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.

caramelized-onion_burger_ready-to-eat
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.

 

Alba Rose Jenevieve’s Birth Story

alba pod

I am taking a bit of a diversion on the blog for this post, as it has nothing at all to do with food. However it does explain my long absence! Many people have asked me if I would share my birth experience and I can’t think of anywhere else to share it, so it will live here. Keep in mind while reading this that some experiences are hard to put into words, even for a writer.

I think most people asked to hear the story because I chose to have Alba Rose at home in the company of midwives, something that is thought of as quite unconventional in this day and age, despite millennia of precedence. During my pregnancy people would tell me I was brave, and sometimes people were concerned for me when I told them my plans to have my baby at home. My response was always that I thought people who had babies in hospitals were the brave ones, surrounded by strangers in a strange place going through one of the most truly awesome experiences in life in the hands of doctors. Not that doctors are bad, just for me they didn’t belong in my vision as a part of my sacred transformation from maiden to mother (unless there was something wrong with me or the baby that made it medically necessary for their expertise).

For me, having a child is one of the most monumental and natural acts in the world. Women have been doing it since the beginning of time, and always at home, attended by midwives. This has been the norm for a very long time. Our culture in modern times has relegated giving birth to the realm of doctors, medicine and medical intervention, sending women the message that giving birth is in the same category as having a disease or a medical problem and that they cannot birth a child on their own. Personally, I never bought into that for myself and was always confident that when the time came, my body would take over and know exactly what needed to be done.

So my birth plan was a simple one, to labor and give birth at home in a birthing tub with very little intervention. I have always loved the water, being an avid competitive swimmer once and the idea of giving birth in water felt comforting. We were all set up a few days ahead of time, I had an intuition that the baby was going to arrive in week 39 and that is what ended up happening.

One night as we were lying in bed, wondering when the wee one was going to arrive we heard something we had never heard before in the 4 years we have lived in this house, an owl on our roof hooting loudly. I will preface this by saying that all during my pregnancy I have been drawn to anything with owls on it, and had bought a few owl themed items for the baby, so when we heard the owl, we wondered if it was a herald of labor beginning soon. I found out later, that my cousin Michelle, who is like a sister to me, had an encounter with an owl on the same night.

The next morning I woke up to some cramping. I was getting these cramps about every half an hour. They didn’t feel at all like the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been experiencing, so I didn’t pay too much attention to them. We woke leisurely and then decided to go into town and have brunch and take the dogs on a nice long walk. As we enjoyed our day, the time between cramps got shorter and by the time we got home and had prepared a snack for dinner, they were coming about 5 minutes apart. We were just relaxing and watching TV and at 9:40 PM my water broke. It really wasn’t until that moment I realized that this was for real and I was in labor and had been in early labor all day!

We called the midwives and within the hour they were here. For the next two hours the contractions started getting more intense, but I was lucid and in my normal frame of mind, chatting it up with everyone in between contractions and taking a minute or so to concentrate when they came on again. Around 1 am things started to change, the contractions were very strong at this point and I was having a difficult time noticing my surroundings, my attention was drawn inward, into my breath, into the pain. Soon, I was not getting any rest in between contractions and as the contractions came on my stomach muscles began rippling downward on their own. It was time to start pushing. At this point it was hard to find a comfortable position and the birthing tub was not quite up to temperature yet, so I had to make do. Roberto was there the whole time with soothing words and an ice pack that he kept moving to different parts of my body so I could focus on that instead of the pain I was getting with each contraction. I was totally inside myself at this point, not really able to interact with what was happening outside of myself. It was very intense and my memory of that time is still vey foggy even now.

Eventually the tub was ready and everyone helped me walk over to it and get in. The tub was amazing, the warmth of the water slowed the contractions a bit, so I was able to rest in between and regain some reserves of strength. I remember at this point feeling like I couldn’t push hard enough to get the baby out, without ripping in half but the encouragement of Roberto and the midwives helped my mind to get past the fear and give it all I had! After a little while in the tub, I remember feeling like my legs had some strength in them again and I got into a squatting position. It was in this position that I was able to push her head out. I remember Roberto touching her head and saying: “I feel a nose!” The midwives put a hand mirror in the water so I could see what was happening, but I was in a zone and so I was concentrating on pushing, breathing and just existing, everything around me was just a big haze. Soon they told me I only needed to push one more time and the baby would be out. I told them I didn’t believe them, but I pushed as hard as I could, finally giving into the unknown and at 2:50 AM on September 8, 2013 Alba Rose Jenevieve Campus was born! Roberto got to catch her!

