One Pan Meal

One Pan MealMeals that can be created with a minimum of dishes dirtied are always good things. They tend to be simple, filling meals that are satisfying to consume.

One of my favorites is not only simple, it’s also incredibly inexpensive. It involves three, yes three, ingredients — potatoes, sausage, and sauerkraut. I try to have at least two meals a day that contain fermented foods. Lunch is easy, as I always have a fruit smoothie blended with yogurt. It should be somewhat obvious at this point that I’m a fan of pairing fermented grapes with dinner. Sometimes, a bit more of those helpful, little organisms that exist within fermented foods are desired. Not only can they give a dish more of a tang, more of a flavor profile, they can also make your gut happier. That’s when a good sauerkraut, kimchi, pickle, etc. is needed.

beerSince I’ve been suggesting perfect pairings to go with my weekly dish-of-choice, I thought I’d share what I drink with my humble — though incredibly satisfying — one pan meal. Beer, specifically Lost Coast’s Great White, my all-time favorite brew, is a perfect choice. It’s citrus-y with a spicy finish, pairs well with all of the flavors of the dish, and is light enough to not bog down the stomach.

Just as I’ve found that I can eat fermented bread, I’ve found that I have no issues with beer. Here’s where you’d hear both a big, relieved sigh and a mighty, “Yahoo!” if I was hanging out with you irl.

 

A Super Simple One Pan Meal

serves 3-4 people

2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
2 bratwurst or other sausage of your choice
16 fl oz sauerkraut

Heat up a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook bratwurst until they’re beginning to brown slightly. Add potatoes and cook until potatoes are soft, up to 30 minutes. (If you purchased pre-cooked brats, cook potatoes first, then add sausage and brown.) Once potatoes are cooked, lower heat to how, add sauerkraut and keep in pan just long enough for it to warm. Serve right away.

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

roast beef sandwichI work full time, as many of you do, and I’ve found that one of my best friends on a busy day is my slow cooker.

When it’s slow cooking beef, I’ve found another friend — Mr. Sauerkraut.

Mr. Sauerkraut does an awesome job of breaking down a tougher cut of meat during the day and creating a tender, flavorful star for a sandwich.

A couple of days ago, I was poking around in the freezer, trying to find inspiration for dinner. I found a flank steak from my meat CSA. A few days before, I had made a simple meal of sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut and had picked up an extra package of the fermented wonder. (Just like other condiments, I find it’s good to have an extra package of sauerkraut hanging out in the fridge for last-minute meal ideas.)

Knowing that a tender roast beef sandwich was only a crock pot away, I allowed the steak to defrost in the fridge overnight and then tossed it into the slow cooker with the entire package of sauerkraut, turned it onto low, and left for work.

When I got home that evening, I drained the beef in a metal colander while browning a roll of whole wheat French bread on the cast iron skillet. While the bread browned, I put together a simple salad of tender baby greens of chard, kale, and spinach and threw on some grape tomatoes and avocado for good measure.

Once the bread was ready, I smeared a healthy layer of horseradish on the roll, and dinner was served. We were chowing down with a nice barleywine to drink within a half hour of arriving from work. What could be simpler?

Symbiotic Sustenance

I’ve been captivated with the way fermented foods make me feel for quite some time. If my digestion gets a little wonky, all I have to do is add a bit of raw, fermented sauerkraut to dinner, and I’m back to 100 percent.

My favorite sauerkraut is from In The Kitchen in Nevada City, a locally-owned business that creates fermented foods as well as hosting cooking classes and small events in their immaculate, certified kitchen. I love their old fashioned, German-style sauerkraut. It’s amazing. I’m also a tad obsessed with their Carrapeño — it’s fantastic on Southeast Asian sandwiches.

Fermented foods really became a big part of my diet after I sat down and chatted with Tim Van Wagner and Joe Meade, two of the three people involved with In The Kitchen’s food line.

Celebrating the cycle of produce, from farm to plate, was the inspiration behind In The Kitchen’s fermented line of foods.

Joe Meade, Wendy Van Wagner, and Wendy’s brother Tim Van Wagner, banded together to create healthy, fermented foods including sauerkraut, Kimchi, dill pickles, and more.

“You grow all of this beautiful food, and then how do you preserve that?” wondered Meade. “Can we make a product for this community that was grown here, made here?”

They did research, planned plots on the farm specifically for cabbage, sourced regional jars and labels, designed the labels, and acquired permits. After the long administrative process was completed, they began selling the product in June, 2010.

“From the start, we weren’t doing this to make money – it’s about advocacy and awareness,” explained Meade. “It’s about the local food movement. Someone had to take the risk, and we feel really blessed that it was us.”

They are really proud that they are able to pay the farmers close to market value for produce. There’s security in that guaranteed sale as well as being assured that they’re getting paid the same as they would if they were selling at a farmers market.

Five percent of the money made goes back to Living Lands Agrarian Network – the group of which Van Wagner is a part. What enables them to do so much is that they have access to both produce as well as a certified kitchen. When they’re not creating fermented foods, In The Kitchen is used for cooking classes and events.

“If we didn’t have the production facility, we probably wouldn’t be able to do it,” explained Meade.

And they find it fun – even when confronted by a mountain of cabbage after a work day, they still enjoy the process. It’s a family project that’s made easier because of the close relationships they have with one another.

“It’s fulfilling,” said Tim Van Wagner.

“It’s fun,” added Meade.

Making a healthy product for the community doesn’t hurt either. Meade and Van Wagner explained that every culture has a fermented food – sauerkraut, kefirs, many fermented drinks, yogurt, etc.

“The pH that is generated is a pretty powerful preservative,” said Meade.

“The bacteria that spoil food can’t exist in that environment,” said Van Wagner.

He explained that our digestion is dependent upon certain bacteria. The lactobacilli that is found in fermented foods helps to break down nutrients for absorption.

“There is really something for me that has a real balance affect … you can literally feel it in your body,” explained Meade.

“It definitely strengthens your immune system,” added Van Wagner.

Currently, In The Kitchen produces two sauerkrauts, an original and a German style with juniper berries and caraway; dill pickles; Kimchi made of daikon radish, Napa cabbage, ginger, and red jalapeños; and their signature creation developed by Tim Van Wagner, Carrapeño, a fermented hot relish made of carrots supplied by Leo Chapman, jalapeños, and sea salt.

They said the Carrapeño was the perfect complement to any number of dishes because of the heat and intensity of the jalapeño, the sweetness and earthiness of the carrots, and the tartness from the lacto fermentation. Meade is even using the brine in recipes in which you’d traditionally use ingredients like apple cider vinegar.

In The Kitchen’s fermented foods can be found at natural food stores in the Grass Valley area including BriarPatch Co-op, Natural Selection, California Organics, Natural Valley, and Mother Truckers.

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