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Chimichurri Chicken & Vegetable Kabobs + Smitten with Squash Giveaway! (AIP, Paleo)

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jul 22, 2014 at 4:24pm

Chimichurri Chicken & Vegetable Kabobs & a Smiiten with Squash Giveaway | Fresh Tart (AIP, Paleo)If you’re a squash fan – and particularly if you’re a gardener swimming in squash right exactly now – boy do I have a treat for you. Let me introduce you to Smitten with Squash, your new best friend.

This recipe is from the book and I’m so excited to share it with you because it means big things for my sweet and talented friend Amanda Paa of HeartBeet Kitchen, a stunning local blog loaded with fresh, vibrant recipes. Amanda was writing Smitten with Squash while I was writing Twin Cities Chef’s Table and we commiserated a LOT about holing up all winter and finding the grit to push through to the end.Chimichurri Chicken & Vegetable Kabobs | Fresh Tart (AIP, Paleo)And just look what she created! A beautiful book that explores the incredible versatility of squash while bursting with clever, mouth-watering recipes. The book is divided into summer and winter squash, by variety, and I am 100% sure you haven’t imagined even half of the recipes she came up with. From Bumper Crop Spicy Squash Pickles (a recipe beautifully shared yesterday by Brenda Score over on A Farm Girl’s Dabbles), to Salted Caramel Chocolate Chunk Blondie Bars, to Savory Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Poached Eggs & Harissa, there is a delectable dish for every palate and every meal of the day. (It just so happens that Amanda is also gluten-free and provides gluten-free options for all of her baked treats- yes.)Chimichurri Chicken & Vegetable Kabobs | Fresh Tart (AIP, Paleo)I chose to share these chicken and vegetable kabobs for their flavor-packed, weeknight dinner ease. You might know how passionate I am about chimichurri – one of the world’s great (and under-appreciated) fresh sauces – which made the recipe leap off the page and into my cravings. Amanda’s version is fabulous – the addition of basil really brings out the natural sweetness of summer squash, and using some of the chimichurri as a marinade before cooking reveals Amanda’s genius in coaxing maximum flavor from a few fresh ingredients, a skill she employs throughout the book. I adapted the recipe a bit to make it Autoimmune Protocol/AIP-friendly, namely skipping the jalapeno in the chimichurri and substituting pineapple for red bell pepper on the skewers. (A side of tostones or warm AIP plantain tortillas would be very, very welcome here, mmm…)

Click below to enter the giveaway! And for a sneak-peek of Smitten with Squash recipes all week long, here’s the whole #SquashLove schedule:

Monday: Brenda from a Farmgirl’s Dabbles – Spicy Summer Squash Refrigerator Pickles
Tuesday: Stephanie from Fresh Tart - Chimichurri Chicken and Vegetable Kabobs (hi!)
Wednesday: Robin from Robin Writes – Garam Masala Dusted Pattypans & Crispy Chickpeas with Tahini Sauce
Thursday: Lindsey from Dolly & Oatmeal – Banana Oat Streusel Summer Squash Muffins
Friday: Laurie from Relishing It – Cauliflower Zucchini Gratin
Saturday: Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen – Cherry Tomato & Summer Squash Cobbler with Rosemary BiscuitsSmitten with Squash by Amanda Paa

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Come meet Amanda in person – she is one of the world’s most delightful people, and not just because she’s never met a farmers market she didn’t love – at Solo Vino Wines this Friday, July 25, from 5-7 pm. I’ll be there getting my copy of Smitten with Squash signed! In case you can’t be there Friday, she’ll also being doing a cooking demonstration and signing books at the Minneapolis Farmers Market on August 9. Follow Amanda @amanda_paa on Instagram and Twitter and HeartBeet Kitchen on Facebook for more demos and signings. Smitten with Squash is also available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Recipe for Chimichurri Chicken & Vegetable Kabobs from Smitten with Squash by Amanda Paa at TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine.

Fudgiest Brownies (Gluten-Free)

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Dec 3, 2013 at 11:47am

Fudgy Browndies (Gluten-Free) | Fresh TartThe beauty of Alice Medrich’s fabulously decadent cocoa brownie recipe is that flour plays such a minor role in flavor and texture, that it matters not a whit what type you use. Use wheat flour, as the recipe was originally written, and you’ll be thrilled. Or, substitute gluten-free AP flour and be equally thrilled, because by my memory, they taste exactly the same. That’s because these brownies are about good cocoa, butter, and eggs, melted and stirred and whisked in just such a way (in one bowl, no less!) to deliver a shiny, crusty top with a fudgy (not cakey) interior.Fudgiest Brownies (Gluten-Free) | Fresh TartI’ll even go so far as to say that I think you could make these grain-free, by using tapioca starch or potato starch as the flour. I haven’t done it yet, but I will, and I’ll let you know how they turn out. I suspect: mighty damn fine.

No matter how you bind them, these are brownies that beg for a glass of milk, particularly restorative after holiday shopping, gift-wrapping, or tree-trimming. Not that those things aren’t fun, it’s just that…chocolate makes them more fun.

Heh.

Recipe for Fudgiest Brownies (Gluten-Free) at TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine.

Nathan and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at my dad and stepmom Susanna’s home south of Bozeman, Montana. My sister Stacey and her son Cooper were there too, as well as my brother David and sister Etta, both in from NYC. We had a long, restorative weekend catching up, cooking, hiking, and relaxing. Just what the doctor ordered for all of us!Jake | Fresh TartDad picked us all up at the airport, with Jake in tow. He makes an adorable front-seat companion.Sun West Ranch | Fresh TartSo good to pull up to this view. I hadn’t been in a year and a half, too long.Against All Grain Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies | Fresh TartWe were very, very happily greeted by Against All Grain paleo chocolate chip cookies, made by Susanna and Etta. These are winners of the highest order. Make them. Gah so good.Sun West Ranch | Fresh TartI’ve never been to the house in the winter…so lovely to see the setting sun against the snow-capped Madison range. Hi Etta!Gluten-Free Waffles with Chokecherry Syrup | Fresh TartMy dad made gluten-free waffles with Pamela’s mix/recipe. Perfection. That’s chokecherry syrup, made by Susanna from chokecherries she picked this summer at the ranch. Absolutely delicious. DuJour Magazine | Fresh TartI was delighted to page through the latest issue of DuJour Magazine while I ate breakfast, sipped coffee. My sister Etta is the photo editor. Seriously, how stunning is that cover?!Sun West Ranch | Fresh TartThere was pre-feast hiking and sledding. Lovely in every way.Sun West Ranch Sledding | Fresh TartGo Susanna! Sun West Ranch Sledding | Fresh TartGo Nathan and Coop!Thanksgiving Table | Fresh TartMy sister Stacey set a gorgeous table.Turkey! | Fresh TartSusanna’s sister Margie made a perfect, deconstructed turkey, all juicy, all crispy.Thanksgiving Sides | Fresh TartThe rest of the meal: roasted squash, gluten-free and gluten-full gravies, gluten-free sausage chestnut dressing, green beans with lemon-garlic butter & walnuts, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Colorful, flavorful, not over-the-top rich. In my book: perfection. Charlie (the pup) agreed.Pumpkin Cheesecake | Fresh TartMargie also made my aunt Marge’s pumpkin cheesecake with caramel sauce. There was oohing, aahing, sighing, groaning, and the licking of forks and perhaps even plates.Leftovers | Fresh TartLeftovers Part I was breakfast the next day: fried stuffing topped with green beans and…a poached egg, of course. Killah.Sun West Ranch | Fresh TartSun West Ranch | Fresh TartWe attempted to offset gluttony with another good, long hike, which even included crossing a creek on a fallen log. I wish it were as hard as it looked…but it was actually pretty easy. My brother David makes it look badass, however.

