Buckwheat Shortbread

I love shortbread.  I know some are less enamored with the dry, crumbly texture but when using great quality butter, the key ingredient; it brings this Scottish specialty to a new level.  Served with tea, its natural accompaniment, it is pure bliss.

I think now is a good time to discuss butter, we eat a lot of it in this house (and have very good cholesterol reports and excellent blood pressure), but it is of the highest quality – grassfed, organic, artisanal butter. Yes, it is more expensive, but if you spend the extra money, it turns into a virtual health food and you can eat more of it without getting sick!

I know some of you are probably shaking your heads right now in dis-belief, but you see, butter has gotten a bad rap over recent years because the quality of butter found in most grocery stores is dismal.  A lot of you may have seen the news that Paula Deen, known for her butter laden foods has finally come forward being diagnosed with Type II diabetes, many of you are probably not surprised and many of you might think butter is the culprit, or even fat for that matter. But really, it is all about quality. Just think about our great-grandparents who cooked with a lot of butter and were in good health.

Most “butter” these days has canola or other oils on the ingredient list, or “natural flavoring” (code word for MSG) – especially when you get into the realm of “light” “lowfat” or “spreadable butter”.  Just look at the ingredient list for Land O’ Lakes “light” butter: Ingredients: Butter (Cream, Salt), Water*, Buttermilk*, Contains Less Than 2% of Food Starch-Modified*, Tapioca Maltodextrin*, Salt, Distilled Monoglycerides*, Lactic Acid*, Potassium Sorbate* and Sodium Benzoate* (Preservatives), PGPR* (emulsifier), Natural Flavor*, Xanthan Gum*, Vitamin A Palmitate*, Beta Carotene* (color).  Sorry but that isn’t butter anymore, it is a chem lab.

Even if your butter just contains cream and salt, it is likely from cows fed on grain and pumped with hormones, probably living in terrible conditions and that really makes all the difference in terms of your health and your arteries. If you eat grassfed butter, you are basically eating a nutritious, body boosting food, made up of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats coming from healthy animals eating nutritious grass.

So please, use good quality, healthy butter when cooking. I recommend Kerrygold – which can actually be found in most grocery stores (usually in the gourmet cheese section, but ask your store’s customer service for more info). I also like Organic Valley’s Pasture butter (green package) and Vermont Butter & Cheese’s European style butter, in that order. In a pinch, go for Cabot – found in groceries all over the country! If you can’t afford good quality butter, use less of it and substitute in olive oil.

Now onto the shortbread- since we are celebrating all things Scottish in January , shortbread is a perfect addition to the subject. A traditional shortbread is nothing more than sugar, butter and flour- in a one to two to three ratio, respectively. That is it. Traditionally it was made with oat flour, but most modern versions are made with white flour.

This time I opted for buckwheat flour. I had some delicious buckwheat shortbread this past summer and decided to try my hand at making my own version! It is virtually the same taste as “normal” shortbread, although a bit nuttier – which just compliments the butter- and gives the shortbread a darker color.

 

 INGREDIENTS:

2 cups buckwheat flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (honey works also)

1 stick of cold butter, cut into small pieces

 

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 300 F.  Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then pour maple over top, using your hands, a pastry cutter or a fork, mix in the butter, a little at a time until you have a crumbly dough.

Press the dough into a prepared (greased with butter) 9-inch round pan. If you have a shortbread pan, even better! Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden in color. Let cool about 10 minutes, then flip pan over onto a dish and remove the shortbread. Cut into wedges while still warm. Serve with tea or coffee!

Wheat-Free Pumpkin Oat Bread

A delicious gluten-free addition to your Thanksgiving Table, would also make a great bread base for stuffing.

 

Back when I was eating wheat, I had a great time making bread. My bible in this regard was Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. It really is an amazing bread baking book. I have tried many recipes in the book, and all turn out beautifully!
Once I found out I had was allergic to wheat, I had to start all over, and it was hard. I had gotten into sourdough bread baking, but once I had no gluten to work with, the bread I made became briquettes. It was a sad time in our house. My husband who is from Italy and eats bread with every single meal had to rely on local suppliers. So, I developed some standbys that we both enjoyed (I eat so little bread, it doesn’t make sense to make a loaf all for myself), like Scottish Oat Cakes, Scones and Buckwheat-Quinoa Biscuits, items that could easily be frozen if we didn’t eat them fast enough.
But sometimes, I missed sandwiches and wanted a loaf bread that fit the bill. Imagine my excitement when Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients came out, featuring some gluten-free recipes. But I was disappointed to see that all the recipes contained various gums and GF additives that I don’t keep around the house.
After struggling with this for about a year or so, it dawned on me, why not try some of my favorite bread recipes from the original Artisan Bread book, and just use GF flours? So that is what I did, and it worked out beautifully.
I describe this bread as wheat-free and not gluten-free because I know some GF folks can’t do oats. So far, I have been fine with oats (must be my Scottish blood) and I also get a certified GF Oat flour (See recipe for sources) from Bob’s Red Mill. I really like baking bread with oat flour. It has the most similar consistency to wheat that I have found, with buckwheat coming in second place. So those are the two flours I have used for this recipe.

