Family Dinners, final edition.

So far so good in keeping the family dinner blog going. But I believe we’ve come to the point where you’d rather cut your toenails than read about turkey meatballs again.  Therefore this is the final edition, for now.

Things are not running as smoothly, however, in farm to preschool land.  I’ve had everything happen in only 1 weeks time since the markets started…from losing my assistant after 1 market day to having no farmers at all on what was supposed to be the first market at one center, to getting in a car accident for the second time in about 6 weeks while driving home from a market that was cancelled when we arrived to a closed child care center. Whew.  I just keep breathing and knowing it will all work out, and just riding the bumps in the road like I own them.  Just keep on keepin’ on. Before I begin, I didn’t really take any good pictures this week, so here’s one of my son buried in the sand at the beach, just for fun.  He stayed like this for a really long time.  A guy walking by almost stepped on his head.

2014-07-06 14.40.15

So here’s some dinners for this week:

Sunday: Meatballs (same recipe but with ground beef this time), brown rice pasta, homemade basil pesto, roasted radishes, sliced cucumbers, raw sugar snap peas.

Monday: I worked.  Leftovers for the boys.

Tuesday: Olive oil and Spike oven roasted chicken drumsticks, wild rice blend (Whole Foods brand- and they changed their recipe, it’s not salty anymore!), corn on the cob, honey glazed carrots, raw carrots.

My son helped me cook a little tonight, he boiled the corn and lifted them out of the water with the tongs.  He also helped cook the carrots, grate the orange zest over them, add the honey, and stir it up. Did he eat it? No sir.  Too bad for him, it was delicious.  You should try it.  It was my farmers market recipe this week.

7_1_14 first markets 003

Wednesday: Quinoa Pizza Bites, marinara sauce, fresh mozzerella, roasted red pepper, and basil salad, black cerignola olives, sauteed broccoli, watermelon.

The pizza bites were delicious, I will definitely make them again but go lighter on the salt.  My son took a teeny nibble and said they were delicious, but didn’t eat any more.  Just 4 slices of watermelon.  Nothing else.

Have you had cerignola olives? My fave.  Huge and not too salty.  Might be good for a kid’s first olive.

I’ve been working on mastering broccoli with garlic and oil like they do in the Italian restaurants.  Here’s my method–cut a head of broccoli into florets, saute the garlic for a couple of minutes in olive oil. Add the broccoli and about 1/4-1/2 cup of chicken broth.  Turn the heat up pretty high, cover the pot, and let it cook about 5 minutes.  Test for doneness–should be tender crisp and still bright green.  Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday: I worked late-ish and the boys went out for burgers.

Friday: Chicken sausage, quinoa, peas, apple slices

Saturday: Frozen chicken nuggets (yes we eat them, but only the Bell and Evans white meat, real uncooked chicken ones), kale chips, watermelon, sliced cucumber.

OMG best kale chips I have ever made! I used half a huge bunch of regular green kale, removed the stems, tore them into large pieces, washed, and dried them in my salad spinner.  I tossed them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a drizzle of honey, about a tablespoon or 2 of nutritional yeast, and some salt and pepper. I laid them out on a cookie sheet and cooked them for about 10 minutes on 375 degrees.  They do better on a little less hot, but thats what the nuggets needed.  I would do them on 325-350 under normal circumstances.  Flip them once during cooking and watch them CLOSELY! There is only a few moments leeway between them being limp, chewy and underdone, being perfectly light and crispy, and being burnt and bitter.

For more family dinner ideas, check out this post, or this one, or this one, OR even this one.

And please feel free to share YOUR family dinner ideas here, obviously I’ve run out.

Advertisements

Family Dinner Week 4

So we were away all weekend and came back late Sunday night.  I had guests in town, and I was working on another project etc etc etc, which left me zero time to plan or shop or cook.  So all bets are off this week as to how the meals will turn out.  I had some stuff hanging around and some meat in the freezer and my incredible talent of being able to create a decent meal from a seemingly empty refrigerator.  I did finally manage to get to TJs on Tuesday, but don’t think the planning phase is going to happen this week.  So here goes.

Monday: Had to work.  Boys went out for pizza.

Tuesday: Grilled chicken breasts, curried grilled cauliflower, guacamole, salsa, blue corn chips, sliced cucumber, cherries.

I just seasoned the chicken breast with Spike and olive oil and they came out nice.  I think I have finally learned not to overcook chicken breast after overcooking about 6,236 chicken breasts over the past 10 or so years.

The cauliflower had incredible potential.  I wanted to do something a little different so I tossed the florets with some olive oil, curry powder, salt, and black pepper.  I grilled them in a grill basket and they were looking really nice until I turned up the heat at the end just to finish them a little more and something caught fire inside the grill and pretty much ruined it and gave a really bitter flavor to the cauliflower.  But I would try this if I were you, it would have been delicious I think, had it not caught fire. Doh.

AND score a silent point for me, my son actually ate and loved cherries tonight after trying to persuade him to eat them for many years.  I was eating them and conspicuously (though not intentionally) spitting the pits out onto my plate.  This struck my son as funny and he grew curious and agreed to try a cherry.  He was pleasantly surprised that not only was it great fun to find the pit in his mouth and spit it out, but that cherries are also incredibly delicious.  He said he loved them, and I simultaneously cheered silently while also sitting on the edge of my seat hoping he didn’t choke on the pit.  It was good times.

Wednesday: Frozen fish sticks (TJs), homemade tartar sauce, pasta, leftover homemade pesto, salad bar (romaine, carrots, sugar snap peas, almonds, raisins, roasted red peppers).

Another shocker from my boy–I can’t even remember the last time he ate a fish stick, and he just bellied up to the table and ate 4 of them without even batting an eye or making a comment.  Like he’s been eating them forever. I also haven’t served them in months either.  But there ya go. Crazy.

Salad bar is a big favorite in my house.  I used to serve salad all together in one big bowl, but my son would never touch it.  Now I serve it all up separately-lettuce in one big bowl, and all the toppings in small bowls around.  This way my son can pick and choose what he likes. It makes a little more dishes but is otherwise just as easy to prepare.  Looks nice too!

IMG_2787

Thursday: Pulled pork in the crock pot, brioche rolls, potato chips, broccoli slaw, sliced cucumber, sliced apples.

I am just learning to like pork products other than bacon, and this pulled pork is super easy and yummy.  I like to dip mine in a little barbecue sauce too.

Friday: I went out with the girls! Rejoice. Boys had pasta and meatballs.

Cherry update: The night my son tried a cherry he said that he would like to eat cherries every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  When I served them again a day or two later, he looked, declared his love for cherries and didn’t eat a one.  I’m not sure he’s had one since that night.

Another week of family dinner, and a recipe (sort of)

Well, I’ve been managing to keep up with my weekly meal planning so far, and even writing it down for you all! I sincerely hope some of you are getting some good ideas from it.  I’d love to hear what you are making too. We can all use some new dinner ideas once in a while (or all the time).  I’m working on taking some pictures too, for your viewing pleasure.  But don’t expect any fancy schmancy food styling with cute colored napkins or anything.  Ain’t nobody got time for that ’round here.  So without further ado, here are last week’s meals:

Sunday: Homemade turkey meatballs, penne pasta, jarred Sauce, roasted asparagus, carrot sticks, watermelon.

These were possibly the best batch of meatballs I have made in a while.  I should probably write down the recipe for you guys one of these days, but I think it comes out best when I wing it! I will try and give some basic instructions here and hope you can have great turkey meatballs too!  I think it had a lot to do with the pile of fresh herbs I put in..I am growing fresh herbs in front of my house, and they are doing well.  Maybe I do have a green thumb after all!

So I served a lot of choices this meal, which isn’t always the case.  I happened to have some carrot sticks left over from lunch, and watermelon that needed to be eaten up, so I put it out there, still in the containers from the fridge.  We’re not fancy, and sometimes a few extra choices are good for a picky little one.  Though this is one meal he’s pretty into.

Ok meatballs–1 or a little more pounds of ground turkey thighs, a big squish of tomato paste, 1 egg, about 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs (I used Ians gluten free panko), about 1/4 cup of chopped fresh herbs (I used oregano, basil, parsley, and chives), some garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and a dash of cinnamon.  Roll those puppies up and put them on a parchment lined baking sheet, bake for about 20 minutes on 375, turning occasionally.

Look at this crazy purple carrot!

Look at this crazy purple carrot!

Monday: Mexican sweet potato and black bean bake, salad bar (green leaf lettuce, cucumber, bell peppers, shredded cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes), guacamole, salsa, sour cream, blue corn chips.

This dinner did not work out so well.  I planned this without realizing that it needed to bake for about 50 minutes total, and didn’t get home until 5:50, and for some crazy reason, I was still determined to make it.  So we had some guac and chips and then had bath and hang out time.  The sweet potatoes were STILL not cooked, and I ended up having to cook the dish for an extra 30-40 minutes.  So we ate extra late and frankly I didn’t enjoy it that much, so I won’t share it with you here.  Lesson learned; don’t try to bake sweet potatoes into a casserole, roast or steam them first.  By the time they were finished the corn tortillas in the dish were dry in some spots and mushy in others, and the cheese in the dish was dried out.  Blah.  All that waiting for mediocre results.  Oh well, you win some, you lose some.  We still sat together and ate, so thats cool.

BUT I did find out that if you cut plain corn tortillas up into quarters and bake them at 375 for about 10 minutes, turning once, they get pretty crispy and delicious! Throw a little salt on them and you have a non-fried, non-packaged tortilla chip! I will definitely do this again, because I have an incredible weakness for tortilla chips, and can easily eat WAY too many in one sitting.  I haven’t gotten into making my own corn tortillas, though that is definitely on my radar…

Tuesday: Spicy Sesame Honey Chicken in a Crock Pot, Basmati rice, peas, strawberries.

This was great because it was all done when we got home.  However, I think it would have been better with the sesame and scallion garnish.  No time for garnish tonight.  Next time I would change the sauce up a bit I think; more honey, less tomato, add ginger, maybe a little mirin or sherry.  And if you have the option I would stick with the recommendation to cook 5-7 hours, I cooked 8 and warmed for a bit, because thats how long I was gone. And it was a tiny bit overdone.

Wednesday: Dinner out.

Thursday: Homemade burgers from the freezer, whole wheat buns from TJs, frozen french fries, not sure if there was anything else, but like to think there was a fruit or vegetable served. I work Thursday nights so I’m not home for dinner!

Friday: Scrambled eggs with fresh chives, bacon, toast, pepper jack cheese, salsa, avocado, sliced oranges, honeydew melon, cherry tomatoes, strawberries.

The fruits and veggies were all things that were already cut up and needed to be end-of-the-week eaten.

Raw nut flour!

Hopefully I have inspired some of you to make your own nut milk at this point. I was surprised and delighted when even my brother in law (definitely not the nut-milk making type!) asked me for the recipe!! I have used all types of nuts so far; cashew, almond, pecan, and hazelnut to be specific.

At first I was throwing away all the pulp that I strained out with my nut milk bag.  But it seemed like such a waste, and I had read that you could save it and use it elsewhere.  So I started tossing the wet chunks into my food dehydrator for 24 hours or so and they came out looking like this:

IMG_3288

You should know that I have a super cheapy Ronco food dehydrator, which actually works quite well.  But your dehydrating time may vary.  You could probably also do it on a very low temp in the oven, but I haven’t tried it.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do with them all, but I just kept chucking them in this container every few days.  Today I was finally inspired to make my favorite chocolate chip cookies that call for blanched almond flour.  I put the dehydrated nut pulp chunks into the dry canister of my Vitamix and whizzed it all up until it made nut flour. Raw almond/pecan/hazelnut flour!!

IMG_3338

 

That had hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup from the nut milk mixture.  It was delicious and came out pretty finely ground. I did take the skins off the almonds after soaking because I don’t like how they flavor the milk.  So this might have made the texture of the flour a little finer, not sure.

My son and I made these cookies and they were deeee-licious.  Not so FODMAP friendly because they do have a little honey and coconut flour, but so so good.  Maybe I will try to make them over without those ingredients one of these days..

IMG_3339

In the meantime, save your nut pulp and make flour. It’s amazing! And nutritious! Some people have a beef with nut flour because it is such concentrated protein and fat, but I say eat the treats made with them on special occasions and only in moderation, and you will be just fine!

I’d love to hear what you do with your nut pulp!!?

 

Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Milk

Hello to all, and apologies for not having posted in a while! I have taken some much needed time to rest and rejuvenate over the past few weeks. First, I attended an amazing meditation retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and highly recommend getting there if you ever have the opportunity.  After that I spent a few days warming up in beautiful Puerto Rico, and experiencing some incredible nature in the rainforest.  I am back in the freezing cold now, and back in my kitchen, which I am grateful for.  There seemed to be a serious lack of fruits and vegetables in the parts of Puerto Rico I was in, and It will be a long time before I eat another fried plantain!

IMG_0346

A while back I posted about making my own cashew milk, which was incredibly delicious.  Well, since then I have embarked on a new diet to help improve my digestion.  I have been dabbling with the low FODMAP diet, and have read this book about it.  It was very informative, and though I haven’t been really strict with it, I have found that avoiding certain foods that are high in FODMAPs has been beneficial for me.

Unfortunately, both cashews and dates are high in FODMAPs, so I had to revamp my nut milk recipe.  I had previously tried almond milk but found it to have an unpleasant bitterness to it.  I have since discovered that removing the skins from the almonds seems to eliminate the bitterness.  I also tried pecan milk, which was good, but there was a lot of pulp to strain out.  So I wanted to share my latest almond milk recipe.  I have found that the addition of cinnamon is fantastic too.  After soaking the almonds, the skins slide off very easily.  It is a bit of a tedious task, but I think it’s worth it, especially when you have this guy helping you in the kitchen!

IMG_3287

Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Milk

(gluten free, dairy free, grain free, low FODMAP friendly)

3/4 cup raw almonds

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 cups filtered water

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a glass jar or bowl, soak the almonds with sea salt in filtered water for 6-8 hours or overnight.  Drain, rinse well and and slip the skins off of the almonds if desired.  Combine almonds, 4 cups of filtered water, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla in the  blender and puree for 1-2 minutes until a smooth consistency is reached. Strain milk through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, delicious food, and laughter.  We actually ended up staying home from our celebration, as my son was sick AGAIN!  He is all better today, but we’ve been in the house a lot with little ills more often than I would like to admit. I’ve been cooking up chicken broth, and we’ve been taking probiotics and elderberry daily too.  I know it’s helping, but little kids just seem to be susceptible to every little germ out there!!

Do you know about the wonderful Elderberry?  So first of all it is a berry, so of course contains antioxidants, which are great for warding off cancer and various other diseases. It has long been used to treat respiratory diseases such as cold and flu, and some evidence suggests that elder may help reduce sinus swelling and nasal congestion.

Studies have also suggested that the little elderberry has some amazing powers, such as possibly reducing the duration of flu by 3 days as well as reducing flu symptoms.  One study even showed elderberry extract actually killing the H1N1 flu virus in a test tube!!?

elderberry-bsp

So I’ve been buying a prepared Elderberry Syrup for years that I think has been effective in helping us fight the flu. But this year I decided to get crafty and try making some myself.  The original recipe I used was too sweet for our liking, so I reduced the honey a bit and it came out just great.  We have been using it once a day for prevention and more frequently when sick or trying to fight something off.  We have been taking 1 tablespoon a day for adults and 1 teaspoon a day for children (skipping a day at least once a week) and up to 4 tablespoons a day for adults and 3 teaspoons a day for children when sick or fighting something. This syrup has several other immune boosting and anti-bacterial herbs and spices, and is also really delicious.  I usually put some in the freezer too; the honey keeps it from freezing too hard and it is so yummy to take frozen. And do use raw honey if you are able, it is full of live enzymes and good stuff that gets killed in the pasteurization/heating process of typical honey.

It should be noted that raw elderberries have a chemical in them similar to cyanide, so need to be cooked to make them safe for ingestion.  Anyone on medications or with special issues should speak to their doctor before using elderberry.  And please remember not to give this syrup to any child under 1 as it contains honey, which can be toxic for little ones.

If you are sensitive to honey, or want to give this remedy to your littlest ones, stay tuned for an updated post soon.  My next batch will be made with maple syrup, as I have embarked on a new diet to help with my IBS, a low FODMAP foods diet, but more on this later!

And here it is, I know you’ve been waiting for it, another use for the nut milk bag! When the syrup is done it needs to be strained, which can be done through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or, you guessed it, nut milk bag! I used my nut milk bag last time and was really pleased because I was really able to squeeze all the elder-goodness out at the end.

IMG_3047

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

1 cup dried elderberries

4 cups filtered water

2 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

3/4 cup raw honey

Add all ingredients except honey to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the mixture reduce by half, about 30-40 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag. When the mixture has cooled but is still warm (118 degrees F or less) whisk in the honey and store in a glass jar in the fridge, or in the freezer.  The mixture should keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

I’d love to hear what you use to keep your family healthy during cold and flu season!

Chicken Enchilada Soup

My 4 year old surprised me the other day.  Not to say that he doesn’t surprise me every day in some way, but there have been very little surprises or branching out lately in the food and eating department.  But I just keep on keeping on, following Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in feeding and knowing that he will come around eventually.

He had not eaten pesto, or anything on his noodles but butter in probably a year.  SO when I made fresh pesto the other night tossed with pasta, leftover chicken, and green beans, I also put out plain noodles, chicken, and green beans.  When my son sat down at the table for dinner he said, “What’s in the pot??” When I told him, he exclaimed, “I like pesto!!”  I almost fell over but didn’t let on for a minute as he proceeded to gobble it down and have seconds.  I was jumping for joy inside, but remained calm and cool so as not to encourage him either way.

I was hoping that we had entered into a more adventurous stage of eating finally, so I had high hopes for last night’s chicken enchilada soup. He likes chicken, rice, chips, cheese, and avocado, so I thought this one might be a real hit.  Well it certainly was for the rest of the family, but no such luck with our little friend.  He ate chips, cheese, and avocado for dinner.  Oh well, maybe next time, or the next, or the 10th or 20th time, because there will be a 20th time.  It’s that good.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I roast a lot of chicken around here and am always looking for new ways to use up the leftover chicken meat.  I mean I love chicken noodle soup and all, but it gets boring.  And I always have extra rice hanging around too.

IMG_3040

I was inspired by a recipe I saw online and she made these amazing looking crispy tortilla strips from scratch for topping the soup, which I was all set to do, until I discovered MOLD on my tortillas!!! So we had to settle for good old corn chips as topping until next time, and you can get the recipe for those from the link below.  I changed it up a bit, so here’s my version:

CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP

(gluten free, dairy free option)

  By Dana Youkilis

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

½ cup red bell pepper, diced

1 Tbsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin

2 Tbsp fine ground yellow corn meal or masa harina

1 quart chicken stock

1 14 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 cup cooked, chopped chicken meat

1 ½ cups cooked rice

3 Tbsp heavy cream (optional)

Sea salt to taste

For garnish: chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, corn chips or homemade crispy tortilla strips (get the recipe from All Things Health), anything else that floats your boat

Instructions

In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the garlic and onions until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the carrot and bell pepper and sauté 5 minutes more.  Add the chili powder, cumin, corn meal and ¼ cup of stock and continue stirring until the stock is mostly evaporated, about 1 minute.  Add the rest of the stock and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and let the soup simmer about 20 minutes.  Add the chicken and rice and cook until heated through, about 5 more minutes.  Season to taste with sea salt, add the cream and remove soup from heat.  Garnish with your choice of toppings.

Nutrition Facts (per serving not including toppings): Calories 251; Total Fat 8g; Saturated Fat 3g; Cholesterol 35mg; Sodium 504mg; Total Carbohydrate 30g; Dietary Fiber 2g; Sugars 8g; Protein 14g

Homemade Nut Milk

For years and years I have been buying and drinking non-dairy ‘milk’ of different sorts, as I have never been able to digest regular milk.  First it was soy milk; sweet, thick and delicious.  After some time I stopped being able to digest soy, so switched to rice milk.  It was thinner and decidedly not as delicious, but I made do with it for many years.  Then came the news about rice and arsenic, and though I still have my reservations about whether this is really a threat, I couldn’t keep feeding my boy something that could potentially harm him.  So we switched to almond milk, and had been enjoying it for a while now.  Lately though, I have been reading about carrageenan, a thickener in many non-dairy milks that has shown in some studies to have a detrimental effect on some individual’s GI tracts (read more about this here and here…and now I just found out it’s in my sliced turkey too. DOH!!).  Well no one needs any extra inflammation in their lives, and anyone who knows me knows I certainly do not need any extra GI irritation.  Now, you should know that carrageenan is still on the FDA’s list of approved organic ingredients, but personally, I don’t really have a whole lot of faith in the FDA and their many lists.

Anyhoo, I have been seeking out milks that do not include carageenan for the past few months, and some have proven to be better than others, but then I started to wonder about these other ingredients too.  Take a look at this:

IMG_3028I’m pretty OK with cane sugar and salt…but Locust Bean Gum?? Gellan Gum?? What are these and why do we need them?

So I’ve been hearing how easy and amazing it is to make your own nut milk, and also how beneficial it is to soak your nuts and seeds before consuming them.  So I finally gave it a shot.  I do own a Vitamix, so all I really needed was a nut milk bag (everyone seems to hate this particular combination of words so I’ve been trying to throw ‘nut milk bag’ into my conversations as often as possible lately).

I started with almond milk, and it was good, but there was a bitterness that comes with raw almonds that I just couldn’t get past.  So this week I tried cashew milk..HELLO!  It is so creamy and delicious and SO easy to make, I don’t think I will ever go back to that stinky boxed milk again.  I am excited to experiment with other nuts and seeds so I will keep you posted.  But for now, here is how cashew milk goes.  It’s still somewhat experimental right now, so just go with what feels right to you, you can’t really go wrong with cashews.

IMG_3026

Cashew Milk

(Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free)

Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen

3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews

4 cups filtered water

1-2 dates, pitted (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

pinch of sea salt (optional)

Soak cashews in filtered water for 4-6 hours, no longer.  Apparently cashews can be finicky when it comes to soaking ; most “raw” cashews have been heat treated and  can become a bit slimy if soaked too long.  Drain and rinse well. Combine cashews, water, dates, vanilla, and sea salt if using in the blender and puree for 1-2 minutes until a smooth consistency is reached.

IMG_3023

Strain milk through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

IMG_3025

This is the only downfall that I can see of homemade nut milk. It doesn’t last as long.  Also, I have to say that with the cashews I don’t even think I needed to strain it, as there was barely an sediment left in my nut milk bag.  But that will probably depend on the blender you use and how smooth you like it. Also, you could sweeten with honey or maple syrup too, or not at all if you like it that way or plan to use it in a savory dish.  I was wondering if I could make an unsweetened version and freeze it to use in dishes when I need it.  I’m not sure how well it will freeze, so I will keep you posted on that too.

But don’t you worry, I have found some other uses for my NUT MILK BAG, which I will let you in on soon!  In the meantime, I’d love to hear about anyone else’s nut milk adventures and how they turned out.  Here is my first smoothie made with homemade nut milk, spinach, banana, and peach.  YUM!

IMG_3027

Turkey Safety

A few years ago when I was in school for nutrition, I took a course in food safety.  We happened to be learning about proper thawing and cooking techniques for turkey right around Thanksgiving time, and one of them involved the possibility of food poisoning from stuffing cooked inside a turkey. Most of us had not heard about this, and sure enough, when we returned from the Thanksgiving holiday, one of my classmates had gotten food poisoning from the stuffing at her relative’s meal!

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving meal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

No one wants to make their guests sick, and of course no one would do this on purpose.  But there are a lot of food safety protocols for cooking turkeys that just aren’t widely known.  Many people learn from their mothers, who learned from their mothers, and so on.  Well, the meat was probably a little cleaner and safer back then, and unfortunately in today’s world, we need to take some extra precautions to make sure our turkeys are handled safely.  Here are a few turkey safety tips, and a wish for a happy, healthy, and very delicious Thanksgiving holiday.

  • Turkeys must be kept at safe temperatures during thawing. The danger zone for food is between 40 and 140° F.  Food that is kept between these temperatures for any period of time run the risk of bacteria multiplying rapidly, and the food becoming unsafe to eat.  There are 3 safe ways to thaw a turkey:
    • In the refrigerator.  Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.  Place the turkey in a container so the juices do not drip on other foods.  A refrigerator thawed turkey may remain thawed in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking.
    • In a cold water bath.  Place the sealed turkey in a large container of COLD water and change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.  Allow about 30 minutes per pound, and cook the turkey as soon as it is thawed.
    • In the microwave.  Follow microwave instructions for thawing a turkey.  The turkey must be cooked immediately after microwave thawing because some areas of the turkey may have gotten warm in the thawing process.  I DO NOT recommend this type of thawing except in an emergency because microwave cooking is so uneven.
  • Prevent cross contamination.  I know I talked about this a couple of weeks ago but let me reiterate.  All hands, cutting boards, knives and other surfaces that come into contact with raw meat or poultry should be washed thoroughly with soap and water before contacting any other foods.
  • Keep your stuffing safe.  It is optimal to cook stuffing in a dish outside of the turkey.  If you choose to cook stuffing inside your turkey, place the stuffing inside the turkey just before cooking, and use a food thermometer to ensure that the center of the stuffing reaches at least 165° F.  Any part of the stuffing that does not reach this temperature carries a risk of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.  This is serious and how my friend from school got sick!!
  • Cook safely.  Make sure the turkey is completely thawed, and set oven temperatures no lower than 325°F.  The meatiest parts of the turkey should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.  Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving the meat.

IMG_2765

The recipe for this week comes from Chef Ann Cooper.  These Cornmeal Apple Griddle Cakes were yummy little pancakes, and I even used gluten-free flour and they came out great.  They were delicious with our Vermont Maple Syrup on top, but I didn’t feel like they were apple-y enough.  Next time I would probably add some cinnamon or apple pie spice to the mix.

Brrr….Bring on the Broth!!

It’s been a beautiful fall season and I’ve really been enjoying the crisp air and crisp apples.  But before we know it, the heat will be on and our bodies will be seeking warm, hearty food.  Soup is a classic winter food and I’ve talked before about how easy it really is to make your own.  No need for that canned stuff!

But there is one secret that makes good homemade soup into great homemade soup…homemade broth, or stock, or best of all, bone broth.  I have to admit I didn’t know the difference between the three of these until now, but here it is. They all start out with the same base; vegetables, herbs, and some sort of animal carcass.  Broth is made with meat and a small amount of bones, and simmered for a short period of time, usually a couple of hours.  Stock is made with only animal bones that are usually roasted first for extra flavor. Stock is typically cooked for a medium amount of time, 3-4 hours.  Bone broth is also made with only bones, but is cooked for very long periods of time, sometimes 24 hours or more.  This long cooking time helps to extract as many nutrients as possible from the bones.  Bone broth can be made from the bones of chicken, beef, fish, or other animals.

In my opinion, bone broth is where it’s at, because it contains so many amazing nutrients while imparting wonderful flavor to any dish you use it in.  Bone broth is rich in amino acids, which help support the body’s detoxification process and healthy digestion.  Bone broth is also high in collagen, which helps with digestion as well as healthy skin.  There are also components in chicken stock that help to lessen the effects of colds and flu.  So your grandma was on to something!

Bone broths are less expensive than their store-bought counterparts, are more flavorful, and do not contain any additives or other weird ingredients.  If you don’t make enough of your own bones you can always ask a butcher or one of the meat producers at your farmers market for bones, which they would probably give you or sell you at very low price.

Here’s how I make my chicken stock (I guess it’s not quite bone broth because I usually cook it for 10ish hours):

Image

Save the bones, skin, and drippings from roasted bone-in chicken pieces or whole chickens in the freezer.  When you have enough (approximately 2-3 chickens worth of carcasses) put them in a large deep pot with a few stalks of celery, a few carrots, a large onion, whatever other vegetable scraps strike your fancy (just avoid ones that could impart a bitter flavor like broccoli or cauliflower) and a few cloves of garlic, all roughly chopped.  Alternatively, you could use vegetables scraps, such as carrot and celery tops, and onion and garlic skins.

Image

Add about ½ bunch of parsley or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, about 10-20 whole peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, whatever dried herbs you like, and enough filtered water to cover everything well.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar and let the whole pot sit for about 30 minutes before turning on the flame.  The vinegar helps to draw more nutrients out of the bones before cooking.

Image

Turn the stove on high and bring the stock to a boil.  Skim off any scum that comes to the top, cover, lower the heat, and simmer all day, or up to 24 hours or more.  When mine is done I strain the solids through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.  You could just use a colander for this, but I find that if I don’t strain it well there is grittiness at the bottom of the stock that I really dislike.

Image

I then either use it immediately or freeze it in containers for later use.  One thing I love to do is freeze my stock in ice cube trays so that I can just use a little for sautéing or sauces when I need to.

ImageImage

Once the stock is chilled, the fat will rise to the top and it can be scooped out if you like.  Traditional foodies believe you should leave it in or use it to cook other dishes with.  I usually scoop some and leave some.  It should also be noted that the sign of a good chicken stock is that it gets gelatinous when chilled.  I used to be put off by this, but recently learned that this means that there is lots of gelatin from the bones along with other goodness in my stock.  Lastly, I want to mention that the more “parts” you use for your chicken stock the better.  Many people use the gizzards as well as chicken feet, which are very high in gelatin.  I just haven’t been able to go there just yet!

I hope that this inspires you to make some of your own broth, stock or bone broth, and that it keeps you warm and healthy through the winter!

Here is my recipe for this week, mmm, mmm. Simple and packed with flavor.  And you could use your homemade veg or chicken broth!

CARROT GINGER TOFU SOUP

(gluten free, dairy free, grain free)

Adapted from the Vitamix Whole Food Recipes Cookbook

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 medium carrots, diced*

¼ c onion, diced*

4 garlic cloves, minced*

1 Tbsp fresh ginger root, minced

½ tsp salt

pinch of white pepper

1/3 c silken tofu*

2 cups low sodium (or homemade!) vegetable or chicken broth

Directions

Sauté carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger in oil until onion is clear and carrots are very tender.  Add salt and pepper.  Place carrot mixture in a blender or food processor with tofu and broth and puree to desired consistency.  Return to pot and heat through.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per 1 cup): Calories 107; Total Fat 6g; Saturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 348mg; Total Carbohydrate 8g; Dietary Fiber 2g; Sugars 3g; Protein 4g