Pumpkin Sausage Soup

Happy Halloween!

We ultimately decided not to participate yesterday when the trick or treaters were out and about in our neighborhood (yeah, we live in one of those places), but there were far more kids out than in previous years and we ended up regretting our decision not to buy a bunch of inexpensive Halloween party favors to give out.  The kids were just too stinkin’ cute.

On a more positive note, I became a little weary of my clothes falling off of me and went shopping Saturday for new shirts and underwear; pants are problematic because I’m so short – Liz Claiborn is just about the only brand these days that makes jeans and slacks that fit me well and don’t look like they belong on a 17-year-old streetwalker (or my grandmother), and we didn’t want to drive an hour and a half to the outlet mall.  At any rate, I am officially down 4 sizes since beginning our new way of eating.  Boo-yah.

Anyhoo, it’s Halloween, so what better recipe to post than one that showcases pumpkin?

Variations of Pumpkin Sausage Soup have been floating around the internet for years; I’ve heard people say that it’s the next best thing to warm chocolate souffle with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, and I’ve heard people say it’s pretty “meh.”  I’d never tried it myself, and since there are so many different recipes for it I decided I’d just wing it and make something that sounded good to me.

And boy, howdy – is it good.  It’s not a terribly creamy soup, like the Curried Squash Soup I posted recently, but it is rich and hearty and VERY filling.  Since I used hot Italian sausage as opposed to a sage-flavored one, I also seasoned it with basil, oregano and thyme; nor did I bother with any onion or other aromatics, since the sausage and herbs gave it more than enough flavor.

You can substitute fresh pumpkin with canned, if you prefer – 3 cups should suffice – but you’ll miss out on the lovely roasted sweetness cooking your own will impart.  And, as always, you can use a turkey sausage if you wish to avoid pork.

Pumpkin Sausage Soup

Pumpkin Sausage Soup

serves 8, generously

1 whole pumpkin, about 3 pounds
2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds and strings in the center and discard. Rub the cut side of the pumpkin with a little olive oil and place, cut side down, on a foil-covered, rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin in easily pierced with a fork. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Cook the sausage in a heavy skillet over medium heat, breaking it up with a spatula, until it is lightly browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Pour all but one cup of the chicken stock into a medium-sized stock pot and set over low heat. Scoop the pumpkin out of the shell and place it in a food processor with the reserved cup of chicken stock; process until it becomes a smooth puree.

Whisk the coconut milk or cream into the chicken stock, then stir in the pumpkin mixture and sausage; add the oregano, basil and thyme. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Nutrition (per serving): 356 calories, 23.9g total fat, 50.3mg cholesterol, 761.5mg sodium, 1013.3mg potassium, 20.6g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, 6.1g sugar, 16.2g protein.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Please Don’t Feed The Dinosaurs…Or The Kids

Beloved woke me up this morning by mumbling, “Stop feeding Filet Mignon to the dinosaur!  It’s expensive!”

I’d like to say I have no idea what kind of a dream the man was having, but I’m afraid it was all too clear.  It amused me, though, so I related the incident to The Young One while I made his breakfast, and Beloved was stumbling, bleary-eyed, toward the coffee pot (I told him not to bother watching the end of the game last night, and I was right – Texas choked).

“You laugh,” he said (because The Young One was), “but you know good and damn well that if we had a pet dinosaur, your mother would be feeding him grass-fed beef.”

I really do take exception to that – the dog gets CAFO beef, mixed with grass-fed or pastured organ meats.  A dinosaur would be any different?

But it also explains my dilemma about Halloween this year.  I love the holiday, and always have, although my enjoyment of it has diminished somewhat since moving to Ohio (not by choice, believe me).  However, I cannot in good conscience give what I’ve come to view as poison, and I don’t want to be like the neighborhood dentist – every neighborhood has one, and he always hands out toothbrushes.  So, we’ve reluctantly decided not to participate this year, which is sad, but what alternatives do we have?

Because you know if I’ve been instructed not to feed the dinosaur Filet Mignon, it’s certainly not an option for trick-or-treaters.

For more Halloweenie spins, head on over to Sprite’s Keeper.  Don’t bother with the candy, but take her some virgin coconut oil – she’ll love it.

Pancake Sammich

I mentioned yesterday that the indulgences that make up the 20% (or, as Beloved pointed out, more like 10%) of our diet is still whole, real foods.  We didn’t eat a lot of fast food before we improved our diet, but once in a blue moon we’d swing by Mickey D’s for a quick breakfast.  Needless to say, we haven’t done that in a very long time, but back in the day McGriddles were a favorite of mine.

Butternut squash pancakes have been a common treat in our house since I first made them, and it occurred to me recently that they’d make a fine basis of a homemade pancake sammich.  And, by golly, they were – we had them for dinner last night, and they were a huge hit.  The Young One ate two, saying halfway through the second, “Oh, I’m just stuffed…but this is so good I don’t want to stop eating it…”

He spent a lot of time moaning about being way too full afterwards, and when you see the caloric content of just one sandwich, you’ll see why.

This isn’t a recipe so much as a method – it is, after all, a sandwich – and is mostly to walk you through how to use an egg ring to make a hard -fried egg that will fit neatly on your sandwich (if you don’t have an egg ring, use a clean, empty tuna can that has both ends removed); I’m assuming you have the pancakes and sausage already cooked and kept warm.  I , for one, don’t care for hard-fried eggs, and used the ring to mold my scrambled egg (I’ve got pictures of both below), nor did I add cheese.  Beloved and The Young One had slices of raw milk cheese flavored with chipotle peppers.

The pancakes are pretty sweet on their own, and really don’t need any additional syrup, but that’s really up to you – they might be a little messy to eat as a sandwich if you add any.  And you can, of course, use the breakfast meat of your choice, including turkey sausage/bacon/ham if you don’t do pork.

Pancake Sammich
Pancake Sammich, Scrambled

Pancake Sammich

serves 1

2 butternut squash pancakes
2 ounce sausage patty, cooked
1 ounce sliced cheese
1 large egg

Lightly grease the inside of an egg ring and a griddle or large skillet with a flat, even surface. Heat the griddle until a drop of water sizzles for a moment before evaporating. Place the egg ring on the griddle and allow it to heat briefly, then crack an egg into the egg ring. Allow it to set for a moment, then prick the yolk with the tines of a fork.

Once the egg white is mostly cooked, run a thin, flexible spatula or knife around the circumference of the egg, releasing it from the ring. Gently remove the ring, and carefully turn the egg, cooking for another minute, just until the egg is cooked through. Remove the egg to a plate and keep warm.

Place one warm pancake on a plate and lay a slice of cheese on it. Top the cheese with the warm sausage patty, then the egg; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Top the sandwich with the remaining pancake and serve immediately.

Nutrition (per serving): 514 calories, 36.7g total fat, 344.5mg cholesterol, 742mg sodium, 557.2mg potassium, 16.5g carbohydrates, 3.9g fiber, 8.4g sugar, 25.3g protein.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Western-Style Beans

I love beans.  We ate a lot of them growing up – they were cheap and relatively simple, if time-consuming, to prepare.

Of course, when we changed our diet legumes were one of the first things we drastically reduced; compared to fruits and vegetables, legumes are somewhat lacking nutritionally and the protein they provide simply does not compare either in quantity or quality to the protein found in animal foods (meat, eggs, dairy).  They also contain a hefty amount of low-grade toxins known as lectins which bind not only to the nutrients in the legumes themselves, preventing your body from absorbing the vitamins and minerals, but also the nutrients in any foods consumed with the legumes.  Soaking, sprouting or fermenting beans will neutralize some of the lectins, but will not eliminate them.

Now, that being said, if beans are properly prepared there are certainly worse things you could be eating (the box of pumpkin-shaped, heavily-frosted sugar cookies a client shipped to our office comes immediately to mind – and no, I have not touched them…well, other than to play “catch” with Beloved with one, so we could tell people we were tossing our cookies).  I make one batch of black beans in the early fall when sweet corn is in season so we can enjoy Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa, and recently I made this recipe to go with a HUGE brisket that Beloved smoked.

When I first moved to northeast Ohio, I sorely missed Ranch Style Beans which had been a staple in my mother’s Taco Salad – something of an institution in our family; so popular, in fact, that Oldest Son, who only performs the most rudimentary cooking, often makes it himself.  I missed them so badly that I asked everyone who came to visit us from Texas to smuggle cans in their luggage.  (What’s amusing about that is that after awhile I had so many cans that I gave many of them away – we simply couldn’t eat them all.)  While Taco Salad is no longer on the menu, the beans go very, very well with smoked and barbecued food, and when I suggested them to Beloved as a treat with our brisket, his eyes lit up.

So, here they are (I just don’t call them “Ranch Style Beans” here because there’s the whole brand-name thing and all).  I don’t miss burgers or pizza or candy or cookies or cake or pie (well, maybe pie a little bit), but when it comes to thinking about what I’m going to eat 20% of the time that might be less than optimal for my health and well-being, properly prepared beans are definitely an option.  And when made in this recipe, a delicious one at that.

