Monday, November 29, 2010

feeling overwhelmed? where to start with traditional foods.



I found this great quote recently and it made me think of our family's journey with food - when we began switching from conventional foods to traditional foods. The quote was "Start wherever you are and start small" (Rita Baily). What great advice that is.


We started with cereal. Yes, cereal. It wasn't a small thing at our house though! My kids used to eat cold cereal for breakfast almost every morning. I'll also admit that they'd sometimes eat it for dinner too. And I'm not talking about the so called "healthy" cereals. They were getting loads of sugar from their Cocoa Puffs, Frosted Mini Wheats, and Sugar Smacks. So, that's where our journey began. With cereal.


We started with going from sweetened cereals to unsweetened cereals. The selection included cereals like Corn Flakes, Cheerios and Grape-Nuts. For me (and them!), this was a huge step, but we did it and stuck to it. That was the key. It was also a s-l-o-w first step. We did this for about nine months or so before moving on to eliminating cereal all together! We replaced it with oatmeal, eggs, plain yogurt with added berries and flax, and several other healthier options. 


Our first "radical" step was adding raw milk into to our diets. I had read about it and was very open to it. I was referred by several friends to a local source, we budgeted it, and then we bought it. We haven't looked back! The kids love it and so do I. My husband isn't a milk drinker so he won't go near it. But, maybe someday.


After we began drinking the raw milk, I found a source of local grass-fed beef and bought a half cow. This step led to eliminating much of the prepackaged foods we were consuming and replacing some things with higher quality. One example of that is nixing the conventional butter and replacing it with Kerrygold butter from grass-fed cows. Another example was to find a local source for free-range eggs and replace them with the conventional grocery store eggs. We used to consume free-range eggs several years back, but we moved to a different state and hadn't actively looked for a new source. At that point, my milk man began selling his free-range eggs so it was a natural next step.  


My next two "radical" steps were 1) trying to get everyone to take Fermented Cod Liver Oil and 2) getting my hands on some dairy kefir grains. My first attempt at making kefir was a complete failure. I killed my grains - and that's a hard thing to do! I didn't let it discourage me though. I tried again about six months later and the grains have been alive and multiplying for over a year now. We love kefir smoothies for breakfast.


As you can see, it took several small steps that led to so many changes in our lives - for the better. It is overwhelming to look at the big picture and to try changing everything at once. Especially if you have a family. You've got to worry about your budget, the time and planning it takes to prepare traditional foods, and don't forget about the picky eaters. I found that by changing one thing at a time, it was possible to see what once seemed impossible.
This leads me to another great quote by Saint Francis of Assisi:
"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." 


A great source to check out is this article at the Weston A Price Foundation website that covers families and budgeting food. The article is titled "Healthy Eating Shouldn't Cost an Arm and a Leg". She gives practical advice on budgeting, what to buy, and meal plans.
I also enjoy scouring through the Cooking Traditional Foods forum for all sorts of advice. 


More examples...

  • Eliminate canned beans and buy dried beans. Don't forget to soak them!
  • That goes for re-fried beans too.
  • Store-bought milk for raw milk
  • Store-bought eggs for free range eggs
  • Sour cream for organic cultured sour cream
  • Throw away the margarine and replace it with grass-fed butter (Kerrygold)
  • Replace flavored low-fat yogurt (contain loads of sugar) with full-fat plain organic yogurt - add your own berries and raw honey
  • Replace store-bought "dead" honey for raw "live" honey
  • Replace your refined white sugar with sucanat
  • Replace your Mrs. Butterworth "syrup" with real organic Grade B maple syrup
  • Replace your white flour with whole wheat flour (unbleached, unbromated)
  • Replace canned vegetables with fresh or frozen ones. Organic is best!
  • Use Fermented Cod Liver Oil as a Vitamin D supplement
  • Replace "vegetable oils" (peanut, soy, canola, etc.) with unrefined coconut oil for cooking and extra virgin olive oil for non-cooking such as for salad dressings
  • Replace your baking powder with aluminum free baking powder (Rumford)
  • Get rid of those MSG filled bouillon cubes and use real bone broth
  • Replace your ultra pasteurized coffee cream with healing coconut milk
  • Replace your morning coffee with organic tea (free of fluoride)
  • Make your own bread with sprouted flour or a sour dough starter
  • Replace conventionally raised beef with grass-fed beef
  • Replace conventionally raised chicken with free-range chicken
  • Throw out the instant oatmeal and soak your oats the night before
  • Toss out the condiments like salad dressing and mayonnaise and make your own to avoid the soy and HFCS
There are many, many more examples I'm sure I'm missing. These were just some I quickly thought up off the top of my head. What was your first step? If you haven't taken that first step yet, what do you plan to start with?


This post is part of:
H‘nSFCC
Hearth and Soul Hop@ Frugality and Crunchiness w/ Christy
Real Food Wednesdays @ Kelly the Kitchen Cop

Sunday, November 28, 2010

taste of fall: hearty chili and corn bread

Hearty Chili and Corn Bread
I love chili in the Fall. I find myself making it once a week. It's especially hearty with a hunk of corn bread in the middle... all slathered with butter. 
You can adjust the heat. I will sometimes add a little more red pepper flakes when I want to feel the heat. You can add less for children who might be a bit more heat sensitive.
Enjoy!  

Chili Ingredients:
1 pound dried kidney beans, soaked, cooked
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
6 cups beef stock
1 28 oz can organic fire roasted tomatoes, diced
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:
Prepare beans as directed. Make sure they are soaked in filtered water for 18-24 hours to help neutralize phytates. Drain water and cook.

In a large stock pot, cook beef and onion together. Add celery and garlic, sautée for 3-4 minutes.

Add spices, stir well.

Add tomatoes and stock.

Bring to a boil and then simmer with the lid on for at least an hour. I let mine simmer for several hours before serving so that the spices incorporate nicely into the stock for that rich flavor.

Corn Bread Ingredients:
2 cups cornmeal (use organic to minimize GMO exposure)
¼ cup whole wheat flour 
1 TBSP sucanat
½ TBSP baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I like to use coconut milk)
½ cup coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Grease an 8x8 baking dish with butter or coconut oil and set aside.

In large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. 

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk and oil. 

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just moistened.

Pour into baking dish. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

creamy coleslaw

Coleslaw


I've been making my own coleslaw dressing for years now. I like it a little sweet and a little vinegar-y. This combination works well. 
Depending on my mood, I will either shred the cabbage with a knife or with the food processor. I hate cleaning the food processor so it mostly gets done by hand. Remember to use fresh local or organic vegetables if you can. 


Shredding the cabbage by hand


Ingredients:
1 large head of cabbage, shredded (either by hand or with a food processor)
1 carrot, julienned 
2 green onions, chopped 


Dressing:
3/4 cup real mayonnaise (preferably homemade) 
3/4 cup sour cream
2-3 TBSP Bragg's vinegar
1 TBSP raw honey
1 tsp prepared mustard
1-2 tsp seasoning (like Mrs. Dash, etc. I like Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper


Directions:
Place the cabbage, carrot and onion in a large bowl and mix.


Mix the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over the vegetables. 


Mix well.


Cover and let sit in refrigerator at least 3 hours prior to serving. 
I like to mix it up 24 hours ahead.



Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy thanksgiving!



What a beautiful Thanksgiving Day we were blessed with here, today, in Atlanta. Sunny and warm - a high of 70. Just delicious Fall weather. We invited another family over for our feast since their family is far away, like ours. I'll admit, this was my first Thanksgiving - I mean, one where I cooked! We've always been with my husband's family for Thanksgiving and all I've had to bring was a side dish. This was definitely a challenge I was up for! A very nourishing Thanksgiving. 


I was nervous. I wanted it all to come together nicely. I didn't want the food to be cold. I didn't want to get stressed out. I wanted everyone to be happy. Oh, too many wants! I just prayed that God would give me the graces I needed to do it all and that I wouldn't lose my patience.


I started cooking yesterday so that my stress level would be less today. My husband, God bless him, he cleaned (with the help of the kids) while I cooked. He was also my kitchen helper and was right there behind me cleaning up my messes and doing the dishes. What a huge help. I think this was the key to less stress and more fun!


Around 11 am yesterday, I started my stock.  I planned on making that green beans with mushroom soup casserole from scratch, so I needed to prepare the stock to make the cream of mushroom soup. I forgot that the soup called for chicken stock - I made beef stock! In case you're wondering, the beef stock worked out just fine as a substitute in the recipe.


I think the first thing I made was the coleslaw. I wanted it to marinate in the dressing for a good 24 hours. After that, I made the mashed potatoes and placed them in the crock-pot for today. All I did was turn it on low this morning and add more milk and butter and they were fantastic! I figured it would also be a good idea to cook the bacon (for the green bean casserole) and sausage for the dressing. I also pre-baked the sweet potatoes at 350 for an hour so that I could easily peel them this morning and spend less time sautéing them before we ate. I baked the pumpkin pies and apple pie before bed. 


I got up at 5:00 this morning and put the turkey in the oven - then I went back to bed for a few more hours! Around 10:00 am, I made the cream of mushroom soup for the green bean casserole. Next, I made the dressing. I had made a loaf of bread to use for it two days earlier. Then, I put the green bean casserole together, took the turkey out, peeled, cut, and sautéed the sweet potatoes, made an apple cobbler, and last was the gravy. Did I forget anything? We had enough food for a small army. There were 4 adults and 10 children and we barely put a dent into all that was here. We'll have leftovers all weekend. YES!


It was a lovely Thanksgiving and fairly low stress - thanks to my husband. We had such a nice time. I am so thankful for the abundance of food we had have. I am also thankful for my husband and children, family and friends. I am thankful that my husband has a job and we have a roof over our heads. I'm thankful for our health and I'm thankful for the ability to nourish my family both spiritually and physically. I'm also thankful for the mounds of laundry waiting on me to be put away tomorrow because that means we are not in need. Thank you, God, for all of Your blessings each and every day.  
     

maple syrup and sucanat sweetened apple pie

Maple Syrup and Sucanat Sweetened Apple Pie

Who doesn't love a nice warm and spicy apple pie? Don't forget the whipped cream! Our family loves a good pie and reserve them for special occasions. For Thanksgiving, we made this pie. The children were worried it wouldn't be sweet enough. I was worried it would be too sweet. I think we met right in the middle with this one - it satisfied everyone's taste buds.

Maple Syrup and Sucanat Sweetened Apple Pie

Ingredients:
pie crust - two, one for bottom and one for the top
8 medium granny smith apples peeled/cored/sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
3 TBSP sucanat
2 TBSP grade B maple syrup
2 TBSP butter

Directions:

place the first crust in the baking dish

take the sucanat and cinnamon and mix them into the apples.

pour apple mixture into pie shell and drizzle with maple syrup.

dollop the butter on top.

place second crust on top - don't forget to poke a few holes to vent the pie

bake 350 for 60-70 minutes

let cool a bit before serving.

repeat: don't forget the whipped cream!

Mmmmmm...fab-u-lous





tried and true pie crust

Tried and True Pie Crust
I have experimented with a few different pie crusts and then realized I wasn't adding enough fat to the flour to make it work. For this, I use a half cup of butter for one crust or a whole cup for two crusts. Kerrygold is the butter! Yum.
Ideally, you'd want to use a sprouted flour with this so that the anti-nutrients are neutralized. For this recipe, I did not sprout my wheat berries.due to time limitations. I did, however, use freshly ground whole wheat flour along with freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour. The results were very nice. It is a light and flaky crust. It even has a nice flavor. My daughters instantly loved it - and that's quite the compliment coming from them. They were worried the "wheat taste" would dominate. It didn't. At all.

Tried and True Pie Crust (makes one crust) 

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into approx.1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 Cup  whole wheat flour, plus a little extra for rolling dough
  • 1/2 Cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp sucanat
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2-4 TBSP cold water or milk
  • Approximately 1 pound of dried beans, for blind baking
Directions:
place flour, sucanat, and salt into mixing bowl and stir.

place butter chunks into the flour and incorporate with your fingers. that's right! work the butter into the dough with your fingers until it forms a ball. this takes about 3-4 minutes as the warmth from your hands makes the dough very workable. you can use a food processor, or even two knives if you want, but fingers work way better! you should still be able to see butter in the dough.
after you have a nice dough, add the water very, very slowly just until it's barely wet and forms a nice dough ball. I found I only needed 1 TBSP.

Place the ball into a plastic bag and flatten. refrigerate 15-30 minutes.




remove from refrigerator and roll out on wax paper for ease. I used plastic wrap (ick) this time because I was out of wax paper. it worked just fine. I place the wax paper on a large cutting board to make it easier to place into baking dish. 
I find that the dough comes apart very easily if it is not rolled onto the wax paper (note picture - the dough cracks on the edges). treat it gently. for rolling, I love to use this handy, dandy pastry/pizza dough roller. work from the center of the circle out and repair cracks with your fingers.








gently put the baking dish on top of the dough and pick up the whole cutting board and flip over so that the dough is laying in the baking dish.  
remove the wax paper and form the dough. repair (with your fingers) any cracks that occur.  
gently put the baking dish on top of the dough and pick up the whole cutting board and flip over so that the dough is laying in the baking dish.  


remove the wax paper and form the dough. repair (with your fingers) any cracks that occur. pierce with fork to vent while baking. fill with your favorite filling, or blind bake (pre bake) covered with foil (and add your beans or pie weights) at 425 for 15 minutes. remove weights and foil and bake 5-10 more minutes. I blind baked my crust but did not use beans or pie weights (foil only) and it turned out perfect.


Here's the end result. A nice, flaky crust with a hint of sweetness. this is the crust I use for my pumpkin and apple pies. I blind bake for the pumpkin but not for the apple.





Wednesday, November 17, 2010

real food birthday party meal

Grace's Birthday Meal








We celebrated a birthday this week. Grace is now 10. She's the third out of seven children. She's definitely a middle child! I wanted to make her a special meal to show her how much I love her. I made a whole chicken, butternut squash, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy. Yes, she loved it and so did her siblings and her best friend who stayed for the celebration. Our dessert wasn't cake and ice cream - that will be this weekend when she invites 3 friends for a small party. Instead, I made a seasonal item.  
While I was blog hopping this week, I came upon this delicious looking Pumpkin Bread Pudding over at Create With Joy that I just HAD to try. I'm glad I did!

I find that I meet a lot of women who have never cooked a whole chicken. I know when I first did it, I was a little nervous! Years ago, when those "cooking bags" were popular, I thought that it was truly the only way to make a chicken (or turkey). I didn't know any better! It's actually very simple. All I do is pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the bird, rinse it well and pat it dry. Don't forget to remove the inner packet if it has one. We give those goodies to the dog (if I don't decide to use them in my broth). I place the bird in a deep 9x13 baking dish and add as much filtered water as I possibly can. I then take extra virgin olive oil and drizzle it on top of the bird and season it with my beloved Trader Joe's Himalayan Sea Salt and Everyday Seasoning. Place it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. That's it! 

The butternut squash is really simple too. I bought a small one and cut the whole thing into 1 inch round slices. Then, I placed them on a baking sheet with a little extra virgin olive oil on each side. I then seasoned them with sea salt and more of the Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning. You can season them with whatever you'd like. I baked them at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. You should bake them a little longer if you cut them any thicker. You'll know they are done when you check them with a fork and they are soft. Yes, I bake them with the skin on (you can take them off prior to baking, it's too much work for me so we do it when we're eating it) and I use the entire squash. My little kids like the eat the squash "rings". 

Baked Butternut Squash

The green beans...ha! They are just Trader Joe's Frozen Organic Green Beans. They are fabulous though. They taste like they are fresh from the garden. They are the only green beans my kids will eat (besides garden fresh). I just steam them and add a tablespoon or so of bacon grease. Yum.

My gravy was simple for this party. I used 3 cups of the broth from my baked chicken and thickened it with 2 TBSP arrowroot diluted in 2 TBSP water and poured into the broth. I also added some sea salt. Very, very simple.

Now for the dessert. I changed a few things from the original recipe to make it a little more WAPF (Weston A. Price Foundation) friendly. The only sugars we use in our house are grade B maple syrup, raw honey or sucanot,  so that's what I had to chose from. 

