Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homemade Mint Ice Cream (including a dairy-free, GAPS-legal option)

Store-bought ice cream could never compete with the nutrition and taste of homemade ice cream.   Making your own ice cream is easy, and you can even do it without an ice cream maker.

This mint ice cream is one of my family's favorite flavors.  The mint flavor is so deliciously cool and refreshing. It tastes wonderful by itself, and it also pairs well with macaroons or fresh strawberries.

Homemade Mint Ice Cream
  • 2 cups cream, preferably raw and definitely not ultrapasteurized
  • 1 cup whole milk, preferably raw
  • 3 egg yolks
  • pinch of celtic sea salt
  • 2/3 cup raw honey* OR 1/3 cup honey & 1/3 cup maple syrup**
  • 1/2 to 1 Tb mint extract (use more or less depending on how minty you want the ice cream to taste; I think 3/4 Tb is perfect)
  • 1 tsp spirulina powder (optional)***
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix very well.
  2. Pour into your ice cream maker and follow the instructions for your maker.  I use the Kitchen-Aid ice cream maker attachment, and it works great! If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can instead follow these instructions to make ice cream without a machine.
*If your raw honey is very crystallized, you may want to set it over a bowl of warm water so it will be thin enough to incorporate well.  With my blender, I have no problem even with honey that is fairly thick.
**Combining maple syrup and honey together somehow results in a very neutral flavor; the maple syrup and honey flavors seem to cancel each other out.  If you are on the GAPS diet, though, use all honey and it will still taste great.
***Spirulina powder will give the ice cream a beautiful green color (thanks to my friend Linda for this idea).  
****To make this ice cream GAPS-legal, simply omit the spirulina powder and substitute full-fat coconut milk for the cream and milk.  Using coconut milk results in a slightly different texture, but it is still delicious.

This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Parmesan Spinach Bread (GAPS-legal, grain- and nut-free)

I love a good sandwich.  Now that we eat a grain-free and starch-free diet, the bread options are pretty limited.  Sure, lettuce wraps are tasty too, but occasionally I like to have something more substantial to use as a base. 

Parmesan spinach bread is delicious to eat plain, or as the base for a sandwich.  It is superb topped with leftover roasted chicken, cheddar cheese, and homemade mayonnaise (use a toaster oven to melt the cheese on top of the chicken).  Or try it with bacon and homemade ranch dressing 

Parmesan Spinach Bread
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
6 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp celtic sea salt
pinch freshly ground pepper
2Tb butter, at room temperature

  1. With the exception of the butter, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Use a fork to beat all ingredients together until well-combined. 
  2. Grease a glass pie plate or 8X8 glass dish with 2 Tb butter.  This will make a nice thick layer of butter that will melt into the egg mixture. 
  3. Pour egg mixture into greased dish and bake at 350 degrees F until set.  This will take about 15-20 minutes if you start with a preheated oven, or 20-25 minutes starting with a cold oven.
  4. Cool slightly and serve. 
This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet , Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Homemade Ranch Dressing and Dip

    Homemade ranch dressing is very easy to make and tastes so much better than the store-bought kind.  Ranch is of course delicious on salads, but it is also great on as a dip for veggies, pizza, sandwiches, and even hard-boiled eggs. Give it a try!

    Homemade Ranch Dressing and Dip
    ½ c. sour cream or milk kefir
    ½ c. mayonnaise, preferably homemade*
    Heaping 1 Tb onion powder
    1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove minced garlic
    3 Tb dried parsley
    2 Tb finely grated Parmesan
    ¼ tsp pepper
    Yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir, optional
    1-2 Tb flax oil**, optional

    Combine all ingredients and stir well.  For dressing, add a little yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir to thin to desired consistency.  Chill for at least 1 hour, or preferably 3 hours.

    Tasty Tip: The onion powder is key to this recipe.  If, after being chilled for a few hours, the dressing doesn’t taste quite ranch-y enough, add more onion powder.
    Preservation Tip: Using homemade mayo helps the ranch keep longer, not that it stays around long at our house anyway. Regardless, it will last for at least a week in the fridge.

