Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cranberry-lemon oven pancake

Hello lovelies!

We're snowed in here today, and you might be too. Today I offer a recipe that is easy, flexible, and you probably have everything you need on hand already.

It may seem that all I eat these days is egg-based dishes, and while that's not entirely accurate, I do love me some eggs. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner - eggs are easy, fast, and if you buy eggs from pasture-raised chickens from a farmer you trust, they couldn't be better for you. Plus, some days you just can't get to the farmers market or grocery store, and you want something easy you can make out of what you have on hand.

One problem with egg-based dishes is they don't photograph very well, so I don't have pictures today but I promise, in real life, my dinner is gorgeous and delicious.

I've posted about similar easy oven pancakes before, but I just can't say enough about how yummy and easy this is. Enjoy!

Preheat your oven to 385 with your cast iron skillet inside. (I know, it's a weird temperature. You can go a little bit in either direction, but I have found I get the best results right here. It's not rocket science; play with it.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 or 4 eggs, a splash of water, a couple spoons of arrowroot starch (feel free to use all-purpose flour if you tolerate gluten), a pinch of salt, and seasoning of choice - I used a shake of nutmeg and a splash of vanilla extract today. (If I'd had an organic lemon on hand, I'd have zested it in, but I had to settle for getting my lemon fix from a jar of lemon curd. One day I'll show you how to make lemon curd, but really, bought curd is pretty delicious too.) You can add cooked vegetables and herbs, or raw or cooked fruit. Today I added about a cup and a half of raw cranberries from the freezer.

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Add a good spoonful of coconut oil or whatever high heat fat you like. Swirl it around the pan, then pour in the batter. Pop it back in the oven and set the timer for twenty minutes.

If it looks about done, then it's done. Not a precise science over here. If it's too jiggly, give it another 2 - 5 minutes. Denser veggies take longer. Light fruits are faster. Heat your fillings up and it will be even faster. Keep a super close eye if you use really sweet fruits like ripe bananas.

Let it rest for a couple minutes, then flip out onto your plate. Remember, the handle of your skillet is HOT! Don't lick it.

Eat as is, or add some honey, maple, jam, or whatever you like. Today I've got a light sprinkle of maple sugar and a spoonful of lemon curd. Hey, I ate lots of veggies earlier! Sometimes it's okay to have fruits for dinner. Savory breakfast, sweet dinner - it's all good. If you didn't have enough veggies earlier in your day, throw some in a savory pancake, or start your meal with a crunchy green salad.

So good, so easy, and cleanup is next to nothing. It's the perfect meal!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Teaching classes at the BCAE

Hello Crafty Land!
It's been a long time since I wrote to you. I hope you are all doing well!
I've been working on many, many different projects since we last spoke. One of those projects is teaching cooking and baking classes. This weekend I will be teaching a class at the Boston Center for Adult Education. It's a class in chocolate treats, this Sunday, from 10 - 1. Everything will be gluten free and customizably allergy friendly.

The info is here:

http://www.bcae.org/index.cfm?method=ClassInfo.ClassInformation&int_class_id=9944&int_category_id=0&int_sub_category_id=0&int_catalog_id=0
The description is from when I taught a similar class in February. This time around, I'm planning more Halloween-appropriate fare including those awesome pumpkin almond butter brownies, mint filled frogs, and a couple more surprises.
I'm also teaching a bunch more classes over the next few months, including gluten free holiday sweet treats and another class in savory sides.
Hope to see some of you there!

Much love,

Chef Mary

Friday, July 26, 2013

Corn and GMOs, part 2

Remember not long ago when I posted about how to avoid GMOs?

Well, it seems harder than ever to avoid corn, and most of the corn out there is genetically modified.

I just read a very interesting article about one woman's experience trying to avoid corn completely. I knew corn was in a lot of things, but even I didn't realize how many non-food products it is in!

Check out the article below:

http://www.elle.com/beauty/health-fitness/allergy-to-genetically-modified-corn

The author had a lot of weird symptoms that seemed allergic and autoimmune, but were very hard to pin down. She went to doctor after doctor searching for answers. Finally, one doctor helped her figure it out. Research is still sparse on the condition, but she seems to have an allergy to the GMO corn itself.

The second page of the article lists off a few of the scary unexpected places we all may still be getting exposed to corn. It can be found in a lot of wacky places, like tea bags, paper cup linings, the coating on store bought apples, and additives you wouldn’t expect, like vitamin E, citric acid, and ascorbic acid! I have found that I am sensitive to corn, so I avoid it both for my digestion's sake and because Roundup isn't a food additive I prefer to consume.

I make almost all my own food from scratch. But I'm probably getting exposed to corn from places I didn't realize! I eat fruit nearly every day. Most is local, but some of it is from grocery stores because we don’t grow everything here all year round. Is there corn on my fruit? Every now and then I use tea from a bag rather than loose. Is there corn in my tea? Compostable plastic bags and utensils are made from corn. Am I consuming corn through the produce I buy in degradable bags? This makes me wonder if corn’s ubiquity might be part of why even though my symptoms have managed to improve, they haven’t gone away entirely.

Scary stuff, and very much worth investigating further!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Where have I been all this time?

Hi peeps! This post is long. It's a lot of venting. I apologize in advance.

It's been so long I don't remember how to do one of those breaks where you hide the rest of the text and people only have to read it if they click. Why can't I remember how to do that?

Anyway, here's where I'm at these days. I've got a bunch of injuries, arthritis, and general stuff going on. This weekend, I can't walk particularly well. Earnest is a massage therapist, but we haven't had mutual free time for a massage in about a month. He taped my knee with Kinesiotape last night and I was able to stand up and walk to the market about two blocks away, but the back of my knee was super angry on the walk back. I want nothing more than to go to the gym and lift heavy, and I've been sidelined for absolutely ages. I'm in workout clothes now. I'm going to go and I'm going to see what I can do. I am going to try to be satisfied with what I can do gently, safely, and with good alignment. If that's just a few chest presses, then at least I'm showing up. I'm going to gently work mostly upper body and stretch a lot.

I've had recurrent injuries and problems for a while (most notably, a dislocated knee 20 years ago, and a  bike accident causing limited mobility in my neck about 10 years ago.) A year ago, I got heat stroke. Leading up to that, I was working out a lot and restricting pretty hard core. I was almost 100% raw vegan, and eating an average of 1200 - 1300 calories a day. I was taking boxing classes, playing capoeira, doing hot yoga, running, lifting fairly heavy on the machines in the gym (I have SO MANY QUESTIONS about how to get started safely with free weights, but that's a different post for when my knee stabilizes.) Working out almost every day, often twice. If I didn't work out, I usually walked to work to make up for it. That's 4.5 miles each way to one job, and 2.5 miles each way to the other. Yes, really.

I was tracking religiously. Some days I'd eat 800 - 900 calories. Some days I was up around 1400-1500, but most days I was between 1200 and 1300. You guys, that's below my BMR. That's just dumb.

I'd been doing this for nearly two years at this point. The first six months high raw vegan I had felt great and hadn't intentionally restricted calories or macros, and was still eating a little more cooked food. Then serious restriction slowly snuck in. Somehow, I started gaining weight. It fluctuated wildly. I often had swings of 6, 8, or more pounds in the space of 24 hours. There were tons of dramatic swings up after especially long work days, and an overall gaining trend. Also, I was orange. All over. Bright. Orange.

Everything pointed to just a whole lot of chronic inflammation, but I couldn't figure out how to make it stop. After all, I reasoned that a raw vegan diet should be 100% anti-inflammatory, right? I would blame the fact that I tasted some of the foods I cooked for seasoning - even though I would usually spit out the taste. I reasoned that I must have been absorbing some tiny amount from the cooked food, and that must have been triggering inflammation. (Did it occur to me that I needed rest days, and I ought to eat more than a banana to fuel my long workouts? Not usually.)

It was July. It was hot. We had had over a week of 90+ temps, and really high humidity. We had no AC in our 4th floor walk-up apartment. I'm a chef. When I'm not home or at the gym, I'm in a hot hot kitchen. I had not taken a rest day, or taken the time to cool off properly, in ages. I was hot.

