Eggplant Relish

15 lbs of homegrown produce!

Harvest season is here! This has been our best gardening year yet. I owe it all to our bunnies actually. It was their little pellets, collected through the winter which has made our plants produce like crazy. Between that and the warmer, drier temperatures this summer, we are just awash with so many delicious fresh vegetables!

This year we are growing tomatoes (we have about 30 plants!), zucchini, ground cherries, carrots, cabbages, sugar snap peas, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, melons lettuces, Swiss chard and arugula and beans (hope I am not forgetting anything). We tried new varieties of tomatoes this year, German Pink, Black from Tula and Ukrainian Purple, all developed in colder climates. We also tried cold climate melons. All are doing great this year!

This year, so far we have preserved 25 lbs of cabbage (red and green), 11 lbs of greens, 15 lbs of stone fruits, 10 lbs of tomatoes, as well as assorted carrots, green beans, sugar snaps, onions, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. So it has been a busy couple of months. We are really going to enjoy this in the winter months. That taste of summer is always so welcomed when the snows are falling down all around us.

I want to share with you a delicious condiment that I made. One that I wanted to dig right into but will have to reserve a bit of will power to leave it on the shelf for the dead of winter when the taste of sun ripened tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will be just the right thing I need to lift my spirits!

Eggplant-Tomato Relish (from The Joy of Pickling – My VERY favorite cookbook for this time of year!)
Makes 2 pints

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
2 tsp sea salt
6 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped tomatoes
¾ cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 TBS pine nuts
1 TBS capers
Black pepper to taste

METHOD: In a bowl, toss eggplant with salt, put in a colander and let drain for an hour or so. Rinse eggplant and drain it well. Heat the oil in a large non-reactive pot. Add eggplant and sauté about 5 minutes. Add onion and pepper and sauté another 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Over medium heat bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring often for about an hour. Remove bay leaf and ladle mixture into pint or half pint mason jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Close jars with 2-piece caps and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Two Simple Chia Pudding Recipes (dairy free, grain free)

 

(Simple Chia Seed Pudding)

Pudding is one of my favorite desserts – I love the creamy texture and the multitude of ways that you change it up once you have a good base. Normally during the week we have homemade yogurt with fruit for dessert and in the summertime we also enjoy coconut milk ice creams and kefir or yogurt “ice cream” . My husband, Roberto is lactose intolerant but does fine with cultured milk products, so I tend to use these bases when making desserts. Personally I love them and don’t miss the traditional ice creams very much at all!

When I make desserts for us at home during the week, I am looking for something healthy and quick that I can make with ingredients I have on hand. I don’t want to have to wash a lot of pans, or spend a lot of time at the stove, tempering eggs and what not. So if I can get out of cooking the dessert, all the better.

I want to share with you two simple versions of chia seed pudding. It took me a while to get on the chia bandwagon. For a long time, all I could think about when I heard the name is those ugly chia pets. I am still not actually sure if they are related. I started finding people posting all these delicious and simple dessert recipes with chia seeds and I decided to try them, for convenience.

Chia seeds really are amazing. If you are egg free (which I am NOT thank the Gods) they can be a real life-saving ingredient, since they are a great “glue” and binder, not only in baked goods, but also in puddings. Chia has been around for a long time, used in pre-Columbian times by the Aztec. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and ALA. They are also high in protein as well as phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium.

Chia seeds are used often in the raw food community, which is where I found the first recipe that I want to share. I found lots of delicious raw desserts on Sweetly Raw, including “Ways with Chia”. I used the recipe for Basic Chia Pudding. Sometimes I use yogurt as the base and other times I use coconut milk. I find it is really good with a fruit compote. The one pictured is a simple strawberry compote I made using fresh strawberries and cooking them down with a little honey over a low heat until it was the right consistency. So simple!

The other night I wanted something warm for dessert. So I decided to cook a quick pudding. This time I used chia seeds, arrowroot powder, coconut milk, and some spices. I served it with sliced bananas and warmed almond butter drizzled over the whole thing. It was delicious and thinking about it right now makes me want to have it for dessert tonight! These also make good breakfasts.

Each of these puddings takes just a few minutes to put together. They both require very few ingredients and they both allow you to get creative with toppings, spices and flavorings. If you haven’t tried chia seeds yet, I definitely suggest it!

Basic Chia Pudding (cold) (from SweetlyRaw)

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup coconut or almond milk or yogurt
1-2 tablespoons chia seed
Vanilla bean and a pinch of salt (optional)

METHOD:
Shake 1 cup coconut milk with chia seed in a jar with a tight lid.
Allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes for the chia to swell completely.
Add toppings of your choice!