My bag of water had broken in the back and so when she came out, she was covered in the amniotic sack. Our midwife, Angela pulled it off of her and they laid her on my chest. She was all clean and pink, just like those fake newborns in the movies, the sack had kept her clean. I wasn’t even aware of any of this, at the time but I heard a little gurgling cry by my ear and I looked over to my right shoulder and there was a tiny little baby! Roberto announced that it was a girl.

Albajustborn

Then I remember turning to Roberto and saying: “she looks like Alba Rose, right?”. We had a few names on the list, but this was the name we were calling her in our hearts the last several months of my pregnancy. We didn’t even “officially” know she was a girl, but we KNEW.

I have also been asked the significance of her name. Alba means “dawn” in Italian. She was conceived on the Winter Solstice, the day when the sun returns, and the days start getting longer. That morning I woke before dawn and greeted the rising sun as I do every solstice, but this year had a special magic to it and we now know why! Alba is also the Gaelic name for Scotland. Rose is for the flower – her little rosebud mouth and also for the sun rising. We also found out recently that there is a rose called the Alba Rose that is an ancient rose variety from the time of the Romans and it is the rose that was adopted as the symbol of the Jacobites (Scottish nationalists) and this rose variety is also known as “The Jacobite Rose”. I have some Jacobite ancestors in my lineage, so it really fits! Jenevieve is the French version of my name and since she was conceived in Quebec City, it is a nod to that bit of her personal history.

albamommyjustborn

Birthing this baby is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and also the most gratifying. I am so thankful that we were able to have her the way we wanted, in the comfort of our own home, surrounded by trusted midwives who had been with us through the whole pregnancy. I am so grateful to have a healthy baby girl who has quickly become the biggest joy in our lives!

Stone Fruit Tart (grain and dairy free)

 

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I made this delicious and seasonal stone fruit tart a couple of weeks ago and I have been meaning to share it with you all!

My forays into the kitchen have slowed down a bit due to my protruding belly which has me bumping into things and being generally less graceful than usual, however when it comes to baking, I seem to be a bit more motivated it seems another thing that has come along with this pregnancy is a bit of a sweet tooth.

I have never been into really sweet desserts and I am still not, but I do find myself craving something sweet after dinner. Sometimes it is yogurt with fruit and honey or cajeta (goat’s milk caramel), sometimes-delicious organic whole fat ice cream or some other concoction I make in the kitchen, like this tart.

I found the tart crust and pastry cream filling on Pinterest. It is from DeliciouslyOrganic.net . Carrie made a strawberry tart, but with all the beautiful stone fruits in season, I decided to change it up a little. The result was wonderful. Using coconut sugar as the sweetener gave the pastry cream a bit of a caramelized flavor, which added some depth, and the crust was perfect – flaky and delicious. It held up to the cream nicely and it seemed like the flavors of the tart got better each day that it rested in the fridge in between servings!

Have fun with this recipe – use what fruits are in season and what you have on hand and you won’t be disappointed!

Stone Fruit Tart (adapted from Deliciously Organic)

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups almond flour
2 TBS coconut flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 tsp arrowroot
3/4 tsp sea salt
8 TBS unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

1 1/2 cups coconut milk
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup coconut sugar
3 TBS arrowroot powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 large plums, sliced thin
2 apricots, sliced thin
Handful of currants as garnish (optional)

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350ºF and adjust rack to middle position. Butter a 9-inch tart pan. Place almond flour, coconut flour, sugar, gelatin, arrowroot and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times to combine. Add butter and pulse 10 times to combine and then process until mixture forms dough. Press dough on bottom and up sides of tart pan.

Place tart pan on top of a baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until just turning golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes, then place tart crust in the refrigerator.

Pour the coconut milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, place the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using a whisk attachment, whisk mixture on medium-high for 3 minutes until very thick. Reduce speed to low and add arrowroot. Whisk until incorporated. With mixer on low, slowly (very slowly) add the hot coconut milk to the egg mixture.

When all of the coconut milk has been added, pour the coconut milk/egg mixture into the saucepan and heat over low heat. Whisk constantly until mixture forms a thick pudding. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, butter, and almond extract. Pour pastry cream into a large bowl. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on the pastry cream (this will prevent it from forming a skin). Chill for about 45 minutes.

Pour cooled pastry cream over the crust in the tart pan and spread evenly. Chill for about 3 hours. Place sliced stone fruits on top of pastry cream and serve. Serves 8

Orange Olive Oil Bread (paleo, gluten-free, dairy free)

 

Orange Olive Oil Bread

This is my first post in a very long time, but recently I have been inspired to start blogging a bit as I have made some very delicious recipes from some cookbooks I have received over the last month that I wanted to share with my readers, if you are still out there J

As I prepare to give birth to my first child in about a month, I have been looking for recipes that are easy to make and can be frozen. I plan to stock my freezer with these kinds of foods for the first few weeks after the baby is born – and this delicious recipe is definitely in the mix! If you have some great ideas, please come on over to my facebook page and add links to the thread for your favorite freezable items – casseroles, breads, muffins, etc.

I love this bread and I can’t wait to make it again. It smelled so good while I was mixing and baking it. It is moist, soft and extremely fragrant with the oranges and the olive oil – a classic Mediterranean flavor combination. I have been enjoying it all week for breakfast slathered in butter and served with a bowl of homemade goat yogurt and fruit. It is very filling and perfect for these hot summer days. In the winter I can see this bread going well topped with a rosemary compound butter.

This recipe comes from the book Paleo Indulgences: Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes to Satisfy Your Primal Cravings. I have modified the recipe somewhat. First, I doubled the recipe so that it would fit in a normal loaf pan (the original recipe is for 2 mini loaf pans). I also used almond flour instead of hazelnut flour, because I didn’t have any hazelnut flour and finally, I used honey instead of maple, and I didn’t increase the amount when I doubled the recipe, in fact I lessened it. For one, I think honey pairs better with the Mediterranean flavors of olive oil and orange and secondly, 2/3 cup of honey would be too sweet for this recipe, by my taste buds. Go ahead and taste the batter before you decide for yourself the level of sweetness that you need.

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup coconut flour
2/3 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
10 eggs
1/4 cup honey
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest and juice from 2 medium oranges

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350F. Place dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add wet ingredients and blend well with a hand-mixer (I used  my Kitchenaid for this recipe and it worked great – so I mixed the wet ingredients first and then added the dry).  Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil or butter. Bake 35-40 minutes or until the center of the loaf springs back when lightly pressed. Cool 10 minutes in the pan and turn onto a wire rack to cool. Store in fridge, but can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Happy Spring with Vegetable Dyed Eggs!

Happy Spring! Blessed Ostara/Eostre! Happy Easter!

Eostre Eggs_bunny

 

It has been such a long time since I posted anything. I do apologize and I promise that I have a good reason, but I am keeping it close for the moment.

Even though we have about a foot of snow on the ground outside the week before the change of the season was very tangible. It has retreated for the moment, but I am still trying to hold onto that energy.

Eggs are always associated with this time of year no matter what holiday you celebrate and I love the tradition of dying eggs this time of year, but I do not like the food coloring normally used for this purpose, which is why this year I wanted to try some truly natural dyes, made from plants.

Beets stain everything and so that is why I decided to go with beets. The eggs our hens give us range in color from light to chocolate brown and so I knew we needed something dark to see any results.

We started by placing peeled and frozen beets in about 2 cups of water with some vinegar and let it sit for about an hour. I pre-boiled all the eggs we were going to use for this project. I warmed the water/vinegar solution up and we put a few eggs into this beautiful pink water and let it sit for about 10 minutes. There was no result. So we tried going a little longer and nothing. Then we cut the beets into pieces to release more of the pink juices and then boiled them in the water/vinegar mixture for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the beets had lost most of their color and tried again. Again, no result.

I went to my facebook page and asked my knowledgable readers and someone suggested leaving them in the solution overnight. This morning I was worried when I pulled them out because it looked like a thin layer of  shell had peeled off. But what it left us with after we washed them off was what you see above (and below) – this very cool tie-dyed effect! It wasn’t what I thought they would look like, but they are quite beautiful in their own right.

Have some fun with your family this Springtide and experiment with dying eggs using vegetables. Please leave comments letting us know of your successes and failures, so we can all learn something new about this process!

Eostre Eggs

Holiday Baking Series: Gluten Free Æbleskiver (also called Förtchen, Futtjens, Ferdons or Fritters)

I like talking about ancestral food. I have found through personal experience that by preparing ancestral foods you can connect to the cultures of your birth in a fun and enjoyable way. It is like living history, but with food. My spiritual practice focuses a lot on ancestor veneration, i.e. honoring your ancestors. I have found the most profound way for me to do that is to expand my culinary repertoire and skills to include foods that had significance to those ancestors.

One of the most important days of the year to celebrate the ancestors is December 20th, also known as Mōdraniht or Mother’s Night when the female ancestors of one’s family linse are celebrated and thanked for, well, nothing short of making our lives possible. This is one of my favorite days of the year and I am doubly lucky as I have so many ancestors to celebrate, both from my adoptive and birth families! I celebrate this night by creating a holiday treat, usually a cookie, reflecting a particular branch of ancestry. In years past I have made :

Cuccidata, Sicilian Fig Cookies

Polenta & Sesame Biscotti

Pfeffernusse Shortbread

Last year we made these. I have always known them by their Danish name, æbleskiver, but I came across this recipe for a gluten-free version last year in Pinterest  and when I read the blog post, I knew I had to make these for Mother’s Night as the blogger who created the recipe and I share heritage from Holstein (which has switched around between being part of Denmark and Germany).