Here are the original ingredients along with my variations:

10 Cups Cubed Croissants, Toasted (I used the ends from my homemade wheat bread that I had been saving)
2 Cups – Half and Half (I used 2 cups raw milk)
1 15 Ounce Can of Pumpkin
1 to 1 ½ Cups of Firmly Packed Brown Sugar (I used 1/2 cup Sucanot, 3/4 Cup raw honey and 1 TBSP unsulphured blackstrap molasses)
1 Cup Raisins or Chopped Dates (We did not use either of these since my kids don't like raisins)
4 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon (for the spices, I just used 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice and no cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg separately)

1 Teaspoon Nutmeg 
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts (I sprinkled 1/4 Cup slivered almonds on top since it was all I had

Instructions:

1. Preheat broiler on low, positioning the rack in the top third of the oven.

2. Cut the bread into big cubes. Broil until toasted, tossing to brown all sides.*

*I skipped this step. My bread cubes were pretty hard/stale because I'd been saving them for a few weeks in the refrigerator. 

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 baking dish with butter

5. In a medium bowl, combine the following ingredients and stir them well:  

Dried bread cubes in baking dish pre-pumpkin mixture
  • Half and Half
  • Pumpkin
  • Brown Sugar
  • Raisins or Dates (optional)
  • Eggs
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger 
  • Pecans or Walnuts (optional)
6. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes, tossing gently to coat. Let this stand for 30 minutes. 


7. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cooking time will be impacted by the serving dish you baked it in, as follows:
  • If you use the 13 x 9 baking dish, it takes 35 to 40 minutes to bake.
  • If you use single ramekins, it takes about 25 minutes to bake.
Of course, we served ours warm with raw milk on top! It turned out very pretty - a bit darker and more brown than the original recipe's photo - I'm sure it was because of the molasses I used.



Pumpkin Bread Pudding

It was a wonderful little party and we are so thankful that we had good food and good company to share it with!
Happy Birthday Grace :-)


This post is part of:
Simple Lives Thursday @ GNOWFGLINS
Fight Back Friday @ Food Renegade
PennyWise Platter @ Nourishing Gourmet
Real Food Wednesdays @ Kelly the Kitchen Kop


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

what's for dinner: not just your average beans and rice

Not Just Your Average Beans and Rice
 I'll be honest, my family is not one for beans and and rice. When I say those words together, I hear moans and groans throughout the house. I wanted to create a beans and rice recipe they'd enjoy. This is what I came up with. 
They gave it a "10"! 
We used organic black beans soaked 24 hours in filtered water and an acidic medium (2 TBSP apple cider vinegar). The soaking instructions are from the Weston A. Price Foundation used to reduce phytates (anti-nutrients).
We also used organic white basmati rice. Yes, I used white rice! I started replacing brown rice with white a while back after reading this article from Sarah the Healthy Home Economist where she talks about about white rice being better than brown because brown rice is very high in phytates. We don't eat much rice, but when we do, it's white basmati now. 
My kids love it when we have left-over rice because we turn it into a dessert. You can read more about that below.

Not Just Your Average Beans and Rice
2 chicken breasts cubed
2 cups soaked and cooked black beans 
2 cups white basmati rice 
1 15 oz can organic diced tomatoes with chipotle
1/2 cup white wine (I used a chardonnay left over from the cream of mushroom soup)
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion diced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp chili powder

Beans: soak 24 hours in acidic medium. Change water 2-3 times. Place in crockpot and cover with water. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 hours.

Rice: prepare per the directions on the package. Keep warm. Or, prepare it while your stock and tomatoes are reducing for 45 minutes.

Place the butter, onion and chicken in your skillet and cook until chicken pieces are no longer pink.
Next, de-glaze the pan with the wine and let cook a couple of minutes.
Add tomatoes and spices. Let cook a few more minutes.
Lastly, add beans, chicken stock and spices.
Let reduce on medium/low heat for about 45 minutes.
Serve over rice.


And now for dessert...

Rice and Honey
Left-over warm rice drizzled with raw honey and a pat of Kerrygold butter. Pour some raw milk over it and garnish with raisins and nutmeg if you wish. Pure heaven. You can also substitute the honey for pure grade B maple syrup.



This post was shared on  Tuesday Twister hosted by Wardeh @GNOWFGLINS and