From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gluten-free pizza crust

One of the most missed food ever since I went wheat-free is PIZZA!!

I've had a couple of restaurant-made gluten free pizzas over the past year.

None of them were worth my time and money.  

It was time to bite the bullet and try a Bob's Red Mills' Gluten-free pizza crust mix.  I figured it couldn't be worse than any of the other GF crusts I've had.

The mix is a blend of non-wheat flours, starches, gums, etc.  It comes with a packet of yeast.  You add 2 eggs, warm water and 2T of olive oil.

I followed the instructions to the letter.  (I don't make changes to something until I've worked up a baseline entry.) I don't have a mixer so just used a spatula to mix the wet & dry ingredients.  Bread dough it ain't.  More like a biscuit dough - and moist and just a tad sticky.

I let it sit, covered for the required 20 minutes, and saw no difference in the dough afterwards, but it was a bit softer.

It said to wet your hands and pat the dough out on a greased pan.  I prefer to bake on parchment paper.  The dough didn't spread/flatten easily.  I futzed with it until it was a more-or-less even thickness, then spritzed it with olive oil and sprinkled garlic granules and Italian seasoning.  Baked for 9 minutes at 425F.

I topped the half-baked crust with sauce, turkey pepperoni, shredded moz & hot pickled peppers.  Back into the toaster oven for another 18 minutes.  (Tip: turn the broiler on for the last 2-3 minutes to really brown up the meat and cheese and add crunch to the edge of the crust.)

Bottom line - a lot of work (well, for someone who's only pizza prep before was dialing a phone - LOL).  From opening the bag to plating up the pizza, it took 1 hr & 20 minutes.  Upside - I have half the dough in the fridge for a future pizza.

The crust was (as expected) more gummy than real bread, but at least it wasn't dry or crumbly.  The toaster oven pan was only 7.5x10", so the crust was almost 1/2" -- too thick I'm thinking.  Next time I'll use less dough and try to get it around 1/4" thick.

That said, the final pizza was -- pretty good!  I've had some 'real' pizzas not this good, so I'm thinking Bob's Red Mill GF crust will tide me over when I just gotta have pizza!

How about you?  Tried Bob's Red Mill products?  Or do you have a good home-made GF pizza dough to share?  Let me know.... please! LOL

=================

Next day update:  I'm sad to inform, but I'm experiencing some gastric distress - probably a reaction to the XANTHAM gum in the crust mix.  Too bad.  I won't make up the 2nd roll of dough in the 'fridge, just toss it.  *sniffle*  I miss pizza!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Mushroom omelet

I was in the mood for something different for supper.  For more than a week it's been soup or chili or something savory in a bowl. It was time to put down the spoon!

Hmmm.  I had fresh farm eggs, some darling little mushrooms and a bag of shredded moz.

Time for an omelet.

I'd never seen these little 'clump' mushrooms before so when Dave and I came across them at Beiler's, we each grabbed a carton.

I'm ashamed to say that 'the grab' happened 4 weeks ago.  I'm astonished that the 'shrums did fine in the unopened container.  I guess it's because they were all attached to their root? Like those gourmet heads of lettuce you can buy that have their roots still attached?

Anyway, I broke off a handful and browned them in some coconut oil.  That didn't take more than a minute.  The 3rd pic shows the golden color.  Too bad it doesn't convey the rich fragrance.  The pic also shows that someone kept tasting the 'shrooms along the way.  Bad chef!

Once those were browned I poured in the eggs, herbs and shredded moz.

I let the bottom firm up and folded it over, turned off the heat and covered for a couple of minutes (I like my eggs firm).

Meanwhile I'd steamed some peppered-up potato slices in the microwave, plated everything up and voila!

Something that required a fork!  LOL

It smelled wonderful.  And taste?  Well, I must report that it took less time to enjoy the little meal than it took to prepare.

I actually thought I'd take a pic mid-way, but that didn't happen.

I look forward to using these long-lived little mushrooms in the future.  Gotta love something that lasts longer than the original impulse buy.

How about you?  Done with those Thanksgiving leftovers by now?

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Turkey soup - encore

This year's Thanksgiving bird turned out well.  I roasted in an oven bag for a couple of hours, let it cool, then dismembered it.

Between my friend and I we served sliced turkey, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, baked carrots and cranberry sauce. 

You'd never notice that it was a low fat, low carb and gluten free meal.  And it was delicious!

On Sunday I made stock out of the bones, simmering a big bowl of carrots, potatoes and celery along with them.

After several hours, I fished out the veg, strained the stock and jarred it up to gel in the 'fridge overnight.

Since then I've been enjoying lots of turkey soup. 

And simple - pile some cold veg in a bowl, toss in a handful of chopped turkey, dollop in about a cup of gelled stock and add a handful of fresh kale.  Sprinkle with pepper and garlic, pop it into the microwave for a couple of minutes and - presto.  Gourmet goodness.

And it's STILL low carb, low fat and gluten free.

Getting tired of my endless soup/stock posts.  Wait until the next one when I show you the incredible gluten-free dessert Dave whipped up.  Honestly, that guy is half chef, half alchemist!

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Gluten free veg soup

As I find more ways to avoid gluten in my diet, I have to adjust recipes of some favorite meals.

Take soup.

Especially vegetable soup.

My homemade vegetable soup is 99% gluten free.  Why not 100%?   It's only vegetables and veg stock, right?

Nope.  One of the ingredients - and it's an important one as far as I'm concerned - is pearled barley.

