Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bacon and Liver Spaghetti Squash with Capers

image from
Liver is an absolute superfood, providing vitamin A, all of the B vitamins (including folic acid), CoQ10, and trace elements such as copper, chromium, and zinc. Liver is a wonderful food for regaining health, and is a superb food for pregnant and nursing mothers.

I've been trying to find more ways to get liver into our diets.  This recipe combines bacon, liver, capers, and tomatoes in a delicious way.  The liver flavor is not very pronounced in this dish, but if you are feeding any liver-avoiders you might try reducing to only one chicken liver.

Bacon and Liver Spaghetti Squash with Capers
Serves 3-4 adults
2 chicken livers
Milk kefir or yogurt, for marinating livers
8 oz nitrate-free bacon, chopped
2 small shallots, minced
1 & 1/4 cups diced tomatoes and juice
2Tb capers
1/4 cup cream
1/2 medium spaghetti squash* (already cooked, de-seeded, and removed from skin)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to garnish
  1. Marinate livers in kefir (or yogurt) for several hours in the refrigerator.  Drain the livers and pat them dry.  Chop them finely and return them to the refrigerator.
  2. Cook chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir often, and when the bacon is starting to get crispy, scoop out and reserve about 1 Tb of the bacon grease.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallots, and cook for several minutes.  Stir often so the shallots won't burn.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes to the skillet, stir, and simmer for a few minutes.  Add the cream and capers, and stir lightly to combine. Then add the spaghetti squash and stir lightly to coat the spaghetti squash with the bacon/sauce mixture.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let it all cook for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced.  
  4. Push the spaghetti squash/bacon mixture to one side of the pan.  Cook the chicken livers in the reserved bacon grease for a minute (or less), then stir them into the spaghetti squash/bacon mixture and turn off heat (don't overcook the liver; it is good if it is still a little pink inside). 
  5. Scoop onto plates and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.  Serve immediately.
    *The spaghetti squash can be cooked simply in advance. I like to cook a whole spaghetti squash at low temperature (200-250 degrees) for several hours.  I cook it in either the toaster oven, solar cooker, or conventional oven.  I know it is done when I can slightly squeeze it (with an oven mitt of course). Once it has cooled, I cut the squash in half, discard the seeds and gooey bits, and then just use a fork to shred the squash into "noodles".  You'll only need half of the squash for this recipe; you could use the other half for an easy grain-free meal with some marinara sauce, ground beef, and cheese.

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

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Banana Coconut Baked Custard (GAPS-legal, grain- and gluten-free)

    This rich banana coconut baked custard is delicious warm or cold.  It makes a great breakfast, especially when paired with some bacon.  It would also make a nice dessert, and could be topped with whipped cream for a special treat. 

    Banana Coconut Baked Custard
    3 very ripe bananas
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter, plus extra for greasing pie plates
    1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil
    1 Tb vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp celtic sea salt
    6 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
    3/4 cup sour cream
    2 Tb creamed coconut
    1 tsp almond extract
    1/4 cup honey (less could easily be used as the bananas are quite sweet)

    1. Peel the bananas and place them in a food processor.  Pulse until they are liquified.  
    2. Add all remaining ingredients to food processor. Pulse until well-combined. The batter will be very runny.
    3. Grease two 9-inch pie plates with butter. Pour banana mixture into pie plates.
    4. Bake 30-40 minutes at 325 degrees, until the middle is set and the edges are lightly browned.  You may need to rotate the pie plates partway through cooking if the custards are cooking unevenly.  The custards will puff up while cooking and then deflate while cooling.
    This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

      Wednesday, June 22, 2011

      Raw Liver Breakfast Shake - Mango Liver Lassi!

      A note from Sarah: The following is a guest post by Jamie Busch.  My 16-month-old son loves this recipe, even without the fruit.  I like to add a generous handful of strawberries to please my palate. What a wonderful way to get more liver into our diets!
      When my wife was pregnant with our daughter we thankfully stumbled upon the fabulous research of Weston A. Price.  Soon we were experimenting with recipes from the “Nourishing Traditions” cookbook by Sally Fallon, as well as other traditional recipes from books like “Cure Tooth Decay” by Rami Nagel and "The Recipe for Living Without Disease” by Aajonus VonderplanitzOffal is one of the prized sacred foods for its nutrient density, and was universally utilized by women during childbearing years.  We were open to trying it all: sweetbreads, tongue, kidney, brain, stomach.  Most of the time I prepare the organ meat cooked, but there is one that I find to be more palatable and more potent in the raw: liver.  So, I combined several different recipes for raw liver tonics and have developed a high-vibe breakfast smoothie that provides an amazing boost for the day - even my 2 year old daughter loves it! This is my twist on the classic Indian Lassi drink, enjoy!

