Tag Archives: naturally paleo

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I finally got around to processing our extra tomatoes this weekend. Out of 5 pounds of heirlooms and Roma’s, I made tomato sauce with garlic, based on Alice Water’s recipe. But my absolute favorite alchemy is what happens to cherry tomatoes when they are slow roasted in the oven. If you like the taste of sun-dried tomatoes, but could do without the leathery texture, then you will love these oven roasted cherry tomatoes. And you will be surprised how easy they are!

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I love having the taste of summer throughout the year, and nothing speaks to the sunshine and vitamins of summer as well as these easy tomatoes. Try using them in place of sun-dried tomatoes in recipes, such as this Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto.

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Recipe

  • Cherry, Grape or small Roma Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Rinse tomatoes and cut in half. Spread, cut side up, on a silicone mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle, lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Roast in a 225°F oven for 2-3 hours or until somewhat dried, but still a little juicy. Let cool.

Enjoy as is or pack into a clean jar, cover with more olive oil, and can or freeze. If freezing, leave a little space at the top. Tip: as awesome as garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs are with tomatoes, DO NOT put them in your jars. They contain moisture and will make it mold more quickly.

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 Click on any picture in the gallery below to expand and see the steps.

Simple, Easy Recipes for Summer Dinners

I love summer. I love having extra daylight in the evening. Best of all, our garden is at it’s peak. I often slack on grocery shopping. Driving home from work, I will approach panic and then realize, between the garden and the chickens, I can pull together a simple, easy dinner recipe without having to stop and buy any extra ingredients.

Easy, simple recipes: spaghetti squash pesto and zucchini frittata

The other night was a classic example. Our refrigerator was extremely bare. But I had recently made fresh goat cheese, our chickens are laying eggs, and we had giant zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, a spaghetti squash, garlic and plenty of herbs all from the garden.

Easy, simple recipes: spaghetti squash pesto

As soon as I got home from work, I threw the spaghetti squash whole into the toaster oven. (The regular oven works fine, but the smaller squash fit in the toaster oven, which saves energy and keeps the kitchen from getting as hot.) After about 45 minutes at 350°, it was soft. I cut it in half, pulled out the flesh, discarding the seeds and shredded it with a fork. Click here for the pesto recipe. This time I experimented by throwing in an avocado from a friend’s tree. It made it extra creamy.

Easy, simple recipes: zucchini frittata

Next up was a frittata. I sautéed the zucchini and garlic in some ghee a friend made, had Little Bird stir, stir the eggs, and then mixed in tomatoes and thyme. After baking, we topped it with our fresh chèvre rolled in truffle salt. For the full frittata recipe, click here.

Victory Gardens for the win!

Sprouted Hummus, Raw and (Pregnancy-Friendly) Nearly Raw Versions, Step by Step with Pictures

Who doesn’t like hummus? If you have made it at home, then you know how much more delicious and economical it is compared to store-bought hummus. Try this recipe, starting from dried chick peas or garbanzo beans to take it to the next level. Sprouting them gives an extra nutritional boost, as well as an extra sweet, nutty creaminess. And starting from dry saves a lot of money and improves the taste and texture. I have really been preferring dry beans over canned in general, and they just shine in this sprouted hummus recipe.

Sprouting Chick Peas (Garbanzos)

Sprouted Hummus: Step by Step with Pictures

  • 1 cup dried chick peas or garbanzo beans
  • fresh, filtered water (reserve cooking water if cooking)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup tahini
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • juice of 1/2-1 1/2 lemons
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cumin, cayenne, paprika
  • (optional) zatar for serving

Special equipment: blender or food processor; coarse cheesecloth; colander

1. Sprouting: Rinse and then soak the chick peas in a bowl in fresh water, covering them up at least twice their height. We have a water filter for drinking water, and I prefer to use that. Soak for about 8 hours, they should grow and plump up. Rinse the beans in a colander, rinse out the bowl and then return them to the bowl. Add a very small amount of water, they should not be covered, just a little wet at the bottom. Cover loosely with a coarse cheesecloth and place in a cool (room temperature) place, out of direct sunlight. Every 8 hours, rinse the beans and the bowl and repeat. Continue until you see 1/4″ sprouts on most of the beans, about two days. Discard any mushy ones.