A couple tablespoons of barely in vegetable soups helps smooth out any sharpness of the broth and the little bit of starch it sheds while plumping up thickens the broth so it clings to the vegs.

I tried leaving out the barely, and I wasn't thrilled.

So I tried other stuff: lentils - didn't like;  amaranth - eh; rice - nosirre.

Today I dug around in my cupboards, trying to find something to keep be from resorting to the barley and ran across a jar of steel-cut oats.   Hmmmm.  Oats have no gluten.  Sure wouldn't think to put ROLLED oats in soup, but lookit these cut oats - they even looked like barely.

What the hey - let's try them.  I added 2T to 4C of broth/vegs and let them simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Hey.  They worked a treat!  They plumped up like barely.  Thickened the broth like barely.  Didn't taste like oats, just a nice nutty flavor.

How about that?  I've had that jar of cut oats for over a year (I cooked them up once and decided it was too much work, so sort of forgot about them.).  Well, they won't be pushed to the back of the cupboard anymore. 

I now get the same great veg soup as before and one more elimination of gluten from my diet.

If I ate beef, I'm sure I'd try making beef/barley soup using the steel-cut oats.  If anyone out there tries that, let me know how it works out for you.

Meanwhile, it's cold, icy and truly dreary outside.  No matter.  I've got guilt-and-gluten free soup for lunch.  :-D

Stay warm - and healthy eating, all.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Ham-alicious!

When I need ham (for split pea or bean soup), I usually just get a "tavern ham" (a 3# boneless ham) and shred it.

This time I thought I'd see if there is any difference by buying a fully cooked, ham-with-bone. 

First off - the price!  Sure, it was only $2.29/lb vs the other, but at 7.25#, it set me back over $16.00.  Ouch.

So I sectioned up the ham, put it in the dutch oven, and let it slow-cook for a couple of hours until the bone stuck out both ends.

When cooled, I got about 4# of ham. (There was a lot of fat and a goodly knob of bone.)  Hmmm.  Now the price (meat only) comes to about $4.50/lb. 

Then I used the bone for stock.  After 4-5 hrs of simmer, I got a tad over 2 quarts of a well-gelled stock.  I packed it up in 1C bags for flavoring winter soups.

Bottom line - I guess I'd do it again.  The ham was better tasting, more tender than the boneless and the stock is a real bonus.

How about you?  When you use ham, do you have a favorite?

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mama mia! Gluten-free spaghetti.

One of the things I miss from giving up gluten is - pasta.  I've tried to compensate, serving a lot of my sauced dishes over rice or potatoes.  But it's really not the same.  It's been since Dec 2012 that I last enjoyed that al dente chewiness of tender spaghetti noodels under rich sauce.

Alas.

But all is not lost!  This past week I found, wait for it, brown rice pasta.  Unlike so much cobbled-together gluten-free products filled with lots of gums and starch, Goldbaum's pastas are made with only 2 ingredients: brown rice & brown rice bran.  Period.  That's it!

At first I could only find fettuccine,  but now Marc's had spaghetti and several other shapes (shells, elbows, spirals).

The pasta cooks a little differently than wheat pasta.  You add it to boiling water the same, but the result is a bit surprising the first time.

The water gets VERY starchy, even a bit thick.  Don't worry.  Just continue to cook as usual, testing the strands for doneness.

When it's still a tad al dente, remove from heat and rinse.  After that I put it back in the pot, stir in the sauce, put the lid on and let it sit for a couple of minutes.  During that time the pasta absorbs some of the sauce and everything blends together.

The pasta looks like wheat pasta, but the texture isn't as chewy.  But 'chew' it has, unlike straight white rice noodles. 

I have to tell you, this is just delicious, especially when you've been hankerin' for a good bowl of spaghetti that you can twirl on your fork.

I've gone to the manufacturer's site and found some hefty prices.  So I'm glad that Marc's sell this (at this point) for $2/pound.

And I'm sooo glad there were spirals, too.  I really enjoy cold pasta salads on hot summer days. 

I must go back and stock up.  Marc's markets a lot of 'special buys' so you can't always count on finding the same thing when you next go back.

It's so nice to find something that is exactly what you're looking for, healthy AND tasty.  Sure makes avoiding gluten a little easier.

How about you?  Going off gluten?  What goodies have YOU found lately?

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

3-day Chili

I used to buy canned kidney beans to make chili.

But I'm trying to get away from canned stuff when possible.  I'm not happy having to recycle the cans and I don't trust the stuff they line the cans with!  The coating: BPA and the tin itself can leach into acidic products.

So I'm buying dry beans in bulk these days and taking the long road to savory stuff like bean soup and chili.

First off, I read up on soaking beans and legumes.  The quick soak I used to use is off the table and the loooong soak is the new norm here.

See is, beans, etc. are filled with phytic acid which PREVENTS your absorption of important minerals like calcium, phosporus, potassium, zinc, etc.

By soaking beans at room temp for 18-24 hours, the phytase enzyme in the beans is activated and starts to break down the phytic acid.

You can see in the 1st pic how much foam was generated by this process after soaking 2# of kidneys for 18 hours.  (It was thicker, but I'd already scooped some out.)  This process will reduce phytic acid a lot making the nutrients more available to you.  Read it here.

I was busy so rinsed the beans and let them soak another 6 hours.  Then I simmered them for 2-3 hours until tender, let them cool and put them in the fridge to use the next day. (I noticed that the beans cooked more quickly and were much more tender than when I tried the short soaks before.)

Okay, day 3.  To the cooked beans I added hot and sweet peppers, onions, 1 1/3# of browned ground turkey, chopped tomatoes/ sauce/ paste and a boatload of spices.

