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Homemade gifts for the holidays - Mira Dessy, The Ingredient Guru

Homemade Gifts For The Holidays

Holiday Gift Giving

The holidays are just around the corner.  Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa whatever you celebrate, the winter season of gift giving is here. People love to get, and gift, food gifts. One of the challenges with food gifts, however, is that many of the pre-made options come with ingredients that are not all that great for our health.  Making homemade foodie treats is one great way around that issue.  When you make food you’re the one in control of the ingredients. And there’s really something special about a homemade gift that makes both the giver and the recipient happy. As a matter of fact it turns out that baking for other people is good for our mental health

If you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas here are some great suggestions for tasty treats.  Packed up in a jar with a pretty ribbon, in a special tin, or simply in a basket covered with some decorative fabric these are gifts that allow you to share the love with a healthy and delicious treat.

Gift ideas

Granola or Muesli are great choices.  Because you can flavor it any way you like you can make a widevariety based on just this simple recipe.  Put in a jar with a pretty ribbon or a decorative piece of fabric on top it can make a simple, healthy holiday treat.

Granola

There’s still enough time to make a batch of vanilla.  While it won’t be ready right away it will still be delicious and they’ll think of you every time they use it all year long.

You can also make vanilla sugar by placing opened vanilla beans into evaporated cane juice crystals and letting it infuse for some time before removing the vanilla bean and packaging up the sugar.  And in a similar vein, but with a twist, why not make flavored salt.  I got the idea for this after seeing all the different bottles at the grocery store.  They’re rather pricey and yet so simple to make at home.

Seasoned SaltTasty Seasoned Salt:

1/2 cup coarse grind sea salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried onion
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
generous pinch dried thyme
fresh ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a mortar or a coffee grinder and pulse until blended.
Delicious for soups, salads, and on the table as seasoned salt.
note: I have a coffee grinder clearly marked Not For Coffee and use it for grinding all my herbs and seeds

Coffee Seasoned Salt:
note: for this one I use the coffee grinder that actually IS for coffee

1/4 cup coarse grind sea salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
generous pinch vanilla powder

Place all ingredients into a mortar or coffee grinder and pulse until blended.
Delicious on desserts, especially if they are chocolate (just a pinch though)
I don’t drink coffee but for those who do this apparently is a delicious addition to your cup

BrowniesWhen looking for tasty snack ideas you don’t have to go any further than these Crockpot Nut Mixes.You can make any flavor combination you, or the person you’re giving them to, likes.

These Flourless Brownies are sure to be a hit.  You can either make them and gift them right away, or put together a gift box with all the ingredients and the instructions so your giftee can make them later after the holiday sugar overload has come and gone.

If you’re really in a hurry, is to purchase mulling spices at the grocery store.  If you get them in the bulk food section they’re very reasonably priced.  Placed into tea pockets, or into cut squares of cheesecloth tied up with kitchen twine, and delivered with a container of cider the recipient can easily make mulled cider whenever they wish.

I’m not the only one who has some fabulously delicious food gifts that are just right for the holidays. Here are some of my favorite recipes created by friends that are also wonderful tried and true options for gift giving.  

  • Peanut Blossom Bites from Theresa Houghton – So delicous, they’re fabulous any time of the year, not just for the holidays
  • Pumpkin Mousse from Karen Brennan – A wonderful way to enjoy the flavors of the season 
  • Creamy Turmeric Latte from Kirstin Nussgruber – This one is great to assemble as a gift in a basket, be sure to include the instructions so they can make it themselves
  • Holiday Nut Mix from Margaret Floyd – Highly addictive.  You’ve been warned. 
  • Avocado Chocolate Mousse from Kerry McClure – Because who doesn’t love chocolate mousse?
  • Grain Free Thumbprint Cookies by Julie Matthews – Everyone loves this holiday favorite and this is a wonderful way to enjoy them
  • Quick and Easy Almond Butter Coconut Balls by Dr. Keesha Ewers – These things are seriously addictive

And one final option. If you’re looking for amazing gluten free goodies for the holidays but feeling short on baking time I have the answer. You can order a customizable tray of deliciousness from the Gluten Free Sourdough Company. Offering brownies, biscotti, and cookies (including a wonderful ginger snap) all their recipes are free of gluten, artificial ingredients, soy, eggs, dairy, and food gums. 

Whatever you celebrate, whatever your reason for the season, I hope that it is filled with warmth, laughter, love, and joy. Happy Holidays.

Happy Holidays

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
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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 https://www.theingredientguru.com/
 
Enjoy using this and be sure to share your favorite recipes that call for cream of whatever soup mix below

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 https://www.theingredientguru.com/
GF Dumpling
Print
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 https://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 https://www.theingredientguru.com/
photo: ultramagicalbonbon 

 

Avocado Carbonara

Veganism is gaining more popularity as a nutritional plan and certainly is getting a lot more attention in the mainstream press. With a large number of celebrities who follow a vegan diet and even a new book, Mark Bittman’s VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good, some people are turning to this way of eating as a way to lose weight.  (Technically I would consider the VB6 philosophy a nutritional plan that is more flexitarian since it does not rely specifically on vegan principles.)

Veganism is a part of the Vegetarianism although it is more restrictive.  Sometimes this choice is due to health reasons, most often it is due to philosophical leanings about how animals are treated.   Veganism is actually more than a diet, and for most followers is a lifestyle.  It excludes any animal products or by-products; including things such as honey, white sugar (which is often processed through bone char), anything with cochineal or carmine in it (this is made from crushed beetles — side note this colorant is frequently found in lipstick), etc.  Most vegans also swear off processed foods, do not wear animal products and avoid products that use animals for testing.

Whether you are an adherent of the vegan lifestyle or not, it does offer many delicious recipes without the use of animal protein.  This recipe is a fabulous way to add the healthy monounsaturated fat found in avocados to create a tasty, creamy sauce.  Full of vegetables and providing some protein from the nuts and mushrooms it can be a satisfying, healthy meal.

Avocado Carbonara

1 medium sized ripe Avocado
1/2 cup of lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic
pinch of salt
1/4 cup of parsley
1/4 cup of basil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/3 cup raw pepitas
1/2 cup baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned, sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pomegranate arils (optional)
Ground pepper
Pasta (gluten free if needed for dietary reasons)
1 small zucchini, shredded

Cook the pasta
Place zucchini into colander and drain pasta into zucchini
Rinse and set aside
In a separate pan saute mushroom slices in olive oil
When done take off heat and set aside

Place lemon juice, garlic and olive oil in a food processor or blender, blend until smooth
Add avocado, parsley and basil, process until smooth
Gently fold together sauce, pasta and zucchini
Garnish with mushrooms, pepitas, and pomegranate

Serve and enjoy!

Linda Rosario is a food enthusiast from Chef Needs “The Kitchen that Every Chef Needs”. Linda loves crafting, home designing and works as an Architect.. Aside from blogging and cooking, Linda works for 24 hours, seven days a week as a mom of two bright and awesome kids.

photo: Dittaeva

September Is Cholesterol Awareness Month – Part 3

Focusing on cholesterol awareness we’ve covered what you need to know, healthy food choices, and now for the best part.  Delicious recipes!!

This first one was submitted by Sam, a newsletter subscriber who sent it in along with a delightful story:

Peggy’s Garlic Soup

1 head of garlic, peeled and smashed
32 ounces Organic Chicken Broth
32 ounces water
1 handful each of three of these herbs (fresh): Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Marjoram

Put in a large pot, bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or till the garlic is soft.
Remove garlic and herbs (do this on your garbage day because this stuff stinks!)
At this point you can freeze or eat.
To eat, put back into pot on LOW heat.
Add 1 small container of organic cream (light or heavy, does not matter).
Season with a dash of white pepper.

Serve over homemade croutons and Gruyere cheese grated on top.

If you’re shrinking at the thought of peeling an entire bulb of garlic here’s a quick an easy way to get the job done.

And now for the story:

My sister’s knitting group meets at the library.  Last year the group had a drop-in.  We were talking about fall soups.  She said she once made a garlic soup but lost the recipe. I gave her this one.

Yes, she was THE Peggy! We laughed at how far her soup had traveled before she got it back.

*****

Another great heart healthy recipe is oat bran muffins.  Now before you run for the hills I promise, these are delicious. It is important to note that if you’re not used to a lot of fiber you will need to start with ½ of a muffin and bumping up by ½ of a muffin every 3-5 days in order to allow the body time to re-regulate when adding this much fiber.

Fruity Oat Bran Muffins

2 cups oat bran, uncooked
¼ cup fresh ground flax seed*
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup organic whole milk
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 mashed banana

Preheat oven to 425 F.
Line muffin tins or grease bottoms only.
Combine dry ingredients, mix well.
Combine wet ingredients.
Add wet to dry and mix until combined.
Fill muffin tins 3⁄4 full and bake 15-17 minutes.

*Pre-ground flaxseed meal is often de-germed for shelf stability.  Flax seeds can be purchased inexpensively and ground into meal at home.  This way you get all of the beneficial parts of the seed. Use a clean coffee grinder, pulse them for one minute and then use.

photo: Rüdiger Wölk, Münster