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

Elle’s Mushroom Bourguignon with Venison for #ElleAPalooza

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Elle loved winter (almost!) as much as I do! She was a New Englander through and through and we had a shared love for snow and cold days where you need a bowl of something hot and steamy to warm yourself up. Since we are in the middle of winter, I wanted to make one of her warming stews for #EllaPalooza and quickly decided on her Mushroom Bourguignon recipe.

I looove mushrooms and so I have been wanting to make this recipe for a long time. Too bad I waited until now, when she is no longer here to tell her how much I loved it and what a creative genius cook she was one last time.

I added some venison steak strips to the dish to stretch it because I wanted to enjoy this soup over and over again. I don’t think the stew needs it at all, the mushrooms hold their own in this dish, but if you feel like being indulgent, add some, it is quite delicious that way.

Your whole house smells good as you are cooking this dish up and you can cook it like Julia Child – one glass of wine for the pot and one for the cook! Elle suggests serving this over egg noodles, but we served ours over mashed potatoes (for Roberto) and mashed rutabaga (for myself). We toasted to Elle and thanked her for being a part of our lives and ate this delicious warming stew in her memory. It made the Elle-shaped hole in my heart warm for a few minutes. I miss you Elle!

If you would like to join the food blogging community in supporting Elle’s family, please join Friends of Elle on facebook to learn more about the auction be held to benefit her family. It is also a place where you can share your thoughts about Elle and gather with friends old and new who all loved this beautiful woman.

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs Crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 Portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed, cut into chunks
1/3 pound of venison leg steaks cut into strips
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 TBS tapioca flour
1cup dry red wine
2 cups broth of your choice-vegetable, chicken, beef
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 bay leaves

METHOD: In a large pot, heat about 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. Add all of the mushrooms, the venison strips, about 1 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper, and sauté for about 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, venison and accumulated juices to a bowl and set aside.

Add a couple more tbsp of olive oil, and sauté the onions and carrots for about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Sprinkle the onions, carrots and garlic with the tapioca flour, stir for about 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and accumulated juices back to the pot, then add the wine, broth, tomato paste, thyme, Herbes de Provence and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Post-Partum Freezer Meals: Split Pea Soup with Ham Hocks

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My crockpot became my best friend during the time I was preparing meals for the freezer. I would prep all of the ingredients during the day and then let everything slow cook over night. In the morning, I would let it cool and then package the contents in mason jars. I focused on lots of soups and stews. Meals that were mostly hands off during cooking, could be packed in mason jars, so I didn’t have to give up any of my glassware to sit in the freezer for weeks and because soups and stews are easy to heat up.

One of our favorites was delicious and hearty split pea soup. In fact I had prepared this to serve to the midwives after the birth, but we were all too tired for food, so we ended up enjoying this later.

The first step, as you will see in many of the recipes in this series, is that I first made bone broth, this time from ham hocks we had in the freezer from our last two pigs. I made the bone broth in the crockpot as well, I added water to cover the bones and added about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a couple of bay leaves – that is the way I make most of my bone broths. Then I let it cook for about 24 hours.

Once the broth was made, I got all the meat off and reserved it. Then I basically made this soup (of course in this case it was not vegan!)

I put all the ingredients in the crockpot with the reserved meat and let it cook over night.

The thing about freezer meals is that you don’t re-invent the wheel, go through blogs, cookbooks etc. and make things you already know how to make, items that freeze well. This isn’t necessarily the time to experiment with difficult recipes. Here are some of the recipes I made or made similar recipes from recipes I already had on my blog.

Sardinian Purcavru in Agru Durci (sweet and sour pork)

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

Veal and White Bean Stew 

Post-Partum Freezer Meals Series: Homemade Burgers and Meatballs

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The last post I wrote was my daughter’s birth story and it got me thinking about all the things I did to prepare for her birth. So I decided to start a series on easy Postpartum Meals for the blog. These posts will also be of interest to those who are friends or family of a pregnant woman that would benefit greatly from having meals brought to her family in those first two weeks post-birth. Or for people who just want to nutritious and healthy freezable meals.

In this day and age many new moms and dads are isolated or living far from family and friends. One of the best things I did for myself in late pregnancy was spending a week getting various healthy, nutrient packed meals in the freezer for us, so when the baby came we were all set with good things to eat.

All in all, I was able to freeze a month’s worth of breakfasts, and about a month’s worth of lunches or dinners.  We are still eating from this bounty supplemented with some quick and easy fresh meals as well and now that Alba is over a month old, we are also going out for meals sometimes also.

I have read a lot about preparing for the arrival of your baby and most articles would suggest gathering local take-out menus so that during those first few weeks postpartum where you don’t really have the time or energy for cooking, you can let someone else cook for you.