Then I went outside to mow lawns.

When I came in 3 hours later the spicy fragrance met me at the door.  I was famished the the chili was ready.

It's not going to take 3 days to make chili next time.  Nosiree. I can soak/simmer beans any time, then freeze them for future use.

But I gotta tell you, this particular batch of chili was worth the wait!!


Yum!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Talkin' turkey

Last year Honeysuckle Whites were on sale for $.69/lb.  I bought 3 - 1 for Thanksgiving and 2 for the freezer.

We feasted at Thanksgiving, then I made soup from the leftovers.  All was delicious.

In June this year, I roasted up a 2nd turkey for summer salads.  And something went terribly wrong.  I don't know if it was the bird or that I lost track of my roasting time, but the result was completely inedible!  I've never had a bad bird before - not even with the occasional unknown brand.

Nope.  I think I miscalculated the time and it must've been in the oven for an hour longer than I thought.  The bird came out like old shoes.  Dry.  Stringy.  I couldn't even chew it.  It was a total failure and not even good for soup.  What a loss.

So I was leery when I decided to roast up the 3rd bird.  No worries.  It came out trumps!  I enjoyed a good meal, then shredded/froze the meat and carcass for soup/stock.

A couple of weeks ago I made up the stock. 

To the stockpot I added a potato, couple of carrots, celery tops, onion, parsley, bay leaf and spices.

The stock simmered away nearly 6 hours and smelled wonderful.

Before straining the stock, I fished out the carrots, potato and onion and served it with a bit of stock and dried parsley.  Omigosh those veg were so tender and savory.

In the end I got 4.5 shy quarts (Ball jars do NOT hold 4 full cups!) of dense stock.  I'm looking forward to using the stock for turkey soup or stew this winter.

P.S.  Just back from the store yesterday and saw that Marcs have in Thanksgiving turkeys now.  Honeysuckle whites again.  AND only $.69/pound!   More goodies for the freezer.  Yay!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An eye-opening egg-sperience

I found a neighbor (actually my insurance agent) who has a farmette nearby.  Come to find out he sells brown eggs for $2/doz. 

I was looking forward to a fresh farm egg vs store bought.  I used to have a friend who free-ranged hens and those eggs were outstanding.

I was hoping for the same.

Here's the comparison: 

Pic 1:  farm eggs (top), store-bought brown eggs (center), health-food store organic eggs (bottom).

Pic 2: cracked eggs in same sequence as cartons.

I saw very little difference between the 3 types of eggs.  The farm eggs were a tad darker and a bit more viscous but that would be expected.  The eggs were barely a day old compared to the other 2 types.  Still, I was disappointed, though, truthfully, not all that surprised.

I'd visited the agent's farmette and found her hens were in a dirt pen and rather overcrowded.  I think they only got chicken feed.  I sort of felt sorry for them.

I didn't buy any more eggs for a while.  In the meantime, they got rid of their rather aggressive rooster and, maybe due to my blogger tales of free range/ pastured hens, they let the gang out into a big field.

When I learned of this, I hurried to buy more eggs, just to see what happened over the past 4 weeks.  Yep.

Check out the 3rd pic: pastured free-range egg vs a store-bought organic 'free range' egg.   Night and day, folks.  Night and day.

And  the difference didn't stop at looks.  Nosiree!  These eggs are rich - flavorful and smell wonderful cooking.

When I got the last dozen eggs this week, she told me not only were they surprised at the difference in the eggs, but that the chickens all looked much better and behaved nicer.  (Well - duh!  Happy hens!)

I hope they continue to let the hens out during the day.  After all, everyone benefits.  She's afraid, though, that they might be predated.  But isn't that the risk vs keeping something their whole life in a cage?  I hope, for the hens' sake, that they get to keep their healthier, happier lifestyle.  Trouble is, so many 'farmers/ranchers' are so concerned about animal control, that what ends up on the table is sometimes hardly worth eating.  'Nuff said.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, just look at the color of my latest batch of savory oatmeal wedges compared to the pics on my previous post about the oatmeal wedges

And flavor?  10 out of 10.  Yum.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sad salad

Oh, it was a sad sad day.

The cuke harvest went from early July until Labor Day when the last vines came down. 

Withdrawal was forestalled due to both veg bins in the fridge still being filled with cukes.

I enjoyed a wonderful salad every day.

Until today.

I pulled out the very last cuke, all cool and dewy.  Not the prettiest of the lot having gotten itself wedged between the fence and a trellis but hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

And I beheld it.

I made up the last cuke salad of the season.  I was out of fresh grilled chicken, so made do with a turkey burger and some corn on the cob to sing a last duet with cukes.

The last salad was just as crisp and sweet and flavorful as the first way back in July.

I savored every bite.

But, even though I paced myself...

it was gone all too soon.

Certain home-grown fruit and veg are not easily replaced with store bought (even stand bought) goodies.  Oh, sure, I could buy cukes for more salads. But they wouldn't be MY cukes - the ones I babied from seed to salad.

I'll be eating a lot of tomato salads for a while, but the cuke season has flared brightly, if too briefly, for 2014.  Farewell.

*sigh*  Ah well.

Only 10 more months until next cuke season.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer heat = summer salads

There's not been a day gone by in the past 6-8 weeks that I've not enjoyed some sort of salad.

I haven't had a taco salad in a while, ever since the cukes started pouring out of the garden.

Instead I've had so many kinds of salads, so many colorful plates that I just had to share a few with you. 

Lots of greens, fruit, beans, cottage cheese, fresh veg, humus, cheeses.... you name it, it got piled on a plate.

Gotta love those veggies.

The last of the cuke vines came down today but I still have a half-dozen of the gorgeous things in the 'fridge and am enjoy paring them up with the ripening tomatoes.

(Total 2014 cucumber take:  30 from the deck vines, 59 from the fence vines and, at 1.25~2# apiece, that's easily 130# of cukes off of 4 vines.  Zowee!)

Cuke salads, piled high with fresh cukes, peppers, onions, tomatoes, any kind of fruit and topped with spicy grilled chicken and toasted almonds, it's just about the best salad ever.

(Well, honestly, it's a toss up between that and the taco salad. But I can make taco salad anytime.  Fresh tomatoes and cukes are fleeting and must be savored while they last!! It'd be criminal NOT to!)

Sure hope you've been enjoying some nice light meals over the hot humid days.

Super sweet cucumber & tomato salad


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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Because I can!

I've used up (and given away lots) the wide-mouthed quart jars making B&B refrigerator pickles.

So now, with the cuke tsunami continuing, I've started using the wide-mouth half-gallon jars.

With the cukes (count is now 55 and each at LEAST 13-16" long and weighing 1.5 to 2#), there is no doubt this is the best cuke harvest/ pickle year ever!

And don't think that a huge 2# cuke would be woody, bitter and full of seeds.  Not these Sweet Success.  The 2-pounder was crisp, sweet and nearly seedless as promised!

I'm taking a pickle break right now and am just sharing out and scarfing down delicious cuke salads.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

STILL walking away from wheat

Thought you might like to hear how my no-bread-wheat experiment is going after 20 months.

It's really making a difference.

When I first decided to avoid modern wheat-based products (Dec, 2012) after reading WHEAT BELLY, I had no idea that I had Hashimoto's thyroidosis (an auto-immune disease where my body produces anti-bodies to attack my thyroid).  I wouldn't know that until May, 2013.  In some patients, Hashimoto's goes hand-in-hand with celiac disease. 

Celiac's must avoid wheat gluten.  Fortunately, I do not have celiacs.

Chicken soup
However, research indicated that my decision to avoid wheat was a plus on my side.  There are indications that reducing gluten helps with Hashimoto's.  When my first test for antibody counts (May, 2013) they were 907.  When test results this year (June, 2014) they had dropped to 640!  With less antibodies, my thyroid will last longer.

Wheat gluten/gliadin are such inflammatory proteins, that by avoiding them I've reduced: blood pressure,  migraines, muscle aches and pains. The eczema on my elbows is gone and my sinuses are much clearer, even during pollen season.  I've also weaned myself off of statins (after on them for 10 years).  My chol levels bounced around for 6 mos, but now they are at an acceptable level (maybe not for a cardiologist touting the party line, but for my own satisfaction and well being).  Side benefit?  My memory is TONs better.

I was, however, still using Spelt wheat in breads, crackers, cereal, etc.  After the good blood test in June, I decided to quit eating Spelt (and Kashi) too to see what effect that would have.

Brown rice simmered with red quinoa & turmeric
So far all I've noticed is that I've not had *knock wood* even 1 migraine and that I'm steadily losing weight (high summer always has me much more active - so we'll see how this shakes out later in the year). 

I still get lots of carbs, though, for energy: brown rice, beans, sweet potatoes, some white spuds, quinoa, corn, etc.  I feel good.  Last year when I was losing weight, I felt sick and shaky and withered.  Now I have energy, ambition and goals again.  I'm managing my Hashimoto's with diet and keeping up with my physical therapy exercises for my disc degenerative disease.

Some things I've learned about walking away from wheat:

Pick your battles.  In 2012 I went semi-cold turkey.  I fell back to the lower-gluten spelt for 18 months.  I also ate Kashi cereals.

What I didn't eat was pastry, pasta (except spelt noodles), cookies, any kind of bakery.  I didn't eat pizza.  (*moan*)  No croûtons, crackers (except spelt), well -- you get the drift.  No rye.  No pumpernickel.

What made this transition easier was that I decided from the get-go I was NOT going to try to replace these things with copy-cats.  No "gluten-free" substitute products made with tons of carb starches, gums, etc.  I figured, if I can't have a dog, but I could have a cat, it would only frustrate both of us if I tried to make the cat act like a dog.

Embrace the cat, instead.

Split pea soup
So no more sandwiches, pizza, pasta, bakery, etc.  Instead food served OVER rice, polenta, potatoes (all kinds), quinoa, corn, etc.  Soups thick with peas, beans, veg, etc.

Need sweet?  Eat fruit (un-sugared). Grab-n-go breakfast?  Savory oatmeal wedges.  Snack?  Home-made granola w/dates/dried fruit, oatmeal, nuts, flax seed & honey.  Once you stop trying to replace everything with ersatz substitutes, you'll find a different way of approaching food.  I can't remember the last time I bought anything in a box, and very few cans.

After a while, you really start noticing your taste buds changing.  Things have MORE taste, so less is more satisfying.  You want less salt, less sweet.

Greens w/pomegranate
Salads piled high with dark greens, fruits, veg, meat, cheese.  Nuts.  Oils to release the vitamins from the greens (EVOO, AVO oil, nut oils, etc.).  For the past 6 weeks I thought I'd miss the spelt / Kashi products.  But no.  I have found an organic, non-GMO blue corn chip prepared in cold-pressed oil that's actually good for me.  It's a staple for humus, salsa, bean dip.

