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It’s back to school time! Are yours back in school yet? I remember starting school after Labor Day in New York. My three boys’ started the school year last Thursday. Where did the ease of summer go? Summer weather is still very much here in Los Angeles suburbia yet morning rush, forms to sign and lunch packing has officially begun. Specifically sandwiches. Huge, awesome, stacked sandwiches — not that you really need to go to school to make a hearty sandwich — which had me thinking about how far allergy friendly bread has come. 

Thinking back for a minute, to when sandwich bread was a far cry from what it claimed to be, I remember the crumbling sandwiches that fell apart after two bites and stick to the roof of our mouths. Not very sandwich-making friendly but we didn’t have a choice. Gosh, it was hard. Especially for my children (ages 15, 7, 4, 4 at the time) to embrace this new allergen-free journey in late 2007 when our options were terrible. Really terrible. Bread was usually sold frozen and when defrosted became gummy. You couldn’t spontaneously open up a loaf of bread to eat. If you were a sandwich lover back then you were screwed. At least, that’s how we felt. Oh, how we missed a good lunch sandwich. And bagels for breakfast. And cinnamon raisin bread for any time. The selection was slim picking and desperate my friends. Making sandwiches for them now has me smiling knowing they are SO gonna love it!

Gone are the days of gummy, crumbly, chewy and BIG HOLEY bread. Ugh, anyone remembers pulling out slices of bread from the bag only to find big holes through the middle?! During morning rush getting kids’ to school on time?! During a big fat sandwich craving?!  Ooh that made me so mad. 

Seriously, good bread is a big deal!

Thankfully bread has come a long way. The taste and texture of Canyon Bakehouse bread (a dedicated gluten free facility by the way) are what bread should be, leaving out the GMO’s, corn syrup, bleach, and other crazy stuff other brands have no problem using. Because we’re worth it, right? Of course, we are. 

What inspired me to create this back-to-school turkey and fig back-to-school sammie were the sweet figs I found at the farmers’ market so I worked flavors around that. Sliced turkey is a favorite here and figs happily go with turkey, and with broccoli sprouts, butter lettuce, and a shmear of manuka honey on their new Heritage Style Whole Grain bread it made for one heck of a delicious nutritional powerhouse of a sandwich (actually four, since I had one for lunch myself.) that my boys loved — I even got lots of kisses after school. #thebestfeeling

A little sandwich ingredient talk for the nutrition geeks out there like me :):

*Raw 16+ enzyme Manuka honey — bees that pollinate on the Manuka bush resulting in the highest level of anti microbial, viral, and bacterial medicinal properties. of all honey. Brand should be a UMF company. It’s the 16+ enzymes that make this honey superior in its properties. Although cheaper, anything lower than 10+ will not have medicinal qualities. I give a spoonful the minute there is a sore throat lurking – a little goes a long way.
*Broccoli sprouts — higher in Vitamin C and antioxidants than mature broccoli heads, 10-100 times in chemoprotective compounds and contain sulforaphane, which helps slow tumor growth and normalizes DNA methylation. Plus, helps detox environmental pollutants.
*Butter lettuce – okay not really nutritional in anything other than some fiber but it sure tastes buttery and most tender of all lettuces
*Organic gfcf turkey breast packaged or homemade – great source of lean protein without fillers or added nitrates, cancer causing toxin (when organic)
*Fresh black mission figs – full of fiber, high in iron, and a good source of B6, potassium, manganese and Vitamin K. Any mulberry fruit lovers? Figs come from the same family (Ficus carica).

We’ve always loved their smaller sliced bread but the new Heritage Bread has taken over in the sandwich category at our house. If you have never tasted their breads or baked goods you need to get some ASAP. Locate a store on their website and grab a coupon while you’re at it to see what all the fuss is about https://canyonglutenfree.com/. If you can’t find it at a store near you, ask them to carry it and likely they will. Also, don’t miss out on their Sammie Smackdown, happening right now on their site! Vote for your favorite sandwich by one of four bloggers and their favorite charity and you could win a YEAR SUPPLY of products – how cool is that?!

Disclaimer: The kind folks at Canyon Bakehouse sponsored this post. As always, all opinions are my own and I think all their breads and baked goods are absolutely awesome.

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During the week I usually make for myself soft boiled eggs or a quick sunny-side-up to go with a side of avocado after a workout and go on with my day of chores and errands before school pick up. Then Friday rolls around and I’m feeling splurgier and more carb-centric (not that I don’t eat carbs during the week, definitely hard to resist) and I want a little something extra without too much fuss. Less fuss has been my mantra this year. Not only is it comforting and filling, it’s really easy to make.   

