Showing posts with label Real Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Real Food. Show all posts

Saturday, March 22, 2014

3 uses for citrus peel {that you can start doing now}




Long lists intimidate me. I'm skeptical of their fancy promises. 101 places you can hide your elf on the shelf! 500 uses for dryer lint! 28 ways you can improve your routines!

More like 28 ways you didn't know you were doing it wrong all along.

A few years back, I heard I wasn't supposed to put many citrus peels in the compost. I've since learned that old rule isn't true, but it sparked my interest in finding other ways to use the peels. I looked for how-tos on the interwebs. One suggested I should keep my peels in a giant bag in the chest freezer. Good idea! But wait, she wasn't finished. Then, when the bag was full, I should put all the peels on a baking sheet and dehydrate them in a warm oven for many hours. THEN, I should grind those dehydrated peels into powder, and only after all those steps could I turn them into a scouring scrub. Ain't nobody got time for all that.

I'm not making any promises or offering long lists today. I'll just tell you the three ways I store my leftover citrus peels right when I'm cutting up the fruit. It will take you thirty seconds longer than tossing them in the garbage, and I promise (okay, one promise) you'll be glad you have them on hand.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

kitchen sink breakfast cookies

Author's Note: In honor of the Family Breakfast Project, I am sharing seven days of easy family breakfast recipes. At the end of the week, I'll write about how the project went for our family. You can try it out too! Sign up for emails, click through on the web, or download the whole guide here. {Disclaimer: I am not being paid for sharing the program; I am mentioning it because I think it's a great way to help you share breakfast with your family.}

Have you made cookies for breakfast? I stick them in the freezer and defrost a few at a time. Reheated for a minute or two in the toaster oven, they taste like fresh-baked indulgent treats and make breakfast on the go a snap.

I've shared a recipe for breakfast cookies in the past. I still love that one for its low sugar content (applesauce FTW!) and lots of grains; it's more of a Clif bar than a cookie, really. But when I need to use up bits of baking ingredients from my cupboard, or when I feel like my kids could use a big dose of butter, adding "everything but the kitchen sink" is a great way to accomplish those goals. 



Wednesday, November 06, 2013

rebuild your gut & immune system post-antibiotics: resources

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or nutrition expert, so please use your own judgment when making decisions about your health.


At the start of 2013, I shared our plan for rebuilding our daughters' good gut bacteria after they were put on antibiotics for upper respiratory infections. I had no idea how popular the article would become. If Dr. Google were the way we followed epidemiological trends in this country, I would say for sure that the overuse of antibiotics and their after effects are of primary concern among Googling parents.

If you haven't read that post yet, I recommend you start there. In that article, I delve into the how and why antibiotics can damage your or your child's gut and immune system, and I give some simple ideas for repairing it. Today I'm following up that post by focusing on more solutions, i.e. extensive ideas for rebuilding your digestive and immune systems. I'm sharing a list of e-book resources to provide ideas and strategies for detoxing, meals, skincare, natural health, and further rationale for your post-antibiotics healthy diet and lifestyle.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

food day 2013: pickled red cabbage & more

Last week I mentioned it was World Food Day. Today we're celebrating a nationwide Food Day, with a particular focus on helping children cook real food. Spread the word! The more we can get the conversation started about real, local, sustainable food, the better.

In honor of the occasion, today I'm putting up (canning & freezing) a bounty of soups, chutneys, and jams with the season's harvest. I'm also sharing my three year old's favorite recipe for pickled red cabbage. This recipe originally came from The Joy of Pickling, but I've modified it to make it my own. I love having the blog to document all of my quirky home recipes, but I only share the adaptations that I think make the recipe better. Otherwise I just link to or cite the original source.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

treats, not tricks for a healthier Halloween


When it comes to Halloween, I usually go all out and let the kids loose with few rules about their activities, decorations, and the inevitable amassed pile of junk food and just plain junk.

Having said that, it was easier to ignore the junk when the kids were too young to know the difference; we'd just hide or throw away every piece of cheap crap/candy but a small handful of raisin boxes and pretzels. Now that we have a kindergartner who knows what's up, it would appear I have to be a little more conscious of the candy part of Halloween.