For the past 6 mos, when Mom comes to visit, she's leery of lunches.  But she's been surprised every time when I throw together something and she always cleans her plate. LOL

Taco salad - so good it's frightening!
Like - she'd never had a taco salad before.  And this one is lush: deep greens, avocado, kiwi, onion, cheese, ground turkey w/ seasonings, hot salsa, EVOO and blue corn chips.  I have this for lunch 4-5 days a week this summer.  It's so addictive -- cool, crisp, spicy, rich.  Just can't get enough. LOL 

Bottom line.  Once I got past the dog/cat thing, food is actually much more adventurous and fun and every bite is nutrient dense and delicious.  There is no such thing as an empty calorie around here anymore.

I just don't have any reason to go back to wheat. Wish I'd started this sooner.  I might have been able to avoid developing Hashimoto's in the first place (an inflammatory- based disease).

How about you?  Arthritis? Blood pressure? Weight? Sugar? Migraines? IBS?  The list of inflammatory diseases goes on and on.  You might want to think about wheat.  Apparently, it's not the wholesome staff-of-life it used to be.

(As disclosure: I will admit that I still have a cache of Zone bars & yoghurt/nut bars in my purse for lowering sugar spells.  They contain modified food starch (wheat), but remember.  I'm not dealing with celiacs.  And I doubt I'll ever be totally wheat free.  There's the occasional ice cream CONE, BREADED chicken tender salad, etc.  But by and large I make a concerted effort to avoid wheat and will happily settle for 96% gluten free. :-D)

(More disclosure: Don't get me wrong.  I MISS chewy crusty bread, biscuits, pasta and pizza.  And I make exception on the holidays for a friend's homemade baklava.  But the longer I keep wheat away, the easier it gets.  Bottom line, I keep telling myself, nothing tastes as good as better health feels.)  

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ole


It was another raw and windy day.  I've done soups, sandwiches, chili and salads to death lately and wanted something - zingy.

Rooting around in the cupboard I found a jar of salsa and a can of refried black beans. 

I mixed a half-cup of salsa with the beans and spread them in a Corning pie dish.  Then I spread some hot pickled peppers on top, crumbled on some sharp cheddar, and dribbled on more salsa.

Covered with Seran wrap, the dish went into the microwave for 5 minutes on high.   Meanwhile I heated up some corn taco shells and diced up some good red onion.

*DING*

A hot, spicy, totally non-boring lunch was served.  Ole!

Three taco shells take 1/3 of the beans, so I have 2 more meals ready for later.

Is this looong winter starting to wear on your palate too?

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Another ground turkey to try

The continuing quest for tasty ground turkey.

Last I posted, I'd tried the Purdue ground turkey from BJs.

Couple weeks ago I found these Jennie-O 1# chubs of 90% lean ground turkey.

$3.00 a pop.  I know I like Jennie-O, so felt this may be a good buy, even though it costs more than the Perdue (+$.40/lb)  and has more fat (90% vs 93%).

Still, the very convenience of a 1# chub seduced me.

First off I noticed that the meat is more finely minced/ ground than the previous purchases.

That made the meat a little softer. 

I mixed a chub into burgers with the usual suspects: ground dried mushrooms, dried onions, garlic granules, chipotle powder, and a pinch of salt.

The chub made 3 nice-sized burgers.

I spritzed the George Forman and the top of the burgers with EVOO, dropped the lid and let it sizzle for 8 minutes (turning them to get cross-checking crunch). I noticed there was very little fat from the grill.  But remember, the dried mushrooms and onions may have kept the juice in the meat. 

I plated up some Brussel sprout slaw, then sprayed a slice of whole grain spelt bread with EVOO and grilled that for a minute.

Served the burger on toast and voila.  Lunch (with 2 burgers for later in the week).

The burger was tasty, tender and delish!  Though it costs out to $1/burger, it's bigger, better and more healthy than any frozen burger (beef or turkey) and tons better than fast foods. 

The convenience of the chub (no need to repackage from a large hard plastic container into various freezer bags) was really nice.  Less freezer space too and now just the chub wrapper to discard.

While I'll still look for Jennie-O 93% lean in bulk, I think I'll be using these 1# chubs over the Perdue 3# pack at BJs.

How about you?  Where do you draw the line between thrift and convenience?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Worst. Yogurt. Ever.

I needed to lay in a supply of creamy yogurt for Mom's post-op visit.

I found something new at Wal-mart.  Cabot Greek Lowfat Yogurt.

The price was right - only $3.95/2# carton.

The label said ALL the right things: 2% milk, live cultures, high protein, low fat.

And it came from a New York/New England co-op of dairies with 100% of the profits going back to the farmers.

What wasn't there to love?  I snapped up 2 cartons and headed home.

I was going to wait until Mom arrived to crack one open, but I got hungry.

And curious.

Right off the bat the color was off.  Plain yogurt is as white as milk.

This stuff had the same color as a flavored vanilla yogurt.  *sniff*  Didn't smell like vanilla.

*sniff* again.  And it didn't quite smell like plain yogurt either.

I scooped out a cup.  Nice and thick, I'll give you that.

Then I took a spoonful.

*gak!*

The yogurt didn't taste like plain yogurt.  Didn't taste good at all.

And the texture was nasty - very gritty/grainy. 

It was, in my opinion, the WORST YOGURT I've ever had and, my dears, I've had tons!

Here is certainly another example of not judging the book by its cover.

I had to throw out both cartons (I wasn't about to drive back 10 miles to return the unopened carton).