      Mango Liver Lassi
      Time: 10 minutes.
      Yield: 4 servings

      1 cup milk kefir or yogurt
      ½ cup of milk
      1 raw egg
      2 tbsp. raw cream
      1 raw chicken or duck liver
      1 tbsp. raw honey
      ½ tsp. ground cardamom
      ¼ tsp. sea salt
      1 cup fresh mango flesh (2-3 fresh mangoes, stoned and sliced)

      Pour all ingredients into blender. Grind on low speed until liver is incorporated, then blend on high for a bit, strain into a glass and enjoy the surge!

      About Jamie: My wife and I have  "unschooled our stomachs" and model this lifestyle for our daughter - to be free from nutritional dogma and in touch with the power of Real Food. Now we can experience the gift of Life in every bite: whether it's a vegetable, mineral, insect, seaweed, milk, fruit, meat, nut, seed, herb, spice. I partner with local farms, applying the Permaculture philosophy of earth care, people care, and fair share. Via extensive travels by foot, car, bus, train, bicycle, and boat across the Globe and throughout the United States, I have learned about the unlimited potential of "food as medicine" and the joy of cooperating with Nature.

      During the weekdays, I create innovative programs for people with Learning Disabilities, and after hours serve Real Foods to people through personal chef services, event catering, and hands-on workshops. I am a ServSafe certified Chef, and a member of Slow Food USA and The Weston A. Price Foundation. I am active in the local farm and garden movement in the NYC metro area. My favorite television show is "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmernan" and one day will have my own show too!

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

      Sunday, June 19, 2011

      Online GAPS Resources

      I wanted to share some online resources that make it a bit easier to follow the GAPS diet.  These should be helpful for those of you on the GAPS diet as well as people considering the diet.
      • GAPS Diet food list - Need an easy reference chart to know what you can eat while on GAPS? This is a printable sheet that shows what foods are recommended and what foods should be avoided while on the GAPS diet.
      • Legal/illegal SCD list - This is a very comprehensive list of legal and illegal food items, including very obscure ingredients.  [The GAPS Diet is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) developed by Elaine Gottschall. This list is for SCD, but it also generally applies to GAPS as well.]  This list will also help you in determining the rationale for why some food items are not allowed on GAPS.  For instance, bacon is commonly listed as not allowed on GAPS, but by reading the description on the SCD list, you can see that the issue is whether or not the bacon is cured with sugar.
      • GAPS Diet FAQs  This FAQ page has answers to a wide variety of GAPS topics, including dairy foods, die-off reactions, and juicing.
      • Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride's GAPS site - This is a great site with loads on information about the GAPS diet protocol, including tips for pregnancy and new baby
      • GAPS Guide site - This site, which is maintained by Baden Lashkov (author of the GAPS Guide book), is a great source of information. Baden is very helpful and promptly answers any questions you may have about GAPS
      • Description of Full GAPS Diet and GAPS Intro Diet (including 6 stages) - This is a summary of the GAPS Diet protocol written by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. 
      • Foods allowed on GAPS Intro Diet - Towards the bottom of this article, there is a good breakdown of what foods are allowed on each stage of the GAPS Intro Diet.
      • Articles about common GAPS Diet mistakes - These two articles have great information: Avoid These 5 GAPS Mistakes and The Five Most Common GAPS Diet Mistakes.
      • GAPS Diet 101 video - This is a video overview of the GAPS Diet presented by RN/natural health advocate Lauren of Mindful Mama.
      Do you have any favorite GAPS diet online resources to share?

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

        Wednesday, June 15, 2011

        Tidbits and a Few Recipes from an 1841 Cookbook

        I've been reading a cookbook published in 1841*, and it is a wonderful treasure trove of information about cooking in the 1800's. This cookbook was written at a time when white flour and sugar were widely available, but long before the modern-day fat-phobia was in effect.

