Harvest Short Ribs; Braised in Brown Butter and Tarragon on Bed of Creamy Yogurt Polenta

img_8608Tried to sound fancy; got you didn’t I?? This is simple as food gets, but we can make it sound pretty elevated. This is “peasant food,” which by the way is the kind of food I love to eat and cook. It is about using what you have, making the most of it. When cooking my recipes, have fun be creative. Don’t have nutmeg? Don’t drive to the store, use something you may have, cloves or coffee can warm up this dish with flavor just as well, then it will be truly your creation.

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The short rib is by no means a fancy cut, but when cooked right it is buttery melt in your mouth divine. I used the last of our garden vegetables as I prep our garden beds for a fall garden. I roughly chopped up the vegetables, letting them cook down through out the day, and then puree in a blender. I plan to use the other half for a vegetable based soup. The ribs are braised with tarragon,  butter and coconut oil, then allowed to stew with the sauce until tender. The coconut oil allows the butter to get to a high temperature without burning. I serve this over polenta. My mother and grandmother always had polenta, I was shocked at how little other people use this Italian staple!  I like my polenta creamy, but not watery, similar to a thick “grits,” with the grain of polenta is finer. I stir in my yogurt made fresh from the dairy farm to give the polenta extra creamy.  If you haven’t tried to make your own yogurt try it using my method! This is a perfect meal for a cold fall night. Make extra and invite friends!

Ingredients:

  • 4-8 Qts vegetable puree. (A full 8 Qt Pot of chopped vegetables)
  • 4- 6 lbs Short Ribs
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Tarragon
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1/4 C wine
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 C molasses
  • 1/3 C balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 C sugar

Polenta:

  • 1 1/2 C Corn Meal
  • 6 Cups of Chicken Stock
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Yogurt
  • Parmesan Cheese

Directions: Roughly chop what vegetables you have on hand (carrots, celery, onion, kale, garlic, eggplant, zucchini etc) Add olive oil, salt and pepper and cook until all vegetables are tender. Puree in blender or with immersion blender in pot.

In separate pan, brown short ribs. I will explain the method of braising; start by heating the butter and coconut oil in saute pan. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Chop tarragon and add to pan. Pace ribs in pan and let brown on one side, then flip. Approx. 3 minutes a side at very high heat. Make sure you get a nice “crust,” this will allow the ribs to seal in any juices and lead to tastier meat. Now you will have some burnt looking bits, this is the fat that has been rendered and is full of flavor. Add a little liquid of your choice, wine, water or chicken stock. About 1/4 cup. Using spatula scrape these bits with the liquid and let it reduce a bit. Add ribs and browning liquid to vegetable puree.

Add molasses, nutmeg, sugar and vinegar. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Place in 350 F oven for 2-4 hours. Make polenta by boiling chicken stock and butter. Add Polenta slowly with whisk to avoid lumping. remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve short ribs over polenta with extra juice and a little parmesan if desired! Enjoy.

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Because if I ever become a mother who keeps their family from eating to get a good picture, please tell me to stop

 

Lavender Rosemary Freezer Cookies

 

img_8449These Lavender Rosemary Freezer Cookies are not like eating soap, promise. My children can testify! This is a classic butter cookie recipe with simple ingredients, made special by adding a little fresh lavender and rosemary from our garden. I use my home made yogurt fresh from the dairy- store bought regular or greek yogurt is fine! This is my new go too butter cookie recipe, perfect for up coming holiday. You can get creative and add your own spin; maybe mint, lemon or almond? A little pumpkin and maple for fall? Experiment and enjoy. I tried to put detailed instructions for a no fail cookie!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Sticks Butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Yogurt 
  • 2 Eggs (at room temperature)
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla
  • 4 C Flour ( sifted)
  • 3 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Minced Rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Minced Lavender Flowers
  • Directions:

In large bowl (not the mixing stand bowl) sift flour. Stir in salt, rosemary and lavender.

In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar at high-speed until light and airy, (see pictured).

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Beat in 1 egg as a time on low, add vanilla. Add 1/4 dry mixture and mix on medium, stop, scrape sides, and repeat for remaining dry ingredients. Do not over mix; (leads to tougher cookie). Chill 30 minutes. Place 1/3 chilled mixture on parchment paper and roll into log.

Place in bag or cover in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in freezer for up to 4 months. Thaw a little before using (approx 10 minutes), then slice in 1/4″ rounds and bake on parchment lined baking sheet for 10 -15 minutes at 350 F. Enjoy your beautiful cookies, they make a great gift in special tin as well!

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Lilly’s favorite part! 

Art to Feed; “Community Hearts” and the Parent Resource Center

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The Parent Resource Center of Modesto 

You don’t need to drive far to see need in our community. Often we are unsure of how to help. We feel we can’t help or we simply have too much in our own lives that helping others is last on our list. However just being there for your family and friends is enough to improve community. If everyone took care of themselves, their neighbors their children what a better world we would have. So much of our world’s problems comes from hurt, pain and a lack of understanding. We really don’t know why the man on the corner is without a home. We can guess, we can judge. Or we can simply choose to use what little we have to help. While we need to protect our resources and our energy, I also think it’s within our ability and our responsibility to take care of those in need. Not needing a reason, other than because we are fellow human beings. When we start believing we are better and the other is less deserving, what a slippery slope that is. Compassion its wants needed, even when you donate or give time and get nothing in return. All the drama is just a distraction, let’s use what we have and make the most of our abilities to help those we come in contact day-to-day. If you feel inclined beyond that seek out opportunities to help. Modesto has one of the highest crime rates in America, including violent crimes (Neighbor Hood Scout.com, 2016). According to the Census Bureau website, close to 28 % of our residents live below the poverty level. Our county has double the average illiteracy rate, approx 16 % do not speak english well, and homelessness rates are rising. I want to share this not to depress you or further convince you that Modesto needs help, but to shed some light on the fact that we have such an amazing rich agriculture region and yet we are so disconnected from the reality that lives “further down the road.”

The Parent Resource Center lies in the heart of Modesto. In the heart of a community littered with trash  and an abandoned gas station sits next door. Highway 99 is heard rushing by outside it’s front door. It could have no better location, it sits neatly to give direction to those in need. To help families so desperate for support. They have new mother programs, family literacy programs, a pantry and clothing. They have child care during classes, education for youth and teen parents. They also offer a program called “Hero’s for Change” to provide nutritional education to families. I was pleased to support their cause at the Art Walk in Turlock, CA this August. The community, both young and old painted their hearts on a canvas as they learned more about the Parent Resource Center and their programs.

The painting was then pulled together by myself and donated as a symbol of community love and support, as well as encouragement that they will reach many more families in need. I pray we can all take small steps and use what  little valuable time we have to put others first. I am blessed to be able to have the resources to give, and pray for an improved community.

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Donation of “Community Hearts” Painting at The Parent Resource Center with some of the wonderful staff who lovingly serve our community. 

“Community Hearts” for the Modesto Pregnancy Center

 

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Some of the wonderful staff at Modesto Pregnancy Center with our “Community Hearts” painting

Its funny even now writing this I lack confidence. I am slowly but surely gaining confidence in my faith. My faith is winning, and the judgments of others seem to matter less.

