Happy to Color Outside the Lines!

Archive for August, 2013

Yogurt the Wise…

Yogurt the all powerful…

Yogurt the magnificent…

Have I lost you yet?

If you missed this “Spaceballs” reference, you’re either much younger than I am  or have much better cinematic taste.

“Please, please, don’t make a fuss. I’m just plain Yogurt.”

Ok, I’m done. It’s out of my system. Maybe.

Just plain yogurt. Not my favorite way to enjoy cultured dairy. I love my cultured dairy products, this is for sure, but I definitely need some flavor added into my yogurt in order to enjoy it.

Did you know that you can make a half gallon of organic yogurt for five dollars or less? Let me show you how to do that first, then I’m going to give you some ideas for flavoring your yummy creation.

Here is what you will need:

1/2 gallon organic FULL FAT milk. I LOVE Straus Farms for yogurt. So creamy and delicious.

1 cup of plain organic yogurt, either store-bought (if this is your first batch) or a cup reserved from your previous batch.

A crock pot.

The end.

yogurt 1

The steps could not be easier:

Start this in the early afternoon so that the final step is done at an appropriate time.

1.) pour milk into crock pot

2.) set crock pot to LOW, put lid on, set the timer for 2.5 hours and walk away.

yogurt 2

3.) make sure you set the timer, because believe me, you will forget.

4.) when timer goes off, come back to crock pot, unplug it, set timer for 3 hours and walk away.

5.) repeat step 3.

6.) when timer goes off, come back to crock pot, add yogurt to warm milk, whisk gently, put lid back on, and put a large folded towel over the top of the crock to insulate. Leave overnight on the counter, unplugged.

In the morning, you will have an entire crock of organic yogurt! I love that it is full fat as well, which is really hard to find in large quantities. Especially this cheap. 😉

Put the yogurt in a glass container (The Straus bottle works really well) and pop it in the fridge. The process is NOT complete until the yogurt has dropped to fridge temp.

So now that you have your amazing and all-powerful yogurt, what do you do with it? The possibilities are endless. (ok, maybe not ENDLESS.) Just make sure you flavor your yogurt in small batches so that you still have plenty of plain to use for your semi-endless possibilities. You also need to set aside a cup for your next batch.

Here are a few ideas for you, inspired by the amazing produce in my CSA box. 🙂

1.) Fruity yogurt: Blend whatever fruit you love…berries, stone fruit, etc…and fold into your yogurt. Do not blend them together as homemade yogurt tends to get runny when mixed too much. 🙂 A bit of honey mixed with your fruit may be needed depending on how sweet you like your yogurt.

This week, I used white flesh peaches from my box, blended them with a bit of cinnamon and honey and folded it into my yogurt. So  yummy.

2.) Tzatziki (Greek yogurt/cucumber/mint sauce):

Take one cucumber, peel, seed, and grate. Set in a strainer over a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and let it drain for about 20 minutes.

Prepare two cups of plain yogurt. If you want a thicker sauce, Strain your yogurt in a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth or a tea towel, set on a bowl,  for several hours. Save the whey (the yellow liquid that drains into the bowl) for later and use the resulting greek yogurt for this recipe. 🙂

Mince 2-4 cloves of garlic, depending on your preferences.

Chop up some fresh mint…about 1/4 cup.

Blend all ingredients together, seasoning with sea salt at the end.

SO yummy over burger patties or grilled chicken!

3.) Use the yogurt to make anything that normally calls for buttermilk: Pancakes, waffles, cakes, breads. You get the idea. Top with pears, peaches, plums or any other in-season fruit you have access to.

The pears in my box this week would be awesome stewed down in a bit of water, butter, and cinnamon until tender, then poured over something starchy and amazing that I totally can’t eat.

4.) Smoothies! My go-to food. I guess you know that by now. Puree that yogurt up with whatever amazing stuff you’ve got and drink up. Don’t forget veggies too. There are so many veggies that “hide” well in smoothies.

Give it a go, guys. It’s too easy not to! Save money, eat well, and maybe try something new.

May the Schwartz be with you. (Hey, I said “maybe”.)

California Cooking

I’m a California girl, in every way. When it comes to fashion, give me flip flops and a maxi skirt over just about any other outfit. I prefer thrift stores or flea markets over any mall, and my idea of paradise is listening to Incubus while on a road trip to the beach, stopping for In-N-Out on the way.

Tonight’s dinner was a definite nod to California. Crisp, light flavors, a slight hint of cultural fusion and, perhaps most the most “California” aspect:  Locally sourced, organic ingredients.

On the menu tonight? Grain-free coconut chicken strips, forbidden rice drizzled with salted honey butter and spicy peach/mint salsa. Not only was it delicious but it came together in less than 45 minutes. Also, I used 5 ingredients from my csa box!

Here is how it came together:

Start with the rice. It takes the longest to cook, but requires little effort. Forbidden rice gets it name from the fact that it used to be reserved for the Emperor of China. No one else was allowed to eat it. Can you imagine? I so love food with a history lesson. I also love food that makes me feel fancy and important…food like forbidden rice. It’s not just a cool story, though…its crazy healthy too. Loaded with antioxidants, forbidden rice is a great choice if you are eating grains. I don’t eat many, but have really enjoyed this fun ingredient.

To feed my family of five, I made two cups of rice. Use 2 cups of water for every one cup of forbidden rice.

In a large pot or sauce pan, combine 2 cups rice and four cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover and drop heat to low. Cook in low for 35-40 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

While rice is cooking, prepare your salsa. Gather the following:

1/2 one white onion
3-4 peaches, peeled and chopped
1/2 of one green bell pepper (So glad I put up those peppers!)
2 serrano chilies
Juice of one lime
Pinch of salt
2 TBSP fresh mint
2 Tsp raw honey

image

Pulse onion, pepper, lime, salt, honey and peaches in a food processor or blender. If you plan to serve salsa cold, add the mint now. If you want your salsa served warm, heat over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add mint for the last 30 seconds of heating.  Set aside.

Now, let’s get the chicken going!

For our family, we used four large boneless, skinless breasts, sliced into one inch strips. Put chicken strips into a mixing bowl containing four beaten eggs. Set aside.

Prepare your coating:

1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Whisk together, set aside.

In a stainless or cast iron skillet, heat extra virgin coconut oil over medium to medium high heat. You want the oil about 1/2  inch deep in the pan. We are pan frying, not deep frying, so you only need the oil to come halfway up the chicken.

Heat oil to about 350* or until a bit of your coating sprinkled over the pan results in a hearty sizzle.

Pull the chicken out of the egg bath, dredge well in your coating.

image

Once coated, drop in the oil. Fry about 3-5 minutes in each side, until golden and crispy (and cooked thoroughly on the inside.)

image

Drain on a cooling rack placed over a plate, paper bag or newspaper.

Once your rice is done, stir in about 3 tbsp of was honey, 3 tbsp of butter and a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir to coat.

Now, all that’s left to do is plate up!

image

Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh mint. I served this with mint tea, which was perfect.

The flavors are fresh, the contrasting elements work well together, and the Incubus playing in the background almost convinced me that I was headin’ down Hwy 101.

Almost.

I Hate Onions. Sorta.

I have always, always HATED onions. Back in my fast food days, the quickest way to experience rage was to find a rogue diced onion in my bean burrito from Taco Bell. (I CLEARLY said “NO SAUCE, NOOO ONNIOONNSSSS”!)  I don’t care if it was just ONE little offending onion…the burrito was deemed inedible and tossed. Ugh.

It’s not the flavor, mind you. It’s the texture. I just can’t stand that cold little crunchy burst of onion-ness. I can’t do it.

The solution? I puree the heck out of them. My food processor has pureed more onions than anything else in my kitchen. Jarred spaghetti sauces get a spin. Whole onions are pulverized before they are sauteed. Salsa’s are obliterated. I just don’t mess around with the crunch of an onion.

I am really glad I have found a way to enjoy onions, even if it is in the form of paste. Here’s why:

onioninfographic

Click the image for full size viewing.

They really are so, so good for you!

I received like five onions in my CSA box this week. I was down to a single onion, so I believe I ordered two units of onions to stock up for a  bit. I’m not a sliced-onion-on-a-burger kind of girl. I’m not the type to put raw onion in ANYTHING, really, so five onions used for cooking (or maybe salsa if its pureed into submission) will last me at least a week or two.

Tonight? Calavasa soup.

This is a  mexican soup containing chicken breast, garlic, tomato sauce, jalapeno, and yes, ONION. Paste of course. It also traditionally has corn in it, but we are “off” corn so I will be skipping it. Feel free to add it to yours.

Not only will it give me a chance to use up a ton of CSA ingredients, but its a very therapeutic soup for a girl who just spent the last week recovering from a “dry sinus infection”. One which may have infected my eye socket. Not fun to have vision disturbances when you’re trying to blog, btw.

Back to the soup. It’s a very easy process. I am using leftover cooked chicken breasts which have been crock-potted for multiple uses, (such as chicken salad sandwiches.) If you are using raw chicken, dice it in 1 inch or smaller pieces, and brown in a bit of butter. Set aside.

Gather the remaining ingredients:

1-2 squash, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 onion, diced, sliced, or if you’re me, pasted.

2 tbsp refined coconut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can organic tomato sauce (the small can)

2 jalapenos, sliced. (one if you don’t tolerate spice well)

6 cups water or stock

salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder and any other herbs you like in your soup. Common choices for a soup such as this may include mexican oregano and/or fresh cilantro.

First things first-I am going to puree the onion and garlic together. You can dice it, slice it…whatever you like. We already know my stance.

Sautee the onion and garlic in the refined (meaning, not coconutty) coconut oil.

Add the can of organic tomato sauce. (Small can!)

Add the stock or water and chicken. Season with “real salt” (Or whatever salt you like), pepper, 1/2 tsp cumin and a dash of garlic powder.

Toss in the sliced jalapenos. If you are sensitive to spice, only use one pepper.

Add back your chicken

Simmer for about an hour on low.

Now, add your squash  and about a cup of organic corn if you are using it.

Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, taste test for spice content…it may need salt and/or something else, like more cumin. Its a personal taste thing. 🙂

If you add corn, it will look something like this, but with more broth. I believe the time I made this one, I used less stock in order to make it more of a side dish instead of a soup:

calavasa

If you eat corn, this soup is awesome with a side of corn tortillas. For us, it will just be soup. 😉

Top your soup with mexican oregano or fresh cilantro for an awesome burst of flavor.

Bursts of flavor are great, as long as they are not cold little crunchy bursts that you clearly ordered your food without.

Sack Lunch

It’s that time of year again. Gettin’ up early, catching the bus, homework and field trips… Time for school!

Well, for some.

We homeschool, so I guess it doesn’t apply to us, but this post still does.

Even if you love your child’s school, chances are, their cafeteria options could use some work. School lunches are often full of processed foods, nasty GMO’s, empty calories, and lack variety. We public-schooled one year and most definitely went the route of the sack lunch. I realize that sounds a little snooty, but hear me out:

It is not the fault of the school, or the “Lunch Lady”. It’s the lack of proper funding. There is no priority given to the nutrition of our children! As long as they represent the “food pyramid” (which I honestly think is utter and complete crap) they are good to go. Don’t get me wrong…school lunches have come a LONG way from when I was in school. No more green hot dogs and fruit fly-laden fruit cocktail in heavy syrup. I’m glad they have made progress, but it doesn’t change the fact that our children are fed meat of horrible quality, pesticide coated produce, and for the kids receiving breakfast at school, LOADS of sugar to start their day. Maybe your school has a superb lunch, and I’m glad if that’s the case, but I assure you, not every school has it so good. Remember the “pink slime” controversy that restaurants and grocery stores faced? Guess who bought all that product once McDonalds and your neighborhood grocer vowed not to? Prisons and SCHOOL DISTRICTS.  Granted, not all school districts purchased it, but the headline should have really read, “ALL SCHOOL DISTRICTS ‘JUST SAY NO’ TO PINK SLIME.” Someone get Jamie Oliver on the phone!

As I said, maybe your district has a great food program. Again, I hope it does. You need to know, however, that there are many, many kids in this country eating utter and complete garbage at school. We cannot look at what they are eating and wonder why so many of our kids are diabetic, have high blood pressure, etc.

I looked up a menu from a local school district. Here is an actual example of the menu:

BREAKFAST:

Chocolate chip muffin top (sugar, flour, chocolate…um, hellooooo sugar crash!)

banana (yes, its a fruit, however, its also a HUGE dose of sugar as well)

1% white milk (Pasteurized, homogonized milk which isn’t even full fat. Yes, I know you’ve been told that full fat milk is bad. Read more on that HERE. Also, dairy turns into sugar as it digests.)

The result? Kids who are completely crashing by the time math comes around.

LUNCH:

Toasted cheese sandwich (very likely processed cheese)

Carrotteenies (What the hell?)

Spiced Apples (Because a fresh apple left alone just won’t do!)

Happy Birthday Cupcake (….*blink*…*blink*…)

Let’s take inventory of sugar here: bread, check. carrots, yep. spiced apples? Possibly. CUPCAKE!?  There is no amount of cheese that can balance out the sugar reaction these kids are facing. It frustrates me terribly.

Even though my children eat lunch at home these days, my  husband obviously doesn’t. If left to his own devices, his lunch would surely be full of processed foods, empty calories and would most certainly lack variety. Add in our dietary restrictions, and I’m sure he’d break every guideline I have set for him.

So, I pack his lunch.

Typically, when I order my CSA box, I make sure there are a couple of items that can be eaten on the go. Seasonal fruit, grape/or cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. Today, his lunch looked a little something like this:

sack lunch

Two chicken salad sandwiches made with mustard, a bit of full fat sour cream, (conventional mayo has all kinds of nasty garbage in it, so I opted for the sour cream instead of making my own mayo), mustard,  and diced jalapenos from my box – served on toasted gluten free flax bread. Two organic nectarines and an armenian cucumber, sliced, drizzled in lemon juice, and sprinkled with “real salt”. CSA items put to use? Nectarines, cukes, jalapenos! Not bad! I always keep him stocked up on things like nuts and seeds too, so he has other snacking options while he is working.

If I didn’t pack his lunch, I guarantee it would look more like a gas station corn dog.

When ordering your box, think ahead…how can you use it to supply your family with healthy lunches on the go? How can you preserve the items you receive to benefit you later? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Sack lunch doesn’t have to be a sandwich, piece of fruit and carton or milk. It could be soup in a thermos, little bits of chicken, fruits and veggies in a bento box, or even a salad in a jar! Check these out from http://www.eatingbirdfood.com!

salad-in-a-jar1

While I usually encourage you to love and nourish YOUR cake, please don’t forget to love and nourish the folks around you too. I realize that cost comes in to play for many people, and if anyone is sensitive to that, its ME. Trust me. When my kids were in school, they qualified for free lunch, and that doesn’t happen without reason. I was determined, however, to find a way to feed them quality food without breaking the bank. It IS possible, It’s not easy, but it can be done. You’d be surprised how much you can provide your family with when you cut out the pre-packaged foods marketed as “lunch box” food. Ditch the cheetoes, lunchables, capri-sun and pre-cut “apple dippers” and opt for taking a little more time to prep. You’ll spend LOADS less, and your children’s bodies will thank you.

Your corndog-less husband just might too.

Preserving the Harvest (Part 2)

I always thought I hated tomatoes. Unless they were presented as pasta or pizza sauce (and occasionally ketchup) I avoided them like the plague.

Then one day, after touring her garden, my friend Libby offered me a slice of a brandywine tomato. My first words? “It tastes like SOUP.”

I’m not sure what that means, but what I was trying to communicate was the complexity of the flavor. It tasted like something I had never had in my life…it tasted like a real tomato. I think that was the first time I really realized the difference in quality, organic food. I had eaten organics off and on for over a decade at that point, but that tomato was really eye-opening for me. I mean, come on. You cannot tell me your grocery store tomato looks like THIS:

tomatomg

tomatOMG

My CSA is offering five different types of tomatoes this week. It is not uncommon for me to have 2-3 different varieties in my fridge at once. Matter of fact, right now I have four. Heirloom, roma, red grape, and red cherry. Although I have plenty of tomatoes, it will not stop me from ordering more this week. Why? Because I want delicious, fresh tasting salsa for months to come. In fact, our CSA is offering  20 pounds of organic “cosmetically challenged” red tomatoes for $30 right now, which means that next week, it’s ON. I will be out of town this weekend, so hopefully they will still have 20 pounds available next week when I can devote more time to stocking my freezer and pantry with my favorite thing in the world.

Fresh salsa.

Easy, fast, tasty, and super nutritious, it’s the perfect condiment. I love the stuff!! It is the perfect way to add more veggies (and technically fruit) to your diet without much effort.

I am going to make a small batch today to add to my ever-growing stash in the freezer. Here is what I am starting with:

salsa1

 

A ton of roma tomatoes, some white onion, serrano chilies, “cherry bomb” peppers, lemon juice, sea salt, and about 20 minutes of my time. When I thaw the salsa for use, I will add fresh cilantro to freshen it up a bit. 🙂

For each batch, I use 1/4 of a white or yellow onion, 6-8 roma tomatoes, 2 serrano chilies, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkling of sea salt. You really can’t go wrong with measurements on salsa, guys. If you like more onion, add it. If you don’t like spicy, omit the peppers. You get the idea. I toss it all the food processor, pulse until all is combined and uniform in texture, and pack into freezer bags for later.

salsa2

 

I will do most of it with serranos (my fave) but plan to do a batch or two with the cherry bomb’s. Gotta see what all the fuss is about. 😀

My favorite uses for salsa?

2 TBSP (or more) mixed in with my scrambled eggs.

A heaping spoon-full over the top of shredded beef or pork that has been stewed all day…or crock potted. YUM.

Right out of the bowl with “Food should taste good” brand chips. OMG!

Or maybe my go-to quick lunch: A can of organic white meat chicken (the kind that looks like it’s in a tuna can) mixed with about a half cup of salsa, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of “real salt”.  Straight out of the bowl or with whole grain chips. My favorite meal these days. 🙂 Quick, easy, and full of protein and veggies (and yes, fruit.) Here are a few of the reasons you should be eating the wondrous tomato:

number103ok

Now is the time to capture the deliciousness of the tomato. You will thank yourself for the effort made when you are enjoying chips and fresh salsa in December!

 

 

 

Preserving the Harvest (Part 1)

One of the things I love about eating locally grown, organic food is that you are always eating the best of the best. When you eat a peach, in season, fresh off the tree, you are experiencing what a peach should really be. Eating one out of a Del Monte can, or one that has been in cold storage for who-knows-how-long just isn’t the same.

The only problem? When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Unless…

You learn to preserve the harvest. 🙂

This time of year, I spend a good amount of time “putting up food”.  I order extra tomatoes in my CSA box. I purchase more bell peppers than I normally would at the farmers market. I order bulk quantities of certain items so that I can can, freeze, or pickle the things I use most throughout the year. This usually means jalapenos, tomatoes, peaches and some herbs are making their way to my kitchen in large amounts.

By investing a little extra time and effort, I am able to make sure that I have fresh, locally grown, organic food at my fingertips year ’round.

Today, it’s bell peppers. They are super easy to preserve and super delicious.

I have been ordering a few extra bell peppers in my boxes lately.  I have quite a stash saved up, and today, they go to the freezer. Here are just a few.

bellpeppers

Its a simple process:

Core the bell peppers, removing the seeds.

Decide if you want slices, strips, or diced peppers, and cut accordingly.

Layer the peppers on a cookie sheet and pop into the freezer until the pieces are coated in ice (maybe 3-4 hours?)

Package into freezer bags.

Pre-freezing (or flash freezing as its called) will keep the peppers from sticking to each other in the bag. 🙂

Use later for egg scrambles & omelettes, chili, pizza, fajitas…the options are endless. 🙂

Their health benefits are amazing too. (Ignore the fact that those aren’t bell peppers in the picture, LOL!)

bell-pepper

Sugar Free Jam *without* Artificial Sweeteners!

I don ‘t know about you, but I am loving fruit right now. I already told you about the amazing peaches I’ve been getting from our CSA, but have I mentioned the plums? How about the berries from the farmer’s market? Or the figs that are making an appearance now…

I really try to limit fruit but sometimes you just need something sweet, and fruit is a great direction to go in when that craving hits.

I have also learned how to make jam without sugar, or any other nasty sweeteners. (Heads up! Splenda is NOT healthy.)

It is a super simple process, and you can do it with most fruits that typically work well in jam.

You only need three ingredients and about an hour:

1 TBSP chia seeds

1TBSP water

1 cup fruit

Pulse the water and chia in your blender for a bit. Add your fruit and blend. Pour into a jar and refrigerate for an hour. Voila…Jam! No added sugar, no preservatives…no guilt!

Also, its a great way to get chia into you, which is awesome. Why eat chia? Let me tell you…

chia-seeds-y-e1351642136350

It is awesome on these coconut flour crepes! (Especially if you add a dollup of coconut cream!)

Enjoy!

Tag Cloud