small
8 carrots, chopped small
1 can of organic diced tomatoes
½ can of organic tomato paste
1 cup of sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes
2 cups of organic spinach (or other greens)
1 TBS of red wine vinegar
1 TBS Beau Monde seasoning
1TBS dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD: Sautee the beef, sausage, mushrooms and garlic in olive oil until the meat is browned and the mushroom are a little soft. Salt to taste before adding to the broth. Meanwhile, in a soup pot, bring broth to boiling and cook the potatoes and carrots for about 15 minutes. Add the beef and sausage mixture to the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and sun dried tomatoes and let cook for about 10-15 minutes. Then add the greens, red wine vinegar and seasonings. Cook another 5 -10 minutes, until flavors are incorporated and greens have wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serves 8-10

Happy Spring!

 

Deviled and Scotch Eggs for Ostara

 

(Deviled and Scotch Eggs for Ostara)

I know I promised you all a soup recipe next, but I needed to take a pause here to welcome Spring!

It is officially spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, but when I look out my window it is to look at endless snow, with more expected over the next 2 days! It hardly feels like Spring here, although there are subtle differences if you look for them. Roberto was just remarking about how the sunlight coming in the window feels like Spring sunshine and I know I have felt that the air has taken on a softer nature. Of course there is another hour of daylight than just a few weeks ago. However, we have no buds on the trees yet, nor any flowers poking up through the snow, and the Canada geese have not passed our house on their way back home yet, but I know the root children are waking up under ground waiting for their big growth spurts.

I have a nice group of women in my community who meet once a month. We rotate houses and we also rotate the topic of conversation, it has gone from childbirth and what we all did with our placentas, to more community matters and then over to more spiritual topics, but it is always a wonderful evening.

I hosted this month’s meeting and I always celebrate Spring or Ēostre (Ostara) with Eggs, which is truly the most symbolic food of the season (see why here).

I made a nice platter of Deviled Eggs   (this time I spiced them with honey mustard, dill and chives) and Scotch Eggs and another platter with Smoked Salmon, pickles and olives. We had a nice spread, all of the women brought something different –  a nice effervescent bottle of white wine, a tray of chocolate covered strawberries, a sausage and veggie casserole, a gorgeous apple tart and a nice bottle of homemade ginger beer to wash it all down with. It felt like a very springtime menu!

What do you do to celebrate Spring?

Easy Techniques To Make Super Gelatinous Bone Broth!

Bone Broth

SUPER Gelatinous Bone Broth

There is a lot going around these days about the health benefits of eating bone broth and, or gelatin (aka collagen). Bone broth contains gelatin, which in turn contains the amino acids glycine and proline. These amino acids are found in the bone, connective tissue and organs of animals. Our ancestors used to consume these parts of the animals they ate, but modern diets don’t usually include them, which is a shame because gelatin is great for our skin, nails, hair, joints and even our digestive organs, which directly relates to our immunity.

This article  discusses the many health reasons to consume gelatin, including, digestive health, releasing toxins and wound healing. It also gives suggestions for how to incorporate it into your diet.

I stated taking collagen when I was pregnant with my daughter. I started craving jello at about 4 months – and it made me think, why am I craving this? The main ingredient in jello is gelatin and what is gelatin good for? Bones. I was craving jello because I was literally growing my daughter’s bones, skin, joints and teeth. If that doesn’t put “you are what you eat” into perspective, I don’t know what does! I always say collagen is the reason why she is in a very high percentile for height! This post is not officially a part of my Post-partum Foods series, but it should be! If you know someone who is pregnant, make a batch of bone broth for her!

When anyone I know asks me what they can do for immunity, or especially if they are having digestive issues or joint issues, one of the first things I suggest is eating bone broth because it is so easy to make and so good for you! In fact both of my parents managed to break bones this year from accidents, and I made sure they both got some collagen to take during the healing processI make sure to include bone broth in our family meals, mostly in the way of soups and stews, but I also take this collagen* every day, stirred into my morning hot drink (usually Dandy Blend, sometimes Lavazza Decaf). 