After chatting with mom friends and researching the issue a bit, I am happy to report that there are ways we can insert real food in the mix, and I'm sharing a few ideas on the blog today.

Monday, October 07, 2013

a family dinner by any other name

Selfie in Sweden, pre-kids
After graduating college, Nate and I embarked on a journey as a newly minted family, leaving behind our home state for adventures in the uncharted beyond. Moving away from our families of origin was exciting! Graduate school and moves to the Midwest, the US capital, and across the Atlantic Ocean opened our eyes to different and interesting ways of thinking and living.

Along the way, we became parents. Welcome to the best learning experience of all! While we were thrilled about our growing family, we also encountered our share of challenges and foibles. None of our friends had kids yet, so we navigated the choppy new waters solo while they smiled and did their best to understand the dark circles and panicked voices. Without family in town to assist us, we floundered quite a bit on just what to do with our new bundle of joy. We relied on our nanny to tell us what and when to feed Vivi. I chuckle to remember how we browsed stacks of parenting volumes promising new and different ways to achieve better results, as though she were a new iGadget instead of a person.

Although advice was still only a phone call away, the temptation of “the unknown better” beckoned louder. Eschewing family secrets for propaganda, we replaced the village with pop science. Whereas pride in continuing our families’ traditions was once the goal long ago, shiny-new-object syndrome stepped in and took over.

Unfortunately, our manic pursuit of novelty did not improve our lives. The promise that the latest parenting trend would solve our problems didn’t deliver. We were paralyzed by choice and growing dizzy from the pendulum of polarized philosophies. Put simply, we were not happy parents.




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Monday, September 09, 2013

eat chocolate. do it for the children.


I love this chocolate.* The reason you should love this chocolate too is it's from single-source heirloom organic cacao beans, and the cacao is gathered by a cooperative of families on a small island in the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest instead of by child slaves in West Africa. If you haven't read about slavery in the chocolate industry, you should go read that link now. Kallari (pronounced kahl-ya-di) is a Kichwa (aka Quichua) word that means "to begin;" they are a small company of indigenous Kichwa chocolate makers, and the profits all go back into the collaborative. Could there be a better cause to support than a chocolate one?

The best part, aside from the fact that it is on the Food Empowerment Project's list of acceptable chocolate producers, is that Kallari is absolutely the most delicious chocolate I've ever eaten. It's fruity and almost floral, but with a spicy finish, and it has a creamy texture without the addition of milk (it's vegan, if you care about such things). Even the 75% cacao chocolate bars aren't as bitter as I expected them to be, yet somehow they are able to use half the sugar of standard chocolate because of their unique varietals. They grow the cacao in a canopy of other plants that are supposed to give extra flavor--e.g. banana, mahogany, and scores of others--to the beans. It's one of the only places where cacao growers are also making their own chocolate. Kallari chocolate is sold in some Whole Foods and other food markets in the US (search here for a location near you), or you can also buy it on Amazon and other online sellers. You can read more about the company in this NY Times article.

Whether you choose to buy this brand or another, the next time you reach for some Nestle's Tollhouse chocolate chips, I hope you'll reconsider; along with child slavery, Nestle suffers from numerous other human rights and product safety issues. They aren't the only company with problems, just maybe the largest and most visible. Unfortunately, even Clif Bar and Trader Joe's, two companies I love and routinely purchase chocolate-containing foods from, refuse to disclose from where they source their chocolate. Bummer.

I think perhaps I'll make these chocolate chunk cookies with the rest of my Kallari chocolate. Mmmmm.

*I'm not just saying that because they gave me some for free. But they did. Ha.

Monday, August 19, 2013

plant the plate

I love infographics because they relay statistics and research results in a quick and powerful manner. I found this infographic from Union of Concerned Scientists on Upworthy, and I thought it was worth sharing with you here. Sorry it doesn't fit exactly right. Click the left arrow below to make it fit a bit better, but if it's still hard to read, go to the source. [Update: I was having technical trouble after loading this, so I removed it, but you can still see the infographic here.]

Upworthy is a great site if you want to learn about good causes, change-worthy topics, or are just feeling in need of some inspiration. I watched a great video about ending homelessness this morning, for example.