This is good in theory, but the reality is that what you eat those first few weeks is the first nutrition you will be feeding your baby, if you are breastfeeding. So for me I wanted to be sure that what she was getting was super nutrient dense.  You won’t get that from take-out.

I am going to start the series out with two super easy ideas, pre-made burgers and meatballs. I will also link you to my Pinterest board with other Postpartum meal ideas that gave me inspiration when I came up with my own menu. In the posts to come I will share a variety of soups, stews, breads, muffins, etc.

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Burgers:

Who doesn’t love a nice juicy burger? Especially at a time when your body could use more iron? Burgers are the perfect fix! Making burgers for the freezer is easy! I use 100% grass-fed beef as the base and then I like to add smoked salt and a little barbecue sauce to the meat, mix it with my hands and create the patties. The trick to this is then putting the patties on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet in a single layer and popping it in the freezer until frozen. This way you can package your burgers into 2 serving bundles without the patties sticking together. I used 3 lbs. of ground beef and got 12 patties.

spaghetti-and-meatballs_preparing-meatballs

 

Meatballs:

I made meatballs in the same way. I flavored one batch with Italian seasonings: salt, oregano, basil and thyme and the other with Middle Eastern spices: salt, cumin, coriander, paprika and sumac. I formed the meatballs and then cooked them on cookie sheets in the oven at 350 F for about 15 minutes. After they cooled I put them in a single later on cookie sheets and popped them in the freezer, then bagged them in 2 person serving sizes for the freezer. With the Italian version we had rice pasta with meatballs and with the Middle Eastern meatballs we made Middle East Inspired Meatballs.

Here is my pinterest board with other freezable meals to get your mind and taste buds going.

 

Homemade Pumpkin Coffee Spice and Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

Do you enjoy pumpkin spice coffees but don’t want all the chemicals and corn syrup? You don’t have to miss out on this favorite seasonal treat; consider making your own spice blend!

I started this kick by accident two years ago when I was grinding a special spice blend for my Pfeffernusse Shortbread Cookies  in my coffee grinder and forgot to clean it out. Next time I made coffee it had this wonderful spice that brought me right back to Yuletide in Norway. So I started making more and putting a pinch in my coffee in the morning all winter long.

Just this morning I was lamenting the fact that I can no longer enjoy Pumpkin Spice coffee drinks when I go out (I have been lamenting this seasonally for years now), since the syrups are full of corn syrup and other artificial flavors. I love Autumn, I love pumpkins and I love pumpkin spice everything this time of year! So I decided to make my own spice blend!

I have been enjoying Teecino as an alternative to coffee, it is an herbal coffee comprised mostly of ground roasted roots, like chicory and dandelion and nuts as well as dates and carob. The one I get is called Dandelion Vanilla Nut and it is 100% gluten free (unlike some of their other flavors). This lends itself nicely to the spice blend that I created, making a delicious, warm and seasonal beverage!

Of course no gourmet coffee experience is the same without a nice delicious treat to go along side, so here is also another recipe from Practical Paleo for Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Cranberries! The perfect healthy Autumnal treat!

Pumpkin Coffee Spice Blend:

INGREDIENTS:

2 tsp whole cloves
2 allspice berries
½ star anise
2 tsp cardamom
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon

METHOD: Place all ingredients in a coffee grinder and pulse until ground. Don’t worry about cleaning out the grinder!  Makes about 6 servings, use about ¼ tsp of spice blend per cup of coffee. Place spice mixture in the coffee filter with your coffee grounds for brewing.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins adapted from Practical Paleo

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs
¼ cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup butter or coconut oil melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 TBS pure maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut flour
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup fresh cranberries

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients (except cranberries) in a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer. Then gently fold in the cranberries. Scoop evenly into a muffin pan (line pan or use a silicon muffin pan). Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serves 6.

My Favorite Treat of the Season

 

I have really been into smoothies and chia or avocado puddings this summer. Since going Paleo 6 weeks ago, my sugar intake has gone way down, and I have found myself being drawn more towards fresh fruit this season. Some of my favorite smoothies have been papaya with cardamom and cinnamon and this one, which is actually more of a pudding than a smoothie.

Roberto is the smoothie maker in the family, I just tell him what I want in mine and he whips it up in the vitamix. We usually have a smoothie after dinner on most nights.

Once papaya season was over, I started getting mangoes. For some crazy and fateful reason, the day Roberto made the first mango smoothie, he added an avocado to the mix. The result was amazing, the best treat of the season! As anyone who has made a smoothie with avocado knows, the consistency is more of a pudding that a smoothie. With the addition of lime juice, and the color of the avocado, this dessert is reminiscent of a key lime pie filling. As the season draws to a close, be sure to get in one of these delicious smoothie-puddings! You won’t regret it!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup coconut milk
1 mango
1 avocado
2 pitted dates
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp cinnamon
Ice

METHOD:
Place all ingredients in the blender in the order they appear (except the ice). Go from low speed to high slowly to make sure that all the ingredients blend well together in a smooth consistency. Once it has been blended add 1-2 ice cubes at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Serves 2.