So now that you are getting a general idea of why it is so important to add bone broth, or gelatin/collagen to your diet, how easy is it to make it? SIMPLE. It is one of the easiest things to make.

In my house, I am known affectionately as “the bone collector”. At any given time we have lots of bones in our freezer. We also have lots of whole chickens in our freezer, because we homestead and raise our own meat birds. Some years we have to “turn over” our laying hens when they stop producing eggs, and these hens are usually too small to roast, so I will use them to make bone broth. I also collect bones from other meals and sometimes buy beef bones from our favorite farm. The point is you have a lot of options when it comes to getting your raw materials. Collect bones, freeze them and then pull them out whenever you need to make more broth. I often mix and match my bones; one of my favorite broths to make is a chicken and pork broth, which is what I used to make the soup I will share with you in my next post.

All you need to make your own bone broth are: bones, apple cider vinegar (preferably raw), water and a crockpot.

Step 1: Place bones or whole chicken in the crockpot
Step 2: Cover bones and or chicken with water
Step 3: Pour in 1 TBS of raw apple cider vinegar (at this point you could also add seasoning, I like to season simply with salt, pepper and one or two bay leaves)
Step 4: Turn Crockpot on High setting and let cook for 24-48 hours.
Step 5: After 12 hours, put crockpot on the Low setting
Step 6: Strain broth and store

If you used a whole chicken, you can now take the meat off the bones and reserve to make classic chicken soup,  chicken tostadas, even my Moroccan chicken salad or throw it in some pasta! Then I store all the skin, tendons and other less desirable pieces to mix in with my pets’ food. I burn the brittle bones in our wood stove. This means there is never any waste.

This is a simple process that is mostly hands off, very cheap (you already bought it!) and so good for your health. There really is no reason not to do it! Plus, if you have pets they will literally love you forever!

Post-Partum Freezer Meals: Eggplant and Spiced Meat Bake

 

Eggplant and Spiced Meat Bake

The Mediterranean flavors are still on my mind and today’s post I will share with you a delicious casserole dish that is easy to assemble and cook, but tastes like you spent hours putting it together. This is a great addition to your post-partum freezer meal list because it is one of those dishes that tastes even better a day or two later after the flavors have really had a chance to marry, and there are some really great flavors! If you aren’t going to freeze this for later use, please make sure you make enough for leftovers, or you are really missing out!

This recipe is based loosely on Moussaka. It has all the same elements, the tomatoes, the béchamel and the spiced meat. However, I didn’t have any ground lamb, as is traditional, so I used what I did have – buffalo meat. You could use ground beef, lamb or even ground turkey in this dish and it would taste great!

When choosing your eggplant, smaller is always less bitter, yet even so I still salt and drain them before cooking to take any bitterness out. I used graffiti eggplants in this dish, I really like the flavor and they have a great melting quality to them when cooked, which is perfect for this dish. You can easily spot them because they are tear shaped and have variegated coloring of purple and white.

I hope you enjoy this hearty, delicious and simple dish!

INGREDIENTS:

3 medium eggplants, cut into thin rounds
salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound of ground meat
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of Beau Monde (contains, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, bay leaf and pepper)
2 hand fulls of arugula
1 – 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup of organic yogurt (I used homemade goat yogurt)
3 eggs

METHOD: Cut the eggplant into thin rounds, place in a colander and mix with about a tsp of salt. Let rest for 20 minutes. While the eggplant is resting, preheat the oven to 400 F. After 20 minutes, rinse the eggplant and squeeze out any excess moisture. Stir the eggplant in a bowl with 2 TBS of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Heat the rest of the oil in a skillet sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the meat and spices and cook until nice and browned. Then add the arugula and the tomatoes. Simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes, or until it gets nice and thick. Salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is cooking whisk together the nutmeg, eggs and yogurt. This is in place of a traditional béchamel sauce.

Place a thin layer of eggplant in a large glass baking dish and then put a layer of the meat sauce. Continue to do this until all the ingredients are used up – in the same manner you would make lasagna – end with a layer of eggplant. Then add the yogurt mixture on top.

Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for about 45- 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Serves 6