Friday, August 16, 2013

should we join Costco?

costco logo


We've been pondering whether to join Costco Wholesale Club. Generally speaking, a way to buy food in bulk--both to save on cost and cut trips to the store--appeals to me. I do also have one very fond memory of an epic shopping trip at Sam's Club with my mom as a teenager, and we stumbled upon what could only be described as a pallet of medjool dates. Heaven! However, as a family committed to eating unprocessed, local food as much as possible, we are undecided about the discount price club movement. Would we be able to purchase enough to justify the $55/year membership fee?

I set out on the internet to discover the opinion of fellow real foodies. A few articles are positively persuading me that it is a decision that would make sense for our family's desire to eat real, sustainable food:
They do seem to carry plenty of organic products! Who knew?! Based on the articles I read, I have decided to give it a shot. Here's my shopping list (not all in one go, since we're still trying to go unprocessed and local as much as possible, but these are the products I could see us buying at some point):
  • Kellygold grass-fed butter and Dubliner cheese
  • organic sugar
  • organic coconut oil
  • Gilt organic unbleached flour
  • Newman's Own caesar dressing (the hub's absolute favorite, must-have salad dressing)
  • organic strawberry jam
  • organic peanut butter
  • organic tomato sauce & diced tomatoes
  • Harry's organic creamy tomato basil soup
  • organic carrot juice (the girls love it and think they are getting a treat!)
  • Annie's organic fruit snacks (I'm not proud, but they are excellent tools of bribery. Look away!)
  • Clif organic fruit rope (ummm, organic fruit by the foot? heck yeah!)
  • TruRoots sprouted rice and quiona blend & sprouted bean trio
  • Tazo tea
  • raw honey (they carry Nature Nate's, which has a nice explanation of what raw honey is)
  • organic frozen produce (peas, corn, edamame, etc.)
  • Amy's frozen lasagna
  • Morningstar frozen veggie sausage
  • Alexia organic frozen french fries
  • Larabars & Clif bars
  • raw nuts
  • Mary's Gone organic crackers
  • canned fish (tuna, sardines, salmon)
  • Kirkland Toscano olive oil (see this guide that gives Costco oil a thumb's up)
  • Made in Nature organic preservative-free dried fruit blend
  • steel-cut oats
  • almond butter
  • organic ketchup
  • vanilla beans
  • Izze soda
  • Better than Bouillon
  • white vinegar
  • baking soda
  • eco-friendly dish soap
  • Oxyclean
  • cat food, wet and dry

I'll report back with how it goes and will make an attempt to calculate my savings. In the meantime, tell me, are you a member? Do you love it?

Image Credit: Steve Lovelace

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

jam session

Snow on rhubarb mountain

I am making a ton of rhubarb preserves this week, while also packing and organizing for my trip. I suppose you could say I love rising up to a good challenge. What's more true is that I am sad that I will miss out on strawberries again this year (note to self: no out-of-town trips in June) and don't want to miss out on rhubarb too. So I bought 8 pounds (!!!) of rhubarb from our local farm and have been steadily chopping and simmering my way through it. I'm making three recipes from my favorite preserving book, Food in Jars, which are:

  1. jam with vanilla and Early Grey
  2. jelly
  3. chutney


If you've moved on from the basic stuff and want your rhubarb life spiced up, check out Marisa's (of Food in Jars) rhubarb round-up.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

on not becoming The Goops

Alternate title: But I still refuse to eat snails.

Have you read French Kids Eat Everything yet? I'm not finished with it, but it's already a game-changer for us. A lovestruck Nate turned to me at dinner last night and wistfully said, a hint of a glistening tear in his eye, "This is just how I wanted dinner to be." Okay, I'm kidding about that. That kind of husbandly praise is the stuff of dreams...

With how much I talk (read: gloat) about feeding my kids real food, it might surprise you I have a lot to learn about teaching kids to eat well. Yes, I usually manage to get my kids to eat healthy food, BUT I have come to dread meal time due to their whininess, messiness, disregard for normal decibel levels and decent personal space, and sibling rivalry that accompany every meal. I was becoming a cross between a hair-raising psycho and a punch-drunk lunatic at dinner, getting into immature discussions with my kids about who was going to get the purple plate and which child would be allowed to sing the third verse of the rainbow song.

Then, the clouds parted, and this book fell into my lap. Or something like that.

But, seriously y'all, I was skeptical at first about whether the tricks in this book would work for us. I have employed some aspects of attachment parenting, and one of them that I associate with the trend is to offer children choices and let them articulate their preferences and control aspects of their food world. If I had to pick one thing I've learned in the last week, it's that the science does not agree; in fact, it suggests children aren't capable of deciding what they should eat, and these decisions actually stress them out.

But the proof is in the pudding: how did the experiment work for us? I am dumbfounded by the fact that not only did these fancy tricks work, but they have made ME enjoy food more. Who could have thought that was possible?

Here's a nutshell about why I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, with a few caveats (so maybe, one enthusiastic thumb and another regular thumb):

Caveat first: I don't have as many ingrained issues with food as the writer apparently does [Example: she is a self-professed lover of McDonald's. Gag me with a spoon.], so I had trouble identifying with her tendency to whine about her great luck. She seemed to have begrudgingly taken on the challenge to feed her kids French food--WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE AND MARRIED TO A FRENCHMAN--whereas I look at these opportunities to mold and change my kids as fun experiments. To me, a person who doesn't thank her lucky stars that she can benefit from the wisdom of the best foodies in the world has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. But then again, I try never to judge a woman for a reaction to her mother-in-law's advice.

Having said that, I learned loads from this book. I've only been to France once and then only to Paris, but even after a few days there, I learned easily that the French have figured out how to make good food. They enjoy food so much and so well. What I didn't know was that they have many rules about what, when, and how to eat. Being someone who likes to cook and eat--and someone who is sometimes painfully attempting to teach my kids good manners--I appreciate a culture that is willing to take time in crafting good, well-mannered eaters.

I also didn't realize how many bad American eating habits I have--and even worse--that I'm passing down to my kids.  I had become resigned to my fate, forgetting--or perhaps never knowing to begin with--that I have role in their meal-time education (Rule #1). Could it be as simple as they were misbehaving because they weren't aware that there were meal-time rules?


French Food Rules

Food Rules
Illustration by: Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything

Here are few of the rules she discusses in the book that I am most taken with (in my own words):


Up the formality! 

The French lay a tablecloth (!!), even for small children; they forgo paper napkins and sippy cups, opting instead for glasses, cloth napkins, and real silverware; and they announce the beginning of the meal with a quick phrase, "To the table!" When everyone is seated, they say "Bon appetit!" to signify that everyone may begin eating. My kids love rituals so took to these improvements like buttah. Vivi sets the table with a purpose, as though she has been lying in wait for the chance to be given this task. We've always said a blessing, which is now like icing on the cake instead of the only ritual.

Documentation of our first foray into tableclothing. It's a Kenyan wrap skirt. Cute, huh?


Respect each other...and the food! 


Imagine a meal with small children in which you don't have to endure loud interruptions and whining. Wonderful, right? How is this magic accomplished??

Actually, it isn't that hard. Once I got started, I figured out quickly that the rules I was implementing were exactly what they were already doing at school. Duh. If they say "But I wanted the purple plate!," I say "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." If they say "I don't want tabbouleh!," then I say "You don't have to like it, you just have to taste it." And after both of those phrases, they pipe in with "That's what my teachers say!" Oh, right.

I can't believe I didn't use these rules sooner. I always imagined that if I stopped them from jumping around and yelling, I would somehow be stifling their joy. But while I previously would have used my "Let kids be kids!" go-to parenting rule, I now realize that what I was doing was robbing everyone, including myself, of a chance to eat a peaceful meal. By stopping the chaos, I offer respect to my dinner guests and myself--and to the food we are eating, for that matter.

Plus, I've added an element of fun by asking them a few questions about their day, like their favorite thing, something they didn't like, a funny part of the day, and a time they helped someone. Both of the girls relish this time to shine with everyone listening. And I relish the opportunity to start new Mom catchphrases.


No food bribes or rewards (Rule #2). 

