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Clotted Cream

January 26, 2011

My family is currently in England on a holiday. We’re staying in lovely Ascot, where my parents live, and I’ve been finding every excuse imaginable to eat clotted cream.

If you’ve never had it, it’s commonly served here with ‘cream tea’ (with scones or other pastries, often accompanied by jam). It’s made by indirectly heating raw cream using steam, and then letting it cool slowly so that the cream forms ‘clots.’ The texture is in between butter and whipped cream. It’s a fluffy bit of heaven, and I can’t believe I’ve never had it before this week!

Wikipedia notes the following about clotted cream, which has a butter fat content of 55-64% (here):

“When compared to the fat levels of other creams, for example single cream at 18%, clotted cream is often regarded as unhealthy today. According to the Food Standards Agency, a full 100 grams (3.5 oz) tub provides 586 kilocalories (2,450 kJ) (roughly equivalent to a 200 grams (7.1 oz) cheeseburger).”

High in calories? Of course! Unhealthy? Absolutely not! This excerpt suggests that something is unhealthy if it is high in calories. Not so. Good fats (like bad fats) are high in calories, but good fats are also incredibly nutrient dense. Traditional peoples in many regions of the world considered butter fat a sacred food. In fact, butter is life-giving and disease-fighting, not the evil indulgence often portrayed by the media. If you are skeptical of this, I don’t blame you. But consider this: butter has been around for millennia, while cancer and heart disease are quite new. If you want to read more about the benefits of butter, (and why you should never let margarine pass your lips again), I recommend starting here (you can read the studies this article is based on by requesting them at your local library). I consume butter (of good quality) with abandon, knowing that it is a wonderful source of true nourishment. Put enough butter on your vegetables at dinner, and notice how you don’t feel as much like snacking later in the evening!

Look for organic butter, ideally from grass-fed cows. Where I live, a pound of organic butter is around $9-10, which is about double the price of non-organic.  Even in my tight food budget, I do not compromise on butter quality. I try to save it for eating on things as opposed to cooking, so I can enjoy it the most. (I cook with expeller-pressed coconut oil instead of vegetable oil [expeller-pressed coconut oil has NO COCONUT TASTE – in fact, like vegetable oil, it has no taste at all, yet is as good for you as vegetable oils are bad for you]. I save olive oil for raw use such as in salad dressings, since it’s not meant to be heated up.)

While it certainly contains a great deal of calories, and isn’t quite as raw as my beloved jersey milk back home, clotted cream is indeed a health food. The pastry and jam sandwiching it, however, are another story. Now I just need to come up with a grain-free sugar-free scone to act as a healthier vehicle for the clotted cream…

I’ll be back to regular posting in February. On the food-related to-do list while here in England:

  • eat lots of pâté (found in abundance at the local grocer),
  • experiment with goose fat for roasting vegetables (also procured from the local grocer), and
  • visit the kitchens of Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace…

Updates to follow…

This post is submitted to Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, and Monday Mania!


Coconut Flour Blueberry Muffins

January 12, 2011

Last night, I craved a breadish treat – something with a little sweetness to enjoy with my tea and book. But I’m avoiding grains and sugar, which ruled out many possibilities. I found myself poking around online for a grain-free sugar-free experiment – would it be a bar, a cookie, or a cake? Turns out, it was a muffin that caught my eye.

I found a recipe for basic coconut flour muffins online (here), and added a handful of fresh blueberries to my batch for a twist. I made them as mini-muffins, and promptly ate three, with heaps of butter while they were still warm out of the oven. Heavenly. Mission accomplished, and only 1/2 hour from craving to satisfaction, including research time.


These are grain-free, moist, and mildly sweet. The sweetener is honey, and the fat is butter, but you could experiment with other oils or sweeteners if you wanted (just don’t use vegetable oil!!). In my experience, coconut flour imparts a distinct coconut flavour, and coconut flour baked goods tend to have a lot of eggs and a certain… eggy-ness or sponge-like quality to their texture. These are no exception. But my taste buds are not complaining!

If you are looking for a fluffy, coffee shop muffin, don’t make these. But if you want a grain-free mini-treat that tricks your senses into feeling as though you’ve been devilish, forge ahead! The added bonus to these muffins is that you don’t eat one (or a few minis), and then think about the rest in the tin forever after until the last crumb is gone. It must be the absence of the drug-like effects of white flour and sugar. These actually satisfy in moderation!

