Leah’s Love of Loose Leaf Tea

 

Leah with Loose Leaf Tea

In honor of my daughter’s seventh birthday this week, I thought I’d share this fun foodie adventure we took last week. Leah is my toughest critic around here, and the least food-adventurous of our bunch, so her love of our recent Chinese Tea Tasting at Vital Tea Leaf in Chinatown, San Francisco just makes me smile.

Loose Leaf Tea

Uncle Gee, the face of the Vital Tea Leaf company in San Francisco (and Seattle, I think) made quite an impression as he and Ming, his delightful assistant, made my family of four round after round of Chinese teas prepared traditionally while teaching us all about the joys of loose leaf tea. We went home with three of those we sampled and the following two conversations have taken place since:

  • It’s early morning and I’m asleep. Leah comes in quietly and says, “Mom, can you turn on the stove for me? I’d like to make myself a cup of Lychee Black.”
  • I’ve made my son a cup of tea before school. He has doctored it with a few drops of stevia. Leah says, “DEAN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You know you ruin the tea by adding sweeteners!”

So Leah has become our resident loose leaf chinese tea expert (and she makes a crazy good cup of Lychee Black). Are you a fan of the loose leaf tea? We are hooked!

Check out this great video if you’d like to see more Vital Tea Leaf propaganda and meet Uncle Gee. It’s so fun!

Happy Birthday Leapy-Lou!

 

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Share LOVE not sugar.

share love not sugar

Be a part of the movement this Valentine’s Day (and beyond): Share LOVE not sugar.

Every six and seven-year-old first grader does not have to come home on Friday with 30 pieces of processed junky valentine candy! Let’s change this up.

Really, that little six or seven-year-old would be thrilled with… hugs, kind words, little notes, new pencils, silly jokes, temp tattoos, pet rocks, homemade play-dough, play date invitations, new songs and dances…

Every wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, mom, or dad does not need a huge box of chocolates that you grabbed to fulfill your Valentine’s duty…

If they truly love chocolate, find a beautiful piece of chocolate that is gorgeous beyond all things imaginable (they are out there, I assure you) from a little chocolatier and make it really special. Or make your own sweet healthy Valentine’s treat. Add a love note, some special time, a foot massage, a homemade meal, a special place or song, add some YOU! (And if they don’t love chocolate, skip it and think about what they would really enjoy.)

Every co-worker, friend, teacher, coach does not need heart-shaped candies, grab-a-mini-candy-bar bowl, decorated sugar cookies, dessert buffets, “just a little treat”…

They need your smile, your patience, your time, your understanding, and maybe a little extra Valentine’s gratitude in the form of a call, a text, an email, a note, a hug.

Be creative. Be thoughtful. Be inventive. Be loving. Share LOVE not sugar.

I challenge you to find a special way to show you care without stepping into the candy aisle of Target. And I’m not talking about spending loads of money or time either. You can keep it simple, cheap and fun, I just know you can!

Let’s fill up the comments with many, many ideas for showing our love this Valentine’s Day. Ready. Go. Share LOVE not sugar.

Here are some places to fire up that creativity:

Here are a few other posts where I’ve dished on sugar:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

healthy valentines healthy valentines healthy valentines healthy valentines healthy valentines healthy valentines

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Healthy Valentine Treats

Healthy Valentine Treat

What if this year, instead of gorging on chalky little heart candies and overly processed chocolates in little packages, you truly shared your love with others and made nutrient-rich healthy valentine treats?

They are easy. They taste better. They feel special. They look fancy.

You’ll have a smile on your face while making them, and your recipients will have a smile on their face enjoying them. Win win. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Healthy Valentine Treats

Recipe: Black Cherry Chip Non Dairy Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 10oz frozen bananas
  • 16oz frozen black cherries (divided)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2t vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. In quality blender, blend all ingredients EXCEPT for 4oz of frozen black cherries and chocolate chips. Blend until smooth like soft serve ice cream.
  2. Remove “ice cream” from blender into a tupperware container.
  3. Put remaining 4oz of frozen black cherries into blender and blend on low for just a few seconds until black cherries get chopped up a bit.
  4. Add chunky cherries and the chocolate chips to the “ice cream” and stir in with a spatula.
  5. Serve immediately for soft serve (delicious!!) or freeze until hard for scooping (also delicious!!). Can be garnished with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, magic shell or a few more chocolate chips. Goes especially well with brownies and port.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings: 6ish (I mean let’s be honest, two of us may have taken a whole batch down at one point. But I also made a batch and served six people reasonable servings with some to spare for later.)

