originally posted at Not Dabbling in Normal

Earlier I talked about Why you wouldn’t just eat an egg?, instead of a processed bowl of cereal full of sugar and GMO ingredients. I mentioned that we eat custard for breakfast or snacks and a few people requested recipes. The custard we eat is a bit different than what you may be used to since I make mine barely sweetened (it is breakfast after all). Most people view custard as a sweet treat, but it can be made very nourishing with a few tweaks. It is the ultimate simple nourishing breakfast, if made with eggs, milk, spices and the tiniest bit of natural sweetener. If your family members are sweet lovers, you can always give them an extra spoonful of maple syrup on top of the custard, but really do try to wean them off eating sweets for breakfast, even of the natural kind. If you simply like things sweeter, double the amount of maple syrup or honey in the recipe below.

Custard couldn’t be easier to make, it mixes up in a flash and then spends the majority of it’s time in the oven while you can do other things (like read blogs). I often mix mine up in the evening pulling it out of the oven right before bed to cool
overnight.


There are a few different options for making this custard. If you want to make it super quick, simply whisk all ingredients together, pour in dish or cups and bake. If you want extra flavor and nutrition, steep milk with vanilla beans and true or sweet cinnamon sticks*.

BASIC NOURISHING CUSTARD
(recipe is easily halved, but believe me, you’ll be wishing you hadn’t)

6 eggs, from pastured chickens (or duck eggs which have larger yolks & make creamier custard)
1/4 cup organic maple syrup or local raw honey (double this for sweeter custard)
2 teaspoons organic vanilla or 2 vanilla beans**
4-6 sticks of true or sweet cinnamon*
5 cups whole raw milk
dash of salt
organic ground nutmeg or cinnamon for top if desired

Preheat oven to 325 F for dish or 350 for cups.

If you want extra healthful and flavorful custard, steep milk with vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks (see below for sourcing for these). Whisk eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla if using in bowl, stir in milk. Pour into a glass baking dish or six custard cups. Sprinkle top with nutmeg or cinnamon if desired. Set the baking dish(es) in a pan of hot water, as you can see by my photo, I use 6 small Pyrex Rectangular Glass Containers nested in a rectangular glass baking dish for large single servings. Bake large dish at 325 degrees for 1 hour; bake cups at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Custard is done when a knife inserted off-center comes out clean. Serve warm or cold, add an extra drizzle of maple syrup if you want it sweeter.

You can also make this even more healthful by adding some pumpkin to make pumpkin custard. Essentially all you need to do is swap out half the milk for pureed pumpkin. What a wonderful way to get a serving of vegetables first thing in the morning.

What’s your favorite nourishing breakfast?

*true or sweet cinnamon is different than the regular cinnamon you buy at the store (unless you have access to a hispanic store), it’s much sweeter, less cloying, and blends so much more beautifully with sweet dishes like this one. You can buy organic true cinnamon from Mountain Rose Herbs for a great price, I always have a big bag on hand. Cinnamon is a healthy addition to your diet, containing lots of manganese, calcium and iron. It also contains trace minerals that help regulate blood sugar. Here’s some great info on the health benefits of cinnamon.

**Vanilla beans can be quite pricey in the grocery store, but if you buy in bulk from Saffron.com it’s very nicely priced. Vanilla is also a healthy addition to your diet adding a wide variety of minerals and vitamins, it’s a natural anti-depressant and it help you relax (good for nighttime beverages). Here’s a great article about the health benefits of vanilla. You can also rinse and dry vanilla beans after using them in this recipe and throw them in your sugar crock to impart flavor. Or add to a bottle of brandy, bourbon or vodka to make your own vanilla.

The next thing in portable food? Harvard researching have developed an “edible electrostatically charged membrane of natural products to protect your foam, liquid, or emulsion food”. In the article they claim it’s just like an apple, the skin is edible and it protects the fruit inside.

Read all about it here at Food Production Daily.


How is it that they can call this stuff “food” and sell it and yet raw milk is illegal? Will people really eat this stuff? It’s amazing how far we’ve come when they claim the next big breakthrough is edible packaging when nature has been providing this to use safely all along.

What do you think? Would you prefer an apple or this?

My plate, a simple series where I show you what was on my plate, or maybe in the pan right before it goes on my plate.

Mr Chiots is a hunter, so each year our freezer is filled with loads of venison. This past November, he got four deer for the freezer, a few of them were yearlings so they’re fairly small, but quite tasty. One of my favorite winter meals is roasted venison. You can’t get much easier than making a roast. Throw a variety of root vegetables and a roast in a dutch oven, add a few spices like thyme, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Top it off with a cup or two of red wine or a dark beer, and throw it in the oven at 325 for 3-5 hours depending on the size of the roast.