Rose-Vanilla Syrup

 

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows how much I rely on herbs and plants to keep myself healthy. My interest in herbs began sometime in high school after reading The Mists of Avalon which is full of herbal lore and of course magic and just went on from there.

I don’t think herbal remedies are magic, per se, I think they are natural ways to keep our bodies in the best shape possible, mentally, physically and emotionally. Herbs are helpers who have evolved right along with us, our allies. As people that love to cook, we use herbs a lot in day to day life spicing up our dishes. But there are also healing properties behind the many culinary herbs we use.

If you have ever enjoyed Middle Eastern desserts you may have encountered rose water. Or if you watched the amazing movie, Like Water for Chocolate you will remember vividly the scene in which the protagonist cooks up a wooing meal using roses.

Roses, both wild and domesticated are edible, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. I find roses to taste rather sweet (big surprise!) and they are also incredibly soothing. In herbal medicine they are considered to be cooling and dry, but there is a warmth to them to be sure. It is no coincidence that people have been using roses to tell people they love them for a very long time, because it has much to tell us about the properties of roses.

Roses are associated with the heart and are good for both cardiovascular issues and emotional well-being. They are good for keeping our bodies balanced. Rose petals are high in Vitamin C making it a good idea to use in staving off colds or other infections. Rose petals, because of the natural occurring acids they contain is good for keeping your GI tract in good condition. Rose petals have been known to expel toxins in the gut and helps support the good and friendly flora in the gut.

Rose petals can also help with stress and emotions. One of my herbal teachers recently said that she uses Rose to help people create healthy boundaries, to give the person an ability to give and receive love without wearing their heart on their sleeve. Rose petals are physically almost see through when you hold them up to the light, but to the touch they are almost leathery, roses are beautiful but also thorny. Rose teaches us about balance, helps regulate the emotions and helps us navigate intimate relationships.

Roses are in full bloom right now, but if your roses are past their prime, don’t worry, just wait for them to give way to rose hips, their natural fruit!

I made my rose syrup the same day that I was blanching stone fruits for the freezer. I decided not to throw away the water I used for blanching and to use it for my syrup. I also added a star anise, a few cardamom pods and a vanilla bean to the brew in addition to following the recipe from A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter. The result is a delicious syrup, perfect for adding to fizzy water for a wonderful summertime drink. I also find it goes well in a cup of herbal tea as the sweetener. Check out the link to the original recipe and you will find more uses there for rose syrup.

Rose-Vanilla Syrup (adapted from A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter)

INGREDIENTS:

approximately 3 cups loose, unsprayed rose petals
5 cups cold water
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 star anise
A few cardamom pods
A vanilla bean

METHOD: Just pick a few handfuls of unsprayed rose petals, throw them in a pot with sugar and water (and additional spices, if desired), bring everything to a simmer and cook for about five minutes before adding lemon juice (important for both the color and the flavor!). Remove from heat, and allow everything to infuse overnight. All you have to do the next day is strain it and store it in the refrigerator (I also froze some).

Grilled Fresh Sardines

 

I hope everyone in the Northern hemisphere is having a good summer! We have truly been blessed this year with blue skies and warm (not super-hot) days. We have gotten some rain here and there, but all in all it has been spectacular. We have been spending a lot of time outdoors, taking long walks, hiking, and gardening. So I haven’t been online as much as usual and so it has been hard getting blog posts out, let keeping up with all my favorite blogs…but I am plugging away!

Summertime is all about fresh flavors and simple recipes. I love throwing veggies on the grill, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes – a great accompaniment to any dinner, simple and delicious.

Recently we were happy to find fresh sardines from Portugal at our local health food store. I have never had fresh sardines, although I see them on a lot of blogs this time of year, and I have always hoped to have a chance to try them. I have been trying to get into canned sardines for years – they are so good for you. But I have a hard time finding a good recipe to use them. Does anyone have any favorites? Please leave them in the comments, if you would! Plus we are always joking that if Roberto eats them, does that mean he is a cannibal? He is from Sardinia after all.

So when we got this package of beautiful fresh and silvery sardines, I knew I wanted to prepare them in a way that would really let us taste the fish. I looked online and found a lot of ways to prepare sardines, but in the end we went with simplicity, grilling them and serving them with fresh squeezed lemon juice.

I basically followed the directions for Portuguese Grilled Sardines from this website.  It is a very simple preparation and the result is truly delightful. Served up with some of those grilled veggies and a glass of vihno verde it is an excellent summer meal!