Healthy Valentine Treat

Big love to the Smitten Kitchen – her delicious recipe for brownie cookies made a MARVELOUS accompaniment to this treat. We made little “ice cream” sandwiches that were delectable!

PLUS 2 MORE EXCELLENT, EASY, DELISH, NUTRIENT-RICH TREATS:

Healthy Valentine Treat

Raspberry Secrets

Simply buy beautiful dark chocolate chips and a box of raspberries. Stick a chip into each raspberry and serve! Shhhh… it’s a secret that something this good is this easy.

Healthy Valentine Treats

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

These are so easy and decadent! Place a saucepan with an inch or so of water in the bottom on the stove top and turn on heat to medium-low. Place a metal or glass mixing bowl on top (to make a double boiler) and pour in 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Use spatula to stir around until the chocolate and oil are melted and incorporated together.  Turn off heat. Dip clean, dry strawberries into the chocolate to cover and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Once you are finished dipping your strawberries, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so (until chocolate is cool and hardened).  Go crazy and sprinkle shredded coconut or mini chocolate chips over them to beautify them for the big day, prior to placing them in the refrigerator.

Want more ideas? I’ve been pinning like crazy over on Pinterest as I see Valentine’s food that fits my real food lifestyle. Check out my Valentine Food board.

Also, Almond (True Joy) Bark would be a pretty beautiful treat.

Healthy Treat

And there are a few more ideas on this old blog post all about Cleaned Up Treats.

Healthy Treat

And don’t forget Kids Clean Up Magic Shell

Healthy Treat

And Kids Clean Up Chocolate Sauce!

Chocolate Syrup

 

Hope you and yours have a super lovey heart day!! 

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The Easiest Real Food You’re Not Making… Yet! Homemade Yogurt

homemade yogurt

I’m going all-out-hippie-chick on the blog today, crew. And dragging you along with me. Homemade yogurt is your ticket to high quality, affordable organic probiotic goodness. And it is so easy!! You’ll thank me when you are scooping that first luscious, creamy bite of yogurt out of your crock pot.

Of all the “it-looks-like-a-health-food, but-it-is-not” propaganda circulating out there, it seems like most people have gotten the message on conventional yogurt. It is basically a processed dessert in a little container, whether you call it breakfast or kids afternoon snack or end of soccer game treat. Each container is filled with sugars, corn syrups, coloring agents, flavoring agents, stabilizers, and other unpleasantness.

But that’s only the stuff you’ll find in the conventional dairy section of your grocery store. If you travel over to the health food aisle or a natural foods store, you can find a whole other group of options, many of which are delicious and nutritious and made from organic cow milk that was not pumped up with terrible chemicals in horrible conditions and then flavored with man-made lab fluids. Big problem here for many of us – the good stuff is expensive. Like $8.00 for a quart expensive.

Now yogurt happens to be one of very few probiotic/fermented foods that my daughter will eat. In fact, she loves it and requests it regularly. So when I heard that it was simple to make, I knew this was my ticket to happy-daughter-gut-health-without-financial-hardship.

Then I proceeded to fail completely with my first batch. And learned the number one rule of yogurt making – know your milk. And now, by teaching you this one homemade yogurt secret, you will be able to make gorgeous yogurt for your family with success right from the beginning. You can’t use ultra-pasteurized milk. It’s dead and doesn’t work. Which probably makes complete sense to you, but I hadn’t even realized my milk was ultra-pasteurized. So a failed batch later I was researching to find my family a new milk source. Just proving that there is always a next step in your real food journey!

Recipe: Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 quart organic whole milk – pasteurized. NOT ultra-pasteurized. We are clear here, yes?
  • 1/4 cup of the highest quality purest yogurt you can get. This is the only time you are buying yogurt, because after this batch you can use the remaining 1/4 cup of your homemade yogurt to make the next batch! So go crazy and buy the beautiful whole organic plain (or Greek) yogurt. It’s a worthwhile investment!

