Farmer’s Markets in the Los Angeles Area: Grass-Fed, Pastured Meat & Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon

LittleOneBisonFolks

This is the first in an upcoming series of posts on how you can feed your family from your local farmer’s markets in the Los Angeles area.

As a Licensed Acupuncturist and mom of two little ones, I get an overwhelming number of requests for information and links to the vendors who supply my family of four with our weekly food.  I fill ridiculous number of post-it notes and emails with names, websites, tips and lists of who has the best this and that.  It’s time to put it all in one place!  (NOTE: I do not make a single penny from referring you to these farmer’s and ranchers; just satisfaction from sharing my love of shopping locally and supporting small family farms, as well as helping my friends, patients, neighbors and readers prepare nourishing food for themselves and their families.)

The #1 question my patients ask me is how to get locally and humanely raised, organic, grass-fed/pastured meat without spending a fortune at a place like Whole Paycheck.  (The #2 question I get is how I transitioned from being a vegetarian for 20 years – 12 of those years as a vegan – to being an omnivore…but that’s another story for another day.)

I am of the belief that there is no point in eating meat if you’re not eating meat from an animal that was raised to graze on the food it’s meant to eat, tended with love, and killed in a humane way once it was of the proper age.  Cows are not supposed to eat grain, chickens are not supposed to eat corn, livestock should not be raised in over-crowded, unsanitary feed-lots, and fish are best when caught sustainably in the wild.

Last Fall, my husband and I bought a quarter grass-fed steer from a friend’s ranch in Northern California for $5/pound – possibly the greatest joint decision we have ever made, other than deciding to have kids – but that’s ALSO another story for another day.  If you’re not ready to invest in buying organic grass-fed meat in bulk (and a stand-alone freezer to keep it in), which is a big undertaking, it’s quite easy to buy meat from ranches that sell directly to the public.

Each week, I visit between 2-3 different farmer’s markets in order to buy locally grown fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, cheese, dried beans, and the occasional snack such as musubi (seaweed-wrapped rice balls).

I will be reviewing the markets I visit the most, in an effort to share with you my favorite tips, over the next few weeks.

LA CANADA-FLINTRIDGE FARMER’S MARKET (close to Glendale, Pasadena, Northeast LA)
On Saturday, my 5-year-old daughter (pictured above) and I spent a good two hours at the La Canada-Flintridge Farmer’s Market (9-1 Saturdays, 1301 Foothill Blvd, La Cañada-Flintridge, CA 91011).  I love this market, especially from June through October when it’s overflowing with bright colors and fresh smells, but I don’t get to go very often because I usually work on Saturdays.  (For Labor Day weekend, though, I gave myself and my staff the whole long weekend off!)

GRASS-FED BEEF, BISON, BACON and MORE…

GoldCoastBisonSeptember

We LOVE the grass-fed bison (buffalo) and bacon (from heritage pork) from Gold Coast Bison and Diamond Mountain Ranches.  (They sell bison, lamb, beef and pork, all grass-fed; depending on the season, they also carry goat, rabbit, chicken and turkey.)  From their website: “Diamond Mountain Ranch is an all-natural, family-run ranch nestled in the hills of northern California. We provide high quality, free range, grass fed food to the Golden State. Our animals include chicken, pork, beef, rabbits, lamb, and our specialty: Bison.”

I’ve been buying bison from these folks for over 5 years.  If you haven’t tried bison, it’s time!  It has twice the iron of beef, and in Chinese Medical terms it is profoundly blood-nourishing: an excellent choice for post-menstruating women, kids on a growth spurt and anyone who does a lot of physical activity.  Bison bones make my favorite bone broth!

DiamondMtnRanch

Today we picked up our pre-order of ground bison (for grilling burgers on Labor Day weekend!) and heritage bacon (for brunch and snacks); one of the awesome things about Diamond Mountain Ranch is their weekly newsletter, which allows you to place an online order of whatever you need; they have such a following, they almost always sell out of everything they bring in their umpteen coolers.  All meats are vacuum-sealed and frozen, so you can buy as much as you need (or have space to freeze) if this market is not a convenient one for you.

Co-owner September (pictured above) is also a Special-Ed teacher, and I love how she always takes the time to answer my Little One’s 3,478 questions, such as “where is the mommy buffalo’s uterus?” and “how do you know if it’s a mommy cow or a daddy cow?”

BisonReadingLO

We learned today that technically, you can only use the word “cow” if the lady has given birth to a calf.  Otherwise she’s a heifer.

So a “daddy cow”?  Nope- he’s always a “bull.”

See the things I learn from my 5-year-old’s incessant questions?

Here are the farmer’s market locations in SoCal where you can find Diamond Mountain Ranch; note that the La Canada Farmer’s Market is missing from their list of Saturday locations, but they are there every week.  If you have questions or want to pre-order for pick-up or place an online order from them, click here.

NovyLittleOne

We also love Novy Ranches (based in Simi Valley), which specializes in Certified Grass-Fed Angus Beef, and also offers online ordering.

In fact, Little One has been known to chat with Jerry for 15 minutes straight, sharing her favorite ways to drink bone broth.  (“I like it with rice and broccoli, but I don’t like the smell when my Mama’s making it.”)  I buy from Novy Ranch at the Altadena Wednesday market and/or the La Canada Saturday market, but they sell at 14 markets in SoCal.

NovyWhiteBoard

From Novy’s website: “The ranches are the ongoing life work and commitment of Dr. Lowell Novy, a veterinarian whose interests in conservation, cattle-ranching and animal welfare have influenced his decision to turn away from “traditional” feedlot cattle production by developing an entirely grass-fed program that is healthy for the land, cows and people.”

Novy has the best beef knuckle bones around, along with some terrific recipes.

WILD-CAUGHT ALASKAN SALMON

The real treat today was meeting Pat Ashby, owner of Fisherman’s Daughter.

FishermansDaughter

Once a year, Pat spends two months in Alaska, catching 150,000 pounds of wild Alaskan sock-eye salmon at their peak. According to Pat, he sells 140,000 pounds of these salmon to the Japanese, and brings 10,000 pounds back to LA to sell at the local farmer’s markets.

WildSockeyeSalmon

Because wild Alaskan salmon have a season that is just about 4 weeks long per year, they have to be frozen anyway, and this allows Pat to sell them year-round.  His salmon has been pin-boned and flash-frozen, and is offered in 1/3 pound, 1 lb and 2lb (whole fish) packages.

Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is incredibly high in Omega-3’s, as well as the fat-soluble vitamins D, E, A and vitamins B and B6: it is considered by many cultures to be the perfect food for pregnant and lactating women and a terrific starter food for babies. Sockeye salmon is also very low in mercury and other environmental contaminants, as they are less carnivorous than most fish: they mostly eat krill.  Many studies have been done on the cardiovascular benefits of wild salmon, including its ability to lower LDL (“bad”) and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterols.

Pat explained to me that since salmon are swimming incredibly fast upstream in their death-wish to end up where they were born, they’re “all muscle.”

From a Chinese Medical perspective, salmon is one of the few fish that is “neutral” – i.e. it is right in the middle between a cooling food (which helps “heat” conditions) and a warming food (which helps “cold” conditions).

Sadly, I have an anaphylactic allergy to all fish, including salmon.  My allergy is so bad I have to carry an Epi-pen and am trained in injecting myself if I should become exposed to fish or seafood.  I can’t even wash the dishes if they have fish on them.

Thankfully, my husband and kids do not suffer from this allergy, so we make sure they get to eat good-quality fish cooked at home once a week (this gives me an excuse to go to a dance class or meet a friend for tea during evening routine, Ah-hem).

Little One and I bought about 1.5 pounds of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon from Pat.  He said if we’re planning to cook it within a week, to just put the frozen packages in the fridge; otherwise, they can stay frozen for later use.  Our meal plan for this week includes Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon (which hubby will cook on the grill in foil) with quinoa and veggies.  Pat said to cook the salmon filets on a gas grill (350 degrees) for 10 minutes on medium-high, skin-side down; after 10 minutes, turn off the grill, let the fish sit in tented foil for another 10 minutes, then serve.

LittleOneSalmon

One of thing things I love the most about taking my kids to the farmer’s markets is the relationships they’ve developed over their short lives with these vendors.  Our favorite family farmers (Azteca Farms in Piru, CA, near Fillmore), from whom we’ve been buying produce every Sunday for 6 years, have watched our kids grow up.  They save the best strawberries for them, and welcomed us to onto their farm for an open house last month.  (I’ll profile Azteca in a week or so.)

Raising kids in a major city means we have to make an effort to educate them about where their food comes from.  When kids know where their food comes from, they are much more likely to eat it.  They develop healthy eating habits, waste less, and become connected to the Earth in a new way.

I feel endlessly grateful, as a woman who grew up in the inner city of New York in the 1970’s and 80’s, to have a back yard with an organic garden with vegetables and fruit trees, and to be able to find broccoli grown within 60 miles of LA in January.  In spite of my dreams of becoming a Los Angeles version of SouleMama, I still kill tomatoes and cry about it.  I will likely never be raising goats, heifers, pigs or sheep on my 7500 square foot lot.  (Maybe chickens.  Maybe.)  The farmer’s markets of Southern California give me community, and lift the veil of smog just a little bit, inspiring me to plan my family’s meals around what is fresh, in season and affordable.

KidsPearsFarmersMarket

Which markets are your favorites?  How do you balance working, raising kids and preparing food for yourself and your family? I want to hear your stories!  (Please share in the comments section.)

Next up in this series: End-of-Summer Bounty at the Montrose Farmer’s Market, Glendale, CA (Sundays)

All photographs copyright Abigail Morgan, L.Ac.

Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup with Bone Broth

YummySoup

On Friday, I taught you how to make Turkey Bone Broth using your leftover turkey carcass from Thanksgiving.

Now you get to use that delicious bone broth (or chicken broth, if you prefer) to make Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup, a nutritious and comforting one-pot meal that makes use of the random extra vegetables, potatoes, herbs, beans and meat you may have in your fridge.

This soup is nourishing to the Spleen and Stomach organ systems, easy on digestion, and a great immune booster, so it’s an excellent choice for this late Fall/early Winter time of year.  It’s also a great fertility food: a nice way to get in your daily dose of bone broth when you’re trying to conceive.

The idea of this soup is that it’s EASY.  Although Turkey or Chicken Bone Broth takes about 24-36 hours to make, most of that time is passive: it leaves you with lots of broth to freeze for later use.

If you don’t have bone broth, and just need a quick soup for tonight’s dinner, this recipe fits the bill.  You can use store-bought broth in place of bone broth, it just won’t be quite as nourishing.  Feel free to use your creativity and substitute whatever vegetables and herbs you have on hand, and toss in leftover cooked chicken, turkey, sausage, and/or beans.

TurkeyBeanVeggieSoupBowl

Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup

Serves 8

Total Cooking Time for Soup: 50 minutes

Active Time: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients:

3 c. Turkey Bone Broth (or substitute chicken bone broth or store-bought broth)

3 c. water

1 red onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

3 stalks celery, diced

5 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 red, yellow OR orange pepper, chopped

2 large russet potatoes, diced

2 c. cooked beans* – I used 1 c. pinto beans and 1 c. kidney beans

*My homemade beans recipe: 1 c. dried organic beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc., or combination of the above), washed, soaked 6 hours or overnight in a bowl, then cooked 5.5 hours on HIGH with 8 c. of water, 1 bay leaf and 1 pinch cumin powder in a slow-cooker.  You can use canned beans if you don’t have homemade ones on hand or are short on time.

1 c. cooked turkey (boneless), or 1 c. cooked chicken or sausage  – use what you have!  You can also omit this step.

1 T. coconut oil

1 bay leaf

4 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped

Pinch dried thyme

Salt to taste (I like fleur de sel for soup, but you can also use pink or grey salt or sea salt)

Parmesan Cheese, freshly shredded (optional)

Directions: 

1.) In a large stainless steel or cast-iron pot on the stovetop, heat the coconut oil.  (My absolute favorite kitchen item is my 7 1/4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven – perfect for soups and stews.)  

2.) Saute onion, garlic, chopped sage and a pinch of salt on medium, until transparent and fragrant.

SauteeingOnionsGarlicSage

3.) Add bone broth, water, vegetables and potatoes.  Turn to high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, stir, add bay leaf and simmer 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

4.) Stir in cooked beans and the cooked turkey (or chicken or sausage) and simmer another 10 minutes.

5.) Add salt to taste.

6.) Reduce from heat and let sit 10 minutes or so.

FinishedSoup

7.) Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top of each bowl, and maybe some crusty sourdough bread on the side. 

ThumbsUpForSoup

My kids (4 and 6) polished off their helpings and declared this soup “yummy.”

My daughter (above, sitting in my lap – her favorite place to eat dinner) gave the soup two thumbs up.

My son described it as a “creamy beany veggie soup with turkey.”

What’s your favorite kind of soup for late Fall?

 Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac.; photos by Abigail Morgan and Dave Clark, all rights reserved.

Turkey Bone Broth

GeatingSoupCrop

We had a terrific Thanksgiving this year…

HappyTDaybanner

…banner courtesy of my kids.

It was just the 4 of us: me, Dave, our son (6) and daughter (4).  We shopped early, used Good Eggs to deliver our turkey and a bunch of organic produce on Tuesday night, and cooked only our favorite dishes.  We kept the day really simple.  Dinner at 5:30, because that’s when we usually have it, and because we couldn’t bear the idea of rushing to serve the entire meal by 3:00 while also running interference between little kids, who would then be hungry again right at bedtime.  It worked.  And we have lots of leftovers.

The day after Thanksgiving, I’m all about leftovers.

A nice soup is my answer to what to do with the turkey carcass, extra raw vegetables and herbs you may have on hand after Thanksgiving.  Basically, you 1) make turkey bone broth in a slow-cooker while doing other stuff, 2) add leftover turkey meat, beans and vegetables, and you have a crowd-pleasing, nutritious meal in a bowl.  Easy.

You might balk at how long it takes to make turkey bone broth.

Don’t.  It’s worth it.

The active time is minimal, and if you have a slow-cooker, you can allow it to do your cooking while you sleep and/or are at work or chasing after your kids.  You will have SO MUCH BROTH, you’d better have some jars on hand to freeze the extra!

Here’s my yield from this batch of turkey bone broth (minus 3 cups which I used to make the soup recipe I’ll share with you later this weekend):

TurkeyBoneBrothinJars

As a working mom who prioritizes making organic, nutrient-dense meals for my family, I rely on what I call slow food shortcuts. Once every two weeks, I make a massive batch of grassfed beef bone broth and another batch of chicken bone broth in a slow-cooker, and freeze them in small glass jars so we always have some on hand.  I sneak it into all kinds of dishes, not just soup – it’s my #1 Immunity Secret during cold season.  It’s also super tasty!

This post is in two parts: right now, my turkey bone broth is done.  The beans are cooking in the slow-cooker.  The veggies are prepped.  I’ve written the recipe.

Part One, which I share with you here, is how to make a turkey bone broth in a slow-cooker.  Part Two, which I’ll share on Sunday, will include the Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup whose base is this turkey bone broth.

I’m excited to capture the responses from my family tomorrow night…For now, get started on the bone broth!

Turkey Bone Broth

Makes about 5 Quarts of broth (enough for several batches of soup, plus more broth to freeze for later).

Active Time: 10 minutes to prep, additional 10 minutes over a 24 hour period to check on it, remove from heat, transfer to refrigerator.

Total Cooking Time for broth: 24 hours, plus another 8 hours overnight to cool in fridge.  If you’re using a slow-cooker, it’s best to start this recipe at night.

Ingredients:

1 turkey carcass, with most of the meat removed (ideally from an organic, humanely and pasture-raised, and/or heritage turkey)

1 yellow onion, chopped into large chunks

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks

2 stalks celery, chopped into large chunks

2-3 stalks of fresh thyme, tied together

2 T raw apple cider vinegar

1 bay leaf

Water (to cover the carcass)

Directions:

It is easiest to make bone broth in a 6.5 Quart Slow-Cooker, but if you don’t have a slow-cooker you can make it on the stove-top in a stainless steel stock pot.  It just requires more hands-on time and “soup-sitting,” as the broth should be on a simmer continuously.  (NOTE: I actually started the turkey bone broth on the stovetop this time, because my slow-cooker was in use; I brought it to a boil and then simmered, covered, for about an hour.  Then I transferred it to the slow-cooker.  Normally, I would just start it in the slow-cooker.)

1) Toss the turkey carcass into the slow-cooker.

 

2) Add enough water to completely cover the bones.

3) Add chopped vegetables, thyme, bay leaf and apple cider vinegar.  Stir a few times with a wooden spoon, making sure all the bones and veggies are submerged in water.  Add more water if necessary.

TurkeyBoneBrothBegin

4) Turn the slow-cooker to HIGH for 12 hours.

Go do something else.  (i.e. Sleep.)

5) After 12 hours on high, lift the lid and add about 3 cups of water.  (Some water will have evaporated in cooking.)  Stir.  Cover again.

6) Re-set the slow-cooker and cook another 12 hours on HIGH. I checked the broth a couple of times within this 12 hour period, giving it a gentle stir with a wooden spoon, and adding another 1 cup of water.

After 18 hours it looked like this:

TurkeyBoneBroth after 18 h.

7) After the broth has cooked 24 hours, remove the slow-cooker from heat, and place on a counter, out of reach of small hands.  Let it cool enough to handle (1 hour or so).

8) Strain out the veggies, bay leaf, thyme stalks and all the bones.  Toss this heap of stuff into the trash.

Carcass

9) Pour the broth into a stock pot with a mesh strainer placed inside it.  (Not an affiliate link.)  Skim off any remaining bits of detritus from the broth using a slotted spoon.

