Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Anatomy of a Real Food Dinner with recipes....sortof.

First, I promised that my next post would be book reviews.  but I've discovered something.   That something is that book reviews are hard to do.   I'm still working on them, but in the meantime, I wanted to post these "recipes".  

I used quotation marks because as recipes go, these are not professional.  In fact, I've been putting off posting my recipes, because so many of them aren't written like recipes.  

Here's the deal - I am a cook.  I love to cook.  I was raised in a family where cooking was what we did.  Everyone in my family is a good cook.  But the way that we cook is intuitive.  We do it by taste, by sight, by feel, by past success and failure, and by this knowing down deep about what works and what doesn't. 

I know that when I talk about the food I make, people want the recipes - and I just cringe inside when I get those requests.  Recipes?  What recipes?  I don't have recipes for most of what I make.  For this blog,  I've mostly done baking type of recipes so far...because those are the recipes that I have.  But here's the irony of that - I don't like to bake.  I only bake because I love my family, and they love baked goods.  I can bake, but baking doesn't relax me, or bring me joy, or give me the sense of creativity or satisfaction that I get when I am in the kitchen just cooking.   I bake because I love my guys, but I cook because it's a part of me.    
One night this week, I made chicken apple meatballs in an apple cider sauce.  First time I'd ever made them, although the idea of them had been swirling around in my mind for some time.   Then I made a cauliflower casserole type thingy....based on a make-ahead mashed potato recipe.   So, although I don't really have recipes, I'm going to try to recreate the process of making this meal.  It was really good.  My big guy and my little guy both had seconds at dinner, and my big guy wanted to make sure there were enough leftovers for his lunch the next day. 

For the meatballs, I started with:

1 lb. ground chicken
1 lb. ground pork.   (I had intended to use all ground chicken, but realized I'd pulled pork out of the freezer, that's what I used.)
1 large apple - peeled and finely chopped.  (I used a honey crisp apple)
1 large egg
3 slices of dried bread, ground into crumbs.
about 1/3 -1/2 cup of chicken broth.  (I make chicken bone broth, and used that)
salt, pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, minced onion (okay - I should have used fresh chopped onion, but I didn't think about adding onion until my hands were deep into the ground meat mixture.  It was easier to reach for the dried minced onion at that point.)  For the spices - I really have no idea how much - start with about 1/2 teas. of each and adjust to taste from there.  Ummmm, yeah - I do taste the raw meat while I'm cooking.  :)
Anyway - mix that all up really well.  I use my hands and squish it all through and knead it.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of playing with my food that way.  :D    Once it's all mixed really well.  I use my large cookie scoop (it's 3 Tbls.) and make meatballs.  You should have between 20-24 meatballs to fill a 9x13 baker. 
Once the meatballs are all in the baker, make your sauce.   I used 1 cup of chicken broth (more from the same batch that I used above.  I freeze it in pint jars - 2 cups of broth per jar.) and 1 1/2 cups of apple cider mixed with a couple good drizzles of raw honey, and a good dollop of Dijon mustard.  (probably about 2 teas. of mustard.  maybe more.)   Mix this all together with a whisk, and then pour over the meatballs.   Bake, uncovered,  at 375 for 30 minutes, then flip the meatballs and bake for another 30 minutes.   Remove the meatballs from the baker, and pour the sauce through a strainer into a saucepan, and heat to boiling.   Mix some thickener ( I use arrowroot powder, but use what ever works for you - cornstarch, flour, tapioca starch...) with a couple Tbls. of apple cider, and whisk into boiling sauce, stirring until thickened.  Serve sauce with meatballs.

There - that's the first recipe.   Tomorrow, I'll post the Cauliflower Casserole that reminds me of mashed potatoes, but my son says it's just like macaroni and cheese - only healthier!

Friday, September 9, 2011

What I Did This Summer

Obviously, what I didn't do was blog.  I thought about blogging a lot, and I wrote down lots of ideas for topics, and worked on many new recipes, but those lazy, hazy days of Summer never happened for me - although there were a lot of CRAZY days!

So as a preview of some upcoming posts, I wanted to give everyone a rundown of what I did this Summer, and what will be coming!

1.  I planted and harvested my first raised bed garden.  I'll be sharing some of the highs and lows of that venture - but all in all, it was a successful gardening year for me!

2.  I explored baking more with coconut flour and almond flour, and also mixing non-grain flours.  Some great recipes have come from that!  (and yes, I'll be sharing them.)

3.  I used my dehydrator for jerky, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and herbs.   I'm in love with my dehydrator now!

4.  I read several really good books - some that I now consider MUST reads if you are interested at all in Nutrition, and how food affects our mental, emotional, and physical health.  My next post will be full of book reviews!

5.  I went camping twice, and also made a trip to Chicago.

6.  I nursed my son back to health after his surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids.

7.  My little guy and I picked strawberries, and cherries, and attempted blueberries one day.

8.  Cherries and Strawberries are in the freezer, along with several quart bags of green beans.  Peaches and Salsa are canned...with much more to come in the preserving adventures!  (we've only just begun!)

9. I BOUGHT A COW SHARE!!!   Yes, I know that was all caps - but that just shows my joy, and downright giddiness at finally buying a cow share and having FRESH, RAW MILK!   Whooo HOOOO!   I think this is the #1 best thing that I did for my family's health this summer!

10.  I rendered lard and tallow for the first time - and learned some valuable lessons about following instructions along the way!

11. I remodeled my kitchen.  (And by "I" what I really mean is my fabulous, wonderful, extremely talented, and very cute husband remodeled my kitchen.  I supervised.  And picked colors and textures.)  What I'm most excited about is my INCREDIBLE new sink.  It's my dream sink.

12.  I seriously worked on my vitamin D intake.  All in the name of health, of course.

I think there was probably more that I did, but this will keep me going with blog post for quite a while - so I think I'll wrap it up for today.   Be sure and leave a message for me, and tell me what you did for this summer!  I'd love to hear!  

Friday, June 17, 2011

THE BEST! Homemade Mayonnaise/Salad Dressing

 I  love Mayonnaise.   LOVE it!   

I grew up in a family where that Salad Dressing in a jar that looks like mayonnaise (MW)  was called mayonnaise, so I grew up thinking that I didn't like mayo.  It wasn't until I graduated and moved away to college that I discovered the delicious creaminess that is mayonnaise.   A love affair was born.

Then, I began a new love affair with the man who became my husband.  And although it wasn't a deal breaker, I was still horrified to learn that he loves MW, not Mayo!   Since we've been married, we've been a divided household.  I'm firmly planted in the Mayo Camp...and he is just as firmly committed to that sickeningly sweet other stuff.  And worse than that - he has recruited my precious son to the dark side of "salad dressing".   *sob*

Finding a decent mayonnaise since we started eating more traditionally has been difficult.  I did find one that I could order online, but I just cannot fathom paying in the double digits for a jar of mayonnaise.   I can't do it.     And the MW stuff?   reading the ingredient list on that jar makes my skin crawl.    The last jar of that was just scraped clean by my husband and son, and I warned them that it was the end.   I just won't buy it any more. 

Sooooo - I've been on a quest to make a Mayo/Salad Dressing that is healthy, and a good compromise for all of us - and finally, I believe I've done it!    It's slightly sweet, but doesn't make my teeth ache, and it's smooth and creamy.   I've been known to eat it off the spoon!   It's full of healthy fats, and pastured eggs.   I also add whey to mine for the added health benefits, and also because it helps keep it fresh longer.   If you choose to make it without the whey, it will last about 2 weeks in your refrigerator.   It will last much longer with the whey, but I'm not sure how long, because it never lasts that long in our house!   

I use refined coconut oil in this, because I don't want coconut flavored mayonnaise, but I do want the health benefits of the coconut oil - plus, it gives it substance, so it's very spreadable, but not runny.   The walnut oil is a very mild oil, and very high in omega-3's, which I like.   Many people use olive oil, but even with using a mild olive oil, I felt like the flavor overpowered the mayo.  It was okay, but not my favorite.   I tried several oils in combination with the coconut oil, and walnut oil came out as the winner.  A couple other oils that worked well were Sunflower oil, and Grapeseed Oil....I just prefer to use an oil that is higher in Omega 3's and less refined.
This recipe also requires an Immersion Blender.   I LOVE my Immersion (Stick) blender.   I was scared to make mayonnaise for the longest time, because I'd always read how hard it was to get it to emulsify, and how tricky it was to make.  Well, not if you have an Immersion Blender!   It totally makes it easy - not once did I have it not work in all the times I tried this recipe, and with all sorts of different oils.  Plus, it's good for so much more - making a quick smoothie, blending soups (and sauces) right in the pan to make cream soups.  I used it to blend strawberries to make strawberry syrup for pancakes a couple days ago...Seriously,  if you don't have one, you NEED one!

So - here is my recipe for the BEST Mayonnaise!

3 egg yolks
1 egg
1/2 tsp. prepared mustard
2 Tbls. lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tsp. celtic sea salt
2 Tbls. raw honey
3/4 cup coconut oil - liquid
3/4 cup walnut oil   (I use Spectrum Naturals brand)
2 Tbls. Whey (optional)

In a wide mouthed quart jar,  blend the egg and egg yolks with the immersion blender until creamy.  Add the rest of the ingredients except the oils and whey (if using), and blend until well mixed together.   Then, while continuing to mix with the immersion blender, pour in the oil in a steady stream.   Move the blender up and down a bit to combine the oil with the rest of the ingredients, and keep blending for a minute or two until it starts to thicken.   At that point, if you are using the whey, add that in too and blend until it's incorporated.    Either store it in the jar you blended it in, or transfer it to another jar.   This makes a pint jar full to the very top!     If you are using the whey, let it sit on the counter for about 6-7 hours before refrigerating, if not using the whey, you can refrigerate immediately.    It will thicken more as it cools.  
AND - here is the biggest tip!  The flavor gets better after a day or two.  Seriously!   Every time I make it,  I taste it immediately, and think "Meh - not so great..."  but then I taste it the next day, and it's "WOWWEE ZOWWEE - this stuff is GOOD!"

I've used it in potato salad, and to make tartar sauce, and in dips....along with just using it as a spread.  It's beautiful any way you use it!

I'm sharing this recipe at Fight Back Friday at The Food Renegade.  Awesome way to find lots of great real food recipes!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chewy-Crunchy Oat, Cranberry, and White Chocolate Cookies

My little guy has a couple favorite cookies from Grandma's house.  Unfortunately, they are now off-limits since they aren't gluten or sugar free.   I've promised him that I will try to recreate them in a way that he can eat them.
Tonight, I got two thumbs up from both of My Guys on this favorite.  An oatmeal cookie with cranberries, white chocolate chips, and toasted walnuts.    There is a bit of refined sugar in these, with the white chocolate chips, but I consider that minimal sugar.    I'm okay with that.  If you're not, then it would be easy to leave the chips out - just add more cranberries and walnuts....or possibly add in some coconut too.   Actually, this recipe would also be good as just a plain oatmeal cookie, or with chocolate or carob chips too.
I used Pamela's Gluten-Free Baking and Pancake Mix to make these.   That mix has baking soda, baking powder, and salt already in it, so I didn't need to add those to the cookie mix.

Now that I know they like them, next time, I will do the work of soaking and drying the oats before baking with them.   I didn't want to waste all of that time and energy until I knew I had a winner!

Now - if I could just nail the Raisin Filled Cookie that the little guy keeps asking me to make.

