Max here... I want to write about the dinner I cooked tonight.
Not because it was some fabulous recipe. I want to mention it because it came from a mentality shift I am going through. We have been so busy lately between the Olive Harvest, and getting lots of new plants in the ground. Then, a few weeks ago, our two kids got sick, and the cold hung on for several days before clearing up. Eventually I got it too -- no fun, especially when there's so much to get done. I can't call in sick and just tell the plants and weeds to stop growing for a few days.
My thought was "Why are we getting sick? Don't we lead a pretty healthy lifestyle and fresh diet?" Of course, I realize even the healthiest among us will get sick to some degree from time to time, but nonetheless it made me stop and rethink about what we've been eating lately. I didn't like what I saw.
Can the farmer be too busy to eat his own food? Sounds silly. But I realized we were sliding down that slope. Amidst all the to-do, we found we were eating more and more "quick foods." Not your typical "quick food." But things like more sandwiches made with Ezechiel bread, and a lot of eggs, since they cook up quickly. I'm not saying that those are bad things to eat, but we weren't eating according to our dietary goals inspired by Weston A. Price, and the Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.
We have a freezer full of our very own chickens, but we weren't finding time to make stock and chicken. We do eat salads from our farm every day, but not as much kale, cilantro and parsley as we could be -- all green super foods that should be nourishing our bodies!
So today, I pulled one of those chickens out, and some extra chicken feet we had, and put it in the stock pot to simmer. I walked the farm to see what I could pick fresh for tonight's dinner. I took home Romaine Lettuce, Kale, Green Onions, Ripe Tomatoes, Parsley, Cilantro. Tonight we enjoyed a large salad dressed with our own new olive oil (blog post on that coming soon!!). We had rice cooked in nourishing chicken stock, with kale, cilantro, parsley, garlic and green onion. We added the chicken to the rice, and at last we felt like we were once again eating a traditional, nourishing, delicious meal. And we knew the story behind where it all came from.
And we're going to do it again tomorrow! Here's to picking up wherever you are, and doing one thing to put healthier, fresher food in our bodies, and connect with the story of that food and who grew it!
For those of you that want the "recipe", here it is:
Rice Cooked in Chicken Stock
2 cups rice (we use organic long grain brown)
4 cups chicken stock
Any amount of chicken meat (we use the meat from the carcass used to make stock)
4-6 cloves garlic
A little Butter
Several generous three-finger pinches of salt (we use Celtic Sea Salt.)
Saute the onions in butter until cooked, and salt them well. Add the garlic and cook another couple minutes. Add the rice, stock, salt and chicken, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours until the rice has soaked up all the stock.
Once the rice is done, add freshly chopped green onion, cilantro and parsley and serve. Adding some lemon and butter or olive oil also helps. Add salt if needed.
OK, as promised, here are the results of my "baking" (you don't actually bake these treats) experiments to find Christmas treats that are both delicious, and also healthy. I love improvising and finding new recipes, but it usually takes a few times to get one that really works. Here are the ones that turned out great.
The recipes below are healthier than normal treats in 3 main ways:
Chocolate Almond Squares
2 oz 100% bakers chocolate
1/2 cup almonds
1 Tablespoon Cream
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional Ingredients (these make it yummier and healthier):
1/4 teaspoon acerola powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
Try using pecans too! If you want to be even healthier, buy your nuts raw, soak them for 12 hours in salt water, then dry them crispy in an oven on low heat, or in a dehydrator/ This reduces the phytic acid in the nuts, and activates enzymes to make them more digestable.
4 oz 100% bakers chocolate
1/4 cup cream
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon acerola powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely Chopped Almonds or Cacao Powder (We use a raw organic cacao powder from Amazon.)
Variation: use 20 dates blended into a thick paste instead of the syrup. Stir / fold in the dates after melting the chocolate in the hot cream. The result will be a slightly stickier, more fruity truffle -- still quite good! Don't forget to let the mixture partially cool before strying to form into balls.
Make these exactly the same as the truffle recipe, but add 3-4 drops of food-grade peppermint essential oil to the mixture. Shape them into balls, or patties, or whatever you like. These taste best on their own with no extra coating on the outside.
Chocolate Covered Dried Cherries
Use the truffle recipe above and form balls of truffle surrounding a dried cherry in each one! You can also do this with raisins to make chocolate covered raisins, but this is pretty time consuming since they are so small. The cherries go a lot faster! Also try putting a whole almond or pecan in the middle.
Spiced Chai is one of our favorite winter drinks, and we can easily drink 1-2 gallons a day between all of us. We love to share this with anyone who comes over to our house, and try always to keep a pot ready on the stove. We make it 6-8 quarts at a time, so it lasts for a while (well, at least for a day!)
Chai is really just the word for "tea" in several different languages, but it has come to refer to a blend of spices usually made with black tea, but we leave the black tea out of our recipe to avoid the caffeine, and also because it really isn't necessary to make a great tasting hot drink. Sweetened with honey, our blend of chai is loaded with immune boosting spices which come in handy around the holidays, when lots of people seem to get sick. Since ours has no caffeine, we finish off each day with a hot cup before bed!
Here's the basic recipe. Feel free to innovate, and try different spices and different proportions too. We have encountered lots of different chai recipes, but this is the one that works best for our tastes. We buy all our organic spices whole (not ground), and in bulk. The main two companies we use are Starwest Botanicals and Frontier, and they are both available on Amazon.
About 6 quarts water
(optionally add 4-8 cups almond milk too)
4 oz fresh ginger, cut into slices
6-8 cinnamon sticks
1/3 cup whole cardamom pods
1/3 cup whole anise seeds
1/3 cup whole fennel seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
Boil / simmer the entire mixture for an hour or longer. Serve with a ladle and strain with a sieve into cups to mke sure whole spices don't end up in someone's cup! You can leave the whole mixture on the stove overnight, and just reheat it the next day. You can either sweeten the whole pot with honey, or simply sweeten individual cups as you serve them. A little cream added to the cup, or a little almond milk makes the perfect cup...
About the Authors
Max and Deirdre Becher farm together on First Steps Farm in Southern California. They love farming, raising their kids, playing music, contradancing, cooking, and working together to create a vibrant culture of celebrating life. See it all unfold right here!