Well, this sure was one for the books.  I don't know what these folks do, but this stuff is just plain inedible as far as I'm concerned.  I checked their website and they seem to have lots of awards for cheese, but no mention anywhere about yogurt.  Not surprised....

Have you ever tried something that sounded too good to be true only to recoil? 

Now I have to get in more yogurt for Mom.

And trust me, this time I'm not trying anything new this time.  I'll stick with the tried and trues.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

More snow = more soup

Snow, cold, winter winter winter.

Okay, back to the kitchen.

Made up a double batch of fresh chicken soup.  You just cannot go wrong with chicken soup.  So good for what ails you.

I like mine with crispy rice noodles on top.  I like the crunch.

But one cannot depend on just soup alone to lift one's spirits.

As my main blog post shows,  I feel better as I enjoy the bright colors from my new TV.

That works just as well in the kitchen.  Check out this spectacular salad - some greens from the store, some from my own growing in the basement.  It's almost too pretty to eat!


Okay, enough eye candy. Let's eat!

Do you take time to make your meals bright and colorful?  And does it help?

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Being brave

Healthy eater that I am, I've always shied away from little fish in tins.

First off, I'm not a fish fan.  Used to be when I was younger, but moved away from them.  Various reasons.

But I knew I needed Omega3s to help keep my cholesterol down now that I've weaned myself off of statins (for the time being anyway - depends on the numbers).

I've been taking fish oil capsules and I'm sure that's fine, but I always wondered about those flat little cans stacked next to the tuna at stores.

Sardines.  What are they all about?  I bought a can on a whim - about 6 months ago.   I decided today was the day to get them out of the cupboard.  To the food bank?  Or lunch?  Hmmm.

Okay.  It wouldn't kill me to try some.

I took a deep breath and opened the can.  Oh goodie!  Not the type with heads, tails and eyes.  Don't think I could have coped with that.

Packed it water, I didn't like the fishy smell so immediately rinsed the fillets in cool water.

To cook, I sprayed a med skillet with evoo and pan-seared them with a bit of garlic granules and cracked black pepper, turning them into flakes with the spatula as they sautéed. Not pushing the 'bravery' bit, I removed the strings of bones as they appeared.

When done(?) I tasted a flake - not near what I expected.  Not salty or horribly fishy.

I decided to serve them on a couple of sourdough Wasa crackers.  I spread one of the crackers with a hot pepper mustard mix and left the other one bare.

The flake I'd tried left a sorta fish taste in my mouth so added a serving of spicy pickles to help decoy my taste buds.

Well, I liked that the flakes were tender but not dry.  The crunchy crackers was a bit messy to eat, but the one with the pepper mustard held together better.  The pickles worked with the fish.

Would I eat sardines again?  Dunno.  Not really liking this fish aftertaste.  We'll see how long it lasts.

Gotta admit - for the price you get a ton of protein (18g) and good fats.  The final vote hasn't been cast.

Do YOU have a fave way of eating sardines?  Recipes and/or suggestions to share?

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Tomato soup

I continue to ride the range during this frigid weather.

Today I dug out all 4 1-gallon bags of frozen tomatoes from last year's garden.

While 3 of them were 100% San Marzano tomatoes, the 4th bag was at least half salad slicers.

First thing - defrost.  I put the bags (one at a time) into the microwave for about 10 minutes, then poured the nearly defrosted pieces into a sieve over a 12-quart pot.

While that bag drained, I defrosted the others and drained them in turn.

After they drained off all the clear tomato 'whey', I put the solids into an 8-quart pot and put them on low heat to totally defrost.

Once warmed through I sucked off (turkey baster) another couple of cups of whey.  Then I took the near-hot solids and mashed them through a strainer.  It took very little time since the tomatoes were very soft.

In the end I collected just over 2C of solids: seeds & skins.  That left me with 5 quarts of whey and 2.5 quarts of light sauce just perfect for soup.

I used my new wand blender and made sure the soup was velvet smooth, then added my flavoring ingredients:

marjoram; salt; garlic granules; onion powder; chipotle powder; cracked black pepper and 1T of EVOO.  After a simmer and a taste I also added a rounded tablespoon of tomato paste. (I refused to add sugar so the paste helped take off residual sharpness from the fresh tomatoes.)

Voila!  Soup!  Mom is so looking forward to this as I didn't make any last winter because I was ill.  She says mine is much better than Campbell's.

Well, lets just see why.  Here's what Campbell's condensed tomato soup is made of:

Tomato Puree , (Water , Tomato Paste) , High Fructose Corn Syrup , Wheat Flour , Water , Salt , Potassium Chloride , Flavoring , Citric Acid , Lower Sodium Natural Sea Salt , Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Monopotassium Phosphate

What a chemical cocktail that is!  ICK  Better off to just boil the label and have that for lunch. :-/

This soup is better than the last one I made.  I think it's because I switched to San Marzanos for paste tomatoes.  They are much better cooked up than Romas to my mind.

This batch took me about 3 hours start to finish (1hr to thaw, 1 hr to heat/strain/season, 1 hr to clean up the mess *heh*).  It will make 10 1-C servings.  I'm thinking I'm going to have to freeze more than 4 bags next year.  If I'm going to go through all the work, I should get a bigger payoff, no?

Well now, I'll let the soup sit overnight in the breezeway (honestly, it's only 29 degrees in there so I use it for cooling foods this time of year).  That'll give the herbs and spices time to blend.

All I'll have to do then is warm up a bowl and wrangle up a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.  Doesn't get much better than that!  How about you?  Are you a tomato soup fan?

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Getting back my food groove

Well, after the failures with both corn tortillas and then new-recipe chili, I knew I had to pick myself up and get back on the stove.

I bought one of those 5# chubs of Superior Meats ham.

While they are already fully cooked and ready to serve, I do not like them at that point.  Too salty.  To rubbery.

What I do is section it then sear all sides of the sections on a hot, dry skillet.  After making sure that all pieces are in contact with the bottom of the skillet, I loosely cover it (to allow moisture to escape, else I'm just steaming them), and set the temp to just a little above 'low'. 

Every 30 minutes or so I turn the pieces so another surface is on the bottom.  At this point the moisture from the ham is making it's own glaze in the pan - thick and savory.

After 4 hours, all sides of the sections are deeply glazed and the meat is just shy of falling apart.  Talk about taste and texture!

Turning off the heat under the meat, I sliced up a pan of sweet potatoes, added a couple of tablespoons of water, covered, brought to near steam, then lowered the heat and let them cook themselves from their own moisture.

That doesn't take long, maybe 30 minutes.

When they were very tender, I mashed them with a potato masher, then used my new blender wand to finish the job.

A quick stir with a spatula and presto - velvet sweet potato whip.  Nothing added.  No salt, etc.  These things are stellar all on their own.

Finally, to round out the menu, I made some fresh slaw.

I shave Brussels sprouts, then add chopped walnuts, carrots and a handful of fresh pomegranate  seeds. 

Then I flavor with salt, cracked black pepper, garlic granules and then lightly drizzle with a homemade sweet & sour dressing.



By then I was more than ready to make all these into a well-deserved hot and savory meal.

I'm tired of cold, and snow and ice and wind.  I wanted something special.

And, trust me, this meal was spot on.  Yum.

Are you treating yourself well during this protracted winter?

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Corn-fused

If you think I'm some sort of cooking savant, you'd be wrong.

Really wrong.

After all, I only publish my successes, or work-in-progress recipes, etc.

Here's one that turned out to be a total failure.

Corn tortillas.

How the heck could I mess this up?

Masa harina flour + hot water.  Let sit covered for 20 minutes.

Roll or press into rounds.  (This was tricky - the dough was a bit sticky and I had no press, so I tried rolling them out between plastic.  Rolled out well, but then would not release from the bottom one.  Okay, tried rolling out on parchment paper on bottom and plastic on top.  Then they would release from the parchment better a little better.)

Slap into a hot, ungreased griddle.  Let toast until - well - done.

Eat and enjoy.

All went well until the last part.  "Eat and enjoy."

There was no eating, no enjoying.

Instead these things were tough and terrible.  So inedible that even when hacked up (there was no tearing them) into pieces and put out under the bird feeder, birds and squirrels ignored them.

Not only could I not chew them, they didn't even have any corn taste.

What did I do wrong?  They looked picture perfect.  But they might as well have been made of construction paper.

*sigh*  Irony is - I'd made these up to go with a batch of chili made with new ingredients.  The chili was, in the end, also not very good.  I'm blaming this terrible winter - it's making me crazy and affecting my food mojo.

Thankfully I'd also made up a batch of spelt tortilla dough and within no time I'd had a big plate of toasted tender tortillas.

Maybe I cooked the corn ones too long?

Will I try again?  Maybe.

Meanwhile, to console myself - a blackberry salad and meatloaf & sprout sandwich for lunch.

*munch*  Ah, good stuff.

And if you have any suggestions on the corn tortillas (other than watching youtube which I did a lot), I'd appreciate your input.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Rye soda bread

Another kitchen escape from the bitter weather.

I found I had some rye flour languishing in a bin, so thought I'd try a version of Irish soda bread.

I swapped out 100g of whole grain spelt flour with the rye flour, then also added 1.5T of caraway seeds.

To mark the difference from my regular quarter-score cuts in the loaf, I cross-hatched this one.

The bread took much longer to bake with the rye flour.

At the 35-min mark the loaf didn't thump 'hollow', so I let it go for another 6 minutes.

Then I turned off the oven and let it sit in there for another 5 minutes.

I should have let it go longer in the hot oven.

While the loaf thumped hollow, the center was still a bit undone.

I cut the loaf in half and put it back in a heated oven for 5 minutes just to dry it out a bit more.

In the end the loaf was heavier than normal, but the taste was really nice - like a rye bread.

I've missed rye bread since I gave up modern wheat so this was lovely.

Next time: oven temp a bit lower and increase time by at least 25%.

I'll be trying this one again soon.

Some day, however, I'm going to have to try making some yeast bread.  But my house is way too cold for any rising in winter and when it's warm outside, who wants to heat up the kitchen making bread?

Buddy Dave gave me his old bread machine.  Maybe I should try playing with that during this week's polar (neg double digits again) temps.  Stay tuned.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mushroom meatloaf

It was bitter cold and snowing and winds up 30-40 mph.

I was depressed.

So I spent some time in the kitchen.

I had another 3# pack of ground turkey so decided to make up a couple more meatloafs.

This time I decided to make them a little more savory than the last one (which was mostly veg for flavor).

So I browned up a carton of baby portabella mushrooms to add new flavor and texture.

I also added 1/4C of Worcestershire sauce - now that's savory!

I added the rest of the suspects:  3 beaten eggs, 1C rolled oats, diced green & red peppers, 1C shredded zuke and a whole bunch of herbs and spices (among them: garlic granules, dried onions, celery seed, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, cumin, salt and cracked black pepper).

