Saturday, February 26, 2011

Braised Short Ribs

 Short ribs are a relatively tough cut of meat, but when cooked slowly over low heat they are tender and very flavorful.  This recipe was inspired by a video on Mark's Daily Apple. I've served these ribs for company, and everyone loved them.  These also passed the 3-year-old test; my daughter gobbled them down!

I've provided two different cooking methods below, one for when you have limited prep time and the other for when you can take a little extra time to make the ribs even better.  I've cooked the ribs both ways, and they were delicious each time.  Either way, you will need a long, slow cooking time to allow the ribs to get very tender. 

Braised Short Ribs:

  • 2-3 pounds short ribs or back ribs
  • 4 Tb grassfed ghee or combination of butter and sunflower or sesame oil (the oil will help raise the smoke point of the butter so it does not burn) (NOTE: this ingredient is not needed for the Time-Crunch Method)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 c. homemade beef stock
  • 14 oz chopped tomatoes (Pomi brand is BPA-free)
  • splash of red wine vinegar
  • Celtic sea salt and pepper

Time-Crunch Method (Normal Weekday Morning)
  1. Place onion, carrots, and celery in the bottom of a slow cooker or oven-safe pot.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. If necessary, use a sharp knife to separate the ribs.  Place ribs on top of chopped veggies and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. 
  3. Sprinkle garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves on top of meat. 
  4. Pour chopped tomatoes and beef stock around meat.  Pour in a splash of red wine vinegar. There should be just enough liquid to cover most of the meat, but leave the top of the meat exposed. 
  5. Set slow cooker on Low (or place in covered oven-safe pot* in 215 degree oven).  Cook for 8-10 hours.
  6. Check seasonings and add any more salt and pepper as needed.  Allow to cool slightly.
  7. Serve and enjoy.  It is delicious served alongside a simple side salad. 

Plenty of Time Method (Special Weekend Dinner)
  1. If necessary, use a sharp knife to separate the ribs. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt 2 Tb ghee in a medium pot over medium-high heat (you will need to use an oven-safe pot* if you don't have a slow cooker to use in subsequent steps).  Once hot, add ribs and brown them in the ghee.  To get a nice brown crust, let the ribs cook for a few minutes on each side (resist the urge to move them around while browning).
  3. Remove ribs to a bowl or plate.  
  4. Melt remaining 2 Tb ghee in pot and add onion, carrots, and celery.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes.  Then deglaze the pot by adding the splash of red wine vinegar, beef stock, and tomatoes.  Allow to reduce for a few minutes, then add garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.
  5. If using a slow cooker, carefully transfer mixture to slow cooker. Nestle the ribs down into the sauce and veggies, leaving the top of the meat exposed.  Set on Low and cook for 6-8 hours. 
  6. Alternatively, nestle the ribs down into the pot of veggies and sauce. Cover pot and place in 215 degree oven for 6-8 hours.
  7. Check seasonings and add any more salt and pepper as needed.  Allow to cool slightly.
  8. Serve and enjoy.  It is delicious served alongside a simple side salad.  
*With the long cooking time and the presence of tomatoes, the best oven-safe pot would be enamel-coated.  That would prevent any reaction between metal and the acidic tomatoes.

This recipe is part of Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Time to Start Seeds for the Summer Vegetable Garden!

    Why grow your own food?
    A great way to get fresh, local produce is to have your own vegetable garden.  Harvesting foods from your own yard is wonderful, for adults and kids alike. Because you can harvest your foods at the peek of ripeness, the flavor of your garden-grown foods will be so much better than the produce that is typically found at the store. And when you grow your own food, there is no wondering about what chemicals may have been used on your food. 

    Why plant from seed?
    Small vegetable plants can be bought at the store, but I prefer to start all of my plants from seed. This is a great way to save money as seed packets cost only one to three dollars, and will yield many plants.  I am still using some remaining seeds from packets that were bought two years ago!

    My daughter and I also get great joy from watching the tiny seeds turn into plants. Plus, you have an endless selection of seeds to choose from, whereas most stores will only stock a few varieties of each plant.

    What plants should you start early?
    Although the time for planting summer gardens is still a few months away, now is the time to start some plants from seed. This will allow your seedlings to be ready in time for planting outdoors once the last chance of frost has passed.  The plants that I like to start early are those that take a long while to produce, including:
    • Tomatoes
    • Tomatillos
    • Bell Peppers
    • Celery
    Here in the desert southwest, we have a very long growing season, so I can start the remaining garden plants (such as zucchini, squash, and cucumbers) outside in a month or two . If you live somewhere that you have a very short growing season (or just want to get a jump-start on the garden), you may want to even start some of these plants indoors as well.

