Friday, January 30, 2009

Hearty Fiesta Chili

I was at Sprouts the other day and walked by the meat section, just browsing, longing for some organic grass fed beef. When there is was, Sommers Organic Grass Fed discounted to 2.99 per lb. Manager’s Special (I’m sure the sell by date only being a day away had something to do with it). So I came right home to make the manliest man soup (Second only to beef stew). Seriously, there are not many soups that my husband will consider a full meal. This soup is so hearty and filling. I use anasazi beans because I like the texture and they are less gassy. You can use what ever beans you have on hand. Also might I suggest Muir Glen tomatoes, they are the best canned tomatoes out there, look for them on sale for they can be spendy. My favorite chili powder is made by Frontier Seasonings, it is called “fiesta chili powder” (sounds great, right?) I had tons of peppers on hand this week (Remember 6 for $1?) so I used (lots of) fresh peppers instead of the canned chilies, but I am leaving the recipe as my original because it makes this a great pantry recipe for when my fridge is slim pickin’s. The vinegar is to brighten the tomato flavor, they loose some of their acidity sitting in a can which leads them to tasting tin-y. Oh yeah, and the Kamut can be substituted for the grain of your choice (rice, spelt, wheat, barley) or leave it out. I like my chili served with grated cheese and a big piece of cornbread. Although it has never won our Ward's Chili Cook Off that is held every Halloween, I think it is award worthy. At any rate, I'm sure glad the cold weather is back so that I can enjoy some more soup! BTW my mom won a chili cook off so I have potential.

2 cups anasazi beans
1 cup Kamut
6 cups beef stock
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
8 oz. green chilies, diced (canned or fresh)
2 tablespoons. Worcestershire sauce
3 cups crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 cup frozen corn
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pressure beans, kamut and stock on high pressure for 30 minutes or simmer for 2 hours. Brown beef, add onions, chilies, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar. Quick release pressure on beans. Add beef mixture, tomatoes and chili powder. Pressure again on high for 10 minutes, natural release. Add corn and salt to taste. Stir in vinegar and if you like a more brothy chili add water.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Health is More Than Just Food

My main focus here is nutrition, but enjoying good health has more to it than just food. Exercise is so important to maintain health, strength and avoid injuries that can lead to surgery, pain medicines and less exercise. Another side of enjoying good health is avoiding chemicals. Chemicals leach into food from poorly processed plastics, some metals and synthetic non stick coatings on pot and pans.

Chemicals also abound in cleaners from Windex to laundry detergent, bleach to hand soap. How many of you have started to feel nauseous, dizzy or a headache while breathing in fumes while cleaning? These fumes seep through their containers and contaminate the air in our homes. Think you are protecting your child from icky germs by wiping down his highchair with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes? Think again.

Next to cleaners, I am disgusted with the way doctors are trained to use chemicals disguised as medicine to treat every ailment known to man. There are so many natural remedies that are effective without the negative short term and long term side effects. The Enlightened Homemaker is an amazing blog that is dedicated to health as a whole. It’s author, Shari has such passions along the same lines as me. She is an advocate for everything good for you and shares tips, ideas and recipes that she has picked up through the years of raising her family.

While I am going to continue to focus on nutrition, I reserve the right to rant on anything in the nature of health.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Red Pepper Hummus

Hummus is a great dip and spread. It is made of healthy ingredients, not the common sour cream, processed cheeses, sugars and mayonnaise that make up most veggie dips and cracker spreads. Costco has a delicious hummus, but even though it advertises “all natural” on the front of it’s label, it is loaded with preservatives. Iwill use it when time for food preparation is low, but the rest of the time we enjoy this from scratch version. I love to play around with the flavors. Use fresh garlic (not the old stuff that is starting to sprout, which is bitter) the more the garlic is roasted the more mellow the flavor. Raw garlic will give the hummus a really sharp flavor. If you like a sweeter spread, add a bit of honey. If you like more sesame seed flavor, add a teaspoon of dark sesame oil. Some people like more lemon juice or even some zest and some prefer garlic powder to fresh garlic. For a plain hummus, leave out the peppers or get creative and add things like jalapeno, cilantro, pine nuts, olives, sundried tomatoes, basil or just extra garlic.

15 ounce can garbanzo beans
½ cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
2 cloves garlic, toasted or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
14 ounce jar roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in vita mix or food processor and puree until smooth. Refrigerate to thicken. Serve sprinkled with olive oil and paprika. Serve with vegetables, pita chips, crackers or pita bread.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Whole Wheat Pita Pockets

Like tortillas, homemade pita’s are significantly superior to store bought. So tender and light, even whole wheat. Freshness is the key, for breads such as these decrease in quality quickly. The real treat is when they are still warm from the pan. I used to make these in the oven, but found that was unnecessary, a hot pan works even better. The trick is not to roll them too thin, which causes the steam to release and not form the air bubble that leaves a pocket.

2 cups hot water
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups sprouted  flour
2 tablespoons yeast

In bosch bowl with dough hook place water, sugar, salt, and 3 cups flour with the yeast on top of the flour. Mix on low and slowly add remaining flour just until the dough pulls together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead 8 minutes. Divide dough into 4 ounce portions. Roll out to almost 1/2 inch thickness. Let rise for 15 minutes. Cook on a preheated cast iron skillet or other heavy bottom pan that retains heat on medium high. Flip every 30 seconds until both sides are brown, bread should puff up like a balloon while cooking. Cut each round in half, fill pocket with filling of choice like falafel or dip in hummus, baba ganouj or your favorite spinach and artichoke dip.
links; Whole Foods for the Holiday's

Monday, January 26, 2009


I love doing this blog because it motivates me to get the recipes floating around in my head down in black and white. Often times we have a great meal and when I go to recreate it it’s not so good. After a couple of failed attempts it becomes lost forever. This creation has been in the back of my head for a while and today I brought it to life.

We had a Café Rio buy one get one free card with unlimited usage for 2008, so we ate there A LOT. Our whole family could have a great meal for about 8 bucks. I did however, get “Café Rio Salad burn-out.” As I started trying different things I came across the Friday special, Fideo – a Mexican pasta. It was good for something different, but there was room for improvement. We haven’t been back since the card expired but this recipe has been brewing.

What’s for lunch? Jarom has Monday’s off which means instead of grazing on vegetables throughout the afternoon, I need to make something substantial. I had leftover carne asada in the fridge from Saturday night’s fajitas. This is another Costco secret. It is called Bill Bailey’s Carne Asada and comes with all the seasoning already on the meat. So you just slice it in strips and it cooks in 3 minutes. Jarom’s friend Jackson has been making this for get-togethers, we always go home talking about how we gorged ourselves on it. Jarom finally got the dish at the Christmas party, that’s one food men can talk and talk about – MEAT. While Jackson grilled his meat which is VERY manly, I prefer to slice it first so as not to burn my delicate hands on hot meat which means I pan fry. I’m also stocked up on vegetables, who can pass up the deals at Superstition Ranch market? 6 for $1 bell peppers! So my fideo recreation was a hit and I have it recorded so we can have it again in the future!

1 lb. brown rice thin spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
14 oz can diced tomatoes
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (reserve some for garnish if desired)
1/2 lb. carne asada
3 cups Colby jack cheese, shredded
1-2 avocados, diced as garnish
Sour cream as garnish

Boil pasta to al dente, be sure to salt the water (1 tablespoon is good). Drain and set aside. Heat a large fry pan to medium, sautee onions, peppers and carrots 5 minutes. Add salt, garlic, cumin and tomatoes. Transfer to pot with pasta, toss with cilantro and dump into baking dish (2 -9 inch pie dishes). Turn up heat to high and cook 3 minutes, turning the meat for even browning and separating the strips. Arrange meat on top of pasta and cover with cheese. Broil 5 minutes on medium until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Top with garnishes and serve.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Super Wrap

I am always disappointed by the wraps I have had at the many sandwich shops around here. Poor quality ingredients that yield a dry, tasteless, less than healthy snack. After having Roxwell my visiting teacher, Sara, brought us these fabulous wraps to satisfy our appetites. Boy, did they ever! So I called her right up and got the dish so I could replicate. There are these fun flat breads at Costco, hiding by the tortillas called “Flat Out.”

We just spread on some hummus (roasted red pepper), pile on a good heap of spinach, line with tomatoes, onions, peppers, avocado, cheese, chicken, tuna, ham, turkey, bacon…whatever you have on hand. Maybe a little mustard and there you have it, a big package of yum-ness. I wrap the kids’ in foil and have them tear it off as they go to prevent a messy fall-apart. I am not a big fan of cold cuts (ya know UBER processed) I try to stick with the real stuff – most of the time.

Jarom has also used them to make a quick pizza with just sauce and cheese melted in the toaster oven. He says it’s good.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

This is an easy go-to meal, I always have all the ingredients on hand (except for the fresh parsley which is easily left out.) So tasty. It makes a BIG dish, but you will be surprised how much gets eaten – I always am. This is one of my food storage meals. I keep freeze dried potatoes, onion, celery, carrots and peas in storage. I also have loads of canned chicken and of coarse all the baking supplies plus dried buttermilk powder. That reminds me, I need to can butter…still looking for a good sale on that. The biscuit topping could be replaced with regular pie crust, I just happen to enjoy the biscuits more. Use this recipe with your thanksgiving leftovers. Turkey pot pie is killer!

Biscuit Topping
2 cups sprouted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut
¾ cup kefir or buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter. Stir in kefir until dough forms. Form ball and roll out to ½ inch. Cut rounds (or what ever shape you want. Arrange over warm pie filling or bake on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Note: If leftovers are foreseen or desired, bake biscuits separately to prevent them from getting soggy during refrigeration storage.

1 lb. chicken
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
3 large carrots, sliced or julienned
2 celery ribs, chopped
Salt and pepper
½ cup flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons herbs de provence
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Pressure the chicken and potatoes in chicken broth, 5 minutes, or pull meat from a rotisserie chicken. Reserve the stock. Sauté onion, carrots and celery in oil, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add milk, stock, chicken, potatoes and herbs. Stir until smooth and thickened. Add peas and parsley. Taste for salt. Pour into 9x13 pan or divide among smaller pans. Top with biscuit topping or pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes (large pan).
links; Whole Foods for the Holidays

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In the Season Thereof

It’s no secret I love fresh produce. I will stand at a grocery display of green beans picking out the best of the pile one by one. I don’t buy something just because it is on my list. Here is some of my criteria:

1. smells good
2. firm, no bruising
3. heavy for size
4. good color, no browning
5. crisp, not wilted or wrinkled

I make a grocery list and go shopping with a few meal ideas in mind, but I do not hold myself to them. I roam the produce section and build new meal ideas on what is looking particularly pleasing. Good news is these beauties are most often the items on sale and on display with loads to choose from.

Have you ever noticed when you grow your own produce how long it lasts before it goes bad? A far cry from supermarket specimens that sometimes only have a few days left. I love watching my garden grow and enjoying the crop. Though it is not cost efficient, hard work and time consuming, it is also very gratifying to the deepest part of my soul. This time of year we love to enjoy the abundance of citrus and pecans that fall from Jarom’s grandparent’s trees. My body seems to crave them everyday. Yesterday we planted our own wee little orange tree. We also have a peach tree growing in my garden that grew from a peach pit that got mixed in the compost. So we are looking forward to 10 years from now : )For now I will get the soil ready to plant, pick oranges and pecans at grandpas and leave the watermelon to rot at the store…for now.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I love this stuff, restaurants never give you enough and put so many fillers in it that it tastes mostly like salsa. On a salad, taco or served with chips, I wanna lot of guac! Choosing an avocado is hit and miss sometimes. You can never tell if the center is going to be black or grossly stringy. Unless they are on sale for very cheap (check Fresh and Easy and Superstition Ranch Markets) I just splurge at Costco because if they are yucky, I just put the cut open fruits in a Ziploc and return them for a full refund, no problem.

One thing I wanted to share through posting this recipe is that you don’t always have to go all out all the time, reserve the right to simplify. Sometimes time is of the essence, you need to get a meal out fast or only have a short window to dedicate to meal preparation. Maybe you are short on ingredients, most recipes suffer very little when you leave something out or don’t have as much as is called for. Simple substitutions are allowed too. This time of year I use lemon juice for lime juice, they are so abundant and free that it is not worth keeping limes on hand for their particular pucker. Same goes for fresh herbs, if I have them on hand I find ways to incorporate them, but when they are out of season I use dried or leave them out completely. Most of my recipes have grains in them and can be easily switched out for other grains or left out completely : ( I also try to cram as many vegetables as I can into my casseroles, so if you have to leave a few out, the dish will not be a flop. But do make sure you have an avacado...

2 medium avocadoes
1 small clove garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lime juice

Dressed up
2 medium avocadoes
1 small clove garlic
½`teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1 tomato, chopped
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Harvest Butternut Squash Soup

We are in the heart of soup season. I love getting 3 servings of veggies in one delicious warm-you-up meal. This one is so sweet and creamy, Brik calls it pumpkin pie and prefers it cold, I like to dip focaccia bread in it. This soup also freezes well, so make a double batch for a heat and go meal in the future.

3 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 pinch sucanat
3 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 quart chicken stock
1 dash cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon plus some for garnish
½ cup cream
1 cup freeze dried* apples for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the squash halves cut side down on the dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the flesh. Cool slightly, then remove the peel. Set aside. Place oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, and sugar, sauté for a few minutes, add garlic. Pour the chicken broth into the pot. Add the potatoes, carrot, apple and bring to a boil. Pressure for 6 minutes on high. Add the squash, use an immersible hand blender to puree the soup, or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches, and puree until smooth. Return to the pot. Season the soup with cayenne pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt, then stir in cream. Heat through, but do not boil. Ladle into bowls, and top with apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

*freeze dried fruits and vegetables are the premium of food storage. They rehydrate quickly and easily, retain most of their nutrients an taste almost as good as their fresh counterparts. They are also great snacks, even for babies. Pick up a can at Preparing Wisely and try them out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kale Salad

Kale is one of those super foods that have immense health benefits (see chart for it’s impressive specs). The problem is that most people don’t know how to prepare it…at least not well. This recipe was inspired by True Food’s Kitchen’s kale salad that really impressed our table of food savvy women. The dressing is light and refreshing. Be sure to start with perky leaves that are not browned or wilted to ensure a crisp, fresh tasting end product.

1 bunch kale (about 8 leaves)
Zest of one lemon
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup agave
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Tip: place cut leaves in a pasta
steamer so that you can dunk the
kale and get it out quickly and easily.

Cut tough stems from the center of each leaf of kale. Cut leaves in strips. Blanch leaves by dunking in boiling water. 5 seconds, just enough time to push all the strips under water. This will really bring out the color, while softening the texture. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Combine the rest of the ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Spin the kale dry and toss kale with dressing. Serve immediately after dressing.

links; Whole Foods for the Holiday's

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fish Tacos with Chipotle Yogurt Sauce

Ever eaten something at a restaurant and thought, “I can make this”? These tacos were inspired by an entrée at On the Border, it has become one of our favorite meals. It is a little elaborate, but everything but the fish can be prepared ahead of time. I have to say, these are delish. Even my brother in law who is an avid fish hater enjoyed these.

We eat fish quite often and have found that
quality counts. My dad brings us crappie from his Minnesota fishing trips, and a fisherman in our ward shares his surplus. I highly recommend making friends with a fisherman, it is very rewarding. When buying fish I look for 2 things; does the sales person know anything about the fish? Was it previously frozen? Farm raised or wild caught? When was it cleaned? If they don’t know, assume the worse. I look for fresh fish, cleaned same day. If it is frozen, I want to buy it frozen. Frozen fish is usually cleaned and frozen right on the boat which is great for quality, but if it has been thawing in the grocers’ open case for days the quality has diminished. I prefer wild caught, but is not as important as the other issues. I also like the fish in the frozen foods sections that are in vacuum sealed packages. Costco has nice frozen salmon and tilapia for around $6 per pound which can be worth the convenience.

1 lb. white fish (tilapia, cod, dad’s crappie), cut into 1 inch thick strips
½ cup rice flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons light olive oil
Combine flour, salt and peppers. Dredge fish strips. Fry in heated oil

Cabbage Mix
1 shredded carrot
1 ½ cups shredded cabbage

½ cup cheddar cheese

Pico de gallo:
1 medium tomato, diced
1 tablespoon chopped onions
2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped
Combine all ingredients, let set 20 minutes.

Chipotle Yogurt Sauce:
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients in blender on high, blend well. Store in a air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes a great salad dressing for Southwestern salads.

Tortilla. Cabbage mix. Sauce. Fish. Cheese, Pico.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bowl of Porridge

2 cups water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups steel cut oats
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Soak oats in 2 cups water and lemon juice for 24 hours.  Rinse if desired.  Bring 2 cups water to a boil, add oats and salt. Pressure on high for 3 minutes, natural release. Stir in milk and sweeten to your liking.

Papa Bear a scoop if ice cream and brown sugar

Mama Bear dried peaches, pecans, cinnamon and maple syrup

Layner Bear

raisins, cinnamon and sucanat

Monday, January 12, 2009

Got Kefir?

Becoming more common in health food stores are various kefir drinks. Pronounced ke- (like in kettle with a short "e") fear, but I have never heard anyone say it like this. "Key-fur"drinks from the dairy cases get pricey and are made with a powdered starter culture, which is inferior to the hard to find "grains." My kids call these starter grains "plumps,"which I find more fitting.

I used to make homemade yogurt twice a week, it was delicious, thick and creamy. The recipe I was using included heating the milk up to 180 degrees. When I made the decision to switch our family to raw milk, I didn't want to pasteurize it to make yogurt. I found that yogurt made without heating to high temperatures separated into curds and whey so the taste and texture was not as appealing. In my research for a better recipe I came across kefir and set out to look for the grains to make my own at home with raw milk. I had talked to so many people trying to track some down and finally a fablous woman in my ward was so gracious to introduce me to her friend that used them. She shared with me and now we enjoy the benefits of this super food. Kefir is slightly creamy with sour flavor similar to buttermilk (in fact I use it as buttermilk in my baking.) My kids drink it straight, I prefer it in a smoothie or at least with a few drops of flavored stevia, like English Toffee.

Health Benefits

  • Easily digested

  • Cleanses the intestines

  • Provides beneficial bacteria and yeast

  • High in vitamins and minerals

  • Contains complete proteins

Milk is put in a glass jar and plastic lid with a 7 to 1 ratio of kefir grains, then left at room temperature for about 24 hours. The cultured milk is strained in order to separate, and retrieve the kefir grains from the liquid-kefir. The grains are added to more fresh milk to repeat the simple process for the next batch. This procedure can be performed on an indefinite basis... for kefir grains last forever!

For more information Dom is the kefir master. Cultures for Health is a good company that sells kefir grains online.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

This is a hearty dinner for a cold winter’s eve. It is a prime example of how I minimize meat in a meaty meal. The cooked grains not only add nutrition, but something substantial to the meal. The red quinoa doesn’t disappear, but it blends nicely with the ground beef. I recently tried this with ground venison and it works great. This dish is so quick to whip up with the aid of a few helpful tools. I use both my “Ladies”, get them all set up, then I work on the vegetables. A good mandoline (Zyliss) is great for prepping vegetables, easily making them the same size. A potato ricer makes perfect mashed potatoes with no worries of over working them and ending up with a gooey mess.

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup millet
1/3 cup red quinoa
1 1/3 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon coconut oil or tallow
1/2 lb. ground sirloin
¼ cup teff
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons worcestershire
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Pressure potatoes on high for 6 minutes, natural release (or boil). Peel and whip with sour, milk, salt and pepper. Pressure quinoa/millet mixture with 1 1/3 cup beef stock on high for 6 minutes. Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to hot pan with beef and teff. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes. Add chopped carrot, onion, cook with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add flour, cook 2 minutes, mix in stock and worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add grains and peas to meat and vegetables. Stir in parsley, reserving some to garnish the top, then check for seasoning. Preheat broiler to high. Fill a large casserole dish with meat/grain and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with melted butter and paprika, broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.

Mandoline from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Fry Pan from Costco.

Red Quinoa and Millet. (The peas look funny because they are freeze dried from my food storage, we were all out of frozen)
Potato Ricer from Amazon.

The Ladies of the Hour

These are my unsociable assistants. In one I place millet, red quinoa water and salt set the time to 6 minutes and voila, she beeps when she’s done. Meanwhile the other is cooking up a pot of potatoes. If you own a pressure cooker, you know the benefits and downfalls. On one hand you have faster food that tastes great (as long as you don’t burn it) the other includes fiddling with the heat to keep the pressure just right, remembering to turn it off so you don’t overcook it, and checking and double checking that everything is put together just right so the thing doesn’t blow up. These ladies are the most user friendly on the market. It comes up to pressure, holds it perfectly for the set time, then goes to a keep warm mode so the pressure releases, but stays warm and ready to eat. I am partial to the Nesco because of the delay timer, slightly easier buttons, price and it cooks steel cut oats (the Cusinart’s safety feature is too sensitive, it turns off part way though the cooking). But fair warning, the insert pan is Teflon coated, ugh! Why do they have to do that to such a great product? I use it anyway, shame. So if we don’t dwell on this horrific feature, it is a great tool in the kitchen. I use mine (at least one) for pretty much every meal.

What is your favorite pressure cooker model?

Friday, January 9, 2009

“Stocking” Bird Bones

Wait. Don't throw out those bones! Even if its that low quality Costco rotisserie birds and especially if it is a good organic free range, grass fed bird. Make those bones into chicken stock. If you don't buy whole chickens much a great alternative is using chicken wings as they are mostly bones and less expensive. If you have an in with a chicken farmer you might just get them for free as they are often wasted when packaging chicken parts.

Homemade stock is so YUM, and you don’t have to be all fancy about it. I have no doubts that all those extra ingredients and steps listed in the very complex recipes make for better end results, but how much better? Not worth it. I feel the difference between homemade and store bought is a lot. Not only is the flavor beyond comparison, it is healthier, more economical and storage efficient (homemade stock is more concentrated). Use stock in all your gravies, sauces and soups. Storage got to be a problem…not enough freezer space, so now I can it. Sound daunting? It’s not. Seriously, it took me 10 minutes. Here are the steps:

1 bird carcass
3 carrots, cleaned and cut in half (no need to peel)
2 celery stalks, cleaned and cut in half
1 onion, peeled and quartered
12 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Place all ingredients in pressure cooker, pressure on high for 3 hours. Natural release. Place a strainer in a pot both large enough for what’s in the cooker. Dump contents of cooker into strainer. Press with a spatula. Cool then throw away the solids. In a clean pot line a mesh strainer with fine cheesecloth. Dump liquid through second strainer. I like to pour this into a fat separator and let set a couple minutes before pouring it into my jars (4 pints), but this is optional, I usually only get 2 tablespoons of fat from the whole batch. From here you can either freeze or proceed to can. I fill my pressure cooker 1/3 full with water, place jars evenly spaced on a trivet and pressure the jars for 90 minutes, natural release. Once cooled, date and store! Fresh stock lasts only 2 days in the refrigerator so plan your storage option.

This is my quick and easy pressure cooker/canner for small jobs. It fits 4 pint jars. Leyse 8qt. electric pressure cooker.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Muliti Grain Crust and Pear Walnut Pizza

Pizza night is a treat night in our house. It's the one night that vegetables are optional as long as lunch vegetables have been consumed. What is ironic is that the kid's favorite topping is spinach. Though I can't fit 2 whole servings on one little pizza, I feel warm and fuzzy that at our worst we are better than most.

I am a variety girl, so our pizza toppings are constantly evolving. Pear Walnut is one of my long time favorites, adapted from my sister in law, Reachel's remake of a California Pizza Kitchen selection. This crust is the perfect balance of sweet, chewy, crispness. Letting the dough rise after mixing is optional. I usually use the time to prepare my toppings and preheat the oven. A pizza stone is a must, it draws moisture out so you can avoid the inevitable infliction; soggy bottoms.

Also check out my Sourdough Spelt Pizza

Multi Grain Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cup water
1 cupsour dough starter
2 cup spelt flour
1 cup amaranth flour
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon Real salt
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon yeast
2 cup white flour

Combine water, sourdough starter and whole grain flours. Mix and let sponge (rest) covered at least 12, but no more than 24 hours at room temperature (can sponge longer in fridge). After the soaking period, Place all ingredients except white flour in mixing bowl, yeast on top. Turn on mixer. Add white flour until dough pulls away from sides and center post. Knead 8 minutes. Preheat oven to 550 degrees (convection is best) Let dough rest 30 minutes in an oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap (optional). Divide dough in fourths, roll out on a floured surface, transfer to parchment paper. Top and bake on a preheated pizza stone for 6 minutes or until crust is crisp. Let cool 5 minutes for cheese to set before cutting.

Pear Walnut Topping
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 firm pears, sliced
½ red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoon sucanat
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup walnuts
3 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup feta cheese

Saute pears on medium high heat in a large pan until browned, add onions, sucanat and sugar, cook. Turn off heat and mix in walnuts. Let cool slightly before arranging on dough, top with cheeses.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Deer Chop Stir Fry

Hmmm. Let's start with my views on meat. I am against vegetarianism. I do wish I could call myself vegetarian because I LOVE the word, makes me think of vegetables and I am all for those, lots and lots! But the exclusion of meat in ones diet, which is sadly what comes to mind when we hear the word, is not something I am for. I do catch some of the main points. I feel the industries of raising animals for food has a lot of room for improvement to say the least. I would love to be able to afford free range, grass fed, organic meat for all my fleshy recipes. Because I do feel the antibiotics, hormones, feed and conditions are producing a sub par product. For these reasons I minimize meat in my meals.

Now deer. My dad brought me these chops and loin from his last hunt. Like most Americans, we rarely veer from the common chicken, beef and pork (occasional bison and lamb). I really wanted to like this meat, it is free range and feeds on the abundant lush grasses in Iowa. Last night I cooked it in a stir fry (at least I could eat the vegetables if the meat was revolting) over a bed of japonica (a fancy black Japanese rice) and brown rice mixture (that's why the rice is purple). Survey says...A+! I was amazed at how much I loved it. Jarom and the kids too. In fact there was less than a serving of leftovers and Jarom ate it already for lunch today. He was even talking about putting in for a hunting license. I am hoping to get some more soon. Thanks Dad. BTW my Dad also grows a zillion tomatoes each summer. Often I am lucky enough to get some precious jars he cans himself. Amazing, no?

Recipe notes: This is the first time I made this recipe, so I have some changes I would make for next time. I would use less hot sauce, the kids complained. I would add broccoli and substitute green onions for the sweet onions

10 oz. deer steak/sirloin steak


2 tablespoons ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups sliced carrots
1/4 sweet onion, cut in a large dice
1/2 yellow pepper, cut in large dice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold water

Cut meat into thin strips, then make the marinade with the next 7 ingredients, mix. Marinade meat for 1 hour. Heat the second amount of oil in wok until hot, stir fry vegetables until slightly tender, add the beef with the marinade, stir fry until meat is no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Mix the cornstarch with water, then stir into the wok with the veggies& beef. Serve over rice.

Coconut Syrup

This is when experimenting pays off, can you say YUM-O! This syrup is a 100% genuine recipe original. I started experimenting with syrup when I gave up on learning to like real maple syrup. It is just too strong for topping pancakes, though it works well to sweetening baked goods and hot cereals. I veered away from the FAKE Aunt Jemima type syrups long ago with the super sweet high fructose corn syrup and additives.

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sucanat
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
16 oz coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

On medium heat dissolve sugars and salt in water, mix in coconut milk. Remove from heat, add vanilla.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vita Mix Banana Ice Cream

I have an extreme obsession with Real vanilla. Well, it is from Mexico, so who knows how real it really is. You know it's an obsession when you rub it under your nose just so that you can smell it all day (not that I have done that...much). There is the super cheap kind of Mexican vanilla that Americana's buy for all their neighbors and friends back at home. It says real on the bottle, but it tastes fake to me. I like the expensive stuff, 69.00 Pesos which is twice as much for about 1/4 of the amount! I know all this because of my long time obsession. I first discovered it at my mom's house and begged her to take it home (I really only asked, but would have begged if she resisted). I savored it, it was a small bottle. Once it was bone dry I saved the bottle in hopes of finding it again one day. So, when Mom was planning a trip to Mexico again I went over all the details with her; red lid, glass bottle, little picture of a man wearing a sombrero, dark brown, not clear (I did not know about the price difference at this time. Well that amazing mother of mine came across no such bottle, but in all her wisdom found the most expensive bottle that the country sold and brought it back for me. Hallelujah! My stock has been replenished and is only used in dire circumstances like ice cream. I believe the vanilla makes this ice cream special (and the vanilla creme wafer stick, thanks Becky).

2 bananas
1 egg
½ cup agave
¼ tsp salt
1 cup whole milk, frozen into cubes
1 cup cream, frozen into cubes
½ teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients in Vita Mix. Blend on HIGH use tamper to push cubes into blades.

Beef Stroganoff

Comfort food...but it's hard to find a recipe without the evil cream of mushroom soup. What does this "stuff" add to a dish? Creaminess, flavor and SALT. Here is my alternative: flour (thickens), beef stock (flavor), whole milk (creaminess) and salt for salt. My recipe calls for peas which is nontraditional (goes back to my mom's dressed up version of Hamburger Helper). Leave them out if you like, but I like the crunch and sweetness it lends to the dish. And if you need fresh parsley, I have a ton growing right now. Stop by, I would be happy to give you all you want.

10 oz medium egg noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
Medium onion diced
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pint canned london broil with broth
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup frozen peas, rinsed
1 cup milk
½ cup sour cream
cup fresh parsley, chopped

Cook noodles. Sauté onion and mushrooms in olive oil with salt until softened. Sprinkle in flour and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and paprika, transfer mixture to a bowl. Place beef with broth in pan and break up with spatula, add nutmeg and peas. Simmer until broth reduces by half. Add milk and reserved mixture, cook until thickened slightly. Sir in sour cream thoroughly. Toss with noodles and parsley.

Fake Heat?

I don't know what it is about microwaves that give me the heebie jeebies. Maybe it's because of the warning signs on every teacher lounge door that tells you before you enter the room "Microwave in Use". I know there have been studies that say they are safe (and ones that say they are not, but who's looking at those?) but they just don't feel right to me. So I avoid them for all applications besides melting chocolate and heating up water. Even then I have guilt, something is wrong.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pot O Polenta


Less than half are real food and the first ingredient is sugar! "How about a bowl of sugar with a side of corn chips for breakfast, honey?" And all those grains with less than a gram of fiber...hmmm, something is fishy, or should I say FAKE. So without further adieu here is the real deal.

2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons real maple syrup (no Aunt Jemima)
1 cup corn grits/polenta (Sprouts bulk section)
2 bananas, sliced
6 medium strawberries sliced
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
raw local honey

Bring water and milk to a boil, add syrup, salt and slowly stir in corn grits. Turn heat to low and simmer 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve up in bowls. Top with fruit, nuts, cinnamon and honey as needed.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Real Food for Real People

I am strict on one thing; No fake foods. This would be the super processed variety with additives, preservatives and chemicals up the wazoo i.e. cans of cream of (fill in the blank) soup, boxed mixes, Velveeta cheese, Crisco, margarine and of coarse all the packaged snack foods that mothers of young children drown their shopping carts in. Let’s face it, these ingredients are called for in a lot of recipes that are quick and easy to make and taste good. This is why I put forth the effort to find replacements for these common fake foods. They may not have less calories, but these real food alternatives will guarantee better health. Even indulgent treats like brownies are worth baking with real food ingredients over a boxed mix.
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