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!