    How to start seeds
    Basically, the seeds will need soil, moisture, and light.  I have started seeds in either a seed tray or just in small pots.  I have a friend who has had good luck even just using paper cups. I don't use any fancy store-bought soil; rather, I just scoop some compost-enriched dirt from my garden out back. I also don't use any growing lights (although I'm sure the plants would be happier if I did).  Instead, I just put them in a sunny windowsill. As for seeds, I buy all of mine from Botanical Interests (a great family-operated business). Once they are planted, you'll have to keep the seeds moist until they germinate, and then make sure they don't dry out too much while those tiny roots are growing.

    If you are ready to take the plunge, there is a good seed starting tutorial here.

    This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade!

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Feeding Infants a Grain-Free and Nut-Free Diet

    Why not feed grains and nuts to infants?
    Avoiding grains and nuts for infants can be difficult, and you may wonder why it is necessary to do so.  The article Nourishing a Growing Baby (by certified nutritionist Jen Allbritton) says, 

    "Grains, nuts and seeds should be the last food given to babies. This food category has the most potential for causing digestive disturbances or allergies. Babies do not produce the needed enzymes to handle cereals, especially gluten-containing grains like wheat, before the age of one year."

    In the article Feeding Babies, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig (both of the Weston A. Price Foundation) wrote,

    "Babies produce only small amounts of amylase, needed for the digestion of grains, and are not fully equipped to handle cereals, especially wheat, before the age of one year. (Some experts prohibit all grains before the age of two.) Baby's small intestine mostly produces one enzyme for carbohydrates—lactase, for the digestion of lactose. (Raw milk also contains lactase.) Many doctors have warned that feeding cereal grains too early can lead to grain allergies later on. Baby's earliest solid foods should be animal foods as his digestive system, although immature, is better equipped to supply enzymes for digestion of fats and proteins rather than carbohydrates."

    Furthermore, in Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride has shown that improper digestion of foods such as grains and nuts can lead to small problems, such as allergies and eczema, as well as big problems like autism, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

    It is clear that, while it may be contrary to popular opinion, avoidance of grains and nuts in babies' diets is a worthwhile endeavor.

    Don't rush the introduction of solids
    There is no need to rush the introduction of solids into baby's diet.  If the mother has a nutritious diet, breastmilk is a wonder food that provides all of the baby's nutritional needs.  For mothers who cannot breastfeed, homemade infant formulas can be used (the Healthy Home Economist has excellent videos on how to make milk-based and meat-based homemade formulas).

    I have let both of my children lead the way to the introduction of solids.  Neither of them were really interested in eating food until around the time when their first teeth came in (which was over one year old for my daughter, and around 10 months old for my son). Don't be afraid to let your baby guide you on when to introduce solids. 

    Avoid commercial baby food
    Commercial baby food is not nourishing.  Much of it is grain-based, and the remaining tends to be filled with undesirable additives or cooked to death in jars!  I have never bought any commercial baby food for my children.  I believe that children should eat the same nutritious foods as their parents (appropriately mashed or chopped when necessary).

    Start the day with a nutritional powerhouse!
    In our house, we start off the morning every day with a dose of cod liver oil and butter oil!  These nutritional powerhouses provide Vitamins A and D, Vitamin K (previously known as Activator X in Weston A. Price's studies), plus Omega 3's, DHA, and EPA.  Weston A. Price's studies showed that the diets of traditional people contained ten times the amounts of Vitamin A and D present in modern diets, and this higher nutrient-content led to people with robust health and virtually no cavities, heart disease, or cancer. Cod liver oil and butter oil are also a great way to boost the immune system.

    Probiotics with each meal 
    Infants have an immature gut, and it is helpful to provide them with a little digestive help in the form of probiotic foods (such as yogurt, kefir, or lactofermented foods).  I try to make sure to provide at least a small amount of probiotic with every meal for my infant. 

    What about breakfast?
    One of the biggest challenges to avoiding nuts and grains is figuring out what to eat for breakfast.  As a society, we are accustomed to eating grains at breakfast in the form of cereal, muffins, waffles, pancakes, and toast.  Luckily, babies don't have such expectations!  This makes it easy to feed them nourishing foods so long as we can give up our own expectations of what breakfast looks like.

    Grain-Free and Nut-Free Infant Breakfast Ideas 
    Here are some super simple ideas for infant breakfasts. The idea that sounds the strangest is the one my infant son likes the best: banana and bacon yogurt!   
    • Leftover soup made with homemade bone broth (my son even loves it served cold and gelatinous)
    • Any combination of the following, all mixed together: 
      • Mashed avocado
      • Sour cream or whole milk yogurt
      • Shredded full-fat raw cheese
      • Egg yolk (runny or softly cooked)
    • Banana and bacon yogurt (made with whole-milk yogurt, mashed ripe banana, and a bit of bacon drippings)
    • Mashed berries and whole-milk yogurt 
    • Homemade bone broth and egg yolk
    • Scrambled eggs when infant is nearing one year old (egg whites are best avoided until around one year old due to high allergenic potential) 

      Do you have any nourishing, grain- and nut-free breakfast ideas for infants?

      This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

      Wednesday, February 16, 2011

      Apple or Pear Clafoutis (GAPS-legal, grain- and gluten-free)

      This clafoutis recipe is a staple breakfast item in our house.  It is similar to a fruit custard, and is delicious with both pears and apples (I've used Granny Smith or Fuji apples).  It is also great when served with a side of bacon or sausage. Leftovers are great cold or warmed up.

      Pear or Apple Clafoutis:
      • 4 large eggs
      • ¼ cup honey
      • ½ cup sour cream, creme fraiche, or full-fat coconut milk
      • ½ cup (1 stick) butter or unrefined coconut oil
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • ⅓ cup crispy almond* flour OR 3Tb coconut flour (almond flour tastes better, but coconut flour is good, too)
      • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
      • pinch of ground nutmeg
      • ¼ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
      • 3 large pears and/or apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (it's okay to leave the peel on the pears so long as it's not too thick)
      1. Butter an 8X8 glass dish, generously
      2. In a small saucepan, melt one stick of butter.  Then add honey and stir.
      3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.  I like to use my immersion blender to mix it all up together, but you could certainly use a whisk or mixer instead.
      4. Add melted butter and honey to wet ingredients and whisk or blend.
      5. With the immersion blender running, add almond flour (or coconut flour) and whir until well-combined (or use mixer or whisk until smooth). Using the immersion blender is great because it further grinds the almond flour (which doesn't get particularly fine when I grind it in the food processor).
      6. Arrange the sliced fruit on the bottom of the pan, then pour the mixture over the top. (Note: the fruit will float up while it is cooking.)
      7. Bake at 325° for 45-55 minutes, until clafoutis is set in the center and the top is golden.
      8. Cool and serve.
      *Crispy almonds are nuts that have been soaked in water with a little salt for 12-24 hours and then dried in the dehydrator until crispy (which usually takes about 24 hours at 155 degrees F in my Nesco dehydrator). Soaking the nuts neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid blocks absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium; enzyme inhibitors make nuts hard to digest. I make a large batch of crispy nuts, grind them into flour in the food processor (don't grind too long or you will make almond butter instead of flour), and store the flour in the freezer. This way, the flour is always ready when I need it.

      *Time-saving tips:
      • For a delicious and easy breakfast throughout the week, double this recipe and cook in either two 8X8 dishes or one 9X13 dish (it will of course take longer to cook in the bigger dish).  Once cooled slightly, scoop into individual glass dishes and store in the refrigerator.  On subsequent mornings, just pull out one of the small glass containers and eat cold (or re-heat in the toaster oven at 250 degrees for about 15-20 minutes). 
      • Since the oven will already be heated, you may as well throw in a pack of bacon, some egg muffins, baked bacon and eggs, or even a spaghetti squash for later in the week.  I abhor an empty oven, so I'm always adding more items once it is on.  Bacon bakes very well, especially if you put it on the bottom rack, and it also reheats well for later in the week.
      This recipe is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet,  and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

        Saturday, February 12, 2011

        Easy and Delicious Creamy Salad Dressing (GAPS-legal)

        This salad dressing is a new staple in our house.  It is so tasty that my husband and preschooler want to eat salad every night now (amazing since they are typically not very excited about salad). It tastes a bit like Caesar dressing, but it so much easier to make. It also works great on the GAPS-diet since it is a probiotic dressing!

        Creamy Salad Dressing:
        1/2 c. homemade mayo
        1/4 tsp garlic powder
        1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
        2 Tb grated Parmesan cheese

        Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir or whisk until well-combined.  When possible, refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to meld.  Serve over salad or as a dip.

