Thursday, February 17, 2011

Get up and Go! A No Rules Approach to the Most Important Meal of the Day.

mornings in my house can be complicated.  we have a very small apartment, two young children (one who is almost 3 years old and has never slept through the night), a downstairs neighbor who thinks we make too much noise, our shower is in the kitchen and a weekday schedule that dictates our departure at 8:15am.  we officially rise anywhere from 6:30am to 7am.  considering no one is getting much sleep through the night you'd think that we might cop out on the morning meal. it's exactly the opposite, actually. my husband and I have created a pretty awesome routine so that I am free to get breakfast and lunches ready (I pack 3 everyday) while he organizes the kids and gets them ready for school.  

breaking fast, or breakfast has been called the most important meal of the day and I agree as it can make or break your mood and spirit for what lies ahead.  it baffles me how many people either do not eat breakfast at all or routinely scarf down sugary cereals, bagels, store bought muffins and pastries, frozen store-bought pancakes and waffles, tropicana orange juice, flavored milk (which has the same amount of sugar as soda pop by the way) and cup after cup of coffee. these, unfortunately, are the typical american breakfast foods. sadly, these are not foods that will nourish, keep blood sugar stable until the next meal or do you any favors at all.  these are all foods that will ultimately hurt your body and your mind, leaving you exhausted, depressed, feeling flat and hungry all by 10am.  it's no wonder that many of our nation's children can't concentrate well enough to learn or are exhibiting negative behaviors in school and throughout the day. these are also foods that damage the gut, promote unhealthy bacteria to thrive and create chemical addictions. (click HERE to read a great article on why breakfast cereals are harmful).

in my crazy little house we have a different take on breakfast. there are no rules.
breakfast can be anything. breakfast can be simple or it can be grand.  it can be traditional or it can be "unusual." It all depends on what is in the house (leftovers from dinner make a great breakfast) and also where my head is at that morning. the most important factor is that it must contain a lot of good fat to keep us going throughout the day and taste great.  For example: chicken liver mousse on sourdough toast, a steak, bubble and squeak (leftover mashed potatoes sauteed in animal fat with leftover meats and veg), a chicken leg, sprouted tortilla quesadillas, cheese on buttered bread, you get the drift.


the night before, my husband or I will soak the oats for oatmeal or porridge in the morning.  that merely involves soaking 1 1/2 cups of oats in 1 1/2 cups of filtered water with 1TBS of liquid whey and a pinch of sea salt.  In the morning we add another 1 1/2 cups of filtered water and cook.  soaking the oats overnight disables the phytic acid and makes the oats digestible and their nutrients easier to assimilate.  over the porridge we serve raw orange blossom honey, cinnamon, butter, raw cream or milk.  I prefer mine without milk and lots of butter.  you can do a double batch of porridge and hold it in the fridge for a few days and reheat when needed. this way if you forget to soak, no worries. leftover porridge also makes great pancakes! 

another simple breakfast is yogurt.  you can buy it or make it.  making it is super easy.  this is how you do it:  1 quart of the best milk you can get. 1/2 cup excellent whole milk plain yogurt (this is the starter culture. you can then use your own for the future) if you are using pasteurized milk, gently heat the milk to 180 degrees and allow to cool to 110 degrees.  transfer to glass (large bowl or mason jar) and add the yogurt, stirring gently to combine.  cover the jar. if you have a warm oven (no more than 100 degrees) with a pilot light place the jar in the oven overnight (8 - 12 hours) then transfer to your fridge to firm up. for raw milk use a double boiler and only heat to 110 degrees.  you can use a yogurt maker and follow their instructions or use a dehydrator and place the jar in at 100 degrees for 8 - 12 hours and then transfer to the fridge.  yogurt is amazing with fruit, dried coconut flakes, crispy nuts and homemade germinated cereals.  It is also amazing for smoothies. here is our favorite smoothie recipe (on those rare days when no one feels like cooking - did i just say that?!)


3 cups plain yogurt (or kefir)
1/4 cup milk
1 ripe banana
1 ripe avocado
1 raw pastured egg yolk
2 TBS raw smooth almond butter
2 TBS xtra virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

blend all ingredients with a hand blender and enjoy!

my favorite breakfast has always been and will always be pastured eggs.  i am absolutely insane for eggs.  i try to eat 2 a day.  sometimes raw. Luckily my children like (not love) eggs too.  after all, it was their first food (runny egg yolk and raw buffalo liver).  we do eggs all different ways here but i think the kids like soft boiled in a cup best.  they like to sprinkle the sea salt themselves and dig the egg out.  they used to prefer the whites but now they are coming around to the beauty of the yolk (which is so much better for you and easier to digest).  the perfect soft boiled egg takes 5.5 - 6 minutes.


eggs with lentils, eggs with bacon, eggs with avocado, eggs with cheese, steak and eggs, eggs with cured ham steak, fried egg and cheese with salsa. eggs with everything! hurray for eggs! make sure they are pastured and not from birds eating grain or soy feed.  If you have trouble with chicken eggs, try duck eggs. some people have an easier time digesting them and they are creamy and dreamy.  cooks eggs in lots of butter, lard or bacon fat. these are very nutritious stable fats and will help you convert your food into vitamins your body can use.  i recently increased my lard intake and watched my vitamin d level climb back into the normal range - in the winter in NYC i'd say that's pretty good.

the other day we made a breakfast that will probably be one of my favorite for a long time.  I bought bavarian style grass fed beef sausage from chip at grazin' angus acres located in ghent, ny (union square market on friday and saturday from 8am - 6pm and carroll gardens greenmarket on smith street in brooklyn on sundays 8am - 4pm). they are a perfect balance of beef, mustard and herbs (and delicious times 10!).  After I cooked the sausage (in rendered lard of course), I poured off the excess oil, added bacon fat (please strain and save your bacon fat to cook with) to the pan and sauteed ripe pineapple chunks in the bacon fat. jumpin' jellyfish that was incredible.  i cut some swiss villa raw goat cheddar to accompany the sausage and I was good till 2pm.  that meal contained a gift from every four legged friend on the farm and those flavors made everyone smile.

another off-beat breakfast at our place is thick cut bacon, ripe avocado and homemade mayo on sourdough spelt or rye bread. I like it toasted but sylvia likes the bread plain and simple.  avocado on toast with a squeeze of lemon juice, sea salt and pepper is another favorite. chicken liver mousse on toast works for us too. a new breakfast item for us are the salmon sausage from vital choice seafood.  These country spiced sausage are savory and beautiful. they go with eggs, as a salad (another great breakfast item) on bread or just all by themselves.  they are pre-made and live nicely in your freezer until you need them.  

i have a hard time trash talking bagels.  i am a new yorker after all and was practically raised on them.  but honestly, nowadays they are just too big and doughy, made with crap ingredients, cooked at a ridiculously high temperature and too difficult to digest. Not to mention the fact that they provide no nutrition whatsoever and parents mostly feed them to their kids plain. blech!  at least put some butter and cream cheese on it. better yet,  get some real, whole grain, properly prepared sourdough bread and put A LOT of real butter and real cream cheese, smoked salmon, sardines, cucumber, red onion and salmon roe on it!  we also do cream cheese, cucumber, sprouts and salsa with lots of cilantro. YUM!  wanna know something wicked cool?  you can make your own delicious cream cheese without any effort in one day and it will impart amazing nutrients (vitamins, enzymes, probiotics) to you and your family.  allow me to enlighten....

remember that great quality yogurt you make or buy?  (i like hawthorne farms for this).  put a strainer over a bowl and line it with a clean tea towel. pour the quart of plain yogurt in and let it drain all day. when it is finished you will have 2 cups of whey (you can use this to soak your oats or ferment veggies and will keep in the fridge for 3 months - label and date it!).  the product, after it is completely strained, is yogurt cheese.  put in a glass jar and spread it on your toast.  add sea salt or herbs to it for extra minerals and yumminess! pile it on and enjoy.  hungry yet?

weekends can get completely wild as there is definitely more bacon frying and the occasional pancakes made with yogurt, lemon zest and sprouted flour.  Henry asks for syrup toast every other day so it usually happens on the occasional sunday. i use spelt bread, lots of egg yolks, heavy cream, real vanilla bean and my favorite maple syrup from vermont.  okay, i will stop soon, i promise. my last recommendation is to skip the coffee and juices in the morning.  4 ounces of kombucha, good milk, kefir or cream, pure water, herbal teas and nutritious bone broths (beef, chicken and fish) or warm water with apple cider vinegar and raw honey are the beverages to start your day with style and grace.  give it a try, i think you will like it.  your adrenal glands will thank you. those of you who might want to try getting off the coffee, give dandy blend a try. it tastes just like coffee but is made of dandelion and chickory and has no caffeine. i love it! 

mornings can be energizing, nutritious and creative. when food is real, the breakfast table then becomes a place where discussion is lively and the promise of each day renews our gratitude and optimism to go forward.  with a little bit of flexibility and planning ahead you will be able to make the first meal of the day a beautiful family2table treat. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sweets for my Sweets, No Refined Sugar for My Honeys.

when i picked sylvia up from school the other day she asked me what i brought for her.  i asked her "what do you mean? i brought you my love." she answered, "no, mom. i mean a treat."  i must admit that i was a bit saddened that she did not consider me a treat but i decided not to make this about my lack of confidence that day, so,  i pretended to not understand but i knew exactly what she meant. i asked her "what's a treat?" she got frustrated very quickly and replied, "you know...something good to eat."  i kept the frustration going. "oh! you want a cucumber? i have lots at home!" she begged, "MOM! STOP!"  i teased, "then what? what's a treat?" finally she cut to the chase, "something sweet. a treat is something sweet."  to most kids, i suppose it is.

the food we feed our family should be as pure, nourishing and full of love as the hugs and kisses we unconditionally give them.  i don't know about you, but i don't give my family processed hugs and kisses.  pure, authentic love and pure, authentic food to grow big and strong physically as well as emotionally, that's what i strive to bring to "the table."  when i know that something is not good for my family i stay far away from it.  according to nancy appleton, PhD (Suicide by Sugar), sugar is our #1 national addiction and is ruining our health. appleton states that sugar can be attributed to at least 140 problems and life threatening illnesses including suppressing the immune system, upsetting mineral relationships in the body, hyperactivity, anxiety, food allergies, cardiovascular disease, impairing the structure of DNA, gallstones, cancer, addiction, inflammation, alcoholism and much, much more.  

i am a fiercely protective mother bear and i work hard to make my family happy.  one of the best ways i can do this is by keeping them healthy.  as a rule we stay away from all packaged, processed & pasteurized foods, keep gluten to a minimum, traditionally prepare our grains, legumes & nuts, avoid refined sugars, flours and immune suppressant foods in general. we drink lots of pure, filtered water and steer clear of "drugs."  i get teased quite often at birthday parties and family functions when we are offered sugary "treats" when i politely, and sometimes not-so-politely (when pushed to the edge with "come on, a cookie won't kill them,") decline.  believe it or not, sugar has been proven to be more addictive than cocaine, so actually, a cookie or a cupcake could lead to a lifetime of trouble, addiction and illness.  (check this video out).

my daughter's amazing kindergarten teacher (who totally gets it and respects my parenting choices) emails me the night before there is a birthday celebration in class so i can pack an appropriate treat and syl won't feel "left out" when the cupcakes are passed around.  henry's nursery school teacher does the same. thank you, brooke.  as far as i can tell, my kids don't feel left out at all. they know that we do things a bit differently and that's okay with them. it took a little getting used to at first but now they have adapted to our sweet treat routine.  they like having some-thing special that mum makes just for them and look forward to our treats that we make all together as a family at home.   

what differentiates these treats from others?  for starters, all ingredients are fresh, organic and whole. there are no additives, preservatives,  ingredients with numbers or names you can't pronounce.  we use real butter, real pastured eggs, sprouted flour that is easier to digest, healthy fat like extra virgin coconut oil that contains natural anti-bacterials, anti-fungals and lauric acid (found in human breast milk), sea salt, properly soaked nuts and nut butters, enzyme rich raw honey, nutrient dense raw dairy and gut healing bovine gelatin.  each treat is naturally sweetened with local, raw honey or local grade b maple syrup.  i choose to not use agave syrup because it is not a natural sweetener. i wish it were the healthy, miracle sweetener it is hyped to be but, in fact, it is a highly processed product that has more fructose than high fructose corn syrup.

the following are our favorite "sweet treat" recipes. at any given time you can find one (or sometimes all) in our home just waiting to be enjoyed.  i invite you to make them and see just how delicious they are.  i am confident that you will feel satisfied by the flavor, texture, healthy fat content and yumminess that will quickly make you feel like a kid again, and your kids feel very special. as a matter of fact i think that these recipes might just become a regular part of the way you bring your naturally sweet family2table

NOTE: some recipes have been adapted from previously existing recipes handed down to me from incredibly talented cooks and generous friends and family. thank you all for your creativity, wisdom, love and inspiration!

1 cup organic coconut flour
6 pastured eggs
2 ripe bananas
2 TBS melted butter
2 TBS xtra virgin coconut oil (Nutiva)
2 TBS milk
2 TBS raw honey
1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp. organic vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix coconut flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. mash bananas and set aside. combine eggs, milk, honey, coconut oil, butter, vanilla and salt. add mashed bananas and incorporate well. add dry ingredients and blend. fill muffin cups in a muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes. FOR CUPCAKES - frost with real cold butter whipped with vanilla and maple syrup to taste. add whipped cream, chocolate powder or cream cheese to frosting for delicious variations.

1/2 cup natural almond butter
1/2 cup grade b maple syrup
3 tablespoons xtra virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 cup shiloh farms sprouted whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped crispy almonds (these are almonds that have been soaked in sea salt & water overnight and then dehydrated for 12 hours at 100 degrees & then crisped on a metal tray in a warm oven)
Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a large bowl, combine natural almond butter, maple syrup, oil and vanilla extract until well blended.  In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, along with chopped almonds, and stir until just combined.  Let sit for five minutes.  Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls, flatten to about 1/3 of an inch and place onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10 -15 minutes.  Makes 15 cookies.

1/2 cup xtra virgin coconut oil (gently heat and measure as liquid)
3/4 cup organic chocolate powder (pick a high quality organic brand for the best taste)
2-3 Tablespoon raw orange blossom honey 2-3 TBS. dessicated organic coconut
melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler.

add the honey to taste (if there's too much honey it's overbearing and won't harden properly). don't cook! just heat till it's melted or you'll destroy the live enzymes in the honey.
add dessicated coconut and incorporate. stir well to keep honey dispersing throughout.
pour into molds (you can use ice cube trays) and put in freezer. should be hard and ready to eat in about 15 minutes.  store in refrigerator.
4 pastured eggs yolks (save whites for pavlovas - we'll get to that another day)
1/2 cup grade b maple syrup
1 TBS organic vanilla extract
1 fresh vanilla bean
1 TBS arrowroot powder
3 cups heavy cream (preferably raw but definitely not ultra-pasteurized - i like Ronnybrook)
Beat egg yolks. blend in maple syrup, vanilla extract, vanilla pods from the bean - split bean down the middle and use a knife to scrape out pods), arrowroot and finally, the cream. blend well and pour into an ice cream maker. **Make sure the freezing bowl from the maker has been in the freezer for at least 48 hours before churning).  Churn for 20 minutes. transfer to a glass bowl, cover and store in freezer.


3/4 cup raw cream
3/4 cup raw milk
1 TBS Bernard Jensen's bovine gelatin
1 TBS + 1 tsp. raw orange blossom honey
1 cap full organic vanilla extract
1/4 vanilla bean

gently warm 1/4 cup cream to not above 100 degrees in order to dissolve the gelatin
turn off heat, add honey and continue to stir to dissolve.

add vanilla extract and cut vanilla bean and let steep
add remaining cold cream and milk and let flavors bloom
strain through mesh sieve into measuring cup
pour into individual ramekins
place in refrigerator
should be a solid pudding in about an hour.

VARIATIONS - instead of vanilla, steep with lavender flowers, cinnamon stick, cloves, lemon zest etc