Good Bye Bad Friend

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I am going to seriously minimize my contact with a bad friend this year.  His name is “Alcohol”, but he also goes by Cabernet, Zinfandel, or Syrah.  When I first met this friend, I thought it was a good match.  He always made me feel happy, and magically helped me get through stressful social situations.  He even made my long hard day feel better when we sat down on the couch together in the evening.  Then, I started to realize, although this friend seems like a good one, he really isn’t.  He brings along way too much baggage.

The first thing I noticed was that this friend is too demanding.  He wanted to hang out every single night.  It used to seem nice spending relaxing time together, but now I am starting to notice him worming his way into way too many parts of my life.  I don’t like friends who try to own me, and that’s what it feels like.  Every night he calls.  Every social situation he wants to show up.  Every dinner he expects to be invited.  He even tried to convince me I wouldn’t be able to have a pleasant relaxing evening without him!  Then he told me I wouldn’t be able to have a fun evening without him!  This is too high maintenance! 

Then I noticed him waking me up at night!  What kind of a friend does that?  First, we sit on the couch in the evening and relax, then bam! He wakes me up at 2 am, and wants me to stay awake every night.  I don’t have time for this.  I have a job to do, a farm to run, and people in my life who I love.  I can’t be walking around like a sleep-deprived grump.  It gets in the way of my life.  Not only that, I just don’t feel good if I’m not sleeping well, and I think lack of sleep is unhealthy.

I have a huge commitment to my health. I write notes to you about your health, and provide fresh veggies to keep my community healthy!   I eat healthy foods (even if it cost more).  I work out every day.  I am very careful about the personal care products I put on my body.  I am very careful about the cleaning products we use in our home.  It is because I want to be healthy.  With this much of a commitment to good health, why would I compromise it with this bad friend, who is high maintenance and keeps me awake at night?  Oh, and he also screws up my workouts!

So, I took the bull by the horns and kicked him out of my life.  It took about a week to get used to not having him around, but once I got used to it, I noticed how much better I felt.  I was sleeping through the night.  I was up and at the gym early in the morning and feeling strong.  Even my achy knees felt better.  The strangest thing was that my brain felt clearer, and I didn’t even know it was foggy! 

Some of what prompted me to kick out this friend was a 30 day no alcohol challenge that Ben Greenfield did with his friend Jason Sissel.  Jason had blood work done and then embarked on a 30 day alcohol fast.  He didn’t change his diet or anything else in his life during the 30 days.  Then he redid his blood work.  The results were sobering. 

AST liver enzymes dropped from 24 to 18. 

71% drop in triglycerides. (386 down to 113)

50% increase in TSH (thyroid) hormone

80% increase in vitamin D

Significant improvement in most lipid biomarkers

Hemoglobin A1C dropped from 5.7 to 5.4

Lost 8.8 pounds

Alcohol really isn’t a very good friend.  It comes on sweetly, then insidiously worms its way into too many parts of your life, including your health.

Good bye, bad friend!  I have no room in my healthy life for you. 

Robin

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Easy Homemade Sauerkraut

I remember my ex-grandparents, Claude and Bertha Kimsey.  Maybe this needs a little explaining in our complicated world.  Claude and Bertha were the grandparents of my ex-husband, and very interesting people.  They lived in Skeenah Valley near Franklin, NC in a small cabin.  I remember Claude telling me how they made sauerkraut every fall.  Here are the basics.

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Ingredients:
A whole bunch of shredded raw cabbage (1 cabbage makes about 1 quart)
Salt
Clean Mason jars and lids
Very hot water

Directions:
Tightly pack the shredded cabbage into the Mason jars (a wooden spoon works well, to mash it in there)
Sprinkle about 1 tsp of salt in each jar
Pour in hot water until the jar is filled to the neck (water line should be higher than cabbage, throughout entire fermentation process)
Wipe off the rims of the jars and put the lids on loosely (or use cloth and rubber bands for air flow)
Let these sit and ferment at room temperature as long as you like, out of direct sunlight.

As they ferment, liquid may ooze out the top of the jar (that’s why you want the lids loose).  This is normal and not a problem.  If they are on your counter, you might want to put the jars in a pan to catch those liquids.  Claude used to just take these jars out back and put them in his shed.  It had an earth floor, so he didn’t care if they oozed.  They stayed there all winter and he went out and got a new jar whenever he wanted kraut for dinner.  The kraut flavor will intensify the longer it ferments.  Fermenting will stop if you put the jars in the fridge or out in the shed during the Franklin winter. Tightening the lid when you put it in the fridge is fine, since most of the fermenting stops when it gets cold.  Oh, key info, if you see a little white mold on the top, no worries!  This is normal.  Just skim it off before you put your kraut in the fridge. For better pictures than mine, and slightly different methods on the same basic recipe, check out this website (the kitchen).

There are plenty of good reasons to include fermented food in your diet, besides the fact that they taste good.  Probably the most important is that they are a source of beneficial probiotics that your gut needs to stay healthy.  Claude and Bertha may not have known much about gut bacteria, but our ancestors, for thousands of years, have used fermentation to preserve their foods with good reason.  It not only preserved the food, but it kept them healthy, strong, and nourished.  Thanks grandma

Eat your fermented veggies,

Robin

Easy Homemade Sauerkraut
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Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. A whole bunch of shredded raw cabbage (1 cabbage makes about 1 quart)
  2. Salt
  3. Clean Mason jars and lids
  4. Very hot water
Instructions
  1. Tightly pack the shredded cabbage into the Mason jars (a wooden spoon works well, to mash it in there)
  2. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of salt in each jar
  3. Pour in hot water until the jar is filled to the neck (water line should be higher than cabbage, throughout entire fermentation process)
  4. Wipe off the rims of the jars and put the lids on loosely (or use cloth and rubber bands for air flow)
  5. Let these sit and ferment at room temperature as long as you like, out of direct sunlight.
Notes
  1. As they ferment, liquid may ooze out the top of the jar (that’s why you want the lids loose). This is normal and not a problem. If they are on your counter, you might want to put the jars in a pan to catch those liquids. Claude used to just take these jars out back and put them in his shed. It had an earth floor, so he didn’t care if they oozed. They stayed there all winter and he went out and got a new jar whenever he wanted kraut for dinner. The kraut flavor will intensify the longer it ferments. Fermenting will stop if you put the jars in the fridge or out in the shed during the Franklin winter. Tightening the lid when you put it in the fridge is fine, since most of the fermenting stops when it gets cold. Oh, key info, if you see a little white mold on the top, no worries! This is normal. Just skim it off before you put your kraut in the fridge. For better pictures than mine, and slightly different methods on the same basic recipe, check out this website (the kitchen).
Adapted from Papa Claud
Adapted from Papa Claud
Bell's Best Berries http://bellsbestberries.com/

  Thanks grandma

Eat your fermented veggies,

Robin

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Greek Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Sweet potato fries are suddenly very popular.  Even our non-veggie eating daughter is suddenly into sweet potatoes and sweet potato fries, now that she is a “crossfitter”.  Sadly, too many people end up buying a bag of frozen fries or tots.  These are so easy, taste super yummy, are cheap to make, and if you cook them yourself, you know exactly what is in them!  These are well worth the extra few minutes.

photo credit @organiceater

photo credit @organiceater

Everyone will love this one.  You can make it fancy by making a curry dip for these.  Just mix about a cup and a half of plain Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of curry powder, a squeeze of lime or lemon juice and salt and pepper.  My friend the Organic Eater @organiceater tells me that honeymustard is great with these.  She says that the secret to great honey mustard dressing is that it’s not just honey and mustard! Add mayo!  These oven fries are so yummy though, I bet you don’t even think about the dip. 

