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:

* 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)

* 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)

* 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!


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


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


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


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


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!

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 (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.


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

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.


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!


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


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!

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.


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


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!)

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.


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


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.


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!


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


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!

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!

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

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!

Chef Mary

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


Today I want to talk about a super important trace mineral: iodine.

Iodine is critical for the health of your thyroid, and therefore the health of the whole body. The thyroid is a tiny gland in the throat that has the big job of coordinating your metabolism. Two key hormones it produces (T3 and T4 in the diagram below) contain iodine. If you become deficient, you run the risk of all sorts of disorders from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism to goiter.

Iodine is also considered important for detoxification, and clearing of radiation. Once, I had a client who was undergoing very aggressive radiation therapy. Iodine is a very powerful element for removing radiation from the body. Because her therapy required that she keep the radiation in her body as long as possible in order to battle cancer, she was not permitted to consume anything containing iodine. During her treatment, she could not have anything containing fish, seaweed, or iodized salt! (Since completing her treatment, she is again encouraged to get plenty of iodine.)

Many of us are most familiar with iodine from the yucky iodized salt in the supermarket. Here's the thing about the yucky salt: you don't have to eat if you get enough iodine in your diet. You can use better-tasting, non-iodized sea salt. In fact, you can get all the iodine you need from a healthy, balanced diet. You just have to know how to get it!

Iodine is abundantly available in all seafood, especially seaweed and kelp. So even if you avoid fish and shellfish, you can get plenty of iodine from sea vegetables. It also naturally occurs in soil, but we can't count on most produce as a significant dietary source because the amounts vary so widely from region to region.

Once upon a time, people living in the middle of the U.S. didn't have access to ocean fish. Lake fish is not a good source of iodine; it must come from salt water. On top of that, the soil in the Midwest is very low in iodine. In the 19th century and into the start of the 20th, many Midwesterners developed thyroid disorders. Then the U.S. government started adding iodine to table salt, and that problem was solved.

Unfortunately, now many people think that supplements (either pills or iodized salt) are the best or only ways to get iodine. But we didn't evolve to have to take supplements. How did people maintain healthy thyroid glands before supplementation? Easy: through seafood.

If you eat sea vegetables or salt water fish once or twice a week, you are likely getting enough iodine in your diet. It is abundant in fresh, frozen, dried, and canned products. So if all you can afford is dolphin-safe, low-mercury skipjack tuna in a can and packets of dried seaweed from Super 88, you can still meet your iodine needs that way. There will be recipes for grain-free "sushi" rolls and seaweed salads on this blog in the future.

If you find yourself craving seafood, one reason may be that your body is looking for an iodine boost. If you live in the Midwest and don't have easy access to ocean fish, or if you hate all seafood including seaweed and kelp, then you are a candidate for supplementation. Otherwise, just get it from food!

In my next post, I'm going to give you a wonderful, easy iodine-rich recipe for salmon with crispy skin, with a balsamic glaze. Yum!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Crab cakes, aioli, and clarified butter (ghee!)

I had a productive morning! Except my phone ran out of batteries, so there is no photographic evidence. Oops!

Last night, I soaked some sunflower seeds in filtered water. This morning, I drained and rinsed them and set them aside. I will continue to rinse and drain them for a day or three, until they have little tails, and then I will tell you how to make my famous raw vegan sprouted sunflower seed hummus!

Other things that have been accomplished this morning are not so vegan-friendly: Ghee, mayonnaise, and totally grain free crab cakes. Each deserves its own post, but I'm going to squish them all into one because it is my blog and I can!

First, ghee. Clarified butter. It is a traditional food from India and other regions. It has a very high smoke point, unlike regular whole butter, so you can cook with it at much higher temperatures without damaging it. Plus, it's the only dairy product allowed on the Whole30.

It is so easy. Are you ready?


Take some organic butter from pasture fed cows. Put it in a saucepan large enough to hold it, but not too huge. Melt it over fairly low heat. Eventually, the water trapped inside will start popping and crackling as it evaporates out. If it doesn't, turn it up just a little. If it's too aggressive, turn it down a little.