Note:  A tablespoon or two of vinegar or lemon juice in the soaking water will help neutralize those pesky lectins – just make sure to drain and rinse the beans after you’ve soaked them.

Western-Style Beans

Western-Style Beans

serves 8

1 pound dried pinto beans
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon lard or butter
2 cups tomato sauce
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup water
6 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Soak the beans overnight (or longer), covered in very warm water. Drain the soaked beans.

In a 6-quart stock pot or Dutch oven, melt the tablespoon of lard or butter over medium heat and cook the onions for until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the tomato sauce, ancho chile power, coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar, paprika, cumin, oregano, water and beef stock.

Stir in the soaked pinto beans; bring the pot to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for two and ahalf to four hours, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are tender and the chili sauce has thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve.

Nutrition (per serving): 271 calories, 3.1g total fat, 1.5mg cholesterol, 735.9mg sodium, 1428.6mg potassium, 45.2g carbohydrates, 11.2g fiber, 6g sugar, 17.3g protein.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Posted in participation of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

The Essay

As I mentioned yesterday, Shape.com has asked me for a short “essay” about my healthy eating blog.  Although few of the essays from other bloggers that have been published are very long, it can be up to 500 words.

Mine runs 495.

Jen of Sprite’s Keeper offered to proof the essay, and I’m glad she did – she reminded me what I needed to omit and, more importantly, emphasize.  I submitted the essay yesterday morning; it’s still not up yet, but I’m sure they are busy people.  I have to admit, though, that I’m a bit curious to see if they’ll post it at all.  You see, I spent a great deal of time yesterday evening perusing the “healthy eating” section of their site, and they are still toeing the whole grains/low-fat line – so much so that many, if not most, of their recipes are not only low-fat but vegetarian as well, with a healthy smattering of vegan recipes; they are even spotlighting raw vegan recipes at the moment.  (Should I even mention how much they seem to love Dr. Oz?)

As someone who advocates a meat-rich diet abundant in natural fats while eschewing those hearthealthywholegrains, I don’t think I’m going to become their poster girl any time soon.  At any rate, my brother asked if I was going to post the essay on my blog, so here it is.  I’ll let you know if/when they publish it over at Shape.com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like a great many people in the United States, I’ve had a weight issue almost my entire life. It never seemed to affect my health, so I just adopted the “big boned” approach and kept going, until I turned 40. Then, like a great many people in the U.S., my body seemed to start falling apart. By 45, I was just a mess: constantly exhausted, horrible mood swings, anxiety, periods of insomnia that would last days (sometimes weeks), arthritis in both of my hands, and odd little pains in my shoulders, back, arms and chest.  I couldn’t walk a quarter of a mile without needing to rest.  My doctors performed every test they could think of, but nothing seemed to be actually wrong with me.

By last spring, just a few months after I turned 47, I’d had enough.  I sat my husband down and told him that my diet was going to change, and since I did all of the cooking in our house that meant his diet was going to change as well.  He was very supportive (I know he was terribly worried about my health), so I began to research healthy diets.   In May 2010, I read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and discovered the Weston A. Price Foundation.  To say I was astounded by the thought that animal fats were not only not bad for us, but actually beneficial, is something of an understatement.  Within days I’d purged our house of all industrial “vegetable” oils (yes, including canola oil), as well as refined sugar and flour, along with everything that was processed, replacing these chemicals and toxins with healthy, natural, whole – the way nature intended – ingredients.  Within a week, just one week, the changes were astounding; my energy increased, my mood swings and anxiety decreased, I was sleeping more soundly, my arthritis was much less painful and the odd aches and pains had lessened in frequency and intensity.

But our dietary changes did not end there – I stopped shopping at the grocery store.  We purchased a 20-cubic-foot standing freezer and filled it with grass-fed beef and pastured pork and chicken.  We began visiting farmer’s markets and obtaining our eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables from local farmers, learning more about where our food really came from, knowing exactly what was going into our bodies.  Shortly after that, I drastically reduced the amount of grains we ate and completely eliminated gluten-bearing grains…and the rest of my symptoms disappeared.

I’ve always loved to cook – I began Jan’s Sushi Bar in February 2008 as a combination personal/food blog – but since we’ve changed our lifestyle (because it certainly isn’t a diet) it’s gone to a completely different level.  We don’t miss grains or sugar, and we’ve lost our fear of dietary fat.  And we’ve lost weight; my husband has lost 40 pounds, and I’ve lost nearly 45 –almost effortlessly, but the weight loss isn’t the best part of all this.  It’s how much better we feel.