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This month’s Charcutepalooza Challenge was meat grinding.  Oh, I really became excited about this one.  I recently picked up a meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen aide and have been tapping into the meat lover within making loads of sausage and meatballs.  You see, my grandfather was a butcher and though my father chose another career, he is a meat enthusiast.  I come from the kind of family that doesn’t consider a meal complete without some form of meat. (That would explain why I was nearly disowned during my 6 years exploring vegetarian and veganism.)  But back to meat grinding, it is so easy and the product is sensational!

Last year, we began purchasing pork by the half-hog from our fabulous young cousin who raises them for 4H.  There are so many reasons to buy fresh, local, conscientiously-raised meat, not least of which is that the quality is superb.  For this challenge, I ground a pork shoulder and made chorizo following Michael Ruhlman’s guidance in Charcuterie.  Though I have made a number of different types of sausage, chorizo is one of the most satisfying.  I think that is because I generally have a difficult time finding a chorizo that I can still put in my cart after I read the ingredient label.  The concept of using an entire animal is a good one, though it seems factory-based sausage companies have a different idea of what is suitable for consumption than most home cooks do.  This chorizo is  deeply flavored, full of completely recognizable fresh ingredients including lovingly raised meat, and is super lean.

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Though brunch provides the allure of a relaxed meal to share with friends and family, casually sipping on Bloody Marys, the harsh reality is that someone has to get all the food ready to eat early in the morning.  Beside being insanely delicious and versatile, stratas assemble the night before, so serving a crowd in the morning is a cinch!  In our family, we routinely have overnight gatherings and I often make a strata.  All the work is done the day before.    Sometimes I even put the oven on delay start, so it will preheat while I sleep.  When I wake up in the morning with a house full of guests, all I have to do is slide the dish into the oven and make some coffee.

You can make a strata with almost anything.  The eggs and bread are standard, but the vegetables, cheese, or meat that you add are completely up to you.  Bacon Breakfast Strata happens to be one of my favorite combinations.  Brown off the bacon, saute the onion and mushrooms, then mix everything up with a pile of bread and cheese and pour egg and milk over the top.  It is easy.  The bread absorbs the egg and milk overnight and puffs up in the oven.  The interior texture is light and almost creamy, while the top browns and creates a cheesy crunch.  It is delightful.

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Easter and the its accompanying sugar rush have past.  Now I am left with the daunting question of what to do with three dozen hard-boiled eggs!?!  Luckily, with the exception of my son, we all love eggs.  My daughter was peeling them and eating them as she hunted, but of course that only took care of 2 or 3.

One of my favorite ways to prepare hard-boiled eggs is to make an egg salad.  I happen to love egg salad, but admit that it can be somewhat bland at times.   Sunflower Millet Bread is ideal for egg sandwiches, because it has so much flavor and crunchy texture.  The millet toasts and pops in your mouth.  It has a nutty flavor, as do the sunflower seeds.  Topping the sandwich with pickled red onion adds a bright color contrast, as well as a tangy counterpoint to the egg.

I first fell in love with Sunflower Millet Bread when working at a natural food store in high school.  This recipe is from The Greens Cookbook.  Though it is almost completely based on whole wheat flour, it has a very open, light texture.  The bread slices and toasts very well.  I used the first loaf for egg sandwiches, then sliced and froze the second for breakfast toast in the coming weeks.

The Red Pickled Onions are also from The Greens Cookbook.  They are very easy to make and take only a day to sit and cure.  They are great with this sandwich, but also with sausages or any meal that you want to add a zippy condiment.

Find this and other delicious breads at Yeast Spotting.

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Spring is officially here!  Despite the heavy rains of late, there are signs of renewal all around.  At our tiny homestead, the fruit trees are blooming, the shrubs sending forth new growth, and the chickens are beginning to really pump out the eggs.  Our five chickens lay almost year round, with a solid month break around the winter solstice.  Now they are back to laying enough that we can count several egg meals a week.

What better way to welcome spring than to enjoy a pure egg, the ancient symbol of renewal, atop a bed of fresh spring greens?  These two signatures of spring work together beautifully to make a special breakfast or a light dinner.  Saute the greens and mushrooms with a little onion and garlic, then crack the eggs right into a depression in the greens mixture.  The egg will set and hold the greens together to form an attractive little basket.  The dish is beautiful to present, incredibly nutritious, and very tasty.  Serve with home fries or toast.

Eggs in a Basket of Greens

serves 4

4 eggs

1/4 cup onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced

4 cups chard (or other green), washed

1 Tablespoon butter

Lay the chard leaves flat, cut out the stem.  Stack the leaves neatly and roll lengthwise into a neat bundle.  Thinly slice the bundle to create thin strips of chard (This is important because the long strips get a bit tangled in the pan and contribute to the basket effect).

In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add onion, garlic, and mushroom.   Saute 3-5 minutes until softened.  Add chard and season with salt.  Cover pan and cook for 5-10 minutes until greens have wilted and begun to soften.  Stir mixture to evenly distribute all the ingredients.

Make depressions in the greens mixture for each of the eggs.  Crack eggs into the pan, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until egg white it set, but yolk is still runny (approximately 10 minutes).  Scoop one “egg basket” on each plate and serve with toast or potatoes.

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe: Eggs in a Basket of Greens

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