I kept up my usual workout routine, despite the heat. In boxing class one night, I realized I was bright red, way overheated, and not sweating. I drank water and kept going, just a lot less intensely. A half hour later, I nearly fainted. Still red, still not sweating. Someone got me more water, and someone else got me a cold wet towel. I didn't go to the hospital because I'm a stubborn moron when I'm sick. When I got home I took electrolyte tablets and more water.

For the next week, the edema was so bad it was painful. My ankles were so wide I couldn't wear socks. I couldn't bend my knees. It was really hard to climb stairs. (Fourth floor walk-up apartment, remember.)

I kept going to work, though. Because I am crazy, and because I have so many bills that a couple of missed days of work will invariably mean that I'm late on student loan or credit card payments. Work means 10 to 14 hours of standing. No, I didn't walk to work that week. I may be crazy, but at least I knew I couldn't do that.

I started pulling muscles all the time. I had a pulled hamstring for two months. I had knots in my calves all the time. My butt and low back hurt all the time, because my piriformis muscles seized up. My upper back, shoulders, and neck hurt. The muscles wouldn't relax, even with massage. My elbows hurt. I lost grip strength, and couldn't cut straight. The soreness in my toes and hips and shoulder blossomed into serious arthritis. My digestion went from finicky to downright failing. I started eating more cooked foods, a few animal foods, a little more food overall. I became less orange, despite eating a least the same amount of carotenoids, often more. The anxiety and some of the neuromuscular symptoms started to improve as I ate more, but the arthritis slowly started to get worse.

The GI doc found not a whole lot. Primary care found some slightly wacky numbers, but nothing crazy. Finally got the feet looked at, and I have a whole bunch of things going wrong including at least two different forms of arthritis. Then my health insurance paperwork got lost and I'm temporarily not covered because the forms are completely overwhelming. So I haven't seen the rheumatologist in a couple months.

Over that time period, I tried a bunch of fads - I did a Whole30 in January, or was it February? I tried low carb for a little while. I actually gained while eating low carb. How is that even possible?  That didn't last long for me, thank goodness, because I felt like shit and I LOVE FRUIT AND SWEET POTATOES! Any diet that says I can't have fruit or sweet potatoes is straight up lame.

I found Intuitive Eating, then Matt Stone, then Go Kaleo, and Eating the Food. Not sure how long I've been ETF, but it is helping a lot. Three months? Longer? The principle is simple: Eat the correct amount of food to support a healthy metabolism, move your body as appropriate for you, and stop all the restrictive dieting. I have a lot of allergies and sensitivities, which is a challenging balance to strike. But not impossible.

At first, I got belly bloat. That's normal, coming out of a restrictive eating disorder, or excessive dieting, or whatever you want to call it. I got that tummy overhang thing everyone talks about. They both went away. The more I eat, the more I can digest. It's amazing. My intestines mostly usually remember how to work again!

I stayed off the scale and the tracking sites for a while, because they just make me crazy. But I finally stepped back on the scale recently, and I've lost several pounds! Like, not just the initial ETF puffiness, but I'm a few pounds lower than my immediately pre-EFT weight! Not as low as I was before the gain started, but I hadn't had my period in six months then so perhaps I was a little too thin. My metabolism is getting back on track. My libido is starting to return. Things in general are improving. I still have joint pain and migraines, but my feet especially are SO much better!

Interestingly, my scale has a function where it measures body fat and muscle. I have not been able to work out often over the last few months, but even so, I'm experiencing a slight recomp in the positive direction. That was a surprise! More carbs, more rest, and more sitting around watching anime have actually led to more lean mass, and a little lower fat percentage. Hooray!

Also interestingly, when I have been able to work out, I'm lifting as heavy as I was when I was dieting and working out consistently. Dieting makes you weak! Eating food makes you strong. Who knew?

I've been getting acupuncture, and that has helped a lot with everything. I have a whole bunch of things going on. In the western terms that I understand, I've got chronic inflammation, autoimmune weirdness, exhaustion, overwork, stress, migraines, fatigue, the works. All those symptoms of starvation (a.k.a. what the internet calls "adrenal fatigue") and then some. According to my acupuncturist, I'm like a tangled ball of yarn and we need to tease out problems in layers. One of the underlying things is what TCM calls spleen qi deficiency. That is roughly equivalent to a depressed metabolism, in western terms. It has a lot of potential root causes/symptoms, but anorexia, too much cold raw food, overwork, and excess stress are pretty common ones. So, basically, my acupuncturist, my experience, and the ETF philosophy are right in line here.

I'm to eat more, especially more carbs from rice and GF oats. I love rice and oats so much! I'm to eat lots and lots of veggies, especially cooked. I'm happy to live almost entirely off veggies, so that's cool. No more living entirely off of salads though, as much as I absolutely adore salads. Raw vegan was convenient for me. I'd cook for others all day, and be so exhausted that green smoothies and salads were all I wanted to make for myself anyway. 

There are a few other recommendations too - I don't have to feel obligated to eat all that protein. My acupuncturist recommends less or no meat. Thank goodness. I am allergic to legumes, so I have found I do need to eat some animal foods, but I don't have to feel obligated to meet some kind of protein target like I did on or after Whole30. A little fish or egg is plenty.

I am to avoid dairy, which I've found recently makes me feel slow and gives me acne. I'm to avoid gluten, which I already do because I am seriously intolerant and it makes me feel horrible for days. I'm to avoid very spicy food, which makes me sad, but it's temporary. Also caffeine which I gave up years ago, alcohol which makes me feel tired and shitty lately, and chocolate which I had mysteriously stopped craving anyway.

As much as I am upset and inconvenienced by the knee prohibiting much movement this weekend, things are generally improving. As long as I use eight or twelve months ago as the starting point, when all the fallout from heat stroke and malnutrition were at their peak, I'm definitely improving overall.

Three and a half years ago I was feeling great. I was eating, getting plenty of sunshine, and working only five days a week.

I choose to look at that as more of an inspiration of how I can feel again, not to measure how far I've fallen. Three and a half years ago I ate so much and stayed so slim that my co-worker said I must have a tapeworm. I was thin, strong, not feeling the old injuries so often. I was enjoying movement and food. I was doing a lot of creative work - knitting, sewing, and/or drawing just about every day. I danced, I ate, I walked on the beach because we lived near one then. Life wasn't perfect, certainly, but I was doing OK.

Getting back in balance, resting, and eating are all journeys.

Now I'm heading down to the gym. The knee and hip don't allow pushups or planks when they're acting up, but I just checked, and today I can do a few sloooooow careful squats to just above 90 degrees. Huge improvement over yesterday!

Time to stop typing and start moving!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Delicious Cherry Smoothie for Joint Support, Immune Support, and Arthritis

Good morning!

Time to yawn, stretch, and prepare for the day.

But what if that morning stretch is hard? What if arthritis means your morning is full of achy soreness, stiffness, and pain?

There are many ways to approach arthritis and other kinds of body pain. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices can help a lot. Moderate exercise has been shown to help manage the stiffness. I can't currently do some of the things I used to, but I hope to do them all again soon. Even on really tough days, I try to do at least a half hour of yoga. There's a lot of creaking, but it helps.

Acupuntcure is helpful for a lot of people. There are herbs and other supplements you can take to help keep your body moving. There are lots of foods that help. Many people find NSAIDs and steroids helpful, but there are potential side effects to consider, especially with long term use.

I'm not your doctor. I'm not here to judge the combination of treatments you choose. What I do have is a delicious recipe to start your day off well. The ingredients in this smoothie work together to support your joint health, and they're delicious!

CHERRY SMOOTHIE

Cashew milk  or other milk or yogurt of choice
Lemon, peeled with a knife or juiced
Cherries, pitted (frozen or fresh)
Blueberries (frozen or fresh)
Ripe banana (frozen or fresh) or a spoonful or raw, local honey to taste
Romaine or spinach
Water

First, make your cashew milk. It's easy - blend cashews with a little water until smooth. That's it! Save some in a jar for other uses if you like. Using only a tiny bit of water makes a thick creme. More water makes a thin milk. You don't have to strain cashew milk; just blend and go.

