Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Loving Our Greens!

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesdays and Pennywise Platter Thursdays.

I told you yesterday how I tried and failed with rainbow chard, now let me share with you some great ways of getting your green on using kale and spinach!

I had read about Kale Chips and I thought, "My family would never even go near something like that."  However, my daughter is on an eating plan right now that requires two meals a day to have at least two servings of green vegetables.  After burning out on the usual suspects, it was time to venture into new territory.  When I told my daughter what I was making she said, "NO!  Don't make kale!  I hate kale!"  After I assured her that she didn't have to like it, she just had to be open minded and try it, she calmed down.  And when she actually did try it, she loved it.  She now asks for kale chips everyday!  The taste is similar to popcorn or if you use spinach I think it tastes like pumpkin seeds.  If you use spinach and kale both, do them in different batches or use separate trays because of the different cooking times.

Kale (or Spinach) Chips
1 bunch kale (or spinach) I use a half a bunch each time
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

Pre-heat oven to 350.  You're going to need to de-vein the kale: just run a sharp knife along either side of the main stem & remove.  Tear the leaves into bite size pieces (about 2" square or smaller) and place in colander (or salad spinner) to wash.

Wash & dry kale, then place in single layer on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  I used a kitchen oil spritzer to evenly distribute oil on the kale (mine is from Pampered Chef but you can find similar items here or here on Amazon).  I took about a teaspoon of sea salt in my hand and rubbed my hands together all over the kale to evenly salt it.

Place in the oven and bake for about 8 - 10 minutes or until crisp (if using spinach you will need to cook it for closer to 15 minutes).  Watch carefully when it's getting close to time- burnt ones don't taste good!
Eat them up!  (about 2 - 4 servings depending on if you eat them like I do or my daughter does!)

My parchment paper is a little dark because I was reusing a sheet I had made something else on previously (cookies I believe).  Here is a great tip for you: because I used half of the bunch of kale, I saved the parchment paper & reused it the next day to make the second batch with the other half of the kale.  Now, wait- don't throw the paper away yet!  Make yourself a batch of Sourdough Cracker dough and roll it right out onto the parchment paper.  You see, after a couple of batches the paper has the perfect amount of extra oil & salt on it for your crackers.  I wanted to use up more of my spinach (I had several bunches) so before I rolled it out I tore some spinach into pieces & incorporated it into the dough.
If you were making these for your family you would probably want to chop it a little more finely- but these were for me & I didn't mind (plus I'm lazy- ha!).  Bake as normal- the crackers are salted from underneath!  These were great!

I didn't stop there though.  Last time I had a bag of basil I had more than I was ready to use then, so I measured out the amount of leaves needed for a batch of Spinach Basil Pesto and put it in bags right into the freezer.  I was ready to make pesto this week so a day or two earlier I got a bag of basil out of the freezer to thaw & then put those leaves right into the food processor.  They don't look pretty then, but once everything mixes together you can't tell anything is different.  I didn't have any pine nuts for my pesto, so I decided to use pecan pieces instead.  I may do that from now on- have you seen how expensive pine nuts are?  Wow!

Those spinach crackers taste awesome dipped in Spinach Basil Pesto- yum!  Now I'm really getting my green on- but wait, I'm not done yet!  (It's fun to sound like an infomercial sometimes...)

Don't forget about throwing a few fresh spinach leaves into your smoothies.  If you've got some spinach or kale that is about to go bad you can do this: lightly steam them, while still hot put them in the blender along with a few tablespoons of coconut oil (the heat from the leaves melts the oil) and a little bit of milk just to help things move around.

Puree until smooth, pour into an ice cube tray, and place in the freezer.  Once they're frozen solid you can put them in a bag in the freezer.  Throw one or two into your smoothies for a boost of healthy greens & healthy fat too!

OK, whew!  Now I'm done!  Did I wear you out too?

Have some fun with greens this week!

P.S.  Do you know about the US Wellness Meats Giveaway at Nourishing Days blog?  You can enter for a chance to win an $85 gift certificate- yeah & yum!

Pudding & Other Things

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

I have tried out several new recipes in the past week & while I won't share all of them with you now, I will be soon!  The first one was Andrea's Coconut Milk Vanilla Pudding.  I'm normally not one to make pudding because it requires standing & stirring over the stove: I'm too much of a multi-tasker to stand for that!  (Translation: I walk away from the stove & it burns or curdles.)  But for the sake of my son, who loves vanilla pudding, I gave it a go.

First you combine 3 Tbsp. honey, 1 Tbsp. arrowroot, and a dash of salt in a small pan.  Whisk in 1 can of regular coconut milk and one egg yolk.
You bring it to a simmer, stirring & scraping constantly, over medium high heat, then reduce to medium and continue cooking & stirring til pudding "coats the back of a spoon" (I never can tell what that means, but since she also said "two minutes" I just did that).
I think I stopped cooking mine too soon because it never did thicken up (I thought it would set up in the fridge).  It was very tasty, but my son rejected it because of the coconut flavor.  Oh well, more for me!  It was quite sweet & next time I will try dropping the amount of honey down to 2 Tbsp.
Makes 4 servings.  Now if I was really cool these would have been in matching containers, but since I was behind on the dishes then you get what you get!

I have also been trying out some new recipes for different greens this week: kale, spinach, even rainbow chard (which I had never tasted or bought before in my life).
 I didn't buy that much- just once bunch. Photo credit to Alex (eflon)
I ordered the greens from our produce co-op and went right over to allrecipes.com to see what I could find.  I tried two different highly rated recipes with the chard and have to tell you that both of those were rejects- no more chard!  But I found a way of cooking kale (or spinach) that my daughter loves & now she is actually asking me to cook kale everyday- seriously!  Who would have thought?  I will share more of our "green" adventures tomorrow.

For my final Tuesday Twister thought, I'd like to share a picture with you that I will entitle "I thought it wouldn't happen to me"
This picture was taken in my freezer.  This is my chicken broth.  Do you see the little shards of glass next to the container?  Yes, I thought it wouldn't happen to me.  I had heard stories of glass shattering in the freezer, but I thought if I left enough room for expansion everything would be fine...  Maybe I didn't leave enough room this time.  This could be interesting, I imagine when I thaw it I will put it in a fine strainer & catch any glass shards?  Or do you think it's not worth it?

Here's hoping you enjoy your kitchen adventures this week!

P.S.  You'll notice over on the right hand side of my blog is a white box that says "Feeling Overwhelmed?" and it links to the ecourse at GNOWFGLINS.  This is different than the Online Cooking Class from the Nourished Kitchen, whose banner is running at the top of my blog.

Wardeh (of GNOWFGLINS) has felt compelled to offer her ecourse on a donation only basis.  This is a step of faith that I highly respect, and I hope that everyone who takes her course realizes the hours and hours of her time that she has put into the curriculum.  Blessings Wardeh!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tortilla Beef Skillet

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday.
And Pennywise Platter Thursday

I'm sharing with you a simple recipe, tasty, as well as being another great way to use up failed or funky tortillas.  Sorry, no pictures because we dug into it too fast & the leftovers just did not take a pretty picture- but this recipe is a real family pleaser anyways!

Tortilla Beef Skillet
1 lb. ground beef (could reduce to 3/4 lb. & increase beans to economize)
2 c. kidney beans (preferably dried, soaked, cooked, but 1 can would work too)
3/4 c. salsa (can increase depending on how spicy your family likes it)
1 c. water
4 flour tortillas, torn into 1" pieces
1 c. shredded cheese
optional: 1/3 c. sour cream, 1/3 c. chopped green onions, chopped avocado or tomatoes

Brown meat in large skillet, drain grease (I never need to do this anymore- is it the cast iron or the grass fed beef?)
Stir in beans, salsa and water.  Bring to boil & simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in tortillas & top with cheese.  Since I used a cast iron pan I turned on the oven to broil and put the pan in for a few minutes so the cheese would have a nice toasted look.  Add optional toppings either before serving or on individual plates.

You can serve this as is, or on a bed of shredded lettuce, similar to a taco salad.  Now that would probably have been a pretty picture!  :)


Dressing & Sauce

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

I'd like to share with you a couple of things that have been twisting in my kitchen this week.  First of all, I finally found a homemade "Ranch" type dressing that I like.  Before I went all "real food" there was always a bottle of Ranch salad dressing in our refrigerator.  The whole family preferred it over anything else.  That is, until I discovered all the nasty stuff they put in there (even organic ones).  I've tried to make my own a few times with less than stellar reviews, but this time I combined the elements from different dressing recipes & I was very satisfied with the results.

Creamy Ranch Style Dressing
1/2 c. plain whole milk yogurt or sour cream
1/3 c. buttermilk
3 T. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried chives (or 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/8 tsp. pepper

Mix ingredients together in a bowl with a fork and then whisk to combine completely.  Lasts about one week.

I also made another batch of my Homemade Barbecue Sauce.

The first time I had made it using soy sauce, and this time I used apple cider vinegar.  It is really good either way.  Even my ultra-picky 11 year old said it was yummy & wanted extra for dipping in.  It could be a little less sweet, so next time I may try decreasing the honey & see how we like it.  Even though my directions suggest making it 24 hours ahead of time, I had not planned ahead so I made it moments before I put it on top of some organic chicken legs & tossed them in the oven to bake.  No problem!  I'm using the rest of it today to marinate some steaks.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Your Own Real Food Tutor!

Did you see the latest update from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution?  Watch his video update & notice he closes it by saying, "The one thing that makes a tangible real difference is food education and knowing how to cook real food.  It will change your life." 

Have you heard the buzz about several real food e-courses that are opening up right now?  I wanted to let you know about "How to Cook Real Food" from the Nourished Kitchen

Jenny, of the Nourished Kitchen, says this: It seems simple enough. Eat real food. Cook from scratch. Shop locally. But how do you make it happen in your own kitchen? Especially those of us who never learned how to cook — we were raised on microwave suppers, boxed cereals and toaster pastries. We all face the challenges of a modern life – balancing work and parenthood, all the while trying to feed our families healthier meals.

Jenny is going to walk you step by step through several things.  You can see a list what the classes will cover here.  She will cover things like: making your own bread, fermenting vegetables, giving up white sugar (!), and other great skills to advance you in your kitchen.  By the way, all the pictures in this post are taken from The Nourished Kitchen- so beautiful!

"How to Cook Real Food" is only $120 if you pay in advance- that's less than $10 per class! Or you can choose to pay in 4 payments of $35 each.  Classes start June 1st, so enrollment is only available until May 31st- hello, that's less than 2 weeks away- so don't put this off!

Click here to see the promotional video.  Then be sure to click back to sign up for the course from my blog (if you would like to help support my blogging: I get a commission when you enroll).  Click here to sign up for the e-course "How to Cook Real Food" from the Nourished Kitchen.

Next week I will let you know more about Wardeh's upcoming e-courses at GNOWFGLIN's.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Life Gives You Bad Apples...

My kids have absolutely no interest in apples that are soft, puckered skin, or with blemishes- oh, how we are spoiled now aren't we?  We are so used to the "perfect" food presented in the grocery store that we really will tolerate nothing less. But I digress!  When life gives you bad apples... make applesauce!  It really was so easy- you should try it!

makes about 4 cups of applesauce, you can adjust to recipe to make more or less!
about 6 apples
1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 - 1 Tbsp. maple syrup (depending on how sweet your apples are, or how sweet you like it)
sprinkle of cinnamon

Put water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cinnamon in your cooking pot, stir.  Chop the apples into about 1" pieces (I did not peel them, you may, but you might be surprised how easily those peels blend into the finished sauce- so try it without).  As you chop each apple, toss it into the cooking pot & stir to coat the pieces (the lemon juice will keep them from turning brown as you chop more).
Heat to boiling, them reduce to simmer for a few hours, or until very, very soft.  (Yummy smells in your kitchen!)  Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly.  Toss it all into your food processor (or blender) and blend to desired texture.
Can you see any apple peel in there?  Nope! 

I found a few more apples that were less-than-perfect and I decided to make Apple Oven Pancakes.  I am not sure where I printed this recipe from, but I have adjusted it to include soaking of the flour.  If you want to shorten your morning prep time (like I did) and don't mind heating your oven twice, you can cook the apples the day before.  I also combined the remaining batter ingredients in a jar, shook it up to mix, and put it in the fridge to make my morning even quicker!

Apple Oven Pancakes
about 6 servings
1 c. buttermilk (or plain yogurt thinned with milk)
2/3 c. whole wheat flour

*12-24 hours before baking, combine buttermilk & flour in blender (gently).  Let soak til ready to cook.

4 Tbsp. butter
2 apples, sliced very thin (peeling optional)

Preheat oven to 425.  While oven is heating place butter in 9x13 pan & put in oven to melt.  Once melted, place apple slices evenly across bottom of pan.  Bake in oven for about 10 minutes.

4 large eggs
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. raw sugar (if using tart apples)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Add these ingredients to the flour/buttermilk mixture in the blender and blend to combine.  Pour over apples in dish.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Pancake will be very tall & puffed up when you first remove it from the oven, but will collapse back down after cooling slightly.  Slice & serve with applesauce or maple syrup.
Hmm, not the most flattering picture, but we were headed on a train trip that day & I didn't have time to make a pretty picture!  If you plan ahead you only need to spend 5 minutes in the morning on this (plus oven preheat time & bake time- but you can be getting ready then) plus you get more protein than a regular pancake too.

And just for fun, here's a picture from our trip to Seattle that day.  My son trying to get a good view from the top of the Space Needle- using the telescope backwards of course. ;)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Foodie Blogroll

Hooray!  This blog has been approved for the Foodie Blogroll- another way of letting people know my blog is out there & helping readers find more "foodie" blogs.  Check out the new little widget on the bottom right of my blog.  Makes me happy!  :)

Tortillas 6 Lisa 0

I have tried to make tortillas about 5 or 6 times, I'm guessing.  A few times just "soaked" whole wheat, and a few times with sourdough starter.  I have never been really successful at it.  Sometimes, like the last batch I had, the dough is so sticky or fragile that if I try to roll it thin enough it ends up falling apart on the way to the pan.  Sometimes the dough was great, but the end product was not pliable at all.  And every time, whether I've fried them in oil or used a dry pan, the oil that ends up in the air while I'm cooking them gives me a headache.
This picture really does not do justice to the disaster that was my latest attempt at making tortillas.  The batch on the left was thin enough, however, they were falling apart in the pan & had holes.  I was getting so frustrated with them that I decided I had to leave them thicker & that is the batch on the right.  They actually ended up reminding me of the flat bread eaten in Rwanda, called chapati.

What do you do when you end up with strange fat tortillas?  You go ahead & make easy chicken enchiladas from the Musings of a Housewife blog anyway!  We actually make enchiladas in Rwanda using chapati & it's one of our favorite meals.
They don't look pretty but they taste just fine!  This is a great recipe to use some of the chicken meat after you've roasted a chicken & pulled the meat off before (or after) making your bone broth.  (By the way, the nice thing about making the crock pot roast chicken I told you about last week is that the meat is already falling off the bones, so I got most of the meat off the bird before I boiled it.)  I didn't have any cream for this recipe, so I used some creme fraiche instead.

All's you have to do is just mix the meat with some salsa (and I like to add sour cream or creme fraiche and this time I threw in some black beans too), dip your tortilla in the cream, roll it up around some of the meat mixture, throw a bunch of shredded cheese on top & bake.  Super easy & good (even with crazy tortillas)!

What else can you do with crazy too thick tortillas?  Make them into individual pizzas & warm in a 425 oven til cheese melts.  It's a soft "pizza" but it works & is especially great in a pinch for another quick dinner.

So, at least for a while now, I am done with my attempts at making homemade tortillas.  I bought some sprouted tortillas from the Ezekiel bread company & we'll have to see how those are.  My husband also really likes the sprouted bread I bought from Nature Bake bakery (their bakery store is only about 30 minutes away & you can buy frozen bread in bulk for about $2.50 a loaf).  I still have my sourdough starter going though, so I have not completely thrown the towel in...  stay tuned!

Here's hoping all your kitchen adventures today are successful!

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Butternut Squash

I know this is May, and it is spring (although here in the NW it is not being very spring-like!)  But I have had a butternut squash sitting on top of my fridge for at least a month now, waiting for me to use it.  Butternut squash is something new to me- I don't think we ever ate it growing up.

I was trying out some recipes from the Traditional Foods Menu Mailer and one of them is Veggie-Heavy Chili, which includes half of a butternut squash.  I was actually surprised when my family liked this recipe!  (We are not ones to be fans of "different" ways of using food- like sweet potatoes in burritos for example.)  So, then the question is, what to do with the other half of the squash?  The menu mailer suggests squash oven fries, but I tried it & that falls under the not fans of "different" ways of using food category.  Instead, I felt like having some squash pancakes for breakfast.

And now here is some exciting news for me- I tried & successfully adapted a recipe to "soaking" for the first time!  I have preferred to let others test & try converting recipes before this, but I got brave & it worked!  (I think pancakes are probably a pretty safe bet for converting to soaking.)  I found this pumpkin pancake recipe and modified a few things.  The pancakes were great & even my 6 year old liked them!

First I took my peeled & cut up butternut squash, put it in a covered pan on the stove with a little bit of water & about a tablespoon of coconut oil. I boiled the water to steam the squash for several minutes (until very soft), then drained the remaining water & pureed the squash in the blender.  This makes 2 c. of puree, set aside 1 c. for another recipe (like muffins).

Squash (or Pumpkin) Pancakes
2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
*12-24 hours beforehand, combine these two ingredients & cover

1 c. squash or pumpkin puree
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/8 t. nutmeg
2 T. raw sugar, honey, or maple syrup
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
2 T. melted coconut oil

When you're ready to make the pancakes stir in all remaining ingredients to the soaked flour/buttermilk mixture.  Our family likes thin pancakes (not fluffy) so I added about 1/2 c. water and 1/2 c. milk to greatly thin out this batter.  Heat additional coconut oil in a skillet over medium low heat (you want these to cook all the way through) flipping when bubbles pop.

Serve with maple syrup or Pear Sauce.  This makes a lot, so freeze the extras for quick breakfasts on other days (just pop them in the toaster).

With the other 1 c. of squash puree I decided to try Kitchen Stewardship's Pumpkin Muffin recipe.  I modifed the amount of sugar & the spices a little bit.  First, 24 hours beforehand I combined:
1 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1 c. pureed squash
3/4 c. water + 2 Tbs plain yogurt
1/2 c. melted butter

The next day I added:
1/2 c. sugar (original recipe called for 1 c. but that is more than I like for muffins)
2 eggs
1/4 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground cloves (original recipe calls for 1/2 t.)
1 t. cinnamon (original recipe calls for 1/2 t.)
1/4 t. nutmeg (original recipe calls for 1/2 t.)
I also sprinkled additional cinnamon sugar on top of the muffins.

I baked them at 325 for 45 minutes.  Makes about 16 muffins (filling cups very full).  They taste great, but they did fall in the middle.  I think it might have something to do with reducing the sugar in the recipe. 

Still worth a try though- these are getting gobbled up in my house!


This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday
and Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Tuesday Twister

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

If you've read the side bar of this blog you know I have a thing about recipes.  I like to try new things & keep recipes that I might try for later.  This week I decided it was time to go through my collection of recipes that I have been clipping and saving from newspapers and magazines.  Some of these are as old as my marriage (18 years!).
Do you see that large file box?  That is where I stored all my recipes (sorted by category).  And the large pile of papers in front of it is all the recipes I got to recycle!  Wow- lots and lots of recipes that require processed food, or unsoaked grains, or refined sugar.  I still have quite a few recipes left in there- but my collection is infinitely smaller now.  Of course now I'm collecting recipes online too- so my collection grows in different ways...

This week we tried out The Nourishing Cook's Pizza Soup recipe.  My chicken stock was thick so our "soup" turned out more like a sauce over homemade croutons.  I also used 1 1/2 c. of jarred pasta sauce instead of canned tomato sauce.
With a generous sprinkling of parmesan on top it was nice.  But I think what would really make this fantastic would be to include mushrooms with the sauteing of the onion, and then add in sliced olives & organic pepperoni at the end.  That would also make it more of a main course than an appetizer/side.  Don't keep any leftovers- the bread gets too soggy.  Another great way to use up any "failed" sourdough bread you have too!

I also made Passionate Homemaking's Dutch Baby Pancakes.  I have made Dutch Babies/Oven Pancakes using the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, but what I liked about this recipe is that it all cooks in one big pan & her recipe doesn't add water which may be why it gets more of a "puff".  Great protein breakfast because it has a lot of eggs!

One day we were having roast chicken & I decided to loosen the skin all over the chicken & place Spinach Basil Pesto  in between the meat and the skin.  I didn't add anything else to the pot & just let it cook on low all day.  The chicken was fall-apart-tender by dinner time & very tasty!  Plus, it even made some of it's own chicken broth in the bottom of the pot.  Serve it with some rice & veggie - dinner is done!  Did you know you can use the time bake on your oven to cook rice?  I put my soaked rice along with another cup of water & a pat of butter in a covered casserole in the oven.  I set the delay bake on the oven so it would cook at 350 for 45 minutes before we were going to have dinner- it worked great!

The other thing I wanted to share with you was that I used Nourishing Traditions Recipe for Yogurt Dough to make a chicken pot pie.  I used half of the dough & divided it into half again.  Rolled out each of those very thin & used them for the crusts.
I pre-baked the bottom crust (I don't want soggy crust) while I worked on the filling.  For the filling I just combined some cooked chicken (from our roasted chicken above) thawed frozen vegetables, about 1/4 c. pasta sauce, 1/4 c. chicken stock (again from roast chicken), and 1/4 c. yogurt.  I added some italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic.  I forgot how much this dough shrinks- I should have stretched it out further maybe?
 this is funny- that crust is seriously unhappy!  I should have poked it with a fork to keep it from puffing up...

I added the filling, put the crust over the top, and continued baking at 350.  It tasted just as good as other pot pies I've made using store bought pastry crust- so cool!  I rolled out the other half of the dough into two more flat sheets (between parchment paper), rolled it all up like a newspaper and froze it so I can use it for other sweet or savory dishes later.

Tomorrow I'll be sharing with you about some butternut squash recipes!