Instructions

  1. Pour the milk into your crock pot and heat on low for 2 hours. * You want the milk to hit somewhere in the 180 – 190 degree range. Use a cooking or candy thermometer to confirm your crock pot’s timing.
  2. Turn crock pot off and leave the milk in it for 3 hours (lid on). You want the milk to cool to a temperature of about 110 degrees. This is the magical yogurt temperature.
  3. When 110 degrees is reached, add 1/4 cup yogurt and whisk it around to mix. Place crock pot (with lid) in your oven (not on!!) with the oven light on for 8-12ish hours (you can go up to 24 hours if you wish to have thicker and tarter yogurt). I also wrap a towel around the crock pot to help keep the temperature stable.  photo 1 photo 2
  4. Transfer yogurt to a container and store in the refrigerator. I use old quart sized yogurt containers and just write the date made on the lid. Mine last over two weeks in the refrigerator.
  5. You can strain it through cheese cloth for a few hours if you are looking for thicker Greek style yogurt, but I’m lazy and never do. It’s a lovely consistency without straining.

After you have successfully completed your first batch, I highly recommend doubling the second batch if your family goes through yogurt the way mine does. We consume about a quart a week, so I only need to make yogurt twice a month if I double it.

My yogurt works out to about $3.50 a quart (because I buy very high quality milk – it could be made much cheaper if you have a better source for milk). Much better than the $7-8 I had been paying. We use it as sour cream on tacos, as a base for dips and dressings and as a late night treat with maple syrup, pomegranate seeds and a little granola.
It also is fantastic as the base for our Kids Clean Up! Flavored Yogurt recipe.

 

My gift to all the new homemade yogurt makers out there: a Pinterest Board full of recipes that include… YOGURT. Also pinned to the board is a recipe for making yogurt out of coconut milk for the lacto-free peeps. Might try that next.

homemade yogurt  Go get ‘em, yogurt makers!!

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Recipe: Greens and Beans Soup

Greens and Beans Soup Recipe

Here is my contribution for all of you taking care of yourself and others during this cold and flu season, while still holding tight to new year’s resolutions and fresh starts. This nutrient-packed Greens and Beans Soup recipe is easy, inexpensive, vegetarian, nourishing and very satisfying. It is chock full of veggies, beans, herbs and spices. We like to enjoy it as the main meal with a loaf of rosemary sourdough from the farmers market (dipped in extra virgin olive oil), but it could be paired up with lots of things or even used as a starter. The leftovers are awesome for lunches all week-long. In fact I think, like most soups, it gets better on day two.

Greens and Beans Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • approximately 1-1.5 quart stock (your choice – veggie, chicken, or beef)
  • approximately 15-20oz of chopped tomatoes
  • 2-15oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (mix it up, I like using kidney and cannelloni beans)
  • 2 cups chopped kale (chopped very small)
  • 1 cup chopped chard (chopped very small)
  • 4 carrots (chopped into small rounds)
  • 4 celery stalks (chopped into small crescents)
  • 1 small head of broccoli (chopped small)
  • 3 small potatoes (medium dice)
  • 1 medium onion (small dice)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 jalapeño (minced)
  • 1T butter or EVOO
  • 1T dried thyme
  • 1T dried oregano
  • 2T fresh parsley or basil (chopped fine)
  • 2t sea salt (more to taste)
  • 1t pepper (more to taste)
  • 2T red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (more to taste)
  • Parm cheese (grated) – optional topper

Instructions

  1. Saute onion, garlic, jalapeño in olive oil or butter to soften.
  2. Add carrots and celery and sauté until onions become translucent.
  3. Add in all other ingredients except vinegar and bring to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until potatoes and carrots are soft.
  5. Splash with vinegar and begin tasting. Using extra salt, pepper and vinegar (the amounts needed depend on what kind of stock you are using and your taste preference) taste and adjust until the soup tastes delicious and the flavors pop!
  6. Serve with a little grated Parm cheese on top or fresh herbs minced fine.