This rule is actually harder for me than I had thought. In my opinion, this rule exempts the once-a-year bribe of "If you do well at the doctor, you can have a lollipop!" But it also means that you can't stuff your kid's face with animal crackers every time you're in line at the bank. You can't jump into the car knowing you're going to get stuck in traffic and bribe your kids with fruit snacks and chips to make it the duration. You can't swoop in after your kid falls down or doesn't get the purple plate and say "If you eat your peas, you will get a popsicle!" What I failed to realize is that I was teaching my kids to fill their voids with food, and by doing that, I was making their relationship with food emotional. Yikes.


No snacking (Rule #7). 

This rule is tied with the rule above. "It's okay for them to be hungry" has become my new internal mantra. Once I attempted to stop our constant snacking, it occurred to me I had been teaching Charlotte to be a snack monster (see: toddler terrorist post). Her hunger monster still rears its head on occasion; however, just as I wouldn't back down when I tell her it's time to brush her teeth, I feel confident that keeping her from simple carbs and sugary juice is going to pay off in the end when she learns to reward her patience with satiety instead of stifling it with empty calories.


Eat family meals together (Rule #4).

I always wanted to enact this rule, and I had done it sometimes, but I admit there were many occasions that I would spend their meal doing dishes or reading blogs in the kitchen instead of sitting with them. Now I look upon meal time as an important part of their education and sit at the table with them, even if I on rare occasion am not eating a meal myself (and I try to make sure I am eating with them). When they are finished with the meal, I let them have time to blow off steam and be silly (read: not at the dining room table), and I take that time to do my quiet recharging or cleaning.


I've been reciting a poem to the girls called "The Goops" that my parents recited to me as a child, and it has taken on a new meaning lately. Turns out that "The Goops" is actually a series of books written in the early 1900's to teach children manners, so it's no wonder it stands out now.

The Goops 
by Gelett Burgess (1900)

The Goops they lick their fingers,
The Goops they lick their knives,
They spill their broth on the tablecloth-
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew,
And that is why that I 
Am glad I'm not a Goop--are you?


the goops
Image credit: Gutenburg.org
Author's Note: I shared this post with Tasty TraditionsWorks for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Saturday morning Southern biscuits


I've been wanting to invite you into our Saturday morning milieu for a while. Then Deb posted a recipe for biscuits this week, and it became my destiny to share our ritual with you. For whatever reason--probably having to do with fond memories of the time--Saturday morning is when I miss my family most. Being away from home as long as I have (10 years and counting! Can that be right?), I've learned to create pockets of time--little homes away from home--that feed the fire of home that burns in my gut no matter how many feet of snow might be trying to freeze it.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

white wine braised chicken with winter veg

After having been members of our meat CSA for over a year, I am feeling like an expert in what to expect in our monthly cooler. One trend we can count on is that after a few months, we will end up with a random assortment of chicken parts in our freezer. I actually love those times because there are so many ways you can cook chicken. In my opinion, the only way to cook chicken is slowly. It's a versatile meat; most whole chicken recipes can also be used on chicken that's been cut up. My favorite winter standbys are:

Monday, March 04, 2013

tea in a pouch almost as good as the real thing: {guest post}

As I've mentioned in the past, I'm an avid tea drinker. But up until recently, I had relied on the prepackaged bags. Once I splurged on loose tea I was hooked, but I will admit it is considerably less convenient to use my tea ball than just grabbing a bag. I'm happy to learn from the writer of today's guest post, Rebecca Nolan, you don't have to sacrifice quality for convenience. Thanks Rebecca! 
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Most genuine tea experts drink only loose leaf tea—and for a very good reason: The best teas typically aren’t bagged. (Let me reiterate that “most” tea experts don’t drink bagged tea; sure as the world you know an expert who does, but he is, pardon the expression, an odd ball.)

The experts realize, having visited a few tea processing and packing centers during their careers, that most commercial tea bags are filled with tea fannings and dust. That is, the bags are filled with the detritus of the good stuff, which was packaged and sold as loose leaf tea.

Think of it this way: when you finish off a box of cornflakes, the bottom of the box has a layer of dust. Because the dust consists of crushed corn flakes, it ought to be as good as the whole flakes, right? So why do you tend to quit pouring the cornflakes before the dust gets in the bowl? Because dust doesn’t taste as good as flakes!

The story is the same with tea in tea bags. It consists of tea leaves that have been crushed, torn, and otherwise reduced to small pieces. They have much less surface area in proportion to their edges, so freshness and nutrients bleed away. That’s an apt metaphor—bleeding. The crushed leaves bleed to death before they can redeem themselves as flavorful agents in a tea cup.

Perhaps you keep tabs on your favorite tea store to make sure it is buying from a good wholesale black tea seller. Go one step further: See if the store is stocking quality tea in tea pouches. That’s right, it is possible to have your quality tea and contain it, too—in tea pouches.

Sounds like snobbery, I guess. Tea bags are no good, but tea pouches are OK! Yet it is true. It is possible to enjoy a tasty cup of tea brewed inside a pouch. A good wholesale blooming tea seller is apt to handle pouched tea, too.


Biodegradable Tea Pouches
Image Credit: Wild & Bare Co.

The difference is not that “pouch” sounds more dignified than “bag,” though it does. There are three genuine differences between bagged and pouched tea:

First, tea pouches are bigger. This is a case of where bigger is better, because the extra space gives tea leaves room to be fully infused. Many of the best pouches are pyramid-shaped as well, which further enhances circulation.

Second, the best pouches are not bleached, a process that can lead to tea tasting bleached, too. They usually are of a silken material and are hand-stitched to keep any mechanical residue from tainting a cup of tea.

And third, tea pouches are not filled with tea leaf residue but with full-flavored loose leaf tea. Some of the pouches have herbs and spices for additional flavoring. They come in single or double serving sizes.

So, yes, herbal tea experts sing the praises of loose leaf tea, but I bet in a pinch they will brew a cup of quality pouched tea. It can be as pleasurable as the real thing.


Want to stay connected to other tea lovers? Check the Tea Twitterati 100, a list of the 100 most active tea industry social media users. The regularly updated list is posted on the website of quality tea supplier Wild & Bare Co. 

Editor's Note: Wild & Bare--yes, this is the actual name of a tea company!--didn't pay me anything for me to include the link. I just love tea and wanted to share! This post is part of Tasty Traditions and Fight Back Friday.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

hand pies: the world's most perfect travel food

I LOVE PIE. The lack of discussion about pie on my blog--one lonely post--does not adequately reflect my adoration of the dish. Pie is just about my favorite comfort food. Apple pie reminds me of being a kid and baking with my grandmother. Chocolate cream pie reminds me of 2 a.m. post-concert ventures to Waffle House. Blackberry pie reminds me of the best pie I've ever tasted at a restaurant back home.

Just as there is no one season for pie, there's no one filling either. You can fill a pie with anything--from "chocolate to blackbirds," so says Urban Dictionary. I especially love pie with a surprise filling inside like rhubarb--sweet, tangy, and unexpectedly pleasant. Pies can be great conversation starters that way.

I love the history involved when baking pies. It's not a fad or fashion to make pie; simply making a pie is in itself an homage to generations past, even if the recipe didn't come over on a boat to the New World. The pie tradition has been around since the need for easy-to-carry, easy-to-store foods arose. I reckon that in the modern-day fast-paced world we live in has more of a need for pie than ever before.

In my opinion, there aren't enough savory pies in my world (p.s. I really, really want to go to this restaurant when I visit Seattle. Okay, Al?). Whenever I ponder this dilemma, I am confronted with the fact that there are savory pies--think empanadas, samosaspanzarotti, down under meat pies, and Cornish pasties--there just aren't many American savory pies (one exception I know of being the Nack-a-tish pie in Louisiana and the other obvious one being chicken pot pie). I don't count quiche, both because it's French and because I've never had one I truly enjoyed. This dearth is a tragedy because there is nothing more American than pie.

As we learned while living in Britain, the Brits love their meat pies--steak and kidney pie, Guinness pie, fish pie, pork pie, Scotch pie, shepherd's pie, and I could go on from there. Sweet pies are popular there too: banoffee pie, mince pie, lemon pie, treacle tart, and so the list continues (don't get me started on the horrid Bedfordshire clanger). I grew to expect a pie on a menu at every British pub and restaurant, to the point where I daresay pie could be deemed more British than American. A tragedy indeed!

The best part about savory pies is that they are typically pocket pies, the perfect shape for eating out of hand wherever you you happen to be. Well, except maybe if you happen to be at Bloomingdale's.

Maybe.

Call it what you want: hand pie, pocket pie, empanada, pasty. Whatever you call them, they are quite simply the most versatile hot food around. You can put whatever flavors you want into the pocket (including pie flavor?). You can make however many you want, freeze them for later, then heat them and wrap them, and they'll stay warm for hours. Thus, I believe we need to step up to the plate and start cranking out more savory pie. I intend to start you on your that journey today, so prepare to pack your foodie hobo sacks bags.

First we need to start by building your trust in me. I am not out to frustrate you with a complicated recipe, I swear. While the crust might seem intimidating, is both the most delicious and easiest part of the pocket-pie-making process. Plus, the recipe lets you be creative in using up what you have on hand; you can put 2 Tbs. of literally any filling you'd like. Although I use lard to make my crust, you can of course substitute butter if you're vegetarian. If you're vegan, use sunflower oil.

Speaking of using lard, I told you all about my experience yesterday. Well, almost all about it. I forgot to mention that our lard-rendering was actually a highly comical event that involved us not realizing that it was going to take all day and stink up the house. Oh, and did I mention our in-laws were in town? Luckily they are used to us pulling shenanigans like this one--we are the Lucy and Ricky of real food calamities--so they laugh off such adventurous food errors.



hand pies (adapted from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World)

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. lard (or butter or oil)
1/2 c. cold water
2 1/2 c. filling of your choice*
1/2 c. milk, or 1 egg & 1 Tbs. water, for brushing

Mix the dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor. Add lard in small pieces and pulse after each addition. Drizzle in water slowly, while the machine is running, until the dough comes together (Note: you might not need all of the water. You want the dough to be dry). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and kneed for a minute unti it is smooth.


Divide the dough in half, then divide each in half again; those four sections should then each be divided into thirds so there are a total of 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside under a tea towel for 20 minutes to rest. (Note: You can also refrigerate the dough for a day at this point, but let it sit out until it comes up to room temperature before using it).

Starting to fill some with chorizo; cheese will follow

Preheat the oven to 375 degF. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a 5-inch circle. Top with 2 Tbs. filling, then dip your finger in water and lightly wet the edges. Fold the pocket in half and seal the seam by pressing it together with the tines of a fork. Place each pocket on an ungreased baking sheet (if you plan to freeze them, do so now; freeze a few hours until solid, remove from tray to an air-tight bag, and leave in freezer for up to 6 months). Brush pockets with either an egg wash or milk. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

*Traditionally, empanadas are filled with shredded chicken or pork, chorizo & cheese, or corn; if you want to stick to the authentic method, you can also add a pinch of smoked Spanish paprika and substitute 1/2 c. of the flour with masa harina, but I don't and it tastes fine). I personally adore Martha Stewart's chicken pocket pie filling. The Kitchn compiled a bunch of other filling ideas too (spinach and cheese! sweet potatoes and black beans!). I love the idea of vegetarian pies so am planning to make this one with chard and French lentil filling next week.

Author's Note: This post is part of Real Food WednesdayTasty Traditions and Fight Back Friday.

Update (8-26-13): Last night we made our first sweet hand pies using fresh local nectarines and following Martha's guidance (except substituting lime juice for orange). They were so delicious!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

on making our own lard

{Secondary/Alternate Title: Yes, We are Those People}

My plan was to publish a post today about pocket meat pies. That post will need to wait a day because to make a meat pie, you need a sturdy savory crust. I believe that crust should start with one surprising but important ingredient: lard. I've gotten on my lard soap box before, so rather than beat it to death, I'll simplify the conversation today and boil it down--so to speak (hardy har)--to a few quick paragraphs.

Why lard?

In the middle of the last century, well-meaning scientists told us saturated-fat-containing ingredients like lard caused heart disease, and law-abiding citizens ran fleeing from it. Since then, we've learned that the replacements for lard--like vegetable shortening--contain trans fats, which are much worse for you than saturated fat. Not only that, but lard also contains monounsaturated fat that is necessary for brain function. Even leaving health out of the discussion for a moment, I am sold on the idea of lard because I am a firm believer in nose-to-tail cooking. Hence, we actually eat tail from time to time.

In a nutshell, lard is not your enemy, and the people who want you to go on believing it is have ulterior motives.  Set aside what you think you know, do your research, and make your own decision.

Where can you buy lard? 

To make lard, you need to get your hands on pork kidney fat called leaf lard. The reason you want leaf lard is that you can render it into a neutral fat that doesn't taste of pork, assuming you cooked it low and slow enough. I'll get to that part in a minute. We get our leaf lard for a $1/pound from a cooler at our monthly meat CSA. If you don't have a CSA, I bet you can strike up a deal with any pork seller at your local farmer's market if you're friendly. Heck, you might even be able to get it already rendered from your butcher if you're lucky.

Remember how I said I was going to start saying yes to ideas, even if they sounded scary or impossible? Ahem. To be frank, the rendering process is not as pleasant as I'd like it to be. But then, with a process called "rendering fat," did you expect it to be pleasant? For one thing, it's messy, in that "fat gets on things and won't come off things" way. For another thing, it doesn't look good. Mine wasn't even photographable. For a third thing, it's smelly. Not "I'm frying up some bacon" good smelly, but "I've been working in the kitchen of a 24-hour diner" bad smelly. I advise you to make a giant batch in one day, then hang on to it in your freezer for the next six months. Let it be a warm enough day that you can crack a window--for us, that's around 40 degF, but our standards are influenced by the chilly Beantown climate.


Nourished Kitchen
Image credit: Nourished Kitchen

How do you render lard?

Now that we've gotten the purchasing and caveats out of the way, let's get down to cooking. The actual directions couldn't be much simpler, so rather than reinvent the wheel I'm connecting to blogs that have already written them. If you are making a batch of savory lard and you don't mind a slight porky flavor--in fact, you might even be going for that--you can make it in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. If you want it for sweet pie crust and don't want it to taste like pork at all, then you should probably make it in a slow cooker. For either method, you'll want to start by chopping the fat into small pieces (Note: if you're getting it from the butcher, you can ask to have it ground, or you can do the grinding yourself if you have one of those sausage attachments on your stand mixer).

Here again are links to the two methods:

Tomorrow, we'll delve into the fruits of our labor and discuss delectable meat pies. I promise it will all be worth the stinky effort.


Author's Note: This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Tasty Traditions, Real Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

rebuilding your gut & immune system after antibiotics

IMPORTANT: Please do not put your children on Miralax to prevent or treat constipation. PEG (Polyethylene Glycol), the active ingredient in it, has been reported by FDA to cause neuropsychiatric episodes. Read this article for more information.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or nutrition expert, so please use your own judgment when making decisions about your health.

When the girls were prescribed antibiotics last month for complications from upper respiratory infections (Charlie also had conjunctivitis. They were a mess!), our pediatrician was surprised at the lack of antibiotics (or medical chart at all) in their history. To be honest, at the time I was disappointed they needed antibiotics; note this article in the journal Pediatrics that discusses over-prescription of antibiotics for upper respiratory infections. I was hoping it would be asthmatic bronchitis (viral) that we could treat with rest, NSAIDs, and/or steroid inhalers.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

superfoods to the rescue!

By now you've probably heard about the nine superfoods. If you read goop, you got an email in your inbox last week with a list of the foods and some recipes to make them. I'm doing the traditional short-lived New Year's health kick, so I thought I'd follow suit and add my own superfoods recipes into the mix.


Avocado Egg Sandwich

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

starting holiday food traditions

Welcome to the November 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Food
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we balance food, family, and simplicity. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.
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It makes some sort of sense that after disappearing for a week I would come back to the blog talking about food. Practically nothing else (save decorating) has occupied my thoughts for the past fortnight. Just about my favorite part of this Thanksgiving--after my mom visiting, of course--is that the whole event somehow came together easily.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

call for November carnival submissions: {food}

Chocolate cookies with toppings (recipe from The Pioneer Woman)

Thanks to everyone who participated in the October Simplicity Parenting Carnival! It was a great success! We hope you'll join us again, Justine at The Lone Home Ranger and Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM, for another simplicity parenting carnival. If you’re joining us for the first time, feel free to check out the May, June, and August carnivals as well! Read more about our carnival and future topics here

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