Saturday, December 8, 2012

| homemade holiday gifts |

Okay, so this is slightly off topic because only 25% of the things below are food, but they are all made in your kitchen and contain mostly edible ingredients, so I'm going with it. If you have folks you'd like to give homemade gifts to this year, here are four that are easy peasy and cheap and useful.

TOASTY GROATY CEREAL
I found this recipe for buckwheat cereal on Mothering.com when I did a google search for make-ahead breakfasts. I tweaked it a bit and here you go! This is crazy-cheap....like maybe $2 for the equivalent of a very large box of cereal. I'd recommend packaging it in a nice airtight plastic container or a quart mason jar. It does need to be refrigerated....if it lasts that long.

Ingredients:
2 cups raw buckwheat groats
1/2 c coarsely chopped almonds
1/4 c peanut butter
2 T maple syrup
1/2 c raisins

1) Preheat oven to 350. Place groats on a cookie sheet with the almonds. (Trivia: apparently buckwheat is not wheat but is a seed and is gluten-free). Roast for 20 minutes. Stir. Roast for another 20 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, mix together the nut butter, maple syrup, and raisins.
3) When the groats are toasty, put them into the nut butter mix. The heat of the groats will melt the nut butter and coat them.
4) When they are cool, store in the fridge. Serve cold with milk.
VARIATIONS:
- Use any nuts or dried fruit you'd like.
- Try other nut butters. Almond? Cashew? Sunflower seed?
- Use other sweeteners. Agave nectar? Honey? Molasses?

HIPPY HAIR CARE
A friend of mine turned me on to "no poo." Weird name, but I dig it. Head over to Contentedly Crunchy to learn about how to do it.

Package up some baking soda in a cute container with a spray bottle of ACV. Whip up a batch of this home made hair pomade and you're in business for a hippy hair care basket of goodness.

Homemade Hair Pomade
1) Create a double-boiler with a mason jar or empty aluminum can. Place about 1/2 ounce of beeswax inside and melt it.
2) Add about 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 T coconut oil. Melt together.
3) Add about 1 T corn starch or arrowroot powder. Stir until smooth.
4) Add about 5-10 drops of any essential oil you'd like. I used clove and sweet orange in mine. Peppermint might be nice. Eucalyptus? Lavender?
4) Pour into desired containers. Let cool. Rub a tiny amount between palms and use on dry hair.

MINT MOCHA SUGAR SCRUB
Talk about an invigorating morning shower experience. Coffee in my bath products? Yes, please. Side note: I'm proud to say I created this recipe entirely myself.

Combine in a bowl:
2 c sugar
1 c ground coffee
1 T cocoa powder

Add equal parts olive oil and peppermint liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner's) until it's the right amount of gloopy for you. If you don't have access to peppermint soap, just use unscented soap and some drops of peppermint essential oil.

GROWN UP PLAY DOH
Make your favorite play doh recipe and add some good-smelling essential oils. It's fun to do lavender oil with purple, for example. Or sweet orange oil with orange play doh. Lemon with yellow is nice. Package them up in small, purse-sized containers and your friends can squish away when they are stressed.

Don't have a favorite play doh recipe? Ask the Google. Or just click here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

| beer & chocolate chili with a side of sugar cookies|

We're headed out this afternoon for our first Christmas event - a Hanging of the Green at our church, followed by a chili supper. We're taking my favorite sugar cookies ever (Yes, go ahead and click through. YES, you want to make these NOW!). We're also taking along this delicious and crazy-simple chili that we just ate at my mom's house last week. Don't know where she got the recipe, but I'll update if she lets me know.

The original name of the recipe was "three bean chili" but, truly, that hardly does it justice. So I'm rechristening it....

BEER & CHOCOLATE CHILI

6 cans of beans, rinsed and drained (I used a can each of black, pinto, white, garbanzo, hominy, and corn - yes, I know those last two aren't beans)
2 cans of Rotel (or one can of Rotel and one can of diced tomatoes if you want it less spicy), UNDRAINED
2 cans broth or beer (I used Guinness)
6 T chocolate syrup
2 T chili powder
1 1/2 T Cajun seasoning (make your own and please omit the salt OR use store bought - if you use store bought you need to use NO SODIUM versions of the beans or it will be way too salty - trust me on this, I like salt)

Put all in slow-cooker, and cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or 3-4 hours on high.  
Top with sour cream and cheese if desired.  Makes 8 large servings.

Monday, November 5, 2012

| favorite pancakes |

I have a love-hate relationship with pancakes. I love to eat them, but I hate how they make me feel after. I always feel gross. And I always end up hungry about five minutes later.

These pancakes from Moosewood are perfect for me. They are just the right combination of hearty and fluffy. They soak up syrup well. They come together quickly. And, best of all, they make my tummy feel happy and full - not gross and hungry.


Moosewood Whole Grain Pancakes
1/4 c whole flaxseeds
1/2 c rolled oats
1 c whole wheat flour (reg or pastry)
1/4 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
2 large eggs
1 c buttermilk or plain yogurt or Kefir
1/4 c olive oil
1 c water

1) In a blender, whir the flax seeds and oats until they're the consistency of corn meal. Or do like I did and just say, "Wait, the consistency of cornmeal? Couldn't I just use cornmeal and avoid this step?" Yes, yes you can.
2) Mix all the dry ingredients together in a big bowl.
3) Beat together all the dry wet ingredients with a  whisk or fork.
4) Pour the wet into the dry and stir until combined.
5) Cook the pancakes. NOM NOM NOM.

| substantial pumpkin muffins |

These are perfect straight from the oven and slathered with butter. I took a recipe from allrecipes.com and doctored it up. Really, you can do whatever you want in terms of various flours, fruit, oily ingredients, sweeteners. Just keep the amounts the same.

Yes, 24 muffins is a ridiculous amount of muffins. But this way you can use a whole can of pumpkin puree. And you can always freeze the leftovers.

SUBSTANTIAL PUMPKIN MUFFINS

1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (or raisins)

DRY:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
½ cup oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda         
1 teaspoon salt

WET:
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
½ cup applesauce
1/2 cup honey
¼ cup molasses
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 24 muffin tins. Place the raisins/fruit in a cup, and add enough hot water to cover. Let stand for a few minutes to plump.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, and put in the wet ingredients. Mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed. Drain excess water from raisins/fruit, and stir in along with the walnuts. Spoon into muffin cups so they are about 2/3 full.
3. Bake for 22 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan before removing from cups.

Monday, September 17, 2012

| kale & walnut pesto |

We have been abundantly blessed with kale in our CSA this summer and I can only eat so much African Peanut Pineapple Stew. So I found a recipe for kale pesto in Farmer John's Cookbook. I'm probably never going back to basil pesto again. This is incredibly good. Our two-year-old picked out cavatappi as the noodle of choice and it was an excellent decision. We tore up a ball of mozzarella and put it in there, too. I'm also thinking white beans would be a good protein.

KALE and WALNUT PESTO

1) Boil water. Salt it. Put in 8 ounces of chopped up kale (deveined). Cook for about 10 minutes and then drain.
2) Toast 1/4 cup chopped walnuts in a dry skillet.
3) In a food processor, combine the walnuts, 1/4 cup parmesan, 2 cloves of garlic.
4) Add the drained kale and the toasted walnuts to the food processor. Whir it up and drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil while it's whirring.

If you want to freeze it, omit the parmesan and just add that later. Parm doesn't freeze well.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

| simple summer lunch |


As I was scrolling through my facebook newsfeed last night, a recipe a friend posted caught my eye. Everything this friend eats is delicious, so I clicked on through.

BASIL BUTTERMILK DRESSING
1 small garlic clove
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk (note: I never have buttermilk so I just do the lemon juice trick)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with salt using a large heavy knife.
Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, basil, and garlic paste in a small bowl. Chill, covered, 1 hour to allow flavors to develop.

