Monday, February 25, 2013

A Mini-Discussion: Be a Smart Cookie! Change the World!

Flour and sugar are addictive and metabolically toxic.
Two mini-discussions in a row ... well, the situation is precarious out there, with Girl Scouts winsomely and industriously pulling at your heartstrings, conscience and sweet tooth!

I'll keep it short.  There are posts all over the place about giving the diminuitive Girl Scout sales reps money, but declining the cookies.  Or sending the cookies overseas to our troops.  Or giving them to friends.  But really, if we're going to change anything about the starch-, sugar-, and high-fructose-corn-syrup-driven products the food industry is exploiting us for, we have to STOP BUYING THEM!

You can and do donate to whatever causes you feel strongly about.  But as for feeding the beast ... supporting the marketing and production of damaging foods and products ... ONLY YOU can change what is offered.  The Girl Scouts, and their leaders, are a bunch of smart girls and women.  If you stop buying their cookies, they WILL come up with something less damaging to sell.

When approached, I smile at the Scouts and say, "Thank you, but I don't eat flour or sugar."  If they offer the option to donate but not take the product, that can prompt a mini-discussion about the sale of products that are useful, not unhealthful.

You realize I come by this thinking hereditarily.  My mom called the local middle school when they sent kids around selling chocolate-chip cookie dough laden with so many amazingly toxic ingredients that she felt compelled to comment.

The future of food is in our hands, dear readers! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Mini-Discussion: Just Put it Back

We humans are wired to devour processed carbohydrates because they are a dense energy source.  You know the feeling:  Eat a cookie, instantly crave another ... and another.  

Add to this our inclination to overindulge in hyperpalatable foods, and it's not surprising that an industry was born and is sustained, not by providing nutrients, but by creating addiction, thus guaranteeing endless repeat purchases.  Manufacturers have staffs whose entire job is to figure out how to make you crave their products and buy more, more MORE of it!   And they're very good at  their jobs.

Not to let the food marketing successes go unexploited, other industries provide diabetes drugs and supplies, obesity surgeries and countless weight loss books, classes, videos and programs, and still more fakey packaged "foods" to "help" you lose weight and regain health.  Why not think a little about keeping our health, insteading of having to regain it?  Isn't it better to maintain than to salvage?  To do that, we have to be aware that the "food" industry is sabotaging our best intentions and exploiting our weaknesses.

Case in point.  The other day at Costco I noticed the long finger of hyperpalatibility (also known as hyperprofitability) beckoning me... caramel popcorn and cheese popcorn mixed in the same bag!  Cheese and caramel!  Whee!  Who doesn't love a salty/sweet crunchy snack!  (Just ask the kettlecorn folks, who rake in big bucks selling you bags of their sweet/salty, addictive product!)

You know and I know that heart disease and cancers are driven by high circulating blood insulin.  Refined sugar isn't a necessary nutrient, and is in fact damaging to the body.  This is commonly known.  Hence, refined sugar is surviving totally on its addictive power these days.  Even armed with nutritional information that has reliably curbed my sugar-driven impulse buying for over two years now, I  fondled this bag ... and it felt so ... cheesy ... and caramelly ... and soft ... and tasty.  It was hefty, like all bags of snacks are at Costco.  I wanted it. 

G.H. Cretors - Chicago Mix
Picture from the G. H. Cretors website.  The Costco bag weighed about a pound and half.
Now, I know that in a situation like this, you're going to check the ingredient label right away, like me.  And the manufacturers know that, too.  So they're going to use words like "brown" and "cane" and "brown rice" in front of the words "sugar" and "syrup," so you'll feel all comfy and cozy about this product, and slip it into your cart with only a fleeting moment of guilt.
Nutrition Facts
And see that 300g carbohydrate recommendation for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet? One gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories, so what the nutrition "experts" are telling you is to eat 1200 of your 2000 calories as carbohydrates.  The human body simply was not designed to handle that, despite the sugar, grain and hyperpalatability food industry profits from getting you to believe it was.
As well, I know and you know that we can't eat just 1.25 cups of this stuff.  We'll eat at least (and admit it, probably even more than) three times that when we get home from the store.  Now we're talking 51 grams total carbohydrate, 30 grams of it from refined sugars. Top that off with 18 grams of fat from inflammatory sunflower oil and corn oil.
But sunflower and corn oil are good for you, right?  Wrong. We know now that seed (and legume) oils are one of the best-known sources of inflammatory Omega 6 fats in the history of mankind. Nature knew what it was doing by locking up those oils in seeds where we couldn't get more than a chewy mouthful at a time, with a fair amount of labor to find, gather and shell the seeds in the first place. 