Greek Sweet Potato Oven Fries
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. Four medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
  2. 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite oil
  3. Juice of 1 lemon (couple of tablespoons)
  4. Chopped fresh oregano (tablespoon or so)
  5. Chopped fresh garlic (couple of cloves)
  6. Chopped parsley (as garnish, after cooking)
  7. Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Cut the sweet potatoes into wedges or sticks
  3. Toss them in a bowl with the lemon, oil and spices (except parsley)
  4. Spread them in a single layer on a baking dish
  5. Bake until golden brown and tender (about 30 minutes)
  6. You might want to flip them about half way through if your oven cooks hotter on the bottom than the top.
  7. When they come out of the oven, garnish them with the chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
Adapted from @organiceater
Adapted from @organiceater
Bell's Best Berries http://bellsbestberries.com/
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Kale with Caramelized Onions

Saturday at the Farmers’ Market, I met a new young chef doing a demonstration, Chef John with Food For Life.  What he was cooking smelled pretty darn good, so I strolled over to see what he was working on. I was impressed that he had the book, Nourishing Traditions, on the table.  He was working on a simple way to use fresh kale. Everyone who stopped by really loved it, even the kale haters!  With his permission, here are the basics of this simple but tasty recipe.

OE kale with caramalized onions

Serve to even your kale hating friends. They will love it! The sweetness of the caramelized onions and apples beautifully balance the earthy taste of the kale, and the balsamic makes it perfect. The chef at the market blanched the kale, but I didn’t go to the trouble, and it was just fine.

Kale with Caramelized onions
Serve to even your kale hating friends. They will love it! The sweetness of the caramelized onions and apples beautifully balance the earthy taste of the kale, and the balsamic makes it perfect.
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Ingredients
  1. One large onion, roughly chopped
  2. Butter from grass-fed cows
  3. One apple, diced into tiny bits
  4. One large bunch of curly kale, washed and chopped
  5. Balsamic vinegar
  6. Salt
Instructions
  1. Add a large chunk of butter to melt in a big skillet
  2. Toss in the chopped onions and a touch of salt, and sauté at medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until the onions are a beautiful golden brown.
  3. Add the apples and continue cooking until they are soft.
  4. Add the chopped kale and cook until soft.
  5. Finish with salt to taste and a splash of balsamic vinegar
Adapted from Chef John
Adapted from Chef John
Bell's Best Berries http://bellsbestberries.com/
Eat your veggies!

Robin

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Greens Gratin

Greens Gratin

Greens, greens, greens!  I once had a CSA member tell me he was starting to feel like a cow, because he was eating so many greens.  I smiled and reminded him of how healthy he was.  In all honesty, sometimes in the winter, I start to run out of steam on the piles of greens as well.  By the middle of winter, I have been eating piles of chopped greens with balsamic and olive oil for months, and I really want something different.  This recipe is a great change, and even the diehard greens-haters love it.

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Ingredients:

Two cups of your favorite greens, chopped.  Try spinach, kale, collards, or cabbage.  You might even mix it all up depending on what you have in your fridge.

Half cup of shredded carrots, winter squash, or sweet potatoes (whatever is in your CSA bag or fridge)

Half a cup of chopped sweet onions, green onions, or leeks (whatever is in your CSA bag)

Butter or bacon fat

Half a cup of real cream (preferably from grass fed cows)

1 farm egg

Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Sauté the onions in butter or bacon fat until fragrant and translucent

Add the shredded vegetables and chopped greens and cook until just wilted

Spread the greens in a small baking dish

Combine the cream, egg, and about ¼ cup of parm and pour it over the greens

Add a little more parmesan on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.

This is an excellent side dish to almost anything.  Jay and I would probably even eat it for breakfast with a side of bacon! 

Eat your veggies,

Robin

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Winter Greens Soup

Our bodies need fresh greens.  We are blessed that in the south there are several types of greens available all winter long.  Here is a recipe for a healing and healthful soup that incorporates nourishing bone broth along with any fresh greens that can be found.   Possibly our ancestors foraged for greens.  Now that it is January, I feel like a forager in our gardens because so many things are damaged by cold.  Some things are picked clean.  Some spring greens are already starting, and quite a few herbs are just enough to season a soup.  Whatever I can find works just fine.  Cook this up and serve it with a beautiful salad.

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Ingredients:

  • Half a pound of your favorite chemical free sausage from grass fed hogs
  • One cup of sweet onions, green onions, leeks, wild garlic greens, or chives
  • Four cups of bone broth
  • One cup of diced potatoes or turnips
  • One cup of real cream from grass fed cows
  • 3 cups of any chopped greens you can find in the winter.  Try spinach, kale, collard greens, sorrel, or even forage some chickweed or nettle
  • Salt and pepper
  • One big handful of chopped parsley
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Brown the sausage in a big dutch oven or your favorite soup pot.  When it is done, remove it to a bowl and save the fat.
  • Sautee the onions (or whatever allium you found) in the sausage fat until soft and fragrant.
  • Return the sausage to the pot.
  • Add the bone broth and potatoes (or turnips).
  • Simmer about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are done.
  • Add the cream, greens, half of the parsley, and salt and pepper.
  • Simmer another few minutes, just until the greens are wilted, but not mush.
  • Adjust the seasonings and serve with grated parmesan and sprinkled with the rest of the parsley.

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This soup is really versatile.  It is great with snipped dill.  It is wonderful with finely slivered sorrel garnished on top.  You can really use any type of meat you want. Try leftover turkey or ham, or maybe add a little bacon.  Try pouring the boiling hot soup in bowls and crack a fresh farm egg into the soup and let it cook without stirring.  Use your imagination and whatever you find in your CSA bag!

Eat your veggies

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New Cooking Skills

New Cooking Skills are My Goal for the New Year

I am an avid cook.  I suppose it’s because I believe that without some basic cooking skills, it is difficult to be healthy in this world of processed and colored foods, overabundance of corn and soybeans, and difficult-to-understand labeling.  Jay and I both work from home, so it isn’t uncommon for us to be preparing two or three meals at home most days.  Now, that is some washing, slicing, dicing, and cleaning.  Our meals are loaded with the vegetables we grow, eggs, meats and dairy from grass-fed animals, and plenty of butter, coconut oil, and olive oil.  I even recently found a source for lard from pasture raised hogs.  Where I think I am lacking is in the world of fermented foods, homemade dairy products, and homemade sauces to make our meals even yummier.  These are the real-food kitchen skills I want to improve on this year.  Here is the plan:

I want to include some fermented foods in our meals.  After reading the book “Nutrition and Degenerative Diseases” by Weston Price, I am convinced this is an important part of good nutrition.  I have been to several classes on the topic, including a whole afternoon workshop at the Organic Grower’s School in Asheville, NC.  The problem is that I may have taken one too many microbiology classes.  Last year, I made some homemade sauerkraut.  It had a little bit of off-color on the top of the crock, that I just removed.  Sadly, I couldn’t eat it due to some type of primal visceral response.  So, I risked my family’s life and fed it to my husband and son, who loved it!  I really have to get past this mental block.  I plan to try again with sauerkraut.  I learned how my grandparents made it, and have some on the counter now.  So far, so good.

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I also want to make some kvass which is a fermented beet drink.  It is made by roughly chopping up beets and putting them in a Mason jar with a little salt and filling it up with water and a bit of whey.  Then you put the top on and let it ferment for 2-3 days.  The result should be a sweet, sour, fizzy and refreshing drink.  I made my first batch last week and it was not bad.  It wasn’t very fizzy but it was sweet and sour.  I put a shot in with my morning green juice and it was pretty good!  My “guinea pig”, good sport of a husband, also liked it.

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The next thing I want to focus on is making some of my own milk products, such as kefir, yogurt, and farm cheeses.  I am planning my first effort this week.  I ordered some kefir starter granules from Amazon, as well as a plastic strainer.  I am planning a drive to South Carolina tomorrow, to get some fresh milk from the dairy for the project.  This is really all you need for kefir!  I think I can do it.  If it works, I’ll update the recipe page.  I also bought a book on making cheeses called “Home Cheese Making”.  It doesn’t look too hard to make a basic farm cheese, which is normally soft and fresh.  The recipe I am looking at simply takes homemade kefir at room temperature and strains it through muslin.  Then add cheese salt and your favorite herbs.  The result is a fresh tasting spreadable soft cheese.  Sounds easy and tasty to me!  These milk products are also naturally fermented, so they also fit in with my goal of including more fermented foods in my cooking.

The third new thing I want to work on in the kitchen is some new and interesting sauces.  My cooking skills are pretty limited, so we often end up eating roasted or grilled meats with fresh vegetables.  I know this sounds ok, but after years of this, we need a little refresher.  My plan is to master a couple of sauces.  The two I have in mind are a port wine reduction for beef, and a Dijon cream sauce for chicken.  I’m planning on trying out the port wine idea tonight, while my brother is in town for a visit.  The basic idea is to sauté some shallots in butter, then add a whole bottle of port wine and reduce it down to a nice sauce.  Then add a touch of real butter and seasoning (thyme, salt, pepper).  I might also add some mushrooms to this.  Sounds easy enough to me.  My idea for the Dijon sauce also sounds pretty easy.  I am going to take the pan drippings from a roasted chicken and add some really good Dijon, butter, salt, maybe a touch of white wine, and some real cream.  Simmer and stir until it makes a nice sauce.  This sounds like a fancy version of how my grandma made gravy, only I plan to simmer it until it thickens, instead of adding flour.  It might never be as thick as her sauce, but I don’t think it has to be.

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I am often trying new cooking ideas, and this year will be no exception.  I do not want my family to get bored with our basic meat and veggie eating.  Boredom may lead to a slip-back into some of the unhealthy eating habits we had in the past.  It is worth it to keep working on new and creative ways to cook healthy.

Eat your veggies (maybe fermented or with a sauce!),

Robin

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Grain Free Winter Veggie Quiche 

We eat eggs almost every day for breakfast, so I am always trying to dream up new ways to cook them that will incorporate lots of vegetables and no flour (we don’t eat grains or sugar).  I made this one over the Christmas holidays.  I wanted a quiche, but wanted to do something different for the crust that did not include flour.  This was easy and even more yummy than I expected.  I used all the veggies from one of our Winter CSA bags.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato (I didn’t peel mine)
  • A few tablespoons of herbed olive oil or any other type of oil/fat you want to use
  • Parmesan cheese (app 3 Tbs)
  • One chopped fresh sweet onion (or a couple of leeks)
  • One big handful of chopped fresh greens (I used spinach and Lacinado kale)
  • One head of broccoli chopped into small florets
  • About a quarter of a pound of bacon (or as much as you care to add)
  • 5 eggs beaten (with a little cream or whole milk)
  • Swiss cheese (enough to cover top of the quiche)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Grate the sweet potato and let it pile into the bottom of a pie pan.
making the crust

making the crust

 

  • Add a generous amount (about 3 tablespoons) of your favorite oil to the sweet potato pile (I used some herbed olive oil that my sweet daughter in law gave me for Christmas).
  • Mix the oil and sweet potatoes and press into the bottom of the pie plate to make a crust.
  • Sprinkle a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese on top of the pressed out sweet potato crust and bake, until getting crispy and slightly browned.  This takes about 15 minutes.
  • While the crust is baking, fry the bacon until crispy, then remove it from the pan and roughly chop it.
fry the bacon

fry the bacon

 

  • Remove the crust from the oven when it’s ready.
  • Sautee the onions or leeks in the bacon fat, until just beginning to brown, then remove from the pan and put in a small bowl.
Chop the broccoli and onions

Chop the broccoli and onions

 

  • Sautee the broccoli florets in the same pan, just until they start to get soft.
  • Place the chopped greens on top of the baked crust.
  • Add the onions on top of the greens.
  • Add the broccoli on top of the onions. You could also add some of your CSA herbs too.
pile on the broccoli

pile on the broccoli

 

  • Pour the beaten eggs over the top (Don’t stir).
  • Cover the top with Swiss cheese.
  • Add the chopped bacon.
Add the bacon, and cheese and bake it up!