Let it go until all or almost all of the water is boiled off, then pour it through a sieve lined either with 3 layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag, into a heat-proof glass measuring cup. Your cheesecloth or nut milk bag will catch almost all of the milk solids. Throw those away (or use in an extra rich brown butter if you are into such things.)

Now your measuring cup is full of golden, melty, lovely almost-totally-clarified butter. You may have a few super-tiny particles of milk solids still in there. Wait a few minutes for them to settle out, then carefully pour your ghee off into a heat-proof jar, leaving any solids behind at the bottom of the measuring cup. Now you're done!

Let the ghee cool to room temperature, then cover. Keeps for a very long time refrigerated, and believe it or not, at cool room temperature too. (I refrigerate mine.)

You can use it to fry the crab cakes I'm going to tell you about in a minute.


Mayo is not hard. Don't be afraid! The instructions are longer than the whole process of making this. I promise.

Leave a couple eggs out at room temperature for at least a couple hours, up to overnight. Your mayo will work so much better if all your ingredients are at room temp! If you forget, rest the eggs for a few minutes in a bowl of warm water to warm them a little.

If you are pregnant or immune-compromised and don't feel comfortable using raw eggs, pasteurize them in a bath of hot water. If you are neither pregnant nor immune-compromised, make whatever decision you are comfortable with. I would not use eggs from a factory farm for this mayonnaise; I use eggs from a farmer I know and trust. Personally, I feel that raw foods and especially raw egg yolks have a lot of health benefits. And the risk of salmonella or other contamination is minimal when you choose good, real eggs from good farmers.

Choose your oil. Today, I used a combination of rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) and extra virgin olive oil. If you are using a solid fat like animal fat or coconut oil in winter, melt it gently over low heat. You can also use a cold-pressed sunflower seed or grape seed oil as part of the fat. I don't recommend soy or canola oil for your health, but if you insist on using them in your diet, they do work well here. If you are using only evoo and no other fat, know that the taste will be very strong and may be slightly bitter. Usually, aioli is made with a combination of evoo and another oil - refined olive or another vegetable oil. (Aioli also usually contains garlic, and the acid is lemon instead of vinegar.)

Decide if you want a little mustard (it helps get emulsification going but isn't totally necessary) and decide what kind of acid you want to use. Lemon juice is great, as is raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, but any vinegar will do.

Separate your eggs and put the yolks (or one yolk and one whole egg) in the bowl of your food processor. Whir them up. Add mustard if using, a pinch of salt, and a tiny splash of your vinegar or lemon juice. Blend really well.

With the motor running, very slowly pour liquid fat in. It's best to either start with the fat that is not extra virgin olive oil, and add the evoo last, or mix the oils together and pour them as a blend.

Keep slowly pouring and blending until it emulsifies. You will know when it does, because it will look like mayonnaise (but a lot yellower than the packaged stuff.)

If it doesn't ever emulsify, you can save it! Pour your runny mess out from the bowl of the processor into a jar or small bowl with a spout. Put a new egg yolk or two in the bowl of the processor. Process the new yolks for a couple minutes, then slowly start adding the messy stuff into the processing yolks.

Once it's all nicely emulsified, season it up. Add more salt, vinegar, or lemon, as needed. A great and super healthy addition here is a spoonful of probiotic whey drained from homemade yogurt, or some sauerkraut juice. It sounds so crazy, but it is fantastic for digestion. I know, me and my healthy bacteria for digestion. But it's important!

Now you're done! To develop the probiotics from the whey or kraut juice, and to actually improve shelf-life, leave at room temperature for a couple hours before refrigeration. It sounds insane, but it is true.


Remember how we separated eggs earlier, and used mostly yolks? Well, now you have whites left over. You can save them for meringues, macaroons, macarons (they're different,) fish mousse, nuvolone, or use them right now in crab cakes!

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium.

Take some cooked crab - canned or frozen is fine. Mix gently with egg whites, salt, mustard, a spoonful of mayo, and seasoning you like - Old Bay or a similar seasoning mix works well here, or your own blend. Anything you like!

It might be pretty runny now. If you want to tighten it up, add a spoonful of coconut flour or some almond flour. Almond will add crunch, while coconut is super absorbent!

Taste, and adjust seasoning. It's okay - the crab is fully cooked and you're using eggs from a source you trust, right?

Add some ghee to your pan. Look how lovely and clear it is! Make small patties with the crab mixture, drop in the pan, and cook until brown on the bottom. Flip, finish cooking, and serve with a dollop of mayo and a simple, lovely salad.

Enjoy, and have a beautiful day!

Chef Mary

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dry rub recipes, fresh sauerkraut, and delicious breakfasty banana souffles!

Welcome to Whole30, day 2!

What happens when you give a chef a slightly different set of restrictions within which to work, and let her get a good night's sleep first? You get crazy levels of creativity, that's what!

Today is a day I don't have all that much work to do, so I'm experimenting and planning ahead for busier days.

This morning we had banana souffles for breakfast. I did not invent this recipe; I based it on this recipe from Primally Inspired:

I omitted the molasses, of course. They were fantastic without it! Really sweet, actually. I got 5 small souffles out of the recipe - 4 regular ceramic ramekins and then a glass Pyrex bowl for the overage. I sliced one very ripe banana very thinly and divided it among the five dishes, so we each got about half a banana and about two eggs each for breakfast. So light, so delicious! (I also finished off the lettuce that was sitting in the fridge and had a crazy drink - soaked chia seeds, a splash of beet kvass, and fresh water to dilute it, to wash down my digestive enzyme supplement, vitamin D, and quercetin with vitamin C.)

Here they are right before coming out of the oven:

 And here they are right before being devoured! They held their shape so nicely.

Lunch is in the oven now. Last night, I took some beef short ribs (from local pasture-raised beef) and rubbed them with a mixture of paprika, chili powder, cayenne, and sea salt. I wrapped them up and put them back in the fridge. This morning, after breakfast, I went out to get more veggies, including lots of carrots. I sliced the carrots the long way, and lay them in the bottom of a baking dish. They made kind of a rack, to keep the beef just above the juices. I covered the carrots with homemade beef stock, then lay the spice-rubbed beef ribs on top.

I covered that loveliness with a piece of parchment then covered the whole thing tightly with foil. I set it in a 295 degree oven and it's still there. My estimate is that it will take a total of 3 hours or a little longer - 2 1/2 covered, and the last 30 minutes uncovered. It's going to go until it is wonderfully tender, but not quite falling apart. If it takes longer, I am okay with that. Good food is worth waiting for! They'll be so tender and flavorful they won't need any kind of sauce, though I am considering maybe blending up the roasted carrots with the accumulated juices to make a sauce. Haven't decided for sure yet...

These ribs will be a great lunch for me and Earnest (and maybe dinner too!) with the roasted carrots and a big salad. I love salad! In fact, maybe I'll make a simple kale salad with some of the kale I picked up this morning. I think this one will only need olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt to balance the richness of the ribs.

You guys, don't forget to eat tons of veggies! A pound or more a day of veggies is a totally reasonable amount. Don't skimp! Remember, on a Whole30 or other low-sugar plan, you're eating less fruit, you're skipping the grains and potatoes, so you have to eat even more veggies than usual. It's not all about the meat!

Speaking of veggies, I also got some sauerkraut started. I shredded up a cabbage that was hanging out in the fridge, and tossed it with lots of sea salt, some mustard seed, caraway, a tiny bit of celery seed, and shredded carrot. I let that sit and juice out for a few minutes, then I packed it with the juice into jars. It's going to sit and ferment and get very happy for a couple weeks, and then I will eat it!

I'm prepping a lot of things ahead today. I also made an herb rub for a beef roast and tucked that in the fridge for another day, and a spice rub for pork belly. The beef is rubbed with parsley, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, and black pepper. The pork belly is rubbed with sea salt, fennel seed, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, a pinch of clove, and some pepper.

Why do I do dry rubs and marinades ahead of time? Well, the flavor takes time to penetrate the meat. Some meats (especially fish) pick up flavors very quickly. Fish should be seasoned and cooked right away, or after no more than a half hour. Other meats are denser and take longer. Generally, count on at least an hour per inch of meat; less if you've got an acidic liquid marinade or one with lots of ginger. Very fatty cuts like pork belly can hang out in their rubs for two or three days!