The bread is super flavorful and has a beautiful crumb. You really don’t taste the pumpkin in it, the pumpkin mostly gives it a lot of moisture. My favorite way to eat it is with a nice slather of butter, absolutely delicious!
I have struggled with trying not to use yeast when baking, but I have come back around and decided to start using it again. I have not found a technique to make delicious fluffy (think, not brick hard) bread items without the use of either yeast or baking soda. Sourdough just doesn’t work for me, much as I have tried with buying cultures and with trying to catch my own wild…they just never, ever bubble.

INGREDIENTS:
2 C. lukewarm water
1 ½ TBS yeast
1 TBS salt
2 TBS warmed honey

5 TBS warmed coconut oil or olive oil or melted butter
1 C pumpkin puree
3 cups buckwheat flour
½ cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Scottish Oatmeal, 20-Ounce Bags (Pack of 4)

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Oat Flour — 22 oz

 

METHOD:
Mix water, yeast, salt and honey in a large non-reactive bowl, stir gently and allow the yeast to bloom for about 1-2 minutes. Then mix all the other ingredients, in the order listed, adding the flour one cup at a time to incorporate evenly. Cover with a towel and allow to sit for 8 hours or overnight.
When you are ready to bake preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a loaf pan by smearing it with butter or oil and scrape the dough into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until an inserted fork comes out clean.
Makes one 3 1/2 lb loaf *

*Variation – also makes great rolls. You can see what the rolls look like on my Autumn Bisque Post.

Guest Post: Pasteli

 

I hope you all are enjoying this series of guest posts by some of my favorite food bloggers! I know I am.

This next edition is written by a great friend of mine, and one of the few blogging friends I have been able to actually meet in person – Peter Georgakopoulos from Souvlaki for the Soul. Isn’t that the coolest blog name? Not only is the blog name so inventive, but the recipes he posts are absolutely mouthwatering. Greek is one of my favorite cuisines, and Peter, although born and raised in Sydney, Australia, is of Greek descent, and this shows in his delicious food! He uses simple, fresh and delicious ingredients to their fullest potential, and more often than not, they include the flavors of Greece, including old favorites. Not only is the food divine, but the photography and food styling really bring his recipes to life.

I just love Peter, and really can’t say enough about what he offers on his blog, so if you haven’t already been to Peter’s blog, you need to get on over there! So now, I will let Peter take it away! THANK YOU PETER!

First off, let me begin by saying that I am very honoured and proud to be a guest blogger here at the Leftover Queen. I’ve “known” Jenn and Roberto from the blogging world and have actually met them in real life too. Their food philosophies and passion for everything about it is infectious. They are truly a great example of people who believe and follow their dreams.

When Jenn asked me if I was keen to do a guest post I said “yes” straight away. My mind went to cooking up something Greek (of course) plus I wanted it to be healthy. I thought about all those hours they put in to running their farm-from herding the goats, looking after the chooks, planting vegetables and making cheese. This is serious hardcore work that requires some energy! So I came up with the idea of creating some natural “energy bars” known as pasteli.

Pasteli is Greece’s version of the sesame bar. Traditionally it is made with sesame seeds and honey and sometimes has nuts mixed through it. Once it sets, it becomes this chewy, irresistible, almost addictive snack. When I was growing up, I always looked forward to the “care packages” we got from Greece and they almost always had pasteli included in them. I must admit, I had a love/hate relationship with this all natural energy bar. I loved it’s taste (cause I adore sesame seeds) but hated the way it sort of got stuck in your teeth! Nevertheless, I still munched on them with great abandon.

For today’s recipe (which I adapted from Elly’s blog here ) I played around with this concept by adding some black sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and pistachios. If you can get hold of some Greek thyme honey it would make this recipe just about perfect, if not any honey will do. It’s as simple as toasting the seeds in a hot pan, adding in your warmed honey, letting it cook for a few minutes and voila! You have nature’s perfect marriage. Feel free to add any kind of nuts you like as well. I’ve made my pasteli a little thicker as I wanted them to look like energy bars but traditionally it is much thinner. If you want them thinner use a larger baking pan. Also, if you prefer a “crisper” i.e.”jaw breaking” pasteli you may wish to add some sugar ( I wouldn’t add more than 50 grams).

Munch on these during the day as a healthy snack between meals, pop them in your kids lunch boxes or serve them up with a cup of Greek coffee. Whatever you do just make these! Thank you Jenn-hope you guys like these.

Homemade Nutella for Norway

 

I really wish I had a Norwegian recipe to post today. I have been really saddened by the tragic events in Oslo on Friday. As many of my readers know, I spent a year in Norway as an exchange student, in between high school and college, and I have very fond and vivid memories of my life there. The people, culture and independent spirit of Norway all have a very special place in my heart. I formed many long lasting friendships that year and still have many good friends and loved ones that live there, and a lot of them currently reside in Oslo. So  Friday and Saturday were scary days waiting to hear from everyone.

Photo Courtesy

JEG ELSKER NORGE!

I have been comforted these past few days by these words by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg:

“You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy, or our commitment to a better world. We are a small country nation, but a proud nation. No one shall bomb us to silence, no one shall shoot us to silence, no one shall scare us out of being Norway. We must never stop standing up for our values. We must show that the Norwegian society can stand up to these testing times. We must show humanity, but not naivety.”

I keep reading this over and over and praying for the truth in those words. As an American, experiencing 9/11 and seeing the aftermath of such events and in many ways the loss of our many freedoms and our independent spirit, I can only hope that the Norwegians will keep that alive.

Although I know this does nothing, other than feebly lend support and love to my Norwegian friends and Norwegians all over the world, you can check out some of my Norwegian and Scandinavian inspired recipes from the past. Comfort food really is a comfort and can aid in feeding our spirit during trying times.

I spent all of Friday sweating over steamy vats of curds and whey and fluffing cheese curds at The Cellars at Jasper Hill – that is something for another post though…so when I got home that night, I hadn’t heard anything about what was going on in Norway. One of my best friends lives in Oslo, and so Roberto really was worried about telling me what had happened, but luckily she had posted on my facebook wall that everything was OK, and like a lot of other Norwegians, she and her husband were out of the country on holiday.

So in lieu of posting a Norwegian recipe, I am going to post about making homemade Nutella, because the first time I ever tasted Nutella it was in Norway. The first time I had it, I thought it was a Norwegian invention, and I was hooked! When I returned to the US, after my year in Norway, I was lucky to be able to find it in the grocery stores here, and so it has always been a staple in my house. Then I married an Italian (Italy is the actual birthplace of Nutella) and we just always had a jar in the pantry…until we noticed the ingredient profile had changed and it now included soy lecithin and vanillin – artificial vanilla …so we stopped buying it. We have found and tried several organic and more healthy versions, but they never really tasted that good, and were expensive.

In comes The Spunky Coconut blog. I am an avid fan of both the blog and the cookbook – The Spunky Coconut has really changed my life in a lot of ways, her baked goods are all gluten and grain free and don’t contain weird fillers and gums, like a lot of gluten-free baked goods do. I have tried several of her recipes, and they have all been fantastic – perfect taste and texture every time – and they don’t require any tweaking, which makes my life so easy!

So when she posted a recipe for homemade Nutella on her blog, I felt like our prayers had been answered – especially for Roberto.

The only thing I changed about the recipe was by adding a bit of maple syrup at the end to taste. Roberto, the official taste tester felt that it wasn’t sweet enough. I probably ended up adding a little shy of ¼ cup of it after all was said and done. The recipe makes 3-4 small mason jars full, and she says in the comments that she actually froze one jar of it – but I am not sure if it turned out OK.

Roberto’s tasting notes: Regular Nutella is now way too sweet for us (we have cut down on a lot of sugar and don’t use any refined sugar products), and it has more of a bitter dark chocolate taste than regular Nutella, however because it is less sweet, he says it is more versatile. He has been enjoying it spread on The Spunky Coconut’s Boulder Banana Bread (minus the walnuts, I usually add about 2 TBS of almond butter).

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.

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”?

Homemade Granola

We enjoy dessert almost every night, here on the homestead. The most typical one being homemade yogurt, usually Filmjölk (Swedish counter-top cultured yogurt) with mix-ins. Look for a recipe for Filmjölk coming up later this week. Mix-ins are usually dried or freeze dried fruit, pumpkin puree, nut butters, cocoa nibs and either maple or goat’s milk cajeta stirred in for a little sweetness. Personally I also like a liberal dusting of cinnamon on top!

We also like granola. But good granola can be very expensive, and usually any store-bought granola, even the organic varieties, contain sweeteners and oils that I try to stay away from. So after many months of thinking about making my own, I finally did, and it was awesome!

I looked at several different granola recipes, and settled on this one from Passionate Homemaking, however I did not end up mixing in any extra fruits even though I meant to. I think this calls for a next time! However for my next batch, I am going to use some muesli that I have instead of just plain oats, so that I can get the added crunch and benefit of the seeds and other grains that are in there and then of course add some coconut, which we both love.

This granola was deliciously crunchy and very satisfying and really easy to make!

INGREDIENTS:

8 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups kefir or cultured buttermilk (yogurt often produces a very tart flavor, unless you are skipping the soaking step)
1-2 cups water (use only as much as needed to produce a moist consistency for soaking)
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2-3/4 cup maple syrup (I increased the sweetener just a tad from the original, and I think it was almost perfect – so flex as you desire!)
1 tsp sea salt
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp vanilla extract

EXTRAS:
1 cup dried shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or chopped pumpkin seeds (I used the pumpkin seeds!)
1/4 cup minced dried figs (optional)
1 cup nuts (optional) – chopped almonds is wonderful!
1 cup dried apples, chopped

METHOD:

Mix oats with the melted butter and oil, kefir and water in a large bowl. Cover with a cloth and/or plate and allow to sit at cool room temperature for 24 hours. After the soaking time, preheat the oven to 200° F (93° C).

Place honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla in a glass measuring cup in a small pot of warm water on the stove. Bring water to a gentle simmer, stirring honey mixture, until honey becomes thin.

Combine honey and oat mixtures, mixing to incorporate.

Spread mixture out over two parchment paper-lined cookie sheets (don’t use regular paper – I learned this lesson the hard way!). Bake for 2-4 hours, until granola is dry and crisp. Allow to cool in oven before removing to a container. It will get crisper at it cools. Once cool, add your extras, like dried fruits, etc. Makes 5 quarts of granola.

I also want to take this moment, as a rural homesteader to stand in solidarity with all my Urban Homesteader friends! Today is the Urban Homesteaders Day of Action! Recently the words “Urban Homesteading” were trade-marked by The Dervaes family of Pasadena, California. As you can imagine this action has created quite a stir on the internet by bloggers, writers and websites that also Urban Homestead or have Urban Homesteading as a title for their blog, or books, magazine articles, etc. Since the trademark, the Dervaes family has used their legal rights to have facebook pages taken down, as well as letters sent to bloggers that have also been using the words. Many of us feel that this family has co-opted a movement, and we don’t like it!  So today is a call to action! If you are an Urban Homesteader please share your story on your blog, and show that this is a movement, and not a trademark. Something that has been around even longer than the Dervaes family themselves! To learn more about the events surrounding this call to action, please check out these articles.

The Green Movement Trademarking Controversy

Dervaes Family Trademarks “Urban Homestead” Term: Legal Battle Follows

Rosemary Infused Honey and Other Remedies to Lessen Your Chance of Getting Sick This Winter

My kitchen-helper, Mini P, helping me do the dishes after decanting the herbal honey

Many folks who know me, know that I worked as an assistant to an amazing holistic doctor for 5 years. It was the best job I ever had working for someone else. I got to spend the day watching a genius at work, helping people with all sorts of health related issues, who often times, after decades of trying conventional, Western medicine and having no luck were seeking out alternative therapies and getting results for the first time. I saw the dangers and effects of artificial sweeteners, drastic diet plans and prescription drug complications first hand. And I saw that simple remedies, food choices and plants could be life changing healing agents for many.

I learned so much invaluable information that I have continued to apply to my life, health and well-being.

My interest in alternative remedies has a long history. Even in high school I was reading books about traditional herbal remedies, aromatherapy and homeopathics. I am not a health care provider, trained herbalist, nor homeopath. I am just a person who has been looking into these integrated therapies for close to 20 years and using them on me and my family with amazing results.

Friends and family often ask me for advice about eating, supplements and herbs. I tend to have a good instinct about what might be causing problems for people, and I always recommend getting to the root of a health issue, rather than just treating the symptoms. I point people in directions, and give them some tools to help them come to a health plan that really works for them, encouraging them to do their own research and work with their doctor.

This winter I wanted to share with family and friends a delicious and simple herbal honey. Something that they could spoon into hot tea on a day when they weren’t feeling so great to soothe them from the inside out. I chose Rosemary as the herb (see recipe below). Rosemary contains volatile oils like camphor, cineole, and borneol which have known antibacterial properties. Preliminary studies on rats have also been done to show that rosemary might have anti-carcinogenic properties (Teuscher E (2005). Medicinal Spices (1 ed.). Stuttgart: Medpharm). In any case, I often put a few drops of rosemary essential oil in a spray bottle with water to spray in the house when someone is sick. Which in this house is not very often.

Roberto and I both got sick this winter. We were on a train for several hours sitting across the aisle from a guy who was sneezing and hacking his brains out the whole time. I really, for the life of me, can’t understand why people travel in these conditions. It was the first time either of us had been sick in at least 3 years. I can’t recall the last time either of us took antibiotics or even had to go to the doctor for anything other than a yearly check –up.

So here are some of the foods we eat, and supplements we take during the winter that keep our immune systems up and ready to fight off a cold!

HERBAL HONEY
To Make Herbal Honey
1. Use 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, or half a teaspoon of dried herbs for every 2 cups of raw honey.
2. If the herbs are fresh, grind them well to aid in the infusion.
3. Tie the herbs in cheesecloth.
4. In a pot, warm the raw honey and herbs. It is important not to heat the honey too much or the enzymes will be destroyed. Simply warm the honey to a temperature well below 115 degrees.
5. Put the honey and the herbs into a large canning jar with a tight fitting lid.
6. Let the honey sit in at room temperature in a dark place for at least one week.
7. Heat the honey just to warm and press the liquid out of the herbs.
Read more at Suite101: Herbal Honey Recipes: How to Make Herb Infused Honey

KEFIR
Kefir is our daily elixir, it is a delicious probiotic, a cultured milk drink that has over 2,000 years of history. We have been making and drinking kefir every day for about a year. During that time we have noticed some remarkable changes since using it regularly – everything from clearing up chronic skin problems, to easier digestion and better immunity. What sets kefir apart from other cultured dairy, is the number of various organisms, both bacteria and yeast, present as opposed to just one microorganism like most other cultured dairy products. Kefir is an immune booster, and contains a high amount of calcium, amino acids, B-vitamins, Vitamin K and folic acid. Due to all of the chemical reactions that occur when it is cultured, it is easy to digest allowing the body to adsorb all of the nutrients. Kefir is an amazing probiotic, as it helps to regulate and balance intestinal flora, controlling the overgrowth of yeast. All of these friendly cultures also make kefir an excellent remedy for digestive issues of all kinds, and a great elixir for people overcoming serious illness, especially if they have been treated with antibiotics.

CHICKEN SOUP/ BONE BROTH
I make bone broths about twice a month. Whenever I cook any meat of any kind, I always keep the bones and store them in the freezer, until I am ready to make the broth. I place the bones, some spices and filtered water in my crock pot and let it simmer away anywhere from 24-48 hours. The result is a deeply colored broth, which I use to cook with. Chicken soup, prepared in this way, really is good for colds!

OREGANO OIL
Anyone that is a facebook friend of mine knows that I am big on oregano oil. Oregano oil is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It comes in small gelcaps or as a liquid. Any time at all that I am feeling rundown, my throat starts feeling weird, or if I have to travel or spend a lot of time in enclosed spaces with lots of other people, you can bet that I am popping oregano oil pills! When I use the oregano oil, I am able to stave off colds and viruses from flourishing.

GARLIC/ALLICIN
The combination of rosemary, oregano and garlic is not just for the kitchen anymore. It is also a trio of cold-fighting herbs! Allicin is organosulfur compound obtained from garlic. It has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

WILD CHERRY BARK
Wild Cherry bark syrup is great to have on hand for any throat and lung issues. This can be helpful with whooping cough, soothing after pneumonia and great for any kind of coughing. It sooths the throat and lungs. I always have a bottle of Honey Gardens Wild Cherry Bark Syrup on hand.  It is made here in Vermont and combines wild cherry bark, raw honey and several other immune boosting herbs.

OXYLENT
Oxylent is the new Emergen-C. It comes in convenient one use packets, that you dump in a glass of water and drink up! Roberto doesn’t like to swallow pills, so he loves these packets, and we always take them with us if we have to travel.

VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is so important for overall health, and especially in the winter when we have less daylight and are spending more time indoors. It is an easy and very affordable supplement that we should all be taking everyday.

HOMEOPATHICS
Remedies like herbs, homeopathics and supplements have become topics of extremely heated debate, in recent years. But I stand by them. I have used them on myself, my family, friends, seen them work in a professional environment on thousands of patients. I have used homeopathics on my own pets, and recommended them to others with pets – and again, amazing results.

Oh, and just for the record, animals can’t experience the placebo effect. Just ask Mini P.