Blend your fruits with your cashew milk. Add a little water as necessary. Add greens and blend until completely smooth. If you're not feeling the greens this morning, it's actually okay to skip them. There are no smoothie police to make sure every single one is green. Yes, the leafy veggies are oh-so-good for you, but even without greens, this smoothie will be super nourishing.

Optional but recommended: stir in a spoonful of fish oil, or take some on the side. Alternatively, you may choose to take a vitamin D supplement, preferably D3 suspended in olive oil.

So why these ingredients? Well, cashews are super creamy and delicious, and lend body and good fat to help you absorb all the other good stuff in the smoothie. Cashews make it taste a little more like cherry cheesecake, but you can use coconut milk or a bit of avocado instead if you prefer. Cherries and blueberries are both rich in phytochemicals that decrease inflammation. Blueberries are incredibly rich in antioxidants. Cherries have been shown to help with many kinds of arthritis and pain, especially gouty arthritis. Lemon boosts the smoothie's vitamin C content even higher. Vitamin C supports the health of connective tissue in and around joints, as well as the fascia surrounding muscles. It also helps you absorb the iron and other minerals in the greens.

Spinach and romaine are both excellent greens for overall health, especially for decreasing inflammation. Bananas are delicious and sweeten up your smoothie, countering the tartness of the berries and the bitterness of the greens. They're also rich in vitamins and minerals. Raw local honey is  great for immune support, allergies, and inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in fish oil have been shown to support joint health and overall health. And again, that little dose of good fat will help you absorb all the goodness that's locked away in the fruits and veggies.

So sip that smoothie, relax, and enjoy. Then go for a walk in the sunshine, take a yoga class, and stretch it out! It may be hard to get started, but your body will thank you afterward.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Simple mustard and honey sauce

Happy May, everyone!

Very soon, I will post an awesome recipe for a grain free carrot cake that is perfect for breakfast, dessert, or a snack. I finally got some pictures today before it was completely devoured! But first, a super simple dressing, dip, or sauce. Tonight I had this on gorgeous baby greens as a salad and it made me so happy! Feel free to dress or sauce up anything you like, from salads to wraps to noodles. Would also pair as well with meat as it does with veggies, if that's how you roll.

INGREDIENTS:

Raw honey
Dijon-style mustard (grainy or smooth, both will be delicious)
Sunflower seed butter (or other seed or nut butter)

METHOD:

Put as much as you like of the three ingredients in a bowl. Play with proportions - I used about equal quantities of honey and mustard, and more of the sunflower seed butter. Stir with a fork to combine. Season to taste - depending on your mustard, you may want more vinegar, more salt, or any other seasoning you desire - ginger or turmeric would be great, as would coconut aminos, or chopped chilis.

Now dip, dress, and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Avoid GMOs in Your Food

There has been a lot of press lately about GMOs (genetically modified organisms.) There is also a lot of confusion about what they are, and how and why you might want to avoid them.
 
Here's what they are: Genetically modified organisms have had their genes spliced with those of other species. The term GMO does not apply to selective breeding, natural or artificial selection, or any other practice or genetic combination that Mother Nature might have come up with on her own. The term refers only to organisms that have been subjected to gene splicing. Whether this practice is safe or beneficial is not actually what I'm going to talk about today. That is way too big and complex a question for one little blog post!
 
I'm going to talk about why you should think twice about the GMO crops that are already in the food chain. It's not because of the crops themselves - it's because of how they're grown.
 
Monsanto, the world's biggest producer of pesticides and herbicides, takes genes from organisms that resist their toxic products and splices genes from them into food crops. Those GMO food crops are grown with an extra huge dose of toxic chemicals. 
 
Most of Monsanto's seed is called "Roundup Ready" - that means that the crops won't die from being sprayed with hefty doses of Monsanto's herbicide called Roundup. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been linked to kidney damage, liver damage, infertility, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Monsanto has blocked in-depth study of the effects of its products.
 
Those Roundup Ready, heavily sprayed crops are used as animal feed and wind up in most of your food.
 
There has been a lot of controversy about labeling GMOs, and a picture of an apple is often used as an illustration. That is confusing, because there are no GMO apples on the market - yet. You can bet they're in the pipeline, but they are not yet in stores.
 
Most veggies and fruits are not currently GMO. If it is not local or certified organic, you can bet it is heavily sprayed with pesticides and other potentially dangerous, unstudied chemicals. But with the exception of some zucchini, papaya, and most corn, the produce isn't GMO.
 
If you eat animal products, be extremely careful about where your meat, dairy, and eggs come from. The animals themselves are not GMO, but most of their feed is. I'll say that again: There are not yet GMO animal products on the market (though there will likely be GMO salmon in stores very soon.) But a huge portion of the GMO corn and soy grown in the U.S. goes into animal feed.

If you want to avoid GMOs, avoid soy, corn, and canola unless it is certified organic. That means pretty much all processed food, and almost anything that comes in a package. The word "natural" on a label is meaningless unless it also says Certified Organic. The word natural is not regulated, and manufacturers are allowed to write it on anything they want.

Avoid non-organic canola and soy oil. Both are sometimes called vegetable oil. Avoid soy protein, vegetable protein, tofu, fake meats, and all other soy products unless they are marked as certified organic. Avoid corn meal, corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup, and popcorn unless it is labelled as certified organic. Avoid processed foods including cereals and baked goods that contain any corn or soy ingredients. Doing that, you will eliminate the majority of the GMOs in your diet.
http://www.allergykids.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Corn-Im-in-Everything3.jpg
There are also Roundup-ready GMO sugar beets. Avoid non-organic sugar, or choose sugar that is labelled specifically as cane sugar, to be safe. Sugar beets are not the beets sold as veggies; they're a specific variety that is processed for sugar. You don't have to be concerned yet about the beets you buy as vegetables.

Also avoid meat and other products from animals fed GMOs - that is ALL so-called conventionally raised beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and dairy. The animals themselves are not genetically modified, but their food is. Most of the corn and soy raised in the U.S. actually goes into animal feed.

Animals on so-called conventional farms are fed genetically modified corn and soy that is sprayed with all sorts of toxic chemicals, including a toxic herbicide called Roundup. The animals eat the chemically sprayed food. The chemicals concentrate in the animals' fat tissue. You eat the animal, and now you are full of those chemicals.

To avoid GMOs, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy as much as you can from local farmers you trust at farmers markets. What you can't get locally, get the cleanest you can. Be even more choosy about your meat and other animal products than you are about produce. For beef and lamb, grass fed is best. Pasturing animals is important for their health and yours.
This is not where you want your food to come from
 
If you can't afford organic/grass fed/pastured for everything (and who can,) be most selective about animal products. For produce, follow the Environmental Working Group's recommendations to buy organic for the most highly sprayed produce, and get conventional for the rest. Buy organic or local apples, celery, peppers, and lettuce. Buy strawberries in season from local farmers who don't use toxic sprays. You know the ones from California don't taste like anything by the time they get here anyway! It's okay to buy conventional avocados, mangos, and other produce that is not sprayed as much.

The current guide can be found here:

http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

Monday, March 18, 2013

Simple grain-free waffles!

Good morning!

These waffles got gobbled up completely before I got a picture. Oh noes! Next time I will remember to take out the camera.

But right now, I have to share this with you!

I've been working on this recipe for a little while, and now it is perfect! It's based on the 2 ingredient pancakes you've probably seen floating around the last few years. (No? The basic proportions out there are volumetrically approximately equal amounts of ripe banana and egg - about 1 large banana to 2 eggs, or about 1/2 cup each. There are lots of potential additions and variations out there, and huge flexibility. Directions: Blend egg and banana together. Add optional flavorings and add-ins. Heat and oil griddle. Make pancakes.)

Since we reintroduced eggs into our diet, I've wanted to make this recipe into waffles. Why? Because I have a waffle iron, and I like waffles!

I tried with just banana and egg (plus cinnamon, vanilla, and a pinch of salt). Delicious, but I wanted them to hold together a little better. I tried adding cocoa powder. I tried adding baking powder. I tried adding almond flour. I tried adding arrowroot starch. I tried separating the eggs, and I tried not separating the eggs.

The verdict? Almond flour and arrowroot starch are both excellent additions. Separating the eggs is unnecessary, and maybe even makes the waffles a little dry. Baking powder is unnecessary, at least in a non-Belgian-style waffle iron. Cocoa powder tastes great in the raw batter, but loses something when baked - needs a little more experimentation. I haven't tried arrowroot and cocoa together; that might work really well.

I loved the flavor and light texture with almond flour. They held together better than without it, but they still didn't hold together as well as I'd like. This morning's arrowroot experiment was perfect! Delicious, light, sturdier than the other variations. You guys, the finished waffle even has some stretch to it. Stretch! It comes out of the iron easily, even when lightly baked. It's a win.

Next time, I might try a little almond flour and a little arrowroot starch. Yum! That might be getting a little too far away from the simplicity of the original, though. Still, worth trying.

INGREDIENTS:

1 banana
3 eggs
pinch sea salt
Optional: good shake of cinnamon, splash of vanilla, some pumpkin pie spice, whatever spices you like
1-2 T arrowroot starch, a.k.a. arrowroot powder a.k.a. arrowroot flour (if you don't tolerate starches or you're avoiding them at the moment, try almond flour)
refined coconut oil for your iron

Optional toppings: great plain, or with virgin coconut oil, dark chocolate chips, almond butter, homemade rawtella, fruit, whipped cream, whipped coconut cream, whatever you like! They're slightly sweet, and don't need syrup; but if you love maple, I am not stopping you!

Directions: Oil and preheat your iron. Put banana, egg, and seasonings in food processor. Mix thoroughly, till smooth and light. Add arrowroot starch, and mix again. If you don't have a food processor, whisk eggs thoroughly, until light and fluffy. Separately, mash bananas thoroughly with seasonings. Add bananas and starch or flour to eggs and mix completely.

Bake waffles in iron to desired level of doneness. Re-oil between batches. Enjoy with desired toppings.

That's it!

I encourage playing with the recipe. The only part that I think is not optional is keeping the iron properly oiled. When I went more than two waffles between re-oiling, they stuck and split.

My waffle iron is not Belgian-style, but rather the less-tall sort. I want a Belgian-style iron, and someday when I get one I will try these in it! If you try these in a Belgian-style iron, please leave a comment and let me know how it goes. Did you need to add a pinch of baking soda, or did you separate your eggs?

This recipe is ovo-vegetarian, gluten free, grain free, healthy, real food, paleo, high protein, moderate carb, filling, and delicious!
 
All the ingredients in this recipe are Whole30 compliant, but if waffles and other baked-style breakfast items are a trigger food for you, then waffles in general are not Whole30.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Holiday Treats! Pi Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and Passover are all upon us!




Oh my goodness, Easter and Passover are right around the corner! I've been working on some chocolate treats and other holiday deliciousness, and I'll tell you about them very soon. (It is not too early to start thinking about a plague of chocolate mint frogs for Passover, or raspberry-filled zombie chocolate bunnies for Easter. A variety of chocolate treats will be available regularly, and sold by weight.)

But first, Pi Day and St. Patrick's Day! NOW IS THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT ORDERING FOR PI DAY AND ST. PADDY'S DAY! What? Ordering? Yup, I'm reviving orders and deliveries for the holidays, because I love cooking for you and I miss you! Plus I'm always happy to come cook for you and your family for a fantastic holiday or anytime! (I'm already booked for the first night of Passover and for Good Friday, but I have some other dates free. Please email me if you are interested in any menu for any date at all, and we'll talk!)

I'll be doing plenty of gluten free, real food, delicious, homemade awesome food for all those holidays. Most items will be vegan, and others will be non-vegan. All will be made with care and attention to your family's specific needs. As always, I avoid all gluten ingredients, all soy, peanut, GMOs, and weird stuff. Keeping your food delicious and safe is the top priority!


A Vegan Cottage Pie Begins

Gluten Free, Vegan Pot Pie
Sweet Potato and Local Beef Cottage Pie
For Pi Day, which is really soon, on Thursday, 3/14, I'll do a pie theme! I can do a vegan vegetable pot pie or a non-vegan, dairy-free chicken pot pie. Either way, it will be topped with a gluten free crust, similar to the one I did last year. I'll also do variations on shepherd's pie and cottage pie - I'm leaning toward a ground lamb filling with a mashed squash topping, and maybe a turkey one with a sweet potato topping, but we can figure it all out together based on customer interest. I'll pack these savory pies in recyclable foil pans so you can reheat easily - just pop them in the oven.

I will also do some sweet pies, of course! Last year's gluten free vegan pecan pie was amazing, and I'll definitely reprise that. I've also been working on a raw vegan avocado lime pie that I'm pretty excited about, and a banana cream pie with coconut custard. Yum!
This is the best pecan pie ever. Ever!

For St. Patrick's Day, which is next Sunday the 17th, I will make you delicious gluten free, vegan Irish soda bread. Remember how yummy that was last year? I miss it, and I want to make it for you again. It was so darn good. I'll also make colcannon: mashed potatoes with kale and general yumminess (can be made vegan with olive oil, or with dairy butter) AND I'll do a cabbage side - with or without bacon. If there's enough interest, I might do corned beef brisket too. If you're interested, please email me soon so we can plan! Write to me any time at rathercraftymary@gmail.com

Looking forward to cooking for you all soon!

Much love,
Chef Mary

Friday, February 1, 2013

Water Chimes

Today was Imbolc - the day halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It's the day that it finally starts to feel like the days really are getting longer, the sun really is getting stronger. Spring will come!

It was a gorgeous day, sunny, brisk, a little bit windy. It was chilly today, after a couple of warmer days.

  
As I was walking this afternoon, I went by Jamaica Pond. The Pond was refreezing, after thawing out a bit the last couple days. But the wind wouldn't let the ice stay in one place. The wind and waves were throwing chunks of ice up onto the shore.

In certain spots, there was a beautiful, magical sound like underwater wind chimes. In some places, it was light, high, and subtle. In others, the pieces of ice were larger and it sounded like a full orchestra.


Magical!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter Farmers Markets Popping Up All Over!

There are now officially so many winter farmers markets, we have no excuse not to buy our root veggies, greenhouse greens, eggs, and meats from local farmers. Some of them also have seafood and wine. Most also have fresh pasta, honey, cheeses, and baked goods. Many vendors take EBT, credit, and debit in addition to cash and checks, but that varies by market. The whole JP market accepts EBT and changes them to tokens. I think Somerville and Dorchester do too.

A new one in Central Square on Wednesdays joins the existing lineup. Feel free to add more Boston/Camberville markets in the comments so we can all have them listed up in one place:

Saturdays:
* Somerville (Center for the Arts at the Armory, Highland Ave, Somerville)
* Cambridge (Cambridge Community Center, Callender St, Cambridge)
* Jamaica Plain Egleston Market (Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall, 45 Brookside Ave, JP)

Sundays:
* Coolidge Corner (Arcade Building, Coolidge Corner, Brookline)
* Dorchester (The Great Hall at the Codman Square Health Center, 6 Norfolk St, Boston)
* Milton (Thayer Nursery, 270 Hillside St, Milton)

Wednesdays:
* Central Square (Mass Ave, Cambridge)

* Thursdays: Medford (Hyatt Place, 116 Riverside Ave, Medford)

Unfortunately, Mondays in Coolidge Corner are drawing to a close after this week, but all the vendors who did Mondays and more are there on Sundays!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Raw vegan hemp and veggies salad

Good morning!

This morning, I have a fantastic breakfast, lunch, dinner, side, or anytime dish for you. Again, there will be no awards for the photos; I was so hungry I ate most of it before remembering to take pictures. Oops!