Basic Chia Pudding (warm or cold)

INGREDIENTS:
2 cans coconut milk
2 TBS chia seeds, ground
2 TBS arrowroot powder
¼ cup honey, maple, palm sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of cinnamon

METHOD:
Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the sweetener, chia seeds and the arrowroot powder and whisk almost constantly until it begins to boil. Lower heat to simmer and continue to whisk for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon. At this point it will be a bit thinner than traditional pudding, but will firm up nicely in the fridge if you’d rather serve it cold.

Scotch Eggs for Spring Equinox (Ostara)

 

The Spring Equinox is tomorrow and there is no better symbol of this day than the egg. Long held across many cultures as the utmost symbol of fertility, birth and new beginnings the egg, humble yet a perfect food should be featured on your menus tomorrow. If you happen to have chickens this is a good day to thank them for all the hard work they have done keeping you well fed with nutrient dense fuel – as the days have been getting longer since the Winter Solstice, our chickens have been producing more and more of nature’s perfect food.

Ēostre is the name of an Anglo Saxon Goddess of the Dawn who was celebrated during the month of April and so her name has been given to the festival of Easter. This connection with the Spring Equinox and Ēostre is why the Christian celebration of Easter includes decorating colorful eggs, egg hunts and the like.

Scotch eggs are a beautiful culinary tribute to the equinox. A hard-boiled egg, covered in a shell of sausage, cracked open and devoured- now there is a great way to celebrate! We made our Scotch eggs using eggs from our own hens and homemade sausage we made from our pigshare this fall.

While we are talking about history, the origin of Scotch eggs is not known. The earliest printed recipe is from 1809, although the London department store Fortnum and Mason claims they invented in in the mid 1700’s. What we know for sure is that Scotch eggs are a popular picnic food in the UK. They are usually served cold, although in the US and other places they are served in gastropubs hot and usually with some kind of accompanying sauce.

Scotch eggs are simple to make (see the step by step instructions with photos below in the recipe). Just boil some eggs and mold a nice layer of sausage around them. I coated mine in a little bit of cornmeal, and then browned them in a hot skillet with olive oil. Then I transferred them to a hot oven to cook evenly for about 10 minutes. They are a delicious breakfast or a nice snack, definitely perfect for a spring equinox picnic.

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs
1 tsp salt
Glug of vinegar
¾ lbs sausage
½ cup cornmeal or 1/2 cup almond meal to make it paleo
Olive oil

METHOD:

Boil the eggs. To make perfect boiled eggs, place eggs in a pot of cold water (use enough water to cover the eggs), to the water add a tsp of sea salt and a glug of vinegar. Put a lid on the pot and put on a burner over high heat. Once the water begins to boil, turn the heat off and set a timer for 12 minutes. Immediately remove the eggs from the water and run them under cold water or place them in a bowl of cold water. After about 5 minutes they will be cool enough to touch. At this point peel the eggs and set them aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 F and start heating up a cast iron skillet over low heat. Next take ¼ of the sausage and make a flat pancake out of it and place one egg in the center and carefully wrap the egg entirely in the sausage, then roll the whole thing in corn or almond meal. Do the same procedure using the rest of the eggs, sausage and corn or almond meal.

Add some olive oil to the cast iron skillet – enough to cover the bottom about ¼ of an inch. Place the Scotch eggs in the skillet and brown on all sides. Then place in the oven on a cookie sheet and cook for about 10 minutes. Can be served immediately, or cooled and refrigerated for picnic food!

Versatile Smoothie Recipe

This recipe is kitty approved!

I have been posting a lot recently on my Facebook Page about my post workout Pumpkin Smoothies and those posts have created quite a buzz! I am a huge pumpkin freak and I enjoy it all year long – seems like a lot of you are too! I don’t know what I enjoy better, my workouts or these smoothies afterwards- the best of both worlds! This smoothie is great way to get in some extra grain-free carbohydrates, fat and protein post workout.