A few simple ingredients to throw together, each with delicious reason, to create a savory bundle of strata goodness. My contenders: torn pieces of everything bagel for all the wonderful everything’s (the best kind if you ask me), blanched kale for fiber and greens are good for you (AND since the popular add-in spinach blocks iron absorption and is very high in oxalates, hence the chalky taste, I avoid it, but hey if you love spinach go for it), seared salt-cured pork belly for crispy salty bits that are heavenly with bagel and eggs, fresh dill for bright fresh herb flavor and of course, eggs, what’s a strata without eggs, right? All in one big bowl to divvy up into serving dishes and left in the refrigerator overnight. Bake in the morning and breakfast is served.

This is one of my all-time favorite savory breakfasts anytime and what’s nice is that I can make them individual or family-style depending on the occasion with other options for egg-intolerant loved ones like my son.

And to all the Moms’ of the land: if an elegant savory breakfast-in-bed or brunch at the table is your thing, go ahead and stick this recipe on the refrigerator, it’s easy enough for the kids, or significant other to indulge you with on Mother’s Day.

Bagel Egg Kale Strata (gluten free, dairy free, soy free)
 
Prep time
15 mins
Cook time
30 mins
Total time
45 mins
 
All sorts of savory goodness in this bagel egg kale strata, including bits of crispy salt-cured pork belly, to make this a perfectly delicious weekend breakfast of champions. Prepare the night before and bake the next morning - that easy!
Jessica: From Jessica's Kitchen
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch dino kale, stems removed
  • 8 ounces salt-cured pork belly, diced into ½ inch cubes
  • 10 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • scant teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup coconut milk (canned or container)
  • 2-3 everything bagels (we like Canyon Bakehouse)
  • ½ large bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • avocado spray for greasing dishes
Preparation
  1. Set a saucepan with water on high heat, when boiling add 2 teaspoons kosher salt and kale. Boil for 5-7 minutes, until wilted, then drain. When kale is cool enough to handle, finely chop. Set aside.
  2. Either wipe saucepan dry then set on high heat or use a small frying pan. When hot, add cubed pork belly (no oil is needed) and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until pork has golden brown sear. Toss to sear the other side for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Strain from grease and set aside ¾ of it for the egg mixture and remaining to toss on top of each.
  3. Note: When using a stainless steel saucepan or skillet it will stick at first, which is normal, then will release from the pan when seared.
  4. Meanwhile, combine eggs, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder, coconut milk, and whisk. Separate the bagels in half then pull apart one-inch thick pieces and add to the egg mixture.
  5. Add chopped kale, dill, oil, and ¾ of the pork bits.
  6. Toss egg mixture to combine, making sure all the ingredients are well coated with egg.
  7. Lightly grease creme brûlée dishes or casserole dish with spray baking dish then evenly distribute egg mixture into dishes (or dish), pouring any remaining egg liquid into cracks and crevices.
  8. With remaining pork bits, sprinkle a few pieces of pork over prepared dishes. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight (if short on time, refrigerate at least 2 hours).
  9. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  10. Prepare rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper (for easy clean up).
  11. Place brûlée dishes or casserole dish on prepared baking sheet.
  12. Bake (covered with foil) for 20 minutes then uncover and continue to bake another 7-10 minutes, until egg has set. Serve hot or warm.
  13. Notes:
  14. Dishes used are Sur La Table's 7-ounce (5.7"X1.1") porcelain creme brulee dishes; oven safe, freezer safe, and lead-free.
  15. Alternatives:
  16. Arugula and spinach are good alternatives to kale. Spring onions or asparagus are also great choices if kale is not favored.
  17. Turkey bacon or pork bacon instead of pork belly are other good options or go without if you prefer vegetarian. If using bacon, you may need to add another dash of salt to compensate for the additional salt in the pork belly.
  18. Easily can be made nut free by using rice or hemp milk.
3.5.3226

 

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When I think of short ribs, I think luxurious winter comfort food — slow cooking, holiday meal, celebratory meal, sultry date-night-in kind of food all apply. Take it a step further using the braised liquid, pulled apart meat (actually not much pulling, it’s so tender), and you have yourself a rich, deeply flavored ragu that is impressive, yet minimal effort. I made it with wide fresh lasagna sheets sliced into thick noodles this time but have also served it over polenta, penne, even cauliflower mash for a low-carb alternative. All pair wonderfully with short rib ragu.

We got a heavy amount of rain this month and it has been colder than usual, which had me thinking it’s time to make short rib ragu again since seeing short ribs on sale. Pure synchronicity.

Although, some use a crosswise cut across the bone that is shorter in width, called a flanken cut. I like to use the English cut since it has more meat and less cut bone surface, which can make the ragu unnecessarily fattier. I originally found the recipe in the New York Times a hundred years ago (ripped out of the actual newspaper to preserve in my laminated recipe album, gasp, but age is just a number people!) that I followed to the T but went into a panic when I lifted the lid to see the results. Little did I know back then, that the inside of my pot will blacken, the meat will look overdone, and my “ruined meat” will sit in less than half of the liquid I eagerly added. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” heavily applies to this recipe. In the end, all turned out delicious but what a shocker that was. I served it over penne at the time, and it was a hit. My only critique at the time was not pulling the fat and sinew off of the meat. Nobody said anything, but I was squirming at the sight of it. The extra tiny bit of effort I note in the recipe is worth it. I also included step-by-step visuals below to give an idea of how easy it really is and what to expect if you have never made ragu or braised meat before — wish I had photos back then to relieve me!

