Category Archives: recipes


Replacing The Mighty Avocado

A Journey in Taste and Texture

Whether you have a general aversion to avocados or just an aversion to their cost — the price of avocados increased 125 percent in 2017 — you have plenty of healthy ingredient substitutions that not only save you money but diversify the taste and texture of a variety of dishes, guacamole included.

Guacamole

Don’t let an avocado shortage slow down your guac game. For each avocado used in your guacamole recipe, substitute one cup of steamed, blended spring peas, organic edamame or chopped asparagus. Check out our recipe for Sweet Pea Guacamole below.

Sauces, Dips and Spreads

Avocados give sauces and soups a unique, creamy texture few ingredients can replicate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the same consistency without avocados–you just need to apply a little creativity.

  • Create the satisfying freshness of your favorite avocado dressing using Greek yogurt, cilantro, and an optional tablespoon or two of sour cream. For every avocado called for in the dressing recipe, substitute ½ cup Greek yogurt and 1 cup of loosely packed cilantro leaves (minced or processed in).
  • Hummus makes a great substitute for avocado dip on its own, but you can add an avocado-esque touch with a few extra ingredients. To every ½ cup of chickpea hummus, add ½ cup steamed organic edamame, ¼ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, ¼ cup basil or cilantro, 1 teaspoon of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.
  • Avocado toast went from fad to foodie staple almost overnight. Take the concept a step further with a clever, spreadable substitution, such as a chunky cashew spread. Soak cashews for a few hours and blend until coarse with a little water or stock and your secondary ingredients of choice, such as pesto, steamed squash, nutritional yeast, fresh herbs or chipotle peppers.

Salads

With their lush consistency and laid-back taste, avocados complement just about any salad. No avocados, no fear! Try sliced peaches (briefly steamed), seared artichoke hearts or farmers cheese (for creaminess) in your next salad for an exciting new texture.

Southwestern Food

Southwestern-style cuisine and avocados go hand-in-hand–they contrast the spiciness and hearty textures of tacos, salsa, corn salads and other rustic dishes beautifully. Next time you need avos in tacos or other Southwestern dishes but come up short, try roasted sweet potatoes, roasted chayote squash, queso fresco, roasted cauliflower or oven-fried plantains instead.

 

 

Sweet Pea Guacamole
Print
Ingredients
  1. • 2 cups (1 pound) shelled spring peas, steamed for 2 minutes and cooled to room temperature
  2. • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  3. • ½ cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  4. • ¼ cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  5. • 2 ½ tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
  6. • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  7. • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more, if needed
  8. • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded
  9. • ½ teaspoon sea or kosher salt, plus more to taste
  10. • Pinch of cumin
  11. • Pinch of crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
Instructions
  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until nearly smooth.
  2. Adjust the consistency and seasoning as needed with olive oil and kosher salt.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Seasonal eating

If we choose to eat seasonally (and we should) we need to respect the foods that are available during certain seasons.  That means also paying attention to the needs of our body.  In the cooler months of the year, we are looking for comfort food.  Warming, nourishing foods that are deeply satisfying. Not the lighter, crisper salads and cooling foods of summer. That’s because winter is the settling in and deep, rooted nourishing time of year.  It’s perfect for hearty dishes like Shepherd’s Pie.

The versatility of shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s pie is a great dish because it is so versatile; a “crust”, a vegetable filling and a mashed root vegetable topping.  It makes a delicious meal served with say, a hearty salad, and a simple millet muffin. The crust can be made with ground meat or you can use a legume base, such as lentils. For the topping potatoes tend to be the most common. But sweet potatoes, a carrot and parsnip combination, or even turnips can be a delicious way to top off the pie.

One of my favorite dishes for this time of year is my vegetarian shepherd’s pie using lentils for the crust.  Because only half of my family are vegetarians, I usually make two pies, one with a ground turkey crust and one with a lentil crust.  This means there are plenty of tasty leftovers to keep everyone happy for a couple of days.

