I cook for my family for many reasons including the artistic creation it allows me on a regular basis. Still, there are most definitely days and budgeted weeks of grocery-buying and menu-planning that feel less than enjoyable. I have learned simplicity is most sustainable and traditional is most satisfying. It made me think of a dish I used to make with my mom who probably used to make with her mom.
A traditional middle eastern dish, these beef and rice stuffed grape leaves (or dolmas) are meant to be made together–gathered around a table with other family and friends. These times together can be fleeting or ever-changing through generations. Documentary family photography is the perfect way to preserve these memories. What a great session idea to get a camera in the kitchen, often the heart of the home.
What family traditions do you gather for in the kitchen that should be preserved?
I have wanted to compost for a long time and even had some meager attempts at doing it years ago when I lived with my parents. But, without having my own place for so long I never really owned it like I should have to make it successful. Plus, I got caught up in the seeming complication of it. Like I often do, I felt like I couldn't do it perfectly so I was paralyzed to do anything at all.
Now I'm in a house and working toward some homesteading practices I have been dreaming about to keep our family healthy, sustainable and frugal. I found the Living Homegrown Podcast to start learning a little before jumping in. The episode on Composting 101 pushed me—succeed or fail—to just start. So while I'm no expert, here's what I've been doing.
TURN IT // Give It Some Air
I have a good size backyard, so I decided to stop worrying about what container to put my compost in and just start a pile by my back fence. Every week or so I go turn my pile over to loosen it up to make sure it has air. I wasn't sure if my pile was starting to smell a little funny when I approached (which means things are out of wack), but was encouraged by the deep earthly smell I caught wind of when I flipped the bottom of my pile over.
BROWN LAYER IT // Give It Some Carbon
While I used to worry that I needed to source some herbiside-free hay, I realized I had tons of brown (carbon) stuff all around the house. I was able to collect plenty of dead leaves, twigs, shedding Crape Myrtle bark, (even corrugated cardboard!) etc. from around my property.
GREEN LAYER IT // Give It Some Nitrogen
Throughout the week I keep my food scraps in a container in the fridge. Soon enough I will invest in a countertop odor-free bin, but for now this system seems to work. I dump them, along with grass clippings and other green stuffs on top of the brown layer. Apparently the ratio of brown to green should be about 7:1. Odor is a giveaway that this ratio may not be quite right, so I'm keeping that in mind. But honestly, I'm not worrying too much about that right now.
DIRT LAYER IT
I finish by piling dirt on top, usually just covering up the food scraps.
Depending on how dry the pile looks or what the rain-prediction is for the week I will soak the compost with water.
What about all you real food growers out there? Any compost tips I need as I figure this thing out?
My love of farms and farmers markets led me to ask good friends Zach + Bethany if I could "shadow" them at the market they visit every Saturday morning. They frequent the Shaker Square Farmers Market, which in my opinion is the best outdoor market in the Cleveland area.
Zach + Beth are the real thing—all about real food and traditional food preparation methods. They source their fresh food from vendors they are on a first name basis is with. I'm simply inspired by them. Some of their simple tips from the shoot: 1// use the more easily digested milk from jersey cows to made homemade yogurt (and don't be afraid to try—I use this recipe). 2// keep fresh parsley and cilantro in a bit of water in a jar in the fridge to last weeks longer (this works so well!). 3// organize your fridge with more perishable items like lettuce towards the front to ensure timely use of fresh ingredients.
I first watched Michael Pollan making sauerkraut on the video at the bottom. I have been meaning to make it ever since. I even bought a cabbage a couple times and never did anything with it! I finally got around to using this super simple recipe and now I wonder why I haven't been doing this forever!
I went really basic and used only cabbage, salt, a mason jar, and 5 days. The result is delicious and I'm thrilled to be adding more probiotics to my family's diet without the usual price tag, pasteurization, or additives.
A probiotic rich diet can protect from colon cancer, relieve inflammatory bowel disease and lactose intolerance, improve oral health, increase bioavailability of vitamins, nutrients and minerals in food, and perhaps most significantly, increase the efficiency of the immune system, which is primarily located in your gut.
1 | So Cheap + Easy, What's Not To Love
Being the biohacker-wannabe that I am, I'm a little lazy, so I need to find healthy solutions that are simple to implement to be sure I stick to them. I usually find remnant chicken back bones or beef bone marrow in the frozen meat area of Whole Foods for no more than around $3 for a few pounds. I also have access to local farms who will sell or give me extra bones. I have also ordered from US Wellness Meats where I can find extra good stuff for my broth like chicken feet for extra collagen. I have taken tips from the best, having used recipes from Nom Nom Paleo and Balanced Bites. Now I've gotten it down to the simplest, fastest execution I use most often: Cover bones with filtered water in a stock pot / Add a halved onion, fresh thyme + salt / Bring to a boil / Simmer for hours or until bones are falling apart / Strain out the cooled broth into Mason Jars for drinking, soups, + other dishes / I skim the fat that cools on top for roasting veggies.
2 | Because Bad Teeth Need Help
Because of the vital minerals in bone broth, it has been proven to aid in oral health – an area I need a lot of help in. I didn't used to care what I ate and believed eating tons of sugar was perfectly fine, as long as I moved a little, thinking it burned off so easily I could eat all I wanted – thanks a lot Twizzlers, "a low fat snack"! Thankfully, I'm not alone in this way of thinking about and getting hooked on low fat "foods." Hopefully, I am combatting the damage already done.
3 | Keeping My Family's Insides Intact
Bone broth was one of the first foods I introduced into Braxton's diet. When he was weaning I would give him broth to drink out of his sippy cup, or he loved eating it cold when it was the consistency of jello. I read a lot about first foods and felt compelled to arm Braxton with a healthy gut as early as possible; new research is developing all the time about how crucial our guts are to our overall health.
4 | Because It Has To Be Better Than Store-Bought
I used to pay around $4 for a carton of chicken broth with ingredients that sounded something like this: Organic chicken broth, Organic chicken flavor, Natural chicken flavor, Organic evaporated cane juice, Autolyzed yeast extract, Organic onion powder, Turmeric, Organic flavor. It's really made to sound pretty good, isn't it? But for one thing, what's with all the flavoring (The Dorito Effect is a must-must-read on this)? When I can make more quantity for less money and more nutrients in a small amount of time, I'm all about it. More importantly, store-bought broth is the consistency of water, which is a bad sign in itself. Homemade broth congeals when it cools because of all the awesome gelatin from the animal bones. We drink this to improve our own joints and bones. Incredible!
Mark's Daily Apple is a highly acclaimed primal living website that I refer to frequently as I aspire to create a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle for me and my family. Mark Sisson, the creator of The Primal Blueprint (or what he explains as "primal living in a modern world"), has created an unmatched resource for beginners and experts alike who are looking to live a healthier and more productive lifestyle. This week he paired up with US Wellness Meats to throw out an Instagram challenge: create a 15 second primal recipe video for the chance to win a whole cow! US Wellness Meats is considered a trustworthy source of pastured beef and other sustainable meat products and is who I order from when I don't have local sources available.
Find the recipe below!
Land Of Nuts + Honey Bars // adapted from the Trail Mix Granola Bars recipe in the cookbook Against All Grain by Danielle Walker of AgainstAllGrain.com
prep time: 20 minutes
chilling time: 2 hours
cooking time: 10 minutes
yield: 4 dozen
1/2 cup honey (local + raw is ideal)
1/2 cup almond butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup raw pecan halves
3/4 cup raw cashews or walnuts
1/2 cup raw almonds
5 large pitted dates, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces
Hi. I'm Suzanna.
I like running outside, eating real food and crafting beautiful images. I am captivated by documenting everyday life–revealing what authentic, adventurous and lovers of life we all are.