Sprouting Chick Peas on Baby Birds Farm

2. Cooking: (optional) Any kind of raw sprout is unfortunately on the “avoid” list for pregnant women, as —cats out of the bag— I know now. To eliminate any risk of bacteria AND retain much of the nutritional value, simply cook the beans for one minute only. Rinse the sprouted beans and cook in fresh water. Bring to a boil for one minute. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Nearly Raw Sprouted Hummus on Baby Birds Farm

3. Blending: In a good blender or food processor, add the beans, 1/2 – 1 cup of the cooking liquid (use fresh water if you did not cook your beans) and the rest of the ingredients. Start with the smaller suggested amounts. When using dried beans instead of canned, you will need to use more liquid then you are used to. If you find your blender struggling, add a little more of the cooking liquid or water. For reference, on a variable speed Vitamix, I blend for 30 seconds on “4”. Taste (and have your kitchen helper taste.) I often decide to add more of one or more ingredients, so try adding up to the larger suggested amounts.

Hummus and Toddlers: a good blend

4. Yums: Serve topped with zatar, paprika and/or a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Sprouted Hummus on Baby Birds Farm

Cioppino – An Easy, Delicious and Healthy Seafood Soup

I grew up in the Carmel/Monterey area. Like San Francisco, Monterey claims cioppino, an Italian-American tomato-based seafood stew, as its own. We would typically find it in restaurant/seafood markets, the kinds that sold clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and featuring the catch of the day: fish, shellfish, calamari… Everyone knew that a good cioppino was dependent upon good fresh, seafood.

Cioppino on BabyBirdsFarm

Then about five years ago, while my now-husband and I enjoyed a quiet bowl of cioppino, after a day of workshops and hot tubs at Esalen, outside, overlooking the Pacific, I had an epiphany. Was it the breathtaking setting that made this the best bowl ever? Was it a full day of healing hot springs and life changing work? Maaaaayybe. But I concluded it was fresh vegetables!

Esalen, an institute in Big Sur, was founded by hippies 50 years ago to foster the “human potential.” Before that, it was a hotel, frequented by Henry Miller,  and Hunter S. Thompson was a not so reliable employee. As early as 2600 BC, the land was home to the Esselen Indians and revered for the sacred hot springs, located on the edge of dramatic cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.

When I was growing up, my dad often took my sisters and I to the pool and hot springs. We would walk in the back entrance, acting like we owned the place, a technique he perfected, whether it was the “clothing optional” Esalen pools or the Four Seasons.

Today, the only way to stay there is to sign up for a workshop (or personal retreat). It is pricey, but oh, so worth it. In my opinion, one of the highlights of the experience is the food. Almost all of the produce is grown there on the grounds. Their practices of biodynamics and permaculture, self-sustaining and organic, have greatly influenced the way Papa Bird and I approach our own home garden.

Tasting and analyzing that satisfying cioppino, I was confident that all of the tomatoes and vegetables came from their garden, a few hundred feet from the kitchen. Disgustingly fresh. I’m willing to bet the fish markets used canned tomatoes or paste. My cioppino epiphany? The freshness and quality of the vegetables is as much as, or more, important as the freshness of the seafood.

Like my Spanish Stuffed Peppers, this recipe is only an approximation based on tasting, but we enjoy it! We love it served with crusty garlic bread, although sourdough is traditional, and by skipping the bread, it makes a great gluten-free, paleo or low-carb entrée.

Cioppino Recipe – Inspired by the Esalen Kitchen, Farm and Garden

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery and/or fennel
  • 1 red bell pepper and/or carrot, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, cayenne, paprika and/or chili powder
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 4 large fresh heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or a 28 oz. can
  • 2 Tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste or 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 3-4 cups of clam juice, seafood broth and/or chicken broth
  • 1-2 bay leaf
  • fresh (or dried) thyme, basil, oregano and/or parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 pounds fresh or high quality frozen seafood such as calamari, scallops, shrimp, etc
  • 1 pound white fish, such as halibut, tilapia or cod
  • 1/2 pound fresh, debearded and scrubbed mussels

In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté the onion in the oil, followed by the celery, fennel, carrot and bell pepper. Once softened, add the garlic and spices and sauté a minute. Add the white wine and cook off alcohol for a minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, clam juice/broth, bay leaf and herbs. Bring up to a boil and then down to a simmer, for at least 10-15 minutes. Adjust the salt and pepper. (I find that I don’t need to add much salt when using clam juice.)

(It can simmer for longer at this point if you would like to make it ahead, and then add the the seafood just before eating.) Bring back up to a low boil and add the seafood and fish. If using frozen seafood, add them frozen, do not defrost. Cover with a lid and cook for 2-4 minutes until mussels open and seafood is cooked.


Some thoughts on seasonality: Really this dish is at its peak in the late summer when tomatoes shine. Check out my post on freezing summer tomatoes for use throughout the year. We were craving this dish this winter, so enjoy anytime.

On the seafood: Crab is classic in San Francisco. In San Diego we have access to good, sustainable mussels. Use whatever is available and that you like! For advice on sustainable seafood, I love the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and use their iPhone app.

Borscht: Good for Your Belly and Your Budget

When I was a kid I hated beets. I went so far as to refuse to carry the serving bowl of beets when my mother asked us to help set the table. The bread I would carry, green beans, sure, but no way would I touch the beets. Now they are one of my absolute favorite vegetables.

Beet Borscht

Did you know that beets have been considered an aphrodisiac since the time of the ancient Romans? They have also been used for medicinal purposes, as well as a natural red dye since at least the 16th century. No wonder these all natural red velvet cupcakes I made for Valentine’s were such a hit!

I most often roast them in large chunks with a little coconut or olive oil and salt and pepper. Leftovers, if any, are great in salads the next day. The tops of the beets, or beet greens, can be sautéed like collards, kale or any greens.

My second favorite preparation of beets is being featured in this soup. Borscht has been made in Eastern European countries, like Russia and the Ukraine, since the 14th century. It’s hearty, economical, and for those with New Year’s Resolutions, filling while being low in calories. Although they are naturally sweet, and contain about 10% natural sugars, 1 cup of beets has only 50-75 calories.

For this recipe, and all of my recipes, please feel empowered to improvise and substitute ingredients. The only essential one is beets! The recipe works equally well with vegetable broth, making a satisfying vegetarian meal, although beef broth is nice, too. You can even throw in beef stew meat chunks, especially for a chunky borscht. I used a big potato, parsnips and some carrots from our garden, along with other veggies.



Beet Borscht Soup Recipe

  • Tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 3-4 large beets, with beet greens
  • 1 large turnip and/or rutabaga
  • 1 large or 2-3 small potatoes
  • 3-4 parsnips
  • 1 quart of beef or vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups of water, or as needed
  • 1 small red cabbage
  • 2-3 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice, or to taste
  • salt, pepper, paprika
  • greek yogurt, creme fraiche, or non-dairy sour cream (for a vegan meal)
  • fresh dill

In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté the onion and carrots for five minutes in the oil with salt and pepper, and then add garlic. Add the hard, root vegetables (beets, turnips, potatoes, parsnips) and the broth. Add enough water to cover all of the vegetables. Bring to a boil and then lower to a steady simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes and then add the cabbage, simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and add paprika. Add the vinegar or lemon juice to taste.

Option 1: Serve as is as a nice chunky borscht.

Option 2: Puree the soup until smooth. (I like to serve it chunky on the first night and pureed the following. Two soups in one!)

Top with greek yogurt, creme fraiche or sour cream and fresh dill.

Tips for Feeding Baby:

This makes great baby food, from months 8 or 9 on.