Mixed together and formed 2 loaves, into a 375F oven for about 1.75 hr.

While the oven was hot I also scrubbed 10 large sweet potatoes to roast on the lower shelve.

Then I went out to get 6 inches off the driveway before the next wave of winter hit.

There.  Driveway clear (which lasted only 15 minutes - check the main blog page).

I came in and removed the sweet potatoes, then turned on the broiler.  For the few minutes it took for me to chuck off all my winter gear, the meatloafs got a nice toast to them.

There.  Hot lunch is served.

Taste?  Even better than the last batch.  Much more umami (savory taste) to the loaves.  I'll remember the mushroom/ Worchestershire sauce and the dried onions next time.

This recipe is a keeper.  Oh - the potatoes were also delish - sweet and creamy.


Do you change your recipes often?  Dink with them?  Or use up something on hand?  Does it usually work out for you too?

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Smooooooth move

I lucked into a sale of one of the items on my LSD (labor saving device) wish list this past weekend. 

Until now, to make a smooth soup or sauce I had to pour hot stuff into the carafe of a regular multi-speed blender, whiz it, then pour the soup/sauce/etc back into the saucepan to bring it back up to heat. There was also the extra cleanup issue to deal with.  Ick.

This weekend I found a Cuisinart 2-speed immersion blender - ON SALE - at a price right up my alley!

Seems the blue, green and yellow sticks were on sale because folks didn't want those colors.  Good grief!  Who cares the color!  It's the quality and convenience that counts, isn't it??

Capricious consumers didn't like yellow?  Okay, so go and pay 25% more for red or stainless. 

Me? I'm very happy with this yellow fellow.  Super heavy duty, solid construction, stainless steel shaft/blades with a nice deep carafe for smoothies, salad dressings, pudding, etc. and a 3-year warranty.

First thing to try - split pea soup. 

It was just so ... easy-peasy

Pot full of soup.  A couple of zzzip zzzip on low speed and *presto* the soup went from soft lumps to velvety smooth in no time.

A quick whiz of the shaft in warm sudsy water and clean up was done.

I think I'm in love.... 

Any new LSDs show up in your kitchen for the holidays?

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Back from the brink

I was cleaning the 'fridge after the holidays and found my long-forgotten milk and water kefir grains languishing in the back of the bottom shelf.

The dates on the lids advised they'd been neglected for a good 3 months.

I expected I'd have to just compost them.  But hey - let's give 'em a chance.

I put both types of grains through a couple of room-temp cycles and low and behold, both came back full strength!

I'd gotten so enthusiastic about kefirs at the beginning of 2013, then I got so ill that fun stuff like this just fell off the table.  Thankfully the kefirs are so forgiving and they waited for me. :-D

Now I've got to start using both types a little more often.  I'm thinking a soda bread today and some fizzy fruit juice too.  Stay tuned.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Clever clover

I've been enjoying clover sprouts (I think they are tastier than alfalfa sprouts) on sandwiches and salads over the past few weeks.

Thing is, a little carton will run almost $2.

So the last time I was at the health food store, I picked up several ounces of red clover seeds so I could grow my own.

I scrounged up an empty cracker container and punched a line of little drainage holes along the outside edge of the bottom.

I cut a piece of paper towel to nearly cover the bottom (allowing water flow toward the drainage holes).

I wet the towel, sprinkled on about 1.5T of seeds ($.30), sprayed them with water and lightly covered with the lid.

I sprayed/drained a couple times a day and within 2 days the seeds began to sprout.

Another 2 days and there was some real growth

Another 2 days and little 'sun seeker' leaves popped open.

Finally just 7 days start to finish I had a luxurious growth of fresh nutrition-packed red clover sprouts

The makeshift sprouter worked like a charm.

Previously I tried growing the sprouts in a jar, but I wasn't happy with the results.   Those sprouts seemed kinda wimpy and very wet.  This sprouter kept the water in the paper towel and the sprouts themselves much drier.

Time to put this batch in the fridge (where they actually will keep growing, although very slowly).  I don't think they'll last very long, though.  These things are awesome.



Got anything growing in your kitchen?

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vegetable soup

I eat a lot of soup.

I MAKE a lot of soup.

Yet, for the 4+ years I've had this "Chef's Table" page and the near 6 years of the main page, I've never had an entry about actually making soup.

Oh sure, there are many pics of many kinds of soup on the main page, but for all you know I've just heated up a can of Progresso!

So here is my first real soup entry:  Vegetable.

I start with about 4C of homemade veg stock (from my garden goodies).  While that's defrosting/heating, I chop up the usual suspects: carrots, celery and white potatoes.

Now in a 2nd little saucepan, I start cooking the carrots and celery in about 1C of water.  When the carrots are half way done, I add the potatoes.

Meanwhile, in the boiling veg stock, I add 1/3C pearled barely, pre-steamed cabbage ribbons, and defrosted chick peas and green beans.  Then I add 2T of tomato paste, hot pepper, garlic, salt and cracked black pepper.

By the time the carrots & potatoes are near done I add them, liquid and all to the stock and let the whole thing simmer until the barley is tender but not mushy.  Right at the end I also add a few generous pinches of marjoram and some garden parsley sprigs.

Serve with some home-made (thanks, Dave) spelt toast strips for dunking and you've got something that Progresso only WISHED they could serve up!

What I really love about soup is  - it never turns out the same 2ce. LOL  (And I'm sure you'd agree!) There are no measurements, recipe or guidelines other than - start with homemade stock and go from there.  Happy lunch, everyone!     (Note to self: this batch made 2.5Q)

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