        This recipe is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet!

        Baked Bacon and Eggs (GAPS-legal, grain- and gluten-free)

        Mmmm, bacon and eggs. This is a super easy and delicious breakfast casserole that came together last weekend.  I could eat it for breakfast every day!  We have found that it reheats particularly well.

        Baked Bacon and Eggs:
        5-8 ounces nitrate-free bacon
        10-12 eggs, preferably farm eggs
        1/2 c. milk kefir or plain whole milk yogurt
        3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
        3/4 tsp Celtic sea salt
        freshly ground pepper

        Cut bacon slices in half (so they are half as long).  Place bacon slices in square 8X8 glass baking dish, covering the bottom.  The bacon slices should be overlapping.  Bake the bacon at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, just until it starts to crisp. Depending on how much you have overloaded the pan, you may want to rearrange the bacon some after it has cooked for 15 minutes (since it will shrink away from the sides).

        While bacon cooks, prepare egg mixture.  Combine eggs, kefir, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and beat with a fork or whisk until well-combined and fluffy. When bacon is done cooking, rearrange the slices as needed to cover the bottom of the pan (since the bacon may have shrunk away from the edges).  Pour egg mixture on top.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and return to the oven.  Bake casserole at 325 degrees for about 40-50 minutes, or until set.  The eggs will puff up in the middle when they are near done, and will then deflate while cooling. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop and enjoy.

        *Time-saving tip: If you will be saving the majority of the casserole to eat as leftovers, do not allow to bake completely.  Rather, pull the casserole out when the middle is just starting to puff up, and then eat portions from the sides.  This will ensure that the leftover eggs will not be overcooked when reheated. We store our leftovers in small glass containers. Then all that is required on the following days is to place the glass container in the toaster oven set at 250 degrees for about 20 minutes.

        This recipe is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet!

        Monday, February 7, 2011

        Homemade Mayonnaise

        I started making homemade mayonnaise about 6 months ago, and now I wonder what took me so long!  It is delicious and super easy to make with the right tools on hand (I use an immersion blender, but you could also use a food processor). Homemade mayo is so much healthier and tastier than the store-bought kind (which is filled with strange ingredients).  And if you add whey, this mayo will become a probiotic food and will keep for several months!

        It never seems to last that long in our house, though, as we use it as a base for so many things like salad dressing, honey mustard mayo, tartar sauce, tuna salad, and ham salad.  This recipe is based on the one in Nourishing Traditions.  Using olive oil will result in a more strongly-flavored mayo; I use a combination of olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, and sunflower oil as we get plenty of omega 3's in our diets. [Sunflower oil is high in omega 6, but our bodies need both omega 6 and omega 3.  There has been a lot of hype about omega 3's these days and that is because the typical American diet is very low in them, so many people have an omega 3 deficiency. However, if you are eating a nourishing diet with plenty of omega 3 (for instance, from cod liver oil, flax, and fish), then there is no reason to not also consume some omega 6 in the form of sunflower oil.  If you are concerned about too much omega 6 in your diet, you could easily substitute a small amount of flax oil for some of the oil in the mayo.]

        Homemade Mayonnaise:
        2 whole eggs
        2 egg yolks
        2 tsp dijon mustard
        3 Tb lemon or lime juice
        2 Tb raw whey, optional
        1.5-2 c. sunflower oil, olive oil, or unrefined coconut oil** (softened or melted)
        1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
        pinch freshly ground pepper

        If using an immersion blender, add all ingredients to cup or jar in the order listed.  Then it is as simple as using the immersion blender, with gentle up-and-down strokes, until the mayo is well mixed and creamy.  If using a food processor, add all ingredients except oil to food processor and pulse to combine.  Then, while the machine is running, pour oil into dripper cup (the cup that allows one drop of oil at a time to be added).  Process until well mixed and creamy.

        If whey was used, make sure there is at least 1-inch of space at the top of the jar and allow to sit on the counter (with the lid on) for 7-10 hours before refrigerating. Store in the refrigerator.  The mayonnaise will thicken slightly during refrigeration (and even more so if whey was used). Without whey, may will keep for about 2 weeks. With whey, it will keep for several months.

        *Time-saving tip: Using an immersion blender, measure and mix the mayo straight into a mason jar.  This will reduce the number of dirty dishes.