Just trust me, this is awesome.

I woke up this morning tired of all the animal protein. On Whole30, the guidelines require a dense source of protein at every meal, alongside lots of healthy veggies. Well, I just wanted veggies, veggies, and just more veggies. So how to get some essential amino acids and healthy fats into my balanced breakfast? Hemp seeds to the rescue!

Like all salads, this one is endlessly customizable. Use what you like! Want it 100% raw? Skip the roasted beets. Is it summer where you are? Add tomatoes instead of the beets. Want more carbs to fuel a heavy cardio day? Add more carrots, some leftover roasted squash or sweet potato, orange or tangerine sections, or some fresh or dried apples. Need more protein to recover from an intense strength training session? Add some walnuts, shrimp, tuna, or egg. Need more fat to fuel a long day? Use the whole avocado. Have different salad greens kicking around? Switch them up. Kale would be awesome. Frisee would be wonderful, especially if you top the salad with some egg. Use what you have and like best. Enjoy!

RAW VEGAN HEMP AND VEGGIES SALAD

Serves 1 as a light meal, or 2 as a side

INGREDIENTS

1/3 to 1/2 an avocado
2 T dulse seaweed flakes (if you can't find dulse, try crumbled nori)
A couple glugs raw apple cider vinegar, to taste
Pinch sea salt, to taste
1 large heart or small full head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
1 large or 2 smaller carrots, chopped small or shredded
1 leftover roasted beet, cubed
2 T shelled hemp seeds

METHOD

Mash the avocado, dulse, vinegar, and salt together in the bottom of your big mixing bowl. Add lettuce, carrot, beet, and hemp seeds. Toss to coat really well. Season to taste, and dive in!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Veggies galore, and a recipe for meatballs puttanesca

My dinner tonight was delicious, easy, and almost all local.

From top right:

Salad of local kale, shredded finely and dressed with evoo, balsamico, sea salt, and pine nuts, over a bed of mixed baby lettuces.

Watermelon radishes, roasted with evoo and sea salt until tender

Butternut squash, roasted then lightly mashed, plain

(While they were roasting, I also roasted up some beets that I'll eat tomorrow. Never waste oven space!)

Meatballs puttanesca (method below.)

Delicious, so filling, nourishing, and if you skip the meatballs and anchovies in the sauce, easily vegetarian or vegan. Vegans, add some cooked beans to the tomato sauce. Lacto vegetarians, throw on some Parmigiano Reggiano. Omnivores, read on!

Meatballs Puttanesca
Serves three to four people

INGREDIENTS

1 pound local grass-fed ground beef, mixed with seasonings of choice: I like salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, basil, but you will be just fine if all you use is a little sprinkling of salt.

Marinara sauce, either homemade or store bought and doctored up with whatever you like, including onion, garlic, parsley, basil, oregano, red pepper flake, ground fennel seed, thyme, and maybe just a touch of sage and rosemary.

Some anchovies (canned, jarred, or paste, whichever you have on hand)

Kalamata olives, sliced

Sun-dried tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces. Dry packed and oil packed both work, so use the one you have on hand

Capers, just a little spoonful, drained

METHOD

This is so easy and quick if you've already made your marinara. Marinara is not hard, it just takes some simmering. Cook your onions in olive oil until they are translucent. Add garlic, stir it around. Add tomatoes, herbs and spices, and simmer until the flavors all come together.

While sauce is simmering, make your meatballs. Heat your cast iron skillet with a thin film of cooking fat - I used a little leftover beef fat skimmed from making a different sauce. Mix herbs and salt into beef, and form into balls. I like to divide in half, then in half again a few times until I have about 16 approximately equal pieces. You can redistribute as you need to; it isn't rocket science. Roll gently into balls. Place half of them in the hot pan. When they're brown, turn them. Repeat until they're reasonably brown all over. Remove to a plate to rest while you brown the other half.

Chop the anchovies coarsely, or just break them up with your fingers into the sauce. They'll pretty much dissolve in as they cook. Add the tomatoes, olives, and capers. Taste for seasoning. Add meatballs into sauce, and simmer ever so gently for just a few minutes, until cooked through. Serve with plenty of delicious veggies.



Saturday, January 26, 2013

Party Viking Style!

ONCE in Valhalla last night was AMAZING!

We cooked and baked and pickled for days. The food was incredible. The actors and musicians performed amazingly. The sound, lights, direction, production, and everything else sure looked flawless from where I stood. The beer and mead flowed like, well, beer and mead.

If you were a guest, you never would have guessed the level of technical difficulties we experienced in the kitchen that morning! If a major piece of equipment is going to go on the fritz, of course it will be the day of the biggest event of the year! But we are professionals, and we kept our collective calm, carried on, and pulled off possibly the best Valhalla yet!

Smorgasbord
We served ten courses, starting with freshly shucked oysters, pulled fresh from the water the same morning. Then guests enjoyed a smorgasbord of air-cured beef, cheeses, whipped butter, fresh watermelon radishes, pickled fish, the best liverwurst, and lots of different pickled veggies including ramps, fiddleheads, beets, turnips, and cauliflower; all served with my famous rye hardtack. We moved on through a parsnip soup, lamb with roasted beets, ryeberry pilaf, oven braised turkey, cheesy oats with ham, pear gastrique, beef marinated and stewed in porter served with my legendary oat cakes, and finally a dollop of yogurt drizzled with the blood of the gods (local berry puree) and golden honey.

Myself and Brian slicing and serving the most tender and juicy lamb. You can also just barely see fellow gnome Sean in the background.
In between courses, there was singing, dancing, and there were even lessons in the history and mythology of the Vikings.

Party Viking Style! A completely historically accurate song and dance number
A great time was had by all, and I look forward to next year's! Today is a pajama day, though. I'm beat!

The photos above are all from boston.com (YES I am named in the caption of that photo! Now I'm famous.) The poster below is by Miri Rooney of Short Army, who also designed both the viking and valkyrie helmets.


Stay tuned - there is talk of a Downton Abbey themed dinner coming in the foreseeable future!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Personal Cheffing

Hey folks!

People have been asking, so I just wanted to let you all know that I am still doing personal chef work. In addition, I teach cooking and baking, and I am building clientele as a healthy lifestyle coach. I'm working on getting more writing gigs. And I cook at Cuisine en Locale. I like to keep busy!

I have suspended the deliveries that I was doing with my business, Rather Crafty, the last couple of years. But I am still cooking! I am still very much in business, just sans deliveries.

I'm happy to cook for you and/or your family. I can do a meal at a time, cook several days' worth of food, or fill your freezer up with leftovers. I can come regularly or occasionally. It depends on your needs. I can also come and cook a special meal for your next dinner party, brunch, or luncheon.

While my diet and my kitchen are gluten free, I can bake with gluten in your kitchen. The only ingredients I will not use are synthetic ones, and also my nemesis, peanuts. (There are so many great subs for peanut butter - have you tried my north African sweet potato and cashew stew, or my almond butter chocolate chip cookie sandwiches yet?) I can work with any dietary restriction you may have - gluten free, nut free, grain free, paleo, WAPF, dairy free, low sugar, vegetarian, raw vegan, multiple allergies, high protein, low protein, high carb, low carb, PKU, GAPS, Whole30, just plain picky kids, you name it, I can navigate it. I also cook for folks with no dietary restrictions at all!

Another thing I love to do is teach you (or your kids) how to make something awesome. Kids like to make muffins, cupcakes, fruit crisps, and cookies, but they also love making soups, souffles, and gluten free pizzas. Grown-ups may want to learn my tricks for all of the above, plus nourishing stocks and broths, sophisticated chocolates and other desserts, and tips for the tenderest braises. Lessons and classes make great parties, gifts, and Mommy and me playdates.

So yes, indeed, I am still cooking and I would love to cook for your family! I have a car, so I can come to you within a reasonable radius of Boston. Plus, I know where the best farmers markets are, so we'll always start with the best ingredients.

Feel free to email me at rathercraftymary at gmail dot com or comment below with any questions. My rates are reasonable, and my food is awesome.

I look forward to speaking with you very soon!

Much love,
Chef Mary

Thursday, January 24, 2013

O.N.C.E. in Valhalla!

Hey peeps!

This week, I've been working hard on a very exciting project at Cuisine en Locale: O.N.C.E. in Valhalla!



O.N.C.E. stands for One Night Culinary Event, the brainchild of our head mad genius, JJ Gonson. I'm a member of the team of chefs at CeL, and O.N.C.E.s are one of our core event-styles. They're ticketed events, open to the public. They usually have themes. This time, it's an all you can eat, ten course Viking feast! There will be singing, dancing, gods, monsters, valkyries, and amazing all-local food.

I've been baking for days. We've been marinating, braising, roasting, and otherwise making stuff amazing. The cast of the floor show has been rehearsing and working with folks from American Repertory Theatre to create an amazing night. It's going to be awesome.

Notes for the sensitive: It is not vegetarian, and it is not gluten free. It is 100% locally grown real food, and it is going to be 100% amazing. We're actually close to selling out on tickets. If we do sell out, this may be the first time we don't have a few more at the door! We can hardly wait!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vegetarian cottage pie

Remember yesterday how I mentioned you can make cottage pie with almost any combination of veggies? Really, the only requirement is that there be something yummy topped with something else yummy, and the top yumminess is some kind of vegetable mash or puree.

You can use leftover or freshly made mashers, over leftover shredded or pulled or minced whatever. Yesterday for breakfast, I used lovely local sweet potatoes over ground beef with carrots and parsnips.

Then at work, I made something similar but completely vegetarian.


I roasted a bunch of different veggies separately, then combined them. The veggies were seasoned with paprika and sea salt in roasting, then sprinkled with marjoram when I combined them all together.

I topped with a mash of white sweet potato, and gave it the peanut butter cookie treatment with the back of a fork to make it beautiful.

Sprinkled with paprika, and voila! Vegetarian (easily vegan) cottage pie! Take it home, pop it in the oven until hot, and dig in!

Make topping first: White sweet potato, cooked, peeled, mashed with butter, a splash of veg broth, and a sprinkling of sea salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Inside:

Veggies roasted until golden and delicious with sea salt, paprika, and oil/butter/fat of choice
Sprinkling of marjoram
Suggested veggies:
Carrots
Potatoes (If you're not doing Whole30)
White sweet potatoes
Watermelon radishes
Parsnips
Turnips
Onions

Just roast off the veggies individually. I do them individually because each veggie takes a slightly different amount of time to become perfectly done. Combine in baking dish and adjust seasoning. Top with mash, make it pretty, and bake till hot. Instant veggie dish! Great with everything, including salads, egg dishes, meat dishes, and beans if you happen to tolerate them.

Enjoy!

Love,
Chef Mary

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy MLK Day! And a cottage pie recipe

Happy birthday, Dr. King!

It is a beautiful day for the annual National Day of Service, taking place today as well. If you are not working today, you may consider participating in a service project in your community.

Today, I have a yummy recipe for cottage pie! Cottage pie is like shepherd's pie, but with beef instead of lamb. If you have ground lamb, feel free to use it because it is delicious!



You can prepare in advance for this recipe by cooking your sweet potato ahead of time. I baked it last night while making dinner, which included some delicious cauliflower patties that I'll write about later.

This recipe is totally scaleable. If you're using one pound of meat, use your 8 x 8 Pyrex baking dish. If you are using two pounds, use a 9 x 13. It is also totally adaptable to all sorts of different flavors. Any herbs and spices are great here. Almost any veggies you have on hand work in the filling, and any mashable root vegetable works on the top. Even a winter squash puree would be great on top! Want to use onions and celery in the filling and celery root mash on top? Do it. In summer, try bell peppers and zucchini in the filling and carrot mash on top. Want to make a vegetarian version? Just make a whole lot of veggies (with some properly soaked and cooked beans if you tolerate them), add a little saucy gravy, top with your puree and bake it off. Anything goes!

INGREDIENTS

1 - 2 good sized sweet potatoes (or equivalent amount of another mashable starchy veg like celery root, parsnips, carrots, turnips, squash, any combination of the above, or if you tolerate them, even regular potatoes.)
Some healthy fat, like coconut oil, olive oil, or rendered beef fat
1 - 2 pounds of grass-fed ground beef
Chopped vegetables. Today I used two big parsnips, five medium carrots, and a couple of chili peppers.
Seasonings of choice. Today I used thyme and parsley in the meat, and nutmeg, paprika and a touch of cinnamon in the sweet potato.
Sea salt to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup homemade chicken or beef stock, optional
A spoonful of arrowroot starch, optional

METHOD

Cook your sweet potatoes. I steam-baked mine in a covered glass dish with some water last night. This is easy to do while you're roasting or baking something for dinner. You can also steam them in a pot on your stove, roast them dry, or even use leftover oven fries from another meal. Peel sweet potatoes then mash them up with some of your healthy fat and seasonings to taste. Set aside.


You need to cook the filling veggies and the beef. Which one to do first? Well that depends on the veggies you chose. If it's winter and you're using carrots and parsnips, sautee them briefly in a little beef fat, then cover to allow to steam briefly, and cook maybe halfway. Stir in the ground beef and brown it.

If it's summer and you're using zucchini or other veg that cooks a lot faster, brown the meat first and then add the veg. Use your judgement here!

Add herbs and other seasonings. Whisk the arrowroot into the stock and pour over, mixing in well. You don't have to wait for it to thicken much in the pan because you're going to bake it. Don't have the patience for this part? Skip it. It just makes it a little more gravy-like. It's still great without.



Put the sweet potatoes on top, smooth out, and use the back of a fork to make it all pretty.

Bake at 400 until hot all the way through, bubbly, and maybe browning just a little on top. Let cool a little so you don't burn your mouth, then try not to eat the whole thing at once! YUM!
Leftovers keep well in the fridge. Enjoy cold or reheated. Make this every week!

Love,
Chef Mary

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lamb Liver with Balsamic Thyme Caramelized Onions

Yesterday, at the farmers market, I picked up some beautiful local lamb liver from Stillmans at the Turkey Farm. I also picked up some lovely spinach. I had a few onions hanging around already. This morning I set about making an awesome breakfast!


The liver was frozen when I bought it, so I put it in the fridge to thaw overnight. Liver is easiest to cut when it's half-frozen, so don't worry about thawing it fully. Leave it a little frosty. If it comes to you not-frozen, pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. You're going to want to slice it about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. (That's between 1/2 cm and just under 1 cm for you metric folks.)

How many does this serve? Well, that depends on the size of your liver, and your appetites. It's two to three servings if this is all you're eating for a big meal, four or more if this is one course or part of a bigger meal, with some cauliflower rice, roasted squash, or even topped with a poached egg. Eat until you feel kind of 80% full, and you're happy and satisfied, then stop. Follow your appetite, not my rules! Save your leftovers for pate, or just for yummy snacks later.

INGREDIENTS

A couple spoons of ghee or other fat that tolerates high heat
3 onions, thinly sliced
Salt to taste
Fresh or dried thyme, a teaspoon or to taste
One fresh or frozen lamb liver
1/4 cup or more balsamic vinegar
Fresh baby spinach, washed and spun dry

METHOD

Heat a big Dutch oven or other large pan with one spoon of the ghee. Add the onions, and stir around to coat thoroughly with the fat. Let cook on fairly low heat, stirring only very occasionally, until golden brown all over. If you keep stirring them, they won't caramelize. Season with salt and thyme. This can take 15 - 20 minutes. Be patient. The slower you do this step, the deeper the flavor.

Heat your cast iron skillet on fairly high heat. Slice lamb liver into nice thin slices, and sprinkle on all sides with sea salt. Add a spoon of ghee to the pan, and fry liver in batches, about two minutes on a side, until medium rare. Transfer to a dish to keep warm while you cook the rest of the liver.

Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar, and make the reduction. Pour the vinegar into the hot pan. It should boil and reduce right away. When it's down to half its volume, pour some of it in the onions and stir to combine.

To plate: put a bed of spinach on each plate. Scatter onions over spinach. Top with a lovely mound of liver and a dollop more of onions. Pour the rest of the balsamic glaze over top. Devour!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Toad in a Hole, and Grain-Free Yorkshire Pudding!

Good morning!

Today, I have a great recipe for any meal of the day - toad in a hole!
Toad in a Hole!

I always used to call eggs in a basket toad in a hole. Inspired by Lillian's Test Kitchen, I looked up both terms and guess what - I've been saying it wrong all this time! Toad in a hole usually refers to sausages baked into yorkshire pudding, an amazingly simple and delicious treat for which I did not until now have a name. Egg in a basket (which does have lots of different names, and I'm not the only one calling it toad in a hole) is that thing we all grew up eating - an egg fried in the middle of a piece of bread. Now I know!

If you're looking for a super-easy grain-free bread recipe and the method for turning it into egg in a basket, check out Lillian's video.

If you are looking for a delicious Yorkshire pudding that can easily become a whole meal on its own, hang out right here! For a regular Yorkie to accompany a roast, just skip the sausages and serve with plenty of veggie sides.
Yorkshire Pudding
The first thing you have to do is get out your cast iron skillet, put it in the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees. You want your oven and skillet to be really hot, so do that first. It's okay - I'll wait.

Okay, now gather your ingredients.

1 - 2 T rendered beef fat (or chicken fat, or goose fat leftover from the holidays)
3 eggs
2-3 T coconut milk, or Coconut Manna melted and thoroughly mixed with some beef stock, chicken stock, or water
2 T arrowroot starch, also known as arrowroot powder or arrowroot flour
Pinch salt
Seasonings of choice, optional
One or two fresh or smoked sausages. Any kind you like will do, from pork breakfast sausages to good quality hot dogs from your local farmer to turkey Italian sausages. Just make sure they're not frozen.

Put the fat in the skillet in the oven so it can get nice and hot. Don't use vegetable oil or whole butter; they will be damaged by all the heat. Rendered fat is best, but refined coconut oil (not virgin) and ghee (not whole butter) work too.
In a big bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, eggs, arrowroot, salt, and any spices you might want. Ground mustard seed is great, but this is also great without any added seasoning. Let rest until your pan is really hot - about 20 minutes.

If you're using fresh, raw sausages, add them to the pan in the oven and let them start cooking, about ten minutes. If your sausages are smoked or leftover from another meal, you can skip that step.

Now carefully take the pan out of the oven, pour in the batter with the sausages, and put it back in the oven. Bake about 20 minutes. It will puff up and turn wonderfully golden during this time.

It may deflate a little when it comes out, but it should keep most of its shape.

This size pan will serve one very hungry, active person if this is all you're eating. It will serve two or more people who have a bunch of veggie accompaniments.
The Best Toad in a Hole You've Ever Had

Enjoy with gravy, soup, homemade sauerkraut, mustard, or just exactly as it is!

Have a wonderful Saturday, everyone! I'll be at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market from 10 - 2, promoting Cuisine en Locale's upcoming event, Valhalla. Swing by and say hi! Have a cookie! I baked them especially for you. (They are not GF - at CeL we use all local ingredients including local wheat and oats. At my company, Rather Crafty, I specialize in GF, grain free, and special diets. At my other job at CeL, we specialize in 100% local, and that does include wheat. At both companies, we avoid soy, peanuts, fake food, and weird additives of all kinds. Two approaches to Awesome Real Food!)

Love,
Chef Mary

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sprouted sunflower seed hummus recipe

Where is the intersection of the real food movement and veganism? In raw food, of course! The last few months, I have encountered a surprising number of raw vegan recipes on paleo/primal blogs and forums. Most of them were not new to me, but my background is pretty unique.

I'm not vegan anymore, but sometimes I want a meal that feels nourishing and satisfying and doesn't involve meat or eggs. Today I made hummus. I didn't use chickpeas - I used sprouted sunflower seeds! I'm allergic to chickpeas. Many people have sensitivities to legumes. Even if you are among them, you can still enjoy this yummy dip!

Okay, it's not very photogenic. It looks like hummus. Hummus is beige. It is delicious, but it doesn't look like much on its own. It looks and tastes best over a bed of spinach, sprinkled with paprika, with some veggies to dip.

For this recipe, you have to start a few days ahead and sprout your seeds. This is not much work at all, just a little planning.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup or more, raw organic sunflower seeds
A couple tablespoons tahini
Juice and zest of one to two lemons
Pinch cayenne
Sea salt, to taste
A glug of extra virgin olive oil
Optional: nutritional yeast, minced fresh garlic, cumin, roasted red peppers, apple cider vinegar, cilantro, scallions, whatever seasoning you like in your dip.
Garnish: more olive oil and paprika

METHOD:

Soak a cup or more of organic, raw sunflower seeds overnight. Drain, and rinse until the water runs clear. Drain well and leave undisturbed, covered loosely. I use my little OXO herb spinner for this.

In another 8 - 12 hours, rinse and drain. Repeat. When you have the beginnings of little tails, transfer to the fridge to slow down growth. Now they're ready to use!

Take a cup or two of sprouts and add to food processor. Add a couple spoonfuls of tahini - raw or lightly roasted is fine. If you like garlic, add a small clove, minced. Add a splash or two of lemon juice and some lemon zest, a glug of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and some cayenne. Process until smooth. Add a couple spoonfuls of nutritional yeast if you like nooch, and blend in. Nooch is Whole30 approved, but some people might not like the idea of anything that is grown in a tank, rather than a field. Use your own discretion. Season to taste. Add anything else you like - it's good with cumin, more cayenne, paprika, some roasted red peppers, more lemon, cilantro, whatever you like! Serve garnished with olive oil and paprika. Great over spinach salad, or with carrots and celery to dip.

Enjoy!

Love,
Chef Mary

Monday, January 7, 2013

Recipe: Cauliflower rice

Happy Monday morning!

Remember last night I had some lovely lamb shank osso bucco in the slow cooker? Well, this morning it was ready!


It simmered overnight in a mix of beef stock, chicken stock, herbs, spices, and veggies. This morning is was incredibly tender and nourishing! I skimmed off some of the fat, re-seasoned the sauce, and served it with cauliflower "rice" and squash and a garnish of chopped parsley.

As you recall, the cooking liquid was seasoned with carrots, tomato, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, oregano, two kinds of paprika, Aleppo peppers, and bay leaf. We're cutting back on onions and garlic these days to let our tummies rest, but you would do well to add some if you tolerate them! Easy peasy. Next time, I would add even more herbs and cumin, and dial back the cinnamon just a little. It added an interesting depth of flavor, but I think I went a tiny bit overboard. Other than that, so delicious!


Now, what is this crazy cauliflower "rice" side dish?

Well, it is so incredibly easy that you should make some today! It can be vegetarian, vegan, or not. It is low in carbs, if you are the sort of person who counts those. It's rich in fiber and anti-inflammatory micronutrients. It has just enough fat to promote good digestion. It is completely customizable, so it goes with almost everything. Yum!

INGREDIENTS

Half a head of cauliflower (or a whole head if your family is larger than mine)
A spoonful of ghee, oil, or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)
Leftover roasted butternut squash or other veggies, optional but delicious
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs to garnish - today I used parsley

METHOD

First, heat up your pot. You want something with a lid that will comfortably hold all your cauliflower, with some space above it. I used a 5 qt enameled cast iron pot that I got at a Le Creuset factory outlet years ago.

Wash your cauliflower. I like to break it into large chunks, suberge in water in the salad spinner bowl, and lift out to the strainer part. Most veggies and herbs get their cleanest in the submerge-and-lift method. Some need three or four changes of water, and others need one or two. Cauliflower is usually pretty clean. Parsley can be pretty sandy. Get your herbs clean and dry too!

Next, cut cauliflower into pieces just small enough to fit in the feed tube of your food processor. Fit the grater blade in your food processor, and grate your cauliflower. It will look kinda sorta like Basmati rice, hence the name. If you don't have a grater blade, you can pulse with the S blade until it looks to be about the size of rice, or grate on a box grater, or just chop it with a knife. Don't let lack of technology stand in your way!

Heat your cooking fat in your pan. Swirl around to coat the bottom, then add all your cauliflower. Add a pinch of salt and stir it around to coat. Put the lid on, turn down the heat, and steam gently for a few minutes. You can add a splash of veg broth or chicken stock if you like, but the cauliflower has lots of moisture in it already so you don't really need it unless you want to add a certain flavor.

Take off the lid, add in your leftover squash or whatever veggies you like. Mash the squash a little to break it up, and stir it all up. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, garnished with chopped fresh herbs.

Variations are endless - yesterday I made some with coconut. (I didn't have coconut milk, so I used a spoonful of Coconut Manna and a splash of water.) Another day, I will grate in some beets and garnish with dill. How will you make yours? What's your favorite cauliflower dish? Please leave a comment to let me know!

Love,
Chef Mary

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Warming winter spices! Recipes for pork belly and lamb shanks.

Happy Epiphany!

Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, Three Kings Day, or Dia de Los Reyes, is the twelfth day of Christmas. It is the day that, according to the story, the three wise men arrived and brought gifts to the baby Jesus. People of Orthodox Christian faiths give gifts on this day.

In my family, it marks the end of the holiday season. It's time to take down decorations, clean the house, and gear up to get back to regular old winter.

Earnest and I have been cleaning and organizing a lot the last few days, and the place is really shaping up! We're rearranging storage and figuring out where we can make more space. We're also finding all sorts of lost things! (Amos, your yo-yo is in the bookcase.)

It is traditional to eat foods with warming spices on this day. Remember a few days ago, when I made a dry rub for a piece of pork belly? The dry rub was made with sea salt, fennel seed, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, a pinch of clove, and black pepper, all finely ground. I wrapped it up tightly and cured it in the fridge for three days. Yesterday, I rinsed off most of the rub and braised it in the oven with some beef stock. (Soon, I'll tell you how easy it is to make your own broths and stocks!)

I braised it, covered, at 250 for about 5 hours, until very tender. You can go up to 300 for 3 hours, or down to 200 for 7 hours. It's all good - just cook it slowly and gently. I let it cool, then refrigerated overnight. Tonight, I scraped away the fat that had risen to the surface. If your pork is local or organic, you can use it to cook veggies. Otherwise, you can discard the fat. Don't throw away the lovely seasoned braising liquid, though! Heat that up and drink it! It will probably be all gelatinized in the fridge, but will melt into a nourishing, collagen-rich brew when you heat it up.

Anyway, tonight, I sliced off just a couple of pieces and baked them until brown and crispy. It's rich, so you don't want to eat a lot at once. At the same time, I tossed a whole big head of broccoli with just a little olive oil and sea salt and roasted it on another sheet pan in the oven.


Here is the result, after I couldn't resist eating half the broccoli:
This made a delicious side with some salad, and spaghetti squash scrambled up with egg!

For tomorrow, I have another warmly spiced dish going in the slow cooker. I chopped a whole bunch of carrots into bite-sized chunks, added some cinnamon, cumin, oregano, Aleppo peppers, both plain and smoky paprika, a pinch of allspice, the last of this batch of beef stock, some chicken stock from the freezer, a jar of tomato paste, a little sea salt, a bay leaf, and a little water, and stirred them all together in the bowl of the slow cooker.  I tasted it to make sure I liked the balance of flavors, knowing that the spices would become more intense during cooking.

I added some lamb osso bucco (the lower part of the shank - often a veal cut, but I prefer to use pasture-raised lamb) and set it to cook on low overnight. For deepest flavor, brown the lamb on all sides before adding to the cooker, and if you tolerate onions, sautee some onions in the same pan after the lamb. Deglaze with water, stock, or wine (if you're not doing Whole30) and scrape all that good stuff into the crockpot. If you don't have time to brown the meat first, I won't tell anyone! It will still be great! But browning the meat does add a depth of flavor that you can't get any other way.

If you don't tolerate onions, skip them. If you do tolerate garlic, add some finely minced into the cooker. If not, skip it. If you don't tolerate tomato, skip it. If you don't tolerate peppers, skip the paprika and Aleppo and use a different spice you do tolerate. Ginger and turmeric would be nice here - perhaps a curry blend that you like. Be creative! It's totally okay to be inspired by someone's recipe and make it completely differently. Want to use goat instead of lamb? Go ahead! Prefer turkey? That would be delicious, too. Want to make a rich vegetable stew with just a whole lot of nourishing root vegetables and squashes? Yum!

In the morning, I will skim the fat. Then I'll serve the lamb and braising liquid and veggies topped with fresh minced parsley. I'll probably make some cauliflower "rice" to serve with it, and sautee up some bok choy.

Have a lovely night, and I'll see you all soon!

Love,
Chef Mary

Friday, January 4, 2013

Salmon with Crispy Skin and Balsamic Glaze

Hello again!

We've already discussed the importance of iodine to your overall health, and especially the health of your thyroid gland. Here's a quick, easy recipe to boost your iodine intake! As a bonus, it is rich in super healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a fantastic source of easily digestible protein, and fairly low in overall fat.

It takes about ten minutes from start to finish. Can't beat it on a weeknight! Serve just like this for breakfast. For a heartier lunch or dinner, heat up some leftover soup or serve with roasted squash, sweet potato, or even rice if you are into that sort of thing.

Please try to choose wild-caught sockeye or coho salmon from Alaska. These are the healthier choices in terms of omega-3s, and they're also caught using much more environmentally sound methods than many other fish. Farmed salmon is less healthy for you, and far less healthy for the oceans.
 
This is how the fish looks before adding the sauce. Look how crispy!
Salmon with Crispy Skin and Balsamic Glaze

Two salmon steaks, about 6 - 8 oz. per person
Ghee, about 1 T in all, divided
Sea salt, to taste
Balsamic vinegar, about 2 T

Optional:
Romaine or your other favorite lettuce, as much as you like
Grapefruit or orange, one whole
Whatever else you'd like to enjoy on the side

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium.

While your pan is heating up, clean your romaine, chop it, and put it on plates. Make grapefruit or orange supremes: Peel fruit with a knife. Holding over a bowl, carefully cut each segment out by cutting along the membrane on both sides. Arrange sections on lettuce. Squeeze the rest of the juice out of the membrane and drink it! Or save it. If you have enough, you can sub the juice instead of vinegar in the glaze below.

Take your salmon steaks out of the fridge. Pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, both on the flesh side and the skin side. The salt on the flesh seasons the fish, and the salt on the skin allows it to stand just above the heat long enough to create a little pocket so the skin doesn't stick to the pan.

Melt about 2 teaspoons of the ghee in the pan, and swirl around to coat.

Lay the salmon steaks in the hot pan such that they don't touch.

Adjust heat if necessary - the fish should be sizzling but not going crazy.

Resist the urge to move the fish. Let it stay in one place. If you move it, it won't be crispy. Patience, Grasshopper!

Keep cooking just on the skin side until the fish has become opaque to about 2/3 or so of its thickness. This will take several minutes, but time will vary based on the size and density of the pieces, and the heat of your pan.

Flip, give it only a couple seconds on the flesh side, and plate next to or on top of salad and/or other sides.

Turn off heat, and immediately add balsamic vinegar (or reserved juice) to the hot pan. It will simmer and reduce. If it doesn't, your pan was not hot enough. Turn it back on. It's such a small quantity, this will take just a few seconds. When sizzling subsides and vinegar is reduced about half, swirl in that last teaspoon of ghee.

Pour the glaze over the fish and a little over the salad too. Enjoy!
Drool-worthy! Even though the glaze is kind of hard to see on a black plate...
Enjoy, and have a happy and healthy weekend!

Love,
Chef Mary

Even though it isn't Wednesday, linking to Real Food Wednesdays, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop!