Category Archives: recipes


The Healing Powers Of Bone Broth (plus Recipe)

Have you ever been told to eat a bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick?

I bet you have. But do you know why?

It’s truly an ancient tradition. But the truth is, not all chicken soups will do the trick. Especially those found in a can.

Traditionally chicken soup was made by simmering vegetables, meat and bones to create a nutrient rich broth (a.k.a. bone broth). However, most commercial soups today simply use broth made from water and chicken “flavor.”

Bone broth has been used throughout humankind for its rich flavor and healing powers. Many cultures use it to cure illnesses, such as colds and flu. In fact, bone broth is sometimes referred to as Jewish penicillin. It’s also been prized for its ability to treat conditions related to the digestive tract, skin, joints, lungs, muscles, and blood.

And fortunately, bone broth is making a comeback.

Bone Broth Nutrition

Bone broth contains a soup (pun intended) of health promoting nutrients in highly absorbable forms. Thus, it’s much more potent (and enjoyable) than taking a variety of synthetic supplements.

Below are several key nutrients in bone broth along with their health benefits:

Minerals

Minerals are essential to life. They play many important roles in our bodies, such as nerve signaling and the initiation of most enzymatic processes in our bodies. They also impact the health of our digestive system, heart, cells, and bones.

Bone broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicone, sulfur, and a variety of trace minerals.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and have numerous responsibilities when it comes to our health. Bone broth specifically contains high concentrations of glycine and proline.

Glycine acts as an antioxidant, which protects our cells from free radical damage. It also aids in detoxification as well as wound healing, digestion, sleep, memory, and performance. It keeps our muscles strong and is used to make glutathione (another powerful antioxidant).

Proline is essential for healthy skin and joints. It also helps to repair the lining of the digestive system.

Collagen and Gelatin

Collagen is a protein found in bones as well as other connective tissues. Its name comes from the word “kolla,” which means glue. Essentially, its main role is to hold the body together.

When collagen dissolves in water, it forms gelatin. Gelatin has been studied extensively and is often used to heal and soothe the digestive tract, support bone health, overcome food allergies and sensitivities, improve digestion and detoxification, and boost the body’s natural production of collagen.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine lubricates our joints and provides a cushion within them. Expensive supplements are often used to treat conditions involving bone and joint pain, but bone broth is an all natural (and effective) alternative.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Along with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate supports healthy bones and joints. But it’s also essential for heart and skin health as well as maintaining optimal cholesterol levels.

Chicken Bone Broth Recipe

Bone broth can be made using beef, poultry, lamb, pork or fish bones. There are many recipes available online. Below is an easy to make chicken bone broth recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 whole organic chicken
    or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as carcass, necks, and wings plus gizzards
  • 2-4 chicken feet
  • 4 quarts cold filtered water
  • 2 T raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 shitake mushrooms
  • 1-2 pieces kombu seaweed
  • 1” piece of turmeric root, sliced (or 1/2 tsp turmeric powder)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 bunch parsley

Directions

If using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces.

Place other ingredients into a cheesecloth or jelly bag for easy removal later. Otherwise place carcass and parts in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all ingredients except parsley.

Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12-18 hours. The longer the stock cooks the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

If using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in the refrigerator or freezer.

Delicious Ways to Add Bone Broth to Your Diet

Cup of Bone Broth
Once you have a batch of bone broth, here are several ways to enjoy it:

  • Sip it plain (or seasoned with sea salt and minced spring onions)
  • Use it in soup, stew, sauce and gravy recipes
  • Use it instead of water or other liquids to cook grains, steam vegetables, make mashed potatoes and bake casseroles

To make a “miso-style” soup, follow this recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 C broth
  • 1 fresh mushroom, diced
  • 1 spring onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat broth on stovetop
  2. When broth is fully heated add remaining ingredients
  3. Heat on medium 2-3 minutes until all ingredients are warmed
  4. Enjoy!

I also encourage people to pour cooled bone broth into ice cube trays and freeze. Bone broth ice cubes are a great nutrition boosting addition to smoothies. They also give smoothies a thicker consistency.

To sum it up:

Consuming bone broth on a regular basis is probably one of the most beneficial things you can do to support your health.

  • It contains a variety of easily absorbable nutrients;
  • It warms your heart and your soul;
  • It’s easy to make; and
  • It’s absolutely delicious!

 

References:
Bergner, P. (1997). The healing power of minerals, special nutrients, and trace elements. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub.
Daniel, K. (2003, June 18). Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine and Gelatin [Web log post]. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/why-broth-is-beautiful-essential-roles-for-proline-glycine-and-gelatin/
Fallon, S. (2000, January 1). Broth in Beautiful [Web log post]. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/broth-is-beautiful/
Fallon, S., Enig, M. G., Murray, K., & Dearth, M. (2001). Nourishing traditions: the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Brandywine, MD: NewTrends Pub.
Vital Proteins, Why Collagen, Retrieved March 27, 2017
black bean brownies - delicious!

Flourless Brownies

Who doesn’t love brownies?  Oooey, chocolatey morsels of deliciousness. They’re great as a snack, as an accompaniment to a cup of tea, or even for dessert. But some people avoid brownies because they’re high in simple carbohydrates. This includes the gluten free flour versions.

So what if I told you about a brownie that isn’t so high in simple carbohydrates and actually has a fair amount of protein? And no, I’m not talking about putting protein powder into the brownie mix.  I’m talking about beans.  Specifically black beans.  This adds not only protein but is also a great source of fiber, folate, copper, manganese, and thiamine.

Before you think, “Um…no” let me assure you, these are delicious.  I’ve brought these brownies to a number of different gatherings.  Each time I share them I wait until people have eaten them before telling them the ‘secret ingredient.’  Everyone is always amazed at how moist and tasty these brownies are. They’re surprised to discover that the brownies are made from black beans. 100% black beans, no flour. That makes it perfect for those who need to eat gluten free. And tasty for everyone.

When using black beans I’ve found that it’s best to use canned. When cooking black beans from scratch, even in the pressure cooker or slow cooker, the consistency doesn’t seem to come out as well. When using canned black beans consider using a brand that does not have BPA in the can lining. (You can learn more about BPA and it’s health impact in this video) Eden Brands is one company that does not use BPA in their linings.

Black Bean Brownies
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ C. black beans
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 1 heaping T. ground flax seed
  4. 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  5. 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  6. 1 pinch sea salt
  7. ½ t. baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  9. 3/4 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  10. 2 t. instant espresso powder
  11. 1 C. dark Belgian chocolate w/almonds, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish
  3. Add remaining ingredients (except chocolate); blend until smooth; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish
  4. Top with chopped chocolate
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes
  6. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

Cream Of Whatever Soup

It’s winCream of mushroom soup - Campbellstertime and meal planning seems to turn to soups, stews, and casseroles.  For a lot of people that includes taking a shortcut by using some kind of creamy soup as one of the ingredients in their recipe.  Unfortunately while this seems to save time it’s actually not a great idea.

What’s in that soup can?

When it comes to canned products there are number of ingredients that are used in order to make the product more shelf stable. Or they’re added because they’re cheaper, easier to source, and more convenient for the producer.

For a lot of people using cream of potato/mushroom/onion/whatever in a recipe is something that they have a difficult time giving up.  Just adding milk to the recipe doesn’t really seem to work out too well as it’s too much liquid.  So they make a lot of changes but hold on to their creamy condensed soup-in-a-can.

I’m not only talking about Campbell’s here.  All of the canned soup companies use these types of ingredients in them.  This just happens to be the one that I’m talking about for the purposes of this article.  Remember, if you’re going to buy canned soups you must read the label and avoid negative ingredients.

Luckily you don’t need to rely on the can.  But let’s start by looking at what’s in that can and then I’ll share my favorite cream of whatever soup mix recipe.

Ingredient breakdown

Cream of mushroom soup ingredients - Campbells

  • Funny enough even though it’s condensed soup the first ingredient is still water.  That means you’re paying a lot for all of these ingredients but mostly water
  • The vegetable oils include corn, canola, and soy, three of the most genetically modified foods on the face of the planet.  GMO foods are not a great choice for health, you can read a brief blurb about it here
  • Modified food starch is often made with corn (making is a GMO) and can be more difficult for your digestive tract to process
  • Monosodium glutamate can cause a wide range of health issues.  In this particular can it’s there as monosodium glutamate, but may also be present as part of the “yeast extract”
  • Soy protein concentrate is obviously made from soy and is therefore a probable GMO ingredient. Extracted from defatted soy flour there may be a concern about pesticide accumulation during the concentration process as GMO crops tend to be heavily sprayed with glyphosate
  • Dehydrated cream is most likely to be from cows treated with rBGH, an artificial hormone linked to increased risk for diabetes, cancer, and several other heath issues.  It’s also been shown that cows treated with rBGH have a higher risk for mastitis and infertility
  • Flavoring is a very generic term and we don’t really know what it includes