About lentils

Lentils, (Lens Esculenta), also known in Indian cuisine as dal, are a legume (as are all dried beans and peas).  While most legumes need to be soaked before cooking, lentils are very quick and easy to prepare. 

They come in different varieties, green, brown, black, yellow, orange, and red, although most of us are familiar with the green kind which is easily available.  Lentils are nutrient-dense powerhouses and their nutrition content includes being very high in fiber, folate, tryptophan, and manganese. Their nutrient-rich profile makes them good for healthy bones, fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis, and help stabilize blood sugar among other things.  They are also good sources of protein, iron, and phosphorus, all of which the body needs for bone health.

Cooking with lentils

When cooking lentils it’s important to know that they are often packaged straight from harvest. So they need to be sorted and rinsed before you can cook them. The general ratio for cooking lentils is 1 cup of lentils to three cups of water or nourishing broth.

After cooking it’s best to let them sit for 10 minutes or so to firm up before using in a recipe. Otherwise if you try to use them while they are still warm they tend to get mushy.

If you are using them in a salad, let them cool completely before adding the other ingredients and your dressing.

 

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup lentils
  2. 3 cups water
  3. 1/2 C. chopped onion
  4. 1 T. nutritional yeast
  5. 1 T. dried, Kirkland No Salt seasoning
  6. 1 tsp. sea salt
  7. 2 C. lightly steamed or heated veggies
  8. 1 Tbsp GMO coconut aminos
  9. 2 C. mashed potatoes
  10. paprika
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease pie pan
  2. Preheat Oven to 350F
  3. Bring the water to a boil
  4. Add the lentils and the onion, cook on medium for approximately 30 minutes
  5. Remove the lentils from the heat and let sit 10 minutes
  6. Mash together with nutritional yeast, seasoning, and salt
  7. In a lightly greased pie pan, put in the mixture and shape it into a bottom crust
  8. Fill the crust with veggies
  9. Drizzle with coconut aminos
  10. Top with mashed potatoes
  11. Sprinkle with paprika
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Spicy Millet Muffins
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 1/4 C gluten free flour baking blend
  2. 1/3 C millet
  3. 1 t baking powder
  4. 1 t baking soda
  5. 1 Tsp fine sea salt
  6. 1 jalapeno seeded and minced fine
  7. 1 T toasted cumin seeds
  8. 2 T toasted pine nuts
  9. 1 C buttermilk
  10. 1/2 C olive oil
  11. 1/2 honey
  12. 1 egg whisked
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Oil a 12 cup muffin tray and line the bottom of each with cut parchment paper
  3. Mix all dry ingredients with the jalapeno, toasted pine nuts and the cumin seed.
  4. Mix all wet ingredients together then fold into the dry ingredients until incorporated well.
  5. Fill each cup 3/4 full and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
  6. Let cool and remove from tin.
Notes
  1. You may want to do 2 pans as this recipe makes a little more than a dozen muffins. You can fill the empty muffin tins with water or pie-weights to help make the cooking time a little more even.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
 
Don’t forget to check out these other delicious lentil recipes:

Three One-Pot French Dishes Every Cook Should Know

Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon and Cassoulet the Ingredient Guru Way

Most classic French dishes are simple, rustic fare prepared well. Dishes such as cassoulet, beef Bourguignon and coq au vin have a gourmet air to them in the States, but in the French countryside, they’re about as common as fried chicken and mashed potatoes are in the American South. And best of all? They require just one pot to make.

Delicious anytime, these dishes are especially warming and nourishing in the Fall and Winter months when we enjoy seasonal foods and hearty dishes. It goes without saying that for optimal nutrition ingredients should be fresh and organic. The better quality the ingredients that you start with the more delicious and nutritious your dish will turn out.

COQ AU VIN

Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, duck fat or schmaltz, plus more as needed
  • 2 Spanish onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium stick celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cups button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed (reserve stems for vegetable stock)
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Directions:

  1. Season the chicken thighs to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a tall, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Set the chicken aside.
  3. Add the other 2 tablespoons tablespoon of butter to the pan. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add a little more butter to the pan if needed.
  4. Add the tomato paste, stir everything together and continue cooking until the tomato paste turns a rusty color, about 3 minutes.
  5. Next, add the garlic and mushrooms. Season the mushrooms to taste and cook until most of their water cooks off, about 7 minutes.
  6. Add the wine to the pan while scraping the bottom with a spatula. Add the broth, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs and bay leaf to the pan. Return the chicken to pan and bring everything to a simmer.
  7. Simmer the coq au vin uncovered until the chicken pulls away freely from the bone, 45 minutes to 1 hour. During cooking, spoon the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and discard.
  8. Taste the coq au vin and season it as needed with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley before serving. Pair the coq au vin with a bold, dry red wine and serve over mashed potatoes.

 

BEEF BOURGUIGNON

Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4

Ingredients:

4 slices thick-cut, naturally cured bacon, roughly chopped

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-½ inch cubes

Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 Spanish onions, roughly chopped

1 medium carrot, roughly chopped

1 medium stick celery, roughly chopped

2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed

1 teaspoon flour (gluten free does work here)

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1/2 cup Burgundy or other dry red wine

1 ½ cups beef broth or chicken broth

2 sprigs parsley

2 sprigs thyme sprigs

2 sprigs rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 to 2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Directions:

Cook the bacon over medium-low heat until the fat renders out, about 12 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.

Season the beef to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Increase the heat to medium and brown the beef in the rendered bacon fat. Set the beef aside.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan.

Cook the garlic and mushrooms until most of their water evaporates, about 7 minutes. Add the flour and tomato paste to the vegetables and stir to coat. Cook until the tomato paste turns a rusty color, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine to the pan while scraping the bottom with a spatula. Add the broth, thyme, parsley, rosemary and bay leaf to the pan and bring everything to a simmer.

Return the beef to the pan and cover. Turn the heat on the stove to low and cook until the beef is tender, at least one 1 hour. Spoon the fat from the top of the cooking liquid as needed.

Garnish the beef bourguignon with freshly chopped parsley. Pair the dish with your favorite Burgundy and gluten free noodles (my favorite is Jovial tagliatelli).

 

Cassoulet

Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons bacon fat, schmaltz or duck fat
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 pound naturally cured kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 2 ¼ cups plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 ½ cups Great Northern beans, cooked to al dente, or 2 cans Great Northern beans
  • 1 ½ cups skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the fat in a large pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic.
  2. Continue cooking until aromatic with garlic, about 3 minutes. Add the kielbasa and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, broth, wine, beans, chicken and thyme. Bring the cassoulet to a simmer.
  4. Simmer the cassoulet until thickened, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.

 

Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars

My friend Erin recently shared this delicious recipe for a great on-the-go-snack bar. With pumpkins in season, it’s easy enough to make your own puree. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own, the canned stuff works just fine. A couple of words of caution, however, when choosing canned pumpkin:

  • It’s best to use a brand that has a BPA free lining
  • Organic pumpkin is preferred
  • I highly recommend that you read the label and make sure that you are getting only 100% pumpkin. You don’t need all those other ingredients.

These breakfast bars are fabulous for a quick breakfast, perfectly portable if you need to have breakfast on-the-go. And so tasty that they also make a great snack. If you’d like, add a serving of protein powder to make your bars even more nutritious. If you do add the protein powder you may find that you need just a Tablespoon or two of water so the mix isn’t too dry.

Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars

3/4 cup pumpkin purée
2 eggs
1/4 cup organic butter or ghee at room temperature
1 large or 2 small ripe bananas
1/4 cup honey
2 cups rolled oats (not the quick cook variety)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (you can also use walnuts or sunflower seeds)
2 Tbsp shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/4 cup oat bran (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
pinch of Celtic sea salt
1 Tbsp grated orange rind
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup dried blueberries

Measure out the 2 cups of oats and pour just enough warm water over them to cover them
Soak for about 5 minutes while you’re mixing up the wet ingredients
In a mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin, eggs, butter or ghee, honey, and banana
You may want to mash the banana before adding to the bowl if it’s not really soft
Before adding the oats, drain them well

Add the oats, nuts, coconut, oat bran, cinnamon, salt, orange rind, currants, and blueberries, and stir until ingredients are well combined (this step is where you would also add the protein powder, if using)
Spread mixture into a lightly greased (butter, ghee or coconut oil) pan so the batter is no more than an inch or two deep. An 8” x 10” baking dish works well
Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown
For very crisp bars, remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack
Cut the bars when cool
 

Terrific Health Benefits Of Turmeric

Officially known as Curcuma longa, turmeric is an herb that has been used for thousands of years. You can use this incredibly tasty spice with a variety of foods and it even provides several important health benefits.

What Is Turmeric?

Native to India and related to the ginger plant, turmeric is the primary spice used in the Indian dish known as curry. Often available at ethnic grocery stores, sometimes at larger traditional grocery stores, it’s best to use turmeric when it’s fresh since the essential oils are more powerful. Fresh turmeric, however, doesn’t last long and must either be consumed quickly, frozen, or made into powder form.

Health benefits of turmeric

Turmeric provides several incredible health benefits and may play a part in preventing many diseases. The bioactive compounds, called curcuminoids, are largely responsible for the health benefits of turmeric:

  • natural anti-inflammatory properties
  • highly antioxidant
  • improves brain function
  • may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • may potentially help prevent certain cancers
  • when applied in paste form may help promote the healing of wounds and bruises

Tasty ways to use turmeric

Most often we think of turmeric as it is used in curries, but there are many ways to enjoy it. Incorporating healthy ingredients into scrambled eggs or a tasty frittata is easy when you add turmeric. It works well with nearly all types of veggies, particularly cauliflower. Rice, stews, soups, desserts, and tea are all delicious when turmeric is added to the recipe. Turmeric is even used in juices and different types of smoothies.

Turmeric is an incredible herb that can be used fresh or in powder form. It offers a rich, distinct flavor to dozens of dishes and may be instrumental in preventing many serious health conditions. Keeping fresh or powdered turmeric in the kitchen is a great way to add rich flavor to foods you enjoy while providing many potential health benefits.

 

Mushroom Curry
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup coconut milk
  2. 2 roma tomatoes, diced (keep liquid)
  3. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  4. 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  5. 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  6. 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  7. 4 coves garlic, minced
  8. 1 medium onion, diced
  9. 2-4 tbsp coconut oil
  10. 2 large portobello mushrooms, diced bite size
  11. 2 zucchini, diced bite size
  12. 2 yellow squash, diced bite size
  13. 2 cups snap peas diced
  14. 1 bell pepper, diced
  15. 1 eggplant diced
  16. 1 tsp sea salt
  17. 2 tbsp cashews, divided
  18. 2 tbsp cilantro, minced
Instructions
  1. Mix together cumin, coriander, turmeric, and black pepper and set aside
  2. Place eggplant into a bowl and sprinkle with salt to sweat
  3. Set aside to sit for one hour, rinse before using
  4. Add 2 tbsp coconut oil to pan
  5. Add onion and saute until starting to soften
  6. Add garlic and ginger and cook 2 minute
  7. Add spices and stir well for 1 minute
  8. Add tomatoes and liquid
  9. Add mushrooms and stir well, cook 1-2 minutes, add more coconut oil if needed
  10. Add vegetables and cook 2-3 minutes
  11. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or so until vegetables are tender
  12. Add sea salt
  13. Serve over basmati rice
  14. Garnish with cilantro and cashews
  15. Top with quick mango pickle if desired
Adapted from Curry In A Hurry
Adapted from Curry In A Hurry
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Quick Mango Pickle
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 ripe but firm mangos, peeled, seeded, and diced
  2. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  3. 1/2 tsp paprika
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 1/2 tsp sea salt
  6. 2 tbsp coconut oil
  7. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  8. 1/2 tsp urad dal
  9. pinch chili powder
  10. 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Instructions
  1. heat oil
  2. add mustard seed and urad dal and cook 1 minute
  3. add garlic and cook 1minute
  4. add turmeric, paprika, and chili powder, stir well
  5. reduce heat
  6. add mango and vinegar, cover and simmer on low 20 minutes or until soft and well combined
Notes
  1. keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 weeks
Adapted from India Today
Adapted from India Today
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 
Sources:

