I know what many of you are thinking right now. Lard? On Healthy Green Kitchen? Has Winnie gone bonkers?

Nope. I am as sane as ever, I promise. This post may seem surprising to you, but it’s really no different than any of my others. After all, when I post recipes, I always celebrate real food and healthy fats. And lard is both.

Pastured Lard from Healthy Green Kitchen

What’s that, you say? Lard is a healthy fat? Yes, it’s true. I too used to think lard was gross, and that eating it would give me a lard ass tushy. I also assumed putting it into my body would put me on the fast track to a heart attack, but I don’t think these things any more.

I am not talking about the partially hydrogenated lard you’ll find at the grocery store, though. That stuff IS NOT healthy. What I am talking about is lard rendered from the fat of from pastured pigs: pigs that have access to fresh air and sunshine, pigs that eat grass and other things pigs are supposed to eat (not pigs who spend their lives in cages eating grains). Lard from pastured pigs is high in vitamin D, and like olive oil, lard is classified as a monounsaturated fat (lard is about 40% saturated…that’s less than butter).

{I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that there’s really nothing wrong with saturated fat from natural sources. In fact, saturated fats are very important! There’s long been a misguided notion that all saturated fat does is contribute to heart disease, but this simply isn’t the case. Saturated fats are vital to the structure of all cells in the body, they boost the immune system, and they are necessary for the absorption of minerals such as calcium. Adequate saturated fats are also necessary for optimal storage and assimilation of the unsaturated omega-3s. Meaning: omega-3 fats are even more effective when they are combined in the diet with some saturated fats.}

Lard has a high smoke point so it’s one of the best fats for high temperature cooking (such as frying). Unlike many oils (and vegetable oils, in particular), lard is considered a “stable” fat: it does not form free radicals when heated. Lard also imparts that coveted flakiness to pie crusts and turns pastries that you make with it into seriously divine treats.

Rendering your own lard from pastured pork fat is easy. You’ll need what is called “fatback” or “leaf lard” (the fat from around the kidneys) to get started. If your intention is to use your lard in pastries, then definitely go with the leaf lard because it’s creamy white and has a very neutral flavor.

I couldn’t find leaf lard so I used fatback I bought from my favorite local farmers.

How to render lard from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

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When I ran my giveaway for the Heritage Collection Ball Jars, I promised I’d be doing another giveaway soon for EcoJarz lids. So here you go!

EcoJarz giveaway from Healthy Green Kitchen

EcoJarz are eco-friendly lids that make drinking out of reusable glass jars easy and pleasurable. They come in stainless steel and silicone, ideal materials because they are non-reactive and contain no BPA or phthalates (chemicals that may disrupt the endocrine system, interfering with the balance of hormones in the body).

These lids can be used “as is”; they also accomodate some of the reusable straws that are on the market, such as those made from glass and stainless steel. (The EcoJarz website actually sells the perfectly-sized stainless steel straws.)

The folks at EcoJarz are awesome and sent me a few of these to keep, plus some more to give away. So I will send three lucky readers a pair of jar toppers (each winner will receive 1 made of stainless steel and 1 made of silicone).

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These thumbprint cookies are ridiculously easy to make. Seriously…they might be the simplest cookies ever, and they’re also really delicious. I adapted them from the Jammin’ Sugar Cookie Thumbprints recipe in my dear friend Abby Dodge’s cookbook—Desserts 4 Today—so that they’re gluten-free (in fact they’re free of all grains). This means they’re perfect for nibbling on this week if you keep kosher for Passover; they’ll be lovely on your Easter table, too, if you’re looking for an alternative to wheat-filled cookies.

Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

Thumbprint cookies are great because you can fill them with SO many things. Take this opportunity to show off (and maybe use up, if necessary) your favorite jams, marmalades, fruit curds, and nut butters.

Fillings for Grain-Free Thumbprints from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

I filled the cookies you see here with homemade chocolate raspberry jam, tangerine vanilla marmalade (so lovely: the recipe is found in here), Meyer lemon curd, and peach rose petal jam (I promise to share this recipe this summer…it’s amazing). I also made a few with almond butter.

Have fun with these cookies, and have a very happy Passover or Easter if you’re observing one of these holidays this week :)

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*Disclosure: I am so pleased to be working with the wonderful folks from California Endive Farms again. I receive complementary boxes of endive and I am being compensated to develop recipes to share with you in the coming months; all opinions expressed here are 100% mine.

Baked Endive with Herbs from Healthy Green Kitchen

The great thing about being an “endive ambassador” is the seemingly never-ending supply of this healthy vegetable in my refrigerator; I’ve eaten endive all winter long just about everyday and in many, many ways. I love it both raw and cooked, but for different reasons. When it’s raw, endive functions like a bitter green that’s excellent for digestion; when it’s cooked, the bitter flavor mellows so endive makes a palate-pleasing side dish. No matter how you choose to eat it, though, endive is high in vitamins and fiber, but low in calories and carbohydrates; it’s also grown in the USA and is unique because it’s always “in season”.

The preparation of baked endive you see here was adapted from a sweet book I picked up in my local independent book store last weekend: Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden. The original recipe calls for fennel, but I had a hunch endive would work very well in its stead: it did. This recipe also includes anchovies, and I know this may scare some of you a bit, but anchovies in a dish like this are pretty magical. They add a wonderfully salty flavor! I used anchovies from Vital Choice, which are harvested sustainably and contain protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D (so this dish quite nutritious). If you don’t want to give the anchovies a try, though, it’s okay to omit them.

For the breadcrumbs, I suggest you use a traditional sourdough loaf (or ciabatta, as recommended in the original recipe). I definitely could have torn mine into smaller pieces, so feel free to do that. If you avoid bread because you eat a low-carb or paleo diet, this dish will be just fine if you leave the breadcrumbs off. If you are gluten free but you like the idea of the breadcrumbs, use your favorite sturdy gluten-free bread.

endive 2

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Have you ever tasted homemade candied citrus peel? It’s a far cry from any store bought version you may have tried in the past, I assure you.

Candied Cara Cara Orange Peels from Healthy Green Kitchen

This recipe for candied orange peel makes for a somewhat lengthy project (it takes 2 weeks total), but there’s very little actual work involved, and the results are SO worth it. I urge you to give it a try before winter’s really over, while you can still find beautiful citrus.

Candied Orange Peels from Healthy Green Kitchen

This method for candied peel comes from A Country Cook’s Kitchen, a charming book I picked up a few months ago. The author states that candied peel made this way will last for several months in an airtight container, but I am pretty sure my family will eat through ours long before then.

Though I haven’t tried it, I am pretty sure this method will work for grapefruit peel and lemon peel, as well (I’d use Meyer lemons). You’ll need fewer grapefruits but more lemons if you decide to go either of those routes.

Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Peel from Healthy Green Kitchen

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