Homemade alternative

Instead of reaching for the can, consider making your own cream of whatever soup mix.  Because it’s a powder it is shelf stable for quite some time and you can make enough to always have on hand for your favorite recipes

Cream of Whatever Soup Mix
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups powdered organic milk
  2. 3/4 cup organic cornstarch
  3. 1/4 cup organic bouillon powder or organic bone broth powder
  4. 2 tbsp dried onion flakes
  5. 1 tsp dried basil
  6. 1 tsp dried thyme
  7. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. To use simply mix 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups of cold water in a saucepan
  2. Cook and stir until thickened
  3. If desired add 1/2 cup of additional items such as diced mushrooms
  4. Can also add directly to a casserole calling for cream of soup
Notes
  1. Store in an airtight glass jar
  2. Keeps well for 3-4 months
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
 
Enjoy using this and be sure to share your favorite recipes that call for cream of whatever soup mix below

Red Curry Squash Gut Healing Soup

I’m excited to share this delicious soup recipe with you. It’s from my friend and colleague Dr. Devaki Lindsey Berkson. When she shared it with me I was so impressed that I asked if I could share it with you and she generously agreed. Not only delicious, this is a fabulous soup that’s good for your gut.

One of the things I love about it is that it’s seasonal and that means loaded with nutrition. In addition to that it’s a great soup to add to just about any Fall meal because it’s so nourishing and satisfying.

Here are Dr. Devaki’s ingredient notes:

Red curry squash is only available so many weeks out of the year in the Fall so be sure to pick this up as soon as you see it. It has great flavor and is high in vitamin A. The ingredients in this soup are healing for the goblet cells in gut crypts that replenish gut wall cells, mucosa and SIgA (that is the glue that holds gut lining immune system together). Garlic is healing for gut wall immune system as is the white pepper and the bone broth.

 

Red Curry Squash Gut Healing Soup
Print
Ingredients
  1. Red curry squash
  2. ½ bulb of fresh garlic cloves (or more if preferred)
  3. 2 cups bone broth
  4. Milk alternative (You can use almond, hemp, etc - do not use vanilla or sweetened should be unsweetened)
  5. White pepper (healing for gut wall)
  6. Sea salt (sometimes I layer both pink Himalayan and plain white sea salt for enhanced flavor)
Instructions
  1. Cut up squash, deseed, and cut into several inch pieces
  2. Put in tall pot, add water but not up to top of squash pieces, this is important as too much liquid takes away from flavor, so put water about 1 ½ inches below squash pieces)
  3. Cook till somewhat tender, do NOT over cook as decreases flavor, just enough to blend
  4. Put squash in blender with water from pot, add well-diced garlic and bullion, and blend very slightly to keep small chunks. I find it tastes better with slight chunks and if blended too much it dings flavor. Consistency affects the taste
  5. Put blended soup back into the same cooking pot
  6. Add milk, bullion, white pepper and salt
  7. Keep adding any amount till the taste is what you like. I prefer it to be spicy with a tad generous amount of pepper and this makes it extra gut healing. But not all like this. Some like it so much they add a touch of cayenne, which furthers gut healing
  8. Serve in ceramic bowl with a few roasted pumpkin seeds if you like they look pretty and pumpkin seeds are anti-parasitic
Options
  1. When placed in eating bowls, add a dollop of olive tapenade or sun-dried tomato paste or both. Adds to healing and flavor and sets your soup pumpkin-heads ahead of the others
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

Bone Broth And The Rest Of The Story

Screenshot 2016-01-10 22.10.37Many years ago I used to list to a Paul Harvey program called “The Rest Of The Story.”  In his radio show Paul Harvey would lead with some sort of a story.  But it always turned out that there was something we didn’t know.  As I recall, usually after a commercial break he would come back on air with the statement, “And now, for the rest of the story” and proceed to fill in something we didn’t know or perhaps had forgotten.  He’d end with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

Ingredients matter

I was reminded of this the other day when an article about the benefits of broth came across my desk.  Entitled Broth Is Back the article was talking about bone broth and how wonderful it is.  It went on to give three recipes for broth, beef, chicken, and vegetable.  A quick look showed the use of apple cider vinegar in the beef broth but not in the chicken broth.  This is unfortunate because the vinegar helps to draw minerals from the bones making the broth richer and more nutritious.  The article did not specifically mention it, but it’s best if the vinegar used is raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar which has enzymes.

