Ahh-chooo!

Crisp air, crunching leaves, and below-freezing in the blue-hued morning.  Squirrels eat saggy pumpkins forgotten on front porches.  Halloween has sprinted by with it’s sugary sweets, making immune systems all the more vulnerable.  This is fall in New England.

For my family this year, it meant colds all around.   We’d just returned from a  warm-climate vacation, and our defenses were down.  Although frequent & recurring colds are rare when living a nourishing lifestyle, even the most nourished person can get the occasional cold.  Whatever the reason, our noses were running here in Boston last week.

True to form, our medicine came from the fridge.  Whenever anyone in my household gets sick, I mix up this concoction and they drink it down several times a day.  The cold is kicked within two days.  I sweeten it up a bit more for the kids, but we all manage to drink some “tea” and kick our colds outside!

Whats so beneficial about this drink?

Garlic & ginger are antioxidant power houses, sea salt has antibiotic and anti-viral properties along with trace elements & minerals to help maintain hydration.

Lemons have antibacterial & antiviral properties, and coming in last is honey with antibiotic, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-oxidant.  Not so bad for a few items you have hanging around the fridge, eh?

Here’s the recipe for this Cold Remedy Tea:

  • 1 coffee-mug full of water
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 1, 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled & cut in chunks
  • honey to taste
  • salt
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Optional: a small splash of hot sauce, just for fun

Put water, garlic and ginger on the stove to simmer.  Leave for around 10+ minutes at a simmer.  Pour into coffee mug through a strainer. Add salt, lemon, honey to taste.  Drink hot.

Enjoy, and let these natural powerhouses kick your cold outside into the cold!

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Why I Still Eat Cannoli

I do, only occasionally.  Here’s why:

Food is one of the largest parts of our life, something we need to be consuming several times every day.  While nutritional value is incredibly important, it is not the whole meal.

I grew up in the blessed world of family meals.  One set of my grandparents lived with us growing up, and there was often a friend or relative visiting who joined us.  If someone was going to be late and regardless of who was around, my mom would keep everything warm on the stove and try to keep the kids from snacking too much.   Whenever the latecomer arrived, we sat and all ate together.

We usually started with only a few simple “buon appetito”’s.   Friends often asked about something they liked that their parents didn’t make, or us kids were asked about school or sports.  I imagine the adults spoke of more serious matters, but I have no recollection of those or nearly any conversations.  Rather, what remains is the memory and the feeling of sharing a meal, day-in day-out, with my family.  The daily coming together.

We certainly weren’t the Brady Bunch with deep conversations, and fine-tuned conflict-resolution skills; rather we had our fair share of dysfunction along side the home-cooked meals my mother and grandmother made.  Somehow, the discussions, arguments, grumpy kids or adults, nagging to eat or “just try” something was something I looked forward to.  During the busy years of after school activities, it was sometimes leftovers or “pizza Friday’s”.   But there was always a homemade salad to accompany the meal, and we always sat down together.

On the extra special days, my grandparents would have made a trip into NYC to Arthur Avenue, where the Italian-Americans go to forget they’ve left the motherland.  From there, amazing things would come back: loaves of bread with a taste only found there, sfogliatelle, millefoglie, cannoli.  The day-of is always the best with Italian desserts, so after dinner we’d all sit down and eat too many.  The next day, I’d toast sfogliatelle for breakfast & eat them with my grandmother, one of our favorite things and almost as good as the night before.

So when friends come to town and we find ourselves in the North End of Boston, we buy fresh, homemade cannoli & milefoglie and head to a park.  Bad jokes quoting The Godfather sneak out of everyone’s mouth as we dine.  The kids are silent as they sit on benches and gobble away.  And everyone nods in the shared goodness of fantastic treats and old friends.  Secretly, I am transported back in time.

I imagine my children’s food memories will be full of rich bone-broth soups, bread thick with cultured butter, raw milk & homemade ice cream.  But I do hope I’m able to teach them that good food comes from family, friends and laughter also, not only farms and gardens.

Into every life, a little cannoli must fall.

Cinnamon-Plum Ice Cream!

I’m in a “use what you have” phase of life right now, which extends very nicely into the kitchen.  In lieu of finding a recipe and then going out and getting specific ingredients, we instead see what we have and what we could make with it.

When my kids wanted a treat and we all wanted something beyond vanilla, we looked no further than the fridge where a few plums had been forgotten, and I almost always have raw milk & cream on hand.  The taste of plums alone can be quite mild, so we added in some cinnamon for a spicy treat that has a host of health benefits.

Here’s how we did it:

3 plums, diced
1 cup of cream (you can add in up to 1 cup more for even richer ice cream, as desired)
1 cup of raw milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup raw honey, the more mild the better
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 pinch of salt
a splash of water

Place the plums and water in a small sauce pan, and simmer.  Leave on heat until plums are soft.  If all the water cooks off, add a bit more to cover the bottom and prevent burning but be careful not to add too much- it will wash out the plum flavor and make the ice cream too watery.  At the end of the simmering process, add honey after the heat has been turned off.  Mix & set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, or while the plums are simmering, mix all the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl, then place in the refrigerator.

Push the plum & honey mixture through a fine sieve, pushing the contents through with the back of a spoon, spatula or other utensil.  Continue until only the skins are left in the sieve. This may take a while, especially if the plums were not very ripe, but do not skip this step!  The smoothness of the ice cream is well worth the effort.

Add the plum mixture to the ice cream mixture and combine.  Place all ingredients in an ice cream maker until thick.   I like to top with shredded coconut or crispy almonds.  Enjoy!

 

Liver success!

One of the real foods many people struggle with working into their diet is liver.  It’s a nutrient power-house, especially for pregnant or nursing mothers and growing children.  But I find that I’m the hardest one to please in this regard as the rest of my family loves it fried with onions.  I, however, can’t get past the texture and the, well, livery taste.

Last week I did it: I made a recipe that is truly good, not just tolerable.  With the leftovers from a liver-and-onion dinner, I got creative.  Why not get the liver in small doses with a fun dip, rather than trying to choke down a whole steak all at once?

So here it is, a bacon-cheese dip that you can put on sourdough bread or dip veggies.  I’ve found it’s a great go-to lunch when I need something quick.  Bonus- my kids love it!    Enjoy!

2-3 cooked calves-liver steaks
2 packages of organic cream cheese, or even better 2 cups of homemade cream cheese
5+ strips of cooked nitrate/nitrite free bacon
3 gloves of garlic
1/2 red onion
1 green pepper
salt to taste

Food-process, or very finely chop all ingredients separately.  Then pure together until smooth.  Chill and serve!

Soup in the Summer

It’s hot, so why on earth would I dream of making or serving soup?  Two reasons:  First, my children always love soup, particularly things with chunks they can dive their hands into the bowl in pursuit of.  It’s a mess, but they always eat it all and have a blast doing so regardless of the season. I’ll trade a few more dirty shirts for thoroughly nourished children any day.

Second, it’s one of the easiest ways to make and eat real food, regardless of season or weather.  A big pot of soup still goes a long way in the summer, it’s still easy to toss together in the crock pot in the morning and have dinner ready at night.    This weekend,  my hero of a husband whipped up the following chowder, and we just finished it for lunch 3 days later.

One thing first: you’ll notice that I don’t usually put quantities in my recipes (except for baking) which probably frustrates some of you.   From where I stand, quantities in a recipe frustrate me- I generally don’t have the exact right amount of anything and end up modifying it anyway, or I don’t modify and either wonder what-might-have-been or scrap the recipe all together.

My approach, and my advice: use what you have!  Do you have just a few pieces of leftover cod from last night, but some frozen shrimp or scallops?  Toss them in!  Do you have sweet potatoes instead of celery root?  Leeks or scallions instead of onions?   Great, toss them in!   Don’t obsess about the amounts, and don’t be afraid to put in more of what you and your family likes and less of what they don’t.   It’s your kitchen, after all, and there are no rules if you’re eating real food.

Now, for this weeks soup:  Fish chowder

Ingredients
Cod, or any other white fish will work
onions, diced to desired size
celery root, in chunks (potatoes work great also)
homemade stock, fish is best but beef or chicken both work well
raw milk
cream, (non-homogenized, grass-fed)
sea salt and pepper to taste
butter for sauteing

Optional items: Bacon, organic corn, fennel

Process
Saute onions in butter, lightly.  Then toss in fish for just a few minutes- do not over cook.  Take fish out and add the broth and the celery root or potatoes, and simmer until soft.  Add the fish and the remainder of the ingredients and let simmer.  Season to taste.   Serve with sourdough bread and butter.    What could be easier?!

Mango Mango!

Some days, my kids won’t eat.  Not often, but sometimes.  And while they may not want meals, they do want “snacks”.  In our household, snacks do not mean packaged niblets of red-blue-green-dyes shaped like animals, or packaged rancid-oil crackers.  No, “snacks” in our house include real food: homemade soaked-flour carrot cake, homemade almond flour cookies, and a favorite: homemade ice cream!

This week, the ice cream was dairy free.  Coconut milk is so good for us, and I was almost out of raw milk.  Just three ingredients: frozen organic mango, about a cup and a half, a can of organic coconut milk, and raw local honey to taste, about 1/4 cup  or less in our house.  Pure mango & honey together, then put all three ingredients in an ice cream maker.  I also add a pinch or two of sea salt for a little extra something.

Just yesterday, my toddler ate a big helping of this mixed with yogurt for lunch and I was thrilled.  I don’t know who loves summer more, me or them.

Summer Grilling

It’s summertime and like most people world wide, we like to cook meat over over a fire. Perhaps what’s most attractive is the primal aspect to it, an ancient connection to the elements that lures us outside on the hottest of days to stand over a flame.  Or maybe it’s simple cost efficiency- cooking inside causes the AC to go into overdrive.  Either way,  many nights a week we find ourselves at the grill, explaining the properties of fire to our 3 year old.

In light of this habit, I decided to take an adventure into the heart of southern cooking.  Ribs.  Beef ribs, no less.  They looked amazing, and how hard could it be, right?   And even if it went bad, I was comforted by the idea of bone broth after the meat was gone- that’s how I can justify such expensive cuts, by making several meals out of it.  Truth be told, I was still daunted by these ribs.  Little frightens me these days, as I’ve hacked my way through heart, liver, kidneys, and slurped bone marrow over the last several years.  Yet, beef ribs caused me angst.

After some recipe searching, we settled on a rub and then a low-and-slow bake in the oven, to be finished on the grill.   Creating the rub was fantastic.  I’m not a fan of measurements or exactitude, so the experimentation with a variety of vivid and fragrant spices was thrilling for the senses.  Rubbed on (quite a fun activity), I was ready to roast.

With the oven prepped to 225 degrees, the ribs were to cook for 3 hours.  Leaving the oven on for any length of time in the summer is counter-intuitive to me, but I went with the recipe, something I rarely do.  3 hours later, with the AC on overdrive, we put the ribs on the grill to finish.

The taste?  Well, it was fantastic.  Pure, sweet, juicy delight.  Though I’ve far from perfected ribs as the texture wasn’t the melt-in-your-mouth I was going for, it was a delicious dinner which was confirmed by my 16 month old sucking on the ribs.  But that wasn’t the best part.

It came 2 days later, when all of those immense, thick rib bones were turned into bone broth, together with some onions, carrots & garlic.  Thick, rich colored, gelatinous broth, which my children gulped down with loud slurps.  They fought over the globs of bone marrow, with the little one happy to have won the bone to suck on and nibble any last bits of meat off.    I couldn’t help but beam with pride.