Feeling optimistic, I whipped up a double-recipe. I threw some new potatoes into a pot of boiling salted water while I worked. When the potatoes and dressing were done, I chopped up a couple tomatoes and a cucumber. I put the tomoates and cukes on the plate with a little torn, fresh mozzerella. Then I poured a healthy dose of the dressing over it all. I put the steaming potatoes into a bowl and hit those with dressing, too.

I never knew that the primary flavors in ranch dressing were garlic and basil. Learn something new every day, hey?

As I sat down to eat, I realized that every single thing on my plate except the milk, mayo, mozzerella, and salt came from a farmer within 50 miles of me. That felt pretty good.

Then I took a bite. That felt pretty good, too.

When you have awesome ingredients, you really don't even need to know how to cook. It all just happens.

Friday, May 18, 2012

| another black bean recipe which is way tastier than it sounds |

One of my all-time favorite recipes is from my friend Lynn. It's a black-bean pasta dish and it doesn't sound tasty but is SO GOOD.

And now we have a new favorite recipe in the house, courtesy of my friend Jen who brought it after the birth of our second child (funny story: she got the recipe from a friend who brought it to her after the birth of her son).

It sounds weird but is REALLY GREAT. Here's my version:

POLENTA BLACK BEAN AND SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
1) Chop up 2-3 large sweet potatoes. Large chops...like 1 inch slices that are halved or quartered.
2) Boil them only about 8-10 minutes. They should still be a bit firm. Drain.
3) Open up 2 cans of black beans and pour them into the same pot you just used. Include the juice and don't drain.
4) Add the sweet potatoes back in. Add about 1/4 t of garlic powder, 1/4 t of chili powder, and 1 T of cumin. Salt and pepper to taste. (If you're feeling like it, a half-stick of butter never hurt anyone either. Or olive oil.)
5) Spray a square casserole dish or deep-dish pie pan with non-stick spray.
6) Slice some polenta-in-a-tube. I usually use 2 tubes. Thick slices...maybe 3/4 inch. Line the bottom and sides of your casserole with the polenta.
7) Dump the bean mixture on top.
8) Top with a healthy dose of crumbled feta cheese. The more the merrier, really.
9) Bake at 350 until heated through. Probably 20-30 minutes.

This is a great dish to make ahead, stick in the fridge and then reheat in the oven.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

| ginger in a tube: fried rice edition |

I love ginger in a tube. Ginger is such a delightful flavor but such a pain in the patoot to acquire. I mean, there's powdered ginger, but it tastes like nothing. And there's real ginger, but peeling and mincing it makes me crazy. So ginger in a tube is where it's at for me. I love to add it to salad dressings. And I especially love to add it to stir fry.

I'm having fried rice in my lunches this week. Such a perfect, easy, use-up-whatevers-in-your-fridge kind of meal. And the ginger in a tube really gives it that extra punch. Yum.

FRIED RICE TECHNIQUE
You need:
already cooked rice (best if it's been in the fridge overnight)
a ton of vegetables
ginger in a tube
garlic
eggs
vegetable oil and sesame oil
soy sauce (or tamari)

1) Get out your wok and turn the heat up high. Scramble your eggs in a bowl. Oil the bottom of your pan. Dump the eggs in all at once. Wait until they're pretty firm. Flip once. Turn down heat. Take eggs off and set aside.
2) Prep all your veggies and put them on your cutting board in order. You're going to add any aromatics first (I like spring onions), then any hard veggies (like a handful of baby carrots or broccoli), then softer veggies (diced bell peppers? snow peas?), and finally soft veggies (I had some baby bok choi from our CSA - nom nom).
3) Heat a mixture of vegetable oil and sesame oil. Use a veggie oil with a high smoke point - like straight up canola or, if you're too snooty for that, some safflower. The sesame oil is just for flavor. I usually do a 2:1 ratio of veggie to sesame oil.
4) Once it's hot add your aromatics, a big ol' squirt of ginger, and a crap ton of garlic. Stir constantly
5) Wait 2-3 minutes and start adding the other veggies staggered about 1-2 minutes at a time. Once you've got all your veggies in it's time for the rice. Throw it all in there and stir, stir, stir. Once it's all broken up and starting to look warm, season it all liberally with soy sauce (or, if you're feeling fancy, tamari).
6) Slice up your scrambled egg and stir it in.

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

| summer comfort food |

A few weeks ago I was at a dinner at my church and we cooked it together. I don't know where the host got the recipes for the evening, so I can't give credit, but they were GOOD. We had my approximation tonight and they were both stellar.

SUCCOTASH WITH CORNMEAL DUMPLINGS
For the succotash:
Saute onion, corn, zucchini, garlic, oregano, and a can of black beans (drained but not rinsed) until all warm and cooked up. Salt and pepper to taste. I did mine in a cast iron skillet so it could go straight into the oven. Top with 1/2 cup feta cheese just before adding on the dumplings.

For the dumplings:
I didn't have a recipe on hand so I googled and found this one that worked great. I halved it to make four servings for my family.

1 cup flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (or pour 1 T lemon juice into a cup and then fill the rest of it with milk, let sit 5 minutes)

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter with forks. Add the milk and stir. Drop biscuits onto the succotash (don't forget the feta!). Bake at 450 for about 12-14 minutes. Swoon. I have no idea how something with so few ingredients can have such a deep flavor.

FENNEL SALAD
Toast some almonds in a dry skillet.

Cut up two heads of fennel (anise). Slice a small red onion very thin. Combine. Add a glug of olive oil. Add the juice of half a lemon. Salt to taste. Toss. Top with almonds.

Note: even if you don't like fennel, give this a try. The lemon really negates the fennely taste.

| two-minute healthy ice cream |

If you have a blender that can handle ice, you can make super tasty fruity ice cream (kind of like gelato) in about two minutes. When we don't have ice cream on hand and I want to make a treat for my toddler, this is a perfect ice cream substitute. And it's truly healthy.

BLENDER ICE CREAM
1 1/2 cups frozen fruit (strawberries, peaches, cherries, mangos? all delish)
1 cup ice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c of milk (whole milk is best but any will work)
1 T sweetener (I use agave, but honey or sugar would likely be great, too)

Blend until it's all creamy. This serves 3 BIG servings (like about 1 1/2 cups each).

If you're counting WW points, it's about 2 points per serving. Unbelievable.

| pasta primavera in a light lemony white wine sauce |

Okay, first off...I'm back on the Weight Watchers bandwagon, so you can anticipate that my recipes will be healthier from here on out. That will either make you happy or sad. It makes me a little of both, I admit.

So, I was trying to decide what to make for lunches this week an was craving pasta with a wine sauce, but I was struggling to figure out how to do that without copious amounts of olive oil. Then I thought, hey, why not use the technique for a Chinese white sauce (corn starch, ya know?) as a basis? So I did. In typical me fashion, I cooked up 6 servings of it, never assuming it might not turn out. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed. This is a winner.

PASTA PRIMAVERA IN A LIGHT LEMONY WHITE WINE SAUCE
1) Boil some water for pasta. Add a box of pasta when it's ready. Also, cook a package of frozen peas in the microwave.
2) Mince an onion very finely. I also had some extra celery on hand so I minced up about 2 stalks of it, too, but this wouldn't be necessary.
3) Put 2 T of olive oil in a sauce pan. Heat it, then add the onion, celery, and some minced garlic (I used about a tablespoon of the pre-minced stuff).
4) Once it gets soft, add 1/2 cup of white wine. Drink the rest of the mini-bottle of wine.***
5) Combine 1 1/2 cups water with 1 T corn starch and whisk until combined. For whatever reason this works better if the water is cold.
6) Pour the water into the sauce pan and stir. Add some lemon zest and juice (or at least juice). I used about 2 T of lemon juice and 1 t of zest.
7) While that heats up, chop some arugula. About 1-2 cups. Depends on how much you like arugula. You could sub spinach or kale if you don't like arugula.
8) Combine the cooked pasta, sauce, peas, and arugula in a bit pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with parmesan.

If you're counting points this is 8 points (using 12 oz uncooked whole wheat pasta and 3 oz parmesan total). This doesn't include drinking the extra wine. :-)

***You do have mini bottles of white wine on hand right? I'm talking about the small bottles of the cheapy Moscato or Zinfandel that come in a four pack. These are perfect for cooking. That way you don't end up opening a whole bottle of wine every time you need to cook something with it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

| no sugar cookies |

This is my friend Lynn's recipe. I'd say about 50% of my good recipes come from her, bless her dear soul. These cookies are super fabulous. They don't taste healthy at all. Seriously. And they are so quick to make. I whip up a batch anytime I have over-ripe bananas.


No Sugar Cookies

3 bananas, mashed (leave some lumps)
1 cup chopped dates or raisins (or any dried fruit, really)
½ cup chopped nuts
2 or 3 T oil (or applesauce)
½ t salt
1 t vanilla
2 cups quick or regular oats
sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice

Mix all ingredients well. Let stand for a few minutes. Drop from a teaspoon on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake 25 minutes at 350.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

| peanut noodles: method |

A few years ago, I found an awesome Weight Watchers recipe for super healthy peanut noodles. Over the years, I've tweaked it and it's probably not as healthy anymore, but it is still AWESOME. I'm calling it a method rather than a recipe because you can just put whatever you want in it. It's great for clearing out the fridge at the end of the week. It's also awesome because you probably already have everything you need on hand. Oh, and it comes together in about 20 minutes - no lie.

Here's how you do it:
1) Boil some water and throw in some noodles. I usually use udon or soba noodles, but have used spaghetti in a pinch. It works fine. I usually do about 3 oz of dry noodles per serving.
2) Chop up whatever veggies you want to use. You can use anything, really. Some of my favorites are onions, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, water chestnuts, and mushrooms. I usually use some shelled edamame for protein, but you could also use chicken or pork.
3) Heat up oil in a skillet and saute the veggies with a couple of tablespoons of minced ginger. This is a key ingredient. I keep the tubes of minced ginger in my fridge because I hate to grate it up. Takes forever.
4) While the veggies and pasta are cooking, make the sauce. Here's what you need for 4 servings (12 oz of dry noodles):

  • 1 1/2 cups of hot veggie broth
  • 1/4 c crunchy peanut butter
  • 1-2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T hot sauce (I use Siracha, but Tabasco is fine)
5) After the veggies are done, add the sauce. It will look really runny. Don't worry. 
6) Drain your noodles and stir everything together. Let it rest for a minute and the sauce will thicken.

So delish. Our toddler loves these. If you want it to be really healthy, cut back a bit on the peanut butter and use nonstick spray for the veggies (or just steam them). Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

| salad dressing...no need to buy it |

Here's the story....you really don't need to buy salad dressing. I've been making my own for a good long while, but always got messed up because I couldn't figure out how to make/store it in larger quantities. But then - THEN! - I read in a book by Ellyn Satter that if you use 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 salad dressing oil (you know, like canola or vegetable oil) that you can keep it in the fridge and the oil won't get all hard and weird. So....make some salad dressing! Here's how...

- You want a ratio of 2:1 on the oil and acids. So I usually use 1/3 c olive oil, 1/3 canola oil, and then 1/3 cup acids.
- Acids can be anything like lemon juice, lime juice, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar (any kind of vinegar, dig it?)
- Add salt and pepper
- Add some spices/flavor if you want...fresh herbs, dried onion, dried garlic, cumin, paprika, basil, whatever you love. Parmesan cheese is also a nice add on. So is mustard powder or whole grain mustard.
- Taste it. If it tastes like it "needs something" it probably needs some sweetness. Try a teaspoon of sugar, or honey, or brown sugar, or some orange juice, or agave...or whatever you like that's sweet. Oh, JAM is also great! You can get a tasty raspberry vinaigrette by just adding raspberry preserves.

Put it in a jar and shake it up. Keeps in the fridge. Makes you happy. Saves money. Doesn't have a lot of weird crap in it.