Thanksgiving 2010 will be a day that I will remember for the rest of my life I’m sure. We started June 2010 with six 1-day old turkey poults, and on November 23rd, 2010 we had three fully grown turkeys in the backyard. On November 24th Adam and Corey harvested our big tom, Tom the Turkey, for Thanksgiving dinner on the 25th. Tom was an impressive turkey in his last days, albeit rather annoying. He reminded me of a cranky old man as he gobbled fiercly at any passing car, barking dog, ambulance siren, and any other slight noise that entered within his range of hearing. Adam and Corey did a wonderful job of killing him quickly and humanely, and after Tom was all dressed for dinner we weighed him to find out that he was 36.6 pounds! A full 20 pounds bigger than any turkey I’ve ever cooked before!

As you can see, the turkey almost didn’t fit into the biggest roasting pan available at the grocery store! I went with the Martha Stewart method of cooking the turkey, dressing the breast with a full piece of cheesecloth soaked in two sticks of melted butter. I also rubbed a mix of parsley/thyme/oregano/salt/pepper under and on top of the skin, and tied the legs together with butcher’s twine. The turkey was roasted at 475 degrees for 1 hour, and then 350 degrees for another 5 1/2 hours. Once the turkey was done it had to rest for about 50 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to make gravy from the mass of drippings that came off of this giant bird.

Soon came the moment of truth. We had a wonderful spread of completely gluten-free and primal fare including roasted sweet potatoes, made-from-scratch green bean casserole, gluten-free stuffing, broccoli with made-from-scratch cheese sauce, gravy, and of course turkey. At that point, we all loaded our plates up, and got to try Tom the Turkey for the first time. Drumroll please….

He was delicious! I’ve honestly never tasted poultry quite like this at all. The breast meat was fork-tender, even melt-in-your-mouth amazing. The taste was very good as well, like good poultry, but the texture of the meat was what amazed me the most! The simple fact that I ate white meat without gravy is a feat in itself! I did then pour gravy over most of my food, which made it even better, but the meat was so moist and tender it didn’t actually need it.

One reason Tom was so delicious is because we accidentaly timed the raising of the turkeys perfectly! According to what Adam and I have read, turkeys are best for harvest at about 22 weeks, which is when they have grown to full size and have started putting on fat but haven’t yet gotten tough. They did eat a lot of regular old “flock raiser” turkey food, but got to wander through the whole backyard nearly every day eating bugs and ate copious amounts of vegetable scraps as well.
We still have to harvest the two hens (female turkeys), but overall, raising them has been a great experience. If you’ve got the space and inclination to raise a turkey or three, and have the stomach to harvest them yourself (thank you Adam and Corey!), I highly recommend having a 100% fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. I can think of no better way to learn appreciation for the food that you eat than to raise and care for it yourself before lovingly preparing it for your family and close friends.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope you had as much to be thankful for this year as I did!

As a pregnant lady, getting a good balance of omega 3 fatty acids is extra important for me. One awesome way to get those omega 3′s is to eat fish, especially salmon! You may have heard the idea that fish consumption should be limited during pregnancy because of the danger mercury poses to the growing fetus, which is a valid concern. Unfortunately, people have been throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak, by throwing out fish because of mercury fears. Small fish and fish that are harvested at younger ages do not collect the mercury levels that larger and older fish do, including swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and shark. Eating plenty of wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, arctic char, trout, and albacore tuna will supply you with a lot of omega 3′s and help your baby build it’s brain!

With that in mind, I made a salmon ceasar salad the other day with made-from-scratch ceasar dressing that was excellent. I took the main ingredients for the ceasar dressing from this recipe, but made the following changes:

1. I halved the recipe, but didn’t halve the garlic or parmesan (I think I added extra parmesan actually).
2. I put all of the ingredients into my food processor, turned it on, and drizzled the olive oil into that instead of whisking.

It turned out just like restaurant ceasar dressing! I added it to chopped romaine hearts and diced roma tomatoes, tossed a bit, then topped with poached salmon and more parmesan.

Cook your salmon however you’d like. I simply put it in a pan on the stove, drizzled it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and topped with salt and cracked pepper, put about 1/3 cup water in the pan, turned the stove on high and covered with a lid until the water boiled. Then, I turned the heat down to medium, turned the salmon over once, and it was done in a matter of about 8 minutes! Easy. The end of summer is very near, so try to enjoy a few more salads before it turns into soup weather!

