Dilly Beans with Scapes

I freaken love all things dill. When I was a baby, I would beg my mom and her friends for their kosher dill pickles when we were out at Rose’s (a New York deli here in Portland – back in the 80s, they were in their heyday and their food was FANTASTIC). After a few kosher dill pickle spears, my lips would be white from all the vinegar. I didn’t care. I wanted more. And my mom and her friends wanted to laugh even harder. It was a win for everyone.

Fast forward 30 years, and I still love my dilled foods. I bought a bunch of green beans two weeks ago and realized that with my neck, any and all cooking wasn’t happening. So, before they had an opportunity to rot on me, I shoved them in a jar with some scapes I had also bought with the dream of sauteing them in butter… Yea. Not happening, either.

Two weeks later, I cracked open the jar and my goodness! Childhood memories of eating dill pickles until my lips turned white came flooding back. They are so. so. so. good. Even the roommate who sometimes thinks my food is a bit hippie (admit it. I know you think this – and I know you’re reading this post), wanted more.

Okay. Enough of me typing. You want to hurry up and make these. And then wait two weeks. It might be the longest two weeks of your life but you’ll have to deal.

The end result is fantastic.

Times 10.

Note: The grape leaves sound random but they help maintain the crispness of the vegetable. Other options are a bay leaf (or two).

Dilly Beans with Scapes

  • 1 lb fresh, organic green beans, with ends snipped
  • 4 organic scapes (garlic spears)
  • a handful of fresh dill – about 1 ½" in diameter if you hold the bunch together
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 grape leaves (organic and non-sprayed)
  • 33 grams sea salt (no iodine or caking agent) to every quart of  filtered water
  1. Leave water out for at least 30 minutes to evaporate trace minerals. In the meantime, weigh out the salt and rinse green beans and scapes. Trim both so will fit in the jar.
  2. Add the salt to the water, stir to dissolve and set aside.
  3. In your jar, layer the red pepper flakes, peppercorns, and dill on the bottom.
  4. Place the green beans and scape spears on top of the spices, stick straight up. Stuff the grape leafs on the side.
  5. Pour the saltwater solution atop of everything and work out any bubbles. The veggies or grape leaves cannot be above the water line.
  6. Place a dunker (either a clean rock or a glass weight) atop to keep the veggies below the brine line.
  7. Seal tightly with a lid and allow to ferment for 3 to 10 days. The beans will get tangier as they age. If mold forms, dump it.
  8. Transfer to cold storage and enjoy on warm summer days! (I’m willing to bet these would taste really good in a Bloody Mary!)

 

Lacto-Fermented Ginger Carrots

I know I’ve been focused on fermenting lately but the bacteria that natural ferments provide are such an important part of the diet.

Here’s why: In a healthy gut, up to 5 pounds (yes – you read that right, 5 pounds) of healthy bacteria should be living symbiotically with our body. That’s crazy! Fermented foods aid in that symbiosis by providing the gut with new waves of bacteria as old ones die off.

Vitamin K2, a vitamin that is totally and completely underrated but rocks my socks, is found in ferments. Dr. Weston Price identified it during his research days as “The X Factor” (not to be confused with the television show). He posited that there was some factor in these indigenous foods that was allowing for good calcium absorption and assimilation that resulted in healthy teeth, bones and tissues. Science, unfortunately, had not caught up with him and only recently have they discovered what he was talking about. Natural foods FTW! (I’ve talked a little bit about this in my butter post.)

So these carrots. They are my favorite. So much so that sometimes I eat too many of them. If that’s even possible! ha! They’re gingery and tangy and full of delightful goodness. On a warm summer day, pulling one of these bad boys out of the fridge is just so refreshing. They’re also super super easy. And super quick to put on. And super cheap. All three are a super win in my book. (I’ll stop with the “super” superlatives, don’t worry! – hehe. See what I did there?)

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Chicken Fat

Today’s blog post will probably go against everything that you’ve ever been taught about how to eat. I suggest you sit while you read it. I, probably like many of you, grew up under the notion that consuming animal skin was bad for you. There was so much fat and fat and more fat that it was just no bueno. Ready to have your world rocked?

Wrong-o.

Consuming chicken skin isn’t bad for you. Nor is rendering the fat from it. Only one caveat: not all skins are created equal. Meaning that if we’re talking about our “normal bought at a conventional store” product, probably not the best idea. The skin and fat stores things – like toxins, excess self-produced hormones (chickens are not allowed to be fed/injected with hormones in the US, if you buy chicken because it’s “hormone-free”, you’re being duped) and other icky stuff you really don’t want in your body. 

Conventional chicken skins are raised in a mass barn, where the chickens are crammed in with each other, often walking on dead chickens, with no sunlight and crappy feed. Mmmm… I don’t know about you, but if I were being raised that way, I’d probably be pretty sickly, not grow well and be nutrient deficient. The same goes for the birds – if they’re raised in a crappy environment, they’re not going to produce the same quality of meat which means you’re not going to get the same nutrient panel from them. So, moral of the story: eating organic, free-range humanely raised chicken isn’t just a Portlandia joke, it’s really really much better for your health.

Now to talk about chicken feed. There’s a newish movement to feed chickens vegetarian feed. When you see that, think chemical shit storm. Seriously. While chickens aren’t allowed to be given hormones, they’re allowed to be given soy…. which acts an an estradiol. Which means… they’re being given a nutrient that works to create excess hormones in their body. See where I’m going with this?  mmmm – excess estrogen ingested into our bodies. Sign me up for none of that, please.

Further, chickens don’t eat soy. Nor do they eat a vegetarian diet. Like most birds, they’re foragers. And they eat bugs. They’re actually really good at bug population control – especially ticks and mosquitos. Those bird brains LOVE to eat them. A chicken that eats a natural diet is going to yield more healthful nutrients in its skin – like high levels of vitamin D3 and gut-healing properties. So… what does all of this have to do with chicken skins?

I buy my chicken skins from New Seasons here in Portland. A few times a year, I give the butcher at my local store a ring and request some of the organic, free-range chicken skins. He quotes me at $.99/lb and I tell him I want 5 pounds. It’s pretty easy. As he processes the meat, he throws them into a bag and puts it in the deep freeze. I get a call after a few days saying that my skins are ready and I drive over to pick them up and get a few weird looks/questions while I’m at it. You can set up a similar scenario at your local organic/natural foods store – but the prices will vary from store to store so go with what your butcher tells you. 🙂 I portion the skins out and freeze them into quart bags. I’ll process one pound at a time – it usually renders around a pint and a half. If any of you are good at math, that’s super cheap.

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Okay – so enough rambling. Here’s what I do to render the fat and eat the skins.

Chicken Fat

  • 1 pound chicken fat, washed and cut into smaller pieces (check for boney pieces and cut them out)
  • ½ cup of water
  • a large stock pot and a splatter screen (those things pop!)
  1. Layer the chicken skins on the bottom of a deep skillet or a dutch oven (I prefer the dutch oven, personally.)
  2. Dump the water in the pot and turn the stove top on to medium-high heat.
  3. Mix occasionally.
  4. You will start seeing golden fat float to the top along with some pieces of skin – it it looks more like skin and less like fried crispy goodness, keep going. Also, if you still see bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pan, keep going. This indicates water is still at the bottom. And when you use the fat, it’ll pop and you’ll get burned with hot oil. Again, no bueno.
  5. When the bubbles stop rising and the skin is completely golden and crispy, you’re done.
  6. Let the fat cool for a minute or two and prepare a fine mesh colander with some cheesecloth (this strains out the cracklings and small pieces). Place in a bowl and pour the fat through it.
  7. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring it to your glass storage container. Label and place in the fridge. Fat will last for a long, long while.
  8. With the cracklings, sprinkle some sea salt or pink salt and let cool – they make a healthy and delicious snack. Enjoy!

I use the fat to cook everything from eggs to smothering it between the skin and meat of a whole chicken to pan frying my broccoli to sauteing just about any vegetable.  Also, if you need more fat in the pan while you’re cooking, don’t be afraid of glopping it in. The uses are endless. Enjoy!

Homemade Paleo Fruit and Nut Bars

This weekend was action packed, hilarious and so much fun. Times a billion. Between happy hour with the cousins (always good for laughing so hard that my side hurts), happy hour with friends (ditto), a BBQ/bonfire in Silverton followed up with more laughter – I was the DD for a carload of 4 guys, my Dad’s birthday and a family day up at Mt. Hood, saying good-bye to a dear friend, and topping off the evening with coconut paleo ice cream, this weekend was busy! And if you didn’t follow any of that, it’s okay. I’m still wrapping my head around it as well.

I received a text from a co-worker asking me for my paleo LaraBars.I had promised a few of my friends the recipe as well so here it is! (And thanks, Amanda for the reminder!) Since I changed around my diet, the concept of grab-n-go snacks has changed dramatically. Gone are the days where I think I’ll just grab “something” on the way. I actually have to think it out. Health bars are no exception. Larabars and Kind bars (not paleo – they contain rice and glucose and there are some nut blends that are no-no’s) are about all I can find that are suitable to my dietary needs.

The problem with both is their cost. At $1.50-2 per bar, it’s just highway robbery. So I sat down one day and looked at the ingredients list and then I made my own concoction based on what I had on hand and the deliciousness below was born.

Note: These are super super sticky – I haven’t tried it yet but if you have a food dehydrator, I’m sure that a couple of hours on low (or the fruit leather setting) will dry them out a bit. As such, they need to be individually wrapped in saran wrap and stored in the fridge until consumed.

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Homemade Paleo Fruit and Nut Bars

  • 10 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • ½ cup raw cashew pieces
  • ¼ cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup dried wild blueberries (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (NOT Dutch processed) or carob powder
  1. Soak the dates in boiled water in a medium mixing bowl until soft.
  2. During this time, process through the cashew pieces using small batches in a dedicate-for-nuts-only coffee grinder until are small – stopping often to stir (not going to cashew butter with this one). Pour contents into a small bowl and start over until all the nuts are processed in this manner
  3. When dates are soft, drain water and strain in a fine-sieved colander for a few minutes until the excess liquid is drained off.
  4. Return to bowl and with a fork, mash until dates are a pulp and the skins disintegrated.
  5. Mix dates, cashews, sunflower seeds, wild blueberries and cocoa powder until incorporated.
  6. Line an 8×8" pan with plastic wrap (with extra over the sides so you can wrap it when you are done) and fold the mixture onto it. Using the sides of the plastic wrap, form the mixture into a square about ½-¾ inch thick. Wrap sides of plastic wrap around the larabars and place in the fridge for a few hours or until firm. I
  7. If using a dehydrator, place on a rack, minus the plastic wrap, and place in the dehydrator on the fruit leather setting for a few hours, checking back often.
  8. When bars are chilled and firm, cut into desired size and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Store in the fridge until consumed.

Pumpkin Spice Almonds

It’s game day. Which means that yummy and healthy snacks are a necessity. And, in case what team I hold allegiance to, well… let’s just say, I love my Ducks!

(Obligatory Duck fan Youtube video below.)

I’m donning my “I love my Ducks” t-shirt and Duck earrings. Bring it. They’re playing Cal and there’s only one state I dislike more than Washington when it comes to football – California. (Sorry to all of my Cali readers – I like you guys otherwise and am completely jealous of your year-round exposure to Vitamin D.)

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Since my whole family went gluten-free earlier this year, we’ve been struggling to find gluten-free snack foods for game day that were still junky enough to qualify as game day food but that were also healthy. It’s a delicate balance. And I think these almonds hit the mark. Especially when it’s cool, crisp, and overcast outside. (Seriously. It’s only supposed to get up to 45 here today.)

The recipe was adapted from a Halloween baking exchange I went to. The original called for raw almonds, I used roasted and cut down the oven-time by 10 minutes. Also, the original called for pre-made pumpkin spice mix. Due to diet restrictions, I have to make my own spice blend (and I do love my pumpkin spice blend). I loved these almonds so much – I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Pumpkin Spice Almonds

  • 2 cups raw almonds 
  • ¼ cup raw, local honey
  • 1 ½ tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp organic vanilla exract
  • sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix spice blend, except the salt, in a separate bowl.
  3. Add the almonds and mix until coated.
  4. Spread out on a jelly roll pan, lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
  5. Sprinkle the almonds with sea salt.
  6. Bake in then oven for 18-20 minutes, checking often to make sure they don’t burn.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool. Store is a sealed container.

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Gingery Gingersnaps

It’s finally the rainy season here in the Pacific Northwest. After almost three months of sun, the skies are cloudy and as I type there is a steady, cold rain falling gently outside and snow is falling up in the mountains.

It’s a Miles Davis or John Coltrane, good book, comfy-oversized sweater, wool socks and Pumpkin Spice Rooibos tea kind of morning.

And one that calls for super-gingery and chewy gingersnaps. They’re made with almond flour so they’re heart-healthy and egg-free so they could be classified as vegan if I wasn’t using honey. But I am.

When I went back for my fifth cookie, I didn’t feel a bit bad about it. In fact, it might be the only cookie you can go back for more and not worry that this phrase might come true, “Once on the lips, forever on the hips.”

Note: I made them with Bob’s Red Mill almond flour/meal. I wouldn’t recommend using theirs as it’s too coarse but I was cooking for a bake exchange and I needed more than what I had. I’d recommend using Honeyville. They have coupons and specials if you sign up for their email list – I highly suggest signing up!

Enjoy!

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Gingery Gingersnaps

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 cups salted butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • salt shaker filled with Himalayan salt
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix all almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda together.
  3. Add butter – cut in with fork and with clean hands, mix until dough is crumbly and butter is mixed throughout.
  4. Add honey and stir with fork until combined.
  5. Add spices and mix until combined.
  6. With wet hands, form into balls and place on a Silpat lined baking sheet about two inches apart.
  7. With a wet fork, press down like you would for peanut butter cookies. Cookies will not spread and should be rather close to each other at this point.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and flip the cookie over. Turn down the oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit and put the cookies back in for another 15 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack.

This recipe was modified from Comfy Belly.

Coconut Vanilla “Ice Cream”

This is just so good. I mean. Just so good. Being lactose-free, soy-free, sugar-free and processed foods-free, I’m limited as to what I can and can’t eat. And I can eat this. All day long. And it’s just so good. If you

Only downfall, it doesn’t firm up that well in the ice cream maker and it gets too hard in the freezer. So it’s an “eat as soon as it’s done” kind of ice cream. But that’s okay – if you’ll excuse me, I have a hot date with a random chick flick (suggestions welcome) and my “healthy” coconut ice cream.

I hope your tummy and taste buds enjoy this as much as mine do. 🙂

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Coconut Vanilla “Ice Cream”

  • 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Toasted coconut or fresh fruit

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix well until honey is dissolved.

Turn ice cream maker on and pour mixture in. When ice cream starts to firm a bit, toss in toasted coconut. If using fresh fruit, add right before the mixture is done. (Freezing the fresh fruit works best.)

Let ice cream maker operate for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Makes a quart.

Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Salsa

Going to a Mexican restaurant can only mean one thing: munching down on the roasted tomato salsa. You know it – the stuff that they bring to you in refillable quantities? The stuff that, by the time your chimichanga, topped off with pico de gallo and sour cream arrives, you couldn’t possibly take another bite? Yea. That stuff. The addicting salsa that Mexican restaurants know hooks you in.

Well, making that salsa is super fast (minus baking time) and super easy (as long as your blender doesn’t explode or something).

Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Salsa

  • 2 pounds Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine above ingredients in a 13×9" baking dish coasted with nonstick cooking spray, roast for 45 minutes.

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(Before roasting)

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(After roasting)

Coarsely mash roasted veggies using a potato masher. (Or carefully run them through your blender – but be careful! Hot things in a blender cause the lid to pop off and the contents to be all over the place!)

  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup jalapenos, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add cilantro, jalapenos and lime juice – season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature and enjoy!

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Recipe from Cuisine at Home