One of the worst things we do to ourselves is to consume refined carbohydrates along with fat.  Picture doughnuts.  Greasy burgers on white bread buns.  Oreo Blizzards.  Cheesecake.  Fettuccini Alfredo.  Refined carb/fat eating bombs your metabolism with a one-two punch, creating accelerated glycation end products that inflame and infuriate your body. 
G. H. Cretor knows that you'll be thinking about these things.  But if you really  think about these things, you won't buy their product!  G. H. Cretor must distract you from the true nutritional wasteland that is this popcorn product.  Hence, they say:  
"All Natural…Naturally!
  • We use Brown Rice Syrup
  • No artificial flavors or colors
  • No gluten ingredients
  • Made with fresh creamery butter
  • We use natural sweeteners
  • We use locally grown Non-GMO popcorn"
What they don't say:
  • We know you like the word "natural," so we use it liberally, even though it's completely meaningless and there are no labeling regulations for it!
  • Brown rice syrup, brown sugar and cane sugar are going to hit your pancreas up for a huge insulin surge!  Your body will be madly trying to process this colossal refined-carb attack and will undoubtedly store most of it for future use ... on your belly.  Want to avoid obesity and diabetes?  Avoid our product! 
  • We know you're concerned about health, so we added no artificial flavors or colors!  And we know gluten is bad for lots of folks, so we left it out!  This knowledge, clearly, should be sufficient to distract you from the ingredients we DID use! 
  • Fresh creamery butter is yummy and good for you!  Even many doctors now admit that real saturated fats are healthy and not to be feared!  So we powdered the butter and mixed it in with so much salt and sugar you'll greedily devour this popcorn and come back for more! 
  • Concerned about GMO food? You should be! And we know you like to use "locally grown" foods, too. Rest assured our popcorn, though still high in starchy carbohydrates and lectins, is locally grown and non GMO! Never mind that in this case, "local" means "wherever." Relax already!
You're going to think I'm extreme.  But this type of "food" product is precisely what will slowly sicken and fatten you.  How do I know?  Because I used to eat stuff like this regularly, and I was sick and heavy.  When I replaced it and its ilk with whole foods, I got well and became slim.  My triglycerides went down, my HDL went up, 25 pounds came off,  joint pain vanished, and my Hashimoto's antibodies disappeared.  The only reason I'm writing this post is perhaps to help someone else along the road to feeling better.  There is no "moderation" with foods like these.  Why tax your entire metabolism year after year for the few moments of pleasure G. H. Cretor is offering?  Every ingredient in their "Chicago Mix" popcorn, except salt, is a substance you're better off not ingesting.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Costco and saw a very plump lady exiting the store, clutching the 26-ounce bag of this popcorn.  Nay, she was cradling it.  It was her only purchase. 

Just put that stuff back on the shelf.   If I can, you can.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Saffron Roast Chicken

Simple, simple.  Ghee, saffron, thyme, salt, pepper ... 

... and a Happy Lil' Homestead chicken.  That's all you're going to need.

Okay, garlic and rosemary are nice.  But sometimes you want different.  That's when I usually call up the saffron.  And this chicken is amazing.  Different, in a very good way.  I even used the carcass for stock, and the stock was wonderful. 

Really, there is nothing like a roast chicken for a winter's meal.  A luscious local chicken makes the whole thing even better.  For that, go to the Northwest Food Hub and check out the Happy Lil' Homestead freezer, unless you've had the foresight to order chickens from the Antos family and have your own freezer stocked. 


One whole Happy Lil' Homestead chicken (3-1/2 pounds or so)
1/4 cup ghee or butter
2 teaspoons dried thyme, or 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix the ghee (you may need to let it soften a bit), thyme, saffron, salt and pepper, making a paste.

Put the chicken in a roasting pan, and turn the oven on to 325 degrees.

Loosen the skin of the chicken, and, using a teaspoon, insert the ghee mixture under the skin, including around the thigh/leg area.  If you like, you can rub a little of the mixture on top of the skin.

Roast the chicken for two hours.  It's done when a thermometer stuck inside the thigh/leg joint reads at least 160 degrees (I like 170, but 160 is accepted as safe), and juices run clear.

You'll have a beautiful golden chicken for a beautiful, golden meal. 

Serves 4-6

Friday, October 26, 2012

Winter's Edge

A Schreiber and Sons Winter CSA box from last year.
The slow slide to winter is, fittingly, quite apparent at the farmers' markets.  Vendors and customers alike are gloved, coated and hatted.  The man with the winter kale, pansy and violet plants appears.  Squashes and pumpkins tumble from pickup beds.  Ornamental gourds and gourdettes brighten the scene with their rustic fall colors.  Wreathes and swags of hot peppers are hung.  Blueberries are already gone, raspberries are nearly gone, and strawberries have made a brave last show.  No more peaches and nectarines ... and melons are but a memory.  And everything has a new taste to it ... yes, you can taste the edge of winter.  It's a taste to savor as we head into the dark months. 

But even today, at the very last Richland Farmers' Market of the season, I had a spirited conversation with Margie at the Schreiber and Sons booth about roasting vegetables.  Winter  vegetables.  When entering a new season of the year, it's important to embrace it for what it offers!

When the farmers' markets close, you can still shop for local produce and meats and dairy products and eggs ... and so much more ... at the Food Hub in Richland.  You can also sign up for Schreiber and Sons' Winter CSA boxes, as I have done this fall for the fourth time.

Eating local is getting a lot easier in the Tri-Cities!  Thank you to all the dedicated farmers and their staffs, Food Hub organizers and volunteers, and EVERYONE who makes eating local possible for us all!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Routinely, the Schreiber and Sons booth at the farmers' market is stuffed with greens of all sorts, including herbs like basil, cilantro, and mint.  Arugula is also frequently seen, but it seems to have a hiatus at certain times of year, and something the Schreiber folks call "cress" takes its place.

Cress is very peppery and hot, but will mellow nicely when teamed with basil.  It makes people wonder what the mystery flavor is!

If you're pasta-free, julienned zucchini or shredded cauliflower make good "noodles," sauteed and tossed with this spicy sauce, as do sliced onions.  It's great on mixed vegetables as well.  Tuck a dab of cressto alongside meats, or dollop it onto soups. 

Freeze it in dabs on a Silpat-lined cookie sheet, and you can toss it into winter dishes for a lovely reminder of summer. 


1 bag cress or arugula (about 4 ounces), washed and spun dry
1 bunch basil leaves (about 4 ounces), washed and spun dry

1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic

1/2 cup almonds, blanched or not, or walnuts or pecans

Place basil and cress in food processor and pulse to a chopped state.

Add olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and process until garlic is incorporated.

Add nuts, blend until nuts are finely chopped.  Scrape and needed and blend again.

If storing, place plastic wrap directly on surface of cressto to keep it from browning.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hashimoto's - Resolved.

About 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease.  Hashimoto's is an autoimmune condition in which the body makes antibodies that attack the thyroid gland in response to its production of thyroid hormone, which the antibodies mistake for invaders.  An antibody is a blood protein created by specific white blood cells.  It is the job of antibodies to fight disease in the body by attaching themselves to invading substances and marking them for destruction.  Why would my body think my own thyroid gland was an invader?

Chris Kresser explains it thoroughly here.  Excerpt:

"In the first article in this series, I showed that hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease in 90% of cases. In this article we’re going to discuss the connection between autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) and gluten intolerance.

Several studies show a strong link between AITD (both Hashimoto’s and Graves’) and gluten intolerance. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] The link is so well-established that researchers suggest all people with AITD be screened for gluten intolerance, and vice versa.

What explains the connection? It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.

Even worse, the immune response to gluten can last up to 6 months each time you eat it. This explains why it is critical to eliminate gluten completely from your diet if you have AITD. There’s no “80/20″ rule when it comes to gluten. Being “mostly” gluten-free isn’t going to cut it. If you’re gluten intolerant, you have to be 100% gluten-free to prevent immune destruction of your thyroid."

During the year and a half that I've been eating a modified paleo diet, which is wheat- and grain-free, I've had several blood tests to monitor my thyroid levels.  My thyroid gland seemed to be coming back to life; my medication was reduced by 2/3 in the diet's first year.  Blood tests showed that my thyroid antibodies have been steadily decreasing. 

On July 11, 2012, my doctor wrote "No thyroid antibodies. Hashimoto's - resolved" on my blood test.  I asked him if that meant I no longer had an autoimmune disease.  He replied, "You no longer have an autoimmune disease."  When I asked what he considered the reason for the antibodies' disappearance, he said, "Probably the wheat."

I have never had ANY other symptoms of gluten intolerance; if I had, it probably would have been picked up much earlier in my life.  In the last year I have learned enough about wheat to realize that it is something I never want to eat again.

Perhaps this post will help you understand why people you know are serious about avoiding wheat.  Perhaps this post will help someone with thyroid issues, or other autoimmune diseases; wheat is a culprit in many of them, as well.

Remembering that we are all to some extent metabolically unique, we can begin to understand that food can be a major player in many health issues.  Cure Hashimoto's with food choices?  Apparently so.

I won't lie and say it's easy, but there's something supremely motivating about reclaiming health territory once lost.  My deepest thanks to my stepson for his patient, non-preachy sharing of information, books and links about diet and the gluten-thyroid connection.  Be well.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


As might be expected from this dish's name, it is not made with local produce. It is made with plantains!

Always looking for something simple and safely starchy to add to my limited repertoire of complex carbohydrates, I was intrigued by Chris Kresser's recipe for plantain fritters.  Variations of this Puerto Rican dish abound, and a dizzying array of mofongo recipes will greet the curious Googler.

But simplicity was my goal, so I simplified even Chris' recipe.

Plantains have a decidedly tangy taste that is delightful.  They are less sweet than bananas, and definitely need to be cooked thoroughly before eating!

Adapted from The Healthy Skeptic

A little black on the plantain skins is fine.  Green is fine, too.  Green ones don't peel as easily as those with more of a yellow-colored peel.

5 plantains, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup coconut oil
During cooking, plantains will change from very pale to a distinct golden color.

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. 