        Gelatin: the "Most Nourishing Part"
        I was excited to read that, back in the 1800's, people still realized the value of gelatin-rich broth.  The cookbook describes that:
        Boiling [meat] is the dearest, as most of the gelatin is extracted by the process of boiling, which is the most nourishing part, and if not used for soup, is completely lost.
        Wide Variety of Meats and Cuts
        There are recipes for many types of animals, including the usual chicken, beef, and pork.  There are also recipes for animals that are uncommon on our modern day plates, such as duck, goose, pigeon, eel, and many types of fish.

        And of course there are recipes for all parts of the animals, including heads, brains, tongues, and all organs.  There is even a recipe specifically for cod tongue and sounds (I wasn't even aware that cod fish had tongues), and one for making calves feet jelly.

        Delicious Recipes
        Some of the recipes in the cookbook sound amazing:
        Chicken Salad. Boil a chicken that weighs not more than a pound and a half. When very tender, take it up, cut it in small strips, and make the following sauce, and turn over it—boil four eggs three minutes—then take them out of the shells, mash and mix them with a couple of table spoonsful of olive oil, or melted butter, two thirds of a tumbler of vinegar, a tea spoonful of mixed mustard, a tea spoonful of salt, a little pepper, and essence of celery, if you have it—if not, it can be dispensed with.
        Beef Liver. Liver is very good fried, but the best way to cook it, is to broil it ten minutes, with four or five slices of salt pork. Then take it, cut it into small strips together with the pork, put it in a stew pan, with a little water, butter, and pepper. Stew it four or five minutes.
        Ham. The Virginia method of curing hams, (which is considered very superior), is to dissolve two ounces of salt-petre, two tea spoonsful of saleratus, in a salt pickle, as strong as possible, for every sixteen pounds of ham, add molasses in the proportion of a gallon to a hogshead of brine, then put in the hams, and let them remain three or four weeks. Then take them out of the brine, and smoke them with the hocks downwards, to preserve the juices. They will smoke tolerably well, in the course of a month, but they will be much better, to remain in the smoke-house two or three months. Hams cured in this manner are very fine flavored, and will keep good a long time.
        Bring on the Butter and Cream
        Butter is used liberally in the recipes, and often used as a sauce for meats and vegetables.  I have wondered if we are overdoing the butter in our house, as we eat quite a lot of it, so I was very interested to see that the recipe for an omelet calls for one dozen eggs and a whole stick of butter.  That is the same ratio I use for scrambled eggs, and they taste so delicious that way!

        There is also liberal use of cream in recipes.  The only use of skim milk in the book is to restore rusty fabric!

        Recipes for Home Remedies
        A couple of the home remedies really stood out to me.
        Beef Tea. Broil a pound of fresh lean beef ten minutes—then cut it into small bits, turn a pint of boiling water on it, and let it steep in a warm place half an hour—then strain it, and season the tea with salt and pepper to the taste. This is a quick way of making the tea, but it is not so good, when the stomach will bear but a little liquid on it, as the following method: Cut the beef into small bits, which should be perfectly free from fat—fill a junk bottle with them, cork it up tight, and immerse it in a kettle of lukewarm water, and boil it four or five hours. This way is superior to the first, on account of obtaining the juices of the meat, unalloyed with water, a table-spoonful of it being as nourishing as a tea-cup full of the other.

        Cough Tea. Make a strong tea of everlasting—strain, and put to a quart of it two ounces of figs or raisins, two of liquorice, cut in bits. Boil them in the tea for twenty minutes, then take the tea from the fire, and add to it the juice of a lemon. This is an excellent remedy for a tight cough—it should be drank freely, being perfectly innocent. It is the most effectual when hot.
        Recipes for Preservation
        Of course, this book was written before the days of refrigeration, so there are also many recipes for preservation of food, such as "to keep insects from cheese", "to extract rancidity from butter", "to keep eggs several months", and "to keep various kinds of fruit through the winter".  One recipe sounds particularly interesting to me:
        Portable Soup. Take beef or veal soup, and let it get perfectly cold, then skim off every particle of the grease. Set it on the fire, and let it boil till of a thick glutinous consistence. Care should be taken that it does not burn. Season it highly with salt, pepper, cloves and mace—add a little wine or brandy, and then turn it on to earthen platters. It should not be more than a quarter of an inch in thickness. Let it remain until cold, then cut it in pieces three inches square, set them in the sun to dry, turning them frequently. When perfectly dry, put them in an earthen or tin vessel, having a layer of white paper between each layer. These, if the directions are strictly attended to, will keep good a long time. Whenever you wish to make a soup of them, nothing more is necessary, than to put a quart of water to one of the cakes, and heat it very hot.
        Do you have a favorite old cookbook?  