        **The more coconut oil you use, the more firm the mayo will be.  I like to use just a small amount (1/4 to 1/2 cup).  Sometimes I leave the coconut oil out altogether if I want it to be thin enough to drizzle on top of a green salad. Homemade mayo is super tasty as a salad dressing.

        This recipe is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

        Sunday, February 6, 2011

        Bacon-wrapped Salmon Cakes with Tartar Sauce (GAPS-legal, gluten- and grain-free)

        These bacon-wrapped salmon cakes were a real hit in our house.  Even my husband, who doesn't like salmon because "it is too fishy", thought they were tasty enough to be added to our dinner rotation. This recipe is based on one from Food Renegade as well as The Frickin' Chicken.  I changed things up a bit, of course, by adding some new ingredients as well as changing the method and some amounts. 

        Bacon-wrapped Salmon Cakes with Tartar Sauce
        Salmon Cakes
        • 3 - 7.5 oz cans of wild-caught Alaskan salmon, drained
        • 2 Tb butter
        • 1/3 of a white onion, chopped
        • 1 c. pine nuts (preferably ones that have already been soaked and dehydrated)
        • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
        • 2 Tb homemade mayo
        • 1 Tb Parmesan cheese
        • 1.5 tsp dijon mustard
        • 3/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
        • 2 tsp dried parsley
        • 1/2 tsp dried dill
        • 2 tsp dill pickle juice or lemon juice
        • 1/4 tsp Celtic sea salt
        • freshly ground pepper, to taste
        • 1 egg white
        • 8 oz nitrate free bacon
        • Tartar Sauce (recipe follows)
        In a small skillet, saute the onion in butter until soft and translucent.  Add pine nuts and stir frequently until pine nuts are starting to turn light brown (be careful as they will burn easily).  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

        Once cooled, dump onion mixture into food processor. Add mayo, Parmesan cheese, egg white, dijon, Old Bay seasoning, and all other seasonings to food processor. Pulse until well mixed and chopped. Add canned salmon and give a few pulses (if you pulse too much, the consistency will get very smooth instead of slightly chunky).  Stir if necessary to ensure mixture is well-combined. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or preferably several hours (overnight would be fine as well).

        Cut bacon in half (so the slices are half as long). Scoop 3 Tb salmon mixture onto each slice of bacon, and wrap tightly.  Place into glass baking dish (you will need either two 8X8 square baking dish, or one 9X13 dish).  Bake in 325 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes, turning once to allow bacon to crisp on top and bottom.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Serve with tartar sauce.

        Tartar Sauce
        • 1/2 c. homemade mayo
        • 1/4 c. sour cream
        • 2 dill pickles, chopped
        • 1/2 tsp dried dill
        • 2 tsp dill pickle juice or lemon juice
        • 1/4 tsp Celtic sea salt
        • freshly ground pepper
        Combine all ingredients.  Stir, and refrigerate until ready to use.

        This recipe is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet!

        Apple Raisin Snack Bars (GAPS-legal, grain- and gluten-free)

        These snack bars are amazingly easy to make, delicious, and filled with nourishing ingredients.  They make me wonder why I ever tried store-bought snack bars, like Lara bars or Kind bars. This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Nourished Kitchen.

        Apple-raisin snack bars:
        1 cup pecans
        1 cup dried apples
        1 cup raisins
        1/4 tsp Celtic sea salt
        1/2 tsp cinnamon, optional (I tend to like the clean flavor of the fruit without the cinnamon, but will occasionally add cinnamon to spice it up)

        unrefined coconut oil, for greasing your hands

        Soak pecans in water with a pinch of sea salt for 12-24 hours*. Rinse and drain well. Pulse nuts in a food processor until ground pretty well (but not too long or they'll start turning into nut butter). Dump nuts into a bowl. Then place apples, raisins, salt, and optional spices in
        food processor and let it whir until well-combined and chopped. This will take longer than you think, but just let it keep going around and around. Then add back ground nuts and whir until well-combined. Dump it all onto a piece of wax paper. Then rub a bit of oil onto your hands to keep them from sticking to the mixture. Use your hands to do any last mixing necessary to get a consistent mixture, then form the mixture into a mound. Refrigerate for a couple hours, and then cut into pieces.

        You can also vary the nuts and fruit to make other types. Lemon blueberry is delicious (made using almonds, dates, and dried blueberries with a little lemon zest).

        *Soaking the nuts neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors.  Phytic acid blocks absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium; enzyme inhibitors make nuts hard to digest.

        This recipe is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet!