Friday, December 26, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

I have no idea why this is called shepherd's pie, but it's a great way to use up leftovers from holiday meals. And oh so nice to have on hand when I need a quick dinner! Ingredient amounts are inexact since it all depends on what you have left.

2-4 c. leftover meat, chopped (turkey or ham or even ground beef)
1/2 to 1-1/2 c. leftover veggies (usually corn, peas or beans, if beans, cut them up)
1-2 c. leftover gravy (if using beef, you can also use tomato sauce mixed with some italian seasoning & garlic salt instead)
1-3 c. leftover stuffing
2-4 c. leftover mashed potatoes

In a 9x13 pan, layer as follows:
meat
veggies
spread gravy over the top
sprinkle stuffing over
spoon mashed potatoes on top, and spread out so that it's about 1/2" to 1" thick or so.

If you are eating this within a day or two, store in the fridge. Potato layer can be thicker. Reheat in 350 oven for about 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

This actually freezes pretty well considering it has potatoes in it. Just don't put on a really thick layer of mashed potatoes. Then when you reheat, I put some chunks of butter on top of the potatoes to help it brown nicely. You'll have to reheat for about an hour and a half in 350 oven. Cover with tinfoil for the first hour or so, then remove foil for last bit.

Gluten free tips: omit stuffing, make gluten free gravy (use arrowroot powder to thicken.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Maple Caramel Candies

These are known in our family as "Knack" (kuh-neck, should be two dots over the "a" but I can't figure out how to do that.) My mom is Swedish and always made these for us every Christmas.

1 c. heavy cream
1 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. sugar
1 TBS butter

Mix all ingredients in a pot. Heat on med -med high and bring it to a boil. Let it bubble for about 1/2 hour. Heat to about 250 degrees (or firm ball stage). You can test the texture by dripping it into a cup of ice water. You want a ball formed without sticking. Pour it into small candy cups while it's still hot and let it cool.

If you prefer, you can make it softer (240 degrees), or hard like toffee (anywhere from 260 to 300). We like the chewiness we get at 250 degrees.

I bet you could also substituted other natural sweeteners for the sugar, I just haven't tested it yet! If you do, let me know the results! I would try no extra sugar, or honey or sucanat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cream Cheese Dip or Frosting

Creamy and tasty!

1 package cream cheese, softened
4 TBS honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c. milk

Combine all in a bowl and blend with hand blender. Add more milk if needed to make this fluffy and creamy. Add more honey if needed to make it sweet to your tastes.

Dip apples or fruits in this or use as a frosting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Checkered Chili

Smells delicious when cooking! "Yum!" as my 2 year old said when she came in from playing in the backyard.

3 TBS butter
1 med to large onion, chopped or pureed
2 cloves garlic, presed
4 c. chicken broth
2 cans diced tomatoes, pureed or left chunky
2 cans black beans (or 4 c. cooked)
2 cans navy beans (or 4 c. cooked)
1/4 tsp to 1 TBS chili powder (depends on how hot ya like it!)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
cumin to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Toppings
sour cream
chopped green chilis (from a can)
chopped fresh cilantro
shredded cheddar cheese

Saute the onions & garlic in butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. When serving, top with your choice of toppings. Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Veggie Mac 'N Cheese

Even though the kids all complained when they saw this, they all ate their portions until nothing remained!

16 oz package of pasta (about 3-1/2 cups dry)
1-1/2 c. finely chopped carrots
3/4 c. finely chopped celery
1 c. finely chopped broccoli
1/2 c. peas (optional)
2 1/2 TBS butter
3 TBS Whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 c. milk and/or cream
1 TBS Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestshire sauce
dash to 1/4 tsp tabasco sauce
1/2 c to 1 c. shredded mozzarella
1 to 2 c. shredded cheddar
1/2 c. shredded parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 9x13 pan.

Cook pasta in pot of boiling water for 4 minutes (for macaroni). Stir in carrots & celery and cook 2 minutes more. Add broccoli and cook 2 more minutes. Drain through small sieve then return to the pot. Add peas.

While pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Melt butter in pan. Add flour and mix in, then pour in milk. Whisk periodically over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat. Add dijon, worcestshire sauce, tabasco and mix well. Add mozzarella and cheddar and stir until melted.

Pour sauce over pasta and stir. Pour the whole mess into the 9x13 pan, sprinkle with parmesan on top. Toss it in the oven and back till thick and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Notes: You can vary the veggies and the amounts - adjust to your family's tastes. You can add quite a few veggies, provided they are finely chopped without totally scaring the kids.

Gluten Free option: Use Tinkyada brown rice pasta, but cook for about 10-12 minutes before adding veggies. Use arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) to thicken your sauce rather than flour. May need to use a little more than it says. (If the sauce needs to be thicker and it's boiling, then mix some more arrowroot powder in a little cold water, then pour it gradually into the pot while stirring.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hot Pink Watermelon Smoothie

I doubt this is proper food combining, but it's a great way to use leftover watermelon and it makes a fun treat.

1 to 1-1/2 c. frozen strawberries
2 to 2-1/2 c. chopped watermelon
2 whole oranges, peeled
1 freshly squeezed lime

Toss it in a blendtec or vitamix and blend it up. May need to add extra water and/or ice.

Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Decidedly not low-fat, this is a delicious meal and oh-so-easy!

6 TBS butter
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c. chopped cooked chicken (grilled is really good)
2 c. steamed broccoli florets
salt and pepper
Whole grain pasta (brown rice for gluten free)

Melt butter. Saute garlic in butter till lightly browned. Add cream and parmesan and heat through. Add chopped chicken & broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked pasta.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Taco Soup

Soup with a mexican flare, and great to make when the fresh food in the fridge is getting low.

1 lb beef
2 onions diced (or blend in blender)
3 cans or 6 c. cooked pinto beans
2 c. frozen corn
2 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomatoes w/chiles (or sub another can diced tomatoes if this sounds too spicy)
2 TBS taco seasoning mix
1 TBS ranch salad dressing mix

Brown beef & onions, add everything else to the pot. Bring to a boil, simmer 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream, cheese, chips, chopped green onions as desired.

Warts

Yeah, I know this is a recipe blog and you won't want to eat this... But I figured a few good home remedies could be fun so I'm starting off with warts.

My 4 year old daughter had a huge wart on the side of her foot. So big that it was even sending out "shooters" to grow more. I asked a relative of mine who is also a podiatrist about it and he said we really needed to get it removed. I called a local podiatrist, made an appointment a month out, since that's how busy he was. In the meantime I researched alternatives and decided to give Apple Cider Vinegar a try.


Here's how to kill warts:

cotton balls
apple cider vinegar
bandaids
towel

Spread out the towel to work on to prevent drips. I usually do this right before bedtime and so we do it in the bedroom. Pour a small amount of ACV into a small cup. Make a small ball of cotton from the cotton ball. Dip gently into ACV, without saturating it. Put the cotton on the wart and place a bandaid over the cotton ball. Leave it on all night and day. Replace the next night, or can change in the morning.

The wart will puff up big and white, and then the center will turn black. And then the wart will fall off (may need to help scrape it off with an emery board or pumice stone.) Occasionally, there will still be an area that is a smaller wart under the larger one that fell off. Depending on the size and deepness of the wart, this can take a few days to a few weeks.

If the area becomes red and tender, take a break for a day or two or more. Sometimes the wart does become painful as it is dying.

My two year old got a big kick out of us doing this every night. She enjoyed watching the process very much. We called it "The Wart Factory" and if I forgot to do it, she'd come and say (very excitedly) "We have to do wart factory!"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Creamy Corn Soup

This one is loaded with veggies but the kids have no idea. Unless of course they help you make it... It's adapted from a recipe my nephew's wife shared with us. A food processor and a stick blender make this soup a snap.

2 T butter
1/2 onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
4 small red potatoes, diced (can use regular potatoes but red are creamier)
1 lb baby carrots or regular carrots, diced
4 cups chicken broth (or more, enough to cover veggies)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/2 to 3/4 c. heavy cream or milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Saute onions in butter. Process the rest of the veggies in food processor to chop up and add to the pot. Add chicken broth to cover veggies. Bring to a boil and simmer until veggies are tender (if you've chopped the veggies up small, then this will only take 10-15 min.) Use a stick blender to blend the soup until smooth. Add corn and cook for a few minutes until it's heated through. Remove from heat and add cream, salt and pepper and cheese if desired (or serve cheese as a side topping.)

This is a very versatile recipe, because you can use pretty much whatever veggies you have on hand, and make the pot of soup as big as you want. I've thrown in broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, etc and no one is the wiser.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Peanut Butter Dip

With fall in the air, that means apples. Crisp cold apple slices are perfect to dip in peanut butter dip!

½ c. creamy PB
1 cup vanilla yogurt
½ cup whipped cream
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Mix together and enjoy!

Tuna Broccoli Rice Casserole

Perfect for casserole night! And one of the very few tuna casserole recipes that does NOT contain cream of whatever soup.

4 -5 c. cooked brown rice
1 c. chopped celery
1 sm chopped onion
1 c. whipping cream
½ tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
½ tsp dried tarragon or other spice
2-3 cans albacore tuna, drained
1-1/2 cups chopped broccoli, thawed (or if fresh, lightly steamed)

Schlop it all together in a bowl. Dump into a 9x13 pan. Cover with shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese if desired. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.

Note: I blend my onions in the blender with a little water because I have kids who won't eat onion chunks! Sometimes I even toss in the other veggies too. You can add carrots as well.

You can also omit the tuna if desired (which I must admit to doing in a separate portion for my fish-hating child...)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Going Gluten Free, part two

Going gluten free is a huge change your life. Here are a few more ideas of what to expect and how to cope.

(1) No guts, no glory - When you are gluten intolerant, your gut doesn't assimilate vitamins and minerals the way it should. The villi in the intestines have been flattened, rather than being free to release digestive enzymes like they should. The first few months to a year after going GF you should help your gut heal. It's very common for gluten intolerant people to be allergic to other foods too, especially lactose. If you can heal your gut, there's a big chance you won't be allergic to those other foods anymore.

My daughter couldn't tolerate lactose or corn (and some other foods which weren't as major.) We avoided those foods when she first went GF. However, she could tolerate homemade yogurt, and found that to be extremely healing and soothing to her tummy. After a few months of being GF and eating a lot of yogurt, she was able to tolerate any food she wanted (except gluten of course.)

If you have other food allergies, I'd suggest avoiding those foods as much as possible, and taking probiotics and/or eating homemade yogurt, kefir, and other foods with natural cultures in them (as tolerated by you) to help your stomachs heal.

(2) Contamination - When you are gluten free, you really have to be gluten FREE. You cannot eat anything with any gluten in it, and you can't eat anything that has been contaminated. Watch out for foods cooked in toasters/toaster ovens, grills, griddles, waffle irons etc. Be sure not to use cutting boards/knives that have sliced gluten breads. Wash dishes thoroughly with soap and hot water.

(3) Cheating - Don't do it! You'll feel it (unless you're one of those very few people who have no symptoms.) It's hard not to cheat, but this isn't like a diet, it's a lifestyle that dramatically increases your health.

(4) Should the whole family go GF? - Unless the whole family is gluten intolerant, it is very difficult to have the whole family eat GF. On the positive side of having the everyone GF, you will reduce contamination issues at home, and the person who eats GF won't feel singled out. On the negative side, eating GF can be very expensive if you're not careful and not everyone will want to never eat bread. If you do choose to have the whole family eat GF at home, they don't have to follow that rule outside the home. Our family isn't totally GF at home, but most of what we eat is GF.

(5) Dining Out - You've gotta be careful when eating out. It can be done, but contamination is always an issue. If you're used to eating out, you'll find that you will need to cut back drastically on that habit. There are some eateries that do offer GF options. The Spaghetti Factory does offer GF meals - if you call ahead. Always ask at restaurants and don't be surprised if they have no idea what you're talking about.

(6) Join a support group - It's helpful to network with others when you're gluten free! You can find all sorts of good info like foods that are officially GF, recipes, restaurants that are GF friendly, etc. GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group) is one of the biggest nationwide support groups. There are also local chapters like this one in Utah.

(7) Read Labels - be sure to read every label! Gluten can hide in many places in processed foods, such as artificial colors/flavors, msg, food starch, etc. You have no way of knowing if gluten is in that product, unless the ingredients are basic and straightforward or it specifically says "gluten free" on the label. Many companies have begun to label foods as gluten free which has saved a lot of label reading time. Watch out for products that say they've been manufactured in a plant which also processes wheat.

(8) Plan ahead - This one is so hard for me, but you've got to do it. Whenever you go places, bring food with you because you don't know what you'll find! Menu planning is a must.

(9) Meal Ideas - Breakfast: You can buy cold cereals that are gluten free, but they are very expensive. Try instead fruit or green smoothies, blender waffles, yogurt, hot brown rice cereal, eggs, etc. Lunches & Dinners - Soups, salads, tortilla rollups, oriental, mexican, potatoes, meat, etc. Lots of ideas on my blog. Eat simply!

(10) Snacks & Treats - popcorn, peanut butter balls, smoothies, fruits & veggies, fruit leather, cheesesticks, nuts, ice cream (or coconut milk ice cream), chocolate, homemade pudding, flourless cookies, GF brownies, yogurt, fudge, etc...

There are still many tasty things you can eat, especially if you can get other allergies to clear up. You can still eat well, and you'll probably find you're eating healthier and feeling better than you ever have before. You can do it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Soup Stock

Making your own soup stock is so ridiculously easy, I wonder why I've been throwing out my meat bones all these years. It's much healthier for you too!

Basic recipe (adapt to the amount of bones you have):

Chicken carcass (from 3-4 lb chicken)
6 c. water
1 onion, sliced in half
3 big carrots, in chunks
1 -2 stalks celery, in chunks
salt and pepper to taste.

Toss it all in a pot. Bring to boil, then let simmer for an hour or so. Let it cool for 15-20 minutes, then pour through strainer into a bowl. Discard all that gross stuff, and keep the broth. If you want to skim off fat, put it in the fridge, and skim it off after the fat rises to the top.

You can do this with chicken drumsticks, turkey carcass, beef roast/steak bones, etc.

If I don't have time to make stock from leftover bones right away, I just toss the bones in the freezer. Then when you make the stock, you can just pour the frozen carcass right into the soup pot.

Use the chicken stock right away to make soup, or you can refrigerate it or freeze it for later use.

White Chicken Chili

My son had this at a friend's house and liked it so much he asked me to make it. Well, 6 months later... I finally got around to it and it was delicious!

2 TBS butter
1 onion, chopped (or pureed if your kids are like mine and hate onion chunks)
6 c. chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
4 oz can chopped green chilies
3 cans (or 5 c. cooked) white beans
1 to 1-1/2 c. cooked chopped chicken
salt & pepper to taste

Melt butter in large soup pot. Saute onions. Add chicken broth, garlic and seasonings. Let broth simmer for at least 10 minutes, or up to an hour or more. Add more liquid if needed. Add beans and chicken and heat through.

Serve with sour cream and cheddar cheese if desired. Can serve with cornbread or tortilla chips.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Going Gluten Free, part one

"What do you eat on a gluten free diet?" "How do I get started?" I get asked these a lot since my daughter has been eating gluten free for the last 4 years. At first glance, the task seems insurmountable - everything seems to have gluten in it, and you must avoid any little trace of gluten. Yet many people do it and find lots of great benefits from eating gluten free. Here are some tips:

(1) Think outside of the box. Cut waaaay down on processed foods - almost everything boxed or canned has some form of gluten in it. It's healthier and cheaper for you anyway.

(2) Eat naturally gluten free foods - You can't eat bread, but there are still lots of delicious things you can eat such as fruits, veggies, nuts, rice, potatoes, meats, legumes, dairy, eggs etc.

(3) Avoid gluten free "substitute" foods. Don't go crazy at the health food store purchasing breads and other items that say "gluten free." These are very expensive, aren't usually the healthiest foods around, generally have little or no fiber, and typically do not taste very good.

(4) Some gluten free foods *are* worth the extra expense. Some gluten free substitution foods are worth the extra money - on occasion. Tinkyada brown pasta actually tastes good, has a good texture and lots of fiber, and even other family members like this pasta. Kinnickkinnick breads are probably the best GF tasting breads (but nutritionally like white bread). The pizza crusts are great to have on hand in the freezer if everyone else happens to be eating pizza. KinnickKinnick oreos and Montina chocolate chip cookies are fairly good substitutes when you get that craving.

(5) Change your thinking about bread consumption - When gluten free, you won't be eating bread like you used to. That's just the fact of the matter. Most Americans are used to eating some form of bread or grain with every meal, so one mistake many people make when first going gluten free is to try to purchase a gluten free substitute for that bread instead. That's costly, and quite truthfully, not all that tasty. Forego the bread/grains or substitute gluten free (easy to find) corn tortillas, corn chips to eat as rollups or with soup. Skip the buns for hamburgers. Buy rice crackers and use as crackers, or blend and use as bread crumbs.

(6) Eat ethnic foods. We tend to eat a lot more Chinese, Mexican, Indian foods, with some good old meat 'n potatoes thrown in. Soups are always easy to make gluten free too.

(7) Make your food from scratch - it is definitely cheaper to make your own foods from scratch and safer. Try Sue Gregg's blender waffles (inexpensive and the whole family likes them), arrowroot brownies (recipe posted soon), flourless chocolate cakes (gourmet dessert that everyone will love.)

(8) When baking, use GF substitutes in recipes - many recipes with little flour in them can easily be made GF. For example, use arrowroot or cornstarch for thickening soups and sauces, use sorghum flour in fruit crumbles, etc. The recipes that are most easily adapted to GF are those with little flour. I'll post a GF Flour primer soon.

(9) No need to purchase tons of GF Cookbooks - Truthfully, most any recipe you want can be found online. And most GF cookbooks are full of gluten free substitute recipes (like breads and such) which don't really taste that great. It's easier to eat naturally GF foods.

(10) Invest in a Blendtec or Vitamix - might sound like a strange investment for going gluten free, but the biggest benefit is being able to make "fast food" such as popsicles, fruit or green smoothies, soups, salsas, etc. We use ours a LOT!

Part 2: Health issues, other allergies, healing your gut, food ideas for breakfast/lunch/ dinner/ snacks, contamination, eating out, support groups, should the whole family go gluten free? and more...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lettuce Wraps

Every time I make this it turns out different, but good! It's fast and easy if you have rice & meat already cooked. All measurements are very approximate.

Basic Ingredients:
2 c. finely chopped veggies (carrots, celery, onions, broccoli, etc)
2 TBS butter
4-6 c. cooked brown rice (cook in bouillon or with beef bouillon cubes if desired)
1/2 to 1 lb cooked meat (seasoned or marinated chopped chicken, ground beef or turkey is really good)
garlic salt and/or teriyaki sauce
1-2 heads Romaine lettuce

Saute' the veggies in butter until crisp tender. Mix in the rice and meat. Season with garlic salt or pour in homemade teriyaki sauce to taste. Pull leaves off of romaine lettuce head and wash.

Variations:
Use a wild rice mix
Add in stir fry veggies (I chop my veggies so the kids will be happier to eat them)
Add a can of chopped water chestnuts for some crunch.

To serve, scoop rice mixture into a lettuce leaf. Wrap and eat!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Addicting, watch out! My teenage son said pumpkin seeds are good for acne since they're high in zinc.

2 c. raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1 TBS sea salt
1/2 TBS garlic powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chile pepper (or other chili pepper/cayenne)
water

In a quart jar, mix salt, garlic powder & chili pepper in water and stir to dissolve. Add pumpkin seeds, then add more water so you've got a couple of inches of water above the pumpkin seeds. Put the lid on the jar and shake to distribute spices.

Spread in dehydrator on teflex tray and dehydrate at 105-110 degrees until crunchy (about 12 hours). Or spread on cookie sheet and place in warm oven (150 degrees), which will kill some of the enzymes but go faster (about 6 hours.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mexican Pizzas

Much better for you than Taco Bell's version. This makes 12 pizzas, or you can do less tortillas and more ingredients on each.

24 6" tortillas (use best kind you can - sprouted whole grain)
Oil for frying
1 can or 2 c. refried beans
1/2 lb ground beef
1 c. salsa (fresh is great)
2 c. cheddar cheese
1/4 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. sliced black olives

Put about 1/8" oil in a pan and heat to fry the tortillas. Coconut oil is great, but my family isn't fond of food fried in coconut, so I fried in a combo of olive oil and butter. Fry so that each tortilla is browned on each side, poking any bubbles that form.

Meanwhile, fry beef and season with taco seasoning or garlic salt and pepper. Heat refried beans in a separate pot.

Cover two baking sheets with tinfoil or parchment paper for much easier cleanup. Put 6 tortillas on each baking sheet. Spread refried beans on each tortilla (about 3 TBS on each, may need a little more beans than stated above.) Sprinkle about 1 to 1-1/2 TBS ground beef on the beans for each tortilla. Put a freshly fried tortilla on top of each tortilla on the baking sheet. Next, spread about 1-2 TBS salsa on each tortilla (thin layer.) Sprinkle cheese on top and top with green onions and black olives if desired.

Serve with salsa (try green salsa!), guacamole, sour cream, etc.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Teriyaki Sauce

Quick and easy! Really good on stirfry veggies, rice, etc.

1/4 c. tamari soy sauce
1-1/4 c. water
1/4 c. pineapple juice
1/2 tsp ginger (or 1/2 tbs freshly grated ginger)
4-5 TBS sucanat
1 minced garlic clove
2-1/2 TBS arrowroot powder
1/4 c. cold water

In a medium pot, combine tamari, water, pineapple juice, ginger, 3 TBS of sucanat and minced garlic. Heat to boiling while stirring. Mix arrowroot in cold water, add to sauce while stirring. Stir until sauce is thickened. Add more sucanat as sweetener to taste. Add more water if too thick.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Taco Layer Dip

Always a hit at parties or on a hot summer day. Sometimes called 7 layer dip, but you can have as many as you like. Just pick and choose the ones your family likes and add them. Sometimes I make a "full" version on 1/2 the pan and the "lesser" version for the pickier eaters on the other side.

In a glass 9x13 pan, layer the following:

Layer 1: 4 cups or 2 cans seasoned refried beans. Spread on the bottom of the pan. (2 cans makes this heartier, 1 can is just fine for less people.)
Layer 2: Mix together 8 oz sour cream, 8 oz cream cheese (softened) and 1 c. salsa. Spread over beans.
Layer 3: 2 cups guacamole or 3 sliced avocados (optional if kids are eating this). Spread over pink spread.
Layer 4: 1/2 lb ground beef, seasoned with taco seasoning and cooled.
Layer 5: 1 large tomato, chopped.
Layer 6: 1 green pepper, chopped.
Layer 7: 1 bunch green onions, chopped.
Layer 8: Shredded lettuce
Layer 9: 6 oz can of black olives, drained
Layer 10: 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese or crumbled queso fresco

Serve with tortilla chips and a veggie tray if desired.

Green Noodles aka Pesto Pasta

My friend Cheree shared this with me, and my kids loved it. Pesto is also delicious in panini.

2/3 cup packed coarsely chopped basil leaves or 2 T crushed dried basil leaves
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive
2 tablespoons walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic
10 oz cooked spaghetti or noodles (for GF, use Tinkyada brown rice noodles)
2 tablespoons butter

Place all ingredients except pasta and butter in blender container. Cover and blend on high speed until mixture is of uniform consistency. Cook spaghetti as directed on package; drain. Toss spaghetti with basil mixture and the margarine. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Whole Foods Jello

With lots of parties in the summertime, this is a refreshing kid-pleasing dish to bring. I jazzed up the recipe from the Knox box.

4 envelopes unflavored Knox Gelatine (or equivalent other gelatin, I don't know if there's something better)
4 c. cold fruit juice, divided
2 TBS agave nectar or honey, optional
2-3 cups frozen berries
1 c. whip cream
stevia
1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour 3 c. of the fruit juice in a pot and heat to boiling. Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1 c. cold juice in a 13x9 pan. Sprinkle the packets of gelatin over the juice and let it stand for a minute.
Add the boiling juice and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in agave nectar if desired. Add the frozen berries, or you can wait for an hour and add the berries when the jello has set a little, or you can add them at the end (but you'll want them to be thawed). Nice to have options for those of us who forget to add them.

Place the 13x9 pan in the refrigerator to cool. Let set for at least 3 hours. Right before serving, whip the cream. If desired, add vanilla and 1 or 2 tiny scoops of white stevia powder to the cream (I use stevia so the cream doesn't get runny.) This makes it taste more like cool whip for those uninitiated to eating unsweetened whip cream. Spread on top of jello. If you didn't add the fruit to the jello, spoon thawed berries on top of the whip cream. My daughter made a cute flag jello with blueberries & strawberries for the 4th of July that I should've taken a picture of!

Old Fashioned Popcorn

About a year ago, we lost a main part to our air popper. We tried out old-fashioned popcorn in a pot instead and boy is it good. We still don't have an air popper!

Large pot
Hot pads
Coconut oil
Popcorn kernels
Sea salt
Butter

In the bottom of a large pot, pour in about 1/4" to 1/2" coconut oil (of course you may not know how much you've got in there until it's melted.) Melt the oil on med-high. Once the oil is melted, add enough popcorn kernels to the oil is filled up with kernels (so most of the kernels are covered with oil.) Put the lid on, and let it warm up. Meanwhile, heat up some butter in a small pot on med-low. Amount of butter depends on your desire. When the first few kernels start popping, put your hot pads on and start shaking that pot over the heat. Keep shaking until popping has slowed way down.

Pour into a popcorn bowl, leaving unpopped kernels at the bottom (and there may be a few burned ones.) Drizzle melted butter and sprinkle sea salt in batches on top of the popcorn and stir as you go.

VARIATION: Make kettle corn by adding some agave syrup to taste to the butter mixture.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bircher Muesli

I often had muesli as a child, except we just ate commercial muesli with milk like a cold cereal. While that was good, it was hard to digest. A few months ago while on a cruise, I found that they had "real" soaked muesli in the breakfast buffet. How delicious it was! I've been meaning to give it a try since then, so here it is...

3 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. orange juice
1-1/2 c. raw milk
4 TBS sweetener (honey, agave or mixture)
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. raisins (golden raisins are typical for muesli, but you can use any kind, or you can substitute any other dried fruit such as dried apricots)
1/2 c. whip cream or milk
1 grated apple
chopped almonds or hazelnuts (soaked/dehydrated)
cinnamon and/or nutmeg
fresh fruit (berries, pineapple, grapes, bananas, etc)

In a bowl, mix oats, orange juice, milk, sweetener, yogurt, vanilla and raisins. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, whip the cream & grate the apple and fold into oat mixture. (If using milk instead of cream skip the whipping.) Scoop into individual bowls. Top with chopped almonds, dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg and lots of fresh fruits. Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pesto Panini

It's 100 degrees today, and the AC broke. We just had salad bar for dinner, so I had to find something else to make for dinner that didn't require much heat. These made everyone happy (except I did have to make some without onions...)

Sourdough bread
Pesto sauce (homemade or from Costco)
Lunch meat, nitrate free, chopped in small squares (or any other kind of meat, or omit)
Mozzarella cheese
Red onions, sliced
Olive oil

Preheat a sandwich grill or George Foreman grill. If you don't have one, you can google how to make panini with two skillets or a skillet and a brick.

Take two slices of sourdough bread. Using a pastry brush, brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil. That will be the outside of the sandwich. On the non-olive oil side, spread about 1 TBS pesto sauce. Sprinkle on some chopped lunch meat (I only used about 1/2 slice per sandwich), a bit of mozzarella and slices of red onions. Top the sandwich with the other slice of bread (olive oil on outside) and place in sandwich grill. Let cook until browned and crispy.

Serve with a big platter of veggies.

Fudgsicles

I had fudgsicles on my mind, so I googled for a healthy chocolate pudding recipe and I tried this out.

First make the pudding following these directions:
Chocolate Pudding

I used milk, but I'm sure coconut milk would be delicious too. I used 1/3 cup sweetener - 1/2 of it was agave syrup and 1/2 was sucanat. I also added in 1 TBS butter with the vanilla at the end to make it extra flavorful and rich. The pudding was delicious as is, but I still wanted fudgsicles! After cooling slightly, I poured it into popsicle molds and put it in the freezer. The next day the fudgsicles were done and delicious!

Breakfast Ideas

For years, we were stuck in the cold-cereal-n-milk rut. Now we seem to be stuck in the homemade yogurt with granola and fruit rut, but at least that's a little healthier and cheaper (if homemade). Here's a list of healthy breakfast ideas, to hopefully get us all out of a rut. For quick breakfasts, make your own in bulk before, freeze and toast or reheat at breakfast time.

Baked Goods
*Pancakes
*French toast
*Coconut french toast
*Muffins
*Waffles
*Biscuits
*Raisin bread/toast
*Homemade bread
*Baked french toast

Eggs
*Scrambled
*Fried
*Omelet
*Egg & Cheddar sandwich
*Egg in a hole
*Breakfast burrito
*Hard boiled eggs
*Hashbrown casserole

Hot & Cold Cereals
*Granola
*Granola bars
*Oatmeal
*Toasted steel cut oatmeal
*Hot brown rice cereal
*Wheat farina
*Millet or quinoa
*Muesli
*Baked oatmeal
*Rice pudding

Fruits & yogurt
*Fresh fruit
*Smoothies
*Yogurt parfait
*Yogurt & granola
*Fruit Salad
*Fruit muesli

Monday, June 30, 2008

Salad Bar

This is one of my family's all-time favorite meals, strangely enough! Everyone actually cheers when I say we are having salad bar for dinner (I still think that's wierd, but whatever... it's good for them!) Seems kind of obvious, but it's nice to have a list of options. Simple, but does take some chopping time so enlist the kid's help. Use what you have on hand, and occasionally try something new.

cut, washed, dried romaine lettuce
washed, dried spring mix
sprouts (any kind)
chopped tomatoes
chopped celery
thin peels of carrot
chopped radish
chopped fresh broccoli
chopped hard boiled eggs (although sometimes I leave some whole)
chopped red onions (or green onions)
chopped peppers (green or other colors)
thin sliced jicama
chopped cucumbers
pea pods (either thin ones, or chop the fatter ones)
sunflower seeds (soaked/dehydrated or sprouted)
chopped almonds (soaked/dehydrated)
leftover chopped meat (whatever you have, small amount is great - especially good if you have 1-2 pieces leftover from grilling)
shredded parmesan cheese or queso fresco
freshly ground pepper

Salad dressing options:
basic vinaigrette
ranch dressing

Set everything out buffet style and let everyone pick what they want. You can serve with fresh rolls or bread sticks, but we usually don't because it takes so much time just to chop it all up.

Chocolate Milk

I tried to come up with a healthy chocolate milk that was quick and easy and also didn't have cocoa chunks in it. I came up with this tasty version that the kids really enjoyed!

1 TBS cocoa powder (or cacao)
2 tsp agave nectar
1 c. milk (preferably raw milk)

Put the cocoa powder in the bottom of a 10-12 oz. cup. Pour in agave nectar, and stir to make a paste. Add a little milk. Stir until the paste is dissolved, then add the rest of the milk.

Variation: Make molasses milk. Pour a little milk in the cup. Add 1-2 tsp organic unrefined molasses, stir till mixed. Add the rest of the milk and stir.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Coconut Balls

I make these like I make peanut butter balls - just toss the ingredients in! You'll have to play with this recipe a bit to get it how you like it. Great way to get extra coconut oil into your diet, but make sure you keep 'em cold.

1 c. virgin unrefined organic coconut oil, softened
1/2 c. almond flour (preferably ground soaked dehdyrated almonds)
1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
1/8 c. agave nectar (or more as desired)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla

Extra shredded coconut

Mix it all together, adding more almond flour to make it less sticky. Roll into balls, then roll in shredded coconut. Or you can smash flat in a pan and cut after it's cold. Keep refrigerated. Sometimes I add currants or other chopped dried fruit.

Add 1 TBS cocoa powder to make a chocolate version (may need more sweetener.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Potato Babies

I have no idea why these are called potato babies, they just are. Great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes! 4 out or 5 kids give these 2 thumbs up. I never measure these either!

3 c. mashed potatoes
1 egg
garlic salt to taste
1/4 - 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

butter
whole wheat flour or arrowroot powder

Mix first four ingredients together. If too sticky, add a little flour or arrowroot to the mix (but you don't want it to be so dry like playdough.) Sprinkle flour on the counter. Scoop out a large spoonful of potato mixture and plop it on the flour. Mash into a potato patty. Melt butter in a large skillet and then fry the potato babies up. Should be golden brown on each side, sometimes I'll add more butter to the other side before I flip them. Serve with ketchup.

Peanut Butter Balls

Kids love peanut butter balls, and they're great for a quick snack or pick-me-up. I never measure when I make these, I just dump it in and when it's the right texture and tastes good they're done. I put approximate measures for you to start out with.

1 c. organic peanut butter
1/4 c. honey (or agave syrup)
3/4 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 c. currants (or raisins)
1/8 c. - 1/4 c. ground flax seed
1/4/ c. coconut milk powder (or arrowroot powder)

Mix the first two ingredients together, then add anything else in you want. The coconut milk powder is added last and is to make the mixture into a playdough texture rather than sticky. If you don't have coconut milk powder, use arrowroot powder instead. Roll into balls and store in the fridge. Or you can just flatten in a pan and cut into squares later after refrigerating.

Other things to add in:
Dried apple fiber powder
Chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, peanuts, etc)
Any other chopped dried fruits
Sprouted sunflower seeds
etc....

Make carob or cocoa peanut butter balls by adding 1-2 TBS of carob or cocoa powder to the mix before you add the coconut milk powder.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ranch Dressing Mix

My two year old loves ranch so much she'll just dip her whole hand in if I'm not watching! Make this healthier version.

2 TBS dried parsley flakes
1 TBS dried minced onions
2-1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dill weed
1-1/2 tsp sea salt

Combine all and store in a mason jar. To make dressing you will need a salad dressing holder that can hold 16 oz or a quart jar. Pour in 1 c. buttermilk, then 1 c. good quality mayonnaise and then 1 TBS mix. Shake well. I haven't found a good quality mayo that I really like and I don't have a good source of eggs to make my own, so in the meantime I've been using Hain's Safflower mayo which doesn't have a strong taste and is better than Kraft.

Berry Green Smoothie

It took me almost a year to work up the nerve to make a green smoothie and try it. And then I wondered why I waited so long. The whole family loves these. You need a powerful blender like a vitamix or blendtec otherwise you won't be too happy with the results. This is my basic mix in a 6 cup blender. Measurements are VERY approximate as I usually just toss stuff in.

1/2 frozen banana
1 c. frozen berry mix (I get triple berries from Costco)
4-5 frozen strawberries
1 whole peeled orange
1/4 lemon (washed, with peel on)
4-6 c. washed greens (about 1/2 the pitcher full)
2-3 TBS coconut oil
2 TBS flax seed
2-3 cups water as needed

Put it all in and blend it up! Number 4 on the Blendtec. About greens: start with spinach as it'll be the most mild. Kale and chard are good too, but romaine lettuce is decidely NOT good. I've tried the spring mix from Costco (removing the bitter endive) and sometimes it's good, but last time it was horrible, so that's kind of more of a wildcard. Put more frozen berries in when you first start out to get a deep purple color and it will look more appetizing.

Try different fruits after a while, and your family won't even care if it's a pukey green color because they know it'll taste good. I make two pitchers full for our family of 7.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Quick Easy Healthy Snack Ideas

The kids are always hungry right? So here are some quick easy healthy snack ideas! Interestingly, until I stopped buying snack foods such as pretzels, crackers and other munchies, I could never get them to eat much of these healthy snacks, mainly because it was too easy to pull out the processed snacks from the cupboard! The Keep It Simple, Stupid principle sure helps out here, most of the snacks are very simple, and on occasion we'll make something that takes extra prep time for a snack. It's all gluten free except for a few of the homemade goods.

Fresh Fruits
Apples (get an apple slicer, very convenient)
Cinnamon Apples
Pears
Kiwis
Bananas
Oranges
Grapes
Pineapple
Watermelon
Canteloupe
Peaches, Nectarines
Berries

Frozen Fruits
Berries, any kind (eat frozen or thaw)
Grapes
Peaches

Dried Fruits (unsulphured, no sugar added)
Apricots
Apples
Bananas
Raisins
Currants
Cherries
Pineapple
Papaya
Fruit leather
Figs
Prunes

Fancier Fruits (slightly more prep)
Raw applesauce (or any other fruit sauce)
Fruit salad (mix any combination with whip cream, yogurt or nothing)
Fruit parfait (layer fruits with whip cream or yogurt, top with granola)
Popsicles
Fruit Smoothies
Green Smoothies

Vegetables
Celery
Carrots
Cucumbers
Frozen corn
Snap peas
Avocados
Broccoli
Jicama
Peppers (red, green, yellow, try them all!)
Sprouts (sunflower, alfalfa, etc)
Pickles (fermented with salt rather than vinegar, refrigerated like Bubbie's pickles)

Fancier Veggies
Bugs on a log (celery sticks spread with peanut or almond butter, topped with currants or raisins)
Muffin tin veggie tray (get a muffin tin, and put different cut veggies in each tin along with dipping sauce)

Dips
Hummus
Yogurt dip
Peanut butter dip
Cream cheese dip
Spinach dip
black bean dip
Refried bean dip

Dairy
Yogurt
Kefir
Cheese sticks, cubes (cultured cheese)

Seeds & Nuts (sprout or soak/dehydrate for better digestability)
Almonds
Sunflower seeds
Walnuts
Pecans
Trail mix
Popcorn (Just pop this, of course)

Homemade Snacks
Granola bars
Muffins
Breads
Peanut butter balls
Coconut balls
Homemade crackers
Homemade corn or sprouted wheat tortillas
Leftover pancakes or waffles

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Berry-Rhubarb Pudding

Last year almost everyone in the family insisted they hated rhubarb. So I tried out a new recipe this year, and of the 6 of us that ate it, we all liked it. This is pretty approximate, you've got a lot of wiggle room on the measurements here:

2 c. washed, chopped rhubarb (dark red part of stalk)
1 c. water
1 c. frozen berries (any kind, I used triple berry mix from Costco)
2 TBS OJ concentrate
1/4 c. sucanat
3 TBS arrowroot powder (can use cornstarch, but arrowroot is much healthier)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c. agave nectar

Put the rhubarb and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer about 4-5 minutes or until soft. Add the berries, OJ concentrate and sucanat, simmer 2-3 minutes more until berries are soft. Mix the arrowroot powder with a little water in a cup, stir until dissolved. Slowly pour into pudding while stirring so that it thickens. When thick, remove from heat. Add agave & vanilla and stir.

Serve this warm as-is, or you could serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. You could even make a crumble topping to serve this with too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Natural Sweeteners

There is a lot of information about natural sweeteners out there, how do you know what is best? This is what I've learned, and these are the sweeteners I use the most. Always try to buy the best quality that you can, I've found that Wholesome Sweeteners brand is probably the best generally available brand out there for many of these.

Raw Honey - Has many health & healing benefits, including digestive enzymes. If you buy local honey, it can have a homeopathic effect in helping to reduce allergies (meaning you're eating little bits of what you're allergic to and calms the allergy.) If you find a local source, it's reasonably priced in bulk. It tastes good, but you also have adjust your recipe (adding in more dry ingredients) when using it in baking. And it can make some things taste too much like honey.

Sucanat - Sucanat is unrefined dried cane sugar juice, and stands for SUgar CAne NATural. The molasses has not been removed like in regular table sugar. It has less sucrose than white sugar. It has a definite molasses taste and can easily be substituted for brown sugar in recipes. However, if you don't want your finished product to taste like molasses, then don't substitute directly for sugar. It is not cheap, which is good because then you can limit it's use as it should be. Be sure to buy good quality sucanat, as some is simply regular sugar with molasses added back in. I buy Wholesome Sweeteners brand, and it costs about $2-$3 per pound at the health food store, or if you buy it in bulk it's about $75 for a 50lb bag which lasts our family of 7 the whole year.

Stevia - Stevia hasn't been approved by the FDA as a food, but as a dietary sweetener. It's an herb that's derived from a plant grown in South America, where it's been used for 1500 years. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but it is very low on the glycemic index, which means it doesn't spike your blood sugar and is perfect for diabetics. There are varying qualities on this product too, of course. You can purchase the green leaf which is less refined, but quite frankly tastes rather terrible (perhaps I got some poor quality stevia or something, but it makes your food taste like sweet herbs). I much prefer the white powder, and I purchase Sweet Leaf Stevia Extract for about $9 for 1 oz, which sounds incredibly expensive, but it goes a loooong way. It can leave an aftertaste, so I sometimes use a little of another natural sweetener to counteract that. It is much better to add to foods already cooked or raw such as fruit shakes, puddings, yogurt, etc rather than to try to bake with stevia.

Agave Nectar - One of the newest sweeteners to appear on the health food scene, it's best features are low glycemic index and a very mild taste! Moderately pricey at $35 a gallon, but worth it. It's 3 times sweeter than sugar. Agave nectar comes from agave plants, mainly grown in mexico. Interestingly, tequila is made from agave plants too (although I don't recommend using tequila!)

Maple Syrup - Buy real maple syrup, not flavored maple syrup like Mrs. Butterworth's. Grade A is what you'll find in most stores, but grade B has more nutrition. Grade A is more highly filtered, thus removing many of the valuable minerals. Organic maple syrup is preferable because they don't use formaldahyde in the processing. Maple syrup isn't cheap, 1/2 gallon of grade A syrup costs $18 - $20 at Costco (sometimes they even have organic), and grade B can cost upwards of $40-$50 for 1/2 gallon.

Molasses - Buy organic unrefined blackstrap molasses for best nutrition (great source of b vitamins and iron.) I like the taste of the molasses from Wholesome Sweeteners the best.

Real Vanilla Extract - while not a sweetener, you can often cut back on adding other sweeteners simply by adding vanilla!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Potato Cheddar Broccoli Soup

Some of the kids will eat it, some won't, but dad & mom sure liked it!

2 TBS butter
1 onion, diced (or puree in blender)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, diced (or 5-6 mini peppers)
2 TBS flour
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. chopped fresh broccoli (or use frozen)
8-10 small red potatoes (or 2-3 large), diced with skins on (1/2" chunks)
1 c. grated cheddar
1/2 c. cream or milk (optional)

Melt butter in large pot, add onions and garlic and saute. I always puree my onions in soup because some of the kids do not like onion chunks. Add chopped peppers and saute until soft about 5 min.

Meanwhile mix flour with spices. Add to sauteed onions and cook for a minute. Slowly add chicken broth . Bring to a boil and then add potato chunks. Boil for 15 minutes or so. Add chopped broccoli (small pieces, including stem). Boil 10 minutes more until both broccoli &
potatoes are soft.

Using a hand blender, blend soup till smooth. Or process in small batches in the blender to make smooth (blend about 2 cups at a time, pour back into pot, and repeat.) Add cheese and cream as desired.

Can start in the morning in a crockpot if desired, just add cheese/cream at the end.

The Way We Eat

I thought I ought to make an explanatory post of the types of recipes you'll find here and why.

I grew up with a mother who was always very interested in nutrition (so much so that she owns a health food store), so naturally I thought it was all kind of crazy. But darn it, Mom was right. Fast forward some years...

My second child was an extremely picky eater who constantly was getting rashes, headaches and stomachaches, extreme mood swings among other symptoms. The allergist found no "allergies" but told us to try a rotation diet to see if we could narrow it down, as it was clear that food was causing her problems. Sure enough, we tracked symptoms being caused by 10-12 very common foods, and that was simply the ones we could figure out. She couldn't be allergic to everything, could she? We tried to avoid those foods that gave her the biggest problems, and she was feeling mostly ok for a while. But then came the summer when she was basically sick in bed feeling miserable with a headache, stomachache and she was covered from head to toe with hives for six weeks. With lots of prayer, we happened to hear about celiac disease and decided to get her tested. She didn't end up having celiac disease, but we did put her on a gluten free diet. What an amazing difference it has made in her life. After four years of being gluten free (she's now 12), she's healthy, no longer a picky eater and doesn't even remember what she used to feel like.

Through all this, I explored many different areas of nutrition. There are so many different ways of eating, that I finally just decided that the best way for us to try to eat would be to eat as much as we could that was not processed. So I had to learn to cook everything from scratch. We do still eat a few convenience foods, but we try hard to avoid additives as much as possible. Nourishing Traditions was an excellent eye-opener on preparing foods to be enzyme-enhanced to promote digestion, as was learning to eat more raw foods. The whole family (7.5 of us) does not eat gluten free, but we eat gluten free foods much more than we ever used to. And when we do eat gluten, we try to eat it soaked or sprouted, but with this many kids that doesn't always happen.

I recently came across a quote by Ezra Taft Benson where he said, "In general, the more food we eat in its natural state and the less it is refined without additives, the healthier it will be for us." (Ensign, Nov. 1974 "Do Not Despair") Pretty much confirms my eating beliefs!

Coconut Granola

Perfect to eat with milk, homemade yogurt or just plain. I make this huge batch probably 2-3 times a month.

16 c. oats
6 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 c. freshly ground flax seed
3 c. chopped nuts (I love pecans in this, but you can use almonds, walnuts, whatever)
5 TBS cinnamon

Mix the above ingredients together in a large bowl.

1-1/2 c. coconut oil (organic unrefined)
1 c. honey
1 c. maple syrup (or do 1/2 c. blackstrap molasses and 1/2 c. maple syrup)
2 tsp vanilla

Heat the oil & sweeteners on low on the stove just until melted. Add vanilla flavoring. Pour liquid into large bowl and stir until it's all mixed in.

Line a large turkey roasting pan with parchment paper and dump the granola in. (Or you can bake it in shifts on jelly roll sheets, but it will fill about 4-5 trays.)

Bake at 250 degrees, stirring every 1/2 hour. Takes 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours to get crunchy in such a large pan.

Can add sprouted sunflower seeds when serving for live sprouts (soak 1 c. raw sunflower seeds in filtered water in a jar overnight.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sweet Chex (or Popcorn) Mix

While I don't normally buy cold cereal, our daughter needed a healthier gluten free alternative to the sweet chex mix they were serving at girl's camp, so we made this tasty and healthier version:

3 C. corn or rice chex (GF) (Popcorn would be a great subsitute)
1 c. rolled oats
1 c. coarsely chopped nuts (almonds or pecans are great)
1 c. coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. butter
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. sucanat

Combine cereal, oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. In small saucepan, combine butter, honey and sucanat. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until butter is melted. Pour over cereal mix and stir until well coated. Spread evenly into a 15x10 jelly roll pan.

Bake 20 -25 minutes in 250 degree oven until golden brown. Stir every 5-10 minutes. Spread onto wax paper to cool. Store in tightly covered container. Makes about 6-7 cups.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Honey BBQ Sauce

Really tasty on grilled chicken.

3 TBS butter
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1 TBS dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 TBS worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. honey
dash of chili powder

Blend the onion and garlic cloves with a little water in a food processor or blender (we like it smooth.) Saute in butter until soft. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes if you're in a hurry, or longer if not. Allow to cool. Keeps in fridge for several months.

Peach Cobbler

Oh so good when it's warm and served with vanilla ice cream!

1/2 c. butter (or 1/4 c. coconut oil & 1/4 c. butter)

4-6 sliced frozen peaches, thawed
1/4 c. honey
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 - 1/2 tbs arrowroot powder
1/2 c. water

1 c. milk
3/4 c. sucanat
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour (for gluten free, substitute 3/4 c. GF flour mix)
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1/2 c. (cube) of butter in 9x13 pan and put in oven to melt the butter. Do not burn!

In a large bowl, combine peaches, cinnamon & nutmeg. In water, dissolve arrowroot powder and add honey. Add to peaches, stir. Add more honey if needed. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth. Pour batter over melted butter. Spoon peaches over batter.

Bake for 40 minutes until done.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hearty Cowboy Pasta

Purdy darn tasty, pardner.

1/2 lb ground beef, browned (or can do 1 lb for meatier pasta)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 c. salsa
1 tsp dried basil
green chiles or pepper flakes or chili powder to taste
3 TBS worcestershire sauce
1 box (1 lb?) pasta, preferably whole grain or brown rice pasta (GF)
Grated cheese (optional)

Prepare noodles according to package directions until firm. Meanwhile, brown the beef in a pot. Add onion & garlic and saute until clear. Add tomatoes, salsa, basil, chili, and worcestershire sauce, mix well. When pasta is done, drain. Add meat sauce. Pour into 9x13 pan. Cover with grated cheese if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until cheese (or casserole) is hot and bubbly.

Cinnamon Apples

I get asked about this one a lot, mainly because people have no idea what we're eating! Great snack to go.

Apple
Cinnamon


Wash and/or peel apple. Slice it. Put in a bag. Sprinkle cinnamon in bag. Shake until apple slices are covered with cinnamon. The kids never know if the apples are brown!

Garlic Salt

Probably kind of obvious, but I always forget...

3 parts Real Salt
1 part garlic powder

Mix it up!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

I've been making homemade yogurt for about 4 or 5 years now, first for health reasons, now for taste & cost reasons too. I get asked a lot how to make yogurt! I messed up about 75% of my first 20 batches, but I think I've got it down now. No fancy equipment needed, just a food thermometer. Start small when you first try it.

1 gallon milk
4 TBS plain commercial yogurt (I love brown cow cream top)
Large pot
Thermometer
Whisk
Ladle
5 Quart jars
Small Cooler
Towel (optional)

These pictures were invaluable for helping me learn to make yogurt. My directions are below, because I don't do what they say to on the site because they are making a special yogurt for really extreme digestive issues.
They let it ferment for 24 hours, which makes very tart yogurt (but full of good bacteria.) 4-6 hours of fermentation is plenty for most people.

Make sure everything is clean, if you've got contaminants it can prevent the yogurt from setting up.

Instructions: (Number correlate to pictures):
1. Same as in picture, but I use 1 gallon full fat raw milk when I can get it, or bgH free when I can't. Whole fat milk makes much creamier yogurt. Turn burner onto med-low temperature. (On my burner it goes from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. I put it at about a 3 or 4.)

2. Do not bring it to a boil. Set the timer for 10 minutes, then whisk the milk well when it beeps. Continue to set the timer for every 5-10 minutes and whisking until the milk starts getting warmer (around 140-150.) Now set the timer for every 3-5 minutes and whisk every five. This helps keep the milk homogenized and from burning on the bottom. Heat it to 180 degrees (not 212). I put my whisk on a clean plate to keep it and the counter clean. This will take a while
(maybe 45 minutes?) so I usually do something else in the kitchen in the meantime. If a skin starts to form, I just whisk it back in. You can skim it off, but if you're whisking every few minutes, the skin won't form much. If I'm in a hurry, I will turn the stove up to a 6 or 7, and stir starting at every 5 minutes. This way only takes 15-20 minutes, but you're more likely to burn the milk. Note that smaller amounts of milk will heat faster!

3. Fill sink with ice water about 4" deep. Put pot in ice water. If you're careful, you don't need to cover the pot, and it will cool faster. I occasionally check the temperature. This goes a lot faster than you'd think. It takes around 5-10 minutes, I think.

4. Cool to around 110 to 115 degrees, not 100. In a glass jar, put 4 tablespoons of brown cow cream top plain yogurt. I've had the best results with this brand, but any kind will do. You can even use flavored yogurt in a pinch, but it'll give all your homemade yogurt a faint flavor. Using a clean ladle, scoop out some milk and put in glass jar with the yogurt. Put the top on and shake until smooth. Pour it back into the pot and whisk well.

5. You can ferment the yogurt right in the pot, but I usually need my pot before the yogurt is done. So I pour it into 5 quart jars (it'll fill about 4 -1/2 jars.) I used to have the same heating pad as in the picture and medium works well for me too. At least until I plugged it in and it exploded. Apparently new heating pads often have an auto shut-off feature which isn't such a feature for making yogurt! Yes, I bought a new one, and it didn't work out too well because it did turn off. Now I just put the quart jars into a small cooler. If you don't have a small cooler that will fit the jars, you can put it in a large cooler, but just tuck in a towel all around the jars.

When I first made yogurt this way, I periodically checked the yogurt's temp to make sure it was at 110. Now I just leave it and don't worry about it. I leave the yogurt for about 5-6 hours. If you forget the yogurt, it's ok, you can still use it up to 24-26 hours, but it'll just be more tart. When the yogurt is done, put it in the fridge for 4 to 8 hours. Don't disturb it till it's done, because it's still fermenting and setting up.

6. You can eat it at this point. Or strain the whey as described in the picture. Use the whey as an acid to soaking water for beans, or add it to baking or smoothies for extra nutrition.

Other tips:
I freeze my plain yogurt in ice cube trays. Each ice cube is about 1TBS, so when you want to make yogurt, take out the cubes when you start making the yogurt. It's 1 TBS per quart you want. If it's not thawing fast enough, place in a glass jar w/lid in hot water. I don't usually start new batches with my homemade yogurt because it gets runnier each time you do.

Homemade yogurt IS runnier than store-bought yogurt. Don't compare the two, as they are really two different foods!

I sweeten with stevia, honey, maple syrup, agave, or sucanat. I've found that it takes just about 1/2 tsp of white stevia powder to sweeten the whole gallon. However, you want to start by adding small amounts until you get the sweetness you want.

My favorite way to sweeten yogurt - I add about 1-2 TBS sucanat, 1 tsp vanilla, and 4 scoops of white stevia powder to 1 quart of yogurt and stir it up. Wait five minutes and stir again so the sucanat is dissolved.

Sometimes we make "pie filling" to add - just mix berries or fruits with water in a pot. In a glass jar, mix about 1TBS arrowroot powder and 2 TBS water (shake). Add to fruit/water and cook till boiled. Cool before adding to yogurt. We also bought some plastic freezer jam containers and I put yogurt in those for individual serving sizes. You can put the pie filling on the bottom of the container for "Fruit on the bottom" style.

Favorite uses: smoothies, popsicles, yogurt with granola and berries (parfaits, or just dump it all together), use in baking for moist baked goods, in place of sour cream, and so on.

For an extra friendly bacteria, mix half and half with kefir. I purchase kefir at the store, and mix it into sweetened yogurt. I've tried making kefir, and it was not good. Someday I'll learn!

Our family of 7 eats 2 gallons a month. They'd probably even eat more than that, but that's all I make.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Really good with a glass of milk, and gluten-free too!

1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1 cup sucanat
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix first five ingredients in a bowl. Place on the baking sheet by the tablespoon. Bake 12 -14 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Optional add ins: 1 c. chocolate chips, 1/2 to 1 c. oats or granola, 1/4 c. coconut, etc.

Mexican Rice Bowls

Fast quick and delicious...

butter
Leftover cooked brown rice
Pinto beans (in a can or leftover)
garlic salt
cumin
onions
peppers
lime

In a pan, melt some butter (1-3 TBS depending on how much rice). Add leftover rice and beans, so it's about a 1:3 ratio (beans to rice.) Saute it in the butter, and sprinkle on garlic salt and cumin to taste. My kids love this for lunch, and sometimes we serve with healthier corn tortilla chips (or homemade ones.) For more gourmet tastes, saute' onions and peppers and serve on top of the rice bowl with a twist of lime. Can also add queso fresco cheese, grated cheddar cheese, and/or salsa.

Toasted Steel Cut Oatmeal

Takes a little longer than rolled oats, but mmmmm... it's good. Adapted from an Alton Brown recipe.

2 TBS butter
2 cups steel cut oats
6 cups boiling water
1-1/2 c. milk, whole preferred
1/2 c. buttermilk (or add an additional 1/2 c. milk)

Heat 6 c. water in a pot. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a different large pot. Add steel cut oats and saute' until lightly browned (about 2-3 minutes). Pour the boiling water into the large pot with the oats. Reduce heat to a simmer, and let simmer for 25 minutes. Add the milk & buttermilk to the pot and gently stir. Let simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve with cinnamon and honey or maple syrup. Can add raisins if desired.

8 servings.

Optionally: (Haven't yet tried this) To improve digestability, toast the oats the night before. Add the water and 1/4 c. buttermilk and let it soak overnight. In the morning, turn the stove on and bring to a boil. You'll probably have to add some more water, but it should cook faster.