Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cutting Onions (for sensitive eyes only)

One day I was rummaging through a kitchen cupboard in my Bruxelles apartment, and found a little French book of cooking tips. As I briefly leafed through, this gem shot off the page:

If you cut onions under cold running water, they won't sting your eyes!

True fact.

We go through a lot of onions around here, and I have very sensitive eyes. A sad combination, to be sure. When I don't apply this gem of knowledge, I look quite distraught each time I cut an onion.

Just balance your cutting board on the sink divider, or place it atop a pot in one side, and trickle a little cold water from the faucet over the onion as you cut. It's an eye-saver!

If the balancing act doesn't work for you, simply rinse the onion in cold water after peeling and again after cutting in half. Works nearly as well.

Enjoy cutting onions as never before (and enjoy this little song while you do)!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Delicious Moist Chocolate (Zucchini!) Naturally-Sweetened Birthday Cake

Peter turned one year old this week!  So it was high time he had his first taste of cake... almost his first taste of anything sweet beyond fruit.  We gave him his own piece, and he swiped off all the frosting first before digging --- very daintily, I must say --- into the cakey part.

Everyone (except one uncle with super-human veggie detecting skills) said that they couldn't tell there was zucchini in it at all!  There is a lot of sweetener, and although I thought it was delectable, you can decrease it a bit in both cake and frosting and probably still have a delicious product for a family that is not used to sugar.

We never got a really good close-up of the cake!  But isn't that one cute one-year old?

Zucchini Chocolate Cake
(Modified from the Essential Mormon Cookbook)

1 cup coconut oil
2 cups rapadura (sucanat)
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate (about 3/4 of a normal size bar)
1 T. vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini

In a large bowl combine oil, rapadura, and eggs.  In a separate bowl sift dry ingredients, then add them to the first mixture.  Add milk and mix well.  Melt baking chocolate in a double boiler (or in your pre-heating oven), until just melted.  (I normally will just put the cholcolate in a glass measuring cup and set it directly in water in a pan on the stove).  Blend chocolate and vanilla into the batter.  Stir in the zucchini.  Bake in a buttered 9x13 inch baking dish at 350 degrees, for about 25 minutes.  Cool and frost!

Honey Chocolate Frosting
(Modified from here)

  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cups honey
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy (I had to soften mine a bit over the stove first --- but it is a cold winter here).  Beat in the honey, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract.  This makes for a sweet, sticky, spreadable frosting.

You can add 1 pint of cream to this for fluffier frosting, but I think it is really good without.  If you want fluffy, beat the cream in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pizza

This was really good.  I had to stay home from church with the two younger sickies, and before the others came home, I made this pizza that turned out so tasty.  It was filling (rare that one pizza will fill this hungry lot), but we all wished we had more space in our tummies to keep eating.

"Asparagus on pizza is like painting a room: Something you were used to takes on an unexpectedly enjoyable new life, leaving you satisfied and happy. For those who don't dig cheese from goats, save a square or two without." -Andrew 

Adapted slightly from an Epicurious recipe.

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pizza

Photo Credit: Andrew


Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (two pizzas worth, or enough to thickly cover a cookie sheet)
Olive Oil
1 (up to 2) cans Petite Diced Tomatoes
Italian Seasoning(s)
1 Bunch Asparagus
Freshly Ground Salt and Pepper to taste
Goat Cheese (about 5+ oz)

1 Tbsp Marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 c. Mozzarella Cheese


Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss asparagus with oil in medium bowl to coat. Unroll pizza dough on baking sheet. Spoon tomatoes over dough, leaving 3/4-inch plain border. Scatter asparagus with oil over tomatoes. Bake pizza 7 minutes. Remove from oven. Crumble goat cheese over pizza. Sprinkle with marjoram, crushed pepper and mozzarella cheese. Bake until crust is golden around edges, about 9 minutes longer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wild Fermentation

Nonie has posted several items about fermented foods. This, and this. Also Meredith touched upon fermentation as a means of preserving foods here. This post is a book review for a book that was given to me for Christmas, which is about fermentation -- "Wild Fermentation", by Sandor Ellix Katz. (Thanks for this gift, Reesors!)

There are many things to say about this book, but I'll start here by saying the author is fabulous, instructive, kind, and knowledgeable. I have come to feel a great deal of love for him reading his words. He possesses a great amount of charity, for humanity and all living things, which is something the world is in need of more and more.

I could go on and on about my impressions of him as a person... But really, perhaps I should next say that fermented foods are not all alcoholic as I once assumed. This book takes it's readers into the science and history behind fermented foods.

Ferments are foods or drinks that have been chemically changed by microbes that live in the surrounding environment. Cultures worldwide have formed friendships with their local microorganisms to enhance digestibility and nutrients in their foods, and also as a way of food preservation. Dare I say that I have yet to read of any culture who has not had some form of fermentation? Cheeses, breads, yoghurts, kefir, soured cream, soy sauce, beers, wines, and various kinds of krauts... this list could go on and on, ad infinitum.

This book discusses how we as humans require microorganisms in our lives. We would not survive without them. Really, without them in our very bodies. This is a real news flash at a time when mankind seems bent on eradicating organisms we cannot see. We have heard over and over again about acidophilus, and probiotics. Fermented foods are the probiotic force from a time when food was medicine. I am so grateful these traditions are being resurrected in kitchens across America. (I single out America because many nations still have a rich in home fermentation culture.)

Katz kindly breaks down fermenting so that it seems much easier than we might first think. He makes it seems so easy, in fact, I went a little crazy and started fermenting everything after receiving this book; carrots and their greens, kimchi, salsa, beets and their greens... bell peppers.

In the past I have also made non-alcoholic fermented drinks such as beet kvass, a traditional slavic drink (I L.O.V.E this drink!!), and ginger ale. Both are very good, and aid in digestion. Beet kvass is particularly good for cleansing and strengthening the liver.

I'll share those recipes soon. In the mean time, I highly recommend trying this easy recipe from Nourishing Traditions, p. 103.

Fermented Salsa:
4 medium tomatoes, (The original recipe says to peel, seed, and dice. I am lazy, and so I only seed my tomatoes sometimes, and I never ever peel them...)
2 small onions finely chopped (Sometimes for fun I use a bunch of green onions in place of two onions diced.)
3/4 cup chopped chile pepper, hot or mild (I usually use bell peppers here since my babes eat this with me and can't handle the heat.)
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped (Optional -- I don't since I like kissing my husband, and he would never if I had that much garlic on board...)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
juice of two lemons
1 tbsp sea salt
4 tbsp whey (If you don't have this, or prefer not to use it add another tbsp of salt.)
1/4 cup filtered water (I have never needed to add water to the mix when I'm making it... even when I do seed the tomatoes I have always had enough juice from the veggies to cover the mixture.)

Mix all ingredients and place in quart sized jar(s). Wide mouth jars are easiest. Press mixture down with fist or meat hammer until juices from the veggies cover the top of the mixture. If you need to add more water to ensure the juices cover the top of the veggies, you may. Allow one inch between the top of the veggies, and the lid -- veggies grow and swell a little when they are fermenting. Also, because fermenting is facilitating chemical changes in the food being fermented, there are often gas byproducts. This gas needs space! Cover tightly, (fermentation is an anaerobic process), and leave in a warm place in your house for two days before putting in your fridge.

Note: In my experience veggies that are fermented without whey need an extra day or two, or more, to ferment properly. Experiment! It is OK to open and sample your ferments to decide of they are done, or need more time.

Note: Sometimes a white film will form on the top of fermented veggies. Skim it off and eat what is beneath. Also, sometimes a thin layer of mold will cover the top of a ferment, skim and enjoy.

Note: Last one, promise :) As mentioned above about the accumulating of gaseous byproducts, I have had jar lids fly off the jar upon loosening -- not in a dangerous, "Run for your life!" sort of way, but in an, "Ah! The sounds of life!" sort of way. Invite the kids to watch it. They pop, and fizz just a little -- they'll love it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives

Last summer at the L.A. Film Festival, a pair of filmmakers was pleasantly surprised to garner the Audience Choice award for their new documentary, "Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives." The film's screening tour kicked off in NY in January of this year, and not long after, my brilliant sister Julia (currently living with us) found a screening at a local yoga studio, so she, my husband, and I got tickets. We found ourselves in a big roomful of fellow birth enthusiasts, and felt a happy camaraderie there. The film went by far too quickly, and we left smiling and edified. 

"Birth Story" chronicles the Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee from its beginnings to present. Many current and former Farm midwives were interviewed for the film, most notably Pamela Hunt and Ina May Gaskin. I've loved Ina May since I first read her empowering book, "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth," during my first pregnancy (reviewed here by Meredith). The stories and counsel she provided gave me much confidence for my impending labor.

Watching this film further endeared her to me. Sunny and positive, she has a knack for saying things just how they are. Her heart is brim with love, especially for women. It was fun to get a glimpse into her personal life as she went about her daily routines, interacted with her husband, shared morsels from her extensive obstetrical library, met with pregnant women, and attended births. It also includes  snippets of public speaking appearances and her passionate fight to bring attention to the very high maternal mortality rate here in America, specially featuring her beautiful Safe Motherhood Quilt project

The film contains several live births, including (drum roll), a breech birth! Few doctors and midwives will deliver breech babies vaginally in our country, and Ina May addresses this and other conditions and problems in our current system. In another birth shown, the midwife used the Gaskin Maneuver to safely deliver a baby with shoulder dystocia, and the last birth of the film was a mother laboring quietly in a birthing pool, eventually catching her own baby.

Wholesome and lighthearted, this film honors the wise women who watchfully attend the reverent process of birth and speak out in its defense. Find a nearby screening if you can or encourage some locals to get together for one! Otherwise, keep your eye out for the public release in April or May. Enjoy!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Songs

Andrew has a tradition of writing and recording a wonderful song for me every Valentine's Day. This year was our eighth song! Hope you enjoy this "illustrated song!" Hope you had a wonderful V-day celebrating those you love!

Friday, February 8, 2013

A New Vegetable

I grew up eating and loving a wide variety of vegetables, but brussel sprouts were not among them!  I always heard of them as one of the vegetables that no one likes (but broccoli and spinach also have negative stigmas, and they're some of my favorites!).  I didn't even know what a brussel sprout looked like.  Here in the east, people eat brussel sprouts a lot.  After seeing them too many times in the supermarket, I decided to give them a try.
I attacked them how I would any unknown green vegetable.  The response was unanimously favorable.  We gobbled them up in a minute, and were sad they were gone.  Abraham even wanted to plant a "brussel sprout tree" in our back yard.  I told him I'd look into it.  In the mean time, why don't you give these little sweethearts a try?

Delish Brussel Sprouts

Simply chop finely, and saute in generous amounts of:

Butter and/or Olive Oil
Coarse Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Saute until bright green, tender and delicious!  If you're extra hesitant, add some parmesan cheese at the end.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Raffi and Banana Cookies

So they babes and I have been listening to this almost everyday, it is so enjoyable! I never knew Raffi when I was growing up, but I am ever grateful to my husband for introducing me to him -- for my sake as much as my children's. The link is to a concert Raffi did somewhere in Canada, maybe during the late 70's? The video is about 45 minutes long, and is nothing but charming.

The other day I was driving to get some milk, and I was singing with George. I asked him if we should sing "Banana Phone". He said, "Banana phone?!" in a tone that said, "Mom, that is the silliest thing I've ever heard!!" Raffi has been hours of wholesome entertainment in our home.

We don't actually watch, we just turn it on and dance! Enjoy!

In honor of the "Banana Phone", here is a delectable banana recipe with only half a cup of sweetener.

Banana Cookies:

1 1/2 cups mashed banana
2 cups sprouted grain flour (I used spelt)
1/2 cup Rapadura
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. clove
1 + tsp. cinnamon
Nuts (optional)

Mix ingredients. Bake at 350, for 10 minutes. Eat. :)

I prefer to slather mine with butter...

Be creative with the spices you add. I think they would welcome allspice, and nutmeg.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Going Nuts

This is what I did last Friday afternoon:

Back row: chickpeas, spelt
Middle row: kefir, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts
Front row: radish seeds, sourdough start, sauerkraut, sour cream

It started somewhat innocently during midday naps. I just wanted to soak some walnuts and almonds so I could dry them overnight. I'd been dying for them!

Then I remembered I had more pumpkin seeds in the freezer, so I fit them into a quart jar.

Then I remembered we were almost out of sprouted grain (which we use exclusively around here), so I scooped some spelt in a couple gallon jars.

Then I remembered how I've been wishing I had some chickpeas on hand lately, so I started them soaking in another gallon jar.

Then I remembered the new little baggie of radish seeds I recently bought from Azure, and set them a-sprouting.

Then I remembered my raw kefir was gone, so I started a new batch.

Then I remembered how much I'd been wanting to make raw sour cream (I've had a culture waiting patiently in the freezer for months!), so I started a jar of that too.

Then I remembered the green and purple cabbages that begged to be turned into sauerkraut. That project got a little long.

Since I was clearly on a roll, last of all I threw together a new sourdough start.

It took several hours, but I was relieved to have alleviated my poor bogged-down To Do List somewhat. There was much follow-up time...

...sprouting... fermenting...

Not the most representative picture,
but look closely to see the life in my sourdough.



The sour cream stayed warm overnight near a big
simmering pot of beef stock.

Eating real food done right is a big job. But it is SO WORTH WHILE!

The raw nuts and seeds are delicious. Soaking them in salt water and drying afterward has many benefits (just found this good review for you). I enjoy them so much more this way.

The raw sour cream turned out better than I could have imagined. I've already used it in homemade ranch dressing and dolloped atop some chickpea chili.

The radish sprouts are ready to be tossed into a salad or sandwich. I'll turn the sprouted chickpeas into hummus. The raw kefir will be added to smoothies or just plain milk.

The sauerkraut is indescribably complex. Addictive, really. Keenan says it "has the invigorating flavor of pure health. Its salty crispiness makes it fun to eat."

Sometimes things pile up and up, until one day, you just have to GO NUTS!