When the meat is falling apart, remove from the oven, plate vegetables & meat and make a gravy with the pan juices. There’s nothing quite like it on a cold winter evening. Side it with a bitter green salad and you’ve got a healthy nourishing meal that only took minutes to prepare (minus the cooking time).

What delicious goodness has been on your place recently?

Cooking from scratch is the best way to ensure that what you’re eating is as healthy as it can be. I purchase pastured pork from a friend who raises hogs and I get all the pork simply ground, no spices added for sausage. The butcher shop we use will make nitrate free sausage, bacon and ham, but I prefer not to have them add the spices because I don’t know exactly what they use. Not to mention, when I mix it up myself each time I can make it however I want and tweak the flavors depending on what I’m making. I don’t have to figure out at processing time exactly how much of each type of sausage I want. If I want to make sausage and lentil soup I’ll mix hot Italian spices with the ground pork. If we want to have sausage with pancakes, I mix is savory breakfast sausage spices. Over the years I’ve played around with different spices and come up with a recipe we really love.

SAVORY BREAKFAST SAUSAGE

1 pound of ground local pastured pork
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon dried organic marjoram
3/4 teaspoon rubbed organic sage
1/2 teaspoon organic summer savory
1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground organic black pepper
(I like to use smoked black pepper from Mt Rose Herbs)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground organic nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon sweet cinnamon

Mix all spices together then sprinkle over ground pork. Mix well to incorporate spices evenly into pork. Form into balls and put in container. Let sit overnight in fridge to allow the spices to infuse the pork. In the morning, smash balls into patties and fry up in a cast iron skillet. If you can’t eat them all in one meal, keep remaining uncooked sausage in fridge and cook the next morning or within a a few days.

Optional Ingredients: 1 grated apple, other sweet spices: cardamom, cloves, ginger, maple syrup, etc.


I usually add a grated apple to my sausage along with the spices, it adds a delicate sweetness to the sausage (any cooking apple will do). You can also add maple syrup to the sausage when you mix it up, but it has a tendency to burn in the skillet so I prefer the add it after cooking. I much prefer my syrup on my sausage than on my pancakes. Lately I’ve been playing around with making more of a sweet spice sausage than a savory sausage and it’s quite good. When I get the recipe just right I’ll publish it here.

What’s your favorite kind of sausage? Italian, breakfast, maple, other?

A great source for organic herbs and spices is Mt Rose Herbs. I find they’re products to be of great quality and purchase any herbs/spices I don’t grow myself from them.

When there are only two people living in the house, it can be difficult to eat up all the jams/jellies that get made throughout the canning season. Recipes often yield many pints and you never want to make just one kind of jelly. That means the pantry can quickly get overstocked with a variety of jams and jellies that don’t get eaten.

It’s even worse when you don’t eat jam on toast or bread (I prefer my toast with lots of butter). As a result I’ve been trying to come up with creative ways to eat up some of the preserves in the pantry. Before our last trip, I remembered that I had some pastry crust in the fridge leftover from the video I made for Ethel. A perfect use for a jar or two of preserves. For these pies I used a jar of Caramelized Apple Marmalade with Thyme from Preserving the Taste and a jar of Meyer Lemon Marmalade as well.

MARMALADE HAND PIES

Pastry crust (however much you have leftover)
Marmalade, preserves, or jam
1 egg beaten with a Tablespoon of water
coarse sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 375.

Roll pastry crust out to 1/8 inch thickness, cut circles from dough using cookie cutter. I used a 4 inch round cutter. Put a small spoonful (about a Tablespoon) of jam, jelly or marmalade in the center of the circle. Brush a little cold water around the circumference of the dough using finger or pastry brush and fold it in half creating a semicircle. Seal using the back of the fork to make a decorative edge. Prick a few vent holes in the top of the pie (with care, you don’t want to smash them). Place pies on unbleached parchment paper lined cookie sheet and brush with egg wash mixture. Sprinkle some coarse sugar on top. Continue making pies until you run out dough.

Bake until the hand pies are golden brown and slightly cracked, between 20-40 minutes. Remove the pies from the oven, cool slightly before serving. BEWARE: the marmalade in the pies will be very HOT – do not eat right away.



These make the perfect finger snacks for parties – no dirty plates and forks to wash afterwards. They also make great on the go snacks keeping away those hunger pains so you don’t have to swing through the drive thru. The lard in the pie crust will help keep you full for quite a while. Can you think of a better way to use up some of those jars of jams/jellies in the pantry?

What’s your favorite kind of preserve?

I’m not much of a sweet baker anymore since I’ve been trying to cut sugar out of my diet. That being said, I used to bake cookies on occasion and since I’m never satisfied and continue to try new thing, I came across a few tips & tricks I’d like to share about how to make your cookies even better. We all have our personal taste when it comes to how we like our cookies, chewy, crunchy, a little of each. My go to cookie recipe is David Lebovitz’s Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. It’s a small batch, only making about 2 dozen cookies – so double if you want some extras! I also use this recipe from Nosh With Me on occasion, which makes a BIG batch which I bake over the course of a week (see below).

Here are my tips for taking your cookies to the next level:

Use large flake sea salt – when you use large flake salt instead of fine grain salt you’ll get a little burst of saltiness every now and then when eating a cookie. It’s akin to the joy that is salted caramel, that burst of salt paired with the sweet is truly heaven!

Chill your dough for at least 24 hours before baking, 48-72 is even better. REALLY? Yes, believe me. You’ll be amazed at how much better the cookies will bake and taste when you age the dough a bit. I’m not sure what magic happens in the cold dark depths of the fridge overnight but you’ll never look back. Usually I bake one tray the first night – I know – but really who can make cookie dough and not bake some? Then I bake 8 cookies the next night, then 8 again, and so on until the dough is gone. Usually I can get 5 trays of cookies from one batch of the Nosh With Me recipe. This also helps with the overeating of cookies – you won’t be tempted to eat more than you want to because you only baked up a few.

If you like your cookies on the chewy side remove from the oven before you think they’re done and let them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or two. This will bake them further but won’t make them as crispy as if you baked them the rest of the way in the oven.

Use powdered sugar instead of flour for rolling out gingerbread, butter, or other rolled cokies. You won’t get that floury taste and the surface of the cookie will be beautiful and shiny instead of white and dusty.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie? Any great cookie baking tips to share?

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Each day I get a few questions from readers, after spending a lot of time answering questions, often the same ones, I figured a Q&A section on the blog would be beneficial for us all. The comment section always provides a wealth of information as so many readers are more experienced than I am and can often provide regional information as well. This is a great way to pool our knowledge so we can all learn something new!

Ask your questions here, or e-mail me through the contact form. Questions will be posted to the blog with my answer, then everyone else can chime in. This will no doubt become a great resource for us all! I’ll add the questions to a master list page which you can find by clicking the image above.

Ask away my friends.

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At the focal point of this movement, and of this film, are the farmers and chefs who are creating a truly sustainable food system. Their collaborative work has resulted in great tasting food and an explosion of consumer awareness about the benefits of eating local.

Attention being paid to the local food movement comes at a time when the failings of our current industrialized food system are becoming all too clear. For the first time in history, our children’s generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan than our own. The quality, taste and nutritional value of the food we eat has dropped sharply over the last fifty years. Shipped from ever-greater distances, we have literally lost sight of where our food comes from and in the process we’ve lost a vital connection to our local community and to our health.

A feature-length documentary, INGREDIENTS illustrates how people around the country are working to revitalize that.

Check out the trailer: Ingredients

Do you have a favorite food-centric documentary?

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(originally posted at Not Dabbling in Normal)

I heard the new commercial for Kashi cereal the other day that claimed “More protein than an egg” and I thought to myself “why wouldn’t you just eat an egg?”. After all you’d be eating REAL food, in it’s simplest and most natural form instead of a product made who knows how long ago, in a factory from GMO ingredients (Soy & Canola) and loads of sugar (a bowl of Kashi contains a little over 3 teaspoons of sugar). An egg would be cheaper, healthier, produce less waste, use less energy and if you purchase it locally or keep your own chickens, it’s much better for your local economy.

Here are the ingredients for Kashi Seven Whole Grains & Sesame Cereal: (Whole: Oats, Long Grain Brown Rice, Rye, Hard Red Winter Wheat, Triticale, Buckwheat, Barley, Sesame Seeds), Textured Soy Protein Concentrate, Evaporated Cane Juice, Brown Rice Syrup, Chicory Root Fiber (Inulin), Whole Grain Oats, Kashi Seven Whole Grains & Sesame Flour (Whole: Oats, Long Grain Brown Rice, Rye, Hard Red Winter Wheat, Triticale, Buckwheat, Barley, Sesame Seeds), Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Honey, Salt, Cinnamon, Mixed Tocopherols (Natural Vitamin E) for freshness.

Ingredients in an egg: hopefully grass, insects, organic grains, and lots of sunshine. It’s worthwhile to seek out a local source of free range eggs because they’re much healthier that regular battery cage hen eggs (here’s a great article from Mother Earth News about free-range eggs). If you think about what an egg is, you’ll realize it’s really a perfect complete food. An egg contains everything needed to nourish a chick. For more in-depth information on the health of an egg, read this great article at World’s Healthiest Foods.

Eggs contain: tryptophan, selenium, iodine, vitamin B2, B5, B12, mylobdenum, phosphorus, Vitamin D, lutein and they’re a great source for choline – something 90% of Americans are deficient in. Eggs also contain vitamins and minerals that help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, those that help prevent blood clots, many that are good for your heart.

Eggs are also fantastic because they are so quick to make and they can be cooked up in a variety of ways. Mr Chiots and I eat eggs every morning for breakfast and never get sick of them. Sometimes we have the traditional eggs with bacon and potatoes. Other times we enjoy them scrambled. Eggs also pair perfectly with vegetables, making it a great way to work more vegetables into your diet (something most of us should be trying to do). We paritcuarly enjoy eggs poached on: a bed of kale, other sauteed vegetables, or a savory tomato sauce. Eggs can also be made sweet by being baked up into a classic plain custard or mix in some pumpkin to add even more vitamins and nutrition. These little bowls of goodness are perfect for a quick breakfast or a snack on the go!

Not only are eggs much healthier, at roughly 15-25 cents each for local pastured eggs here in my area, they’re also much cheaper than a bowl of cereal – especially if you pair them with homegrown vegetables. When you figure in the quality and freshness of the product you’re getting, it blows cereal out of the water!

Food is generally most healthy when it’s the least processed, with the exception of fermentation, which usually increases the availability of vitamins – think sauerkraut, yogurt, sourdough bread, etc. By “processing” I’m referring to big factory processing here, not cooking at home (which is technically a form of processing). The protein in textured vegetable protein does not equal the protein in an egg. Maybe it does on paper, but it doesn’t take a chemist to see the nutritional superiority of an egg.

Would you rather get you protein from an egg laid by a chicken running around on a farm in the sunshine, or from soy that’s been turned into Textured Vegetable Protein: TVP is made from high (50%) soy protein soy flour or concentrate, but can also be made from cotton seeds, wheat and oats. It is extruded into various shapes (chunks, flakes, nuggets, grains, and strips) and sizes, exiting the nozzle while still hot and expanding as it does so. The defatted thermoplastic proteins are heated to 150-200°C, which denatures them into a fibrous, insoluble, porous network that can soak up as much as three times its weight in liquids. As the pressurized molten protein mixture exits the extruder, the sudden drop in pressure causes rapid expansion into a puffy solid that is then dried. As much as 50% protein when dry, TVP can be rehydrated at a 2:1 ratio, which drops the percentage of protein to an approximation of ground meat at 16%. High quality TVP can be mixed with ground meat to a ratio of up to 1:3 (rehydrated TVP to meat) without reducing the quality of the final product, sometimes improving it if the meat used is poor. TVP is primarily used as a meat substitute due to its very low cost at less than a third the price of ground beef, and when cooked together will help retain more weight from the meat by absorbing juices normally lost. (source: Wikipedia)

I bet you can tell which one I’d rather have on my plate for breakfast!


What’s your favorite way to enjoy an egg?

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We’ve been eating solely sourdough for many years here at Chiot’s Run, as we follow the Weston A. Price guidelines of traditional eating. If you’ve never read about sourdough bread and it’s health benfits I’d highly recommend heading over to Real Food Forager to read:
5 Reasons to Make Sourdough Your Only Bread.

Sourdough bread does have a bit of a learning curve, but once you figure it out you’ll have no trouble at all. One key thing to remember is that the wild yeast takes longer to raise, so give your bread some time. The temperature of your house will also affect the leavening action of the sourdough. We keep our home very cold in winter and thus I use a higher percentage of starter and let my dough ferment for about twice as long as most recipes recommend.

If you want to learn the art of sourdough baking, I’d highly recommend reading The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens. This is a very in depth look at sourdough, probably more information than you want to know, but it is the book that really cemented my knowledge of sourdough and helped me understand the process fully. After reading through this book I feel very confident every time I make sourdough and I’m even able to adapt non-sourdough recipes to sourdough. It doesn’t contain recipes per se, but parameters for baking, you’ll want to find a go-to recipe that works for you. My favorite sourdough recipe is Norwich More Sourdough from Wild Yeast Blog (this one has a higher % of starter which makes it perfect for my cold house and the winter months).

If you don’t want to get too in depth on the chemistry of sourdough, you can read Classic Sourdoughs, Revised: A Home Baker’s Handbook. The information is basic and very good, the recipes are very simple and easy to make. Following these simple methods you’ll be making wonderful sourdough whenever you want. This book and the one mentioned above also recommend a different method of starter maintenance that only requires weekly feedings. I have found this to be the key for keeping my starter from getting too sour and strong. I cannot recommend these books more highly for the sourdough baker!

If you could only eat one kind of bread for the rest of your life what would it be?

For more info on the Weston A Price eating guidelines read:
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats