Tasteful Tweaks

June 29, 2010

I wrote the first part of this at the surgeon’s office this morning, waiting for my husband’s appointment, and wrote the last part this evening. I was finished helping with snacks for VBS and waiting for the kids to be dismissed so I could gather my grandchildren and come home to write this. I wrote it all on my cell phone, so hopefully it will fit together somehow.

Last week’s Tuesday Twister post was about tried and true recipes. This week’s post is about some new ones and the tweaks I used. Following Erin’s post on Gnowfglins, I made ketchup for the first time! (Even if the former ketchup wasn’t the healthiest, the bottle did come in handy!)
I either hadn’t realized there was a recipe in my Nourishing Traditions book or had dismissed it because of the fish sauce, an ingredient I didn’t have and didn’t expect to be buying. I ended up buying some, so I combined the NT recipe with Erin’s. I chose the NT for the fish sauce and quantity (a quart) and Erin’s for the wonderful spice combination (which I tripled to equal the quart). Delish! Can’t wait to make some cocktail sauce with it!

fast food
One of the things I used it on was sweet potato fries. While making them I thought of an easier way to fry them. I used my wok! The sloping sides made it much easier to get them in and out of the hot pan of oil.
wok frying

Another great dish we had was my twist on a strawberry ice cream recipe posted by girlchef. I bought some strawberries on a day I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t clean them and left them out overnight. When I got up the next morning, they were fuzzy with mold. The blueberries, however, were fine. If I ever use blueberries again, the one thing I would change is waiting until after everything else is mixed to add in the blueberries. By the time the ingredients were mixed, the blueberries were obliterated. all mixed up

One thing I love about things like this, it’s a great way to get all those healthy ingredients into my grandchildren. (Fresh whole milk, fresh raw cream, raw honey, blueberries, and, of course, homemade cream cheese) Check out this thick raw cream!
I did use raw honey, rather than buckwheat honey, as done by Sarah at heartland Renaissance. It was a hit!
blueberry ice cream

A new ingredient in my kitchen this week is grass-fed ghee. I bought it from Pure Indian Foods.
The smell always reminds me of fresh buttered popcorn. It gives a nice flavor to so many dishes. When I cook eggs in it, I can serve breakfast with a smile.

This post is part of Tuesday Twister at Gnowfglins.com and was featured on Pure Indian Foods Facebook page .


Fast Food

June 26, 2010

What do you do when the day doesn’t go as you planned and suddenly it’s supper time? For some, the answer is easy. Drive to a local fast food place or a nearby restaurant. Even better (for some), order in and save the trip! Or take something out of the freezer and pop it into the microwave. For those who are committed to eating non-processed foods, the answer isn’t always so easy. If you have the forsight to plan ahead for those times and have a casserole or something that can be heated in the oven, it’s not quite as hard. For me, it never seems to work out that way. Planning ahead is not my forte. Unorganized is a word that better describes me. I tend to “fly by the seat of my pants.” Usually supper ends up being something that can be made with quickly-thawed hamburger meat, like taco salad. (I thaw my meat by steaming it in a pan on low heat) This is why I always make sure I order more hamburger meat (or ground bison, when they have it) than anything. Here are some of the things I make when supper finds me ill-prepared.

Pizza: sourdough or sprouted spelt flour crust (check out this website for sprouted flour), tomato paste with a little water or tomato sauce cooked down a little with some dried oregano and garlic powder, bell pepper, black olives, onion, chicken sausage or wild boar sausage, raw grass-fed cheese. This is a deep dish style pizza.
deep dish pizza

Green chile and cheese burgers (topped with ranch and dijon) with sweet potato fries, if I think to take the hamburger out early enough. Love it with the new homemade ketchup!
Burger and fries

Probably the easiest thing to make in a hurry though, is this Wendy’s-like chili recipe I found on Lauren’s site, Healthy Indulgences. It’s easy and relatively fast. She recommends simmering for 2-3 hours, but I find it good as soon as it’s done. Here’s the recipe, with my tweaks.


2 lbs grass-fed hamburger or bison
1 Tbs coconut or olive oil (if using grass-fed meat)
1 small onion, diced
1 cup chopped bell peppers, any or all colors
1/2 cup diced celery (if I have it)
5-6 Tbs red chili powder
4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp garlic powder (or fresh garlic, to taste)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes (or 4 14.5 oz cans)
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1-2 cups beans (I use pinto)

Chop vegetables while meat is browning, then add to meat. Cook for a few minutes until softened.
meat and veggies

Stir in spices, cook a couple of minutes while mixing well.
add spices

Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. (I like Muir Glen)

Mix well, then stir in beans. Top with favorite toppings. I like yogurt or sour cream (whichever I have) and a little grated raw grass-fed cheese.