I hope I have inspired you all to enjoy some wonderful food today, and make steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Have a beautiful day, and I'll see you again soon!

Chef Mary

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Kale Salad Recipe and Variations

Here's a great recipe for almost everyone - it's Whole30 compliant, raw if you don't toast the seeds, and vegan, as long as you don't add cheese to it. It's WAPF compatible. It can easily be nut free. It's gluten free and grain free. It's also paleo, primal, intuitive eating, and made using only real, traditional foods and ingredients. It's also high in fiber, low in net carbs, made with good healthy fat, filling, can be mostly or all local. It's versatile, customizable, nourishing, and goes with everything!

It's barely even a recipe, really, more of a method with infinite variations.

Yesterday, we made a very similar kale salad for a new year's eve party. For the party, we added very finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It's great with or without, but if you are dairy-free or doing a Whole30, leave it off for now. If you use fresh fruit, add it in right before eating to keep it fresh. If you use dried fruit, use sparingly and make sure it is unsulphured and has no sugar, additives, or preservatives. Another day I'll teach you to make your own dried fruit!

Lacinato Kale!

Fresh and Wintry Kale Salad

Toasted pine nuts or local pumpkin seeds
A big bunch of kale - any variety works
A few bits of diced fresh or dried apple, or other fruit you like (use moderation)
A small piece of shallot, very thinly sliced
Apple cider vinegar (preferably raw and unpasteurized)
Extra virgin olive oil

Toast your pine nuts or pumpkin seeds in the oven or very carefully on the stove top. Pine nuts need no extra oil when toasting. Keep a very close eye on them - they burn easily and they're so expensive! I love butternut squash seeds. They're delicious, and they're a free bonus with your squash! Toss with olive oil, salt, and paprika, spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until toasty and brown. Let cool fully.

Wash and dry your kale. Take out the stems, and use them for juice. Make a chiffonade of the leaves: Roll a couple at a time into tight little cylinders, and cut across the roll into very skinny little ribbons. The thinner they are, the more tender they will be.

Chop your apples into little dice, slice your shallots ever so thinly, and if you are adding parm grate it now. Add them all to your kale in your very biggest bowl, and toss everything together thoroughly. Add a sprinkle of sea salt, a splash of vinegar, and a glug of oil. Toss again thoroughly, until very well coated. Season to taste.

Let it all marinate for at least a few minutes before enjoying, or keep it dressed in the fridge up to overnight. A dressed kale salad stands up to storage extremely well, unlike its lettuce and spinach based cousins. This makes it a fantastic choice for your lunch at work - make it in the morning or the night before, pack it up (preferably in a glass or other BPA-free container) and it's ready and waiting for your no-fuss, healthy lunch.

Variations: You can make kale salad hundreds of ways!

*Instead of the apples, use different fresh or dried fruits - try apricots or sun dried tomatoes. Or skip the fruit entirely - kale salad is fantastic even without. Remember that dried fruit benefits from absorbing the dressing over time. Fresh fruit may discolor (though the dressing does slow that down) so you might hold the fruit back and add it closer to serving time if you're using fresh fruit and not serving the salad right away.
*Grind cashews that have already been soaked and dehydrated. Mix with some nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt, and sprinkle that on top. Cheese-like umami flavor without dairy!
*Sprinkle in hemp seeds instead of the pine nuts for even more healthy protein, good fats, and variation in texture.
*Add leftover chopped chicken, fish, or beef for a big protein boost.
*Top with a poached or fried egg.
*Serve as a lighter entree on its own, or as a side with grass fed beef or lamb.
*Try using different vinegars like pear vinegar, champagne vinegar, balsamic (great with figs!) or use lemon juice.
*If you're eating it right away, massage the dressing in a little to tenderize the kale. Add even more satisfying texture by tossing in some romaine or other lettuce after you massage the kale.

The only limits here are your imagination and what you have on hand. So make sure you always have lots of healthy veggies in your fridge, healthy oils like olive and coconut, and high-quality vinegars in your pantry.


Chef Mary

Happy New Year, and a Happy Healthy New Approach!

Happy New Year!

This year, our dietary path has shifted from where it was the last couple years. I thought it was only fitting to move over to a fresh, new blog to celebrate the new focus!

Today is not just the first day of a new year. It is also the day Earnest and I begin a new sort of challenge: We are doing a Whole30 together. What's that? Well, the rules are here:

For one month, you eat only vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and high quality, non-dairy animal proteins. It's a particularly strict version of the currently-fashionable paleo/primal diet. Personally, I'm not so much one for labels as for just making Good, Solid Choices.

The restrictions you choose to follow when doing a Whole30 are: No grains, legumes, dairy other than ghee, alcohol, white potatoes, certain additives, or sugar (even maple and honey.) That's not all that far from how I've been eating lately, but I have been using some honey, maple, cheese, and homemade yogurt from raw milk. I've been making good progress with this approach so far. We've been gluten free for quite some time, and in fact GF has been an area of focus in my work as a personal chef. (The other primary focus for me has been delicious, wonderful veggies! Even though I'm not vegan anymore, I will always love veggies! I'll talk about them a lot more in future posts.)

From my own diet, I have already eliminated most grains and all legumes, because my body was responding to them with a range of reactions including true allergy, digestive upset, and inflammation. I was occasionally eating rice and just tasting the other gluten-free grain foods I cook for others whose digestion handles them better. By eliminating even those tiny amounts of grains, I hope to reduce inflammation in my body further, and continue my path of healing my gut. Later, I'll talk more about how far I've already travelled in search of a happy belly! I'll also talk about the challenges I run into on the way, as a professional cook with dietary restrictions.

Earnest has relied a lot more on grains and legumes, and he loves his sweets. This challenge will be harder for him, and I'm going to do my best to support him and make his experience positive and easy. There's nothing like having your own personal chef to make positive choices easier!

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I love raw veggies and fruits. I was vegan for two years, and ovo-lacto vegetarian for over ten years, split between two different times in my life. While I was vegan, I followed a very high raw approach most of the time. This was great for me at first. For the first year, I experienced high energy and abundant health.

Later, and whenever I ate too many grains or legumes, I started to experience a lot of strange symptoms, mostly of inflammation, digestive upset, and radical weight fluctuations. I started to feel fatigued and brittle, and knew I needed to make some changes again.

On top of these experiences, sensitivities, and restrictions, I have true allergies. I'm allergic to peanuts, soy, and some other legumes - and we're talking throat-closing anaphylaxis here. I actually had to quit a job once because of all the peanut and soy products on the menu. I am also sensitive to wheat and other gluten-containing grains. I have one of the genes that can cause celiac disease, and I experience lots of symptoms when I consume gluten, but I haven't received a conclusive diagnosis of celiac disease. Interestingly, Earnest experiences many of the same symptoms with gluten that I do. In fact, we stopped using gluten at home because of his sensitivities, and I only realized I was also sensitive later.

My new goals are to continue healing my digestion, tame inflammation in my body, and have abundant, glowing energy again. I am already well on my path toward meeting these big goals, and lots of little ones along the way.

I also plan to continue eating tons of fresh veggies, mostly local even in the New England winter. I will share with you tips and tricks for choosing the best produce and getting good deals. Just as importantly, I will help you navigate the different meat choices out there. Are they all healthy or ethically raised? Not by a long shot. But are there sustainable, environmentally-friendly, affordable options out there? Absolutely. I can help connect you with your local farmers, find grass-fed beef and truly, honestly free range eggs, and choose seafood that is safe for your family and sustainable for the environment.
Local Chioggia Beets

The Littlest Carrot!

If you have just found me, maybe you also have a goal. Do you want to lose weight? Get stronger? Run faster? Flush away inflammation? Learn great recipes, tips and tricks for cooking and eating great food? Ways to incorporate lots more veggies into your (or your kids') diet? Gluten free substitutions and fantastic recipes? Leave me a comment and ask me anything! I've been cooking and baking for a very long time, and I love a good challenge!

I look forward to writing for you and cooking for you a lot more soon!

Much love,
Chef Mary