Nourish Your Body
With Fabulous Homemade Food

Julia’s Chickens

 

No recipe today. Instead I want to share with you a video that made a big impression on me. I saw it several years ago when I was devouring Julia Child on videos rented from the public library and I just assumed it wouldn’t be on youtube. But all of a sudden today I searched for it and—voila—there it was!

It’s an episode of The French Chef, with Julia Child, simply called “Chicken.”

At the beginning she has laid out on a counter six chickens, each a different size, age, and weight, each with a different name and use. And she makes note that recipes specifically specify which type of chicken to use.

I didn’t recognize most of these chickens. So I went to my local gourmet food market and they didn’t have any of them! All they had was “chicken”. Boneless skinless chicken filets, wings, legs, and whole chickens, but they were all just “chicken”.

I seem to have this picture in my memory banks of a package of “fryer” chickens from my childhood. Where are fryer chickens today? [Since writing this I asked at my local natural food store and they said all their chickens were “fryers.” Julia notes that “roasters” are the mature chicken with the best flavor. They couldn’t even order one for me.]

What broke my heart was that each of the chickens at different ages were best for a certain uses. Even the old hens. When you have a chicken laying eggs in the barnyard, when she no longer lays eggs, she becomes coq au vin. There was a connection in times past between the lifecycle of the chicken and what you ate. And now that is gone.

We don’t even know these chickens any more.

And so I just want to introduce you to chickens in an entirely different context, one that used to connect humans to surrounding nature through food.

At one point Julia says that it’s hard to find a roaster because there is no demand for it in the market. People no longer roast chickens. But a roast chicken is just the best. You can watch how Julia roasts her chicken in the French manner, but also take a look at how I roast chicken, which is much simpler.

This video is 29 minutes, but the presentation of the chickens is only about five minutes in the beginning. It changed forever how I think of chicken.

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BURRATA + GARDEN

burrata

Now that it’s getting to be summer, I just want to encourage you to grow something and eat from your garden. Even if only a few herbs in a pot, bringing your garden to your table is a delicious experience.

Last week I went shopping with my friend Joyce and we picked up a wonderful Italian cheese called burrata. It’s fresh mozzerella with cream inside. Oh so delicious. If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby they usually have it. If you have an Italian delicatessen that makes their own cheese (like if you live in Manhattan), that’s the place to buy this.

I wanted the burrata to be the star of the dish and wanted only to enhance it, so I went to my garden and got a few lettuce leaves and chives, drizzled olive oil and local honey on top, and sprinkled a bit of cracked pepper on it.

It was so satisfying to taste my garden with the amazing cheese.

This is my idea of fast food for summer.

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Best Gluten-Free Cookies Ever!

best-flute-free-cookies

 

I took a plate of these cookies to a meeting last night and put them on the table.

I went and sat down and suddenly I heard, “Oh my God! Who made these cookies!?!!?!”

When I said I had made these she said, “These are amazing!”

“Damn fine cookies,” said another attendee.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

These actually are not the best gluten-free cookies, they are the best cookies. Period.

The basic recipe is so versatile, you can make any flavor you want. I made

  • Fresh Ginger Cookies
  • Zesty Fresh Lemon Cookies
  • Firecracker Chocolate Cookies with Cinnamon and Cayenne

I had to stop myself from continuing on with toasted coconut and chocolate chip and toffee bits. I meant each of these in separate cookies, but wouldn’t they be divine all in one cookie!?!?!

This is now my go-to-cookie recipe.

Here’s why.

First, these cookies are CRISP if you eat them right out of the oven. Exposed to air they soften a bit into crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The thinner you make them, the crisper they are. Crispness doesn’t happen with most gluten-free cookies. (After I wrote this I opened one of my new snaplock glass containers from IKEA in which I had stored the ginger cookies overnight. Huge whiff of ginger jumped out when I opened the container and the cookies were very crisp and flavorful.)

Second, the flavors POP in your mouth and linger long after you eat the cookie, so you don’t have to eat so many. They satisfy.

Nobody will know this is not a wheat-sugar-butter cookie unless you tell them.

I am dancing around the kitchen and clapping my hands these are so good.

I have to tell you what inspired this.

About a month ago I was walking through Costco and they had a free sample of a very thin, crisp Meyer lemon cookie. Now as a rule I don’t eat wheat or white sugar, but I LOVE Meyer lemons and could not resist this. It was incredible and I vowed to figure out how to make this cookie (and my Zesty Fresh Lemon Cookies are even better).

Then I ate a coconut sugar sweetened chocolate bar from Rawclates called “Firecracker” that contains cinnamon, cayenne, and orange. This is now my favorite flavor combination for chocolate. And agin I wanted a crisp cookie.

Now I really had to figure out how to make a crisp cookie. I found a recipe for crisp cookies and changed it a lot and…voila!

I’m giving you a the recipe for a “small” batch of about 18 cookies. It requires splitting an egg, but that’s OK. Just save the other half for the next batch.

For a party or a family, double the recipe and use a whole egg.

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From Storage to Salad

storage-to-salad
I’m so excited about this.

I prepare so much of my food at home that I now am wanting to make preparation as simple as possible.

So I decided to get some glass food storage that I can take from refrigerator or freezer to oven to table. I managed to find some that are both oven-safe and freezer-safe and I’m thrilled.

I eat a salad for lunch or dinner every day.

Now I buy my greens, bring them home, wash them, and store them in the refrigerator all proportioned in these glass containers. So on a weeknight, like tonight, it takes only minutes to make a salad by adding more vegetables and protein and dressing.

But here’s the best part. Washing the green in advance then chilling them in the refrigerator gives you very crisp greens in a very cold bowl. Wow.

It’s like when you go to a fancy restaurant and they serve very crisp lettuce on a very cold plate.

I’m going to go buy more of these containers on Saturday, so next week I can post a picture of all of them stacked up in my refrigerator.

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My Favorite Food Storage Containers

For the past two months I’ve been preparing virtually all my food at home. Out of 3 meals x 60 days = 188 meals, I’ve eaten 2 out.

And so I have a big interest in making my my food production as efficient as possible.

What I wanted was containers that I could use to prepare and store meals in advance (in the refrigerator or freezer) and then be able to heat them up in the my toaster oven. And I wanted containers where I could wash and portion salad greens when I bring them home from the store, then have my daily salad greens ready and waiting for me to add other vegetables and dressing daily and then enjoy eating it right out of the container.

Of course, it had to be glass and I wanted the top to be a nontoxic plastic.

I had been looking for such a thing but found that some “snapware” was not freezer- or oven-safe. For me, the whole point was to store prepared foods and put them in the oven without an extra dish to wash.

I went out shopping on Saturday and found exactly what I wanted at The Container Store.

GlasslockThe brand is Glassock. You can purchase it in sets at many stores online, or individually on the Glasslock website or if you have The Container Store near you, you can buy them there (or online).

I bought a large backfill of pieces, and was very happy.

IKEABut then I went to IKEA and found that they had their own line of the same type of food storage containers, and the price was less. Much less. Less than half. It’s called FÖRTROLIG

So I bought a few pieces at IKEA too, and brought them all home to compare.

They are both pretty much the same in terms of being oven- and freezer-safe. The materials are the same: glass, polypropylene, and a bit of silicone rubber in the seal.

But there are some differences.

The Glasslock containers have glass that is a bit thicker and the containers are a bit taller. Just more heavy duty. The seal is green, so the color shines through the transparent top. There are more sizes available, particularly larger sizes that would hold a family-size casserole.

But the glass on the IKEA containers are thick enough and the size is tall enough for me, in fact, it’s the more usual height for a baking dish. Their seal is transparent, so the lids are a nice clean white.

I couldn’t find any reason not to choose the IKEA containers over the GlassLock, and the price difference was enormous. $100 less to buy the pieces I want at IKEA.

So I’ve made a list now of the pieces I need. I’m taking the Glasslok back to The Container Store and buying the containers from IKEA.

There is nothing wrong with Glasslok. From a safety viewpoint they are identical, based on the information I have.

IKEA has a better price.

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Fennel Salad with Cucumbers, Celery, and Olives

Fennel Salad with Cucumbers, Celery, and Olives

 
cWhen I was growing up in Northern California near San Francisco, almost everywhere I walked there were wild fennel plants. Often I would pull off seeds and eat them as I passed by, being careful to check that they were fennel and not poisonous wild hemlock. They look very similar but the wild hemlock has red splotches of “blood” on the stems.

And so I grew up with that sweet anise flavor—one of those joys of being out in Nature.

And so the other day fennel caught my eye—as vegetables and fruits sometimes do—in my local natural food store, so I had to bring it home and savor that sweet licorice taste from my childhood.

I have to say, I’ve just been eating it plain like candy, it’s so sweet. But then I made this salad after I looked up traditional recipes. Fennel is very popular in Italy. I always wondered why they put fennel seeds in Italian sausage. It’s because it’s been growing all over the Mediterranean for centuries.

No recipe.

I just cut the tops off the fennel, sliced it very thin cross-ways with a sharp knife, then added sliced celery and cucumber, sliced black Greek olives, and finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Himalayan salt, and bits of feathery front. So good. Sweet and salty.

Here’s a link to an interesting site called Eat The Invaders: Fighting Invasive Species, One Bite at a Time. This post is about fennel.

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Leek Omelet with Parmesan and Pea Sprouts

Leek Omelet with Parmesan and Pea Sprouts
There are days, particularly during springtime, when I walk down the organic produce aisle at my local natural food store and certain vegetables and fruits just look bright and alive to me.

This week it was leeks. I should have taken a picture. They were all lined up, tall and straight, with their leaves all fanned out, and I just had to bring one home.

But how to eat it? I don’t often eat leeks, though I loved them. My most memorable eating of leeks was one day when I lived in California, where leeks grew happily in my garden, right next to potatoes. I pulled up a couple of small leeks and dug up new potatoes and just sautéed them all in butter. Glorious!

Today I made a simple omelet, which is a good thing to do with any beautiful seasonal vegetable. I cut the leeks into circles and broke the rings apart with my fingers soothes would have a nice pattern in the egg. Then I sprinkled parmesan cheese on top and laid pea shoots that are growing in my window sill on top.

In times past, people would look around their environment, see what was growing, and make something out of it. That’s what I did for lunch today.

micro greensI’m growing these pea shoots as micro greens in soil in my windowsill. They taste like peas. I’m growing them from seed I got at my natural food store. You can buy them online a Botanical Interest Microgreens Peas for Shoots. They are heirloom seeds, which I love to buy because not only are they not GMO, they are also not hybrid. They are just as nature intended.

This omelet is lovely and delicious and tastes like spring!

A caution about leeks. There can be a lot of sand in leeks. Mine were very clean today, but sometimes you need to rinse them. For this recipe, I cut across the width of the leeks and then pushed the rings apart with my fingers. If you need to, put the rings in a bowl of cold water and swish them around. Then remove the rings and place them on a dry towel. When they are dry, proceed with the recipe.

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Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata
When I was young, one of my favorite dishes was chicken piccata. I would order it every time I went into an Italian restaurant. I remember the first time I tasted it, the brightness of the fresh lemon juice and the saltiness of the capers delighted my taste buds.

But the traditional recipe calls for flour to brown the chicken and thicken the sauce, so I’ve made my own gluten-free chicken piccata, which takes only about 10 minutes from refrigerator to plate.

If you want thicker sauce, arrowroot works perfectly and even better than wheat flour. Just mix about a half-teaspoon with a little water and put it in the sauce at the end.

One very nice Italian restaurant once brought my chicken piccata with a side of spinach sautéed in butter. Perfect accompaniment.

I enjoyed making this for you and having the opportunity to eat chicken piccata once again.

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GMOs In Cheese? Yes

ricotta cheeze

 

Instead of giving you a recipe today, I want to invite you to explore making your own cheese.

I make a point to not eat GMO foods (see A Simple Guide to Eating GMO-Free), so I was surprised to learn this week that 90% of commercial cheese is made with GMO rennet.  Furthermore, GMO rennet is approved by the FDA (and Generally Recognized As Safe) and not even recognized by GMO activists as something that needs to be on the label!

You can read the whole story here.

But here’s the part I think is most important.

Originally, cheese presented itself to the world after someone, somewhere carried milk in the stomach of an animal. The rennet in the lining of the stomach combined with the milk, warmed by the sun, and the milk separated into curds and whey. Until the twentieth century, all cheese was made with milk and rennet from the stomachs of ruminant animals.

Rennet is a by-product of the veal industry. In the 1960s, as the animal rights movement came into being, the price of rennet rose and the supply became less reliable. At the same timed, the demand for cheese began to increase. And commercial cheesemakers began to look for other coagulants to make cheese. Plant and microbial sources worked but were inconsistent.

In the late 1980s, scientists transferred a single gene from bovine cells that codes for chymosin into microbes, giving microbes the ability to produce the chymosin coagulant that was previously only available from animals. These genetically modified microbes multiply in a fermentation process which causes them to produce and release chymosin into the culture liquid. The chymosin is then be separated and purified. This chymosin is called fermentation-produced chymosin, or FPC. But what it’s really chymosin produced by GMO microbes.

In 1990, after more than two years of review, the FDA granted Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) status to FPC because FPC was substantially equivalent to rennet produced from calves, and so it needed no special labeling or indication of its source or method of production. And now, most cheese is made with FPC. And it’s not required to be on the label.

I just so disagree with this! Rennet made in a lab with genetically modified microbes is NOT the same as rennet from a natural animal. It’s the same logic as is used when people think ascorbic acid made in a laboratory from refined corn syrup is the same as natural vitamin c from oranges, acerola cherries and other plants.

I looked at some cheese labels and they all say “cheese cultures” but I couldn’t find a legal definition of that term. Again as consumers we run into insufficient labeling so we don’t know what’s in this food product.

If you want to eat cheese without GMOs, here’s what to do.

  1. Avoid commercial cheese. Just assume that all commercial cheese is made with milk that contains pesticide residues and FPC.
  2. Eat organic cheese. Organics certification rules in the United States, Europe and Canada do not allow FPC in organic cheese.
  3. Eat verified non-GMO cheese. The Non-GMO Project lists a number of cheeses that are verified non-GMO by them. Just type “cheese” into the search-the-page box in your browser to find them. I got 43 results. Many of them were brands I recognize at my local natural food store.
  4. Make your own cheese. When you make your own cheese, you have full control over the milk, rennet, and starters used. It is possible to purchase non-GMO cheesemaking supplies.

New England CheeseMaking Supply started back in the 1970’s when a newlywed couple wanted to be more self-reliant. They bought a goat and started making cheese. Friends wanted to learn to make cheese too and now they have a wonderful website with everything you need to make cheese yourself at home. Supplies, instructions, even a list of where you can get the best milk, all across the USA.

Cultures for Health is another good place to start. In fact, this is probably the easiest place to start because it really is designed to encourage beginners to make cultured foods at home. Simple instructions, fewer choices, but they carry organic vegetable rennet and animal rennet, all GMO-free. All easy to understand for beginners.

A really easy way to start making your own cheese is with my recipe for Fresh Ricotta Cheese which uses buttermilk as the starter. It takes only minutes to make and is better than any ricotta I’ve ever bought.

ricotta

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