I want to share my experience not to shock you but to share a hard truth. As a new nurse practitioner I decided to work at a women’s health clinic to gain skills and knowledge that would help me in my career. I was excited to help women and empowered. This clinic also offered medication abortion. I justified working there by thinking that I could help prevent women from having an abortion through educating them and offering family planning. The clinic turned out to be a machine. My visits were shortened as we were required to see more and more patients each week. The women’s faces who so desperately needed time became a blur as I ran form room to room, and it never stopped. The next step in clinical training was to learn how to perform ultra sounds. I was sent to a busier clinic where ultrasounds were done frequently. Little did I know what I was in store for. The day was like walking in a fog after witnessing a train wreck. I was to follow a doctor around and do ultrasounds on women who were being seen  for surgical abortion. Surgical abortion can be preformed up to 20 weeks gestation. If you have never seen what 20 weeks gestation looks like, well its like looking at a fully formed baby. I witnessed everything. I had to know the pain of this, the heart ache, the sudden loss and the trauma of it all. By the end of the morning the doctor had preformed numerous abortions on drugged up women without barely speaking a word. His apron was red. A young girl was rushed to hospital for possible perforation of her uterus during the procedure. The last patient was a 25 year old who was having her 10th surgical abortion. She asked for an ultra sound picture of the baby. The image haunts me. The next day the clinic was going to same day abortion; where a woman would not be required to make an appointment and return after being educated about procedure, but would simply have an abortion done that very day. At noon the recovery room was full. I cried and shook all the way home at what I had witnessed. I gave my notice the next day.

Many patients believed this clinic  was their only resource for a pregnancy test, birth control, and care. Modesto Pregnancy Center exists as an alternative. They have ultrasound technicians, a nurse practitioner and offer pregnancy testing as well as resources for a healthy supported pregnancy. They are there to give women time, rest, and the ability to know that they are loved and have options for their unborn child. The collaborative painting we did during our women’s bible study serves as a symbol of our love and support for all the Modesto Pregnancy Center offers those enduring the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy. I pray for continued community support and the ability to reach many more in need.

One Pot Chicken for Two Meals

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And one fabulous pot I may add!  I use my red cast iron dutch oven, which was a wedding gift, ( 8, or is it 7 years ago?), for so many different things throughout the fall and winter months. You could use a crock pot for this as well. This recipe incorporates my yogurt- sweet potato pasta sauce. Since I was out of my sauce I made a batch by roughly cutting up garden vegetables place in pot, cooking through and blending with immersion blender (love this tool!). I then placed the chicken in the sauce and cooked through, so no fuss and less mess for busy week nights! You could substitute a similar marinara. The first dinner I made with this recipe I simply served the chicken over rice.The second dinner I used the leftover chicken, sauce and rice for  enchiladas! See directions below and enjoy this simple but satisfying meal! img_8110-1img_8286

Ingredients:

  • 6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 4  C Pasta Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 Tsp Fresh Chopped Tarragon

img_8285Directions:

Place Chicken Breasts in dutch oven or crock pot. Season with salt, pepper. Cover with sauce. Add tarragon and nutmeg. Simmer for 2-4 hours until chicken shreds easily with fork. Serve over rice of choice.

For Lentil Rice as pictured:

Boil 1 c white rice, 2 c lentils in 3 c water with 1 tbs of butter and 2 tsp of chicken bouillon unit cooked through, (around 50 minutes).

Ingredients for Enchiladas:

  • Left over Chicken Breasts with Sauce and Rice (About 2 Qt Total Leftovers)
  • 4 C Shredded Jack and Cheddar Cheese.
  • 6 Large Flour Tortillas
  • 2  15 0z can of Enchilada (Red) Sauce.

Directions:

Pre Heat Oven to 350F. Place 1/2 C Enchilada sauce in bottom of 9″x 13″ dish. Place 1/4 C leftover mixture in tortilla and top with 2/3 shredded cheese. Fold and roll as you would a burrito. Place seam side down in dish and repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over rolled tortillas, being sure to get edges as well. Top with Remaining cheese. Bake covered for 30 minutes, remove and bake additional 10 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

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Yogurt Bread Calzones

img_8102This recipe was inspired by a traditional Georgian  bread called “Cheese Bread” I came across the recipe for “Cheese Bread” in my favorite cook book “Feast” by Nigella Lawson. I adapted it based on what I had. I had left over Pasta sauce and hamburger thawed out in my fridge I decided to add them to the cheesy filling in this bread. The filling is a mixture of feta, mozzarella and ricotta. The dough is made with yogurt, butter and flour. A dairy lovers dream! I also had my yogurt and ricotta made fresh from our dairy farm on hand. You can of course use store-bought, but look for best quality ingredients, or try my recipes for home-made yogurt and ricotta. If you are not a fan of the Feta tang, you can always substitute more mozzarella and less feta. This recipe creates either one large monster calzone to bring to a large table a feast, or individuals,  it’s up to you!

img_8104Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 3 1/2 C Flour
  • 1 C Yogurt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 C Butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt

Filling:

  • 2 C Feta
  • 7 Oz Mozzarella chopped ( 2 C shredded )
  • 1 C Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2 Lb Ground Beef
  • 1/2 C Pasta Sauce

img_8106Directions:

Pre heat oven to 350 F Cook ground beef until browned through and leave to cool. In large bowl combine butter, yogurt and eggs with hands. Add flour to mix, 1/2 C at a time. Add baking soda and salt. Knead dough until pulling away from sides of bowl. Cover and let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes. May leave for up to 3 days before using. In a separate bowl combine feta, mozzarella, ricotta, ground beef, and sauce. Cut dough into fourths. Place on greased baking sheets. Pat into disks approx 3/4″ thick. Pur 1/4 beef mixture on one half and fold remaining half over top, creating a half circle. Crimp edges with a fork. You can also make mini cheese balls as I did for my kiddos! Bake in oven until golden brown. approx 30- 40 minutes.

 

 

Simple Cheese Making: Ricotta from our Farm

img_8103Feel like doing a science experiment? This is such a fun thing to do and with kids or a partner even better! Such a simple cheese to learn.  You can get the hang of this after a couple of times and always have fresh ricotta on hand. Use ricotta similarly as you would use yogurt, in baked goods, and of course lasagna. Try with my Cheese Bread Recipe also. I love the process of making cheese, it really takes you back to a simpler time. I use raw milk fresh from our dairy farm, but you can also use store-bought pasteurized as well, just stay away from ultra pasteurized! Some grocers are carrying raw milk or non homogenized, low pasteurized milk which gives a much better flavor and texture for cheese making. I’ve included  a link below for ordering liquid animal rennet online.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Tsp Liquid Rennet 
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Gal. Fresh Milk
  • Tsp Salt (Cheese Salt is ideal)

Directions:

Place milk in sterile 5 qt. pot. Slowly heat milk until milk is too hot to touch, (or 200 F on candy thermometer). Remove from heat. Slowly add rennet, lemon juice and salt. Stir gently. Leave pot to sit for 10 minutes. Check to see if whey (liquid) is separating from curds. Add more lemon juice if separation has not occurred and wait a few minutes. Scoop curds out with slotted spoon into strainer lined with tea cloth. See photograph for example. Strain for 60 minutes and place in air tight container. Store in refrigerator and use within one week. Enjoy the rewards of you experiment and try different recipes!

Creamy Balsalmic Yogurt Dressing

imageThis is my go to salad dressing. I haven’t met any one who doesn’t care for it, including my kiddos. It has a balance of sweet, salty, tangy and the silky texture is divine for any salad. Would also work as a great marinade. Try adding a twist of your own, maybe a hint of heat? I use my home made raw yogurt, you can also use store bought plain or Greek yogurt. We also use our Aunt and Uncle’s olive oil, California Gold. They make a wonderful balsamic as well! Use a good, authentic balsamic dressing. No red wine vinegar stuff! The key to this is to whisk the heck out of it to remove any lumps. I used this dressing on a mix of kale from our garden, but you could use on virtually any greens, including with coleslaw.

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Ingredients

  • 2 C EV Olive Oil
  • 3/4 C Real Balsamic
  • 1/4 C Yogurt
  • 1/4 C Mustard
  • 1/4 C Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tsp Salt/ Pepper, or to taste.

 

Directions:

Whisk ingredients and pour over salad. For Kale salad a tip: massage kale leaves with a course ground salt to tenderize your salad 30 minutes before adding dressing. Add Feta cheese and candied pecans for a decadent salad. A word of warning, a little of this dressing goes a long way so add sparingly and increase if desired!

Fresh Breakfast Lasagna

img_7969If you think this does not sound good for breakfast,  I promise it is perfect for brunch and even for dinner! Yummy fresh layers of cheese, eggs, hash browns all with a light marinara. I found myself making two, a smaller one for dinner and a larger one for a brunch the next day. This is  a great make ahead dish, pop it in the oven the next day. I used my home-made pasta sauce, with lots of mushrooms and egg-plant which lightened up the sauce, and my raw yogurt, which I think gives it a fluffier texture than most egg dishes. You could use store bough marinara and yogurt as well. Experiment with diffrent sauces, maybe even a pesto with sausage instead of bacon! Pictured here in my “Holstein Plate” Available at Art to Feed website, portion of proceeds donated to support your local food bank!

Ingredients

  • 2 C Cubed  Sourdough Bread ( I found a jalapeno bread for a kick, but use any bread you have on hand)
  • 2 C Hash Browns (thawed)
  • 8 Slices of Bacon Crumbled
  • 10 Eggs
  • 1/2 C Yogurt
  • 1/4 C Milk
  • 1/2 C Marinara Sauce
  • 1 Tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 Tsp Salt and Pepper
  • 2 C Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 C Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat bottom of 9″ x 13″ Dish. Spread half marinara on bottom of dish. Place Hash Browns and top with cubed bread.

This is where my kids have fun, its like a puzzle trying to get them all to fit. Mid home work break! img_7963

Whisk Eggs, remainder of tomato sauce, yogurt, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour gently over bread and hash browns. Layer Parmesan and then Cheddar. Place in oven or store in fridge overnight. Bake 40-55 minutes and golden brown and bubbly! Enjoy, and serve for dinner if desired!

Super Moist Pumpkin Muffins…made with yogurt and almond Butter

img_7839I painted this pumpkin platter and made these pumpkin muffins in hopes that fall will come early! A portion of proceeds from this platter goes towards your local food bank and can be purcahsed at ART to FEED website.

I hope to try this recipe with fresh pumpkin from our cousins Pumpkin Patch, but you can also use canned pumpkin as well! My muffin recipes are no fuss, use one bowl and make your life easier please and have fun cooking!  Muffins give so much room for creativity to add you own twist as well. I added my Raw Yogurt and some almond butter that give these muffins a super moist texture. For a healthier muffin you can omit the topping. Purchase almonds for a good cause through Farm to Kids and make your own almond butter as well! These freeze well for busy mornings and this recipe makes enough to share with neighbors and spread the love for all things pumpkin! Makes approx 24 muffins.

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Ingredients

  • 3 C Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2  C  Butter
  • 1/4 C Yogurt
  • 1/4 C Almond Butter
  • 1 15 oz Can Pumpkin or 2 C Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Topping

  • 1 tbsp Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla
  • 2 c Oats
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C flour

Directions:

PreHeat oven to 350 F. Grease muffins Tins. In large bowl combine dry ingredients. Melt the 2 sticks of butter in microwave or pan. Make well in dry ingredients and in this order add; melted  butter and sugar. Stir to combine only the wet ingredients without scraping sides. Add eggs and beat into wet ingredients one at a time. Add yogurt, maple syrup and pumpkin (reserve 1 tbs for topping). Fold gently until just incorporated. Do not over mix. Over mixing you eggs will lead to a tougher muffin. In general with baking the less you handle the better. Batter will be lumpy and this is ok!  Spoon into muffin tins.

Prepare topping; Melt butter and add remaining ingredients. Stir until mixture resembles a loose crumble. Add more flour or oats if needed. Place a large spoonful on top of each filled muffin tin. Bake for 30-4o minutes or until golden brown.