Category Archives: recipes

simple cookery: enjoying the harvest

We’ve been eating so much squash lately it’s ridiculous.  If we’re not careful I think we might all turn orange.  I’m in the middle of doing the Whole30.  Which isn’t really far off from how I usually eat, with a couple of exceptions.  Including strictly avoiding all sweeteners.  After a very busy end of summer/beginning of fall, I just felt like my poor body needed a rest before heading into the holiday season.  There are some people, you know, who’s bodies can tolerate just about anything and years of abuse add up to just about nothing.  I’m kind of like the opposite of those people.  Just the tiniest bit of over-indulgence does me in.  Sometimes for a long time.  And I’m too darn busy for a broken body, so great care must be taken in it’s upkeep.  Right now that means a diet free of dairy, grains, legumes, food additives, nightshades and sweeteners of all kinds.

But back to the food.  The good stuff.  The stuff I *can* eat.  I needed some new ideas in the world of squash preparation.  My sweet neighbor inspired some experimenting which resulted in a whole new-to-me favorite.  Whenever I make these, the Wee Girl stands by the counter eating them all before I have the chance to bring them to the table.

As usual, the process is simple….

cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds

slice into pieces about a 1/4″ thick

arrange on a cookie sheet, in a single layer with several gobs of coconut oil and a good sprinkle of salt on top

bake in an over preheated to 375 until done

You can serve them when they are just soft, but we like them to get a bit browned and crisp around the edges.  Leaving on the skin makes them especially nice with a mix of crisp and chewy that is most satisfying.  Also the combination of being a bit fatty and sweet makes them seem like a very great treat to me just now.  You don’t have to flip them as they cook, but they will turn out much, much nicer if you do.  And this my friends is why there are never any cookie sheets clean in my house!

This year I’ve also started using a new to me method of saving fresh herbs.  I’m still utilizing all of my fall back methods, but I think this one is a nice little change of pace.  I put my fresh clean herbs in the Vita-Mix (you could us a food processor or blender, basically use whatever you would make pesto in) with a bit of olive oil and blitz them to make a sort of thick, chunky paste.  Then I spoon it out into ice-cube trays to freeze.  Once frozen the cubes can be moved to a freezer safe storage container (jars, bags, what have you).  Pictured above are some of my cilantro cubes.  I think these will be very nice to have for adding a quick bit of flavor and summery freshness to soups, sauces, greens, on top of chicken…really the options are endless.

What’s cooking in your kitchen these days?

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my favorite dinner…

at the moment.  It seems to be all that  I want just now.  It’s a simplified version of a recipe sent to me by some friends.  Theirs is fancier and fabulous, but I’ve heard a rumor that they might be starting a new food blog, so I’ll let them share it when the time comes.

My quickie version:

chicken thighs, quartered lemons, olives with their juices, lots of crushed garlic, salt and pepper

You’ll have to settle for a ready to go into the oven picture because once it came out, it went right into my mouth without any time for a photo.

So easy and simple!  Just throw it all in a dish an bake.  I like to make it in my cast iron with a vented lid.  It keeps just the right level of moisture without ending up soupy.  The lemons get so soft that you can eat them peels and all.  I think I could eat this for every meal just now.  This and that incredible local salad mix.  No boring all lettuce spring mix there!  We get pea greens and cuttings of baby mustard, several kinds of kale, broccoli sprouts, and all sorts of things, in a different mix each week.  Yes, I could survive, quite happily on these two things for quite some time, with the occasional cup of fresh ginger tea with honey as a treat in-between.

I’m bored with my blog layout.  It’s been exactly the same for a year now.  But I don’t have the time to putz with it.  I wish the blog fairies would swoop in and redesign it, make it all fresh and new for spring!

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simple cookery: stewed fruit

The fruits of summer, warmed, sweetened and spiced to create a winter time treat.  Much of the fruit that I froze during the warmer seasons has been prepared with way.

I take my frozen fruit and put it in a pot.  The one above was a mix of peaches, blueberries and strawberries.  I find that berries and stone fruits work particularly well.  Add a good, heavy drizzle of honey over top and slowly heat to melt.  Sprinkle with ginger and cinnamon.  Stir occasionally.  As everything starts to melt and juice collects in the bottom, but before the sauce gets hot, stir in a couple spoonfuls of arrowroot powder (or tapioca or kudzu or whatever makes you happy).  Make sure it is all dissolved.  You don’t want any gooey clumps!  As it heats, stir more frequently, until the sauce thickens.  Serve warm or cold.

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simple cookery: a salad

Lunch one day last week.  With beans in lieu of eggs for those with allergies.

I like for the majority of the salads that I make to stand on their own, without dressing.  Also for them to be protein rich, a little fatty and filling.  And no I don’t worry about all of that fat in the least, to be perfectly honest.  Out of curiosity a couple of months ago I joined an online program where you could record your food intake in great detail and get the nutritional breakdown.  It gave you a set calorie goal.  You could set it for weight loss, gain or maintenance.  And even with it set so that I should supposedly be loosing 2 lbs a week, I could never even come close to the goal.  Without changing my eating habits at all and while being scrupulously accurate about what I was consuming, most days were around half the calories I was supposed to be consuming.  It’s eating low in sugars and carbs that makes the difference.  I don’t believe fat to be the demon that others think it is.  So, if I feel like, say, cooking my veggies in bacon grease to give them a rich flavor, I don’t think twice about it.  And I’m perfectly comfortable with that.

But back to the salad…I was actually really craving fat that day.  Something about the dark and damp and cold of winter, it seemed like just what I needed.  And eggs.  We don’t have them often, but from time to time, I really like some.  I remembered when I was little, my mother would sometimes make a different sort of egg-salad, mashing the hard boiled eggs with butter instead of the typical mayo concoction.  hmmm….

First I filled bowls with baby spinach.  I’m loving baby spinach right now.  Next I chopped up a whole bunch of leeks and sauteed them (yes, in a bit of bacon grease, it’s true!).  And generously layered that atop the spinach (all the kids deemed this their favorite part).  Then we topped the whole thing with hard-boiled eggs, mashed with salt, pepper and a bit of ghee.  While we don’t do well with dairy, everyone in the house seems to tolerate my home-made clarified butter fairly well.

The meal ended with everyone begging me to make it again soon.  The flavor combination was just right.  So nice when you can call a salad a treat!

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simple cookery: squash and apple crockpot bake

I used to cook this in a covered crock in the oven, but more often then not now, I use the crockpot.  You can of course use either method!

Peel and cube whatever kind of squash you have around.  Slice the apples of your choice.  You can peel them as well, but I never bother.  You want about equal amounts squash and apple.  Layer them in your crockpot or baking dish.  As you can see from the picture above, I go right up to the top and then some.

Next add a couple of pats of butter, ghee or coconut oil, a spoonful of blackstrap molasses (about a tablespoon full for a whole crockpot), and a good glug or two of maple syrup (maybe a quarter cup?).  Top with a teaspoon or so of nutmeg and a pinch or two of allspice or clove.  Add half a cup or so of water, cover and cook.

I tend to cook it on low, overnight.  It wonderful at this time of year to wake up to the house smelling delicious and have something warm and spicy to serve along with breakfast.  Other days I might get it in early in the day, to go with dinner that night, especially if it’s going to be a busy afternoon.

The kids tend to eat it as it is, but I like to mash everything up on my plate with a fork so that all of the flavors get mixed together.  I think there is too much goodness that gets lost in the juices other wise.  But this may just be my own personal quirk.

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simple cookery: escarole soup

This “recipe” comes from the realms of family tradition.  This Italian soup was my grandfather’s specialty, and the way that we always started our Thanksgiving meal.

When I mention escarole, many people have no earthly clue what I’m talking about.  Some have thought that I meant escargot, but I assure you, this dish has nothing to do with snails!  Escarole is a bunchy green variety of endive.  Our CSA offers escarole for only one week.  And when they do, I make escarole soup.

I think there are fancier ways to prepare this soup and some day I might experiment with that, but this very simple version is how I’ve always had it.

I start with a pot of well salted, home-made chicken broth.  While the broth is heating, I make a tray full of mini-meatballs.  These are just beef, because that’s what I happened to have.  I know that my mother does half beef and half pork when she makes this.  You can make it with whatever variety of meatball pleases you.  Cook your meatballs.  You want them to be at least most of the way, if not all the way done.  When the meatballs are done and the broth is hot, transfer the balls into the broth.  Then add lots of washed and chopped escarole.  Cook it until the escarole wilts, then serve it with fresh grated Parmesan (though the Parmesan of my childhood generally came from a green can).  We don’t usually eat milk products at home, with the exception of home-made ghee.  Occasionally we have a bit as a treat when we are out.  But for this once a year passing on of a tradition, I make an exception and eat my soup and think of my grandfather and all of my extended family.  And I wonder if someday, maybe just once a year, my children will serve the same meal to their own children and grandchildren as well.

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simple cookery: chicken dippers

This one sort of strays from the simple philosophy just a bit.  It’s still pretty basic and easy to make, but it’s a little more processed then most of the recipes I’ll be sharing here.  It’s a great family favorite.  I regularly get requests from extended family and friends to make it as well.  And I had a request to share it here, so here goes.

I’m going to start by saying that I never measure the ingredients for this.  Last time I made it, I tried to get general measurements to share with you here.  Also, I cook large.  Really large.  For one thing we have a decent sized family.  And you know that old adage about the way growing boys eat?  So not a joke.  Or an exaggeration.  In fact, in my experience, everyone has been down-playing it all this time.  And since this is a favored dish, they go at it with an extra will.  Secondly, I like leftovers.  They make for a quick, easy, and nourishing lunch during the busy home-schooling day.  The more days a week that I can just pop something in the oven or re-heat it on the stove, the better.

Generally this amount serves as dinner for the 6 of us one night and either breakfast or lunch for the children and I later in the week.

Chicken Dippers

I start with 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast and chop it into strips.

I dip each piece individually into a bowl of water, then dredge it in my flour mix.

For the flour mix, I use potato flour.  You can use any flour here and it will turn out delicious, but I’ve found potato flour to be particularly good.  The flavor combination is excellent and it makes a really nice, crisp coating.  To coat this much chicken, I use around 2 1/2 cups of flour, mixed with a tablespoon or so of sea salt and maybe 2 teaspoons of either chili powder or cayenne pepper (you’ll have to experiment with this depending on how spicy you like things.  This is just about right for my family and gives a nice color to the finished chicken as well).

I cook this in two cast iron skillets at once, to save time.  Start by heating the oil of your choice in the skillet.  It should be enough to completely cover the bottom of the pan.    Using tongs, arrange the flour coated chicken in a single layer in your preheated pan.  I keep the burner at about a medium heat for the entire cooking process.  Cook until nice and browned on one side and then flip and cook the same on the other side.  Remove the cooked pieces to a platter (you can drain them on something if you like) and repeat the process with the remaining chicken.

My kids call these chicken dippers because they like to dip them in mustard to eat.  They like them cold as leftovers too, so they make a good picnic food.  Enjoy!

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simple cookery: yam fries

Thinly slice your yams and coat them with oil and spices.  You can also peel them before slicing, but I never bother.  This time I used chili powder and ginger and that was a particularly pleasant flavor combination.  Don’t forget the salt.  Arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet (or cookie sheets, if you are making many).  Bake at 450 until they are browned on one side, maybe 15 minutes?  Flip them and cook until brown all over.  Enjoy!

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simple cookery: fish chowder

simple cookery- the art of preparing nourishing meals with the most basic ingredients.  A series of not-so-much recipes, as ideas, techniques, flavor combinations. 

This dish was somewhat revolutionary for me.  I’m somewhat known for throwing together random things in the kitchen and coming up with a meal.  Still when a dear friend prepared this on a visit to our place one day, it was like a epiphany for me.  So simple!  So easy!  So delicious!  Why hadn’t I thought of that?!?  I started wondering where else I was over-thinking and over-working our meals.  I’ll admit this inspired several weeks of take all the vegetables you have, add in the protein you have, maybe a little seasoning and cook it up, meals for me.

My friend says that this is the best way to stretch out a pound of fish, and I have to agree.  You start with your veggies.  Potatoes, onions, carrots and celery would be traditional choices.  I usually forgo the potatoes in favor of something a little more nutrient dense.  Many times I’ve made it with cauliflower or yams.  I’m sure there is any number of vegetable combinations that would work here.  Chop everything up and put it in your pan with a spoonful of fat.  As always, I think cast iron is the best choice.  I have an enameled dutch oven that I use for this type of dish.  For fat, use whatever you have on hand that sounds good to you, butter, the oil of your choice.  Personally, I use the traditional bacon grease.

So, heat up your fat and vegetables and cook, stirring often, over say a medium heat for a few minutes and let things start to soften up.  I usually add in a sprinkle of salt.  I’m sure it’s just in my head, but I swear that salt makes onions cook faster.  Add some broth (or water in a pinch), about enough to cover the veggies.  Cover and simmer until everything is just about done.  You can add in a bay leaf if you like.  I like to tear up some dulse and toss it on top.  It adds lots of nutrients and trace minerals, a punch of color and a deeper, richer flavor.  I also tend to add in a bit of tarragon at some point in the cooking process, just because I like tarragon with fish.

We usually use tilapia.  It’s very mild, readily available and not terribly expensive.  Chop up your fish while the vegetables cook.  Add it in when they are close to done.  The pot will be so hot at this point that it shouldn’t take long to heat all the way through.  Stir it in and let cook for a couple of minutes.  Once everything seems done, add in enough milk (of whatever sort pleases you) to bring it to the desired consistency.  A really creamy canned coconut milk is particularly lovely.  Warm everything up, season with salt and fresh cracked pepper and serve.  And it’s that simple!

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natural cleaning recipes

We’ve been making almost all of our cleaning products for many years now.  It’s inexpensive, easy and most importantly, safe; safe for us and safe for the environment.  Usually I just make things as I need them, but lately I’ve been making a point of setting aside a bit of time some Sunday afternoon to make up a whole bunch of things to have on hand.  It’s ever so pleasant to have whatever I need within easy reach.

I thought I would share a few family favorites with you, and maybe you will share a few favorites too.  Between us we could make a wonderful resource for others.  My recipes come from several different sources.  Some are just things that I’ve came up with over the years.  Some come from the lovely book that my friend gifted me a few years back (there are a few other recipes in that post as well).

All-Purpose Cleaner

1/2 teaspoon washing soda

2 teaspoons borax

1/2 teaspoon liquid soap (I like dish soap because it cuts grease and I often use this spray in the kitchen)

2 cups hot water

15 drops each lavender and tea tree essential oils (I’ve been using all lavender lately or a combo of lavender and rosemary)

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake.

Soft Scrub

1/2 cup baking soda

enough liquid soap or detergent to achieve a frosting like consistency

5 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Stir all ingredients in a bowl, store in a sealed jar.

Laundry Stain Remover

(home-made ‘Oxy Clean’)

2 cups water

1 cup hydrogen peroxide

1 cup baking soda

Mix all ingredients together.  Soak laundry in stain remover for at least 20 minutes before washing.

My Favorite Laundry Soap

4 cups hot water

1 bar Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Castile Soap

1 cup Washing Soda

1/2 cup Borax

~Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water.  Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

~Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water.  Add melted soap, washing soda and borax.  Stir well until all powder is dissolved.  Fill bucket to top with more hot water.  Stir, cover and let sit overnight.

~Stir and fill a jar or other container half-way with soap and the fill the rest of the way with water.  Shake before each use.

~Use 5/8 cup per load for top load machines and 1/4 cup per load for front loaders.

This recipe makes 10 gallons of liquid laundry soap, but it’s stored in a concentrated form in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid.  We keep ours in the basement.  Whenever we need more, I go down, stir it and ladle some out.  I use a half-gallon mason jar to store soap in our laundry room.  I keep the measuring cup with it.  After measuring out the proper amount for each load, I rinse it under the water filling the washer, then dry it and put it back for next time.

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