A Marigold’s Tale

The subject of this week’s Spin Cycle is “Best and Worst.”

I can do that.

Okay, so you know Beloved’s we’ve gone off the deep end with our back yard gardening.  Not surprisingly, this has turned out to be a mixed blessing.

Best:  Sprouting our own seeds, replanting them in the back yard and knowing they’ll likely survive.

Worst:  The back yard garden has begun to take over our living room.

This has engendered some interesting conversations, though.

The G Man, as he hangs over the back of the love seat:  “What’s wrong with the lids on the plants?”

The Young One:  “It’s called ‘condensation.'”

Best:  Nurturing all of our plants, knowing they will eventually be blog fodder dinner.

Worst:  What – I need to water and weed AGAIN??

It should be noted that I am not the most trustworthy person to weed; I often cannot distinguish between the seedling of something I’m really going to want to eat later, and the weed I won’t.

Best:  Loving the Spring weather in Ohio even more.

It amazed me when I first moved here that you could practically just throw stuff in the ground and it would grow like gangbusters.  We had a beautiful ornamental garden in our back yard in Texas, but due to the searing heat 7 months of the year, we had to be very careful about what we planted, and tend it vigilantly.  Up here, we plant stuff, water it occasionally and that’s it – we have a gorgeous bed of impatiens in our front garden all summer long every year.

Worst:  Learning to HATE The Weather Channel.

The same Weather Channel that promised our over night low would be 38 F.  He Of The Green Thumb was out of town, leaving Hopelessly Inept Gardener on her own for the week.  Hopelessly Inept Gardener thought it would be safe to simply water the garden, rather than covering it, before retiring for the night.

You don’t know terror until you’ve left your husband’s precious garden uncovered all night, only to wake up at 5 a.m. and realize it’s 31 F degrees outside.

Best:  Having He Of The Green Thumb declare that the damage isn’t as bad as you thought; all of the cold/cool weather plants (lettuces, peas, collards, carrots, parsnips, beets) are fine and he shouldn’t have transplanted the peppers, squash, okra and tomatoes outside so soon.

Worst: The realization that the marigold your precious grandson started from a seed at preschool, and which was on the verge of blooming, was one of the items that had been transplanted outside too soon.

You have never seen two people search for a marigold at the local gardening centers quite as frantically as Meema and Papa.

the Marigold

Fortunately, three-year-olds have a limited grasp on the fact that marigolds don’t grow so large quite so quickly.

 

Fish Poached in Ghee

I think I mentioned in yesterday’s post that The Young One is picky about fish – he pretty much refuses to touch it, unless it’s shellfish – so Beloved and I tend to eat it at lunch.  Since our time at lunch is generally limited, I tend to cook fish recipes that are pretty quick and easy.  And really, really tasty.

This is one of those recipes.

Really, this dish is simplicity itself and is ready in 10 minutes.  It’s a classic preparation of fish, lemon and butter, only due to my issues with cow’s dairy, I substitute ghee – all of the flavor of butter, without the lactose or casein.  You can certainly use butter if you prefer, but whatever you do, you should make this dish – it is just delicious.

The pretty purple stuff underneath is a purple cauliflower mash, and it was a great vehicle for the fish.  You could serve this over rice or even mashed potatoes and it would taste very good, although it would look a little…one note.  The cauliflower was a nice contrast and the light, mild flavor complimented the richness of the ghee and the tartness of the lemon really well.  If you don’t care for cauliflower, a winter squash puree – butternut, perhaps? – would be delicious, too.

I used flounder for this dish, which I just love, but you can use any mild, white fish and it will be fine.

Fish Poached in Ghee. A simple combination of lemon butter makes a tangy sauce for mild, white fish.

Click to enlarge

Fish Poached in Ghee
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 10 ounces flounder or other mild fish
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/ghee/” target=”_blank”]Ghee[/url]
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • finely chopped parsley
  • thinly sliced lemon
Instructions
  1. Lightly season the fish fillets with the salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning.
  2. Melt the ghee in a saute pan over low heat; stir in the lemon juice. Add the fish to the pan and spoon the ghee/lemon mixture over the fillets. Cover and cook, turning once, until the fish becomes opaque and flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes.
  3. Using a spatula, transfer the fish to two warmed plates. Pour the pan sauce over the fish, and garnish with the parsley and lemon slices. Serve immediately.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 305 calories, 25.8g total fat, 124.9mg cholesterol, 422.8mg sodium, 241.5mg potassium, <1g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 17.9g protein