Here is what Heidi, the creator of this treat has to say about its origins:

“Förtchen are a traditional Christmas pastry in parts of northern Germany, especially in Schleswig-Holstein and in Denmark. My family’s original fritter recipe is much like a very dense cake-style donut hole.”

And some more tidbits from her Aunt:

“Our German ancestors were from the most northern part of Germany, in an area called Schleswig-Holstein. That part of the country was once a part of Denmark and I suspect that this recipe is somewhat Danish in origin.”

Heidi has a wonderful step by step guide to making these on her blog  she also has a link to the original non gluten free version.

We flavored our æbleskiver by filling them with some chestnut cream we had bought when visiting Quebec City. It was a wonderful holiday treat! My hope is to make them sometime during the season this year, although not for Mother’s night as I like to do something different each year.

Our Yearly Ritual and Making Pap-pap’s Italian Sausage with Pastured Pork!

I apologize for my extended absence these past few months. It was not an intentional blog break and I am not sure that it is over yet, either. But today I felt inspired to share with you an activity that has become a favorite family tradition for us over the past few years. This activity really kicks of the holiday season for us. It is food focused and a time for celebration with good friends.

It all started 3 years ago when we met a pair of young farmers at our local farmers market. They were growing food on a small diversified farm and had some options for meat shares. We liked the idea of buying a whole animal and then stocking our freezer with healthy meat. This is when I met Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher. He was doing a workshop on breaking down lambs and so Roberto and I decided to take the course using the lamb we bought from the farmers.

I have talked about Cole in the past, but I don’t think enough can ever be said about him. Over the years he has become a great teacher to Roberto and I, but those he has taught probably number in the hundreds. He has an immense wealth of knowledge being in the business of butchering for over 50 years. He has such a passion for his art and for teaching others the little known skills of breaking animals down into primal and gourmet or retail cuts. He believes in small local farms and farmers that raise animals who get plenty of sunshine, and exercise and are fed without antibiotics, GMOs and hormones.

At that first workshop with Cole, Roberto and I first met our very dear friends Corey and Kurt. We hit it off immediately – foodies can pick each other out of a crowd! Since that day 3 years ago, we have been cooking and eating delicious food with these guys and having a great time. We all care deeply about where our food comes from, and supporting local farmers and we love to cook, have fun in the kitchen and do foodie projects together.

So for the past two years we have bought a whole pig with them and have brought Cole back each time to help us break it down. After several hours breaking down the pig, we all sit down to an amazing lunch prepared with some of our fresh pork, drink some wine and share stories. Then the next day we get together again and spend the day making various kinds of sausage. Each year we experiment with different kinds so that in 10 years or so we’ll know exactly which ones to make! We grind the meat and fat, mix in giant quantities of spices (that usually cause sneezing fits), drink wine and just laugh together. Sometimes there is even dancing to German Oompah music! Or hog casing jump rope.

This year though we made the best Breakfast Sausage yet and made for the second year in a row the same Italian Sausage (my grandfather’s recipe) and Smoked Kielbasa recipe. Those I will share with you today, in a lazy sort of manner. But I just want to say, I love this yearly ritual. It is a great time to catch up with friends, be thankful not only for the friendships but sharing this task together. We talk about food and work together on something that truly has meaning. It is a way to support local farmers who are raising animals humanely and healthy. It supports your local economy and rewards people who are doing things the right way. It harkens back to the days when butchering an animal for food was a communal thing, something to be celebrated and respected. It is something I recommend to anyone that eats meat to try at least once. Maybe you’ll end up loving it as much as we do and will make it a yearly tradition of your own.

If you are interested in learning how to butcher an animal, Cole is the best in the business. If you can’t make it to a live workshop he has an amazing DVD series that goes through all the steps for various animals: beef, pork and lamb. Then he and his friend the amazing Chef Courtney Contos create delicious recipes with those cuts. He also has a blog  and a facebook page  both of which are full of lots of wisdom, tips and recipes.

These are the books we use to make sausages:

Home Sausage Making: How-To Techniques for Making and Enjoying 125 Sausages at Home

Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage

RECIPES:

Pap Pap’s Italian Sausage

Ingredients for each pound of pork/fat mixture. For sausage your meat should contain 30% fat:

1 level tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 TBL fennel seed
pinch of cayenne pepper

METHOD: Knead well until thoroughly mixed. Sausage can be eaten right away but tastes better if it sits in the fridge for 24 hours for flavors to marry. Store in fridge or separate into smaller packages and freeze.

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Best Breakfast Sausage

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Smoked Kielbasa