The rest of the meals? I stopped taking pictures, which means I relaxed into my vacation, and that was…so unbelievably nice. Home now, which feels lovely too, jamming on Twin Cites Chef’s Table. I spent the day writing and cooking, filling my fridge with roasted beets and squash, kale chips, hard-cooked eggs, grassfed beef bone broth, jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk, and braised beef short ribs. I’m stocking up for the cold, snowy, insanely busy days ahead, days when I want to eat fresh, nutritious, delicious meals on the fly.

The view out the window at home today:Snow | Fresh TartHey winter. Hey.

Pakoras (Crispy Vegetable Fritters)

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jul 28, 2013 at 1:22pm

PakorasPakoras, or crispy vegetable fritters made with chickpea flour, are one of my favorite Indian treats. Let’s be honest – I love anything fried – but the combination of tender-crisp vegetables, fresh chiles, and aromatic spices make these fritters particularly addictive. And unlike French fries, they’re fast and easy to make at home! At this time of year, when produce is abundant, and so are last-minute gatherings, that is excellent news. Pakoras make a terrific summer party appetizer, especially given you can mix and match any variety of garden bounty.Pakora with a Poached EggAnd while not a traditional presentation, it’s not hard to imagine that a crispy vegetable fritter would be a fantastic cradle for a poached egg. If you’ve denied yourself the glorious heat (and hangover-healing powers) of Indian-spiced breakfasts, it’s time to jump on board. Move over, huevos rancheros. If I’d had a scoop of chana masala to tie this delightfully hot mess together, I would have been thrilled.Pakora (Chickpea Vegetable Fritters) with Poached EggsIf the idea of frying food in July (almost August) seems insane, don’t forget that you can set a cast-iron pan on a grill and cook outside. I’ve fried walleye, fritters, sopes, and other crispy summer delicacies outdoors with great success. Sit your guests down in chairs with glasses of cold wine or beer and have them ready to eat fresh-from-the-fryer treats.

Recipe for Pakoras (Crispy Vegetable Fritters) at TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine.

Breakfast Salads

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jul 8, 2013 at 5:00pm

Sausage, Peppers, Onions, Arugula Breakfast SaladSalad for breakfast is a festive way to kick off a day, as well as to work in an extra serving or two of greens and other vegetables. I’ve set a little summer challenge for myself – therefore these (low-resolution, sorry) Instagram pics (hashtagged #breakfastsalad, add yours if you like!) – to have a salad (and green juice!) for breakfast most days of the week. Given family stress, moving, and working extra-long hours, I really notice that a wholesome breakfast goes a long way toward setting a healthy tone for the day.

Because eating grains – even non-gluten grains, even in whole form – makes me starving, sluggish, and gain weight, salads are a great low-carbohydrate way to add variety in color, texture, and flavor to breakfast when a plain egg just doesn’t inspire. A breakfast salad that incorporates protein and good fat is a recipe for steady blood sugar. I’m often not hungry for lunch until 2 pm, which I find much more pleasant than being famished at 11:30 am, back in the good (not) old days of cereal, fruit juice, bananas, toast, and other blasts of carbohydrates.Breakfast salad of Asparagus, Bacon & TomatoI often incorporate leftovers from dinner the night before – sauteed vegetables eaten cold or reheated, spooned over crisp greens and topped with cold steak or a fried or poached egg. Or with bacon and tomato, as in the snap above. Glorious!

I just love the tender, peppery bite of arugula with eggs or sausage, as in the pic up top, which is slice of breakfast sausage quickly sauteed with peppers and onions, served with arugula and tomatoes.breakfastsaladBLATOnce tomatoes are sassing their juiciness all over town, start building killer BLAT (BLT with avocado) breakfast salads: smash avocado with a squirt of lemon and pinch of salt and spread on a plate; top with thick slice of tomato, a slice or two of crisp bacon, a handful of arugula, squirt with a bit more of that lemon, and finish with a poached egg. Add a dab of hot sauce if you like.

Hot damn.breakfastsaladshroomsSauteed mushrooms of any variety are delicious in a salad, warm and earthy on their own or like arugula, particularly terrific with eggs or sausage. Add toasted nuts for crunch or a dollop of Greek yogurt, in lieu of an egg, for creaminess.breakfastsaladprosciuttolBecause I tend to add avocado, an egg, sauteed mushrooms, and/or bacon or sausage, I don’t add a formal salad dressing. The richness of yolk or olive oil or butter from the pan are nicely offset with a squeeze of lemon or lime. A sprinkle of salt, perhaps some fresh chives, and a generous grind of black pepper finish it all off. The pic above is greens, pickles, peppedew peppers, crispy prosciutto, a fried egg, and lemon. An easy flavor explosion is nice to enjoy on the porch with a cup of coffee and a few minutes of peace and quiet before the day gets crazy.

If you’re a breakfast salad fan, let me know!

Grain-free Gluten-free "Bread"

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Apr 27, 2013 at 8:29am

I saw a recipe for this bread on the terrific blog Against All Grain. As I’ve noted before, I find eating even gluten-free grains inflammatory (and with a bigger carbohydrate punch than I can get away with, unless I want to gain weight and feel exhausted…). You could call this way of eating Paleo, but I do fear that people have come to believe that a Paleo style of eating means gnawing on huge amounts of bacon, which isn’t true at all. Paleo really just refers to eating the whole, unprocessed foods that humans evolved healthfully to eat for most of our existence – greens, roots, nuts, fruits, eggs, and free-range animals. Grains, sugar, and dairy are avoided (some people tolerate dairy better than others, although it’s worth noting that when one gives it up for a month and then reintroduces it, it’s common to notice low energy and congestion and perhaps even stomach cramps). I do eat legumes in small quantities (per my quinoa cake recipe below). Healthy, naturally occurring fats – olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, grassfed animal fat, nuts/nut oils (not vegetable oils/margarines or transfats) – are not limited but in fact make up the primary source of calories. (Even though I try not to eat loads of cheese, I do still eat butter and ghee/clarified butter).

I find it an incredibly delicious and satisfying way to eat and it has certainly done wonders for my health. Eating carbohydrates in the form of vegetables, nuts, and small amounts of fruit (particularly fresh berries) instead of processed grains and sugars is the path to appetite control, glowing skin, and steady energy.

I’ll take all of those, straight up, thank you.

That’s a long introduction for how I came to make this bread! So here it is: I follow Against All Grain on Facebook so when Danielle (the blog’s lovely author, with a compelling story of how she manages ulceritive colitis with a grain-free diet) posted photos of a grain-free bread that looked like BREAD I had to give it a go. The bread is primarily raw cashew butter, eggs, and a bit of coconut flour. I’m tempted to call this a cake – a pound cake in particular – more than a bread, but I must say that it makes AMAZING French toast, the way that challah or brioche does. I could easily imagine adding citrus zest to the mix or icing a warm loaf with the cinnamon butter glaze from Roost blog’s (another terrific grain-free site) pumpkin donut recipe. Needless to say, I think this is a clever recipe that can be adapted any number of sweet or savory ways. That makes it a winner in my book! (Find Danielle’s recipe here.)

I made the French toast pictured with eggs and hemp seed milk and topped it with crushed blackberries (quite terrific right now) sweetened with a bit of maple syrup, courtesy of my friend Kathy Yerich’s maple trees. My belly is pleasantly full of grain-free French toast, it’s going to be more than 70 degrees today, and I’m off to judge a butchering competition at Whole Foods Lake Calhoun.

Yes.

Happy spring-y weekend! xoxo

Quinoa Cakes topped with…a Poached Egg. But of Course.

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Apr 26, 2013 at 6:46pm

Here’s a thing: my husband and I are divorcing. It’s exactly as sad and stressful as one might imagine, so I’ve been taking extra steps to take really good care of myself. I already know that eating corn and rice makes be feel pretty lousy – not as lousy as eating gluten – but lethargic and puffy nonetheless, so I’ve pretty much eliminated them from my diet. I’ve also made a point of including vegetables in all of my meals, either by juicing, or making smoothies, or eating big salads. Eating light, colorful, crunchy food makes me feel good, fits the season, and makes cooking more fun and interesting.

Although I generally steer away from grains and high carbohydrate food, I do occasionally indulge in quinoa. I just love the nutty taste, and that it makes a terrific breakfast “cereal” as well as a base for a flavor-packed salad. I’ve been eating a lot of hemp seeds lately because they taste a lot like quinoa, but are even higher in protein and fiber with very few carbohydrates. Now when I make quinoa, I make a 50-50 combination of quinoa and hemp seeds (1/2 cup red quinoa, 1/2 cup hemp seeds, 1 cup water, 1/2 tsp. salt; bring to a boil, cover, simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed; eat warm or cover and chill to use in salads or the recipe below).

I also absolutely adore beans and legumes. ADORE. I enjoy them in small servings – they’re so lovely in soups or stir-fries or as a binder for savory cakes. The beauty of making crispy cakes (croquettes, really) with quinoa and beans is that you can season them so many different ways. If I’m in the mood for Indian food, I’ll use lentils and garam masala and chiles and top them with raita. If I’m craving Mexican food I’ll season them with cumin and chiles and top them with chicken, salsa, and cilantro. I’m sure you get the idea…

…so I’ll just give you the basic ratios and let you riff on your favorite flavors. You can cook the beans yourself, or open a can of organic refried or whole beans (easily mashed), and in minutes be frying up a crispy cake. Top with a lemon-y salad, or a huge dollop of guacamole (huge!), or a gorgeous pile o’ buttery sauteed mushrooms, or a grass-fed burger (like I did just a few minutes ago). Or:

Quinoa Cakes with Arugula & Poached Eggs (Gluten-free)
Serves 2

You can easily multiply this recipe and keep quinoa-bean mixture in the fridge, ready to fry into cakes for any meal of the day.

1 c. cooked quinoa (or quinoa + hemp seeds, see above)
1/2 c. cooked, mashed beans (pinto, navy, black, lentils, etc.)
sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chile powder
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tempeh, chopped (optional, adds protein and firmness)
2 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped pepitas or other nuts (optional)
garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour as needed
olive oil
handful arugula leaves, chopped
squeeze of fresh lemon
2 large, organic eggs
freshly ground black pepper
optional: 4 ramps, halved lengthwise

Fill a medium saucepan 2 inches deep with water. Add enough salt to the water for it to be pleasantly salty. Set over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the quinoa, beans, 1/2 tsp. salt, cumin, chile powder, garlic, tempeh (if using), feta (if using), and nuts (if using). Add garbanzo bean flour, a few teaspoons at a time, until mixture is firm. Form into two patties and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the quinoa cakes. Fry until nicely browned and crispy (take a peek before flipping) and then carefully flip. Fry until crispy on the second side and transfer to plates. (If using ramps, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and fry the ramps over medium heat until crispy on both sides. Divide between the two plates.)

When the water boils, turn heat down so that the water is barely simmering—small bubbles should barely break the surface. Crack one egg into a small dish or mug and slide it into the water. Quickly do the same with the second egg. Set the timer for 3 and 1/2 minutes. The eggs whites will look shredded, but that’s OK. Make sure the water maintains no more or no less than barely breaking bubbles.

While the eggs cook, toss the arugula with a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Arrange the arugula atop the quinoa cakes.

When the timer goes off, use a slotted spoon to scoop one egg out of the water. Tilt the spoon so the liquid drains completely off, then place the egg on top of the arugula. Repeat with the second egg. Top eggs with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of black pepper each. Serve immediately.

I’m Stephanie A. Meyer…

Posted by New Nine on Apr 26, 2013 at 2:10pm

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…and I love to cook!

Mostly because I love food – the whole process, how its grown, sold, prepared, shared – but I also cook for health reasons. What I learned as a kid, I really know now: You are what you eat.

It took me awhile to get here, to this place where I not only could prepare simple, fresh meals, but I actually looked forward to it. Like most of my generation, I spent my high school years scarfing down a fair amount of packaged and fast food. Which was fine with me, until I started to notice that when I hit burgers, fries, burritos, or pizza particularly hard, I felt exhausted and looked puffy the next day. Did that stop me? Of course not. I was a hungry teen with a few bucks in my pocket and the freedom to eat whatever I wanted.

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I’m lucky that at the height of processed-food fashion, I grew up in a family that also enjoyed gardening and scratch cooking. Despite my teenage junk food rebellion, I loved hanging out in kitchens, peppering my mom, grandmother, aunts, and stepmom with questions about technique, seasoning, and ingredients. I learned at an early age – as a seriously picky eater – that cooking meant eating food that I liked to eat. As a bonus: It made others happy too and gave me a unique place in my family and with friends. When I meet kids that love to cook, I say Go! Make it yours. Create, have fun. Everyone loves a good cook!

Not to mention: the single best way to learn to love fresh, whole food is to cook it yourself. True for kids, true for grown-ups. Very, very true for me.

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Being away at college eventually cured me of my junk food habit. I missed home-cooked meals terribly and drove my roommates nuts dreaming about holiday meals and talking about my favorite dishes. By the time I was working full-time, then married, then a mother, I had mastered little tricks like braising meats on Sundays to be enjoyed for several meals during the week. Or preparing eggs and vegetables a thousand different ways for fast dinners. I shared recipes and ideas with friends for years before I started Fresh Tart.

I understand the barriers to feeding a family real food. While I get excited about wild mushrooms and kale and poached eggs and okra, my kids…not so much. They’re typical teens, with one eye on fast food and the other on candy. Just like me! Which means…there is hope. Ha!

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It helps that even with crazy (and crazier) schedules, the meals we sit down to together are the highlight of my week. It might not be anything more complicated than a quick bowl of soup or a sandwich – which I kind of prefer anyhow, after cooking and writing about food all day! – but sitting down to eat, with someone else, makes me happy. It can’t happen every night – or even most nights, lately – but I sure love it when it does.

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If you’re new to cooking, just start with one meal a week. A pot of soup is great because you can have it for lunch the next day, too. Keep it basic and simple. Buy (and keep) a sharp knife and a good skillet and Dutch oven. Cook with recipes as you learn, then start experimenting on your own. If I’m not testing a recipe, I rarely spend more than an hour preparing and cleaning up a meal, often much less – less time than it takes to order and pick up takeout – and I try not to include recipes that take 20 pans to prepare because I loathe doing dishes.

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Unless I throw a party! I love to cook all day for a party. But even then, I keep menus pretty straightforward. As a young wife I made the mistake – several times – of making meals so complicated that I hardly talked with my guests! I don’t do that anymore.

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For health reasons, I don’t eat gluten (or rarely any grains or sugar), so you’ll find many special-needs recipes to fit your particular style of eating. Several years ago I experienced a slow but progressive decline into weight gain, bloating, joint pain, hair thinning, fatigue, and depression. I tried everything (!) to regain my health – more and more exercise, a vegan diet, thyroid tests, anti-depressants, physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, on and on. It wasn’t until I began to understand my symptoms as inflammation due to gluten-sensitivity and insulin-resistance that I began to heal.

After eliminating gluten from my diet my health improved in leaps and bounds. After I eliminated all grains, sugar, and processed carbohydrates – and adjusted to a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet comprised of meats, fish, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, and plenty of healthy fats – my good health returned in spades. I tag my recipes as gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, and primal to reflect this style of eating. (If you’re interested in the science of nutrition and insulin, The Eating Academy by Peter Attia, MD, is outstanding. I also recommend Mark’s Daily Apple by Mark Sisson for comprehensive lifestyle, recipe, and fitness information.)

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But given that my family eats everything, and that I develop and photograph recipes for other websites and publications, I cook and share it all! You’ll find egg-free, vegan, dairy-free, and vegetarian recipes, as well as cakes, cookies, breads, pastas, and other treats to celebrate special occasions too.

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A note: I buy locally-sourced, organic fruits and vegetables, high-quality meats, sustainable wild fish, organic dairy products, and organic eggs whenever I can. (Not every fruit and vegetable you buy needs to be organic – see this list to help you spend your hard-earned money wisely.)  Shopping at co-ops, farmers markets and directly from farmers is a great way to stretch your dollar and support your local economy while enjoying delicious, nutritious food.

Thank you for stopping by! If you’re interested in contacting me for food photography, recipe development, cooking classes, events, media appearances, free-lance writing, advertising on Fresh Tart, or if you have questions about a recipe, by all means send me a note (click here).

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Chile-Tomato "Harissa"

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Mar 6, 2013 at 3:01pm

Is there anything more fun than conjuring something delicious from nothing but your imagination and leftovers? Don’t answer that, but instead consider the primal satisfaction that comes from being both resourceful and frugal. I may have read a few too many Laura Ingalls Wilder stories as a young girl, but preparing meals from a perfect recipe with perfect ingredients is neither as fun nor as tasty as making things up as I go from whatever I have on hand. Urban pioneering. Or something.

Anyhow, that’s all a long explanation for how I arrived at making this harissa, the of-the-moment condiment that is making its way into every meal at our house. Not only was the harissa itself arrived at in my attempt to not waste lovely ingredients leftover from other recipes, but in turn I’m using the harissa to make up an endless number of flavorful dishes on the fly.

I’m calling this harissa although it’s really a deliciously ubiquitous chile-tomato paste, relevant to put a Middle Eastern spin on a dish, but also at home in Tex-Mex and Asian dishes as well. The depth of flavor comes from toasting the chiles and spices as well as roasting the tomatoes. I lean on the grocery-store versions of harissa and chile pastes as much as the next person, but you really can’t beat the intensity and freshness of flavor achieved by making harissa yourself. Harissa typically doesn’t include tomatoes, but I do love how the tomatoes temper the paste’s heat, and add a level of acidity, that I think widens harissa’s horizons. Scrape the finished, cooled paste into a jar and enjoy for several weeks, in any way you can think of.

A few ideas to get you started:

Spoon over leftover steak, pork, chicken, tofu, or any number of vegetables and roll into warm corn tortillas.
Smear on grilled flatbread and top with an egg fried in olive oil.
Stir into broth for cooking couscous or rice. Serve the cooked grains with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, olives, fresh herbs, a crumble of cheese, and toasted nuts. Top with a poached egg to gild the lily.
Swirl into a bowl of pretty much any soup to take it from just fine to truly incredible. Think Asian noodle soups, Italian-style broth soups, Mexican-style tortilla soups.
Whisk into vinaigrettes.
Add to pasta sauces, creamy or tomato, for lovely color and depth of flavor.
Mix into and onto meatloaf or meatballs.
Brush onto grilling or roasting chicken.
Spread on generously buttered bread before making your best grilled cheese sandwich ever. Ditto quesadillas.

Do not be surprised if you consider rubbing it into sore muscles!

Recipe for Chile-Tomato “Harissa” at TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine.

Hash Browns

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jan 29, 2013 at 1:56pm

As I put together this post, I took a quick little poll on Facebook, asking for my friends’ top three favorite foods. I was assuming that crispy potatoes in their various forms would solidly make the list. I can’t be alone in my obsession with salty french fries, roasted potatoes, or potato chips…right?

Not right! Apparently I stand alone, like cheese (which did make the cut, big time, along with avocados, peanut butter, and bacon). Did no one else grow up pining for Taco John’s potato oles (with extra seasoning)? Ah well. I’ll share my hash browns recipe anyhow, for the days when a grilled cheese with avocado, peanut butter, and bacon just won’t cut it.

Thanks to my Grandma Meyer, I set off for college with the ability to deliver a panful of these golden, buttery beauties to starving, post-party roommates. And boys. Perhaps not what she intended when she taught me to make them, but really, these are cheap eats of the highest order, face-stuffable on their own, or even rather elegant topped with sauteed vegetables and a poached egg.

The trick for crispy potatoes of any variety is an adequate amount of hot fat. Once you accept that, and don’t stress out about it, because you’re not going to eat them every day, you’re all good. I most often use a combination of high heat vegetable oil (safflower or sunflower) with butter. But if I have beef fat, or chicken fat, or bacon drippings, or duck fat, you can bet it goes into the pan. The hash browns in the photo are kissed by beef fat, because I’d just made stock with beef short ribs, and saved the fat I skimmed from the stock. (Always do that! Wrap it up and freeze it and there it is, a little present to yourself when you’re craving crispy potatoes.)

Recipe for Hash Browns at TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine.

PS If you, like I, love Taco John’s potato oles, but can’t eat gluten (they’re coated in flour before frying), keep in mind that it’s easy to whip up your own seasoned salt to sprinkle over hash browns. Combine sea salt, good chile powder, cumin, and garlic powder to taste in a coffee grinder, whir briefly to create a finely ground seasoning.

Basic Braised Pork Shoulder

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jan 14, 2013 at 3:26pm

I’ve written before about the beauty of braising a pork shoulder one day, then crafting several meals from it as the week wears on. This version is more basic than the Pork Braised with Chiles & Cinnamon, which means you can eat it even more ways. Seasoned with onions, garlic, salt, and pepper, the finished roast can be eaten as is with its rich pan juices. (Mmmashed potatoes would be a perfect accompaniment.)

Then the next day you can warm some of the pork with hoisin sauce and roll it in lettuce leaves with rice, scallions, pickled vegetables or kimchi, and a dab of chile sauce. Or ginger scallion sauce. Oh my goodness YES.

Then the next day you can warm some of the pork with barbecue sauce, and spoon it into a crusty roll with a caraway-seed studded coleslaw. You could slather ginger scallion sauce on this too, because seriously, that stuff belongs on everything.

Then for the last batch, you can fry the pork into a gloriously crispy hash along with potatoes, peppers, and onions, moistening it with pan juices as you go, topping it with a poached egg, but of course.

What are your ideas?

Basic Braised Pork Shoulder

1 boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (sizes can vary greatly)
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. bacon fat
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed & peeled
1 1/2 c. chicken broth or water
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Sprinkle pork shoulder on all sides with Kosher salt, rubbing it in a bit. Heat a Dutch oven (that can snugly hold the roast and has a fitted lid) over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the roast and brown thoroughly – to a deep golden brown – on that side. Flip the roast and brown thoroughly on the next side, continuing until all sides (including the ends) of the roast are evenly browned. Remove the roast to a plate and set aside.

With the pan still over heat, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Stir around for about 7-8 minutes, until vegetables are beginning to soften and look glassy. Add the chicken broth or water to the pan and top with the roast. Add a few turns of black pepper to the pan and bring liquid to a simmer. Cover pan and transfer to oven.

Bake for 3 hours, perhaps more, depending on the size of your shoulder. The pork is done when the meat is very, very tender and is easy to pull apart with a fork.

Transfer roast to a cutting board and let rest. Meanwhile, spoon fat from pan juices. Puree defatted pan juices with an immersion blender or by transferring to a stand-up blender (be careful when blending hot liquid). Return pan juices to the pan and season to taste.

Pull roast apart into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat, and stir into the pan juices. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature, cover and chill.