That said, many times when I post a specific recipe, I get a lot of great comments like: “can I substitute Y ingredient for X ingredient?” or “I wish I could make that, but I don’t consume X ingredient” or “I wish I could make this but I don’t know where to get X ingredient” or simply “I don’t like X ingredient”. You get the gist…so although I will post my awesome pumpkin smoothie with options and add ins, I will also give you ideas for entirely different smoothie recipes. This is mix and match folks! :)

This is your smoothie recipe – easy to tailor to your tastes and needs. I give some suggestions, but feel free to improvise. Like chocolate? Add a TBS or two of fair trade cocoa powder (no sugar added). Don’t do sugar? Try stevia, or fruit sweetened smoothies – dried dates are great for this. Want to make it a greenie? Add a handful of spinach or kale. The possibilities are endless!

Here are some of my recent combinations:

raw milk, pumpkin, 1/2 banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a little stevia
raw milk, egg, pumpkin puree, almond butter, cinnamon and molasses
coconut milk, avocado, cocoa powder, cinnamon, maple
kefir, soaked almonds, dried dates/figs, frozen berries, vanilla extract

This smoothie recipe is so versatile you can enjoy it for breakfast, a snack, dessert or part of any meal when you need an extra boost.

INGREDIENTS: per smoothie (@ 16 oz)

Base liquid: 1 cup liquid – Kefir, Raw Milk, Coconut Milk are good choices
Thickener: 1 banana – I also like using instead 1/2 avocado
Nuts: 3 TBS almond butter – you can use any other nut butter or a handful of soaked nuts – I usually use almonds – click here to understand about the benefits of soaking nuts
Sweetener: 1 TBS 100% pure maple syrup, honey or molasses or 1/8 – ¼ tsp or one or two dried dates (optional)
Optional add ins: ¼ cup of pumpkin puree, 1/4 yogurt, 1/4 berries, 2 TBS cocoa powder, kale or spinach, dash of cinnamon, 1 shot of espresso or ¼ cup of coffee, 1 TBS coconut oil, raw pastured raised chicken egg (do not use conventional eggs from the grocery store), vanilla extract, powdered ginger, nutmeg, etc.
Ice

METHOD:
Place all the liquids in your blender first. Then add the fruit, butters, oils and nuts and then the cinnamon. Process on medium speed until well mixed, then start adding ice, a handful at a time, gradually, until the smoothie is at your desired consistency. I usually turn up the speed to high during the ice process. Pour and enjoy!

Black Bean Brownies (gluten, grain and dairy free!)

After my rant last week, I decided to start off this week with something sweeter and right in time for Valentine’s Day! Black Bean Brownies. If you have been following blogs for any amount of time, it is likely that you have stumbled across these guys at some point. Maybe if you are like me, you have been intrigued to try them, but haven’t quite gotten around to making them yet.

Well I am here to tell you that if you think beans have no place in baked goods; you are seriously missing out on some deliciously protein packed healthy treats. Don’t think these are for you? How about if I say you can have brownies for breakfast? Do I have you attention now?

I am actually no stranger to baking with beans, if you have the The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts cookbook (and if you don’t I would seriously consider getting it!), Kelly bakes a lot with beans, and this cookbook has literally changed my life. Instead of feeling full and tired after eating baked goods, I feel energized! Her recipes are amazing, easy to make and so tasty, they are also “fool proof” if you are new to gluten or grain free baking and trying to learn how in the world you can bake without either of these ingredients, this is a great book!

I did a search through some cookbooks and several blogs looking for the perfect recipe for Black Bean Brownies, but as usual, I didn’t find the perfect one, so of course, I kind of went out on my own and created a recipe inspired by the many that are already out there.

See, in the great debate about brownies, I fall in the cakey vs. fudgy side of things. If you don’t like cakey brownies, I think you will still love these, and it will become a go-to recipe for making healthy and delicious chocolate cake. In fact I plan to make them in the very near future as a cake, and use some kind of wonderful real food icing on top.

I brought these to a social gathering and everyone absolutely loved them! They couldn’t believe there were beans in them for one, but were equally surprised to find out there are no gluten or grains either! Personally, I love the super dark, rich look of these brownies. Plus, they are so good for you; you can absolutely have them for breakfast with no guilt. So make a batch for your valentine’s this year.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups black beans cooked
1/3 cup coconut oil
½ cup honey, warmed
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp Dandy Blend – Instant Dandelion Beverage Single Servings – 25 Packet(s) (an instant caffeine free coffee substitute or you could use instant espresso)
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking soda (if you like your brownies “fudgy” you could experiment by leaving this out)
¾ cup dutch processed cocoa powder

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a prepared 9×9 inch baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Your knife may not come out clean, but the top will look crackly like brownies usually do.

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!

Your Favorite Posts of 2011

 

I really want to take a moment to thank all of my readers and blogging friends for your support this year, both on this blog, as well as through Facebook and Twitter! As social media grows, it seems more of our interactions together take place on other websites, for example my Facebook page and Twitter account has amassed so many followers, I am just astounded and overwhelmed. I have really enjoyed getting to know many of you this way! Thank you!

It is hard to believe another year of blogging has gone by! Getting these posts together every year is always a great look back on all the wonderful food we have enjoyed. I hope all of you reading this also had a great 2011 and are all looking forward to 2012! Here are the top 10 posts from this year. If you enjoy something that I post, please click the “like” button at the top, to “like” it on facebook, also feel free to tweet about it or leave me a comment. This is very helpful to me to know what kinds of posts you all want to see!

Please leave a comment and let me know what kinds of posts you would like to see on this blog in 2012! Happy New Year!

 

NUMBER 10: Breakfast of Champions and my First YouTube!


 

Number 9: The BEST Gluten-Free Pancakes EVER

 

Number 8: Drying Apples For Winter Storage

 

Number 7: Raw Avocado Chocolate Pudding

 

Number 6: Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits

 

Number 5: Musings on Homesteading

 

Number 4: How to Make Kefir at Home…and Why You Should!

 

Number 3: DIY Holiday Gift Series: Dairy-Free Decadent Chocolate Truffles

 

Number 2: Making Yogurt at Home: Filmjölk

 

And your favorite post of 2011: Number 1: Got Raw Milk? Food Freedom Fighters!


DIY Holiday Gift Series: Maple Popcorn

 

WARNING: the next few weeks will be possible SPOILERS for family and friends


Don’t you just love all these healthy treats I have been sharing in this series? I just love sharing all these goodies with you! I am amazed at how good, “good for you” treats can really taste. I gotta say, it makes me feel really good about giving them to my loved ones (and sampling them to make sure they are good enough to send!)

This past weekend I experimented with a batch of Maple Popcorn. I have an Uncle who got addicted to it when he and my Auntie came to visit us a year or so ago. I have to be honest, like delivery pizza I never liked popcorn. It was always stale tasting or covered in that nasty fake butter. But when I had it once, made on the stove top using real butter, I discovered how much I liked it! Since then, it has been a sometimes snack in our household and I really did enjoy the maple popcorn that my Uncle got hooked on.

So, I thought maple popcorn would be a great gift to send for the holidays – nothing says Vermont like maple and popcorn is so lightweight and easy to ship! When I saw a recipe for Healthy Caramel Corn on Cheeseslave’s blog, I thought it would be a good base for a maple version and was it ever! I nailed it on the first batch, just by modifying her recipe to include maple. It was so good and incredibly fast and easy to prepare!

I’ll share a little secret with you though…this is made even better by grating some parmesan cheese on top…I admit to having that weird taste bud that loves sweet and salty or sour together rather than one or the other alone. Recently I found out it could be genetic (which explains why so many people think it is weird) thanks to another blogger who also solved a genealogical mystery for me.

ANYWAY, before I go way off on a crazy genealogy tangent now (I probably will at a later date), let me share with you how I packed the maple popcorn. I decided it would be cute to package them in white paper bags, decorated with holiday stamps!

I found this adorable snowflake stamp set, but when I got the stamps, I was disappointed to find that the stamp pads did not work on white paper! So I had to rush order some colors that would work!

Don’t they look cute and festive?

So go on and enjoy a bowl this weekend! It is a really tasty treat that everyone can feel good about eating!

 

Maple Popcorn (based on Healthy Caramel Corn from Cheeseslave)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup un-popped organic popcorn
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup 100% pure maple syrup
¼ cup really good butter
Salt to taste

METHOD:

Put the popcorn and coconut oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven and turn the heat up to high, put the lid on.

After a few minutes, you will hear the popcorn start to pop. I like to shake the pot around a few times to make sure the un-popped kernels go to the bottom to pop. After a few minutes, the popcorn will stop popping. Listen closely and when the pops slow down, remove the pot from the heat. Act quickly and pour the popped popcorn into a large bowl (you might need two bowls). If you leave it in the stockpot, the popcorn at the bottom will get burned.

Put the stockpot on low heat and add the maple and butter. Stir until blended and completely melted. Pour the butter/maple blend on the popped popcorn. Toss in a few pinches of sea salt and mix it all together until everything is well-incorporated. If you are crazy like me, grate some parm on top. If you have trouble getting it mixed together in the bowls, you can put it back into the stockpot to mix it. Makes about 6 cups of popcorn per batch.