Then I looked more closely at the recipes and was frustrated to see that they were recommending the use of canola oil.  Canola is not a good choice as far as oils go.  Highly genetically modified (it’s one of the most modified crops we have) it’s not a great fatty acid profile.  If you want to add fat to your broth a better choice would be some of the fat from the meat, ghee, or olive oil.

Recipes

Broth is back.  It’s delicious, nutritious and so easy to make.  Adding collagen, glutamine, and a host of nutrients it’s easy to incorporate into your diet either drinking it plain or using it as the base for risottos, sauces, soups, and more.

One of my favorite ways to serve bone broth is as a miso style soup.  It’s a perfect afternoon treat.

Nourishing Broth Miso

1 cup nourishing broth – heat on stovetop
while broth is heating shred ½ a carrot
dice 1 spring onion
thinly slice 1 mushroom
add veggies to broth
add generous pinch of sea salt
add generous pinch of freshly minced parsley if desired

And if you’re looking for a variety of bone broth recipes both to make and to use the broth there’s a new book, Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel.   Starting with chapters that provide a deeper understanding of collagen, cartilage, bone and marrow, the book discusses why the addition of this nourishing food is so supportive for our system. If you’re looking for more information about broth and some creative ideas on how to incorporate it into your diet, this book would be a good addition to the bookshelf.

This is one of the delicious recipes from the book:

Breakfast Meat and Veggie Scramble

serves 2

2 tablespoons lard, duck fat, suet, butter, or ghee, or a combination, plus more if needed
8 ounces meat (i.e., shredded chicken, ground meat, sausage)
2 ups shredded or finely ied vegetables
up to ½ cup homemade broth
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toppings:  butter, grated raw cheese, sour cream, avocado, or raw sauerkraut

Melt the fat in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the meat and cook it until browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl.  Add additional fat to the pan if necessary.

Add the vegetables to the fat in the pan and cook until tender.  Start with onions, mushrooms, and more fibrous vegetables, and add the more tender vegetables at the end.  Add up to ½ cup bone broth, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the meat to the vegetable mixture and cook until warmed through.  Serve with your choice of toppings.

*****

So yes, bone broth is back.  It’s not new but it’s perhaps newly rediscovered.  It’s delicious, it’s good for you, and it’s best made with a healthy fat and even chicken broth can benefit from the addition of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

Now you know the rest of the story.

 

Dinner In A Jar

dinner in a jar

I’m not a fan of plastic for food storage.  While there are times that it’s unavoidable, my preference is for glass.  So I save jars.  Lots of them.  They’re great for dry goods, things like beans, grains, and spices.  But they’re also fabulous for efficient leftover storage.  Take the picture above for example.  It’s ratatouille and polenta.  After the meal rather than packaging up the leftovers into one container of ratatouille and one container of polenta I’ve assembled them into meals in the jar.  Perfect for grab-and-go meals on the road or if I’m trying to save time and energy at home.

By assembling my leftovers into meal containers I avoid having to find a container for the ratatouille, find a container for the polenta, take them out when I want to serve them, put a container with less stuff back in the fridge (which takes up more space).  Repeat with consecutive meals until there’s just a smidge left in all the containers, the fridge is jam packed, there’s no room, but there’s not much food either.  This is much more efficient and I love it.

The two jars in the picture demonstrate the different ways of filling your jar.  It’s important to remember that you want to use wide mouth openings, otherwise it’s more difficult to get stuff out.  Putting your base (in this case the polenta) on the bottom and your saucy stuff (the ratatouille) on top makes a perfect on the go meal.  I can heat and eat straight from the container.  Yes, I’m talking reheating in the microwave oven.  Not my preferred method of heating but when I’m out and about I don’t usually have the option of reheating on a stove top.

The other method, with the sauce on the bottom and the base on top is fabulous when you can dump everything out onto a plate.  When you turn it over the base is on the bottom and the sauce is on top.

This meal was so delicious I know I’m going to be making it again soon in the near future.  And because I know you want to make it too, here’s the recipes.

Ratatouille

1 large eggplant
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
2 sweet bell peppers
5 medium to large tomatoes, cored and diced
1/4 cup olive oil plus more if needed
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons fresh basil, minced
sea salt and pepper to taste

Cut the eggplant into 1″ cubes
Sprinkle with salt and let sit 1 hour
Rinse and drain eggplant
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in pan
Add diced onion and saute until starting to soften
Add another 2 tablespoons olive oil and the eggplant
Stir to fully coat eggplant
Turn heat down to medium and add remaining ingredients
Stir frequently for another 10 minutes
Turn heat down to low and simmer 15-20 minutes

I love this ratatouille over polenta, but it’s also great on a baked potato or just by itself.

This polenta recipe is the one from The Pantry Principle, if you’d like you can put fresh mozzarella on top of the polenta after it’s been cooked and then put the hot ratatouille on top.  This will cause the mozzarella to melt into ooey deliciousness and makes the whole meal delightful.

Polenta

So easy to make at home that you’ll wonder why you ever bought it. The homemade version is much more versatile and, by choosing organic cornmeal, can be GMO free polenta.

1 C. cornmeal
1 t. sea salt
3 C. water

Bring water and salt to a boil
Reduce water to a simmer
Very slowly add cornmeal (this is important to avoid lumps)
Cook approximately 20 minutes until mixture thickens
Remove from heat and pour into a pie plate (for triangles) or a cake pan (for squares)
Let polenta set for 10-15 minutes
Cut and serve

Enjoy!

What’s In A Biscuit

Screenshot 2014-09-27 10.24.44

For some reason I’ve been seeing a number of recipes lately that seem to include the use of a can of biscuits.  Maybe it’s because Fall is here and so there are more stews and “comfort” foods being made to accompany the change in seasons.

Truthfully I used to use these a lot myself. Especially when my children were younger. It was an easy to way to get a quick batch of biscuits into the oven to have with dinner. They also made great donuts when coated with cinnamon sugar and fried. Or rolled out they made a quick and seemingly tasty crust or wrap for something.  They even made great snacks when cut into bite size pieces, rolled in melted butter, and sprinkled with parmesan.

Now I shudder to think about eating that and I’m horrified at the thought of all of those chemicals that I fed my children.  For those who can and do eat gluten, if you’re still eating this type of whack-and-bake product it’s truly not a good choice.

Let’s start with the Nutrition Facts:

This label demonstrates one of my biggest issues with how the label works.Screenshot 2014-09-27 10.31.23It doesn’t tell the truth.  Right there on the label we see “Trans Fat 0g.”  That leads us to believe that there are no trans fats.  And since we’ve all pretty much learned that trans fats are bad for you we think we’re doing a good thing by avoiding them.  But are we really?

Not here.

Because when we skip down to the Ingredients List we find the following:

Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Water, Soybean and Palm Oil, Baking Powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda), Dextrose. Contains 2% or less of: Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar, Salt, Vital Wheat Gluten, Mono and Diglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Yellow 5, TBHQ and Citric Acid (preservatives), Butter, Red 40, Color Added, Natural and Artificial Flavor.

Near the bottom we see Hydrogenated Palm Oil and Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil.  ANYTHING that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated IS a trans fat.  So how do manufacturers get away with this?  Isn’t that lying?  Not according to the standards used for nutrition fact reporting which allow them to say there are no trans fats if there is less than 0.5g per serving.

What is a serving?  It’s what the label says it is.  A portion is what you serve yourself.  Regardless of how many biscuits you eat, even if you just eat one you are still getting trans fats.  Guaranteed.  Because it’s in the ingredients.

And that doesn’t even begin to address all of the other nutritionally damaging ingredients found in this product.

Enriched flour is nutritionally deficient.  Notice all of the ingredients after “wheat flour” in the parenthesis?  Those are mostly B vitamins with some iron that are put back into the flour by Federal mandate.  But the flour is still missing all of the other ingredients which are stripped out in processing.  And then it’s bleached.  Enriched anything is not a healthy choice.

The dextrose is probably from corn and mostly likely genetically modified corn at that.  The soybeans are probably also genetically modified.  GMO foods are simply not a good choice for health.  The citric acid is possibly also sourced from corn and therefore likely to be GMO as well.

Artificial colors, yellow 5 and red 40.  While it may not look like a colored item this canned biscuit product does have artificial colors.  TBHQ, Propylene gycol alginate, artificial flavor, there’s a huge array of chemicals in this product and it’s not something that anyone should be consuming.

Sadly we often think that convenience foods are, well, convenient.  We don’t realize that in order for them to be shelf-stable and ready to go it means lots of chemicals and not a lot of nutrition.

For those who can eat gluten and who want biscuits to go with their meal it’s still possible to have them.  And although it takes a little more work, it’s truly not that much effort and the results are far better (and much better for you) than a chemical concoction from a can.

Soaked Flour Biscuits

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
1 cup organic whole milk
1 tablespoon raw unfiltered vinegar

Mix vinegar and milk together and let sit 5 minutes until milk curdles slightly
Add to wheat and oat mixture, combining thoroughly
Let sit 8 hours to soak

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup organic, unsalted butter, cut into slices

Preheat oven to 450 F
Sprinkle baking powder, salt, and baking soda over the flour mixture
Add butter and gently work butter into mixture to fully incorporate
Don’t over-mix the dough or your biscuits will be tough

Roll dough out on a lightly floured board to about 1″ thickness
Cut biscuits out with a glass that has been dipped in flour (so it doesn’t stick)
Place on baking tray
Bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown

 

 

Making Vanilla

Vanilla is a great flavoring.  Used in baking it adds a subtle undertone and can help to intensify the flavors.  The beans for real vanilla extract are harvested from orchid flowers and many people consider those from Madagascar to be the best.  Pure vanilla, however, is very expensive.  For a 4 ounce bottle I’ve seen it priced anywhere between $4-$9.  That’s quite a bit when you consider that there are only two ingredients in there, alcohol and vanilla beans.

For vanilla extract (not pure), sometimes labeled “Natural Vanilla Extract” you may find yourself  looking at more than two ingredients:

  • Sugar.  I’m not sure why this would be added since vanilla extract by itself is not expected to be sweet, it’s used to flavor things to help bring out the sweetness.  If the sugar source is not identified as cane sugar it is possibly beet sugar which has the potential to be from genetically modified (GM) sources.
  • I’ve also seen labels that contain corn syrup.  This is, again, a sweetener, however since it’s from corn it is mostly likely to be GM and therefore not something you want to purchase.
  • Potassium sorbate can be added as a preservative.  This is most likely done when the alcohol content is low since alcohol by itself would be a preservative.  For some people this preservative can cause rashes, itching of the mouth or eyes, congestion, or digestive disturbance.
  • Caramel color is another additive.  True vanilla does turn brown but perhaps the manufacturers want a consistent looking product and therefore they use caramel coloring.  Unfortunately recent studies have shown this additive to be carcinogenic and therefore something you want to avoid.

Artificial vanilla, sometimes referred to as vanillin, has no extract from vanilla beans at all.  Instead it is chemically synthesized.  One common substance used is lignin, a waste product from paper making, which is treated to release vanilla flavor overtones.  Vanillin can also be synthesized from the oils from cloves.  The most common source is guaiacol, an oily yellow petrochemical-like substance made by distilling wood tar (wood tar is also referred to as creosote).  In some people vanillin can bring on migraine headaches or cause other allergic reactions.

For those who need to eat gluten free many dessert recipes call for gluten free vanilla extract.  The interesting thing is that most pure vanilla uses distilled alcohol as the base.  The distillation process creates a gluten-free product as the gluten proteins cannot carry over through vaporization, cooling, and re-liquifying that happens.

Having said all that, it’s easy, and not that expensive, to make your own pure vanilla extract.   Here in photos is my recent kitchen adventure making my own vanilla extract.  To make your own you’ll need 3-4 beans per cup of alcohol.

Step one:  Buy some vanilla beans (whichever kind you prefer) and alcohol (I chose vodka)

making vanilla - step one

Step two:  slice open the vanilla beans and scrape out the stuff in the middle.  Scrape this stuff into your jar/bottle of alcohol.

making vanilla - step two

 

Step three:  Cut the vanilla beans and add them to the jar with the scrapings.  Cap the jar tightly.

making vanilla - step three

Step four: This is the part that requires patience. Wait.  In two weeks shake the jar.  Wait some more.  Repeat.  It takes approximately four months for your extract to be ready (some people say six is better)

Musings on making pure vanilla extract:

  1. Supposedly it does best if you make it in an amber colored bottle.  I didn’t have one the size I wanted so I just used a recycled glass bottle.  But I have a dark, fermentation cupboard so I figure it’s good in there.
  2. The bean does not at all smell like vanilla when you cut it open and scrape out the stuff.  I’m not sure what it smells like but, to my untrained nose, certainly not vanilla.
  3. The longer the extract sat the more it smelt like vanilla.
  4. Things to watch out for with the alcohol you are using.  Vodka is sometimes made from wheat so if you have gluten sensitivity issues you need to use gluten free vodka which is made from grapes (seek out organic in order to avoid pesticide residue from the grapes), potatoes or corn (potentially GM so look for organic if it’s sourced from corn).  Bourbon is made from corn and therefore potentially GM, you’ll need to look for organic bourbon (not easy to find I’ve been told).  Rum is made from sugar cane and should be fine.  Brandy is made from fruit pressings, grapes, apples, or pears usually.  Since apples and pears are high on the dirty dozen list look for organic to avoid pesticide residue.
  5. As you use your vanilla extract you can continue to top off the jar and let it sit a while to infuse.

Below is my current batch of vanilla extract, at approximately two months in.  It gets darker and darker each time I pull it out. And more vanilla-y smelling. I’m excited to start using it once it’s done.

vanilla - finished

 

crockpot shredded chicken

Pot Pie Makeover

The comfort of pot pie

One of my favorite meals is pot pie.  When the weather gets cold and wintry, there is nothing more warming and delicious than a pot pie.  It’s also a wonderful convenience dish. Filled with meat and vegetables, it’s a meal in one dish.

What’s in the box?

For many people pot pie is something that comes in a box from the freezer section at the grocery store. While certainly convenient, these tend to come with a variety of ingredients that are not a great choice. Here, for example, is the ingredient list from

Stouffer’s White Meat Chicken Pot Pie:
Water, Chicken Meat White Cooked, Flavor(s) Chicken, Chicken Powder, Chicken Broth Dehydrated,
Food Starch Modified, Carrageenan, Cellulose Gum, Dextrose, Flavor(s), Salt, Whey Protein
Concentrate, Mono and Diglycerides, Cream Whipping, Apple(s), Flour Bleached Enriched, Wheat
Flour Bleached Enriched, Carrot(s), Celery, Chicken Fat, Egg(s) Yolks Dried, Niacin, Milk Non-Fat
Dry, Onion(s), Peas, Polysorbate 80, Iron Reduced, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Chicken Base, Contains BHA,
Contains BHT, Canola Oil, Caramel, Corn Syrup Solids, Lard, Maltodextrin, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2),
Soy Lecithin, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Corn Starch Modified

44 ingredients! Going through this list one by one would be a rather long endeavor so I’ll skip to the chase and point out that there are GMO’s, lots of chemicals, known carcinogens, possible MSG, probably pesticides, and potentially heavy metals in this box.  There’s also a nasty ingredient called carrageenan which can cause intestinal distress and has some other unpleasant side effects. Not very tasty in my book.

So what’s the answer?  

For me it’s making my own pot pie.  14 simple real food ingredients (15 if you include the seasoning on the meat).

Before when making pot pies I used to cook a chicken or a turkey and then dice up the leftover meat to use in a pot pie.  Certainly a convenient way to make use of the leftover meat, but rather time consuming.  Recently I had an epiphany.  Why not shred the meat instead.  I theorized that the shredded meat would be just as nice in the pot pie, but could potentially be made much easier than having to roast a bird, carve off the meat and then cut it up.

Using my crockpot, one of my favorite kitchen appliances, I made shredded meat overnight.  I actually wanted to try making pot pie and chili with shredded meat so I cooked enough meat for both dishes.  Using two turkey breasts and six chicken thighs (to get a good mix of white and dark meat), I put them in the crockpot with seasonings (I used Kirkland’s No Salt Seasoning and some fresh ground pepper) and 1/4 cup of nourishing broth.  I let it cook on low all night.  In the morning when I got up the meat was fully cooked and so tender that it shredded without any difficulty simply using two forks.  

Sidenote:  I use my crockpot overnight on a fairly regular basis.  I figure just because I’m asleep doesn’t mean my crockpot can’t be working for me.  Nourishing broth, soaking beans, overnight cereal, marinara sauce, all kinds of things work well in the crockpot overnight to be ready to use when you wake up in the morning.

Updating your pot pie

As much as I like pot pie, over the years I’ve become less and less enamored of the idea of eating my meals encased in a crust of dough, especially a gluten based dough.  Although it’s possible to make gluten-free pie crust, I’m not very good at it (and not particularly interested in spending the time on it these days).  So I’ve come up with an alternative.  I make dumplings and serve that as the top “crust.”  It’s delicious without being overwhelming in the way of simple carbs. It also requires a little less labor.  The dumplings are great because they provide just the right amount of toothsomeness to the pot pie; the right balance to top off the delicious filling.

Here’s my basic-ish recipe for a pot pie.  This recipe is for mushrooms and peas because that’s what I had on hand when I made it last.  Usually the vegetable part of a pot pie is somewhat flexible which is one of the things that makes it such a wonderful dish to have in your repertoire. The recipe does include bone broth which makes it tastier and more nourishing.  Enjoy!

GF Dumpling Pot Pie
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Ingredients
  1. Gluten Free Dumpling Crusted Pot Pie
  2. 10-12 baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  3. 2 T. organic butter
  4. 1/4 C. gluten free flour (these days I'm using Namaste and really like it)
  5. 1 C. nourishing broth
  6. 2 C. whole fat organic milk
  7. 1 heaping t. dried onion
  8. 1/2 t. dried thyme
  9. 1 t. sea salt
  10. 3 C. shredded chicken
  11. 2 C. peas, frozen or fresh
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish
  3. Melt butter in a large sauce pan
  4. Add mushrooms and stir gently until mushroom soften
  5. Add flour and toss gently, coating mushrooms
  6. Add broth and milk, stirring well to incorporate fully and bring to a boil
  7. Reduce heat and add onions, salt, and thyme, cook 5-7 minutes until sauce begins to thicken
  8. Add meat and peas
  9. Top with dumpling crust
  10. Bake 30-35 minutes
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
GF Dumpling
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup gluten free flour
  2. 2 t. baking powder
  3. 1 t. dried parsley
  4. 1/2 t. dried dill
  5. 1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
  6. generous pinch sea salt
  7. 1/4 cup organic butter
  8. 1/2 cup whole fat organic milk
Instructions
  1. Combine flour, baking soda, and seasonings mixing well
  2. Slice butter into thin pats and then blend into flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal
  3. Add in milk and combine fully until it forms a dough
  4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto top of filling
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

I Love Latkes!

latkes

It’s that time of year again.  Hanukkah!  The festival of lights.  And part of the holiday celebration calls for eating foods fried in oil to celebrate the miracle of the oil the burned for eight days.  Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a favorite.  Everyone loves them and everyone has their own recipe.

I only make them once a year (although they’re great anytime).  Mostly because we don’t tend to eat a lot of fried foods in our house.  Every year my husband asks me not to make latkes because they’re so greasy.  And every year, as we’re eating them, he says, “I’m so glad you made latkes, they taste so good!”  

They do taste good.  I actually think they taste better because we only get them once a year.  If we ate them all the time it wouldn’t be that special.  Or that healthy.  They’re a treat and we enjoy them fully.  And at the end of the day that’s a part of what really matters when it comes to our food.  Yes, we want to make healthy choices, yes we need to get rid of the chemicals and additives in our food, but yes, we also need to celebrate with special foods.  And in my book latkes falls into that category.

This year I got together with a bunch of friends at the Jewish Women’s Circle and we made latkes together.  Four different kinds!  That kitchen smelled a-m-a-z-i-n-g when we were done —  potatoes,  potatoes with carrots,  potatoes with zucchini, and sweet potatoes.  I have learned from past experience that you can’t mix regular potatoes with sweet potatoes because they cook at different rates.  It’s also important to note that when you add things into the potatoes it changes the cooking time and sometimes requires you to turn down the heat a bit so you don’t burn the latkes.

You can make them however you like, I’ve seen recipes that call for green apple to be shredded into the mix, I’ve heard of putting jalapenos in there, herbs, other root vegetables, it’s all a matter of personal preference.  In our family we tend to be traditionalists and prefer the plain potato latkes served with organic sour cream and unsweetened apple sauce.  Here’s my favorite latke recipe.  And may there always be light in your home and your life.

Mira's Favorite Latkes
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds of russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and shredded
  2. 1 large vidalia onion peeled and shredded
  3. 1 large egg
  4. 1/4 C. gluten free flour
  5. sea salt to taste
  6. grapeseed oil (enough for frying)
Instructions
  1. Mix ingredients together
  2. Heat oil in a pan
  3. Drop mixture by very large tablespoons into pan
  4. After 2-3 minutes flip to other side and cook another 2 minutes
  5. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels
Notes
  1. I use grapeseed oil for frying as it has a higher smoke point. Normally I might use coconut oil but in this particular instance I do not care for the flavor when mixed with the latkes. For those of you who have The Pantry Principle, the chart of oil smoke points is on pages 72-73.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
photo: ultramagicalbonbon