Add the bacon, and cheese and bake it up!

 

  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
  • Enjoy with some beautiful sautéed breakfast greens such as kale, spinach, or pac choy as a side dish.

Note:  You could probably just sauté the onions, broccoli, (and greens if you like) all together and throw them into the crust, then pour the eggs over it, followed by the cheese and bacon.  I was being extra careful, since it was Christmas, and did it in layers.  Believe me, normally I am a big fan of just throwing it all together!

Eat your veggies,

Robin

Grain Free Veggie Quiche
Serves 6
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 sweet potato (I didn’t peel mine)
  2. A few tablespoons of herbed olive oil or any other type of oil/fat you want to use
  3. Parmesan cheese (app 3 Tbs)
  4. One chopped fresh sweet onion (or a couple of leeks)
  5. One big handful of chopped fresh greens (I used spinach and Lacinado kale)
  6. One head of broccoli chopped into small florets
  7. About a quarter of a pound of bacon (or as much as you care to add)
  8. 5 eggs beaten (with a little cream or whole milk)
  9. Swiss cheese (enough to cover top of the quiche)
  10. Salt and pepper
Making the Crust
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grate the sweet potato and let it pile into the bottom of a pie pan.
  3. Add a generous amount (about 3 tablespoons) of your favorite oil to the sweet potato pile (I used some herbed olive oil that my sweet daughter in law gave me for Christmas).
  4. Mix the oil and sweet potatoes and press into the bottom of the pie plate to make a crust.
  5. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese on top of the pressed out sweet potato crust and bake, until getting crispy and slightly browned. This takes about 15 minutes.
The Good Part
  1. While the crust is baking, fry the bacon until crispy, then remove it from the pan and roughly chop it.
  2. Remove the crust from the oven when it’s ready.
  3. Sautee the onions or leeks in the bacon fat, until just beginning to brown, then remove from the pan and put in a small bowl.
  4. Chop the broccoli and onions
  5. Sautee the broccoli florets in the same pan, just until they start to get soft.
  6. Place the chopped greens on top of the baked crust.
  7. Add the onions on top of the greens.
  8. Add the broccoli on top of the onions. You could also add some of your CSA herbs too.
  9. Pour the beaten eggs over the top (Don’t stir).
  10. Cover the top with Swiss cheese.
  11. Add the bacon, and cheese and bake it up!
  12. Add the bacon, and cheese and bake it up!
  13. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
Notes
  1. Enjoy with some beautiful sautéed breakfast greens such as kale, spinach, or pac choy as a side dish.
  2. Note: You could probably just sauté the onions, broccoli, (and greens if you like) all together and throw them into the crust, then pour the eggs over it, followed by the cheese and bacon. I was being extra careful, since it was Christmas, and did it in layers. Believe me, normally I am a big fan of just throwing it all together!
Bell's Best Berries http://bellsbestberries.com/
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Sweet Potato Hummus

If you want to be a true seasonal locavore you will need to expand your repertoire of sweet potato recipes.   Sweet potato hummus is a great idea.  You can serve it in collard green wraps, dip pita chips, dip veggies, or just as a side dish.  Here is the basic recipe.

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Ingredients:

  1. 2-3 baked sweet potatoes
  2. 1 can of chick peas drained
  3. Juice of 1 lemon
  4. ¼ cup tahini
  5. 2-3 tablespoons of good olive oil
  6. Your favorite spices.  Choose any of these that you like
    1. Garlic
    2. Curry powder
    3. Cumin
    4. Ginger
    5. Turmeric
    6. Cinnamon
    7. Nutmeg
    8. Cayenne powder
  7. Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Throw it all in a food processor until smooth.  You can thin it to the consistency you like with water or coconut milk.

Enjoy!

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