Yet another pregnancy craving I was having last week involved putting chili on, well, anything. And everything. I settled for putting it on top of roasted cauliflower because, let’s face it, roasted vegetables are amazing! I felt like making a simpler chili than usual, so I opted for grass-fed ground beef instead of chuck roast. I called it “rainbow chili” because I used three colors of bell peppers, and it turned out really pretty! See:

Before you start the chili, preheat your oven to 350 degrees farenheit and cut a full head of cauliflower into small-ish pieces.

Rainbow Chili:

2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
2 tablespoons cooking fat – I used bacon grease, but butter or tallow would work too
2 cups beef stock
3 bell peppers – I used green, red, and yellow
1 medium yellow onion
1 jalapeno – with seeds and ribs if you want spicy, ribs and seeds removed if you want to tone it down
4-5 large roma tomatoes
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon smokey paprika
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Dice all of the vegetables and mince the garlic.
2. Heat the cooking fat in a large stock pot and brown the meat. Season it with a bit of salt & pepper.
3. Take the meat out (leave the fat in the stock pot) and set it aside.
4. Sautee all of the vegetables except for the tomatoes until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes). Add in the tomatoes at the end, then add the beef back in.
5. Add in the beef stock and the spices, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for as long as you have. 20 minutes is fine, but you could leave it for an hour if you’ve got time to let the spices meld.

For the cauliflower you’ll need:

1 large head cauliflower
olive oil
Salt & Pepper
shredded cheese of your choice (pepperjack is nice, monterey jack or cheddar would also work)

While the chili is simmering, spread the cauliflower onto a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, and roast for 20 minutes. Stir/turn the cauliflower after 20 minutes, and cook for 20 minutes more.

Once your chili is ready, put the cauliflower in your bowl, and sprinkle some cheese on the cauliflower like this:

Put the chili on top of the cauliflower, then top with sour cream if you’d like. If you want to keep this recipe dairy free, it’s just as easy to leave off the cheese and sour cream though! I enjoyed this for dinner, but I actually liked it even better the next day for lunch. The spices really come together overnight! I can’t wait for the weather to turn a little chillier (get it, like chili…) so I can eat more yummy fall foods!

For my birthday dinner this year I opted to make something fabulous at home rather than go to a fabulous restaurant. While I absolutely love going out for fancy dinners every so often (maybe once or twice per year), I had been saving the prime rib from our grass-fed side of beef all year for a special occasion. And my birthday seemed like the perfect occasion to use it! I’ve never made prime rib before, so I scoured the internet for tips on how to make the perfect medium-rare prime rib and the perfect rub recipe to go with it. I chose this recipe from Epicurious, but followed slightly different roasting instructions.

I started with the seasonings:

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves (not California)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil

And ground them to a paste with my mortar and pestle. Then, they got spread over the entire roast. My only complaint with the rub is that it was salty. If I used this rub recipe again, I would probably cut the salt in half. Then, the roast went into the oven, and this is where I deviated from the recipe. I found many “perfect prime rib” recipes that called for starting the roast at 500 degrees for roughly 5 minutes per pound, then reducing the heat quite low for 2-3 hours, then ramping the heat back up to about 375 for the last 30 minutes. Since my roast was about 6 pounds, I set it at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, then turned the oven off but kept it closed for 2 hours, then turned it back on to 250 for another hour and finished it off at 350 for the last 30 minutes. It was a long process. I tested it with my meat thermometer at the end and let it get to 140 degrees internally (medium rare), then took it out of the oven and let it rest uncovered for 25 minutes.

The meat was tender, pink, and delicious! My two complaints with the recipe and technique, however, are that the fat going through the meat did not break down as much as it should have for the length of time it was in the oven, and that the rub on the outside cuts of the roast was too strong. The inside cuts, where just a sliver of meat had any rub were perfect. I made mashed cauliflower and au jus to go with the roast, and bacon roasted brussels sprouts as well.

For dessert, I was so excited to make Tyler Florence’s Creme Brulee! I’ve made it before, and would recommend it to anyone whether you’ve made creme brulee from scratch before or not.

For 8 servings (or 6 bigger servings as his recipe suggests) all you need is:

1 quart heavy cream (remember to find good stuff!)
9 egg yolks (yep, that many)
3/4 cup sugar (though I only used 1/2 cup and it was plenty sweet) plus 6 tablespoons for dusting/torching at the end (or 8 if you make smaller servings)
1 vanilla bean

I also added some vanilla extract to the egg yolk/sugar mixture before adding in the heavy cream, to give it a little extra vanilla flavor. I won’t rehash the whole recipe here, since I followed the heating and baking directions exactly, but instead, I’ll just let you drool over the finished product:

It’s too good. Seriously. Adam and I both ate more than enough…see, I gained 10 pounds just from eating it!

Just kidding, I’m eleven weeks pregnant (or 14…the debate continues with the midwife until our first ultrasound), and haven’t actually had any creme brulee yet!

I’ve extolled the virtues of Snowville Creamery Heavy Cream before, but I’ll say it again: the stuff is amazing! When it comes to cooking fats, I try my hardest to make sure what I’m using is as natural and biologically appropriate as possible, and that includes butter. Snowville Creamery is an organic and grass-fed dairy in eastern Ohio, meaning their cows are always fed the most appropriate diet for their systems, giving their fat (and the cream in their milk) the correct balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats, and higher levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) which are now believed to fight both cancer and obesity. “In fact, meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals can produce 300-500% more CLA than those of cattle fed the usual diet of 50% hay and silage, and 50% grain” according to T.R. Dhiman in The Journal of Animal Science (via good ‘ol Wikipedia).

I can get this lovely half-gallon of cream for $7.99 at either Whole Foods or Findlay Market (and I have to buy a half-gallon, it’s the only way they sell it), which is only marginally more than “regular” heavy cream when priced by the ounce. It is the only cream I’ve found, however, that is both unhomogenized (which leaves the fats intact, rather than shoving them through a ridiculously fine strainer to distribute them evenly throughout the container…which can just as easily be accomplished by shaking…), and lightly pasteurized. Because of those two things, and because it tastes delicious, I decided one day to try making butter with it. What follows isn’t necessarily a “recipe,” because the only ingredient is cream. I don’t salt my butter because I just salt the food I use it in instead, but if you’d like to salt your butter feel free to do so!

Start with good heavy cream. Only heavy cream will work, not half and half or anything like that. Pour it into your food processor, and turn it on.

Let it run for a while. You might be tempted to think that this is butter:

But it’s just whipped cream at this point, albeit thick whipped cream! Let it run until the butter magically separates from the buttermilk, which should take something around 5 minutes and will look like this:

Pour off the buttermilk into a glass, and then put the processor bowl back on the food processor and run it again. Do this two or three times, until you don’t get much milk out. There is still plenty of milk in the butter though, so press it firmly with a rubber spatula until nearly all of the milk solids are strained out:

You could also use butter muslin (which is finer than cheesecloth) at this point to squeeze out the remaining milk solids, but I generally leave it the way it is. Strain the butter chunks out of your buttermilk, and you get a lovely glass full!

Finally, you have butter and butter milk, and I promise that if you use good quality heavy cream that you’ll have some pretty irresistable tasting butter.

If you just looked through all of that and thought it looked like way too much work, then you could always just buy Kerrygold butter, which is from Irish grass-fed cows and also tastes very good. But what’s the fun in that?

Now that is a face not even a mother could love. Although, who knows…maybe when I’m a mother I’ll love a few more faces than I do now! After the initial loss of one 2 week old turkey, then the scare of a turkey with a broken leg, and then the loss of our biggest tom turkey about 2 weeks ago who was killed by the neighbor’s dog, we were a bit concerned that we wouldn’t have any turkeys left for Thanksgiving. But as you can see, Igor (the turkey with the broken leg) is doing fine:

The other 3 perfectly healthy turkeys are probably a good 10 pounds by now, and are continuing to grow very well. They’re just now losing the last of their baby feathers, and have many of their large “bronze” feathers already! They haven’t tried to really fly yet, which is good, because I’m pretty sure they could get over the fence by now. We’ll have to start clipping flight feathers soon, to ensure that we don’t have to coax any turkeys out of our big tree, or find one run over in the road.


Interestingly enough, they also love the camera! They must have felt like movie stars. The Araucanas are also doing well. We still have all 4 of them, and they are all so pretty! One was being shy, so she’s not in any pictures, but the other three were slightly more cooperative.


Overall, the birds are happy and healthy, the big chickens are laying eggs, the little chickens will be laying eggs in a few months, and we will have turkey dinner in about 15 more weeks! I can’t wait to post a free-range home-grown heritage turkey recipe this Thanksgiving!