The Young One’s Strange Diet

I am incredibly busy this week, getting ready for graduation and out-of-town visitors, and filling out tons of paperwork to get this child into college in the fall.  (Is there anything more fun than wrangling with the intricacies of financial aid?  I didn’t think so.)  Here’s a guest post I wrote for the Paleo Parents in January; I never got around to posting it here and thought the subject matter would be appropriate, considering the circumstances.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a recipe.

~~~~~~

I am an old parent. Yes, I am. My eldest will be 30 in June, and my youngest is going off to college in the Fall, when I will enter the fabled land of The Empty Nest.

It apparently does exist, after all.

That’s not what I’m here to talk about, though. No, I’m here to tell you about the kid that’s going off to college soon; I call him “The Young One” on my blog. Three months premature, weighing a whopping 2 lbs. 4 oz., he was known among the staff at the hospital as “the miracle baby.” Born January 27, we took him home on March 17, just a little over six weeks later; there were babies in the NICU that had been born closer to term and weighed more who spent much, much longer there. And aside from surgeries to correct a hernia and strabismus in one eye, he never had the health problems many other preemies faced.

But there were developmental and behavioral issues – issues not fully resolved until he was in middle school. Knowing what I know now about diet, I think back to those days and am angry – angry with a society that tells us “foods” laden with chemical additives, dyes, industrial seed oils and HFCS are perfectly safe for growing little bodies and minds. Angry with myself for not knowing the difference; I can make all the excuses I want that the wealth of information available today simply wasn’t there nearly 20 years ago, but it does little to assuage the guilt.

Even if I’d known then what I know now it would have been a struggle. You see, The Young One is what is politely known as “a picky eater.” Naturally lean and wiry, it was a struggle to get him to eat anything beyond a few (very few) foods as a small child. For years, every meal was a battle, and every new food tried a triumph. Of course, as he’s matured that’s become easier, but there are still foods he simply will not eat – don’t even bother to put that zucchini or those collard greens on his plate, because they’ll just…sit there. The dog might eat them, but The Young One will not.

Surprisingly, he’s always been pretty good about meat; even as a small child I used to tell people that my son lived off of meat, cheese and chocolate chip cookies (even if he did eat them in frustratingly small amounts). If it flies or walks on four legs, that boy will eat it (alas, he’s not so fond of things that swim). So when we “went Paleo” it wasn’t really difficult to bring him along for the ride. In fact, it was downright easy once he got over the disappointment that there would be no more junk in the house. And he has thrived.

Flex

But there have been repercussions that I, for one, didn’t foresee. You’d think after five children I’d remember what social, herd-like animals teenagers are and realize he would receive some negative feedback about his new diet from his friends and classmates. No chips? No cookies? No soda? No ice cream, cupcakes, candies or even cereal, for crying out loud? Did he really like those carrot sticks, all that celery stuffed with nut butter? Grapes? Apples? Bananas? Raw milk cheese? Sandwiches on LETTUCE?? As far as his friends were concerned, that wasn’t lunch – it was some sort of dietary purgatory.

His very best friend was especially hard on The Young One, since the friend’s mother is still a member of The Low Fat Tribe (she is, in fact, their Queen). Her kitchen is filled with every low fat/fat free “food” and treat in existence, because fat – especially all that nasty saturated fat – is just going to clog up your arteries and kill you faster than you can say “Hollandaise sauce,” don’t you know. I don’t try to enforce our diet outside of home and school lunches (it wouldn’t work, anyway) and he often “indulges” when he spends time there…and comes home complaining of headaches, digestive issues and the nastiness that is turkey bacon.

We won’t even go into the complaints of this friend when he’s at our house, where there’s nary a Lean Pocket nor Snackwell cookie to be found, although I’ve yet to see him turn down the nuts, cheeses, seasonal fruits or “paleo-ized” goodies we always seem to have on hand. (This is also the same young man who, after having whole, non-homogenized, grass-fed milk at our home for the first time, asked me, “What have I been missing all these years?” I told him, “Real food.”)

The Young One handles it well, though, and some of the criticism has begun to wane, perhaps due in part to the fact he’s getting kinda ripped with next to no effort. But six-pack abs and bulging biceps aside, he’s never tried to pressure us to bring foods into the house we would not eat ourselves. For the most part he likes the way we eat now.

Barbecue sauce is about the only condiment he’ll eat, but that’s okay – it makes Barbecued Beef Liver one of his favorite dishes and it makes a great dipping sauce for another of his favorites: Crispy Fried Chicken Livers. When I sourced a goat for our freezer, he ate things like Moroccan Goat Stew with abandon (minus the butternut squash). Surprisingly, he enjoys spaghetti squash and dishes such as Venison Bolognese and Cincinnati-Style Chili have been huge hits with him. Heck, even his friends will eat things like Whole30-complaint Chili Dogs and Bacon-Wrapped Honey Mustard Chicken Strips.