        *The American Housewife: Containing the Most Valuable and Original Recipes in All the Various Branches of Cookery and Written in a Minute and Methodical Manner. Together with a Collection of Miscellaneous Recipes and Directions Relative to Housewifery. The Kindle version of this cook book is free on Amazon, and you can also download a free Kindle for PC application to read it on your computer.

        This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

        Sunday, June 12, 2011

        Grape Vanilla Water Kefir Soda (GAPS-legal, gluten-free)

        Water kefir is a delicious beverage that you can make at home.  It is made using water, a sweetener, and kefir grains (which are small clumps of beneficial yeast and bacteria). The kefir grains consume the sweetener and infuse the water with probiotics. 

        Water kefir grains are on sale 20% off at Cultures for HealthUse code WKG before June 20th. (If you use the link, not only will you get 20% off, but I will also earn 10% as an affiliate!) 

        While some people like to use white sugar for kefir, I prefer to use rapadura.  This gives the finished brew a nice flavor with a hint of molasses.  To make flavored water kefir soda, you just add some flavoring after the initial fermentation is complete and allow the soda to ferment for one additional day on the counter.  I find that both plain and flavored water kefir are much tastier if you add a generous amount of fresh lemon or lime juice to each glass. 

        Grape Vanilla Water Kefir Soda
        LEFT: finished water kefir; RIGHT: rapadura water before fermentation
        For the initial fermentation:
        Combine rapadura and water in a quart mason jar.  Stir until rapadura is dissolved.  Then add kefir grains.  Put a lid on the jar and let it sit on the counter for 1-2 days (depending on how warm your house is and how active your grains are).  The water kefir will be finished when the liquid changes color from a dark brown to a light orangey-brown, as shown in the picture.  Finished water kefir will taste mildly sweet. Remove the grains before proceeding to the second fermentation.  Do not use metal utensils as kefir grains should never come into contact with metal.

        For the second fermentation:
        • Small handful raisins, chopped
        • 1/3 of a vanilla bean pod, sliced lengthwise and scraped to release the vanilla beans
        • Fresh lemon or lime juice (optional, but highly recommended!)
        Add the raisins and vanilla to the water kefir.  Put a tight-fitting lid on it, and allow to sit on the counter for about 24 hours.  Then transfer to the fridge to cool.  The resulting soda beverage will be slightly fizzy and delicious!

        If desired, you can strain the soda to remove the raisins and vanilla.  I like to leave them in, as they continue to add flavor while the soda is in the fridge. You can also add a large squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to each glass as you drink it.  I love to use juice from half of a lemon or lime in each glass of water kefir; simply delicious!   

        For more information on water kefir, visit see the Water Kefir FAQs at Cultures for Health.

        What is your favorite way to flavor water kefir?

        This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

        Wednesday, June 8, 2011

        How to Make Whey and Cream Cheese From Milk Kefir, Raw Milk, or Yogurt

        Homemade whey is a great item to have on hand for traditional cooking.  It is easy to make, and filled with probiotics! You can use homemade whey in a variety of ways, including:
        • to ferment condiments, like mayonnaise and ketchup
        • to aid in fermentation of vegetables, like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi
        • as a probiotic drink
        • as a great add-in for smoothies
        • to aid in soaking of grains, beans, and legumes to increase their digestibility and nutritional content
        The resultant cream cheese is delicious and can be used in many ways, including:
        • as a spread on crackers with some sliced cucumber on top
        • mixed with a little honey and vanilla extract for an easy and  delicious dessert
        • as a wonderful food for baby
        I use either yogurt, raw milk, or milk kefir to make whey.  When using raw milk or milk kefir, the whey will be slightly cloudy, which indicates the presence of milk solids.  If it is important to make sure your whey has no milk solids present, I recommend using store-bought whole-milk yogurt (this results in a very clear whey).

        Many people use cheesecloth to make whey, but I prefer to use a dish towel or a couple small cloth napkins. This results in whey that is more pure as the fine-weave of the cloth traps more of the milk solids. 