    *If you're using store-bought mayo, try to avoid soy and preservatives.  The kind we used to buy is Hain’s safflower mayo.
    **Only a small amount of flax oil is needed as it is very high in omega 3's. Make sure you buy flax oil that is refrigerated, as the high omega 3 content makes flax oil go rancid easily. Also, keep your flax oil refrigerated and never heat it.

    This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Tips for Planting the Summer Vegetable Garden

    We've passed our last frost date here in southern New Mexico, so it is time to plant the summer garden! I'm excited for the year ahead, and hoping to have better success than last year (when I was plagued with drip system problems and consequently didn't have a very happy garden).  The keys to a happy garden are good soil, the right amount of water, and plenty of sunshine.

    Plan it Out
    Before I planted my first summer garden a few years ago, I drew up a little plan of my garden and mapped out where I would plant everything.  Then I actually planted things and learned that the "plan" was totally off. These days, I still like to do at least a bit of planning ahead for plant placement. I do the following:
    • Take stock of old seeds - If you've previously planted a garden, you may still have some old seed packets.  Figure out what you've got and what you still need for this year. I only had to buy a couple seed packets this year. 
    • Plan for companion plants - For instance, tomatoes will benefit from being planted near parsley and dill, and would enjoy the afternoon shade offered by sunflowers.  Basil likes to be planted near tomatoes. For more ideas, check out my post on companion planting with herbs.
    • Get a rough idea of plant placement - Make sure to find a nice, sunny spot for your plants.  To reduce pests and diseases, it is a good idea to make sure you don't plant the same type of plants in the same location year after year.  I also need to re-think plant placement a bit each year because my compost heap changes locations and other plants (like strawberries) have taken over more area in the garden.
    Prep the Soil and Add Compost
    Good soil is key to a flourishing garden.  The ideal soil will have plenty of nutrients for the plants, will drain away excess water to prevent root rot, and will also retain enough moisture to keep the plants from drying out too much between waterings. Even if you have great soil, at a minimum you'll still want to turn over the dirt in your garden annually. This ensures that the ground is not too hard-packed so that roots can easily grow.  It also helps to mix nutrients evenly into the soil since certain areas may have been depleted by previous plantings.

    If you don't have very good soil, you'll need to amend it to make it better.  Overly sandy soil drains too quickly and the plants will dry out too much.  In some yards, there is clay soil which is problematic since it drains very slowly and is very compacted (which makes it hard for roots to grow). The best thing to use for amending your soil is compost!

    Compost is basically decomposed plant matter, and it is full of nutrients.  Using compost is a great way to enrich the soil as it retains just enough moisture and provides all the fertilizer your plants will need to grow and thrive.  The ground in my yard is full of sand and rocks.  Every year I remove more rocks and add more compost, so over time my garden soil is getting better and better.

    Compost is also great to use because it can be very cost effective. I have two large compost piles, and it is wonderful to put all of my vegetable scraps plus yard waste to such good use.  If you don't yet make your own compost, check to see if your local city has any available.  In my area, we can get compost for free at the city landfill.  You can also buy compost at the store.  Whichever compost you use, make sure it is fully composted before planting your vegetables in it.  My mom uses store-bought compost and finds it best to amend the soil and then wait 1-2 weeks before planting.

    Get to Planting
    Once your soil is ready, you can start planting!  Some plants, like tomatoes, get planted individually with plenty of space between plants.  Other plants, like corn, get planted in rows.  And then squash, cucumbers, and melons get planted in hills.

    When transplanting tomato or tomatillo plants, it is a good idea to gently pull off a few stems from the bottom of the plant.  Then plant the tomatoes deep so that the bottom of the main stem (where you removed the stems) is buried in the ground.  This will give the tomato plants a head start as roots will grow off the main stem.

    This year, the edible plants in my garden will be:
    • Tomatoes and tomatillos
    • Butternut squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and yellow squash
    • Cucumbers
    • Sunflowers, marigolds, and nasturtiums
    • Strawberries and raspberries
    • Green onions
    • Celery
    • Parsley, basil, dill, and thyme

    Make it Beautiful with Flowers
    I take a queue from my mom and always plant flowers in with my vegetables.  This makes the garden beautiful to look at, but it also aids the vegetables.  For instance, sunflowers can provide late-afternoon shade for tomatoes, marigolds can benefit strawberries, and zinnias can attract lots of beneficial pollinators.  Nasturtiums are also great to plant as bugs are more attracted to them than to your veggies. For more information on companion planting with flowers, check out the Extreme Gardening book.

    Set up the Watering System
    Where I live, we have an annual rainfall of only 8-11 inches so supplemental watering of the garden is absolutely required!  If you don't get regular rain in your area, you'll also need to supplement the water in your garden.  I know many people who like to use sprinklers or even water with the hose by hand, but my preferred method for watering is a drip system. Drip systems are wonderful for many reasons:
    • Drip systems deliver water directly to the ground around your plants.  This keeps the plants healthy and beautiful as many do not like having their leaves wet.
    • If you use a timer with your drip system, it will ensure that your plants get watered on a regular basis. This is a must for me as I can't be trusted to remember to water my garden all the time.  
    • Drip systems conserve water since the water goes directly into the ground where it is needed, instead of up into the air.
    Setting up a drip system can be complicated or simple.  My drip system is part of the overall landscape irrigation system that we installed.  However, you can easily set up a drip system off the hose bib in your yard as well.  They even sell drip system kits at the home improvement stores.  If you want more info, check out this free irrigation tutorial site.  

    Once you are done transplanting and your seeds have started growing well, it is a good idea to apply a layer of mulch to the garden.  Mulch helps to keep the ground from drying out too much, and it also keeps the plants off of the moist ground. Alfalfa hay is especially good to use as a mulch because it provides nutrients to the soil as time goes on.

    Get the Kids Involved 
    Getting your kids involved in the garden is wonderful.  It teaches them about the life cycle of plants, lets them feel responsible and confident, and gives them skills for their own gardening endeavors as they grow up.  Even very young children can participate, although when they are under 2-years-old their contributions will look more like getting filthy in the dirt. My daughter, who is now 4 years old, has had her own little garden space in my garden for the last couple years.  She helps me plant seeds and transplant seedlings into my garden, but she especially loves having her own space where she can plant anything she wants, however she wants!  And she is immeasurably proud when she gets to harvest food from her garden and watch us all enjoy it at the dinner table.

    Watch it Grow and Keep a Journal!
    Once your garden is planted, it's time to enjoy watching it grow until the foods are ripe.  A friend gave me the great idea to keep a gardening journal.  Each year, I record what was planted, when it was planted, and how it fared.  This helps me keep track from year-to-year on what worked best.

    What are you planting this year?

    This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Banana Bread (GAPS-legal, grain- and gluten-free)

    Everyone loves banana bread! This banana bread recipe cooks up moist and delicious.  It also makes a great bread for a nut butter sandwich.

    Banana Bread
    1/2 cup butter or unrefined coconut oil
    1/2 cup honey
    3/4 tsp celtic sea salt 
    6 eggs, preferably pasture-raised
    1.5 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp almond extract
    3/4 cup coconut flour
    1 large or 2 small ripe bananas, mashed

    1. Melt butter or coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly.
    2. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, salt, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a large bowl.  If using an immersion blender, pulse a few times to combine. Otherwise, mix to combine with a whisk or mixer.
    3. Add the honey to the butter (or coconut oil) and stir slightly.  Pour this mixture into the wet ingredients and blend well with immersion blender or mixer.
    4. Measure out the coconut flour.  Since coconut flour clumps, it will need to be sifted if you are not using an immersion blender
    5. Pour the coconut flour into the bowl with the wet ingredients.  Use an immersion blender or mixer to thoroughly combine all ingredients, making sure there are no lumps.  (Since coconut flour does not contain gluten, there is no worry of over-mixing the batter).
    6. Add mashed banana and mix to combine.
    7. Using butter or coconut oil, generously grease one large (9X5) loaf pan or two small (7.5X3.75) loaf pans. 
    8. Pour the batter into the loaf pan(s).
    9. Bake in 325 degree oven for until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. This will take about 50-60 minutes for two loaves.
    10. Remove from oven and cool. 
    Delicious with a pat of butter and a big glass of raw milk or milk kefir!

    *Time-saving tip: If you use an immersion blender to combine the ingredients, you can skip the step of sifting the coconut flour.  This also gives you less dirty dishes!

    This post is part of Grain-Free Carnival, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Nourish Your Children With Real Foods

    Good nutrition is essential for children to have proper brain development and growth.  It also promotes good sleeping and good behavior.  The best way to make sure your kids are getting good nutrition is to feed them real foods, not processed foods. Goldfish crackers, Cheerios, soy milk: these are not real foods!

    Let's Take a Look at Some Processed Foods
    Grocery stores are filled with processed foods. For example, let's look at Goldfish crackers and Cheerios.  These are very popular foods that seem relatively benign as they're not very sweet. 

    Goldfish Cracker Ingredients: Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Cheddar Cheese [(Pasteurized Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Annatto], Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Canola and/or Soybean), Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Yeast, Sugar, Spices, Autolyzed Yeast, Leavening (Monocalcium Phosphate, Ammonium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda) and Onion Powder

    "Unbleached enriched wheat flour" is a fancy way of saying refined flour that has been processed to remove all of the bran.  Unfortunately, the refining process also results in most of the vitamins and minerals being removed from the flour. As described in Nourishing Traditions, "consumption of refined calories depletes the body's precious reserves".  For this reason, foods like refined wheat flour and sugar should be considered "negative calories".

    Vegetable oils like sunflower, canola, and/or soybean are oils that contain a very high amount of omega-6 fatty acid. According to The Skinny on Fats, consumption of excess omega-6 can lead to an "imbalance that can interfere with production of important prostaglandins. This disruption can result in increased tendency to form blood clots, inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer and weight gain."

    Autolyzed yeast is a flavor enhancer similar to MSG.  Since it contains free glutamic acid, autolyzed yeast can lead to the same problems as MSG. 

    Cheerios Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Tripotassium Phosphate, Wheat, Starch, Vitamin E, Calcium Carbonate, Iron and Zinc, Vitamin C, B Vitamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3

    Cheerios are touted as "heart healthy" and "whole grain", but are they actually good for you? With all the media hype these days about whole grains, the "whole grain oats" sure sound good.  However, improperly prepared whole grains can actually contribute to health problems such as cavities.  Modified corn starch is a highly processed granular powder that sometimes contains MSG.  But wait, aren't Cheerios fortified with vitamins? That means they must be good for you, right?  Unfortunately, synthetic vitamins are not as easily assimilated as natural vitamins found in real food.  There are also toxicity risks with synthetic vitamins (whereas consuming large amounts of natural vitamins in food does not pose the same risk).   Don't even get me started on Froot Loops and Spaghettios!

    Real Foods Research 
    Weston A. Price was a dentist who traveled the world trying to figure out why so many of his patients in the United States had such prevalent tooth decay and cavities.  Price learned that people who ate traditional foods had virtually no cavities or tooth decay, nor even cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.  When the same people started consuming modern foods (like refined white flour, pasteurized milk, canned foods, and sugar), those health problems did develop.

    The diets of the people studied by Price were very different depending on what foods were available in each geographic region. However, the traditional diets had some common characteristics (from Nourishing Traditions).
    • The people "ate liberally of seafood or other animal proteins and fats in the form of organ meats and dairy products,
    • "they valued animal fats as absolutely necessary to good health,
    • "and they ate fats, meats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains in their whole, unrefined state."
    Later research discovered that traditional diets also included fermented foods.  These foods included cultured dairy products, as well as fermented vegetables, fruits, and meats. Unlike modern canning processes, the process of fermenting foods increases their nutrient content and makes them easier to digest.  Fermented foods also provide probiotics, which are especially important to ensure the right balance of gut bacteria.  In our modern age of widespread antibiotic and pharmaceutical use, people very commonly have an improper balance of gut bacteria.  As described in Gut and Psychology Syndrome, improper gut bacteria can lead to small problems such as allergies and eczema, as well as big problems like autism, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.

    Feed Your Children Real Foods
    To ensure the best health and development of your children, their diets should have the same characteristics as traditional diets.  This means your children should eat real foods, which are those that have not been refined or adulterated with chemicals. There should be an emphasis on consuming animal foods and fats, organic fruits and vegetables, and fermented foods.

    People have relied upon real foods throughout history to ensure good health and proper development.  While it may take some adjustment time and extra work in the kitchen, feeding your children a nourishing diet is the best way to give them robust health.  The following links may help in easing the transition to real foods:
    10 Tips for Real Food Newbies
    Zapping Sugar Cravings
    Questions and Answers on Kids and Traditional Foods
    Packing the Perfect Lunch Box
    What I Put in My Kids' School Lunches
    Healthy Meals and Snacks for the Back-to-School Season
    10 Healthy, Nourishing School Lunches

    This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Tips for the Best Nourishing Smoothies

    The kids and I like to go for walks often, and during the warm months we always feel the urge to make a smoothie when we get home. Since we live in the desert, smoothie season basically runs from March through October, so we make lots of smoothies! Homemade smoothies can have superb nutrition and be absolutely delicious! What a great way to cool down. 
    Nourishing, Delicious Smoothie Ingredients
    I love the simplicity of making smoothies: just throw all of your ingredients into a blender and whir!  I don't think there is any perfect ratio of ingredients in smoothies, so I just follow some simple guidelines and don't worry about measuring the ingredients.

    Essential ingredients:
    • 1 to 2 cups of milk kefir, yogurt, sour milk, raw milk, coconut milk, or fresh juice - I usually use yogurt or kefir as the base ingredient, which results in a deliciously tangy, probiotic-filled smoothie.  Sometimes I like the smooth creaminess of a raw milk or coconut milk smoothie, too. On special occasions, I will add a bit of fresh-squeezed juice.  With my blender, I have to make sure to add the base ingredient first, before adding any frozen ingredients.  Otherwise, it will not blend up properly.
    • 1 heaping spoonful of sour cream - It may sound strange, but sour cream is my secret ingredient to make a rich and delicious smoothie.  Just add a dollop to the blender any time you are making a smoothie and you will be pleasantly surprised at the great flavor it imparts.
    • 2 to 3 cups of frozen fruit - I find that using ice to thicken up a smoothie results in a somewhat watery-tasting smoothie.  Use frozen fruit instead and your smoothie will be bursting with flavor.
    • A pinch of salt - Add a pinch of salt to really bring out the sweet flavors in your smoothie.
    • 1 to 2 bananas or 1 heaping spoonful honey - Ripe bananas make smoothies very creamy and add just the right amount of sweetness. If you don't have any ripe bananas, add just a spoonful of raw honey (or none at all if the fruit you are using is very sweet).
    • Tiny splash of flavor extract - Add a flavor such as vanilla extract, orange extract, or almond extract to really add dimension to the flavor of your smoothie.
    Optional ingredients:
    • 1 to 2 raw egg yolks or whole eggs - A great way to add some nutrients to smoothies is to add raw egg yolks or whole eggs (if you don't have any problem digesting raw egg whites).
    • 1 heaping spoonful nut butter - Add nut butter to make a smoothie into a meal.  Nut butter pairs well with any berries or bananas.
    • Splash of whey - Add a splash of raw whey to give your smoothie a probiotic boost. (This idea came from Laura at Wringing Out My Sponge.)

    My Favorite Flavor Combinations
    To make a smoothie, just follow the approximate ratios described above.  Some of my favorite flavor combinations are:
    • Tropical - fresh orange juice, pineapple, banana, and frozen strawberries or raspberries
    • Triple berry - banana, frozen strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries with a dash vanilla, almond, and/or orange extract
    • Strawberry dream - frozen strawberries, vanilla extract, and almond extract
    • Strawberry banana - banana, frozen strawberries, vanilla extract, and almond extract
    • Cherry goodness - frozen cherries, vanilla extract, and almond extract
    • Orange mango - banana, fresh orange juice and frozen mango
    • Strawberry delight - fresh orange juice, banana, and frozen strawberries 
    • Strawana peanut butter - banana, frozen strawberry, peanut butter, and vanilla extract

    Make it Last by Freezing Some Smoothie!
    I'm always looking for ways to save on effort and time spent in the kitchen.  So when I make smoothies, I like to make a large amount and freeze some into smoothie popsicles. It also works well to freeze smoothies in mason jars; they should be defrosted for about 24 hours in the fridge and will need a good stirring.  These leftover smoothies make a great, easy breakfast.

    What is your favorite smoothie flavor combination? 

    This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Herb Gardening, Companion Planting, and the Easiest Herb to Grow!

    Growing herbs is a great way to start growing your own food.  Herbs don't take up much space, and they are wonderfully versatile.  Herbs can be grown in a traditional garden, but they can also be grown in pots or even on a sunny windowsill. In my kitchen, herbs are essential to adding variety to our meals.  

    Companion Plant with Herbs
    As described in the Extreme Gardening book, companion planting is "putting plants together that help one another to grow and thrive". Many herbs are great as companion plants for other plants in your garden.  Some herbs that can be used as companion plants (from the Extreme Gardening book) are :
    • Basil attracts beneficial pollinators and repels pests.  Basil is especially beneficial to plant near cauliflower, tomatoes, and apricot and peach trees. 
    • Bay leaves repel ants, caterpillars, grubs, and moths
    • Chives benefit carrots, parsley, roses, and stone fruit trees. Chives also deter aphids, crickets, and grasshoppers.
    • Coriander (cilantro) is a general insect deterrent that attracts beneficial pollinators and predaceous insects.
    • Dill attracts beneficial pollinators and predaceous insects, and it also helps produce bigger ears of corn.
    • Fennel attracts beneficial pollinators and predaceous insects.
    • Lavender is a general insect repellent that attracts bees and butterflies. It is especially beneficial to plant lavender near eggplant and swiss chard.
    • Mint is a general insect repellent that attracts predaceous insects.  It is especially beneficial to plant mint near cabbage. 
    • Parsley attracts beneficial pollinators and predaceous insects.  It is especially beneficial to plant parsley near asparagus, chives, tomatoes, carrots, and roses.
    • Rosemary attracts beneficial pollinators and disrupts the sensory mechanisms of most insects.  It is especially beneficial to plant rosemary near brussel sprouts, melons, squash, and any other fruits and vegetables that need pollinating.
    • Sage repels many insects and especially benefits cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes. (Sage should not be planted near cucumbers as it makes them bitter.)
    • Tarragon benefits eggplant and peppers.
    • Thyme attracts beneficial pollinators and deters caterpillars, flies, and moths.  It is especially beneficial to plant thyme near eggplant and cabbage.

    My Herbs
    My first homegrown herbs were some parsley plants that grew wonderfully with a great bounty.  Even better, I allowed them to go to seed and now I have volunteer parsley plants popping up throughout my garden and near one of my apple trees.  Parsley is wonderful in soups and broths, plus I use plenty of it in my homemade ranch dressing.

    I also grow basil both outdoors and on a windowsill.  Growing some indoors means I have access to fresh basil even in the winter.  Basil is of course great in marinara sauce, but it is also wonderful in soups and stews.  Fresh basil gives homemade pizza a great taste.

    Dill is another herb that has many uses in the kitchen. It is great on roasted root vegetables. I especially like to add some fresh dill to veggie ferments as it lends the finished products a wonderful fresh flavor.

    And the homegrown herb that I use the most is thyme!

    Thyme: the Easiest to Grow
    In my experience, thyme is the absolute easiest herb to grow.  Thyme is a perennial, so while most other outdoor herbs die back every winter, thyme keeps growing year-round!  It also has a profusion of tiny pink flowers and will reseed easily.  This means you'll always have plenty of thyme.  I've had some thyme growing both in my vegetable garden and in a pot for a few years. Thyme will grow well in a wide variety of climates: it is regularly over 100 degrees here in the summer and this past winter we had a freak cold snap with temperatures below -10 degrees; the thyme is still growing strong!

    It's great to have access to fresh thyme all winter long as it pairs so wonderfully with meats and is so tasty in soups and stews. Try it in my Creamy Chicken and Thyme Soup or Braised Short Ribs

    Do you grown your own herbs?  What types? 

    This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade!

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Butter Up Your Veggies for the Best Nutrition and Taste!

    Why butter? 
    Contrary to popular opinion, butter is a healthy and nourishing food.  It is a great source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K (referred to as Activator X by Weston Price).  In the article The Skinny on Fats, Mary Enig and Sally Fallon describe that butter is a great source of "true vitamin A or retinol, vitamin D, vitamin K and vitamin E as well as all their naturally occurring cofactors needed to obtain maximum effect...Vitamins A and D are essential for growth, for healthy bones, for proper development of the brain and nervous systems and for normal sexual development."

    From savory dishes to baked goods, butter makes everything taste better! Vegetables are especially delicious with butter. Eating vegetables with plenty of fat ensures maximum assimilation of minerals and nutrients from the vegetables, so there is no reason to skip the butter.

    Pair your butter with cod liver oil
    We start every day with a dose of cod liver oil; Weston Price's research showed that cod liver oil works synergistically with butter, so we try to make sure to eat plenty of butter with breakfast. When we were still eating grains, it was pretty easy to eat butter with every breakfast as it goes so well with baked goods and porridge.  Once we stopped eating grains, I had to find a new way to get our butter in the mornings.  The notion of vegetables for breakfast used to sound strange to me, but on most days the kids and I now enjoy a breakfast of eggs cooked in butter served alongside buttered veggies.  I find myself craving this meal every day. What a great way to start the day!

    Recipe: Simple Buttered Veggies
    • 2 cups veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, spinach, or green beans)*
    • filtered water
    • 2-4 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows (veggies like broccoli can soak up lots of butter, veggies like peas don't so you'll need less with them)
    • celtic sea salt
    1. Place veggies in a small pot and add about 1/2-inch of filtered water. 
    2. Cook over medium heat until the water comes to a simmer.  
    3. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low.  
    4. Continue to cook until the veggies are tender.  For peas and spinach, this will take only a minute or two.  For tougher veggies like broccoli, this will take 5-10 minutes. 
    5. Turn off heat and drain the veggies well (make sure you discard the cooking water).
    6. In the still-warm pot, add the butter and season the veggies liberally with salt.  
    7. Serve and enjoy!
    *Time-saving tip: To cut down on prep time in the mornings, I like to use frozen vegetables.  Many vegetables do not freeze well, but I find that the flavor and texture of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, peas, spinach, and green beans are great.

    This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet!

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Balsamic Vinaigrette (GAPS-legal)

    Did you know that it is lettuce season?  Lettuce is a cool-season crop, so Spring and Fall are typically the best times to find local lettuce and other salad greens.  My own meager lettuce crop is ready for harvest, and we've been enjoying lettuce from my mom's garden for months. Since we've been eating lots of salad, it is nice to have some variety in salad dressings.  Making homemade salad dressing is very easy, and the taste and nutrition of homemade dressing are unmatched by salad dressing from the store. 

    Balsamic Vinaigrette
    1/2 c. balsamic vinegar*
    2 tsp dijon mustard
    2 cloves garlic, pressed
    1/2 tsp onion powder
    1 tsp dried oregano
    1 tsp dried basil
    1/4 tsp celtic sea salt
    1/2 Tb raw honey
    1-2 Tb flax oil**
    3/4-1 c. olive oil and/or sunflower oil***
    1. Combine vinegar, mustard, salt, honey, and spices.  Whisk until well-combined.  
    2. Add a small amount of oil, and whisk well to combine. (Adding a small amount of oil initially helps the dressing to become emulsified so that it will not separate readily into vinegar and oil.)  
    3. Add remaining oil and whisk to combine.  
    4. Store in the fridge.  I find that this dressing keeps for at least a week or two.  
    Serve over salad and enjoy!  For a new twist, try drizzling both balsamic vinaigrette and Easy Creamy Dressing onto a salad.

    *Balsamic vinegar is listed as not allowed on the GAPS food list.  However, according to the SCD-legal and illegal list, the reason is that many balsamic vinegars have sugar in them.  To make this dressing GAPS-legal, make sure your balsamic vinegar does not have sugar.
    **Only a small amount of flax oil is needed as it is very high in omega 3's. Make sure you buy flax oil that is refrigerated, as the high omega 3 content makes flax oil go rancid easily. Also, keep your flax oil refrigerated and never heat it.
    ***Feel free to use all olive oil; I use a combination of olive oil and sunflower oil as I find that it makes the dressing pourable directly from the fridge.  When I've used all olive oil, the oil solidifies in the fridge so that the dressing has to be warmed to room temperature before use.  I like my dressing to have quite a vinegar tang; if you like yours more mild, use the full 1 cup of oil.

    This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist!