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.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meal Plan Monday! What's For Dinner This Week? April 18-22

Here's what's on the menu for this week:

Monday - Ground Beef & Bean Tacos, w/ guacamole.  Caramel Flan for dessert

Tuesday - Baked Fried Chicken w/ mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans

Wednesday - Scrambled Eggs, Veggie Hash Browns, Applesauce, Crispy Bacon

Thursday -  Grilled Burgers w/ Grilled Mixed Veggies (peppers, mushrooms, onions), steamed buttered peas.

Friday - Baked Shrimp Scampi, Roasted California Blend veggies.

My new Dehydrator will be here by Wednesday, and I'm planning on making Beef Jerky w/ ground beef as soon as it comes!   Also, for snacks this week, I'll be making flourless oatmeal cookies,  peanut butter cups, and coconut almond balls.  
We'll be going to my In-Laws for Easter Dinner.  I'll be taking a Fruit Tart, cheesy biscuits, mashed sweet potatoes,  and a couple other things TBD.   (I'm experimenting this week with a fruit juice gelatin dish, to see if I can combat the ever present jello "salad" at family dinners.  If it works out, I'll be taking that.)

PART II - Why We Eat Traditionally - a Biblical Perspective.

In PART I - Why We Eat Traditionally  ,  I gave an abbreviated time line of some of what led us to where we are right now.    Before I continue, I want to stress that I believe that any change you make to get rid of non-foods, chemicals, your diet is a good change.  You don't have to do what I've done.   Do what is best for you and your family!   Also, this change has been gradual.  Although,  as I saw great results, my changes started occurring faster.   I spent a lot of time testing the waters of Traditionally Eating first though,  and I doubt that I'll ever be all the way there.   Like everyone else, I do what is best for us as a Family.

This past year has seen a lot of change for us in our eating habits. Probably the most change has happened in the last 9 months - more than in all of the years before.      I plan on sharing more of that through different posts here, but for right now, I feel like the most important thing to share is this post.    Many people reading this will disagree with what I write here, but I feel for many more, it will resonate, and for others, it may be the first time they've ever thought of food in this way, and it will help them gain a better understanding of how to eat.

During this time - the last week of Lent,  I wanted to share what to me is the most important reason for why we eat the way we do,  and what makes it not hard to go against conventional wisdom and thinking to eat this way - and that is my faith and trust in God as my Father, Protector, my Rock and Shield.   As we have been doing this gluten/grain free thing,  many many blogs talk about a Paleo/Primal way of eating, because that's how we've "evolved" to eat.  When I read those, I cringe a little.   As a family, we will never define our way of eating as Primal, or Paleo, for this simple reason:

We were created in the image of God.   I firmly believe that God has created us, and that our bodies are considered a Temple of His Spirit.   I believe that at the time of Creation, God's plan was for us, as humans, to have dominion over the earth, and that He gave us the entire scope of foods to eat.   Ummm, except that one tree.  And that one tree, and the disobedience of Adam & Eve, is the beginning of the reasons we struggle with food, diet, and eating to this day.       The first murder recorded in Scripture was over food.  A brother jealous because his brother's sacrifice of food was considered more worthy than his - A gardener vs. a shepherd. 

I was going to quote a bunch of verses here, but then I had a hard time choosing them - because there are so many many passages in the Bible that talk about food.  Food used as imagery for God's love for us,  food used to described the wonderfulness of the Promised Land,  food used to welcome a prodigal back home, food used as sacrifice, food used a's all there - from beginning to end.   When people say that food should just be used for fuel, I think that's wrong.  (and I think they must not have taste buds!)  I think that from the very beginning, God meant for food to be used not JUST as fuel, but also for our enjoyment, for our celebration, and also as an act of worship. 

I also believe that we have taken what God gave for our enjoyment, our pleasure, our sustenance, and our HEALING, and we have corrupted and destroyed so much of what He meant for our good.   We have resigned ourselves to eating processed, contaminated, food-like substances, instead of enjoying the real food that He created for us.    I believe that many of the health epidemics we are experiencing today can be eliminated or greatly reduced if we would thoughtfully consider what food really is, and how it was first made for us to consume.  

Because I believe so strongly that God has given us food for our health, nutrition, healing, and enjoyment, I believe that food should taste good  great!   I love making food that people love.  I love showing people that good healthy real food can taste way better than any processed food ever can.  Watch now, because in the next couple of days, I have a ton of recipes that I have been working on that I will be posting.  Including my own recipe for Peanut Butter Cups that have the national brand beat by a mile!
Now - head on over to the Books I Read page, for some great info on books that I love, and that have been the biggest help to me on my family's journey.

Friday, April 8, 2011

PART I - Why We Eat Traditionally (and the journey to getting there.)

I haven't posted in a quite a while...not that I haven't been busy in the kitchen, because I have!  I have all sorts of ideas for blog posts, and I've had some really spectacular successes in the kitchen, along with some failures, and some just Meh...moments.   Those will all be coming, and include my own homemade Mayonnaise recipe, a recipe for peanut butter cups that are AMAZING,  some great uses for coconut,  a new pizza crust that we love, kid-approved chicken nuggets, and a cauliflower recipe that will surprise you!

But - before all of that, I have some important things that I need to say.  This is something that has been in my heart and mind for several weeks, and I've spent a lot of time praying, and studying, and pondering.    I have so many things I want to say about why we have chosen to eat the way that we do, and also why there are ways we have specifically chosen NOT to eat.   But I want to do this in a way so that those who read this understand that I don't expect others to be on the same path, or at the same place in their eating.     I truly believe that any change people make in their diet towards more traditional eating, and away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) is a good thing.

Just a warning - this will be long.

First, a (Not So) brief history time-line of what led me to where we are today.

The Early Years:  I grew up as a pale, skinny, anemic (liquid iron at the age of 6 - BLECH!), bladder infections frequently, and I cannot remember a time since I was in High School that I didn't spend part of every winter sick.  Once I got to college, it became even worse.  I had innumerable bouts inner ear infections, bronchitis & pnuemonia, and lost my voice completely every time I had a cold - this continued into my adult life.

January, 2000:  I was a newlywed, who had just spent several months working LONG hours as a volunteer coordinator for a HUGE New Year's Eve event.  New Years Day, I came down with the worst Flu ever imagined.  I'd been sick alot, but never before had I been that sick.  For 10 days I was more dead than alive.  Even after I went back to work, for months I still felt like I just couldn't shake this flu I'd had in January.

2001 :  Realizing I had gained 20 lbs in the year I'd been married, I started getting really strict with my diet (which I'd never had to do before) and reading food labels became an obsession.  I refused to eat anything with more than 3 grams of fat.  Sugar content, and sodium meant nothing to me - I was all about the fat grams.   I also started an exercise routine that involved aerobics and weight training.   But I still couldn't lose any weight.  I consoled myself with the reminder that muscle weighs more than fat.    Also, still feeling like I had the Flu all the time.  I ached all over - joints and muscles, and I had migraine headaches that were becoming increasingly worse, and more frequent.

2002: Gave up on my exercise routine.  I could see that it was making a difference reshaping my body - but the pain was becoming unbearable.  If I exercised for 20 minutes, I couldn't do anything else for the rest of the morning.  And I still hadn't lost any weight. In fact, I'd gained more.    Ended up with a Rheumatologist who, after all kinds of testing, diagnosed me with fibromyalgia.  (I think this was his way of saying he had no idea what was wrong.)   He prescribed a Steroid, a pain med, and an anti-depressant.   I dutifully took them for several weeks, but during that time, I started losing myself.  In the words of my husband - "it's like living with a Zombie".  I not only had no energy, I had no personality.  I was in a drugged up fog, and avoided all contact with people, because I couldn't think of anything to say to them.    So, while I could still reason at all, I stopped taking the meds.  (and no, I did not consult with the Dr.)  
I found my way to the local Health Food Store, and asked if they had anything to help with Fibromyalgia.  They showed me supplements and also suggested I take a look at their book section.  One book leaped out at meEating Well For Optimum Health.    My heart leaped inside me!  This was it!   I wanted optimum health!   So, I bought the book (along with Eight Weeks To Optimum Health), and a supplement called Fibro-Max, and away I went.   I devoured the books, and started making changes immediately.     And immediately, I started feeling better, and started moving better.    So much better that when I went back to the rheumatologist for a check-up, I had lost 8 lbs, and was moving better than I had in ages!  
 I thought he'd be excited and happy that I'd found something that made me feel better.   He was amazed that I'd lost the 8 lbs, so I told him what I'd been doing, and let him know I wasn't needing any of the drugs.  I was not ready for his condescending attitude as he patted me on the shoulder and said "That's nice that it's, how about if we just find a different anti-depressant that won't make you so sleepy, hmmmm?"    I walked out of his office, threw away the new prescription, and never went back.
The changes I'd made had helped.  They did not give me back the measure of health I'd had previous to the year 2000, but at least I was able to function in society again. 

2003:  Much like 2002, until November, when joy of joys and wonder of wonders, we discovered that we were going to have a baby!   Almost immediately, I started having problems with the pregnancy.    By 5 months, I was on bedrest, and was also very familiar with the Obstetrics wing at the hospital, having spent a lot of time there with pre-term labor.  Oh, and did I mention that I was horribly sick during the whole pregnancy?  The foods - crackers, etc... that I was told to try to settle my stomach only made it worse. Finally, I was losing weight!  Only now I wasn't supposed to!    Every day I craved strawberry milkshakes (but only if they were made with real strawberries), and green salads with cheddar cheese, boiled eggs, and ranch dressing.  Oh, and chicken salad with lots of mayonnaise!    Even though I had no idea at the time, my body was craving healthy fats and proteins, with  dark leafy greens and berries.  Perfect nutrition, if I'd just know what that was then!    

2004: Our son was born a month early.  He had some complications, and a week after he was born, he was pumped full of broad-spectrum antibiotics, not once, but twice.   I cry now thinking of this, because it was unnecessary, and in all probability, it set the stage for all of his health issues to come.  The rest of 2004 is a blur, along with much of 2005.   He was a demanding baby...never wanted to nurse, or take a bottle, spit up projectile vomited a lot, had diaper rash so bad that he bled...but despite all of this, he still seemed to be so very alert, and interested in all of his surroundings, and full of a sense of wonder.    I was tired - physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  But I thought that was normal for a new mom.   Any good eating habits went out the window as we ate what was quick and easy, and didn't create more dishes in the sink.     
2006:  My health issues became increasingly more difficult.  Some mornings I didn't know how I was going to make it out of bed.  I hurt all over, and I spent a lot of time crying over the fact that I had a toddler,  and some days I could hardly care for him.   We both seemed to catch every virus that floated around,  and his health was only marginally better than mine.  
Through a couple different friends,(who I am positive were led by God)  I was led to an alternative practitioner, who for the first time, told me my problem wasn't Fibro.  I had tested positive for Lyme's Disease!   In the myriad of testing, I'd never been tested for it.   I also had Epstein Barr syndrome (chronic fatigue), probably brought on by the Lyme's...I sat in her office and wept.  For the first time in years, I felt like I had hope.

2009-2010: Still on a journey to feel better.  I've felt so much better over the last few years, but still struggle with aching in my muscles and joints, migraines, and many, many bouts with  colds/flu/bronchitis/pneumonia.   More than that though is that my little guy is now in Kindergarten, and with a teacher who doesn't like him.  She had admitted to me that she thought he was "not normal" from the first time she met him.  Then she asked that we have him tested for Autism.   Although I knew in my heart that wasn't the issue, I took him to his Dr.  who confirmed for me that he wasn't Autistic.   Didn't stop the teacher from disliking him though.  I knew that he was not a compliant child, and could be difficult, but I also knew that he was very bright, loving, kind-hearted, and full of natural curiosity and wonder for the world around him. He was also out sick from school for 38 days of the school year!   I decided to take him to the Natural Practitioner I'd been seeing.  She diagnosed him with intolerances to Gluten, Corn, Refined Sugars, and artificial food colorings. He also had a yeast infection throughout his body. (despite being on a daily probiotic)  We immediately started a gluten free/corn free/sugar free/food coloring free/yeast free diet, and WOW!  What a change.   His congestion, ear aches, attitude, attention span....just about every issue in his little life started getting better!   And because I was eating this way also (it's too hard to cook two different ways) I discovered that all of his intolerance issues were probably inherited from me.  Eating gluten & sugar free, I realized that my migraines were diminished greatly, along with my congestion, and also my re-occuring bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia.   I still had unexplained inflammation in my body - my legs, ankles, and feet would swell to a point where I couldn't put on shoes, but it wasn't water retention.  But all in all, I felt better than I had in years, and my little guy was finally experiencing some better health.     We were now just a few steps away from discovering a Traditional Eating path...

I'll continue in my next post with how we discovered Michael Pollen, Nourishing Traditions, and the Weston Price Foundation!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meal Plan Monday! What's For Dinner This Week?

YEA!  I stuck to my meal plan last week for the most part, with just a few minor changes.    It helps so much to have a plan.  The key for me is to know in my head that it's just a guideline, and if I want to change it I can.   If it's too rigid, or set in stone, I begin to feel caged-in, and then the whole plan is destroyed.    However, I am determined to stick to my self-imposed budget for groceries, and it's easier to do that if I have some sort of plan for using the food I have.

I purposely don't plan the weekends, because that gives me a time to be more creative in the kitchen, and also a time for leftovers if we have them, and a meal out if we want.   This weekend, I experimented with a new pizza crust, and we ate it twice!   For lunch on Saturday, and again for dinner on Sunday.   I'm still tweaking it, but we love it already - and it's grain and gluten free.   We also grilled burgers and I made homemade baked beans (using Navy Beans for the first time - we liked them!), and then used the leftover baked beans in Chili for lunch on Sunday.   Wow!  Who would have thought baked beans would be so good in Chili?   It was some of the best Chili I've ever made.   The leftover beans added a smoky sweetness to it, and it got thumbs up from both of my Guys!

Now - On to This weeks Meal Plan!   It's a strange week here, weather wise, so although I'm really wanting to grill more, and eat more warm weather foods, I'm sticking with more comfort foods for now.

MONDAY -  Baked BBQ'd Chicken, with baked sweet potatoes, and steamed green beans

TUESDAY - Sweet & Sour Ham Meatballs with roasted California blend veggies

WEDNESDAY - Italian Wedding Soup (and trying a new recipe for grain free biscuits.)

THURSDAY -  Kitchen Sink Omelets w/ fresh fruit.   (making omelets with little bits of cheeses, veggies, and meats that need to be used up.)

FRIDAY - Shrimp Scampi w/ roasted asparagus and veggie hash browns.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Incredible Fudgy Yummy Brownies - grain free & refined sugar free!

I love to make really great food.  Not "really great food for being gluten free", but really great food that I can feed to people and they love it, regardless of whether they need to eat gluten-free or not.   I want people to love the food that I feed them and I especially want my guys to love the food that they are eating every day.
 Sometimes I think people might get the idea that our food is no fun.   When I tell people that we don't eat any gluten (and also no grains right now!) or no refined sugar,  or corn, or anything with food colorings, etc...I often get asked "Wow, then what DO you eat?".     Honestly, there is a ton more that we do eat than what we don't eat.    You can see from reading past posts that we eat a great variety of delicious foods, including treats.  We love treats, it's just that we are fully aware when we eat them that they aren't our everyday food.

I was part of an interesting conversation today, where someone was asking for a healthy cake recipe.  I laughed out loud, thinking that there is no such thing.   There really isn't.   You can use ingredients that will make it not affect your insulin, or your gut, or your blood pressure, but cake is not a health food.  And it shouldn't be.  It should be one of those foods that are reserved just for our pleasure - for fun, and for celebration.  I think if we could learn to put foods in their proper perspective,  and eat what we are supposed to eat when we are supposed to eat it, then many many health issues would just disappear.  Have your cake and eat it too - just don't try to delude yourself into thinking that it's a health food!  Enjoy it for what it is!   And whatever you do, don't take out the FAT!  It's the fat in the dessert that provides satisfaction, and keeps you from eating the whole thing!

Today, my little guy and I experimented in the kitchen.   We wanted to make chocolate mint brownies (TREAT!)  for St. Patrick's Day, and so we started cruising the internet, looking through different websites to find a grain-free brownie that sounded good.   I found several, but none of them were screaming "pick me, pick me!  I'm THE one!"   Until that is, we found one that wasn't grain free.   It was this one dark chocolate brownies from The Gluten Free Goddess.   I didn't have everything that she used in hers, and I also wanted to make them grain free,  so we let the experimentation commence!    We switched a Ghiradelli Baking Chocolate Bar (unsweetened) for her Belgian chocolate, then we used Palm sugar in place of the brown sugar, blanched almond flour, and quinoa flour to replace the rice flour.  (quinoa is a seed not a grain, and it's very high in protein.) I also added a couple things, as you'll see in the recipe.   We were so happy with our final product, and I would serve these to guests proudly!

So, totally inspired by Karina's recipe, but then I put my own twist on it...and here it is!

Incredible Fudgy Yummy Brownies

4 ounce bar of Ghiradelli's Baking Chocolate Ghirardelli Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar (12x4 OZ)
1/2 cup butter 
2 Tbls. raw honey, or agave nectar
2 organic free-range eggs
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus 1 teaspoon peppermint extract for mint brownies)
1/2 cup chocolate chips to sprinkle on top, or a 1/2 cup of chopped nuts - or both!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.   Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick spray.

Melt the chocolate bar, the butter, and the honey or agave nectar together.  The little guy did this in the microwave, and then used a small scraper to mix it all together.  (He then confessed to having had a little nibble of the chocolate before melting it, and said it was much better mixed with the butter and sweetener.  "It's amazing how much better it tastes with just a touch of sweetness, Mom.")

In a large bowl,  beat the eggs with a hand mixer on medium high till frothy. Add the palm sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Add in the almond meal, and the salt, baking powder, and baking soda, beat for about a minute.

Add about half of the melted chocolate mixture into the flour/egg mixture a little at a time - incorporate it slowly- and beat well for a minute. Then add in the quinoa flour, and then slowly incorporate the rest of the chocolate mixture, and mix again until fully incorporated, and then add the vanilla, and the mini chocolate chips, and beat for another minute or so.

Pour into the pan, and bake for 30-33 minutes.  Don't overbake!  Make sure they are set in the middle, but it's better to have them a little under-done than a little over-done.    Let them cool and then cut and serve. 
We had ours while still warm...oh my!  What wonderful, dark chocolate fudgy goodness.   We throughly enjoyed our dessert tonight!
 This post is linked to Fight Back Friday at The Food Renegade      - Check it out for some really great real food recipes, and articles!
This post is also linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.   Great site with lots of information on different types of gluten-free flours and how they work together!

Coconut Oil Giveaway Opportunity!

I am loving Coconut Oil more and more all the time.    The blog I am following for my 40 Day Lent Grain-Free Challenge is doing a Coconut Oil Giveaway!  Check it out, and check out some of her great recipes using Coconut oil!

Wellness Mama

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grilled Carne Asada Salad

Today was the first day that it really felt like Spring.  And it felt like Spring in spades!   I can get all mushy about the birds singing, and the snow melting...the sun shining, and that wonderful breeze that just feels and smells like Spring.     You know that one instant when you realize that Winter has lost the battle and Spring is truly on the way?  That was today.   It has nothing to do with a date on a calendar, and everything to do with the hope that wells up within me as I see the earth being reborn in front of me.

So, somehow the Tacos that were on the menu for this evening needed to be changed to celebrate the beautiful day that was today.  When it begins to get warm (and okay - lets be honest.  Here in Michigan, if it hits 50 degrees, we celebrate, and you'll see people all over in their shorts and flip flops - desperate for warm weather.) my body just seems to start craving salad.  So, my tacos got put on the shelf for another day, and today I created a Carne Asada Salad.  It was magnificent!  Delicious!  GRILLED!

Enjoy this recipe - and please comment, and tell me how YOU celebrate the coming of Spring!
I've linked this recipe to Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly The Kitchen Kop.  Kelly's Blog has been a fount of information for me on this Real Food journey that we're on, and I highly recommend checking it out!  For those of you local to me - she's from the area too!   Also, It's linked to The Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania - a Carnival for Real Food Bloggers. She has some amazing video tutorials on her site!

 1.5 lbs Skirt Steak or Flank Steak (I used Flank Steak)
 1 med. sized red onion
 1 med. sized yellow onion
 1 large red pepper
 1 large yellow pepper
 1 large head of romaine lettuce
  A couple large handfuls of baby spinach
 2 large Roma tomatoes
  Cheddar Cheese
  Sour Cream

Marinade Ingredients
Juice of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbls. honey
2 tsp. chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt Celtic Sea Salt - Fine Ground - 8 oz

Prep to do at least 4 hours before hand - Prepare the marinade by mixing all of the marinade ingredients together in a batter bowl, and then with a meat tenderizer/mallet, pound out the skirt steak to break down the fibers of the meat, and also to make it an even thickness.   Place it in a gallon sized plastic bag, and pour in the marinade.  Massage the marinade through the meat, making sure it's all coated, and place it in the refrigerator.  Marinate for 4-24 hours.   There - you've just done the hardest part!

Now - about 20 minutes before you're ready to eat - get the coals on your grill ready.  Unless you're using a gas grill, and then I guess you need to just do whatever it is gas grill users do.   I would have no idea, because I'm a charcoal grill girl.    You don't have to tell me all of the warnings about it - I know all about them - but seriously,  I don't care.  I don't eat any of the normal junk that is part of the Standard American Diet, so let me have my charcoal, okay?  :-)

Wash the lettuce, tear it, run it through the salad spinner, then add it to the baby spinach and either put it in a large serving bowl, or individual bowls or plates for serving.  We like to use large pasta bowls, and then build our own salads.

Then,  slice your onions into wedges (a good apple wedger works great for this!)  and slice your peppers into strips.  Massage them with a bit of olive oil, and place them in a grill basket,  then sprinkle with a little bit of your sea salt.

Grate your cheese (as much as you want on your salad.  I like a little, but the guys like a lot.)
Mix up a quick guacamole - 1 avocado, 2 tbls. sour cream, a couple shakes of chili pepper, and a squeeze of lime with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Roughly cut your tomatoes.

Now, put your guacamole, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa in serving bowls.
Grab the steak out of the refrigerator, along with your grill basket full of veggies, and a good pair of BBQ tongs, and head out to the grill.   Place the steak and the grill basket on the grill and put the lid on.   Let it go for about 4 minutes, and then open it up, and stir up the veggies, and flip the steak with the Tongs.   Put the lid back on and let it go for another 4-5 minutes.   Don't let your steak get done more than medium.  You most definitely want medium rare to medium steak for this recipe.  I like it medium rare.   I did mine 4 minutes per side, and the veggies and the steak were both done perfectly in that time.
Take it all inside, and transfer the steak to a cutting board.  Slice it thinly against the grain.  Make sure you're doing this, as it will make all the difference in the tenderness of the steak. 

Put the steak and veggies on a serving plate, and serve it with the rest of the salad ingredients.  We like to dress ours with the guacamole, sour cream, and salsa, instead of a salad dressing.