        Homemade Whey and Cream Cheese
        Milk kefir, raw milk, or yogurt 
        Equipment needed: Strainer or colander, small dish towel or cloth napkins

        If you are using raw milk, let it sit out on the counter for 1-7 days until it sours and separates into curds and whey (it will take longer if the milk is very fresh and less time if the milk has been around for a little while).  If you are using milk kefir or yogurt, no additional preparation is needed.

        Place the strainer or colander over a glass bowl.  Line the strainer with a dish towel or cloth napkin.  Make sure none of the cloth is hanging outside of the strainer; otherwise, some whey will drip out of the bowl.

        Pour the raw milk (which has already separated), milk kefir, or yogurt into the cloth.  Allow to sit at room temperature for about 4-8 hours.  As it sits, the whey will drip out of the cloth and into the bowl.  Then push the cloth closed over the top and move it all to the fridge.  Let sit overnight.

        In the morning, you'll find cream cheese in the cloth and whey in the bowl.  Store the whey and cream cheese in glass containers in the refrigerator.  The whey will keep for about 6 months, and the cream cheese will keep for about 1 month.

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

        Sunday, June 5, 2011

        Solar Cooking Challenge

        We recently finished our construction of a solar cooker.  It was simple to make with just cardboard, glue, and aluminum foil. For a pot, we'll just be using the black pot and clear lid from my slow cooker.  I've never used a solar cooker before, but am excited to see how well it works.  Does anyone else want to join me in experimenting with solar cooking this summer?

        Why Use a Solar Cooker?
        Solar cooking allows you to use the sun to cook your food.  Here in the desert, we have bountiful sunshine and lots of heat, so I am looking forward to solar cooking as a way to reduce the heat in our house this summer.  It should also help in saving a little bit of money on our electric and gas bills. 

        Who Can Solar Cook?
        The main requirement for successful solar cooking is that you have mostly-sunny days for several months each year. Solar cookers even work in the winter time as long as it is sunny outside! Solar cooking is very easy, similar to using a slow cooker.

        Join Me in the Solar Cooking Challenge!
        The challenge is simple: cook as many items as you can in a solar cooker during the months of June and July!  In August, I'll post a list of what items we cooked in our solar cooker, as well as any tips, tricks, and failures.  You can add your experiences by submitting comments, and then I'll tally up everyone's responses.

        Resources for Getting Started
        Here are some links to help in getting started:
        Options for making your own solar cooker (we made the Cookit)
        Options for purchasing a solar cooker
        Options for solar cookware (or just use any black or dark colored pot you already have available)
        Guide to making, using, and enjoying solar cookers
        Solar Cookers International marketplace
        Solar cooking FAQs

        To join the Solar Cooking Challenge, just comment below.  Who will join me?

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

        Wednesday, June 1, 2011

        Zucchini Spaghetti Noodles (GAPS-legal, gluten- and grain-free)

        Zucchini season has arrived! Zucchini is a wonderfully healthful vegetable that is a member of the squash family. The zucchini plants growing in my garden are still small, but I picked up some beautiful zucchinis at the farmers' market last weekend.

        One of my favorite ways to use zucchini is to make it into noodles for spaghetti.  My husband and I actually prefer the flavor of these zucchini noodles over the bland flavor of pasta.  Both of our kids love them too!

        Zucchini Spaghetti Noodles
        1&1/2 to 2 medium zucchinis per person
        Butter or combination of olive oil and butter
        Fine-ground celtic sea salt
        Vegetable peeler

        Using a vegetable peeler, make long noodles from the zucchinis.  Rotate the zucchini as you go to make the most of each one.  When you have only a small piece left, use a knife to make a few more very thin slices.  The noodles don't have to be perfect, so don't stress if some are short and some are long.  When you're done, you'll have a small mountain of noodles.

        Melt some butter (or butter and olive oil) in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the noodles, season with salt, and occasionally use some tongs or a big spoon to turn them and move them around in the pan. The zucchini will release some water and will shrink down a lot while cooking.  You may need to reduce the heat to medium after a few minutes if your skillet starts to get too hot. Saute the noodles for about 7 minutes if you like your noodles to be al dente, or for up to 12 minutes if you like your noodles soft.

        Top the noodles with your favorite marinara sauce and cheese!  

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