30 Days of Real Food (and the science of food)

I wonder when we as a whole forgot how to eat?  I doubt my Depression-era great-grandmas ever had to overthink it; what do we have to eat?  Women all over the world wake up in villages and towns and prepare food every day dictated by culture and availability.  The women in Okinawa make sushi and rice dishes, in Sardinia pasta is being made, in India a curry can be found, in America (and probably other places), we don’t know what the hell we are eating.  Most of us have lost any cultural identity we had and foods are so prevalent, shipped in from everywhere, that we haven’t an inkling of seasonality or even health.  It is incredible that we have forgotten how and what to eat.  Convenience and big companies dominate.

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You can find a fad a minute and I trust none of them.  Keto?  Come on.  Extreme veganism?  Not healthy or realistic.  Paleo?  Don’t get me started.  I might be a housewife, but I do research like a University professor.  I want to know what we should eat, why, when, how, and I desperately want to stop overthinking it.  My theory (which is not a new one) is that we are dying and sick from sedentary lifestyles, stress, loneliness, and chemicals.  Aka: fake food.

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Doug and I decided that in May we would do a 30 day Real Food challenge.  Is that the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard?  Can you imagine great-grandma saying something like, “You guys eat fake food?”  It sounds like a sci-fi movie.  Most of the food that we eat is indeed chemically altered and processed.  For example, my day yesterday: coffee (real!), cereal, almond milk, a cookie, a previously frozen breakfast sandwich at the book store, 3 dates (real!), and a breakfast bar.  I did make a mean Shepherd’s Pie from my daughter, Emily’s recipe.  Instead of lamb, as she called for, I used Beyond Meat crumbles.  Delicious, convincing, but my intuition screams that these new fangled veggie meats are not what they seem.  And they are, in a nutshell, chemically altered.

30 days of Real Food.  Which means, no eating out, and I need to conquer my lack of creativity in the realm of lunches.  Cookies are not lunch, y’all.

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While I figure all that out, I have two great books to share with you.  One is called, 100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le.  It studies the eating habits from then to now and how in each area of the world, our enzymes and needs changed.  Much of his research comes out as, damned if you do, damned if you don’t, but it is fascinating information.  Yes meat will make you stronger, more fertile, and fast, but you will also peak and die early.  Yes, being vegetarian extends lifespan but at the expense of energy and nutrient deficiency.  Yes, dairy makes you grow strong and tall, but also increases the risk of hip fractures.  (Incidentally there are only a few places in the world that the people developed the enzymes to process dairy; Nordic, Celtic, and some African regions.)  Fruit is good for you unless you eat too much, then you increase your risk of Pancreatic cancer.  The whole book is like that but I enjoy the research and the ideas it triggers within myself.

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The second book is called, The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.  You all know I wanted to attend cooking school, and I have even toured a few, but let’s be honest, I probably won’t work in a restaurant, I just want to be a better cook.  I saved roughly $9000 by purchasing this book!  It is the science and exact how-to’s and why’s of cooking.  Love it.  I can’t wait to cook my way through it, not unlike the popular blog, book, and film, Julia and Julia.  I will have to, for the first time in my life, actually follow the recipe.  But there is no chemically altered food found here.

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Along with our food ideas, we are also walking 3+ miles a day around the lake in the evenings, completing the exercise stations at the lake on the weekends, and incorporating yoga into our routine.  Our hope is, not only weight loss, but more vitality, energy, strength, and overall health, as well as a shift in our thinking so that we can sustain a healthy lifestyle.  Perhaps you would like to join in on the challenge!

My New Cookbook is Released!

I have a really big announcement for my amazing blog readers!  Now this is top secret because it was written as a gift to my children for Christmas so I cannot promote it on any social media sites that they might see, but as far as I know, they don’t read my blog.  So here is your chance to be the first readers of my new book, “From Mama’s Kitchen With Love” which is available now on Amazon!  It’s not too late to order for Christmas!

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This book contains over fifty delicious family recipes, tips, photographs, and memories.  I hope this book will be a family heirloom for my children and may it be loved in your kitchen as well!

You can order here! https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973552388?ref_=pe_870760_150889320

Shh!  The kids don’t know yet!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Don’t forget to check out my other books as well!

For the Love of Farmgirl School (your one stop resource for everything homesteading DIY)

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Even when I wasn’t actively writing this blog for the short time that we weren’t homesteading (I was pouting), I kept pulling up Farmgirl School on my computer.  I used it to find recipes.  How do I make eggnog again?  I need a good recipe for dinner.  How do I make…

IMG_0741I love my blog.  I always have.  I am so happy to be actively writing again here.  Want to make something new for dinner?  How about Margarita Chicken?  Want to crochet some fingerless gloves for someone for Christmas?  Do you want to make soap?  How about cheese?  Interested in getting farm animals?  Maybe you just want to can some broth.  Maybe you want to read some funny, heartwarming stories about a real family and their life.  You are in the right place.  This is your blog too.

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If you love this blog as much as I do, perhaps you will consider sharing it on social media.  Or email it to a friend.  Or share a post on your own blog.  We sure have done a lot and been through a lot in those five years!  And now settled into our forever home, a small homestead in the city with chickens, a root cellar, and the love and experience to enjoy every second of it, I would like to invite you to come around more often, too.  Let’s celebrate all the great things about homesteading and the joys of a simple life.

Recipes Made Better

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A swirl of truffle oil or walnut oil on green beans is really quite nice.  Some toasted slivered almonds or walnuts dressed with truffle salt is delicious.  And a bit of blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar  elevates the green bean casserole from cream of something to fresh amazing.

Recipes are developed to appeal to the average palate but if you want to take your dishes from average to extraordinary, it really only takes a few changes to make your guests take pause as they eat.

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Pumpkin bread calls for cinnamon, but what about adding other spices from pumpkin pie spice?  Instead of vegetable oil sub out vanilla olive oil…or orange olive oil.  Add a handful of chopped candied ginger or chocolate chips.  It doesn’t change the basic recipe at all.  Vanilla salt replaces ordinary salt.  This makes pretty amazing pumpkin bread.

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Combine sesame oil with orange oil to dress salad.  Use smoked salt on mashed potatoes.  Add a little New Mexican red chili to sweet potatoes.  The sweet marshmallows and the smoky chili is bliss.  Cream chives into the butter.  Or cinnamon.  Have fun!  Cooking is an exploration of the human palate, a sensual dance of sweet, sour, spice, umami, and savory, far from average.  And eating with loved ones is food for the soul.

Here’s to family, friends, gratitude, and dreams come true.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

 

 

What is Your Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink? (the search for benign spirits)

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I do get bored easily.  I never cook the same thing twice.  I have to have different flavors to keep interested.  I like variety and I am bored to death with water and lemon.  Where is this leading, you may ask?  Weeellll, because of the work I do, I was advised that drinking alcohol, even the incredibly moderate amount I do consume, is unwise.

Everything has a spirit.  Alcohol has its own spirit.  (Doug then said matter-of-factly, “That’s why it’s called spirits!” Oh yea…never thought of that!)  But, unfortunately for wine snobs like me, not necessarily a good spirit.  And one, even if I am not presently drinking, that can fight against my own when doing my work.  Enough said, I was getting bored (gasp) with wine too.

But I need inspiration!  I need everyone that reads this blog, my friends, my confidants to note their favorite non-alcoholic concoction.  Sweet tea?  Kombucha?  Juice?….Okay, those are all my ideas.  Sound off, my friends!

Your favorite non-alcoholic drink….

The Frantic Mom’s Guide to Dinner

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Too bad supper doesn’t roll around when we have excess energy instead of at the end of the day!  “Should we just go out?” one ponders.  But if $40 is to go towards gas and not a so-so restaurant than mama has to get in the kitchen and figure it out.  Pour a glass of wine, Mama, I will walk you through an easy dinner using just what you have in the kitchen.

Choose a protein- hamburgers, veggie burgers, veggie chicken, chicken breasts, salmon, bean patties, whatever you can find.  I found a package of Ahi tuna in the freezer.

Make a sauce for the protein- Find jelly in the fridge or pantry.  Apricot, chokecherry, jalapeno, apple, blueberry, peach….Now combine it with bbq sauce or soy sauce.  The jelly should be the highest ratio.  Add a dried spice like chipotle, red chile, garlic, dill, basil…be creative.  Add a little broth or white wine to thin to desired consistency or use a jar of jelly that didn’t set!  Done.  Top cooked protein.

Meanwhile choose a frozen or fresh vegetable- artichokes, green beans, carrots, cabbage, anything tastes great with this method.  In the boiling water add a few cloves of garlic, a sprinkling of chipotle, 2 tablespoons of lemon extract (lemons soaked in vodka for two months) or fresh lemons, and sea salt.  The water infuses the vegetables lightly.  A bit of butter and salt is all it takes to transform the vegetables.

IMG_2146Make a pilaf.  I used buckwheat which cooks in 20 minutes.  Rice works too.  Cook in rich broth with raisins and salt until ready, add walnuts and walnut oil or any nut or fruit.

In twenty minutes or so you have a gourmet, delicious, nutritious meal on the table while saving money because it uses what is already there.  Now you have time to start Christmas cards after supper!

How to Make Fabulous Fondue

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When I was little my mother let me and my sisters and brothers pick our favorite food for our birthday dinner.  Mine was always fondue.  I never did make it as my kids were growing up.  I always had a fondue pot but never knew a good recipe or felt I had the time to prepare it.  So last night when the fondue pot was brought out I felt like a little kid!  Pat and Margie also let me write down her mother’s recipe for perfect fondue.  And oh my, it was delicious!  Since fondue is a special way to celebrate (their daughter flew in from New York to surprise Margie for her birthday) they let me share the recipe with you too!

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Pour 2 cups of white wine (Pat used Chardonnay) into the fondue pot with 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer until fragrant.

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My job was to cut up a day old baguette into chunks.

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Pat poured just under a 1/2 cup of Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) into a measuring cup and whisked in 5 tablespoons of corn starch and set aside.

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16 ounces of Swiss Emmentaler was sliced.

8 ounces of Swiss cheese slices were at the ready.

And the real treat was 7 ounces of Gruyere.

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These were all slowly added to the pot.  A chopstick was used to blend.

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The measuring cup of cornstarch and Kirschwasser was poured in and blended well.  This is stirred until thickened and bubbly.  A good dash of paprika and white pepper was added.

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At the very end a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda is added to fluff up and perfect the fondue.

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Serve with a fresh salad, wine, and good friends!

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A New Mexican Brunch

A New Mexican Thanksgiving Brunch

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Menu

Mimi’s Egg Soufflé with Green Chilies

Fruit Cocktail

Cinnamon Rolls

Creamed Corn

Pinon Coffee

Egg Nog

Orange Juice

I decided to ask my mother in law for her recipe for egg soufflé.  It is the staple for Hanukah and also for the breaking of the fast at Yom Kippur at her house.  It is a delicious combination of bread, eggs, and cheese.  I will add my own addition, green chilies.

Take 6 slices of bread, crusts removed, lightly butter, and cut in half.

In a bowl combine 6 eggs, 1 teaspoon dried minced onion, salt and pepper, and 2 cups of milk.  I am adding 1/4 cup of green chilies.

Have 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese ready.

Butter a high casserole pan.  Layer part of the bread, egg mixture, then cheese  Finish by layering the rest of the bread, egg, and top with cheese. 

Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, take out and leave on counter for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for one hour uncovered. 

The fruit cocktail is a mixture of fruits that we canned over the summer.  In the root cellar rests jars of cinnamon peaches, honey apricots, blueberries, pumpkin pie spiced apples, and cherries.

The cinnamon rolls could easily be made.  I have a great recipe, however, that early in the morning, among my children that will all be in one place for a whole three hours together, I would really rather not be spending all my time in the kitchen.  So store bought, ready to bake, organic cinnamon rolls will certainly suffice.

Creamed corn is in golden jars held in the basement only needing a dab of butter.

Pinon coffee is a New Mexican specialty.  Simply grind a tablespoon of pine nuts in with whole coffee beans before you brew it.  It creates a nutty, and delicious accompaniment to breakfast.

Egg Nog (we’re going to have to do that homemade during the Christmas season) and Orange Juice are from the health food store.

A New Mexican blanket will act as a table cloth, mix matched red china (turkeys and English castles), sparkling wine glasses, and cloth napkins will don the table.  Candles, mini-pumpkins that grew in our garden, and Indian corn will add fall splendour.

We’ll toast to our blessings and pray for the opportunity to help others and be a blessing to those that meet us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Spring Entertaining (farmgirl style)

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Springtime entertaining.  Nice enough to start up the grill but still a mite chilly to eat outdoors.  So, set the table with spring colors and liveliness!  Mix matched china dishes in spring flavor, a bird cage with aspen wrapped candles, a pretty rose tablecloth underneath the lady bug vinyl cloth.  Candles scattered across the table.  Cloth napkins, mix matched silverware.  We started the meal (and finished it) with Mimosas.  I had a bottle of Champaign from my wine club and a jug of orange juice.  The bright taste was perfect with the food.

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The grill master went out to start the BBQ.  The charcoal briquettes were from last fall so they were less than effective.  Doug threw on some pieces of cedar, pine needles, and lit the thing on fire.  The smell was mountain-like, camp fires, the sweet smell of cedar permeating the air.  When it was hot, he added the briquettes.  He had prepared the most lovely piece of salmon.  He had slathered it in my homemade barbecue sauce which is kind of on the sweet side, adding his own touches of soy sauce, Worcestershire, and honey.  He placed it on the grill after wrapping them in foil, checking it regularly.  Eventually Nancy went to check on it and the flames lapping the sides of the food prompted us to bring it in.  It was perfect, sweet, succulent.

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Nancy, Faleena, and Steve joined us for a spring dinner.  They brought a little chick feeder filled with pastel colored M&Ms.  Such a clever hostess gift!  I would like to say I had a few, but all of our children were there as well.  The candy went pretty fast!

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I made two foil packets (I used Martha Wrap (as in Martha Stewart).  If you haven’t seen this marvel look for it at the store.  It is lined with parchment.  Inside parchment paper, outside foil, no aluminum in one’s food!)  I filled them with fingerling potatoes, half a bottle of Guinness (to Doug’s horror), sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary, garlic.  sprinkled it with salt and pepper and wrapped up the whole thing and placed it on the grill.  (Note: the potatoes take an hour on the grill, plan accordingly!)  These are what we call Beer Potatoes and they are delicious!

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I snapped the ends off of a bunch of asparagus and lined them up on a cookie sheet.  A drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of sea salt is all it takes.  At the last minute they go into a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes.

These can all be made ahead of time then placed on the grill or oven in appropriate time leaving plenty of time to drink Mimosas.  A quick salad adds to the meal.  Sparkling sodas for the kids in wine glasses.

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We finished the meal with a delicious light cake topped with strawberries and fresh whipped cream that Nancy had made.  A pot of french roast.

Cooking shouldn’t be such an intense science.  Look at what herbs you have, what spices.  What is in the root cellar, what is in the freezer?  Check for doneness.  Your nose is the best timer.  Most of all, enjoy your company, your friends, the conversation, the laughs, the Mimosas!

Signs and the Perfect Egg

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Signs of spring.  Signs of rain.  Signs are everywhere if we look.  Doug and I pray for signs.  Nice big, clear, fall out of the sky, and hit us on the head signs of what to do.  We need it spelled out for us.

When I was ready to move to Santa Fe when Doug had his nervous breakdown three and half years ago we travelled there to find a house and see about moving.  Prayed for a sign.  No one, and I mean no one, called us back.  No one called us back about rentals, there was a waiting list for herbalists to get into the farmer’s markets down there, and there was already a dance company in all the schools!

Doug went to summer camp in Elbert county for many years and has always liked it around here.  How about I look in Elizabeth? Not quite New Mexico, but I would give it a shot if It was what my husband wanted to do.  I prayed that if a house was meant to be that I could come right out and tell the landlord that I have nine, count ’em, nine indoor cats.  She didn’t even flinch.  We moved to Elizabeth.

Eight farmer’s markets a week later and rather exhausted and not sure how we were going to survive the winter a shop comes available.  The night before we were to move in the landlord decided that we could not have the shop after all as her insurance agent told her not to trust us because we are secretly (even to us) pot dealers.  He has never met us in his life.  We were so devastated.  The next week the shop next to it came available.  It was never even posted for rent. The owner’s daughter had seen us at farmer’s markets and liked us and we were offered the most ridiculously low rent.  The tenant moving out bartered his beautiful display cases for medicine.  We were in business.  (The shop next door is perpetually empty as the front door does not face the street.  It is also a third of the size of our present shop!)

At the end of a long season of farmer’s markets last year, not making too much, we prayed for a sign to tell us if we should quit the markets for the season.  The back of the truck opened up on the way home and everything dumped out on the highway!  I pointed to heaven and said, “Got it!”  Not a single thing was broken.

I prayed that if the dance company was going to be too much and if I shouldn’t do it to not let the phone even ring once.  I sent out a hundred and fifty fliers in the school folders here.  Not a single phone call.  Not even from previous students.  Now that’s a sign!

Doug says that when we pray for a sign we get hit with a sack of nickles.  We need clear, precise instructions.  So when I prayed for a clearer sign on the homestead, I got a phone call.  Peter was surprised himself that his wife was entertaining an offer on the land.  Someone came out of the blue and offered to buy it.

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I understand doors closing.  I understand not meant to be.  I do not understand tease.  Why would it even be dangled in front of us then swiftly out of our grasp?  I feel like a cat right now being toyed with!  Doug and I talked about it last night and we can only guess that it is going to trigger another event.  A trickle down effect.  If this hadn’t happened, this couldn’t have happened, etc.  We will look back and see the path clearly marked but for now we wait…again.

Easter Eggs 

On a lighter note, this is the sign of a perfect egg, if it drops to the bottom of a glass of water it is perfect.  If it floats ever so slightly, eat it sooner, if it floats, pitch it.

The perfect high altitude boiled egg:  Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with an inch or two of cold water.  Bring to boil.  Once it starts boiling, time it for fifteen minutes.  Remove from heat.  With a slotted spoon transfer eggs to a bowl and place in refrigerator.

When it comes to farm eggs, white eggs peel easier and make the better boiled eggs.  Which is great because it is almost Easter and we have been harboring Ethel’s eggs for weeks to color!  I have heard many different ways to make an egg peel easier.  Keep in water, peel while hot, use older eggs, but I have found that Ethel’s eggs peel perfectly every time.

I was going to hard boil the eggs using a can of beets and a touch of olive oil.  I suspected that this would create a lovely, naturally colored, marbled, pink egg.  But alas, the kids were horrified that I would color the eggs without them.  So they are being saved for Easter.

However you celebrate, may your Easter eggs be bright and beautiful, the day be bright and beautiful, and the day be blessed with great food and joyous friends.  Happy Easter!