When it comes to choosing what foods to stock and make for your family, I have a few guiding principles. I also asked my girls, whose palates are only occasionally corrupted by junk food, and who grew up in Europe and don’t watch television except for Modern Family episodes on DVD. Thank heavens we don’t waste our money on television programming – who wants to be under the influence of news and ads these days, or ever, and lose their critical thinking skills?! Spend your money and time on the good stuff and you will feel the rewards.
Let’s Start with the Fun Stuff: Snacks
School or on-the-go snacks can make for a huge line item in a household budget. Bulk or large containers rather than single-use packets are cheaper and create less waste, but go high quality. Send kids off to school with reusable containers of preferably homemade snacks. Fresh, seasonal, or dried fruits (raisins, nuts, figs, prunes, dates) are obviously a better nutritional choice than anything processed, like store-bought granola bars. Nuts and seeds (preferably from organic sources) are fun for trail mixes, combined with chocolate chunks or chips. You can also make gummy-vites with grassfed gelatin and elderberry syrup – vitamin and nutrition in one bite! There is a recipe for gummies in The Bordeaux Kitchen book in the Desserts chapter….)
Make It a Date Bar
Instead of losing money on packaged snacks, take a half hour on the weekend, stocked with some nuts, seeds, dates, and chocolate and try making no-bake date bars (see my date bar recipe). Or make home-popped (organic) popcorn to replace a bag of chips as a crunchy snack. Bags of chips are expensive and usually made using inflammatory oils like sunflower, safflower, canola, or soy. You’ll also have less trash and a lower carbon footprint steeped in the industrial system. (One crunchy packaged “nose-to-tail” splurge that I do get sometimes is 4505’s Chicharrones — fried pork rinds, fried in lard, from humanely-raised pigs. The owner, Ryan Farr, is a butcher and author of Whole Beast Butchery, a fabulous book. Butchers have my deep respect, as do farmers and ranchers who raise animals humanely! So I feel good about supporting 4505 with an occasional purchase.)
In a pinch, have your kids pack (into little reusable containers) a square or two of high-quality milk (or dark) chocolate, instead of a packaged item for school. If you resort to the old carrot sticks trick, try including a small container of Ranch dressing – one like Primal Kitchen, made with avocado oil. Don’t forget celery or apple and nut butters.
I don’t bake much, but when I do, I use grain-free flours of cassava, almond, and coconut for most of our baked goods. Look for aluminum-free baking powder. Better yet, make your own baking powder using one part baking soda to two parts cream of tartar and two parts arrowroot powder. I haven’t tried cauliflower pizza but that became a thing a few years ago, and if you can digest that much cauliflower, go for it! It’s a whole food option, like cauliflower rice, that evades the industrial grain equation, if you are buying it organic and/or from a local farmer. Avoid food dyes. We have found that, especially in sprinkles, they contain excitatory neurotoxins: Sugar plus industrial oils (for shine) plus food dyes (especially blue) equals hyperactivity, or worse. Don’t let these in the door.
Try buying high quality macaroni pasta and powdered cheese, and use grass-fed butter and milk to make your own “mac & cheese.” Homemade granola is easy and much less expensive, and can be stored in large empty glass jars. (I have an old, silly blog where I posted a great recipe using oats and honey. Remind me to post the recipe next time on this website.) Homemade bread is a project, but if you make it yourself, you will know exactly what goes into it. We occasionally purchase a paleo pizza mix (it’s essentially almond flour) and add fresh toppings (turkey pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, peppers…) as an occasional “side dish” to a ribs or steak dinner.
Let’s Get to the Meat of It: Meals
Don’t buy packaged items like chips and flour and pasta until you have bought enough pastured meat and eggs to satisfy your children’s nutritional needs, and your own. It’s as simple as that. Over the past eight years I have been studying ancestral French lifestyle and holistic health practices, while cooking every day (even on vacation) for my family. What I have learned is that the nutrients humans have extracted from animal proteins and fats over the millennia have been crucial to brain development. I see it in my own health and that of my family. We do not skimp on eating high quality, pastured (not pasturized) beef, lamb, pork, and eggs from farms that allow their animals to graze on pasture. You simply cannot get the same nutrients from kale, even if you doused it with butter and ate bucketloads. As for me, I just can’t digest all that fiber. That’s what cows do best! And as a bonus, they can graze on hilly land, unsuitable for row crops, and cows actually fertilize soil and thereby capture carbon and rainwater. Eating grass-fed meat is the best way to support regenerative farming which mimics nature and helps the environment. There, I said it. Help the planet: Eat pastured meat. (Unless you live on the equator and can eat fish all day. I’ll cover more on photosynthesis, latitude, and the food chain another time.)
So stock your freezer and fridge with fresh and frozen pasture-raised, nutrient dense meats and fats. Organ meats pack the biggest punch when it comes to bioavailable (easy-to-digest) nutrients: liver, heart, thymus, kidney. And a little goes a long way; you don’t need much to get your weekly if not daily dose. My “gateway” organ meat as a kid was liverwurst. My kids love it on a crunchy store-bought or homemade cracker. Check out The Bordeaux Kitchen cookbook on how to prepare organ meats, easy meat roasts, fish dishes, and even homemade seedy crackers. Or check out my video demos on how to make liver pâtéorliver and onions.
I say “Nutrient Density,” They Say, “Tacos”
Another nutrient dense meal idea is ground grass-fed beef or pulled pastured pork served in tacos or with tortilla chips on the side. This is a compromise and a treat – you have the chips and crunch (but also the seed oils, unfortunately – unless you can find avocado or olive oil-based shells or chips), but also the nutrient dense, pastured meat with all those bioavailable, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals your growing child’s (and your) brain needs. Add sea salt, garlic, avocado, cheese, tomatoes, and/or herbs.
Make Soup, Get Rich
Eating pastured meat on the bone like chicken, pork or beef ribs, or in-bone lamb roasts has the benefits of the collagenous meat, nutrients from the meat and fat, but also the leftover bones which you can use for bone broth (soup stock). Homemade bone broth is rich with gelatin, good for the gut lining and for skin. I have stock recipes in The Bordeaux Kitchen book.) You won’t have to rely on packaged soup that comes with a high price tag, preservatives to keep it on the shelves, or packaging that needs to go to a landfill.
Grow Your Own
A windowsill herb garden is easy, inexpensive, and is a huge value-added to your kitchen economics. If you have a garden, plant herbs and whatever else you can and like, to fit your diet, time and budget. I have lavender, chives, sage, basil, rosemary, dill, thyme, and mint. This year I planted onions and radishes. These are all garnishes for my meat dishes! Full disclosure, I’m not eating that many vegetables these days, mostly because I’m lazy. I’d rather fill up with meat and cheese than broccoli and kale. It’s that fiber thing again – c’est too much!
What’s for Dessert?
Simplify. Have plain (full-fat) yogurt with honey. Every now and then you can get fancy with chocolate mousse or crème brûlée. An “adult” dessert that I eat all the time is soft goat cheese with honey and freshly picked mint and/or lavender buds. (That’s why I grow mint and lavender. Lavender also reminds me of France.) A piece of chocolate, whole cream and berries, a date, a prune, a spoonful of raw honey. Easy. Or, be like the French, and eat cheese for dessert!
I Admit It
We have our share of some packaged items, and I procrastinate when it’s time to make date bars again. Because we live in such an affluent society, a vast majority of our purchases in our society are for our feelings, not necessarily what our bodies need. Packaging and marketing are engineered not for your body or your health, but for your feelings about yourself. We get duped easily by colors, materials, wording, media focus, and lack of our own research of the science behind food religiosity. In our modern society, we have the “luxury” of thinking about what kinds of foods to eat, rather than hunting, eating, and then fasting when our food has escaped us in the hunt or the harvest. This is another rant for another time.
Love the Joy
As chef Jacques Pépin has said, there is a sense of pleasure from chopping garlic and preparing our food ourselves. Indeed, there is an attachment of spiritual energy to the food we make for ourselves and our families that is better for us and does not come from something made and packaged in a factory. There is a rewarding sense of satisfaction in the preparation of our own food. It’s an act of love.
Some helpful references:
Dr. Cate Shanahan, MD author of Deep Nutrition and The Fat-BurnFix
Dr. Paul Saladino, MD author of The Carnivore Code
Dr. Mark Hyman, MD author of The Food Fix
Robb Wolf and Diana Rodgers, authors of Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat
Welcome to January 2021…..Bordeaux Kitchen Naturals wins a design award, I’m in two videos, I’ve got some scrumptious recipes for you, and some fun articles on the French wine regions and more in the January 2021 newsletter…
Cannelés are a pastry from Bordeaux, traditionally made with egg yolks, rum, and vanilla. The rum and vanilla came from the Caribbean, while the egg yolk as primary ingredient is said to have come from being leftover from the tradition of using egg whites in the clarification of wine (lecollage) during winemaking in Bordeaux. What to do with all the leftover egg yolks? Dessert, of course! Hence, the Cannelé.