I’ve adapted the recipe over the years to our dietary needs, and although it doesn’t call for any tomato or handfuls of parmesan it has all the meaty flavor, texture, and creaminess of a rich short rib ragu, without feeling heavy, and impressive enough to get the cheek-pinch approval by an Italian Mama. Since it tastes better the next day, it’s also convenient when entertaining, and so easy to freeze.

When Kitchen Accomplice offered their products to try I was intrigued. Any chance I can get to save time and money (!) is always good. Since discovering their products like the organic beef broth concentrate, I used here, it’s even more convenient. I love, love good food and make mostly from scratch, considering all our dietary restrictions, but if I can take a shortcut with terrific results I’m all for it.   

Now, of course, homemade anything, including broth, is always best, but honestly, I can’t get around to making broth, stock, sauces from scratch, all the time. I try but such is life with four children. And sometimes an impulse hits to make something special like a short rib ragu, because there’s a serious comfort food craving going on to fight the aforementioned rainy weather, and an aforementioned good sale that’s too good to resist but doesn’t allow time to make a homemade broth. Alas! Then a product comes along that’s …

-Non-GMO

-Made with grass-fed beef (broth)

-Organic ingredients (beef and chicken)

-Gluten free, dairy free, and tomato free (most store-bought broths contain tomato, an allergen in our house)

-No Artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, chemicals, or MSG

… in any of their products, and doing all the broth-making work for me? I get excited. So excited, I make a double-batch a week later because there weren’t any leftovers and I was itching for lasagna. Never got to the lasagna but did use it in a shepherd’s pie topped with root vegetable mash. Love one pot foods with versatility …  

Have you ever used broth concentrates? Oh my, what a game changer. You would think I used homemade broth in here, it’s so good. The thick concentrate is made from hours and hours of broth reduction.

See how thick that is?

Do you remember the bouillon cubes from yesteryear? If you do, you’ll remember how incredibly salty they were, never mind what was in them. Yuck. The Kitchen Accomplice concentrates taste nothing like that, even before mixing with water (of course, I had to taste it straight out of the bottle because I’m crazy like that). They come in beef, chicken, vegetable broths, reduced-sodium broths and each bottle makes 28 cups of broth for the price of two 4-cup cartons. AND. They make flavor concentrates, called Wicked Juicy Burger concentrates (for beef and turkey burgers), like roasted garlic, chipotle, applewood smoke, and more, to give your burgers (or meatballs, ragu (like I did here), meatloaf, and shepherds pie, to name a few) an extra boost of juicy burger flavor. Another perk is that it comes in little bottles that I can store in the fridge for months (up to six) without the pressure of using it all in three days or less like the big cartons, you know, the ones that are mostly water and what I’m mostly paying for.

Traditionally, ragu is a meat-forward sauce contains tomato paste, a trinity of vegetables — onions, carrots, celery, red wine, and broth. Because there’s no tomato paste I added roasted garlic flavor concentrate for a deeper flavor, dried mushrooms for an umami flavor, and extra red wine for extra acidity, and cherry juice. Yes, cherry juice. It may sound like a strange combination but believe me, it works! 

It’s been one of my favorite comfort foods since my oldest is a toddler, and one of my go-to recipes during the winter months — now with my new product discovery, it’s also economical without sacrificing flavor or compromising on ingredients. Love that.

Enjoy!

xx Jessica

*Thank you Kitchen Accomplice for sponsoring this post! As always, all opinions are my own and think they make great products for any kitchen to have on hand. Thank you for supporting the brands that support From Jessica’s Kitchen blog!

Gathering of ingredients…

Some visuals …


Short Rib Ragu (dairy free, gluten free, soy free)
 
Prep time
12 hours 30 mins
Cook time
3 hours 30 mins
Total time
16 hours
 
Winter comfort food at its best! Convenient since best when served the next day making it perfect for entertaining, holidays gatherings, or a date-night to impress and freezes well too! Toss with pasta, polenta, cauliflower, potato mash, or what have you, for a luxuriously rich hearty meal everyone will love!
Jessica: From Jessica's Kitchen
Recipe type: Main
Serves: serves 6-8
Ingredients
  • 5-6 pounds organic grass-fed bone-in short ribs (about 10 pieces)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season meat
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 large onions, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, diced (1 heaping cup)
  • 3 celery stalks, diced (1 heaping cup)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon GF Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon coconut amino
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (heaping cup)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3½ cups water
  • 3 tablespoons organic beef broth concentrate (I use Kitchen Accomplice)
  • 1½ cups red wine (preferably a dry)
  • 1 cup tart cherry juice
  • additional kosher salt and crushed black pepper to taste, if needed
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