Grover, A.K. and Samson, S.E. Benefits of antioxidant supplements for knee osteoarthritis: rationale and reality. Nutr J. 2016; 15: 1.nPublished online 2016 Jan 5. 

McClees, Heather. One Green Planet. How to heal cuts and wounds with turmeric. 2017 Feb 8.

Nagpal, M and Sood, S. Anti-inflammatory and Anti-oxidant Properties of Curcuma longa (Turmeric) Versus Zingiber officinale(Ginger) Rhizomes in Rat Adjuvant-Induced Arthritis. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2013 Jan-Jun; 4(1): 3–7.

Ramirez-Tortosa, M.C., et al. Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis. AtherosclerosisVolume 147, Issue 2, December 1999, Pages 371-378.

Shanmugam, M.K., et al. The Multifaceted Role of Curcumin in Cancer Prevention and Treatment. Molecules 201520(2), 2728-2769.

 

 

 


no flour GF cookie dough

No-Flour Cookie Dough

Remember when you were a teenager and you’d get together with your friends to make cookies? And you wound up eating half the cookie dough before you even got the first batch out of the oven? Okay, well maybe that was just me, but it sure was tasty.

Don’t eat that

Fast forward a few years and all of a sudden we were being told not to eat cookie dough because it contained raw eggs and those could be a source of salmonella poisoning. I’ll confess that when I was a kid I ate it anyway because I loved it so much. But then when I had kids I wouldn’t let them eat it because somehow it was okay if I got sick but not if they did.  So I figured out how to make cookie dough without the eggs.

Then we were told not to eat any raw cookie dough (even without the eggs) because raw flour could be a source of e. coli. That was a bummer. It was also the end of the raw cookie dough in our house.

Going gluten-free

Over time I changed my diet, going gluten-free and reducing the amount of sugar and sugary foods I ate. Giving up the cookies wasn’t too difficult. It turns out that as good as I am at baking regular bread, cakes, and cookies, when it came to gluten-free it was more of a challenge. One that for the most part I wasn’t interested in trying to figure out. It was easier to give it up or to buy what I wanted from the Gluten-Free Sourdough Company.

In spite of making healthy changes, I confess that every now and then I’d have a secret, sneaky craving for cookie dough. Then one day I was having a conversation with my sister-in-law who told me about a raw cookie dough recipe she had eaten that was made with chickpeas and peanut butter. She couldn’t find the recipe but just knowing it was made with chickpeas was enough to get me started. I began to experiment and eventually hit on the recipe listed below. 

The day I came up with the final version my editor for my book The Pantry Principle was visiting. She wanted to know what I was making. I told her it was a healthy version of raw cookie dough and offered her a spoonful right out of the Cuisinart. She loved it! We both dove in with spoons, it was kind of like a return to my high school days.

Cookie dough is popular again

Fast forward yet again and once again raw cookie dough seems to be a big thing. There are companies, cafes, and cookie dough bars opening all over the country. The Minnesota State Fair has even added raw cookie dough to the list of foods available at the fair. I imagine it won’t be long before other state fairs follow suit, I fully expect to see it at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show next year. The problem is that what’s available commercially seems to be made with regular flour (making it a non-option for those who need to eat gluten-free). Commercial options are also high in sugar and definitely, need to be consumed in strict moderation. What I love about my recipe is that because it’s made with chickpeas it’s got some protein. Don’t get me wrong, it still has sugar (especially in those chocolate chips), but I’ve cut the sugar down to as little as possible making this an option that is as healthy as I think I can make it. 

If you’re seeing news blurbs about cookie dough and feeling a sense of nostalgia (and a desire to make cookies just so you can eat the dough) consider making my No-Flour Cookie Dough. Just be aware that this recipe does not bake into cookies, it’s meant to be enjoyed raw.

No-Flour Cookie Dough
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 can chickpeas, drained
  2. 1/2 cup creamy almond butter
  3. 1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
  4. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. generous pinch sea salt
  7. 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Combine first five ingredients in food processor until mixed well
  2. Scoop into a bowl and add chocolate chips by hand
  3. Spoon into ramekins or mini-muffin cups and chill 2 hours before serving
  4. -- or enjoy with a spoon straight out of the bowl 😉
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
crockpot shredded chicken

Use Your Crockpot To Beat The Summer Heat

It’s getting hot here in Texas

And the humidity isn’t far behind. Once the humidity hits stepping outside is like walking into a sauna.

With all of that heat and humidity, it’s no wonder dinner time is seen as more of a chore in the summer. After all, who wants to heat up the kitchen when it’s already hot and sticky outside? And here in Texas, we’re not the only ones. Although we get the heat early, summertime and hot temperatures are about to hit all around the country. The good news is in spite of the heat outside, you can still have a delicious meal without raising the temperature indoors. It’s easy when you use a crockpot.

So, how does crock pot cooking beat the heat? Simple, it uses less heat than an oven or the stovetop. In addition to using less heat to cook the food, a crockpot also doesn’t heat up the environment the same way. This means you don’t need to crank up the air conditioning, run a fan, or start your swamp cooler to reduce the additional heat from ovens and stoves.

Crockpots are also a great energy-saving device and the operating costs are very low. Especially when compared to electric stove and ovens, but even when compared to gas. So not just from a heat standpoint, but from a cost to operate standpoint as well, this makes crockpots a great resource.

Not just for winter anymore

If you’re like most people you think of crockpots as being more for wintertime use. Great for making soups, stews, and chili. But truthfully crockpots are good all year round. I love mine and use it for making snacks, breakfast, and even for making shredded meats for summer salads. Crockpots are actually very versatile and can be used for a wide variety of meals and foods.

Benefits of Crock Pot Cooking

As well as being less expensive to run, crockpots have a number of benefits that make them a great addition to any kitchen:

  • All the work is done ahead of time making mealtime and cleanup a lot easier. If you’re making breakfast, you’re starting it the night before so there’s less cleanup while you’re trying to get out the door. If you’re making dinner, it makes getting dinner on the table faster and easier at the end of a long day.
  • A lot of crockpot dinner recipes are a meal in a dish. Make a salad or a side dish to go with it and you’ve got a nutritious meal for your family. If it’s a stew or a chili you can bulk it up with extra veggies and up your daily count of veggie servings.
  • Cleanup is a breeze. Usually, with crockpot cooking, there’s the cleanup from the prep and then just one dish (the crock) to clean when you’re done. This means you’re not only spending less time cooking, but you’re also spending less time cleaning up.

Have a couple of crockpots is, in my humble opinion, a good idea. I have one large one for the main dishes or large items and one small one for side dishes, appetizers, desserts, and that sort of thing. They’re versatile, easy to use and make life much simpler.

Take it to the next level

Combine crockpot cooking with the Fast Fun Freezer Meals program and you’ll really beat the heat. This program allows you to get 20-24 servings of dinner in the freezer ready-to-cook in 90 minutes or less. Sounds unbelievable but it’s true. And when you’re ready to cook simply pull your meal out of the freezer the night before. Pop it in the crockpot in the morning and at the end of the day you’ve got a hot, delicious meal, but the kitchen is still cool. Make a salad or side dish and dinner is done. Best of all cleanup is a breeze because you did most of it when you prepped the meal.

Less work, less time in the kitchen, no hot sticky mess. Crockpot dinners are definitely the way to go.

More great crockpot recipes

More delicious summer recipes

Here are a few more fabulous summertime 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!
Sources
 

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 https://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 https://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 https://www.theingredientguru.com/
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