I would like to try these again with nuts and cinnamon. Any other ideas for twists on this basic recipe? Other berries would be good, fresh or frozen. Maybe cranberry with a little lemon zest.  Or, a mashed-up over-ripe banana could be used as part of the sweetener to make banana coconut flour muffins (pecan would be nice in there too!). Ah, the possibilities!

Organic coconut flour is available in bulk at the Bulk Barn in Ontario, for around $.80/100 grams, in case you’re in Ontario and wondering where you can get it. If you have no idea why coconut flour or oil is a healthy choice, I recommend Eat Fat Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig (see their site here). Now on to the recipe:


3 eggs

2 Tb melted butter

2 Tb milk, coconut or whole (I used whole)

3 Tb honey (I used raw)

1/4 tsp salt (I omitted this as I used salted butter)

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup coconut flour, well sifted

1/4 tsp baking powder (aluminum free is best)


Whisk together the wet ingredients. If you use raw honey as I did, this will take elbow grease! Mix your dry ingredients together, add to the wet, and mix together until no lumps remain. If you make regular (wheat flour) muffins, you’ll have to forget the instinct to mix as little as possible and leave the batter a bit lumpy. For these, you want no lumps left in the batter, which will be the consistency of pancake or crepe batter as opposed to traditional thick muffin batter. Add in your fixings, fill your tin, and bake at 400F for about 10 minutes (for the mini-muffins). The recipe is for 6 regular muffins, or you can make 12 minis instead. Here they are ready to go in the oven:


And here they are mid-way through baking:


They’re done when the edges are a bit golden and the bubbling at the top starts to reside. Slather with room temperature butter, put your feet up, and enjoy with a nice hot cup of tea.

These would be a great breakfast-to-go. I can’t wait to try other possibilities with the basic batter!!

Coming soon: Urban Fermentation Project update and 2011 Kitchen Budget Ideas….stay tuned!!

This post is submitted to Real Food Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by, Real Foodies and Weightloss/Wellness Challenge participants!!

HighChair Times

January 7, 2011

One of the main purposes of this blog is to document my family’s real food journey. A big part of that journey is the way we are choosing to feed our daughter, who is now nine months old. This post is an update on what’s currently on her highchair (the tray, as well as every other surface!). You won’t be surprised to hear that nutrient density rules when it comes to our food choices for Naomi! (If you’re new to all of this, and responsible for feeding a baby, a good place to start is here.)

She has been eating a little raw grass-fed beef liver (frozen, and shredded into) a pastured egg yolk (and a pinch of unrefined sea salt) nearly every day since around 5-6 months of age. We continue the egg yolk prepared this way on a daily basis.

Now we’ve started in with the heavy-hitters. She is eating grass-fed beef that I broiled and pureed, and “baby pate” made out of pastured chicken livers and hearts and organic butter. She also gets pureed organic apple, pumpkin, pear, plum, carrot, beet, zucchini (green and yellow), sweet potato, butternut squash, and turnip.

Most recently we added pastured chicken puree, wild sole and salmon purees, and pastured lamb to the meat rotation. I pureed the meat with my homemade fish and chicken stocks for added minerals. I’ve also been brewing my own Viili yogurt, and I have given her a few tastes of plain yogurt so far. Soon I will be making a smoothie in the mornings for her and I with yogurt, banana and raw egg yolks (fresh from the farm). I may add more to the smoothie for myself after I’ve portioned out Naomi’s share.

We just add one new food every few days, and so far, nothing has been an issue for her. She eats banana, avocado and cantaloupe melon by herself when I put it on her highchair in a strip, and I let her hold her spoon, and have a few sips of water right out of a cup, so she can learn how to balance and hold one. Plus, she finds it really fun, and I want the highchair to be a fun experience for her! She handles the chunkier things like the beef, banana and avocado like a pro.

I made the meat-based baby formula from Nourishing Traditions (all my ingredients finally arrived!), and we are now planning to put her daily dose of fermented cod liver oil into a little of it each day and offer it to her sip-by-sip in a cup, or in a little bottle if we are crunched for time.

This has been a huge adjustment from exclusive breastfeeding, and has taken an enormous amount of planning and work to get everything set up so far! Eventually, Naomi will eat what we eat, but for now, I’m more comfortable with introducing things one at a time, and only after I’ve just given her a full feeding of milk. For the time being, all of these foods are supplemental to that.

I have been using ice cube trays to freeze small portions of each of these foods (except the raw things, of course). I just portion the food into trays, wrap the trays in wax paper, and leave them overnight in the freezer. The next day, I cut the wax paper into small squares and wrap each cube in a little so they don’t stick together, and then all the cubes go into one ziplock bag in the freezer. Then, each night, I dole out what she will be eating the next day into bowls in the fridge so everything is thawed by morning. Breakfast is usually a meat cube, a vegetable, a fruit and the egg yolk, lunch is 4-5 more cubes and something she can eat completely by herself (banana, avocado, melon or mango at this point), and dinner is another 5-6 cubes give or take. I let her hold her spoon and touch all the food with her hands so she can explore the textures, and learn how to hold the spoon herself. She absolutely loves sitting up in her highchair!

Anyone out there have any baby-feeding experiences to share? I know that everyone does things a bit differently, both in terms of the ‘what’ and the ‘when,’ so I’m only describing what’s worked for us so far. What has worked for you? What’s currently on (er…under?) the highchair chez you?

{Image Credit}

Honey-Garlic Brined Pork Roast

January 5, 2011

I was pretty impressed with my grass-fed beef roast a while back that turned out so well. Inspired by a new confidence in cooking pasture-raised meats, I picked up a certified organic pastured raised pork loin roast from my favourite local farmer, who raises heritage breeds on her lovely farm. I had no idea what I would do with it, but I was up for the challenge.

I went back to Shannon Hayes’ Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook and found her recipe for Honey Ginger Brined Pork. But, I did not have ginger, and lately, I’m trying to make meals work with what’s on hand, and not buy little things unless absolutely necessary. When I scanned the list of other ingredients, I realized I also did not have mustard seed on hand, but I figured there would likely be enough flavour without the ginger and mustard seed. I can’t say how delicious this recipe would have been with those two star players included, but I can say that this is the best pork, of any kind, we have ever eaten. It was juicy, flavourful, and tender. I made a gravy from the drippings, but we ended up using it on the sweet potato mash, so that we could enjoy the meat on its own.

Here’s how it all went down. On a Wednesday, I took my roast out of the freezer and placed it in the fridge. I planned to make the brine that day, but it didn’t happen. So, I made the brine on a Thursday, and by the time I placed the roast in it, it was completely thawed. I cooked the roast the following Sunday, which means that it sat in the brine for four days, give or take. I had planned to cook it on the Saturday, but things got busy, and I loved the flexibility of knowing that I had up to seven days (according to the recipe) to cook the roast from when I put it in the brine.


8+ cups of water (or enough to ensure the roast is submerged)

1/2 cup sea salt

1/2 cup honey

3 quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger ***I omitted this***

2 large garlic cloves

zest of 2 oranges

1 tablespoon coriander

1 tablespoon fresh black pepper

1 tablespoon mustard seed ***I omitted this***

1 bay leaf

2 stalks of lemon grass (optional) ***I omitted this too***

1 4-6 pound pork roast (loin, shoulder or ham)


For the Brine:

Heat the water to a boil in a large covered pot. Remove from heat, and stir in salt and honey. Add everything else except the pork, then let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add the roast, and weigh it down. I used an upside down heavy bowl to keep the roast completely submerged. Cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours to 7 days, depending on your desired flavour intensity. Allow for an extra day if the roast is frozen when you submerge it in the brine. Turn the roast over in the brine at least once per day.

To Cook:

I took the roast out of the brine, patted it dry, placed my meat thermometer in the middle, and put it in a 400F oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Then I brought the temperature down to 300, and roasted it (still uncovered) until the internal temperature was 145F. I took it out, tented it with foil, and then started my vegetables. After about 15 minutes, I took the roast out, sliced it into chops (as you can see from the picture above, it was a bone-in roast), and used the pan drippings to make gravy.

I served this pork with purple kale, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans and pan gravy made with arrowroot powder and homemade chicken stock. Mmmmm.

This post is submitted to the Real Food Wednesday Low-Carb/Grain-Free edition and Fight Back Friday!

New Year on the Counter

January 3, 2011

After more than enough junk food on our travels over the holidays, it’s back to reality, and back to the kitchen. It’s also time to check in with my real food journey goals which inspired the creation of this blog in the first place, so I can plan to reach them (or work towards them) this year, within the budget.

Here is the original list from back in September when I started this blog (original post here), with updates in red:

  • Obtaining a grain mill of some sort and starting to sprout, dehydrate and grind flour, and bake fresh bread every week – procrastination reason: the $$$ necessary to shell out for a grain grinder…..or do I just buy the vita-mix I’ve always wanted? This spoiled mama was gifted a vita-mix by her own mama & papa for Christmas (thanks!!). Full steam ahead on this goal and the next!!
  • Soaking some of said flour for Sarah the Healthy Home Economist‘s healthy cold breakfast cereal
  • Getting into regularly making beef stock (already have the materials, just have to do it!) – procrastination reason: hate the smell of it boiling. Still have not made any beef stock, and still need to. No excuse!!
  • Adding fermented veggies and condiments into our daily fare (made the whey, now just need the time to shop for the specifics and put it together). I’m doing well on this, and excited to continue my Urban Fermentation Project. Results of the poll I conducted will be posted soon (votes will still be accepted until the last moment!).
  • Try milk and water kefir (grains in fridge, just need to give it a try!). This ties into the same project above.
  • Try villi yogurt (culture on order now!). I tried making Viili yogurt this fall and didn’t really enjoy the texture. I may give it another try since it ferments at room temperature, which is very convenient. If there is interest, I will post a review.
  • Incorporate a grass-fed beef liver dish into our weekly menu (a lofty goal, for sure, as I can’t even tolerate the taste enough to eat it once a month!). This challenge is on. I have been taught how to properly cook liver, so now the task becomes to practice and fine-tune this important component of our diet.
  • Try making some of the snacks in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, including crispy nuts – procrastination reason: haven’t had an oven thus far that could operate on such a low setting…no excuse anymore as I think my new one will. Actually, my new oven does not operate on such a low setting as I had hoped. Fortunately, however, I was spoiled also by my mother-in-law, who gifted me a dehydrator! So, I can make my own crispy nuts, sprouted nut butters, and dry the herbs I plan to grow in the summer (among other things!).
  • Start making homemade ice cream (I plan to use my Vita-Mix for this).
  • Start doubling recipes I make, and freezing extra portions for quick meals. Yes!! I still never seem to remember to do this.
  • If I get that vita-mix, make my own sprouted nut butters, and juices, and make healthy homemade jello! I forgot about the jello I can make with my freshly pressed juices! Bonus.
  • Find a way to take the FCLO in liquid form (wimpy capsules are expensive!). Done. I take it by straw in a shot glass of OJ. Works for me!
  • Freeze small portions for food for fast meals/snacks for Naomi so we never feel tempted to give her a cracker. Done. Have never felt tempted to give her a cracker, and an update on her daily fare is coming soon! I can hardly believe it, but my baby is nine months old tomorrow. She pulled herself up into a standing position today. Just…wow.

These aren’t really resolutions, but they are certainly goals just as resolutions are. I am submitting this post to the Nourishing Resolutions Carnival over at the Nourishing Gourmet – go on over there and check it out!! I’m also linking up with Monday Mania.

What are your real-food goals for 2011? Not sure where to start? I recommend starting with changing the fats you use in your kitchen. See Sarah’s post on this topic here.

Fermented Popularity Contest

December 17, 2010

Have you read about my Urban Fermentation Project yet? I’m tackling a long list of fermented fare for the very first time, and I have company (lucky for me!). Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already so you don’t miss out (you can subscribe by RSS or by email in the right-hand corner)!

If you’re already with me, or just joining up, or even if you’re just stopping by today, please take a moment to share your $.02: Vote for what I should tackle next in this project using the poll below, or leave me a comment with your top picks from the list instead. I am interested in your opinion! I like to keep things fresh around here :)

I plan to use a combination of ‘what’s on hand’ and the results from this poll to plan my fermented fare in the new year. So far, I’ve been strictly working with ‘what’s on hand,’ but most of the things remaining on the list call for at least one ingredient that I don’t normally keep on hand, so I’ll be heading to the store anyway, and might as well make things in order of preference.

So, my top picks are….

  • Apple Butter (this one sounds and looks yummy, and it’s different from the other things I have already tried. I’m imagining spreading it on a warm muffin, already slathered in regular butter…);
  • Hindu Lemonade (I need to get going on my goal of finding something to satisfy my soft spot for pop! This looks like it will have a little sweetness, a little fizz, and a little tartness – all the makings of a winner in my books);
  • Mustard (I love mustard, and I would love to make all my own condiments. I’m seeing myself dipping ham in homemade mustard, and making some killer homemade dressings over the winter…); and
  • Kimchi (Korean Sauerkraut – a more flavourful, spicy version of the familiar kraut I already made – because my kraut was the least satisfying of my fermentation experiments so far, and I feel I might be missing out).

I’ll start with the winner (especially if it’s a clear winner), and then work my way through the rest, though perhaps not four weeks in a row (I might end up having something on hand that will make it sensible to try something else instead – this is all getting done within the monthly budget!!). And since I mentioned the budget, stay tuned, because in the New Year, there will be some huge budget-related initiatives going on here!

So, let it be democracy of the Once Upon the Kitchen Counter readership!!

Be sure to leave me a comment below if you think a different item should be tops, and maybe I’ll bump it up too!! Although, in the end, it’s all getting done, it’s just a matter of time :)

I’m signing off now until the New Year – so I am wishing you a very merry, blessed Christmas, and all the best in 2011, which promises to be a year full of wonderful new (and always real) foodie adventures.

Thanks for reading!!

This post is submitted to Fight Back Friday , Monday Mania and Real Food Wednesday!

{Image Credit}

Pickled Garlic

December 10, 2010

Since I posted lately (here and here) about my desire that my fermented veggies contain a hint of garlic, I thought it might be fitting to make pickled garlic the next experiment in my Urban Fermentation Project. Boy, am I ever glad I did!!

By far, this is the most delicious (and perhaps the most versatile) fermented goodie I have made to date.

This jar was full, originally...

It really is that yummy. And I have a few ideas for future brews, too.

It all started with a dozen heads of garlic. I used organic garlic, so the project wasn’t cheap to set up (at least not in comparison to cabbage for sauerkraut!!). 12 heads of organic garlic ran me $14 where I am. Guess who’s planning to grow some next year in planters on the patio?

I mixed the garlic with sea salt, whey and oregano, and left it on the counter for three days. The recipe in Nourishing Traditions suggested placing the heads of garlic in the oven until they popped open, to make removing the skins easier. It did make that process easier, and it also imparted a lovely roasted taste and creamy texture to the finished product. Next time I will try leaving the cloves completely raw, just to experiment with the different possible tastes, but I’m very pleased by the way this brew turned out. I may also try different spices next time. I am imagining that a hot-pepper garlic brew would be incredibly delicious too.

Word to the wise: don’t use powdered oregano. I didn’t even know that powdered oregano existed, but it does, and when I added it accidentally to my salt/whey mixture, I knew immediately that it would be best to start over. Who wants their picked garlic sitting in a liquid that looks like green slime? Not me. The flecks of regular dried oregano are quite pleasant-looking in the jar, and the visuals of this project are important to me. Maybe when I’m less of a newbie it will be all about taste, and I won’t care how the jar looks, but for now the fact that it looks appetizing matters too :) I promised I’d be honest, right??

Now on to the official review!!

Experiment Wrap-Up:

Rating: Two Thumbs-Up!!!

Simplicity: 2.5 (It’s a lot of garlic. It didn’t take too long to get it all ready, but it wasn’t as simple as, say, the marmalade in terms of set-up).

(1 being “a monkey could do it”; 5 being challenging)

Notes on Taste: Yum. Taste and texture are very pleasing. So far, we have mashed this and whipped it into a fresh salad dressing (of lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper), and eaten it on the side of hard-boiled eggs, but I feel that the possibilities are endless here as a garlic lover. Here are a few ideas bouncing around in my head: whipped at the last minute into slightly cooled mashed potatoes, as a component in fresh homemade salsa or guacamole, whipped into butter for an herb garlic butter, in a homemade caesar salad dressing, in an aioli for dipping raw vegetables, in pesto, and as a vampire deterrent. That last one wasn’t my idea. In a previous post, I mentioned the help of a nicely muscled friend in setting up my kraut. That friend happens to be my husband, who seems to have endless ideas for the possible uses of this brew. He also notes rather emphatically that this garlic is great for eating just as it is, right out of the jar, when you’re walking by the fridge :)

Questions/Hesitations: None, really! If you haven’t fermented anything before, I would even go so far as to recommend that you start with this. It is easier to set up than sauerkraut, and its deliciousness makes it so versatile. If I had to come up with one hesitation, I would say that maybe, just maybe, your office colleagues might not appreciate all the garlic you might start consuming in your lunches if you make this…consider yourself warned :)

Anyone have any other ideas for this potent brew? Any fellow garlic lovers interested in giving this a try?

This post is submitted to Fight Back Friday, Monday Mania, and Real Food Wednesday!