I still worry a little about him going off to college – the food options on campus aren’t exactly the best, although I secretly cheered when he expressed dismay and disbelief over the fact there’s a full-service Quaker Steak and Lube in the student center. And I wonder just how often he’ll be home to raid the refrigerator in the months to come.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Happy Tuesday everyone.  If you live in the U.S., I hope you enjoyed your three-day weekend; if you don’t, I hope you had a reasonably pleasant Monday.  Ours was lovely, and I took yesterday off from blogging, as well as my “real job.”

It was sorely needed, because this week will be hectic as we prepare for The Young One’s graduation on Sunday; his father, grandmother, Darling Daughter and Oldest Son all arrive on Saturday.  Oldest Son will stay through the following Saturday, allowing us to celebrate his 30th birthday Friday, and Darling Daughter will remain another week, flying back to Las Vegas on Father’s Day.  I’ll try to keep to some sort of regular blogging schedule for the next two weeks, but I make no promises.  I’m not making anything “new” the week that Oldest Son is here, but I’ll try to rerun a couple of “oldies but goodies” if I don’t have anything fresh.  Things should be a little calmer the week it’s just Darling Daughter, and since she’s my adventurous eater (and an excellent cook), I”ll probably have something new for you that week.

At any rate, I made this particular recipe on Sunday morning for our brunch.  Blueberries were on sale at our natural foods market, and since we were having The G Man for the night Sunday, I bought two half-pints (the boy loves blueberries).  Indeed, the majority of one container found its way into his little belly over the course of the 24 or so hours we had him; the other half-pint went into these little gems.

Lemon and blueberry pair naturally, and they are delicious in these moist, tender muffins.  They have a light, fruity flavor, and aren’t overly sweet – just scrumptious.  Even The Young One ate an entire muffin, and he’s not a blueberry fan at all.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins. Lemon and blueberry pair naturally, and they are delicious in these moist, tender muffins.

Click photo to enlarge

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 2 tablespoons white rice flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup ghee or clarified butter, melted
  • the juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously grease a one-dozen muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda and coconut sugar. Stir the eggs, ghee, zest and lemon juice into the almond flour mixture, beating lightly by hand with a wooden spoon, until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.
  3. Divide the batter equally between the greased muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool completely before serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 182 calories, 12.4g total fat, 60.1mg cholesterol, 163.8mg sodium, 147.1mg potassium, 13.3g carbohydrates, 2.3g fiber, 5.6g sugar, 2.1g protein

 

Chocolate Strawberry Crumb Cake

I sort of mentioned this in passing in a recent post, and got quite a few requests for the recipe.

Then I promptly forgot all about it.

When I realized I’d only posted two recipes this week (three is my norm) and that I hadn’t really done much cooking this week since Beloved is out of town on business, I decided I’d drag it out and post it.

You’re welcome.

This was one of those Sunday morning indulgences – I woke up and thought that a coffee cake-ish sort of thing sounded good and was in the mood to bake.  I had some fresh strawberries on hand and almost made a fruit buckle, but then decided to just put them on top of the cake and drizzle them with some melted dark chocolate.

It. Was. Wonderful.  Fruity and rich, but not too sweet; a great addition to our Sunday brunch.  It would make a nice dessert, too.

A couple of notes –  the coconut milk in the chocolate serves two purposes; it helps prevent the chocolate seizing up when it’s being melted (the double boiler also assists with this) and it helps keep the chocolate from re-hardening after it’s been drizzled over the strawberries.  You can use heavy cream if you prefer.

Also, the servings are not huge, but they don’t really need to be – it’s pretty filling due to the nuts, both the almond flour and the almonds in the topping.  Just keep in mind this is not diet food; it’s neither low in carbs nor calories, but most treats/desserts aren’t.

Chocolate Strawberry Crumb Cake. Fruity and rich, but not too sweet - a great addition to your Sunday brunch.

Click to enlarge

Chocolate Strawberry Crumb Cake
Serves: 8 to 12
Ingredients
  • Cake:
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup ghee or clarified butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Crumble:
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, melted
  • Topping:
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 3 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Stir together the dry ingredients – the flours, salt, baking soda and coconut sugar – in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients – eggs, ghee, and vanilla – and mix on medium speed until the ingredients are combined. Increase the speed to high and mix until the batter is very smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine all the ingredients for the crumble except the ghee. Stir in the ghee, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is moist and crumbly, but not wet.
  4. Pour the batter into a well-greased 8″ x 8″ baking dish, then top with the crumble (there will be a lot). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. While the cake is cooling, combine the chocolate and coconut milk in the top of a double boiler over simmering, not boiling, water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted and combined with the coconut milk.
  7. Layer the sliced strawberries on top of the cooled cake and drizzle with the melted chocolate. Cut into squares and serve.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 373 calories, 24.9g total fat, 64.5mg cholesterol, 91.2mg sodium, 483.6mg potassium, 32.1g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 16.8g sugar, 6.1g protein