I am happy to say that our garden supplied half of the main ingredients for this wonderful side dish, and in a few weeks, will provide 75% of them! We’ve had a much greater tomato yield so far this summer, and have harvested bowls full of cherry tomatoes, at least 20 roma tomatoes, and about 5 heirloom tomatoes already, and it’s not even peak tomato time yet! The herbs have been doing so-so in the back of the garden, but there was more than enough basil for this dish. Our 5 or 6 remaining eggplant plants are finally doing well, and have 3 good eggplants coming along. Next time I make this, it will be with our very own eggplant rather than with one I bought at the farmer’s market (which I still love, but eating my own vegetables is more exciting).

Not being vegetarians, we also had good, local sausage with honey mustard sauce with our grilled eggplant, but they could stand on their own as a light meal. Start by getting a medium eggplant, and slicing it into rounds about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. You don’t want them to be so thick that they take a long time on the grill. Then, lay a layer of slices down in a colander, sprinkle with salt, lay another layer down, sprinkle with salt, and keep going until you’ve salted all of the eggplant. Let it sit in the sink for 15 to 20 minutes, and at the end you’ll see that quite a bit of moisture has been drawn out of the eggplant. Rinse off the liquid and salt, and pat dry with a towel. That little trick is also very important if you plan to make eggplant parmesan, or if you want to use eggplant in any other baked dish. Eggplant holds quite a lot of moisture, and drawing it out beforehand will almost always make for a better, less watery dish in the end.

Now that your eggplant is ready to go, here are the rest of the ingredients:

–Extra Virgin Olive Oil
–1 pound fresh mozzarella, either in ball form or log form, cut into medium-thin slices
–Enough tomato slices to top your eggplant slices (at least 2 large tomatoes, or 4 smaller tomatoes), any variety will work (I used roma because we had many that needed to be used)
–Enough fresh basil leaves to top your eggplant slices with one leaf each
–Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Preheat and clean your grill as usual. I’m not the grilling expert, so you won’t get any particularly helpful tips from me in that department!
2. Lay your eggplant slices out flat, and drizzle EVOO over one side. Flip, and drizzle on the other side. Season both sides with salt and pepper (remember, you already rinsed off all the salt you used before).
3. Have your mozzarella slices, basil leaves, and tomato slices ready to go on a separate plate. Place your eggplant slices on the grill, and leave them to cook for 4-5 minutes.
4. Turn the eggplant slices over, then top with basil, then mozzarella, then tomato. The eggplant will cook through on the bottom side, while the cheese melts and acts as glue on the top side. Grill for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until the eggplant is cooked (but not burned!) and the mozzarella is melted.

Isn’t it beautiful? I did not put the basil on bottom like I should have, and waited to put the tomatoes on until last. I made those little adjustments in the recipe because it will taste better the way I wrote it out. So basically, do as I say and not as I already did! This recipe will work for pan frying as well if you don’t have a grill, but I always enjoy the smokey/crispy quality that the grill imbues to vegetables. Happy summer cooking!

At the height of strawberry season this year, Adam and I were both happily indulging in the overabundance of strawberries on sale. Organic strawberries for $2 a pound? Yes please! We also have access to amazingly delicious heavy cream from grass-fed cows, from only an hour and a half away or so in Ohio, and it’s lightly pasteurized rather than ultra-pasteurized (keeping at least some of the beneficial bacteria that get boiled into oblivion during the high-heat pastuerization). Add to that local, raw honey, that tastes like sunshine. What does this leave you with?

Isn’t it beautiful? It’s not a recipe per se, it’s more of a combination of simple ingredients. Which I suppose is technically a recipe, but you know what I mean.

1. Whip the cream
2. Slice the strawberries into halves or quarters or slices (whatever you fancy)
3. Place strawberries in a bowl, add a dollop of whipped cream
4. Drizzle liquid sunshine (aka raw honey) on top
5. Eat!!

It’s so simple, but such a delicious combination. Try making the whipped cream with less sugar than usual, as the honey will add a completely different dimension of sweetness. A dash of cinnamon on top would not be unwelcome either, and if you have other berries in season right now, by all means substitute away!

Last week I was incredibly happy to find Grass-Fed beef short ribs at Whole Foods. I had been craving braised short ribs for quite some time, but was concerned about eating such a fatty cut of conventionally raised beef. Since toxins are stored in the fat of an animal (including humans!), I generally try to eat lean cuts of conventional meat if that’s what I’m forced to buy. Our side of beef is all but gone (we have about 10 pounds of random cuts left out of our 250 pounds from last November), so we have not been eating nearly as much beef as we were during the winter, and much of it has been conventionally raised since it can be quite difficult to find grass-fed beef for a reasonable price (I’m talking less than $10 per pound for most cuts).

At $6 per pound, the short ribs I found at Whole Foods were practically a steal, and there were 3 pounds sitting right there in the meat case! I snapped those suckers up immediately, and then searched the internet for a suitable recipe to try with my red marbled treasure. The problem I ran into was this: almost all of the recipes that sounded the best called for overnight marinating! I wanted short ribs THAT NIGHT, not later! I figured 3-4 hours would be plenty of time, but I couldn’t find a single recipe that didn’t call for the overnight marinating or all day cooking in the crock pot.

After some deliberation, I ended up choosing Tom Colicchio’s recipe over at Food & Wine, and promptly went to the store to buy a bottle of dry red wine. As you’ll see, it calls for an entire bottle. The alcohol cooks off, so I wasn’t worried about it in my pregnant state. I won’t rehash the recipe here, since it’s fairly involved and because I think it’s against internet etiquette (yes, there is such a thing!) to do so, but I will tell you these short ribs were AMAZING. They were exactly what I wanted: falling off the bone tender, with an incredibly flavorful sauce. I saved the sauce that we didn’t use on the ribs because it was so good I couldn’t bear to waste it! I did not use flanken style short ribs, instead I used the “square” looking ones cut with the grain rather than against it, but otherwise I actually followed the recipe very closely.

If you decide to make short ribs, do it on a day where you have plenty of time and won’t feel rushed. It’s a very slow cooking meal, but it fills the house with wonderful aromas, and fills your family’s bellies with hearty food made with love. If you give the recipe a try, let me know how it turns out!

Although it’s not soup weather at all here, meaning we’ve had 90+ degree days with 80% humidity or more, I have been absolutely craving chicken soup. Crazy pregnancy hormones! Actually, I’ve been craving a lot of soups, including broccoli and cheese soup and New England clam chowder. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find a cream based soup at a restaurant that isn’t made with wheat as part of the base roux. So, sorry Panera, but I can’t buy your delicious smelling broccoli and cheese soup. Maybe I’ll try making that next, sans wheat (since it really is completely unneccessary).

But back to the chicken soup. Since eschewing all grains from my diet, I haven’t had chicken noodle soup in more than a year. And you know what? Leaving out the noodles leaves so much more room for chicken and vegetables! Those are the best parts! I stuck with a fairly simple soup this time, because I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous, so feel free to add whatever other vegetables or spices you’d like. After you’ve roasted a chicken, save the carcass and any extra bits to start your broth. Put the carcass in a crock pot, fill it up with water, and set the crock pot on low for as long as possible, preferably 24 hours. Add a splash (tablespoon or less) of vinegar to help leach the calcium out of the bones and get it into your soup! You can also add large pieces of onion/carrot/celery and a bay leaf to the mixture if you’d like. Then, when the broth is ready the next day, get your soup on!

Ingredients:

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 large bunch of celery, sliced into chunks roughly the same size as your carrots (include the leaves, they have a lot of flavor!)
6 cloves of garlic finely diced or pressed
4 cups of chopped chicken, preferably from the chicken you already roasted!
1 medium yellow onion, diced -or- 1/4 cup dried onion flakes (it’s what I had, and it worked just fine!)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Ground Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
4 quarts of Chicken Broth or more – depending on how you like your broth to soup chunks ratio (we like more stuff/less broth, but you might not agree)

1. In a large stock pot, heat the butter, then sautee the diced garlic and onion (if using fresh onion).
2. Once the onions are translucent and starting to brown (or once the garlic is toasted but not burned if you’re using dried onions), add the chopped carrot and celery. Sautee until they begin to soften.
3. Add your golden, beautiful smelling chicken broth, strained to remove the bones/vegetables. Salt the mixture a bit, and bring to a boil.
4. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium, add the rest of your spices, and cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the carrots and celery are as soft as you’d like them to be. They should be easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy like baby food.
5. Add the cooked chicken, and simmer for about 10 minutes more until it is heated through.

Again this is a very simple recipe, and could be expanded with whatever other vegetables you enjoy. I considered adding spinach, which is delicious in soups, and have enjoyed zucchini and yellow squash in chicken soup as well. Use your imagination! Remember, the longer your cook your broth, the more nutritious it becomes as the bones and cartilage and marrow break down from the chicken carcass, and the better it tastes. And if you’re not in the mood for soup just yet, I hope you keep this little gem in mind for the fall and winter!

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