Here I present an alternative recipe (while also giving you instructions for the traditional ingredients): a grain-free, low-sweetener rendition of the Cannelé Bordelais, with rum as an option. First, some notes on the ingredients:
This recipe calls for whole milk. But you can also use a combination of whole milk, cream and water, instead of whole milk on its own. If you would like to use this combination of liquids, try the following proportions: 3.4 fl oz (100 ml) whole milk, 6.8 fl oz (200 ml) heavy cream, 6.8 fl oz (200 ml) water. I find it helpful to use a food thermometer when heating milk. Or else watch it closely, stirring often, until you see steam rising from the pot. Something else to note is that much like buttermilk scones, these cannelés can be made with raw whole milk that has “turned” (fermented, turned to buttermilk), which adds a slight tang but may also go unnoticed. No need to waste perfectly good whole milk that has gone a bit past its due date. Don’t cry over turned milk!
The most flavorful cannelés will have real vanilla bean, scraped from the inside of ½ a bean. (Cut in half crosswise, slice open one of the halves lengthwise and scrape out the tiny dark beads inside the half-pod.) Otherwise, use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
As for the flavorful dark rum, which figures in traditional recipes for cannelés, you can use from one to four tablespoons. Cognac may also be used, or you may skip the alcohol altogether.
I add almond extract to my cannelés, because I love the almond flavor, but it does add a tinge of bitterness and is not part of original cannelés recipes. You can leave it out if you choose.
In the photo at the end of this post with the red bowl and vanilla beans, the mini cannelés depicted are made with chestnut flour, from indigenous chestnut trees of the French Southwest, which is why they appear dark – chestnut is a dark flour. In the remaining photos above and throughout, the cannelés pictured are made using cassava flour, a grain-free root. Cassava flour performs most closely to regular white flour in baking but is gluten-free. Be warned, though, that it is highly palatable, meaning, you will want to eat more cannelés!
I prefer not adding sugar when possible to recipes. But to sweeten the deal, I have replaced the 1 cup of white sugar otherwise called for in this recipe with ¼ cup of erythritol (use up to ¾ cup for a sweeter taste). Erythritol is a sweetener that does not interfere with blood glucose levels, nor does it cause digestive disruption, for me, at least. But note that this is a high carb treat, nevertheless. Luckily it has egg yolks!
If you wanted to go the extra-traditional mile, you would use copper molds and grease them with 1/4 cup (50 g) of butter melted with 1/4 cup (50 g) beeswax. Other recipes say 3 parts butter to 2 parts beeswax, for example 60 g butter to 40 g beeswax to make this coating. You would heat the butter/beeswax coating saucepan or else a double boiler, or use a microwave. You would heat the molds in the oven until they are warm to the touch. You would then fill each mold with coating pour it into the next mold and so on. Or you could use a culinary paint brush with the heated butter/beeswax mixture and paint the insides of the heated molds. Coating the molds is what gives the canelés their shine and the typical hard-shelled crunch on the outside. The copper molds transfer the heat throughout the cannelé, but they are on the expensive side. I use silicone molds to make my cannelés, which I grease with butter only. I have written the recipe below largely for using silicone molds. They turn out less shiny and crunchy, but still yummy!
2.1 cups or 17 fl oz (500 ml) whole milk (or buttermilk)
1/4 cup (1.8 oz or 50 g) unsalted butter, plus 1 tsp to grease the mold
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
3.5 oz (100 g) cassava or chestnut flour
Pinch of fine sea salt
1.8 oz (50 g) Erythritol
Combine the milk, butter, vanilla, and almond extract in a thick pot and bring to just under a boil (about 185˚F or 85˚C) over medium high heat. Remove from heat. While waiting for the milk to boil, mix the eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl with a whisk. (Use the leftover egg white to refine your wine in a barrel, or make macaroons!)
Mix the flour, salt, and sweetener together in a small bowl and whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture.
Whisk the heated milk mixture bit by bit into the flour and egg mixture, to temper the eggs, Mix until smooth. If you are adding rum, do so here. Allow to cool in refrigerator for one hour or up to 24 hours.
After the cooling step, preheat the oven to 410˚F (210˚C). Grease the cannelé molds with butter (or, the butter/beeswax combination, if you are using this method), and place the molds on an oven tray or cookie sheet. Silicone molds are wobbly and the tray will prevent spilling when you are moving the filled mold to the oven. Also, the tray will catch overflow as the cannelés rise like soufflés. (Don’t worry, they will recede again.)
Whisk the mixture one more time before filling the molds. Fill the molds to just below the surface, about 1/8 inch to ¼ inch (0.3 cm to 0.6 cm). This allows for a bit of room for the cannelés to rise.
Place the molds and tray into the oven and allow to cook for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 355˚F (180˚C) for about 60 minutes (shorter for copper molds, and temperatures can vary – you will have to experiment!)
Remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes before unmolding the cannelés from a silicone mold. If you are using copper molds, use oven mitts to immediately tap each mold upside down to remove the cannelés while they are still hot. Cool on a wire rack or a plate.
Makes 11 cannelés of approximately 2 inches x 2 inches (5 cm x5 cm) each in height and diameter or about 24 mini cannelés in a smaller silicone mold. Serve the cannelés fresh, accompanied by a warm coffe or tea.
Why pay for industrially manufactured and marketed granola bars, when you can make these nut & seed date bars using only the ingredients your family trusts and loves?!
Use about a handful of pitted dates to about a handful of mixed (sprouted and dehydrated) nuts and seeds. You will have to experiment on the proportions.
You can also add some coconut flakes, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, cacao nibs — these do not need to be chopped down to size.
Chop larger seeds/nuts in a mini-chopper (such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts…)
Chop pitted dates in a mini-chopper until they form a ball of little pieces stuck together — they they will be better at holding the other ingredients.
Mix all ingredients together by hand in a large mixing bowl until it makes a kind of maleable ball of goodies. (This is typically my daughter’s job, as she eats the chocolate chips as she mixes….)
Place the ball (or half of it if it is big) between two 10×10-inch sheets of parchment paper and roll flat using a rolling pin. Roll the mixture out into about a 1/3 inch thick (bar depth) block.
Cut with a long knife into rows and then into 1 or 1.5 inch squares/bars. Tip: Roll up the parchment paper over the edges and press flat with the rolling pin so as to get a smooth edge, “glued” together by the dates.
The bars are potent, and a little bar goes a long way! Allow the bars to firm up in the refrigerator or freezer. Store the bars in glass in the freezer for freshness. Take them with you on hikes, as snacks, or dessert!
And now a small plug for my back to school lip balms to make going “back to school” fun: RAINBOW UNICORN! Made from pastured tallow and other natural, whole ingredients, in support of apiaries and regenerative farmers!
Needing a summer break at the beach, despite media hype about dirty rest stops and potentially infectious hotel rooms along American highways, our family of four took a 48-hour (4-hour drive with mid-week traffic) trip to the beach in Virginia. As we usually do when we travel, we took all our food with us in the car. The readout: we stopped at several “clean looking” restaurants for bathroom pit stops and the hotel was as clean as could be expected, so, a non-issue. But we did bring all our own food and water. Here’s how we did it.
What To Bring For the Road: A Tale of Two Coolers
Pack a big cooler for the trunk with ice packs and a smaller cooler for the car with lunch and snacks. The small cooler goes between the kids in the back to maintain car seat real estate lines and proper physical distancing. As every mom knows, kids who are close enough to touch elbows don’t last long on car trips. A picnic lunch for a park bench at an outdoor rest stop might consist of already cubed cheese and sausage or ham and chopped raw vegetable sticks. Maybe some chips, if you don’t eat bread, but most chips are made with industrial vegetable seed oils, so read the label before you buy. Canola oil among the ingredients? No. Put it back on the shelf. Safflower oil? Nyet. Soybean or corn oil? Nein! Same goes for any bread you might consume. Check the label. Danke.
Dessert BYOF Ideas
For dessert we travel with chopped fruit (and picks or forks), raisins, peanuts, and dried prunes, apples, oranges, and homemade date bars (chopped dates, chocolate, nuts and seeds flattened with a rolling pin and cut into squares – no expensive packaging or industry messaging needed.) Pack napkins or paper towels, cutlery, either plastic or real, and an extra trash bag or two. We pack individual water bottles and large refill water bottles, no soda. Ever. Remember your wallet? What about your blood sugar levels? And let’s not kid ourselves about “diet,” sugar-free chemical sodas.
Okay, So Let’s Get To The Meat Of The Meals!