Strained Broth

10) Place the pot of broth on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and cool overnight.

11) The next morning, you should see a layer of gelatin on top of the broth.  (Homemade gelatin is a superfood, containing proline and glycine, used for centuries  to improve digestive health, immunity, and strong bones.  Don’t throw it away! Reserve it in a glass container in the fridge for later use.  More on that here.)  You do need to separate the layer of gelatin from the broth in order to make a tasty soup.

Photos of the finished meal to follow tomorrow night!  Stay tuned…

What meals do you like to make using Thanksgiving leftovers?

Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, All Rights Reserved.

Cooking With My Kids: Two Meals for the Fall Equinox (Squash Soup & Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos)

ButteringTheButternut

Today is the Autumnal Equinox.  Happy Fall!

I love this time of year.  Although here in Los Angeles it does not have the cool crisp feeling of Fall that I grew up with in New York City, the shift from summer to Fall is palpable.  The days are getting shorter, the 100+ degree heat wave is over (though it’s still hot!), and some of the trees are even boasting bright orange and yellow leaves.

In spite of the heat, we are in a time of transition from one season to another, and nourishing the Spleen and Stomach organ systems (the Earth element) with the right foods is crucial for creating groundedness during times of transition.

Many of you have asked me to share recipes and give tips on how to feed your family an organic, Real Food diet without losing your mind or going broke.  This series, Cooking with My Kids, is my attempt to do just that.  I will be posting more about the dishes we make and where we get our ingredients.

In my house, Sundays and Mondays are when I get most of the cooking and prep done for the week.  As I’ve shared here before, my kids and I hit our favorite farmer’s market early Sunday morning, and based on what we haul back and what (if anything…it’s been HOT here!) is growing in our garden, I create a meal plan for the week.

KidsPearsFarmersMarket

Then I wash, chop, prep and cook as much as I can on my days off (Sunday/Monday), so the fullness of my work week, shuttling kids to and from school and making meals is not so overwhelming.

Family dinners this time of year feel particularly important, and when they don’t result in sibling rivalry and food fights, they are also very satisfying.

We had these butternut squash growing in our garden…honestly, I had almost forgotten they were there, as I fell a bit behind on weeding what with the 100+ degree heat wave that hit L.A. this month.  (Seriously: my poor garden.)  As my Little One and I were watering our new fruit trees this morning (thank you, TreePeople, for the free mango and peach trees!), she reminded me of the butternuts hiding beneath the grass and overgrown green chard.

Oh, right: squash!

Here’s one as a baby (before I caught up on weeding):

Baby Butternut Squash

I should have taken pictures of the ones we picked yesterday…oops!

We planted them along with pumpkins in May, and unlike the pumpkins, they have been trucking along in spite of crazy drought conditions and being ignored for all of August and September.  (Those poor pumpkins.  They didn’t even make it to Halloween.)

The squash snapped right off the vine, and I almost expected to see worms crawling out when I sliced them open, but there was the bright orange flesh with its shiny seeds glistening like teeth.  The sage in my herb garden seems to thrive whatever the weather; I love using it for baked chicken, and it pairs very well with all kinds of winter squash, so worth having in your outdoor or container garden.

I grabbed my favorite cookbooks for soup inspiration, Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” (the 2010 version: I haven’t checked out the new one yet) and Sally Fallon’s in “Nourishing Traditions.”  I compared their cooking times for butternut squash: Madison says 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Fallon says 350 degrees for an hour.

To be honest, I hate following recipes.  I like to refer to them for ingredient inspiration, cooking temperatures and total cups of water or broth, and I have to give credit where credit is due for providing the spine of a recipe, but beyond that I tend to go off book and improvise.

You’ll find more specific instructions in the recipes in Madison’s and Fallon’s books, but my point here is that it’s easy to do your own thing: be inspired by a recipe but amend it to what’s in season, what you have on hand, and what your intuition and patience tells you to do.

For the butternut squash, for example, I split the difference and baked it at 360.  I forgot to set the timer.  (When prepping and cooking with an active 4-year-old, I have little time for left-brain stuff.  I follow my intuition!)

Since I knew I had to bake the butternut squash (I don’t have a dehydrator, and yuck, that would be gross), I figured I might as well bake some sweet potatoes while I was sweating indoors, and make two meals at once.  Make it three if you do a double batch of the soup!

This is one of my tricks: when you meal plan for the whole week, you can prep and cook similar items together, then refrigerate or freeze them until needed.  I make a big batch of bone broth (beef, bison or chicken) every other week, and freeze it in glass jars for when I need it.  (I keep meaning to freeze some in ice cube trays, for the perfect serving size to add to soups or stir-frys, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.)

Here’s the menu for two meals for the Autumnal Equinox.

Meal 1:

Butternut Squash Soup with Chicken Bone Broth & Fried Sage Leaves

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spinach and Heirloom Tomatoes*

*I’m not including photos or a detailed recipe here, but you can make any sort of grilled cheese sandwich using good organic grassfed cheddar, gruyere, or swiss; I added sauteed spinach and some slices of heirloom tomato, and my favorite sourdough bread that we get at our local farmer’s market; I spread one side with butter and the pan with coconut oil, and cook until lightly browned.

Meal 2:

Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos with Spinach, Sour Cream and Salsa

Sauerkraut (on the side)

Future Meal:

Leftover Butternut Squash Soup (freeze half the batch – or double-batch- in a glass container)

 

ButternutSoup

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH CHICKEN BONE BROTH & SAGE

Serves 6-8 (depending on the age & appetites of your family members)

(Double it if you want a freezer meal for later use)

3 small-medium butternut squashes (about 2 lb total, I think)

1 large red onion

8 cloves garlic, whole peeled

10 fresh sage leaves

1/4 tsp dried sage

1/4 tsp dried lemon verbena (oregano or lemon thyme are fine substitutes)

2 tsp Himalayan pink salt (+ more to taste)

6 c. chicken bone broth (follow my associate acupuncturist’s recipe for bone broth here) or chicken stock.  If you are vegetarian, you can use water instead, but you might need to add a little more salt or seasonings to enhance the flavor of the soup.

Pinch of cumin

Fresh ground pepper (to taste)

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) organic grassfed butter, for spreading on squash and sauteeing veggies

Fresh goat cheese (about 1/4 c.) or freshly grated pecorino romano (optional)

COOKING DIRECTIONS 

NOTE: I made the soup, the grilled cheese sandwiches and the ingredients for the Lentil-Sweet-Potato Baked Burritos at the same time; it requires some multi-tasking but means less time in the kitchen overall.  If you plan to do the same, read through this whole post before you start cooking.  If you’re only making the soup, ignore the part about putting the sweet potato in the oven and cooking the lentils and spinach (unless you need spinach for the Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.)

1. Preheat oven to 360.

2. Wash the butternut squash.  (Or ask your minions to do so.)

3. Cut squashes in half, remove seeds and discard.

4. Grease a baking sheet or glass baking pan with coconut oil.  (I let my 4-year-old do this with a paper towel.)

5. Spread organic, grass-fed butter all over the cut sides of the squash.  (Again, my daughter did this for me while I prepped some of the ingredients for the Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos.)

6. Place squash pieces on the baking pan, cut-side down.  BAKE for 45 minutes.  (If you are making the Sweet Potato Sort-Of Enchiladas at the same time, BAKE the sweet potato on the lower shelf in the oven.)

7. Saute onions in a large soup pot with a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 7-10 minutes.

8. While the squashes and sweet potato bake, cook the lentils for Meal 2 (if you’re making them both), and saute the spinach.

9. Scoop cooked squash from the skin with a spoon, being careful not to burn your hands.

10. Once onions are lightly browned, add the cooked squash to the onion mixture.  Break up chunks with a wooden spoon.  Mince garlic cloves directly into the squash/onion mixture, and add 1T of the butter.  Cook on medium, stirring continuously for 3-5 minutes.11. Add 8 c. of water to the soup pot, turn heat to high, and cook until boiling.

11. Saute sage leaves in olive oil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on a paper towel for a few minutes, then chop finely and add to soup.  Reserve a few leaves for garnishes on the soup.

12. Add dried herbs to soup.

13. Simmer soup for 20 minutes.

14. Puree soup with an immersion blender (or handheld blender).  If the soup is too thick, add water or more broth.  If too thin, add sour cream or make a roux with flour and water, and puree for another moment.

15. Ladle soup into bowls, top with goat cheese (optional), drizzle with olive oil.  I served this alongside Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spinach and Heirloom Tomatoes, which are extra delicious when dipped in the soup.  You could serve it with the following Baked Burritos instead, or make the Burritos for another night.

SWEET POTATO LENTIL BAKED BURRITOS

CrispyCheese

Serves 6

This is a recipe inspired by an article I read in the now-defunct Mothering Magazine about 5-6 years ago.  (The online Mothering is awesome, but I do miss that magazine in my mailbox every month!)  I have tried and tried to find the original recipe online, so I can give the author proper credit: was it Peggy O’Mara?  Cynthia Lair?  (I’m big fans of both.)  My searches come up blank.

Anyway, over the years I have made this recipe my own, changing ingredients and making additions here and there, sneaking in stuff I want my kids, surplus veggies from our garden or those extra chunks of cooked chicken.  You can cook the sweet potato, lentils and spinach the night before, then assemble the burritos right before you want to bake them.  Alternatively, you assemble the whole dish, cover it and put it in the fridge, and take it out the next day – dinner will be ready in 20 minutes.

It is a very versatile recipe, and the main ingredients are super cheap, even when bought (or grown) organic.

6 organic whole wheat or sprouted wheat tortillas (we avoid corn in our family, but if you are allergic to wheat you could use gluten-free tortillas)

1 large organic sweet potato

1c dried brown organic lentils

1 small red onion

2 bags organic washed spinach (or 2 bunches fresh) – I have also used cooked kale in place of the spinach

1 cup of shredded organic grass-fed cheddar or monterey jack cheese

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 1/2 tsp salt (pink or grey, ideally)

1T cumin

1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter

Coconut oil (for greasing glass pan)

Mild or medium tomato salsa

Organic sour cream

COOKING DIRECTIONS 

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Grease a 9 x 11 glass pan with coconut oil.

3. Wash sweet potato, prick in 2 spots with a knife.  Bake for 60 minutes, or until soft.

4. Wash and drain the lentils.

5. In a medium pot, cook lentils with 2.5 cups of water and 1/2 tsp of salt; bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the water is cooked off and the lentils are soft and aromatic.

6. In a medium saucepan, saute the red onion in coconut oil or butter until tender.

Onions

7. Add the minced garlic to the onions and cook another 3 minutes or so.

8. Add the spinach to the onion/garlic mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from heat.

 

9. Once the sweet potato is done cooking, remove the skin and discard it.  Put the cooked sweet potato into a large glass bowl.  Turn the oven down to 325.

10. Add 1T butter, 1 tsp salt and 1T cumin to the sweet potato, and stir with a wooden spoon until well-mixed.

sweetpotato

11. Spread all 6 tortillas on a large working space.

12.  Spoon equal amounts of sweet potato into the center third of each tortilla.  (I’m being vague with the amount because it will depend on the size of your sweet potato.  4T cooked sweet potato per tortilla seems about right.)

13. Add equal amounts of lentils, then cooked spinach/onion/garlic mixture, on top.  Finish by adding some shredded cheese.

LentilSwtPotatoSpinachCheese

14. Fold in both sides of each tortilla, then flip it over and place in the greased glass pan.  I find that six tortillas fit nicely in a 9 x 11 pan with a little room to spare.

FoldedOver

15. Shred additional cheese on top of each tortilla (if you wish).  You may cover the dish and refrigerate it at this point for up to 24 hours, if you’d like to cook it the next night.  You could also freeze it, if you plan to bake the dish more than 24 hours from now.  Or you can go ahead and bake it now if you want to eat it soon!

16. Bake in a 325 oven for 15-20 minutes.  The dish is done when the cheese is nicely bubbling.

17. Serve with salsa and sour cream on top.  (My kids won’t eat salsa but they LOVE getting to add their own sour cream.)

Again, this recipe is super versatile.  You can try adding different cooked vegetables, chunks of cooked chicken or pork, and experiment with different kinds of cheeses.

Please let me know what you think in the comments section, and Happy Fall!

All photos are copyright Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking with Kids: Slow-Cooker Chicken Drumsticks with Vegetables

Cooking with Kids

As a mother of two young kids and a small business owner, I struggle with Work/Life balance.  Don’t we all?  Whether a parent is working outside the home or not, finding balance is a challenge for most of us.  How do we find time to thrive in the work of being an adult as well as the work of parenting?  (Let’s face it, as joyous as parenting can be, it’s also fucking hard!)

The balance of Work and Life is never perfect.

I’ve stopped expecting it to be.

I wear a lot of hats: Worker (owner of a busy acupuncture clinic), Mother (two kids, 3 and 5), Wife (partnered for over 13 years with an amazing man), Daughter, Sister, Friend, and – most importantly – a Self who needs self-care and time alone.  (I’ll be blogging more about THAT topic soon.)

Whew, that’s a lot of hats.  And a lot of time.

We all have them, right? – those various Identity Hats.  But when you become a parent, Time gets sucked into a vortex.  Where, oh where, does it go?  Since I haven’t yet figured out an acupuncture treatment that will create an 8th day in the week, I look for quality over quantity of time.  There are only so many hours in a day.  The more practice I get in being a parent, the more I continue to learn (and learn, and learn) to be gentle with myself, and not try to do so many darn things each day.  If I can satisfy a need for each of my roles each day, in some small way, I feel happy.

Today I’m thinking about one of the needs I have as a busy mom – in particular the need to find one-on-one time with each kid.

My boy and girl are close in age, play like twins, share a room, even shared my boobs for awhile (yay, tandem nursing!).  Time with both of them is wonderful (if LOUD), but we all get a little punchy if we don’t have at least a little bit of one-on-one time every week.  (Mama/Daughter Time, Mama/Son Time, Mama/Daddy Time, etc.)

Cooking with my kids is one of the ways I create Special Time while also creating the organic, homemade meals that keep us all healthy and happy.  Recently, I’ve started finding time to prepare dinner with just ONE kid.  It’s pretty awesome.

Today, my daughter and I made up a recipe together using the fresh veggies we had bought this morning, organic chicken drumsticks, and some herbs from our garden.  (If it weren’t January, we’d have more vegetables from our own backyard garden to choose from too, but how lucky we are to have year-round farmer’s markets every day of the week in SoCal!)

We chose rosemary and thyme because she can easily identify them, and gets great pleasure out of cutting them “all by myself!” with kitchen shears.  Rosemary and thyme are wonderful herbs to bring out the flavor in chicken, and I like combining them with lemon, apple cider vinegar and bone broth for extra immune-boosting properties.

One tip: if you have not yet found peace in cooking with a kid or two, keep in mind the Triple-Time Rule: however long you think it’ll take to prepare a meal, multiply that by THREE.  Otherwise known as Lower Your Expectations.

Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken Drumsticks with Vegetables & Potatoes

Serves 4

Prep Time: 30 minutes (w/ a young child), 10 minutes (adult working solo)

Cooking Time: 3 hours on HIGH in a slow-cooker (we have the large oval 6.5 quart All-Clad, with ceramic insert, which is the workhorse of my kitchen)

1 pack of 6 organic chicken drumsticks (you could also use a whole chicken, cut-up)

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 red bell pepper, small dice

4-6 small potatoes, quartered

1 lemon, quartered

1.5 c. bone broth (I used my homemade bison bone broth, but you can use chicken broth, or substitute water for the broth; just don’t use bouillion cubes, yuck!)

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

1 T. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan salt (or substitute sea salt)

Black pepper, freshly ground to taste

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)

1. Wash the chicken and place on the bottom of the slow-cooker.  (You don’t need to grease it first.)

2. Place the potatoes (quartered) around the drumsticks.

3. Add the carrots, celery, and red bell pepper, sprinkling them over the chicken and potatoes.

4. Squeeze each lemon quarter all over the ingredients in the cooker.  (This is one of those “I DO IT MYSELF” steps for toddlers and preschoolers.)

5. Add the bone broth, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  You may want to drizzle additional olive oil over the entire dish after all ingredients have been added, depending on your taste.

6. Tuck the sprigs of rosemary and thyme between the drumsticks and vegetables.

7. Place the slow-cooker insert into the slow-cooker and set for 3.5 hours on HIGH.

8. Serve over rice or quinoa, or with some fresh sourdough bread on the side.  (Or just serve it in bowls on its own.  It will be slightly soupy, and we think it’s delicious over organic white basmati rice.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have young children in your family, please be mindful that small bones can come detached quite easily from chicken; be sure to check your child’s plate carefully for small bones, or remove all chicken from the bone before serving.

PREP-COOKING NOTES: I washed the chicken drumsticks by myself.  My daughter helped me wash the vegetables and potatoes, then sat in my lap and helped me cut them on a cutting board.  (Obviously, at 3.5, she’s not old enough to be left alone with my Sudoku knife.)  When I’m having Mama-Son cooking time, my 5-year-old will wash and peel vegetables by himself, and I allow him to cut them with a butter knife while I cut things like onions and garlic with a sharper knife.

One of the lovely things about the slow-cooker is you don’t have to be in the kitchen with an eye on the stove: once it’s on, you can safely leave the house!  Our slow-cooker automatically turns to “Warm” after the cooking time is finished, but I’ve found with this dish, it’s tastiest if it doesn’t sit on “warm” longer than 2 hours.

What slow-cooker recipes does YOUR family love?

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts, all photographs by Abigail Morgan or Dave Clark, all rights reserved.)