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

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

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

Shredded Lemon-Yogurt Chicken over Grain-Free Naan with Garlicky Tzatziki

 

Shredded Chicken on Naan with Tzatziki

(Shredded Lemon-Yogurt Chicken over Grain-Free Naan with Garlicky Tzatziki)

Sometimes in the dead of winter, you long for something sunny and bright. During winter’s darkness I often become hungry for the bright sunny tastes of the Mediterranean.

On a recent trip to Costco we were excited to find organic chicken – breasts and thighs. This might not sound very exciting, but when you raise your own chickens for meat (and eggs!) most of the time the only chicken meals you really make are whole roasted chickens or chicken soup. When you free-range your chickens they don’t tend to get as nice and plump and so the breasts and other parts tend to be on the smaller side. So we were excited to find decent quality chicken cuts for very good prices at Costco to add some diversity to our dinners.

Having various cuts of chicken is a luxury for us and so I wanted to do something fun with the meat. I made several slices into each breast and stuffed them with slices of meyer lemon. Then I rubbed the breasts with a mixture of homemade goat yogurt, salt, garlic, oregano, mint and lemon juice. I baked the breasts in the oven until the meat could be easily shredded. Then I served the shredded meat on top of grain free naan bread with slices tomatoes, cucumbers and arugula and then topped the whole thing off with homemade tzatziki.

This meal really hit the spot! It was comprised of all the flavors I was looking for without taking a long time to make. Cooking with an infant in the house means cooking in stages. I made the naan earlier in the day – easy to reheat later. I also made the tzatziki early, so the garlic had time to really penetrate the yogurt. I decided to bake the chicken so it was very hands off. Then at the end I just had to pull the whole thing together.

I served it with a simple side of oven roasted eggplant dices.

Lemon-Yogurt Chicken Breasts

INGREDIENTS:

2 organic chicken breasts
¼ cup plain organic yogurt (cow, goat, non-dairy)
2 TBS lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint
drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil

METHOD: Place chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish and mix with all the ingredients. Let sit in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place baking dish with chicken and marinade in the oven and cover, bake for 45 minutes until meat is tender enough to shred.

Tzatziki

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ cup plain organic yogurt (cow, goat, non-dairy)
2 TBS lemon juice
½ of an English (seedless) cucumber, shredded
5 cloves of garlic, shredded or grated
salt to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint
drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil

METHOD: Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

Oven Roasted Eggplant Dices

INGREDIENTS:

2 small eggplants, diced and salted
extra virgin olive oil

METHOD: Preheat oven to 400 F. Dice the eggplant and place in a colander, lightly salt the eggplant and let sit for about 20 minutes. In 20 minutes rinse the eggplant and squeeze the pieces to get the water out. Place on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Salt to taste.

Grain-Free Naan Bread

I have used both of these recipes and they are great for this purpose!

Grain Free Garlic Naan (Gluten/Yeast/Nut/Dairy Free) by Real Sustenance
Paleo Naan Bread (Flatbread) by Swiss Paleo

 

Elle’s Mushroom Bourguignon with Venison for #ElleAPalooza

IMG_2702

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: Russian Borscht

 

2013-12-05_Borscht_Mashers

I loooove borscht. The first time I ever made it I was over run with beets from my CSA. This was in college and we had an agriculture program there and if you lived on campus (or off) your could buy a CSA share. This was the first time I had ever heard of a CSA by the way and I thought it was very cool and it taught me to cook lots of different kinds of produce I wasn’t used to.

So I was in my on campus apartment making dinner for my housemates. Everything in the kitchen was red, including my hands and my shirt. I loved the experience. Ever since then, I have been hooked. In fact during my pregnancy I had a dream while napping of eating borscht, so my husband made it for me. Since I love it so much, I figured it would be a perfect addition to my postpartum menu. I used beets that we had grown in our garden the year before that were roasted and then frozen. Definitely handy for a borscht lover.

This soup is restorative, comforting and deeply nourishing. Since I am such a borscht fanatic, I asked my friend and fellow blogger Sofya, who blogs at A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter for her recipe. She is from Azerbaijan and that being a former Soviet republic, I figured she would have a truly authentic recipe. Her recipe begins with making homemade beef bone broth which is the base of the soup. This is truly delicious comfort food.

This borscht is the best! In fact I am eating some right now. Today I served it over mashed potatoes with some fresh sauerkraut on top. In my version I was lazy and I cubed all my veggies instead of grating them. But I guess you can’t blame me for taking a short cut, I was 9 months pregnant when I made it! I hope you make some and enjoy it during the cold, cold days of winter.

Russian Borscht Recipe by Sofya Hunt

Makes approximately 7 to 8 quarts

INGREDIENTS:

For the stock:

2 roasts, such as chuck or arm, 2 to 3 lbs each, or 4 to 6 lbs soup bones (or some combination of both)
2 gallons cold water
1 whole turnip, unpeeled
1 whole large onion, peeled and studded with 10-12 cloves
2 large carrots, unpeeled
1/2 celeriac, peeled
2 large bay leaves
10 dried allspice berries

For the soup:

12 medium beets
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded (do not use the core)
2 small to medium unpeeled turnips, grated
2 medium to large unpeeled parsnips, grated
4-6 unpeeled carrots, grated
1/2 celeriac, peeled and grated
2 large onions, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed
3 sticks of butter, for sauteing the vegetables
2/3 to 1 whole 8-oz can tomato paste
meat reserved from making the stock, cubed
1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and minced
organic beef base, or an equivalent
additional water or stock, as needed
lemon juice, to taste
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 bunch parsley, chopped
sour cream and extra parsley, for serving

The Stock

Place meat and vegetables in cold water and bring to a simmer. Skim off the scum that will rise to the top just before the simmering point. Once the stock is simmering, add bay leaf and allspice. Cover partially and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and the liquid had been reduced by at least half. Let cool and strain, reserving the meat and discarding the vegetables and spices. Note that I don’t degrease my stock, but if you’d like to do it, chill it in the fridge overnight and use a slotted spoon to remove solidified fat from the surface in the morning.

The Soup

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap the beets tightly in foil and pierce the packages (the foil and the beets) with a fork in several places to allow some of the steam to escape, thus preventing them from exploding in your oven. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until a knife can be slid easily in and out. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and unwrap. To peel them easily, hold each beet under warm running water while rubbing it with your hands – the skins will slip right off. Grate cooled beets and set aside.

Melt butter in a large stainless steel saute pan or a dutch oven (don’t be taken aback by the amount of butter – it will all be absorbed by the veggies before you know it). When the butter begins to foam, add grated parsnips, turnips, carrots, celeriac, and chopped onion and saute until the onions are translucent and the root vegetables begin to soften. Reduce the heat to low and stir in tomato paste. Set aside.

Bring strained stock to a boil and add the cabbage and the cubed potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sauteed root vegetables and 3/4 of grated beets (we’ll be adding the rest towards the end for additional color boost). Continue simmering gently, partially covered, for 40 minutes. If your soup appears too thick at this point, feel free to add more water or extra stock until the consistency is right. If using homemade stock, add beef base (do not add extra salt until you are done adding beef base as it tends to be very salty on its own). Stir in the remaining beets, cubed meat, minced garlic, pepper, lemon juice, and more salt if needed (the exact amount of lemon juice will depend on your taste, but the goal is to strike a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity so your borscht is neither too sour, nor too sweet). Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the beets are no longer dark-red and the garlic has mellowed out. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.

Let cool and refrigerate overnight before serving the next day.

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.

Thai Inspired Noodle Stir Fry

 

I don’t normally cook Asian cuisine at home, but have been known to put on a sushi party every now and then! With allergies to both gluten and soy it is hard finding recipes that don’t include these common ingredients and I can never go out to eat since most places use these ingredients. But recently I have re-discovered Thai and Vietnamese, cuisines that don’t rely on those ingredients but instead fresh flavors like lime, cilantro, mint, fish sauce and rice noodles. I am also a sucker for the crushed peanut garnishes…

(My first homemade Pad Thai)

We have a few decent Thai and Vietnamese places in Vermont, but they are at least an hour away from us. So I started making it at home. We had friends over for dinner a few weeks ago and I tried my hand at making the classic dishes, Pad Thai and Chicken Satay  (based on the recipes that are highlighted). It was a lot of fun to make and both dishes turned out delicious. After working with traditional recipes and wrapping my head around the flavor profile, I have started using these flavors often in my cooking, lately. I think this type of food lends itself well to the summer anyway; couple that with our garden and CSA bursting at the seams with fresh produce and immediately a delicious stir fry seemed like just the thing for dinner one night recently. It has literally been years since I made a stir fry and after this experience making it, I realized why it is such a popular go-to meal!

I had some leftover Pad Thai sauce and peanut sauce from the satay and so I used those in combination as my sauce. Then I scrounged around in my vegetable bin and took out everything that needed using. I knew I had some baby shrimp in the freezer and a plan started coming together. I also made a recent discovery of Miracle Noodle , a Shirataki noodle. Shirataki noodles are made from a white yam and are basically made up of water and fiber. They don’t have much of a taste on their own, but they are a great substitute for white rice noodles or glass noodles and are very light, as they contain no net carbohydrates. I used them for my Pad Thai and they worked great, so I knew they would be lovely with this stir fry.

This was a simple and quick meal to put together. If you don’t have all the vegetables I put in my stir fry, try using what you have on hand. This is what makes preparing a stir fry so fast and easy.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TBS coconut oil
  • 1 whole kohlrabi, cut in thin circles, cut in half
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • ½ leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 TBS minced/grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced/grated
  • ¾ cup peanut sauce http://www.shesimmers.com/2009/03/how-to-make-thai-peanut-sauce-my-moms.html
  • 2 16 oz packages of Miracle Noodle
  • A couple hand fulls of spinach
  • 1 cup of pre-cooked baby shrimp
  • Juice of one lime
  • ½ English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • sliced leek
  • crushed peanuts
  • cilantro and/or mint

METHOD: Heat coconut oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the kohlrabi and cook until nice and browned. Then add the carrots, leeks, ginger and garlic. Sautee until the carrot softens a bit (you want the end result to still be somewhat crunchy). Add the peanut sauce, add more coconut oil if it is too dry. Then add 2 packages of the noodles, stir constantly. Add the spinach and shrimp and cook until the spinach is wilted. Then remove the skillet from the heat and squeeze the lime juice over everything. Divide evenly between two bowls and garnish with the cucumber, leek, peanuts and cilantro/mint. Serve immediately. Serves 2.