Pack that big cooler with prepared food from home as well as raw and frozen ingredients, preferably organic where possible, voting with your dollar for food and soil not treated with synthetic, hormone-disrupting chemicals. Here are some ideas and what I packed on our trip, besides what I have already mentioned above: Frozen Russian ravioli (pilmeni), grass-fed beef hot dogs, frozen grass-fed ground beef, frozen homemade broth, pork and duck leftovers from various meals (packed in glass Pyrex bowls), along with a small container of duck fat, three cans of tuna, Kerrygold butter, Polyface Farms pastured eggs in the carton, small bottles of avocado oil and olive oil, salt and pepper shakers, half a bulb of garlic, sour cream, macaroni noodles, small container of homemade sauerkraut, several organic tea bags, organic ketchup, in-season cherries, a box of organic mixed greens, whole mushrooms, ice cream (which inevitably melted in the cooler by dinner time), grass-fed milk, and cream (for my tea!)
What?! No Mayo?!
Most store-bought mayonnaise is made with industrial seed oils. So I make my own! It’s so easy you’ll cry: Separate one egg, use the white for scrambled with the other eggs you brought, and whisk the yolk in a measuring cup (which was packed along with the whisk), while slowly adding a third of a cup of avocado oil. Presto! No industrial seed oils here, either. And just enough for those three cans of tuna. (Yes, the eggs are raw. If you are sourcing your eggs from a trusted farmer, you will not get salmonella. Instead, you will be supporting a small farmer while nourishing yourself with real, whole food. A win-win.)
Hello, How Am I Going to Cook All These Meats and Eggs in a Hotel Room?
Easy: Pack a good quality Cuisinart hot plate, the answer to all your eating in problems. Plus, call ahead to get a room with a refrigerator, or else make sure the ice machines are working in the hotel to refill you cooler! We used the hotel microwave only once – to heat up a pork chop because we had run out of pans and to save time. Other items you will need: A small pot and a medium pot, a medium frying pan, one or two small cutting boards, several good cutting knives of different sizes for slicing and paring, four real (unbreakable Corelle-style) plates and bowls, three kitchen towels, a wooden spatula, a small bottle of dish liquid, and a sponge.
By eating in, BYOF traveling or not, corona or not, you are saving money, saving time, and eating when and where you want to without making others “serve” you. (Yes, the restaurant industry is huge, but it is overfed, so to speak, while the concept of cooking at home is disproportionately underrated in the US, in my opinion.) Eating in also produces much less waste of resources. Think about carbon footprints of the restaurant supply chain versus a family meal at home. By eating in you are also avoiding the involuntary consumption of inflammatory industrial vegetable seed oils (you know the kind – canola or safflower oil, with the halo around their necks), ubiquitously used in restaurants, from cheapest to glamorous. (Dr. Catherine Shanahan, who wrote the foreword to my book, The Bordeaux Kitchen, goes into the biology of the century-long damage these oils have incurred on Americans in her books, so I won’t go into it here. Look up The Fatburn Fix and Deep Nutrition.) Restaurants rely on cheap oils to remain profitable. The consumer is the one who pays the price in health bills after eating the cheap food. Granted, our family doesn’t eat out (pretty much ever), and I cook daily, even on vacation, but taking your food with you on vacation is doable and definitely healthier (for you and your wallet) than eating out.
But Yes, We Ate Out
The hotel served breakfast: terrible scrambled eggs and alluring, extreme-sugar sausages, along with waffles, bagels, cereal, and OJ, which my kids loaded up on because they don’t get much of these at home. (Sue me.) I made eggs in our frying pan in the room on the second morning. And on the way out of town we stopped for lunch under an outdoor tent to taste the local broiled seafood (no industrial oils, hopefully, in the broiling process). It was mostly worth the wait, though the waitress was stressed with all the tables of tourists like us she had to serve. We thanked her effusively. We had also stopped for Mr. Whippy’s soft serve once or twice and again on the way out of town. It was July, after all.
Had I Overpacked?
Yes. We did not use the garlic, ground beef, or bit of duck fat, but I used them for a quick dinner upon arrival at home.
Am I Crazy?
No. Well, maybe a little. But this is what we do. (And I am talking about taking pork roasts and containers of fruit on international travel! We learned our lesson with broth, though. TSA will confiscate it.) Yes, there is clean up. Yes, my husband kindly did the dishes in the hotel bathroom sink. Nevertheless, we found we had more good, high quality food, more time to play and read and argue and discuss things, and more time to generally be “on vacation,” rather than having to go out and spend money on low quality, expensive food at every meal. We went home with empty coolers, two souvenir t-shirts, and slight sunburns from all the extra time we had to play in the sun! BYOF!
(These are my own opinions, which is why I am posting them here on my own blog. You may disagree, and that’s okay! Thanks for taking the time to read!)
…And now a little plug for my Etsy store of handmade pastured tallow and lard soaps and creams…