Sunday, December 26, 2010

Asparagus with Dijon Butter

Do you have holiday traditions? I find comfort in my holiday rituals. These days my life is shifting so quickly I am needing extra time to center myself, sit in stillness and remain open to the gifts of life. I am finding that the gifts of life may not have the wrapping paper I imagined or am used to, but I am trusting what is inside life's gifts will be exactly what I need.

I am starting a new tradition this year of eating Dungeness crab for our holiday dinner. I know, so Californian of me, right? It is fresh and easy to get where I live though, and a festive addition to a holiday dinner. A few nights ago at my daughter's request, we each said what we are thankful for at dinner. I said I was thankful to live in California. And, as I am planning a move to the bay area this summer, I am especially thankful that I can move to such an amazing place. No more off-grid solar living. No more driving 45 minutes to town. No more driving 3 miles down a dirt road to get home. It is very idyllic living off-grid until you are alone trying to trouble shoot an inverter problem or a broken generator! I will be a 5 minute drive to almost anything I want. A very long way from the outhouse I had at Shobo-an when I first moved here. The things I will miss (and it is a long, long list) are part of the chapter in my life I am closing. I am very lucky that the friendships I have made these past ten years I will take along with me after I move. I hope to lure all my friends to Marin for any amount of time they are willing to visit.

This year I tried a new dish vegetable dish for the holiday. Asparagus is starting to come into season here on the west coast, and I thought to include it in our crab dinner. I told my dear friends last night at Christmas dinner it was a potential blog recipe and to be honest. Thumbs up or thumbs down. I got all thumbs up. I made it twice this week. The first time I shaved the asparagus with a vegetable peeler into thin strands I sauteed. The second time I just chopped the asparagus into 3 inch pieces. I liked it chopped into three inch pieces (less work!). The picture above I took when I shaved the asparagus. I toasted sesame seeds from my grain CSA to top the dish with. Don't forget the sesame seeds. They really add a wonderful nuttiness that contrasts the dijon.
Happy Holidays!

Aspargus with Dijon Butter
serves 4

1 bunch asparagus (bottoms trimmed off) cut into 3 inch pieces
1 tbls butter
1 tbls dijon mustard
pinch salt
2 tbls toasted sesame seeds

Sautee asparagus in butter for 8 minutes. Add dijon and salt. Mix well and cook covered over low heat until tender  (about 2 minutes more) Top with toasted sesame seeds.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Going Off-Grid

Path at Bald Mountain....

When I talk to people about how cooking can add to their lives, I think about a list of tools that make things easier, greener and more exciting for this journey. I get some blank stares when I suggest to folks that cooking most meals at home while still maintaining a busy life is possible. I think back to my grandmother, Mormor. She cooked everything from scratch while being a farmer's wife, mother and running a busy rural house on a dairy farm in Connecticut. How did she do it? How did all of our grandmothers do it? Sometimes I think technology is taking up too much of our space, but I think too that the energy of life is different now and there is room for everything in our busy lives including room to think about and create food that is "off the grid" so to speak. The grid is the dream we plug into or the story we are told by society that we should be following to keep up with the pace of the busy world. I am part of the food revolution that is creating a new dream for how we feed ourselves.
When I first moved to California from Chicago ten years ago, I did not shop at farmers markets and did not subscribe to CSA's. I did not know any farmers. I had never been to a working farm that I ate food from. I did not think about how far food traveled to get to my plate.  I was clinical in my approach to nutrition and helping my clients. I relied on lab work, supplement companies and reading food labels. I walked through grocery stores in a matter of fact manner with my clients showing them "how to shop". It is not that I think I was missing the point back then, it is just that my view has grown to encompass all the parts of a person when I think of how they might change their lives in a way they are wanting for themselves. Older, wiser and more heart centered now, I am off-grid in my view of nourishment and I see people's connection to nourishment as just one part of our experience of all things. I say off-grid, but actually what I think is happening is when you pull away from the dream and you plug into what is happening now, in this moment in your body and heart, things change to become more tailored to you and how your journey is unfolding.

So, here is a list of my kitchen essentials. The tools in my toolbox.

1. Pressure Cooker
2. Sharp knives
3. Cast Iron Skillet
4. Micro-Plane Zester
5. Cuisinart (food processor)
6. Blender
7. Olive Oil
8. Sea Salt
9. Hand Grater
10. Love

A pressure cooker is number one. I try to think about how I lived without one, and it boggles my mind. A pressure cooker has made it possible for me to keep the pace of cooking up so that I can remove canned food from my house. It has allowed me to cook things quicker. The thought of having vegetable soup or a pot of beans for dinner without spending 3 hours cooking has radically shifted my cooking perspective. I will go far as to say that I think pressure cookers are the green kitchen tool of the food revolution we are experiencing. A pressure cooker is essential to have if you are eating on a budget. If you are conscious of having to spend "too much time" in the kitchen. If you are trying simplify your life. If you are shifting to eating less meat. If you are increasing your fiber intake. I could go on....
There is a wonderful website: Miss Vickie that is dedicated to pressure cooking. Recipes, cooking times, pressure cooker reviews. I highly recommend browsing the site. Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beet Dip

I have been thinking about how nourishment moves through us.  And by that I mean how do you shift the idea of nourishment of yourself, family and the people around you to something deeper. It has to be more than just eating the good food. It has to be more than curing childhood obesity. It has to be more than harvesting the corn. Could it be about our hearts? The center of all these things could be an acceptance of ourselves in the place we are in this moment and the loving that happens in this spot.  Believing my heart can love it all.  The starvation, the disease, the chemicals, the global warming, the jealousy, the anger, the heartbreak, the forgiveness, the destruction, the wonder, the beauty, the solutions. That in my loving there is transformation. The act of my love for all things now is the nourishment. I thought about that yesterday while making my beet spread ....which today I am eating on toast. Watching the fog in the meadow creep up the hill.

You all know I am very lucky to live in California where things are moving at lightening speed in the realm of food, and food consciousness. . There is a great radio program (that you can podcast) on weekly that covers things both in California and beyond called An Organic Conversation. It is hosted by Helge Hellberg and Mark Mulcahy. You can join their facebook as well.  A show dedicated to all the things I am sure you will love if you like this blog. Olive oil, canning, flowers, local farmers, food in schools, the environment. You get the point. The recipe I am posting today was inspired from their blog.  I  made a version of this dip last week and have changed a bit. An unexpected, colorful, vegan dip that is beautiful to look at and eat. It has a wonderful herbal quality that balances the earthy beets. The cashews mellow the whole thing out. I might add that it looks like Christmas in a bowl....I roasted a big plate of beets and used three medium/small beets for this recipe. Beets are in season right now, so it is a perfect time to find them locally. I used my food processor to blend the dip, and it took less than 5 minutes to make after the beets were roasted. Incredibly easy, and very festive. If you bring this to your next holiday party it will most likely be a topic of conversation. It might break some food barriers too. Beets are like that. They cut through the normal with their intensity. But whatever you do, don't let a six year old eat the beet dip on your white couch near your furry white pillows. Try not to let that happen...

Beet Dip
makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 cups roasted beets
1/3 heaping cup raw cashews
2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
pinch salt
1 heaping tsp. fresh chopped rosemary
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp. ground cumin

Wash the beets and put in an oven safe dish. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and cover. Bake in oven for one hour at 375 degrees. Test for doneness by piercing beets with a sharp knife. If the knife goes through the beet easily, they are done. Let beets cool and remove beet skins with you fingers. It should slip off. Rought cut into cubes and measure out around 1 1/2 cups. Add to food processor with the other ingredients. Blend until smooth (mine took a couple of minutes)Yum!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hierloom Lima Beans with Beet Chips and Leeks

I have been a bit absent from my blog lately. I have been folded up in the deep layers of my heart. I have been surrendering to waves of change. I have been silently sitting, trusting my life. I am cleaning out the closets of dreams, relationships and home. I am digging in the dirt with the divine to create a new picture for myself. I am leaving a place that I thought was love and moving inside myself. Being broke open is an amazing process to experience. I see a space to take big leaps in my life that I would have not had otherwise. Big stuff. A most humble place to be. Everything is being rearranged in my life. The only constant is change itself and the beating of my heart.

So, in the middle of pondering moves to the bay area and appreciating friends and family surrounding me constantly, I have been thinking about cooking.  Not actually cooking very much, but thinking about it. I have walked passed the newly filled mason jar of heirloom lima beans from my grain csa for a full seven days and felt no pull to transform them. Today though,  I am conquering the lima bean. These beautiful heirloom lima beans are deep purple, yellow and burgundy. I soaked them overnight and then cooked them in organic chicken stock for extra flavor. I sauteed leeks in olive oil until they had nice crispy brown edges and started to soften and give way to the sugars inside. The beet chips I tossed in olive oil and salt and cooked for a quick time in the oven. I think this has similar components as my spring stew deconstructed, but is more simple to put together.  I did not use my pressure cooker to cook the beans due to their fragile nature. I wanted to make sure the beans stayed intact and did not fall apart under the high pressure. It is a rainy, cold winter day here in northern california. A perfect day for beans and a fire. A perfect day to be alone with my own loving heart.

Heirloom Lima Beans with Beet Chips and Leeks
makes 2 large dinner servings or 4 small side servings

Heirloom Lima Beans
1 cup heirloom lima beans (any varietal is fine)
3 cups organic chicken stock
water for soaking
Soak beans 6-8 hours. Cook in chicken stock covered until tender on simmer until tender (about 50 minutes)

2 large leeks cut lengthwise, trimmed and washed
1 tbls olive oil
pinch salt
Wash  and trim leeks. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Sautee with olive oil  and salt until brown and tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Beet Chips
(this recipes makes more than the recipe, so use as a snack for lunch tomorrow!)
2 large beets
1 tbls olive oil
pinch salt

Wash beets and trim off tops and bottom. Slice the beets as thinly as you can. I tried for 1/8 of an inch. You could use a mandoline and make it easy on yourself.
Toss in olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes or until they start getting brown. Cooking times will vary depending on how thin you cut your beets.

To assemble, put a large spoonful of the lima beans in a shallow bowl. (Plate each serving separately)
Add a large spoon of leeks and teaspoon of olive oil. Put a few beet chips on top. Lovely!


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