Add plantains.  Things should be sizzling!  In a few minutes, turn the plantains a bit to bring the bottom ones up to the top.  You should see some golden-colored slices.

Continue frying the plantains until they are all golden, tender, and cooked through.  The whole process will take about 15 to 20 minutes, and you will do a good deal of scraping and turning to facilitate even cooking.  If necessary, add a little water to keep things from sticking.  The plantains will absorb quite a bit of moisture, so don't be shy about using the water.

Mash the cooked plantains with a big fork or potato masher.  If you have a tool like my family's heirloom retro meat tenderizer (shown left), use that to chop the plantains into a nice even mash.

Form the mashed plantains into patties and place on a Silpat sheet to freeze.  Toss the frozen patties in a freezer bag, and whip a few out when needed to fill out your dinner plate. 

To cook the patties, heat coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat and fry the patties on both sides to a delectable, crispy golden brown.  They're delicious plain, but explore variations if you want to take the time!

 Makes 12 mofongo

Mofongo being prepared to be frozen for easy future use.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homemade Grassfed Pork Sausage

Turn your sausage into patties or meatballs or any form you wish!  It's versatile.
We are blessed with an abundance of grassfed meat producers in our local area.
Baron Farms is a special favorite of mine because of the quality of their products, their philosophy of food and farming, and their extraordinary friendliness and helpfulness.  We're also enjoying products from Pure Country Pork, although just the occasional bit of bacon or ham ... while they don't add synthetic preservatives, Pure Country Pork grain feeds their hogs, whereas Baron Farms grazes their pigs on grass.

Pre-made sausage is, of course, available.  But for many years I experimented with various sausage recipes and at last came up with the perfect recipe.  It will meet all your high expectations, and even has optional ingredients you can vary to suit your mood or the season. 

Tuck a couple of Baron Farms' pastured eggs alongside these sausage patties, and you'll know you've come home at last.

Place in a medium bowl:

2 pounds grassfed pork, ground

Mix in a small bowl and sprinkle over the pork, working it in thoroughly with your hands.

1/4 cup crumbled dried sage, or 1/2 cup chopped fresh sage
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons crushed fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Add any of the following optional ingredients if you wish.  They will change the whole personality of your sausage in wonderful ways.  Use all or only some of them.  You can't go wrong.

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

When the spices (and any optional ingredients) are mixed in really well, form the sausage into patties or meatballs, and fry in a large skillet 'til cooked through, turning occasionally to brown evenly.  No pink should be left. 

You can freeze the cooked sausage patties or meatballs, and reheat them gently in a small covered skillet with a little water.  The uncooked sausage can also be frozen, but I like to cook it all up at once so I can reheat it quickly with no pre-thawing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Local is Getting Healthier: Finnegan Frost

Berries from Aichele Farms, a local grower that provides berries to Finnegan Frost.
Once you stop eating packaged food, and highly processed food, and shipped-in Monsanto food, and modified-for-profit Frankenfoods, you really start to notice what is left:  Wholesome, authentic food.  If you pay attention even further, you will note which of those foods nourish you and which damage you. 

And you will begin to notice businesses like Finnegan Frost.  These folks are attempting to walk it back ... to get us back to a healthier paradigm for what a "treat" should really be.  A treat is delicious.  It is something we don't eat every day, but when we do, it is the highest quality possible, as local as possible, and as untreated/modified as possible.

Not an easy thing to do in our hyperpalatability-crazed, profit-motivated, convenience-driven food culture.  But when was much of anything worthwhile ever easy?  It's more effort to brave the hot sun, and the jostling elbows of the other shoppers at the farmers' markets, than to stroll unimpeded around an air-conditioned store.  But oh, the reward of that locally-grown produce!

Now, I know that frozen yogurt, even frozen yogurt with Finnegan's wonderfully quality ingredients, is a processed food.  But what a step in the right direction they are making.  They use fresh fruits and nuts, as locally-sourced as possible, and emphatically state in one ad I saw, "No Candy!"  These people are on the ball.  On their "Why it Matters" page, they say:

Consider these facts:
  • 25.8 million people in the U.S. are affected with Diabetes
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States
  • Diabetes is costing our country over $200 billion dollars a year.
  • 35.7% of U.S. adults and 17% (or 12.5 million) adolescents are obese
  • 300,000 people die annually from weight-related complications.
So, what's at the heart of these staggering health trends?  Nutrition.  While the fast food industry generates over $110 billion a year, Americans continue to get sicker. We must change our mentality toward food, or continue to face the consequences. Finnegan Frost aims to be a catalyst for change.

I will add:  Type 2 diabetes and obesity are in most cases preventable, and in many cases reversible, which makes them even more tragic as a cause of death, needless suffering, and out-of-control health care spending.

Finnegan Frost is located next to the Starbucks at Gage and Keene in Richland, behind Albertson's grocery store.

Considering Finnegan Frost's desire to use and promote local, fresh, real foods, I felt it was important to bring them to your attention so that their hard work and quality-oriented philosophy will be rewarded.  We need more businesses with these values.  I hope to find more, and when I do, I'll let you know here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Local Food Producers: Schreiber and Sons Farm

Schreiber & Sons booth at Richland Farmers' Market, June 2012

The friendly folks at Schreiber and Sons Farm work hard to make fresh, mostly organic produce available to you and me all year long.  They offer summer and winter CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes delivered at drop points around the Tri-Cities.   Click here for photos of the last three years' winter CSA boxes I received.  These boxes are heaven-sent when the cold months set in.  Alan keeps in touch splendidly with e-mails about what is or is not in our bi-weekly boxes, and what is going on at the farm.

We first met Alan Schreiber at Slow Food Southeast Washington's kickoff dinner in 2007.  The dinner was held at his farm near Eltopia.  It was an otherworldly experience to enjoy a meal of locally-produced food with other folks who believe in the concept as well.  All the farmers and artisans who supplied the food for the meal were present.  Like Alan, these producers were enthusiastic about and dedicated to producing high-quality food for the local market.

That night, Alan conducted a melon tasting of about 20 different melon varieties he had grown.  The Melon Tasting has become a legendary story in our family.  It's not often that you encounter someone who can wax enthusiastically for an hour and a half about the nuances of taste and texture, and the history and propagation of melon varieties ... and hold you in rapt attention all the while.

Alan Schreiber, if you can catch him at an event or at a farmers' market booth, will happily tell you all about his ideas for food production, new varieties of vegetables and melons, the pros and cons of organic farming, and events and organizations and potential markets and means he is musing about for getting locally produced food to local people.  Don't even get him started on the problem of fresh vegetables going to waste because of transportation issues. 

Alan is the only vendor I've found at any of the local farmers' markets who consistently offers cabbages, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, arugula, and collards.  These vegetables are a big part of our diet now, and it's blissful to be able to find them grown right here, organically.

Finally, and most importantly, Alan grows his fruits and vegetables either all organically or with as few artificial means as possible.  He doesn't sell food that he himself wouldn't eat.  For me, that's worth a lot.  It's not something I could expect from megafarms in California or Frankenfarm giants like Monsanto.

Do stop by the Schreiber and Sons booth.  Alan is starting a pre-order pickup service (new this year) so that you can select produce online and pick up your custom box at the local farmers' markets.  Visit his website and click on "Web Store" to order your fresh, local produce.

Schreiber and Sons Farm:  A gift to the mid-Columbia!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Grain Free Tabouli

A very versatile salad is tabouli.  This one was made with ingredients on hand, including fresh radishes from the Pasco farmers' market.

Yes, you can leave out the bulgur (or as I think of it now, "vulgar") wheat, increase your tomatoes, cukes, parsley and mint (and add many optional vegetables you have on hand) and produce a tabouli salad worthy of gourmet raves.

As an added benefit, it won't spike your blood sugar or put blubber on your belly.  This tabouli nestles up beautifully alongside whatever other vegetables you're serving, and its crunchy, spritely nature compliments meats.  Win win! 

Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

You can put the spin-dried parsley and mint, and green onions and arugula (if using) into a food processor and pulse 'til it's all a lovely green fluff.  Easy!

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed or very finely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly-ground black pepper

1 bunch parsley, washed, big stem ends removed, spun dry, and chopped
1 bunch mint, washed, leaves removed, spun dry, and chopped
1 small sweet onion, minced, or a bunch of green onions, with some of green parts, sliced
4  medium tomatoes, diced
2 large cucumbers, peeled and diced
Optional vegetables (see below)

In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Stir in the onion, tomatoes and cucumbers, along with whatever optional vegetables you're using.  Leafy additions like arugula should be added with the parsley and mint just before serving.

Chill salad up to several hours before serving.  Overnight is even okay. 

Just before serving, stir in the parsley, mint and any sliced or chopped leafy greens you're using.  Serve the salad cold or at room temperature. 

Makes 4 generous servings

Options abound for veggies to add or substitute. Increase dressing amount if you're making an enormous bowl of tabouli! Consider:

  • Fresh arugula, washed, thick stems removed, spun dry and sliced
  • Fresh radishes, diced
  • Fresh zucchini, diced
  • Shredded carrots, kohlrabi, turnips
  • Diced green and red bell peppers

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Last CSA box, but First Farmers' Market!

I've been told that I say "Egad!" too often, but ... erghmph!  This box was awesome.  The last, but definitely not the least.

It contained rhubarb, five huge bunches of asparagus, salad mix, spinach, turnips, chives and cilantro.  All gone already!  I even used the turnip greens to make a raw salad with the turnips juilienned in it ... and made a dressing with chili garlic sauce.

These boxes really do set off cooking frenzies.  My CSA farmer's Summer CSA deliveries have already started.  I'll be a faithful attendee at our local farmers' markets ... the first one is Pasco's, and I'll be heading there this Saturday morning, May 5.  I hope you will be, too!

Be sure to check out the Schreiber and Sons booth.  Historically, Schreiber is the only farmers' market vendor to offer organic cabbages, kale, chard collards, mustard ... and a variety of unusual melons and other vegetables.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012: Winter CSA Boxes 10 and 11

Box 10:  Horseradish root, dried red peppers, Spring onions, spinach, and mixed salad greens.

Box 11:  Dried dill, mixed salad greens, asparagus, cilandro, Spring onions.
The green goodies from the Winter CSA are about to end, but the Farmers' Markets are just around the corner.  Summer CSA memberships are available if you find it hard to make it to the Farmers' Markets.  And remember the Northwest Food Hub.  Schreiber and Sons is planning to sell produce there as well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Crockafeather Leekie

My last two free-range chickens (will order more from the Northwest Food Hub!) achieved thawed-ness at a very awkward time.  So I put them in the slow cooker, with some leeks and white wine.  Seeing them there, I thought, "Cockaleekie!" and so Googled.

Cockaleekie is Scottish.  Though Scotland's cuisine sometimes can seem a bit perverse, nonetheless the country fascinates me, with its lochs, remote highland moors, wheeling curlews, and rambling old houses.  But I digress.

It seems a certain Ronnie Clydesdale (how can you not trust that name?) from the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in Glasgow has a recipe for Cockaleekie. It's probably authentic, but seems really plain.  

Wikipedia says that historically, prunes (!) were added to boost Cockaleekie broth's nutritional qualities.

Another website is so Scottish, it has an online game you can play called "Whack a Haggis."  Right.  Their Cockaleekie recipe calls for celery, bay leaf, and optional avocado. They also mention something called "Feather Fowlie," a soup finished with egg yolks and cream. 

Having picked up some duck eggs at the Northwest Food Hub, and having Pure Eire heavy cream to hand, a Feather Fowlie/Cockaleekie hybridization is emerging.   Also, thyme and bacon seem to be Feather Fowlie options. And nutmeg!  And it's topped with julienned prunes.  I love how prunes keep popping up in these recipes.

Back in the kitchen, I drafted a recipe based on my research, and added herbs, spices and prunes to the slow cooker.

The finished soup was deeply satisfying.  And so a blog post was born.


For chicken and stock:

2 small free-range chickens
4 small or 2 large leeks, white
   and light green parts only, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups water
4 prunes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf

To finish the soup:

1-1/2 cups sliced carrots
1-1/2 cups sliced celery
1-1/2 cups diced onion
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 cups of the cooked chicken, cut into smallish pieces for soup

1/2 cup Pure Eire cream
2 duck egg (or three chicken egg) yolks

1 cup sliced bacon
1 clove garlic, minced

2 or 3 prunes, julienned (cut in slivers)

Place all chicken and stock ingredients in 6-quart slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours.  Remove chickens from cooker and place them on a platter.  Strain the broth and chill.  Remove chicken meat from bones and set aside or refrigerate.

To finish and serve the soup, skim fat from broth.  Heat broth to simmering in a large soup pot.  Add carrots, celery, onion and crushed red pepper.  Simmer about 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

In a small skillet, fry bacon and garlic 'til crispy.  Set aside.

In small bowl, whisk together cream and egg yolks.

Turn off heat under soup pot.  Quickly stir in cream/egg yolk mixture.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with bacon and julienned prunes.

Taste the Scottish history!

Makes 4 very hearty servings.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coconut Cream Bark Three Ways

From left:  Cherry-Almond, German Chocolate,
 and Useful Plain Coconut Cream Barks
"What to do with coconut butter" is one of the most common search phrases I see on my blog stats.

Tropical Traditions is an excellent online vendor
 of coconut products.
Coconut butter (and coconut cream) do seem rather unapproachable, sitting solidly in their jars as they do.  Gently heated in a pan of water on the stove, though, they become quite willing to cooperate with your creativity.

Easiest by far is to make bark.  I've made lots of plain coconut cream bark, which can be used, mixed into gently warmed water, to create coconut milk on demand. 

Winter CSA Box 9's dried local tart cherries offered a great opportunity to finally follow the impulse I've been having lately to mix things into coconut cream.

Eating the way we do, tooth-achingly sweet desserts and candies are a thing of the past.   But these delicious coconut cream barks provide a flavorful, satisfying bite or two of a confectionary nature, without being overly sweet.

And of course, these combinations are just the beginning.   I'm thinking pistachioes with cranberries .... maybe toasted pumpkin seeds with cinnamon and vanilla ... or chopped dried pineapple for a pina colada version.  

Here are more ideas for coconut butter and coconut cream.  I've melted the plain shards directly into curries and soups.

Coconut butter and coconut cream can be stored unopened in their jars at room temperature.  Once made into bark, the bark should be stored in the refrigerator so that the pieces don't soften.  Coconut oil differs in that it is pure oil and is quite dense.  Coconut oil can be stored at room temperature, and in fact will be easier to use if you do so.

Is there a difference between coconut butter and coconut cream?  I think they're nearly interchangeable, but coconut cream seems to be smoother than coconut butter.


Plain, Useful Coconut Bark

1 jar (16 ounces) coconut cream or coconut butter


Place an 11" x 17" Silpat liner on a baking sheet, then place the baking sheet in the freezer.

Remove lid from jar of coconut butter, and set the jar in a pan of hot water over very low heat.  Check occasionally, and when it's soft enough to stir until smooth, get the baking sheet out of the freezer and pour the coconut cream onto the Silpat.  Spread evenly, and return the baking sheet to the freezer.

In a very short time the bark will be solid.  Peel the Silpat off the back of the bark, and break the bark into shards of varying sizes.  Store the shards in a container in the fridge, and when you need coconut milk, figure about 2 tablepoons of bark to 1/2 cup water, gently heating the water and stirring in the bark until it's a liquid.  You can vary the ratio of coconut cream to water, to suit your taste.

German Chocolate Coconut Bark

1 jar (16 ounces) coconut cream or coconut butter
1 bar Theo 91% cacao dark chocolate (or less to taste), gently melted
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Cherry-Almond Coconut Cream Bark

1 jar (16 ounces) coconut cream or coconut butter
1-1/4 cups (about 7 ounces) dried tart cherries
1 cup chopped almonds
1 teaspoon almond extract

For each of these bark variations, pour the softened coconut cream into a medium bowl.  Mix in the ingredients shown, and spread onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet that has been chilled in the freezer.

Proceed as for plain coconut bark, spreading the mixture thinly, chilling, and breaking into pieces.  I scored the chocolate bark as it began to set, which resulted in squares rather than shards.

Update:  Made the chocolate version with chopped macadamias instead of pecans, and used 1/2 cup coconut for a smoother bark.  Wonderful!

Another update:  Made the cherry-almond version with chopped dried pineapple and chopped roasted, salted pistachios instead of the cherries and almonds.  Delicious!  Also added 1/2 cup shredded coconut, and left out the almond extract.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012: Winter CSA Boxes 8 and 9

Box 8:  The toothsome kale!  The spectacularly fresh salad greens!  The rainbow of chard!  The crisp, juicy Fuji apples!  Little garlic heads, and a swatch of dried oregano.

And that other thing, there?  I'm not ungrateful.  But we don't eat grain flours anymore.  The times, they are a'changin,' nutrition wise.

Box 9, below:   More salad greens of exquisite, dewy freshness. Spinach ... and KALE! (Smiles all around). Split peas (already spoken for .. that means you, Vicki), dried sage, awesome Rowley and Hawkins dried tart cherries, and a cavalcade of apples. Me happy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Perfect Pad Thai

No grains!  Just great flavors and crispy, savory delight!
Going out to eat grain free is a mighty challenge.  So we accept rice, and even rice noodles on occasion, just to give our kitchen slave (me) a break.  That way, we can eat gluten free, at least.  But hello!  The Keatleys over at Health Bent brilliantly have devised yet another reason to stay home and eat grain free.  Thank you, Keatleys.  Grrr. 

Really, though, Mr. Eating the Scenery and I both feel much better when we eat at home.  Eating out has a pesky tendency to give us weird headaches now.  Something to do with cheap industrial cooking oils, ubiquitous starches, flavoring agents ... who knows. 

So, about a year ago I just sighed, tossed everything crappy from our pantry, fridge and freezer, arranged my battalion of cooking gear in the most efficient configuration possible, and accepted the inevitable.  We still eat out now and then, but only at establishments that don't inflict headaches! 

This is Pad Thai at its very best.  Prepare all your ingredients ahead so you can can slam it together quickly and serve it fresh and hot.

Adapted from Health Bent

Serve over shredded raw cabbage or with raw cauliflower "rice."  Make cauliflower rice by shredding raw cauliflower with a medium shred disk in the food processor, or with a hand grater.  You can saute it lightly, but the crispy raw crunch is very good with this dish.

1/2 cup almond butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup coconut oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger

1-1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
15 large raw shrimp, tails removed, and lightly salted

3 small zucchini, julienned or simply sliced into thin strips 1/4 inch wide or so
3 big handfuls fresh spinach leaves (optional)

1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup cilantro
Lime wedges


In small bowl, mix almond butter, vinegar, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce, lime juice and honey.

In large skillet, melt coconut oil over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes.  Add mushrooms and shrimp, cooking for a few minutes more or until shrimp begin to turn pink. 

Stir in sauce mixture and zucchini strips, and optional spinach, and heat through.  The Pad Thai will be looking very, very tasty.  Heat until steaming hot and shrimp are cooked through.  You'll recognize perfection when you see it.

Serve either in individual bowls or on a large serving platter, garnished with shredded carrot, toasted almonds, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Makes 3 generous servings.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Country Captain Soup

The authors of Cooks Illustrated's book The Best Recipe:  Soups and Stews are crazy obsessed with perfection.  Pages of text describe the process by which the neurotic dedicated team achieves soup or stew perfection.

They take ingredients out.  They add ingredients.  They fuss with the order in which ingredients are added.  They wonder if a blender produces a different texture of puree than a food processor (yes).  They taste and test and and experiment and document, and only rest when every team member is satisfied that The Best Recipe is the one they have just produced.

And I totally admire them for it.  Who doesn't want to sit down to a steaming bowl of soup or stew, admire its beauty and fragrance, take a sip, and gaze upward toward the firmament, uttering those blissful words, "This is the best soup I've ever tasted."  These things don't happen by chance, people!  Soup is an art, and if you've ever had a bleah soup, or even a bad soup, you know just what I mean.

All that said, I had on hand some local chicken, homemade broth, and a mango. "Country Captain!" said I, then proceeded to wrench Cooks Illustrated's perfect recipe almost beyond recognition.  Why?  I didn't have some of the ingredients they listed.  I don't particularly like green peppers.  I was in the mood for a soup, not a stew.  As I went along, it seemed right and good to add spinach, carrots, more spices.

And it was perfectly delicious.  Our lesson today:  Perfection is not the exclusive property of Cooks Illustrated.

Typically a stew, this history-rich dish is also delicious as a soup.  Adding coconut cream or coconut butter to the soup instead of flour makes it richly nourishing and deeply satisfying.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

4 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (less if you don't like heat)
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups sliced carrots

2 cooked* chicken breasts, cut into chunks or diced (about 2 cups)
1 can (or 1-1/2 cups fresh) diced tomatoes, undrained
3 big handfuls (about 6 cups loose) fresh spinach
1 mango, diced
1/2 cup coconut cream or coconut butter (coconut milk would probably do)

Garnishes:  Toasted coconut flakes, toasted and chopped almonds or macadamias, diced apple, sliced banana, raisins, green onion ... you get the idea.

*If using raw chicken, add it with the broth and carrots.


In soup pot, melt coconut oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, sauteeing until onion begins to soften.

Sprinkle spices over onion/garlic mixture, and fry for a few minutes, until spices begin to release a delightful, pungent fragrance. 

Add bay leaf, thyme, chicken broth and carrots to pot, stir, and cover.  Cook at a hearty simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then add chicken, tomatoes, spinach and mango, and continue to cook 10 to 15 minutes more. 

Stir in coconut cream or coconut butter. Serve topped with garnishes of choice.  I used toasted coconut flakes and chopped roasted, salted macadamias.

Makes 4 generous servings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pepita Coconut Granola

Just pumpkin seeds and coconut chips.  Amazing flavor and crunch!
The grain-free life feels too good to go back to blood-sugar-spiking grains and sugars.  But now and then I grow nostalgic for something toasty and crunchy. 

When thinking about this recipe, I had planned to add other things ... perhaps nuts or spices.  But this two-ingredient granola was so perfect that I just stopped! 

Just like with other granolas, it can be used to top a bowl of berries and yogurt, or to add crunch to a sliced banana.  You can douse it with Pure Eire milk or cream, if you eat dairy.  Or just eat the dang stuff by itself!

You can adjust the amounts given to suit your taste.  Our local health food stores carry pumpkin seeds in the refrigerated section.  I find the coconut chips at Yokes in the Nature's Pantry section.

2 cups raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (also called coconut chips) or shredded coconut

In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast pumpkin seeds, stirring/shaking frequently (read:  Don't walk away) until you hear one of the seeds pop

Add the coconut, stir, and continue toasting.  The seeds should continue to pop, and the seeds and coconut should become toasty golden brown.

Remove from heat and let cool completely. Store in covered container.

Alternatively, you can toast the pumpkin seeds and coconut separately, stirring watchfully until each reaches a perfect golden state.

Monday, February 20, 2012

2012: Winter CSA Boxes 6 and 7

Winter CSA Box 6

Winter CSA Box 7
Box 6 contained a gnarly horseradish root that I am still meditating about.  Beets, spinach, arugula, red delicious apples, chili peppers and lentils completed the lineup.  The lentils (petite brown) were gifted to a friend.

Box 7 delighted me with TWO bunches of organic lacinato kale. Kale chips, anyone? The farmer keeps experimenting with dried cannoli beans ... these are not too exciting.  But we have frozen tart cherries from a local orchard, a gorgeous selection of pear varieties, arugula, braising greens, and dried mint. 

After sorting and washing the braising greens, I tossed them into a pot with some ghee, chicken broth, store-bought spinach, and CSA kale, and simmered them for half an hour or so.  I love to tuck a little hank of cooked greens alongside a dinner entree on the plate!  Greens make me smile.

Some of the pears went into a new grain-free version of Leek, Pear and Goat Cheese Tart.  I altered the original recipe by using butter instead of olive oil, and a crust of nut flours and butter instead of wheat flours.

The arugula was snipped and tossed with a little bacon in a skillet of scrambled eggs.  Peppery, tasty and a beautiful.  And hey .... only a little over two months 'til the farmers' markets open!  I am hugely grateful for my CSA farmer, whose produce gets us through the winter so well.