Chewy-Crunchy Oat, Cranberry, and White Chocolate Cookies
1 cup butter (I used a lightly salted Kerrygold Irish butter, but an unsalted butter would work just fine too, I'm sure)
1 1/4 cup Coconut Palm Sugar
2 large eggs  - mine were pretty large, pastured eggs.  Bigger than most large eggs I would think.  If your dough seems a bit dry, you might need to add a third egg.
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups Pamela's Baking Mix
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups Gluten Free Oats
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with a mixer at medium speed. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Gradually add the baking mix and cinnamon and mix on low until smooth.
Stir in the oats, white chocolate, walnuts, and cranberries until evenly distributed. 

Using a two tablespoon cookie scoop,  scoop dough out onto cookie sheet, and bake for 12-15 minutes.
You will need to let them cool before eating them - these (like most gluten-free cookies) will be crumbly until they've cooled.  Then they become nice and chewy.
 This post has been shared at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, hosted by Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Breakfast For Dinner...again.

We had breakfast for dinner again last night.  I admit it - I'm slightly obsessed with breakfast foods for dinner.  Or as my husband said - "breakfast for dinner, and dinner for breakfast.".    He's right.   I'm odd like that.   I love traditionally dinner type foods for breakfast.  This morning, I had a fruit smoothie and slices of smoked turkey.   That made me very happy!    But back to breakfast for dinner....

I knew yesterday that we would need a quick dinner, and breakfast for me is so easy to whip up, and can be done at a moments notice (like the minute the Big Guy walks in the door from work), so yesterday morning I took some rolled oats (gluten free) and a little bit of flour, and started soaking it in a cultured buttermilk.   Okay - another sidetrack.   I can get the most wonderful, organic, cultured, (think like with cultures similar to yogurt or kefir) cream-line buttermilk at Harvest Health Foods.   LOVE that!

Anyway, I let that all sit together on the counter for the day, while I went about my business.  Really, making food from scratch doesn't have to take a long time, it just needs a tiny bit of planning ahead.   The other thing I did was take a jar of applesauce out of the freezer.   Last Fall, I froze about 30 pints of applesauce.   Why did I freeze it instead of canning it?   Well, because I could!   I had limited time, and 2 bushels of apples, and freezing it was much less labor intensive than canning.    So, my applesauce is out of the freezer, and my oats are soaking.   Soaking the oats in a fermenting agent like buttermilk helps to reduce the phytic acid in the grain, and makes it much more digestible.  And as I discovered, it also made from some incredibly light, fluffy pancakes too!

When it came time to actually make dinner, I had the rest of the ingredients for pancakes ready to go and mixed up in about 5 minutes.  Then, while flipping pancakes, I made fried eggs for us (sunny side up for The Big Guy, and over easy for me.  The Little Guy still refuses to eat eggs this way - more later on how he eats an egg every morning without knowing it!), and heated the jar of applesauce in a pan of water on the stove.   Pancakes, eggs, and applesauce.   That was dinner.    I know - not a green vegetable in sight.   We might have one tonight with dinner though. :)

Soaked Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

1 1/4 cups gluten free rolled oats
1/4 cup gluten free oat flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Celtic Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons raw, local honey (or your sweetener of choice)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum  (although next time, I may try without, and add an extra egg for more binding power)
2 Cups Cultured Buttermilk (or one cup plain yogurt and one cup whole milk) - separated.
2 large eggs - lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

8-10 Hours ahead of time (so evening if you'll be making these for breakfast, and morning if making then for dinner)  Combine the Oats, Oat Flour, and Almond Flour in a large bowl, and stir in 1 1/2 cups of the Buttermilk.  Cover and let sit.  (I just push mine back into a corner of the counter).

To mix up batter - sprinkle the baking soda, sea salt, and xanthan gum over the top of the oat mixture and stir into batter, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to combine.  (don't forget the last 1/2 cup of buttermilk!)  If you like thinner pancakes, you might want to add a little bit extra liquid (buttermilk or milk) to thin it out.  I like thick fluffy pancakes, so the thick batter is fine with me.  :)

Grease a large skillet - I use my wonderful, fabulous double burner griddle for this - and heat on medium.   I use coconut oil and just plop a couple tablespoons on the griddle and let it slide around and melt.   Also - NO MORE than medium heat.  I heat mine to medium and then turn it down to medium low.   These are not quicky pancakes - you want them to cook slowly, because they are thick and dense, and if you try to cook them too quickly, they'll be burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. Unless of course, that's the way you like your pancakes...
Scoop your pancake batter onto the heated griddle.   I use a 1/4 cup cookie scoop.  It makes the perfect sized pancake for us, and I use the back of the scoop to flatten out and spread the pancake on the griddle.   Let the pancake cook until it looks like the edges are dried.  These won't bubble so much, so what you're looking for is for the pancake to be done around the edges.  They are a little delicate, and if you try to flip before the edges are done, you'll probably have a mess.   Be patient!    After flipping, let them cook for a couple more minutes, then transfer to a plate and serve.  

I like mine double stacked, with butter on both cakes, and maple syrup in the middle, and then I heap applesauce over the top.    Oh, and with 2 over easy fried eggs on the side.   YUM!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Soup Time! (The Best Split Pea Soup Ever!)

Once again, Spring is toying with us.  So much rain, but it feels like an Autumn rain, with cold gusty wind.   When that happens, I need soup.  Lots of soup.   Yesterday, I made our favorite soup - Split Pea, but I did it a bit differently than I have in the past.   The result was so incredibly good that I just have to share it today.  It was so good that although I'd planned to freeze part of it for another meal,  that isn't going to happen, because both the Big Guy and the Little Guy took it for their lunch today, and at 10am, I'm already dreaming of it for my lunch too.  (even colder and windier today.  Need.More.Soup.) 

This time, I used a meaty ham bone left over from Easter dinner to flavor it and for a bit of meat.  I am convinced though, that the type of meat used isn't that important.  I've made this soup successfully using ham, bacon, smoked sausage, sausage, smoked turkey....just any kind of meat that will add a smoky depth to it seems to work fine.  We don't use a lot of meat in this recipe, just enough for flavor and to make it interesting.

Before I share the recipe though, I wanted to share a link with you for a blog that I was really "digging" this morning.   I am getting so itchy to start planting in my garden, but here in Michigan, that just hasn't been possible yet.   I have a friend who lives South though, and she has provided such an awesome pictorial progression of her raised bed garden on her blog, that I just had to share it!   Makes me even hungrier to get started on mine!   Plus, I just love the name of her blog.  :-)   Check it out: Where The Heart Says Ahh...

The most wonderful thing about this soup is that it goes in the crockpot all at once.  Just throw everything in, and let it go!   And just for clarification - the ham was without nitrites/nitrates added, and the beef stock was homemade bone broth.

Crockpot Split Pea Soup

1 lb. green split peas
1 meaty ham bone, or 8 ounce of some type of smoked meat, or a smoked turkey thigh
3 pints beef stock.  (seriously - I've always used chicken stock, but when I went to pull it out of the freezer, I was out, but I had beef, so used that instead.  Even better!)
3 cups mix of chopped carrots, celery, onion (I use what I have - sometimes it's more carrot, sometimes more onion or celery - just chop it all together to make 3 cups.
2 russet potatoes, peeled somewhat and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled somewhat, and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Celtic sea salt and pepper to taste  (I add a little at the beginning, and then to taste if needed at the end.)
2 bay leaves

Throw all of this in the crockpot, and cook on high for 6 hours or so.  It's hard for me to know, because I have this REALLY old slow-cooker (looks somewhat like this: )  and I know it gets hotter than most traditional crockpots.  I love it though - I've had mine for over 20 years and it's still going strong!

Anyway, what I do is lift the lid and give it a stir every hour or so, and then after about 6 hours, I take out the meat (if it's in one chunk) and shred it and put it back in.
This makes a thick, hearty soup.  If you like your soup thinner, you might want to thin it out with a bit of broth at the end, also.   We had ours with a non-grain cheesy biscuit, but sometimes we have it with toast and honey too.  

I've linked this post to Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet. Lots of other real food recipes there, check them out!
Also linked at Fight Back Friday with The Food Renegade.  Let's all fight back against non-foods!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Creamy Honey-Caramel Flan

My little guy had a flaming sore throat yesterday, and a fever.   I fed him mostly chicken bone broth all day, but I was trying to tempt his appetite with something else, so I decided to try my hand at making a flan.   We have an old flan recipe that we loved, but it called for sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and a cup of white sugar.   Obviously not something I'd be feeding my sick child (even if he was totally healthy!)!    I looked over the recipe and figured out the changes I wanted to make.   I do use a bit of Agave Nectar in this recipe...I know there are some who consider Agave controversial, but I've studied both sides of the issue, and for us, it's a better choice than refined white sugar.  I use it only in moderation and only occasionally.  If the Agave offends you, it's simple to just substitute another sweetener for it.  I would substitute Raw Honey, or Palm Sugar.

The Flan turned out even better than I had hoped!   Creamy, smooth, and incredibly delicious!


Caramel Sauce
1/3 cup Coconut Palm Sugar
1/3 cup Honey (I use raw, local honey)
2 Tbls. Agave Nectar

6 Eggs
8 ounces cream cheese (I used yogurt cheese that I'd made last week), cubed into one inch cubes
1 (14 ounce) can Coconut Milk (regular, not lite...and the brand I use is non-BPA)
1 Cup Heavy Cream (I use a local cream from Hilhof Dairy)
1/3 Cup Honey
2 Tbls. Agave Nectar
1 Tbls. Vanilla Extract.

**Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.   Place an 8 or 9 inch square pan filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Step One:
For the Caramel Sauce, melt the honey, agave nectar, and palm sugar together over low heat for just a couple minutes.  Don't let it boil!   Pour the melted sweeteners into the bottom of a deep dish pie plate, or casserole dish...I use a 10" round stoneware dish for mine.

Step Two:
Place all of the Flan Ingredients in a blender (you can use a bowl and mix it with a hand blender, but using a blender with a lid makes it SO stinking easy!) and blend on high (I use my smoothie setting) until it looks all blended and smooth. 

Step Three:
Pour the flan mixture slowly and carefully on top of the caramel mixture, and place in the oven.  Make sure that it's situated so that's it's sitting on the rack directly over the baking dish filled with water.
Bake for 50-60 Minutes.  Check to see if it's done by sticking a table knife in the center and pulling it out.  If it comes out clean - then it's done!

Step Four:
Remove Flan from the oven, and let cool in the pan for about an hour.  Then, turn it out onto a large plate/platter.   Make sure when you do this, that there is enough room around the edges for the caramel to pool - otherwise, you'll have caramel topping running all over your counter!  Refrigerate for at last 3-4 more hours.  If you can wait that long.   We had a piece right away, and it was YUMMY!   But it has a totally different consistency when it's warm vs. when it's chilled.  It's much softer, like a custard when it's warm, and after it's cooled for a while, it has a denser, more cheesecake like consistency - only smoother.  Either way, it's spectacular!

**Most flan recipes call for a water bath - wrapping a towel around the pan, and placing it in a larger pan with water in it.   Yeah, I just don't want to mess with that, so I've discovered that if I place a pan of water directly underneath the Flan pan while it's baking, I get pretty much the same results, and it's a lot easier to deal with when pulling the flan out of the oven!

I've shared this recipe at Simply Sugar&Gluten Free for Slightly Indulgent Tuesday - Head on over to check out all of the fabulous recipes!
Also linked to Real Food Wednesday over at Kelly The Kitchen Kop 
 Check out Fight Back Friday at The Food Renegade!  I love this site - and I've posted this recipe there too.