Notes: You can mix up the greens and use collards, spinach, beet tops, bok choy in any ratio. You can use dried beans, you just need to prepare them ahead of time, because the tomatoes in the soup will slow down the softening process during cooking. You can use extra jalapeño if you’d like the soup to be spicier. The amount used in this recipe adds flavor, but not much heat. You can play with the vegetables included in the soup as well. Use what you have that sounds good, such as zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Enjoy!!

Looking for other soup recipes? Check these out:
IMG_7863  Simple Squash Soup

IMG_7820  Easy Peasy Chicken Soup

IMG_7784  Crock Pot Taco Soup

IMG_5159  Summer Gumbo

IMG_4971  Minestrone

Chicken Eggplant Parm  Crock Pot Chicken and Eggplant Parmigiana

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Clean Up! Elderberry Syrup Immunity Booster

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Happy January 2014! Today we are going to dive into our first Kids Clean Up of the year, but let’s define “Kids” as anyone between the ages of 2 and 110 – kind of a broad definition, so hang with me. And I love to start these kind of posts out by declaring “I’m not a doctor! I don’t even play one on t.v.” As though you couldn’t tell. I’m just a blogger sharing some info I’ve researched and a recipe made of real food that I think you might like to try. Do what’s right for you! Talk to your health experts, whoever they may be! This is just a little information in case you haven’t heard of Elderberry Syrup before…

With cold and flu season really ripping through the cold land, taking down the big and the little with coughs and aches and worse, I have suggested to no less than 10 people this week to look into the benefits of adding Elderberry Syrup to their daily regimen to keep immunity levels boosted. They are wonderful conversations because I’ve got great answers to all their questions. Kids love the taste! A serving of a teaspoon to a tablespoon (depending on how big you are and how your immunity is holding up) a day contains big calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, betacarotene, potassium, iron, antioxidants, anthocyanins! It’s antiviral! And anti-inflammatory! It’s a beautiful color! Delish on pancakes!

On a serious note, for those of us attempting to avoid the H1N1 flu virus moving through the Sacramento region, this statement I found at Mercola.com sealed the deal that my family would be consuming Elderberry Syrup each day:

Antiviral components of elderberry fruit extract were tested and found to effectively inhibit Human Influenza A (H1N1 virus) in vitro, possibly by blocking the ability of the virus to infect host cells. The extract was so effective, that researchers compared it with the prescription medications Amantadine and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu).2

 

So off to the natural foods store, right?? Well yeah, but bring your credit card. This stuff is expensive!! And I want four people to consume it twice a day?? Oh boy. Only one thing to do… let’s clean this up and make our own!

Here’s what we are “cleaning up” – Black Elderberry Syrup. Seems funny to be cleaning it up, since I would recommend this product and have used it successfully before. But even “good” products can be made “great!”

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Ingredients: Black elderberry, acerola fruit, sugar cane, water, natural flavor from lemon juice.

ingredients

The recipe I used to make my own can be found in this completely EASY (six-minute) tutorial video put together by Mountain Rose Herbs. You owe it to yourself to watch this video and see the ease of this process. It’s called simmer stuff in water. Then stir in honey. That’s all.

I followed their ingredient list (elderberries, honey, cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger) with the following changes:

  • I used 2/3 cup of dried elderberries, instead of 1/2 cup.
  • I used 1t of ground cinnamon instead of the cinnamon stick.
  • I used beautiful local raw honey from my favorite honey guy at the farmers market to add in all the extra benefits of local pollen and more antioxidants.

I made two cups (16 ounces) in less than an hour. I used 2/3 cup of dried berries from the (approximately) 3.5 cups in the pound size bag. ($19.75 for a pound from Amazon). The ginger, cinnamon and cloves I had from other things, but we’ll say they cost $0.50 for those tiny amounts. The honey was more expensive than usual because my farmers market honey guy only had the small containers left, instead of the bulk jars at a much better deal. But I was desperate and at the market at the end of the day, so my bad. $12 for a pint (–no judging–) and I used half of it. Advanced math here, my batch cost $10 and some change for sixteen ounces. (And could be done even cheaper with a more reasonable priced local honey).

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At $7.33 per ounce at Whole Foods, that much would have cost me $117 regular or $82 on sale. Now that’s a clean up!!

Doesn’t take much to get this going! Here’s an affiliate link to grab those dried elderberries from Amazon: Elder Berries Whole Organic – 1 lb,(Frontier)

If you are not eating honey at this time and are still interested in the benefits of elderberries, this link to the Nourishing Herbalist is a beautiful recipe for a winter immunity tincture that highlights elderberry. It’s another (much cheaper) option.

Let me know if you give syrup a try. Be well!!

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Five Real Food Changes for 2014

green juice

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Last week I reflected on all the real food mini changes I made in 2013 that resulted in a major overall of my kitchen. The changes were slow and steady to avoid becoming overwhelmed (which is the surest way to stop me in my tracks). You can read all about it in my post, Five Real Food Changes I Made in 2013.

This is the post I’ve been excited to write, because I love new years and fresh starts and resolutions. I love that I write lists of things I’d like to do and start all of them with gusto, knowing only a few of them may stick. I ran a marathon once because of a new year’s resolution, completed a triathlon, got out of debt, ordered my first farm box, got a cat, decided it was time for a baby, went to culinary school… you see where I’m going with this. If I can use this resolution-y magic in the late December air for my personal good, where’s the harm? Notice I didn’t mention all the things on past resolution lists that I never achieved. That’s because I don’t even remember them. It, apparently, wasn’t meant to be!

My new year’s resolutions are many, so here are the five real food changes that made the list.

  1. Clean up the condiments. The refrigerator reflects all the work we’ve done to clean up our food and kick processed food out. Except when your eye shifts to the door shelves. The condiments have changed brands, gone organic even in many cases, but still are filled with too much sugar and preservatives. I made BBQ sauce for Christmas Eve dinner and it was easy and delicious, so what’s holding me back? Mayo will be the hardest, because it really can’t be made in advance. But it is the most important to me, because I cannot find a version that is made without canola or soybean oil.
  2. Eat less wheat. Choose sprouted and fermented wheat whenever possible. Even though our family doesn’t seem to have a gluten intolerance, I can’t find any reason for continuing to eat wheat as a main staple in our diet. It is hard on digestion and supports inflammation. This change is the mini step to eliminating wheat and maybe even most grains. Just beginning my research into all of this.
  3. Increase daily vegetable consumption. We are a fruit first household, and I’m surely the driving force behind this. It helps me not miss sugar so much. But reflecting back, we need to increase our vegetable intake.  The kids (and I) will happily eat veggies if they are ready to eat on a snack tray. So we need to make that a new habit. Sneak them in and keep it easy, that’s the plan. In addition, I’m going to make salads for myself for lunch ahead of time. If I could grab a salad ready to go out of the fridge, I’d be thrilled.
  4. Find a local raw milk source. This one has been challenging me for a long time. I’m really hoping 2014 is the year we find a raw milk connection that works for us. If this happens I want to make my own cheese. Now we are really shooting for the stars!!
  5. Perhaps my strangest goal for the year is to stop using harsh chemicals on my skin. I’m hoping to use my real food knowledge and pantry to overhaul my bathroom cabinet. From hair care to facial care, dental care to make-up, I’ve got lots to work on with this one. In 2013 I started making my own deodorant and began using coconut oil for lotion to support my internal detox. It opened my eyes to how many chemicals I use externally every day. Here’s to externally detoxing in 2014!

Do you have any mini real food changes on your resolution list this year? I hope you make Lean.Green.Kitchen a part of it! Happy New Year everyone. I wish for health and happiness for all of us.

Green Juice Shots all around… Cheers!

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Five Real Food Changes I Made in 2013

2013

As 2013 finishes up, I can’t help but reflect on the crazy real food progress I’ve made over the past 12 months. I’ve worked on so many mini changes to what I eat during this year that it has resulted in a pretty major overhaul of my family’s kitchen. Much of the journey has been documented on this blog, which I started in April after several years of researching, cooking and sharing healthy food.

It has been such a pleasure to share my experience with you. This blog has connected me with so many on your own real food journeys, and made me feel a little less alone and even less like a kooky food nutter. I know that the Lean.Green.Kitchen community is all over the map in their views and dedication to real food. We embrace anyone making conscience decisions around their food choices and support and encourage everyone to figure out their next steps and take them. And this definitely includes me.

Without further ado, here are the five biggest real food changes I made this year.

5. I stopped buying 90% of the processed food I had been purchasing. This was a major reduction, because I had already massively cut out processed food over the prior few years. It mostly entailed kids snacks, and “special treats.” I spent the year focusing on cleaning up the kids’ food, which resulted in them eating lots of popcorn and fruit for snacks and homemade treats. We realized that if it’s not in the house, we don’t eat it. A smart way to get out of (some) kid food battles – don’t have anything battle-worthy in the pantry.

4. I switched all our dairy to full fat organic sources. I even splurged a few times and bought raw whole milk. Hubster buys wine, I buy raw milk. Everyone’s got their thing. :) I stopped buying ultra pasteurized products. I sent a few emails attempting to find a raw milk local source, but haven’t had any luck yet. I’ve opened myself up to the universe to find a reasonably priced raw milk source, so fingers crossed for 2014!

3. I stopped cooking and baking with vegetable oils. I now use extra virgin olive oil for my cold oil needs and organic butter, coconut oil, tallow (from my bone broth making) and bacon drippings (from million dollar high quality bacon) for everything else. These traditional fats are not only delicious, they are nutritious and essential for brain maintenance. Our family jokes that the healthiest thing about our whole wheat toast is the beautiful butter on top of it.

2.  I sourced the majority of our meats and eggs. I bought a cow for butchering and found local sources for eggs. It was a life changing process. We eat meat and eggs from animals who lived quality lives and honor them with our energy, health and vitality. We no longer support (with our money) deplorable animal living conditions and nutrient-depleted chemical-full meat options.

1. Anyone who follows Lean.Green.Kitchen on Facebook will not be surprised by my number one real food change this year. I have become a wee bit obsessed with the process of fermentation and the amazing role that our gut health plays in our overall health. Through this transformative process I have sipped the Kombucha kool-aid and now find my house filled with homemade kefir, yogurt and Kombucha as well as probiotics, sauerkraut, bone broth, sourdough and real deal fermented pickles. After so many years of eating a diet filled with depleted dead food, it has been an exploratory adventure to become friends with yeasts and bacteria. I think the answer to many of our modern-day health issues could be remedied with attention to cultivating the good bacteria in our gut. This has been revolutionary in my real food journey, and I have so much more to learn!

So I am absolutely thrilled that 2014 is upon us as I move forward and learn and change, and learn and change, and learn and change. I’m working on my list of mini changes for the new year, and will be sharing them soon. Hope you will join me!

Have a wonderful final week of 2013. If you have made any real food changes in 2013 due (in any small part) to the influence or inspiration of this blog, I would LOVE to hear about them. It has been true joy to hear your stories along the way. My phone is full of photos of your trials, emails with questions, and celebratory “wahoos” via text or Facebook when you’ve succeeded with something new. I love it! Keep them coming.

 

 

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Four Real Food DIY Gifts You Could Make This Weekend!

I’m sure advanced bloggers were popping out posts like this back in October, being all prepared and stuff. Whateves. For the rest of us mere mortals, we are just now (or pretty soon will be) thinking about holiday gifts for all those beautiful people in our lives we’d like to give something special. Here are four Real Food Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Gifts you could truly whip up this weekend and make lives better by Monday. I know, because I’ve tested them all and they could truly be done by a six-year-old (though there is vodka involved). Anywho… maybe there is something here you could crank out with love…

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1. {Vanilla Extract} What you need: 1 cup mason jars, vanilla beans (two beans per jar), cheap tasteless vodka (we used Svedka), a cute note that tells the owner not to begin using it until 8 weeks from the production date, cute ribbon. Here’s a link to the directions I followed: Honey and Birch’s DIY Gift – Vanilla Extract

lemoncello

2. {Limoncello} What you need: 1 quart mason jars, lemons from a nearby tree (friend, neighbor, farmers market, seems like they are everywhere right now – you need 10 lemons per quart), vodka (we used the rest of the Svedka), organic cane sugar, cute ribbon. Here’s the link to the directions we followed: The Kitchn’s How to Make Limoncello **Note that the infusion takes a minimum of four days, so you can do all the work for this one, but will need to finish it off early next week before you can wrap it up with the cute ribbon.

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3. {Seasonings} What you need: 1/2 cup mason jars, various spices that you can buy in bulk from restaurant supply stores like Smart and Final or if you are the planning ahead type, from the internet, little tags with ingredient list and directions, cute ribbon. Here’s a link to my taco seasoning recipe: Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Taco Seasoning Recipe (scroll down, it’s at the bottom of the page). Here’s a link to a ranch dressing: The Crafty Blog Stalker’s Ranch Dressing Recipe. Here’s a link for an Italian seasoning: Food.com’s Italian Seasoning Recipe. You are going to need to do a little math to figure out how much you need for the number of jars that you are preparing. I’m stacking two jars and wrapping in tissue paper for each giftee (with the cute ribbon).

Squash Soup

4. {Simple Squash Soup} What you need: A squash (butternut, pumpkin, acorn), celery, carrot, onion, veggie or chicken stock, thyme, salt and pepper. (Plus a quart jar and cute ribbon!) If you really want to surprise and delight someone this holiday season, show up with the gift of homemade soup during the holidays. Add in a bottle of wine and a beautiful sourdough baguette and obtain the highest elf certification ever. Here’s a link to Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Simple Squash Soup Recipe.

Go forth and create beautiful, thoughtful, useful gifts that will bring joy this holiday season to those you love! If you are creating other DIY projects this weekend, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Weekly Tip: Make Your Own Beef Stock

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Here is the big finale for our three-week make your own stock series. We have made our own chicken stock (or maybe you used turkey), veggie stock, and now this week we tackle making beef stock. This one is a few additional steps, but I assure you the rewards are worth it in the end. Let’s top off those freezers with stock for all our culinary feats this winter. Having a quality stock is the foundation of beautiful meals and a lifesaver on busy, lazy days when real food is a must.

There are three challenges to making your own beef stock that we must conquer. If you can figure these three things out, you are golden — the rest is gravy (good gravy if you use your beautiful beef stock).

1. You need to source high quality beef bones. For me that means local, grass-fed cows. These cost more for a reason. And all the reasons that count. Better for your health, for the flavor, for the environment, for the cow’s living conditions, and for your local community. So do some research, go to farmers markets, talk with other foodies, ask questions of the person behind the meat counter at the natural foods co-ops, find a butcher. Do what it takes to buy good bones and feel gratitude that they will nourish you and your family for months.

2. You need to be near your stove-top off and on, but mostly on for one to three days. You are going to be simmering this stock for days. One day is the barest of minimum, three is ideal (I never make it to three, but some day…), two works great. I turn my pot off when I go to bed and turn it back on as soon as I get up. I turn the pot off to run short errands or whatever, but mostly I’m at home going about my business while my pot is working away for two days.

3. You need a big pot. You want to get a lot of stock out of these bones that you worked so hard to find. Plus, the bones themselves take up a lot of room, so a small pot won’t have space for the water.

*** If number 2 and 3 seem impossible, you can make this in small batches in a crock pot. Using less bones, fill up the crock pot with the same stuff, fill with water and leave on low for 24 hours. You’ll have to go through the process again at some point when you run out of stock, but it may beat staying home for a weekend or getting your hands on a huge pot! ***

Why do all this?

Beef stock is a powerfully healing substance. It is filled with minerals and amino acids ready for absorption. It contains ample gelatin, ready to heal your gut and your joints. Bone broth has been shown to aid digestion and build immunity. Many real fooders consume bone broth every day as a tonic. You can read more about all that’s in there from this post from Mark’s Daily Apple.

Beef stock provides a beautiful flavor, richness, and color to soups, stews and sauces.

It is worth it! The stuff in the box/can DOES NOT COMPARE. Homemade quality stock is considered by many to be a SUPERFOOD. Boxed and canned stock, not so much. This is the easiest way to bring nutrients into everything you prepare. So let’s get started. 

SIMPLE BEEF STOCK

Equipment Needed:

  • Stock Pot – The bigger the better, so you can get more stock out of all the effort. Crock Pots will work, but most won’t hold enough liquid to get the most out of your efforts. Consider investing in a large stock pot or find a foodie friend who might let you borrow one for a weekend. I love my 21 quart pot. Big but manageable.
  • Roasting Pan/Tongs
  • Cutting board/Chef’s Knife
  • Ladle
  • Cheese Cloth or Fine Strainer – I use a paint straining bag from the hardware store. I can place it into a pitcher and ladle the stock into it.
  • Large Storage Container
  • Gallon Sized Ziplock Bags
  • Permanent Marker

Ingredients:

  • 4-8lbs of beef bones (a combination of marrow, knuckle, neck and rib bones is the best option, but work with what you can get!)
  • 3 Organic Carrots – Chopped up chunky
  • 3 Organic Onions – Peeled and chopped in quarters
  • 6 Organic Celery Stalks – Chopped up chunky
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic – Cut in half
  • 1T Whole Peppercorns
  • Sprigs of Fresh Thyme and/or Parsley
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
  • 2-3 Gallons of Cold Water
  • Optional: Any other veggie bits or scraps you may have around. This is a great way to purge those veggie drawers!

Instructions:

  1. Place any of your bones that have meat bits on them in the roasting pan and brown at 350 degrees for about an hour. Meanwhile, place the bones without meat bits in the pot with the vinegar and pour in the water until the bones are covered. Let the pot just sit on the counter for the hour the other bones are roasting.
  2. Take the meaty bones out of the roasting pan and place them in the pot. Add vegetables and add the rest of the cold water.
  3. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Using a spoon, skim off any impurities or “foam” that has developed on the top and discard.
  4. Add peppercorns and herbs.
  5. Simmer that pot for 12-72 hours. You can add more water every once in a while if you feel it is getting too low. (Less water, more concentrated stock)
  6. I turn the stove off when I go to bed late at night for my own peace of mind (leaving the big pot on the stove top) and then turn it back on early in the morning. I also turn it off when I leave the house during the day for safety.
  7. Using your strainer and your storage container, ladle the stock into the strainer in batches, resulting in having strained stock in the storage container.
  8. Place storage container in the refrigerator to cool completely. When cooled, your stock may be thick and gelatinous. That is a GREAT sign! It means you used bones with lots of gelatin and pulled it all out of them. Sometimes mine is gelatinous and sometimes it isn’t.
  9. The next day: Once your stock is completely cooled, the fat will rise to the top and solidify. If you leave that in your stock, it will be rather greasy. I highly recommend taking it off the stock and rendering it down to clean tallow to use as a fantastic cooking fat! [Place fat in crock pot on low until it is all liquid, then strain through cheesecloth into a mason jar and store in the refrigerator. Amazing for frying up tortillas for Taco Tuesdays!]
  10. Using a permanent marker, label your Ziplock bags: BEEF STOCK and the date and how much you are measuring into each bag.
  11. I recommend measuring out 1 to 1.5 quarts of beef stock per gallon Ziplock.
  12. Be sure to check those Ziplock tops for a good seal before placing the bags flat on top of each other to store in the freezer.
  13. The stock will keep in the freezer for several months.

Notes:

  • This recipe is adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It is one of my favorite resources for my real food journey.
  • There is no salt added to this stock, so you must add it on your own when using the stock. Most recipes will assume your stock is very salty (because the box/can has a lot of extra sodium in it), so be sure to taste and adjust and probably add more salt to your dishes than you are used to if you haven’t made your own before.
  • If you don’t have much freezer space for your stock, I recommend simmering your stock on the longer side of the range and not adding additional water as it evaporates. You are basically making it more concentrated and then can add water to it once you defrost it prior to using. You might want to freeze it in smaller amounts since you won’t need as much. You can also simmer some of it down further after straining to concentrate some of it for sauces. Just be sure to label everything so you know what you have later!
  • I know of many people who, in an effort to get the most out of their beef bones, make  stock a second time using the same bones. If you have the time, energy and freezer space you should go for it!

photo 1  Finished product… over 10 quarts of beautiful stock!

tallow  Plus a little jar of beautiful tallow as a bonus!

 

So that’s a wrap with the Stock Series! Hope you use these recipes in your kitchen to warm and nourish your family this winter season. This, my friends, is the true foundation of real food. May you build real (good) food from here…

 

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday at HolisticSquid.com!

Read more: http://holisticsquid.com/party-wave-wednesday-121113/#ixzz2nHVO7fWs

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