This post is linked to Fight Back Friday at The Food Renegade 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pumpkin Almond Pancakes & Maple Breakfast Sausage

We love breakfast for dinner.  Almost once a week, it's what's for dinner at our house.  Sometimes it's eggs and potatoes, sometimes pancakes, but always a favorite.  

I was supposed to be making coconut flour pancakes, but I've been doing alot of experimenting with Coconut products lately, and I discovered I didn't have enough coconut flour left.  So - Plan B!  (AND STAY TUNED!  Cuckoo For Coconut post coming soon!)

Tonight, I experimented with an oatmeal pancake recipe that we love, but without using oatmeal.  Instead of the oatmeal and the oat flour, I used almond flour and quinoa flakes.   Quinoa is a seed that can be used in place of rice, or in place of oats, and it also can be purchased as a flour. (read more here Quinoa)  For the recipe tonight, I used the flakes.  By using the almond flour, and the quinoa flakes, I was able to make fluffy, flavorful, and healthy pancakes! 

The sausage is a recipe I'm so very proud of...I even surprised myself with how good it is!   We LOVE sausage at our house,  but our favorite name brand is full of all kinds of crap that I refuse to bring into my house any more.   I wasn't sure how to break it to the little guy that we wouldn't be having maple sausage any more, so I set out to re-create the one he loves.   I scoured the internet, and read through cookbooks, and took a little piece from so many added a couple touches of my own.   It got two thumbs up from the little guy, and also two thumbs up from the big guy, who said that he likes it better than the national brand!   Now, does it taste just like the boughten sausage?  No - but it's so good, we don't even care that it doesn't!
 I've used ground turkey, ground pork, and a mixture or turkey and pork - and all have been delicious!
Sausage is a very personal thing though - so I would encourage you to take my recipe, and tweak it for your own tastes.  THAT is the beauty of sausage - you can make a signature blend very easily...and who can resist saying they have a special recipe that's all their own?   

Pumpkin Almond Pancakes (grain free!)
 Wet Ingredients
   4 eggs**
   1 cup pumpkin puree
   1/4 cup milk (I used coconut milk)
   2 Tbls. honey
   1/4 cup palm sugar
   2 Tbls.  melted butter, coconut oil, or olive oil
   2 teas. vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
  1/2 cup Quinoa flakes
   2 cups Almond Flour
   2 tsp. cinnamon
   2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
   1/2 tsp. celtic sea salt
   1/2 tsp. baking powder
   1/2 tsp. baking soda

** I have Jumbo sized eggs that I get at the health food store - if you are using large eggs, you might want to use 5 eggs.

Mix together wet ingredients with a hand mixer until blended well.  Add in dry ingredients and keep mixing until it's all blended together well.     Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes to half an hour to thicken up a bit, then pour onto a skillet or frying pan that has been oiled, and heated.  Flip when bubbles form over the surface.
Serve with maple syrup, honey butter, or applesauce.

Maple Breakfast Sausage

2 pounds ground pork
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp. Frontier Maple Flavor Alcohol-Free, 2-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 3) (I get this at Harvest Health Foods)

I mix this all together (with my hands - it's the best way to get the spices distributed evenly) , and then scoop it out with a 2 tbls. cookie scoop, flatten it into patties, and place on parchment on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Then, once frozen, I put them in a freezer bag.   These are actually better if you wait a few days before cooking them.  The flavors meld together into deliciousness.

This post is linked to   as part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.   Check it out for all kinds of great recipes!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meal Plan Monday! What's For Dinner This Week?

Here is what I'm planning for Dinners (Monday - Friday) this week. 
There are lots of recipes in this group of meals - I'd LOVE some feedback - which recipes would you like to see most this week?

Monday - Roast Chicken w/ roasted cauliflower and steamed green beans

Tuesday - Breakfast for Dinner! Coconut Flour Pancakes w/ homemade applesauce, and homemade sausage

Wednesday - Skirt Steak Tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, gaucamole, and homemade salsa - trying a new recipe for grain free wraps from The Spunky Coconut website  ( )...hope they're good!

Thursday - Corned Beef with roasted Brussel sprouts, red potatoes, and carrots

Friday - Broiled Whitefish Parmesan and Creamed Spinach

For Snacks - I'm making Crispy Cheese Crackers, homemade Beef Jerky,  Chocolate Coconut Clusters, and Coconut Macaroons.

I'm not posting Breakfast and Lunch plans because we don't all eat those meals together, so they are more varied.  This morning, the little guy and I had a peach blueberry smoothie w/ homemade breakfast sausage. (no idea what Rick ate, because he eats so stinkin' early!)  Lunches are often leftovers, or a salad.  For instance, today, Rick took leftover egg salad from Saturday in his lunch, while the Little Guy and I are both having leftover Smoked Turkey Fajita Soup.

So - let me know which recipes you most want to see!   Enjoy today - the sun is shining here in MI - I may go for a walk and get some Vitamin D!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

FAVORITE FOOD FINDS FRIDAY (on Saturday) PLUS a Really great recipe...

The Flu Bug has invaded our house this week.  Although I've tried my very best to ward it off, it seems we've all been hit.    So, things are a little behind, but I wanted to share with you a couple of items that I am loving in the kitchen.

First -
Almond Flour.   I love this stuff.  I've been able to bake so many different recipes using almond flour.   I recommend this one to start, because it's a smaller amount for you to try if you are just getting started with higher protein, no starch/no grain baking.  One of my favorite websites where I've discovered some great Almond Flour recipes is Elana's Pantry    I do end up changing most recipes, since I don't use grapeseed oil or much agave nectar (anymore) but even with that, her recipes have worked well for me.

Next, my newest favorite flour - Coconut flour....although I don't recommend this is you don't like coconut.  It's not strong AT ALL, but it does give what you're baking/cooking a hint of coconut.  I love coconut, so this isn't a problem for me, and neither of the guys has commented on tasting coconut.  It's more that I can smell a hint of it when I'm measuring it out for the recipe.   It produces a lighter texture than the almond flour, so I like it better for certain things.  Coconut flour is HIGHLY absorbant, so you need to make sure you are using coconut flour recipes.   Two of my favorite go-to sites for recipes are

The Spunky Coconut

and Coconut Mama

I made a coconut flour recipe this morning - Banana Caramel Sticky Buns.  They were given two thumbs up by both of my guys, and the little guy ate TWO!   They are so full of good stuff for him, so I was excited about this!    The original recipe can be found here: ,  but a little later, I'll be posting my version....because of course, there is no way I can make a recipe as written!
Enjoy today - Love your families - Be Blessed.

OH - AND if anyone can tell me how to make these sites automatically link from this post, I would love to know that secret!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Whole Foods Shopping - On A BUDGET!

One thing that anyone who is trying to eat healthfully knows is that shopping can be much more expensive when you are staying away from processed, and conventionally grown foods.   Although I like coupons,  there aren't many I can use.

Before I decided to do the Grain-Free for 40 Days Challenge, I'd already decided to create a grocery budget.  This is the one area where we just haven't budgeted - it's been a "whatever it takes to get what we want" deal since we started eating Gluten/Sugar/Corn free.   But a couple weeks ago I realized I really needed to reign in on the grocery spending.  I'm still willing to pay for real foods, but I think that I can use my shopping dollars more wisely.   I consider our food to be not just our fuel, but also our preventative medicine, and in the long run, the money that I spend will pay off in better health, energy, and well-being.

So, now I have a budget.   This budget is only for food items - so cleaning supplies, and toiletries, etc... are not included in this.  For our family of 3,  I will have $150 per week to spend.    To some, that may be extravagant, and to others, you may wonder how I can do it for so little.  It's all in your point of view - but I think that to feed each member of the family for $50 a week (21 meals plus snacks) is pretty good.   We eat out maybe once a make that 20 meals and snacks.  :)

Another struggle is that I can't get everything that I need at one store.  I'm okay with this, because I'm the weirdo who loves grocery shopping.  Really.   I've loved it since I was a little girl and I'd go with my Mom.   I love making out my list, and comparing it with the Ads, and plotting my strategy to get what I need. I love reading labels and comparing them (did I mention I'm a weirdo?).   What's even weirder is that I don't like other shopping.  I do as much as possible online, because I really dislike the Mall, or other Big Box stores, and I will make every excuse not to shop.  Except for groceries.

  Although I'll have the equivalent of $150 per week, it won't be spent at a rate of $150 per week.  For example - this week, I drove across town to Heffron Farms, which is a local farm that has several stores in the area.  They sell frozen grass-fed, and humanely raised beef, pork, and also free range chicken and turkey.  They have great prices on wild-caught fish - but you have to buy it by the case...which I do.  Last time, I bought wild caught Alaskan whitefish, and we still have some, so I didn't get any fish this time. They also sell local, lightly processed dairy products, and it's where I get much of my cheese, and also some yogurt.   Because it is a longer drive, when I go, I try to stock up and buy what I'll need for the month.   I already had some meat in the freezer from a previous trip (a whole chicken, 2 pkgs of chicken legs, chicken liver,  a beef roast, skirt steak,  smoked pork, and pork stir-fry meat.)   This week, they also had yogurt that was nearing it's sell by date.  Since I know that yogurt is good for a few weeks past that date, I was really excited about the deal I got.  They had Cascade Fresh yogurt (cultured in the cup, and sweetened only with fruit) for 2 for 2 cents with each $10 purchase!  Hubby loves this as a snack, or also as part of his lunch, and I occasionally use it making smoothies for the little guy and myself - and the price was at miracle status!

Here is my grocery list for Heffron Farms:

Soup Bones  3.25 lbs                                   3.87
Smoked Turkey Thigh                                 7.77   (love this to make split pea soup - it's amazing!)
Ground Beef patties (1 lb pkg - 4 patties)   3.99 x2
Ground Beef  1.5 lb. pkg.                            4.93
Ground Pork 1 lb pkg.                                 3.19 x2   (I make my own breakfast sausage with this)
Bacon - 1 lb pkg.                                         5.69 x2
Boneless/Skinless Chix Breast - 1 lb.         6.75 x2
Bone-In Chicken Breast    (4.25 lb)            7.48
Bone-In Chicken Breast                              5.91
Leg Quarters (on sale for 1.39 lb!)              2.01
Heavy cream - pint                                      2.50
Butter - 1 lb.                                                3.75
Italian blend cheese (shredded)                   4.89
Marble cheese - block                                 3.02
Cheddar Cheese - block                              3.24
Smoked String Cheese                                4.50
Cascade Fresh Yogurt - variety of flavors     .02 x8

TOTAL for this Shopping Trip - $107.45  - but remember, this is a once a month trip!

NOW!  On to Harvest Health Foods.   I so wish we had a Trader Joes or a Whole Foods in the area, although with Whole Foods now bowing in defeat to Monsanto and the onslaught of GMO's, I guess I should be happy with Harvest Health, and their commitment to only Non-Gmo foods.   They also have a commitment to NO artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated oils.  It's a safe place to shop, and they do try to be competitive with Meijers and Costco pricing.  I appreciate that.  They also have COUPONS that I can use sometimes!

Sweet Potatoes - 5.5 lbs                                          7.81
Plain Greek Yogurt                                                 4.49
1 quart non-homogenized, cream line Milk           2.99
Cauliflower - 1 large head                                      3.80
Coconut Milk                                                         2.39  x2
Palm Sugar                                                             5.15
Chocolate Chips - Enjoy Life brand                      4.79  x2
Navy Beans - dry, bulk                                          2.83
Buckwheat Flour (not wheat, and not a grain!)     4.39
Nut-Thin Crackers (for Hubby)                             3.19
Coconut Oil                                                            7.49 (I've found it cheaper online now though.)
Eggs                                                                        2.39  x2
Hamburger Buns (fermented wheat - for Hubs)     3.99
Bagels (gluten free, again for hubby)                     6.45
Coffee                                                                     6.90
Provolone Cheese (on sale for 25% off)                 2.85
Apples  (Gala - 6 ct.)                                              4.39

Harvest Health I do every two weeks, although sometimes I make a quick trip for Eggs, Milk, Coffee....
Total for this trip - $81.86

Then, onto COSTCO!   I love COSTCO - and I love some of the great, healthy deals I can get there!

Organic Baby Spinach                          3.99      (same cost as the grocery store, but 3x the amount!)
Mixed Bell Peppers                              6.79
French Onion Soup (Hub's lunch)      10.89
Almond Butter                                      5.99  (UNBELIEVABLE price for the large jar I get!)
Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip                      5.99
Izze Sparkling Juice (12 count)           10.79  (treat for us - it's our "Pop".)

Then, I also discovered something NEW at Costco that had me so excited!   I spent a little more money than I had planned for groceries, but I couldn't pass these up!

Cranberry White Cheddar Cheese  1.5 lbs    9.88    (This is addictive!)
Kerry Gold Irish Butter    1.5 lbs                  7.35    (The gold standard in pastured, grass-fed butter!)
Kerry Gold IrishCheddar Cheese   1.6 lbs    9.26     (again - the best!)

Total Cost at Costco - $72.02   

Total for all three - $ 261.33  -  leaving me around $40 for next week, to buy eggs & milk. I spent almost $30 more than I had planned at Costco, but I have plenty of cheese and butter now for the month!

I should say also that I have some veggies and fruits already.  From last summer, I have home canned applesauce, and fozen butternut squash, blueberries, peaches, and salsa.  I also have frozen green beans, california blend, broccoli, and peas.  Lots of canned tomatoes.   Also 2 heads of Romaine, 2 lbs of carrots, celery, red potatoes, red onion, yellow onion, garlic, and asparagus, yellow pear tomatoes, and a Roma tomato.   Fruits - lemons, limes, 2 grapefruit, a bag of oranges, 4 Kiwi, and a couple bananas.  Oh - and 2 ripe avocados that I need to use!    I expect that my next big shopping trip in 2 weeks will be to restock veggies and fruits, mostly.