This does make about 12 good sized servings. I always cook extra everything in order to cover lunches the next day or to freeze for those times when I’m ill-prepared. 😉

The Week in Food

June 22, 2010

This is my first attempt to join the Tuesday Twister by Wardeh Gnowfglins. It’s a weekly blog post about what we cooked up this past week. Most of what happened in my kitchen were tried and true recipes. I made 2 loaves of sourdough bread, but did add a new seed topping to one of them. My sourdough is made of spelt flour, salt, and water with a homemade spelt starter. This is it before the second rise.
sourdough bread

I bought the 7-seed blend at Marshall’s. It’s amazing what you can find at those discount stores if you are willing to dig around.
seed topping

I also made some breakfast “cereal” with some homemade granola. My husband calls it “The Thinking Man’s Breakfast.” Has something to do with how long it takes to chew it up. 🙂 First I start with soaked and dried nuts and (soaked and dried) long cooking, rolled or steel cut oats. I use pecans.

And cashews.
cashews soaking
I usually soak these during the day, then dry them during the night. Once everything is ready, I just throw it all in a container and add some raisins and coconut. Tasty!

I used our new dehydrator for the first time, opting to dry some mint from our garden in case it didn’t turn out well. It turned out fine, though it took a little longer than I expected.
Now that I’ve broken it in, I can use it to dry my nuts and oats for granola, instead of the oven.

I did venture into making yogurt in an insulated box with a heating pad, since my former yogurt maker (gallon thermos) began leaking. I am hoping to try it in my crock pot, but want to do a temperature check first to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. Anyway, the box method worked out pretty well. I had the insulation I needed without trying to figure out what to do with the cord if I used an ice chest. (The top piece of the box left a small place just right for the cord)

I also made a quart of mayonnaise. I blogged about it here, explaining the ease with which it’s made with my immersion blender. (Mayo in a minute!)

I roasted and peeled some Anaheim green chile, which I love. They are a wonderful addition to many dishes or taste great with some sausage and eggs!
green chile

Those are some of the things that “twisted” in my kitchen this past week. What twisted in yours?

Grass-fed Brisket

June 22, 2010

I love grass-fed meat and from a nutritional standpoint it can’t be beat, what with the nearly perfect omega 6:3 ratio and 22 amino acids, providing our bodies just what they need. However, I’ll admit it is a little difficult to cook. The biggest “problem” would probably be the leanness of the meat. There’s far less fat on it than the grain-fed, antibiotic/hormone laden, disease-causing stuff they sell at your local supermarket. (Sorry, can’t refrain from saying it!) I decided to do this post about cooking a brisket, because getting a brisket just right has always been a little hard for me. The main grass-fed slogan for cooking is “low and slow.” Low heat, cooked for a long period of time. This recipe is the way I’ve found to cook it that I like best. For one thing, I can cook it in my crock pot, an awesome thing in this heat! For another, who doesn’t like cooking in a crock pot? Put your food in, turn it on, come back at supper time and dish it up! I like to put mine on at night to make sure it gets done.

Crock Pot Brisket

grass-fed brisket (approximately 3-4 lbs)
4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters (halved, then halved again)
1 large onion (sliced thickly)
2 Tbs all-purpose seasoning (I use Mountain Rose Herbs)
2 Tbs House Blend
1 tsp garlic powder (can use fresh garlic, if preferred)
2 tsp coconut aminos (or Bragg’s liquid aminos)
1-2 cups beef broth (I use homemade marrow bone broth)
Potatoes or any other additions can be made, but that’s all I use.

Put carrots all over bottom of crock pot.

Top with onions.

Season meat on side without fat with 1/2 of the seasonings.
Place on top of veggies, fat side up. Pour aminos and broth on top.

(My broth just came out of the freezer, so I set it in hot water for a few minutes…
bone broth

then set it beside the meat. (I used 2 cups for extra Au Jus)
brisket ready to cook

Sprinkle remaining seasonings on top. Set crock pot on high for 4 hours, then turn to low and cook an additional 9 hours or until cooked fork tender. The broth can be made into gravy or used as Au Jus (especially if served over sourdough bread for hot beef sandwich). I was hoping to have a nice picture of the finished meal on a plate, but got sick and missed that meal. I did have a sandwich later, with the leftovers.

brisket sandwich
Brisket on homemade sourdough with homemade mayo. On the side is raw (milk) sharp cheddar and salt brine pickles. Local tomato from Farmer’s Market. Yum!!

This post is included in Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays.

Homemade Mayo

June 21, 2010

Mayo, up close

Lots of people make their own mayo. One popular reason is, they don’t want the unnecessary sugar and preservatives found in store bought versions. That’s my reason. When I first started thinking about making my own mayonnaise, it was rather intimidating. When I searched online, I found that it seemed to be a somewhat tedious and rather tricky process. When I couldn’t bring myself to buy another jar of mayonnaise, or more importantly, ranch dressing, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try.

Following a post online by someone who appeared to have perfected the process, I first tried it with my hand mixer. It was okay. Not great. Very messy. I nearly burned up the motor on my mixer! Then I bought my Nourishing Traditions book. My second try was done in my blender. A little tastier, but what a mess! I had mayo everywhere! Being a die-hard Hellman’s fan (from my low carb days since the 80’s), I was really looking for that Hellman’s taste. I found someone online who had the same dilemma and who thought she had solved it. I tried it, but just didn’t find the taste quite what I was looking for.
With perseverance, I finally landed on the recipe I like. I started with the one by Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat, Lose Fat), then made a few adjustments1. What made a world of difference for me though, was the method of making it. I had been wanting to buy an immersion blender for a while and decided this was as good a reason as any. I found this one at Target. It was just under $20 and is made by Oster. I love it!!! (I was surprised to find so many poor reviews — I haven’t had any trouble with it, but ymmv)

Oster immersion blender

Making mayo is now a breeze. Here’s my recipe, as made with my immersion blender.

(makes approx. 2 cups)

4 egg yolks (preferably fresh from pastured chickens) at room temp
2 tsp of Dijon mustard (natural ingredients, no sugar!)
2 Tbs of whey (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups oil (I use 1 cup of Bragg olive oil and 1/4 cup Spectrum organic olive oil)
salt to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp Real salt)
pinch Spanish paprika
liquid stevia (start with about 3 drops, then add to taste) or honey (to taste)

I like to put my oils into a Pyrex (glass) meausring cup. This way I can measure as I add the oils and it has a little spout at the top which makes pouring easier. I love using the Bragg oil. It has such a mild flavor for making mayonnaise. Put all ingredients except oil into immersion blender container. Blend just till combined then slowly pour the oil into the container while using the other hand to run the blender, but be sure to keep the blades at the bottom of the container until it all the oil has been added. Once combined, you can then move the blender up and down to thoroughly mix the oil. Be careful not to let the bottom of the immersion blender go above the top of the liquid, unless you want to redecorate your kitchen in mayo!! (Thanks to Michelle at She Looketh Well for that last tip)

The reason I love the immersion blender process is because most recipes call for slowly adding the oil drop by drop with a dropper. With the immersion blender, the total process takes about 1 minute. (Too much more and the immersion blender starts to get hot, which is stated in the manual) The whey is optional, but with it the mayo keeps for several months and becomes slightly thicker. Without it, it keeps about 2 weeks. If you do use whey, the mayo needs to sit out at room temperature for 7 hours, tightly covered. This ferments the mayonnaise, which not only helps it last longer but is better for you. At the end of the 7 hours, simply refrigerate.

I hope you give it a try. It’s so much better for you and makes wonderful ranch dressing. (Recipe coming)


1One of the changes I made was to reduce the lemon juice from 2 Tbs to 1 tsp. I found I just didn’t care for the sour taste. Not sure of the purpose for it in the original recipe, I left in the 1 tsp. I also added the stevia to offset the tang of the lemon and whey and added the paprika, though probably more for looks than taste.

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Summer’s Bounty

June 19, 2010

Okay, it’s not my homegrown bounty, but it is summer’s bounty. Mostly. (I AM trying harder to buy locally grown food, but it’s tough sometimes!) Even though there is a garden in our backyard, I wanted to share about the kinds of food that can be found at a local farmer’s market or vegetable stand, especially for those of you who do not have a garden. This fruit was bought at a local stand about 10 minutes from my house. All except the peach peaking out from the edge (I really have to figure out this blog stuff better — it keeps cutting my pictures down to fit the text!). Anyway, the peaches were bought at our local farmer’s market.
Fresh fruit
Above: apples, oranges, mangoes, peaches

The vegetables below were all bought at the farmer’s market, with the exception of the sweet potatoes, which were bought at the veggie stand.
Above: onions, cucumbers (pickling), yellow squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes

I love fresh veggies! The yellow squash I stir-fried in a little bit of coconut oil. If you aren’t familiar with coconut oil, it has numerous health benefits and only a faint coconut taste, which we like. The white potatoes I mostly buy for my grandkids. (At least it’s a veggie!) I do make french fries sometimes (using a good oil, like Spectrum’s high heat organic sunflower oil), to satisfy their junk food cravings. The cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes made what my husband calls a “summer salad.” I dice the cukes and tomatoes in even amounts, then add about 1/2 that amount in finely diced onion (normally made with red onion, but any kind will work). I add equal amounts of flax seed oil and red wine vinegar and a few drops of liquid Stevia. Yum!
The sweet potatoes I usually bake then mash with butter. I’ve never had success making baked sweet potato fries. This time I decided to try something different, as my husband was wondering if I could fry them like potato chips. One thing I’ve found; when it comes to the internet, there are no original ideas! I found this recipe by Paula Deen, which I followed with the exception of using vegetable oil. I used a mandoline to slice the potatoes once they were peeled, to ensure they were all the same thinness. It was awesome! I only wish I’d taken a picture! They were a little tricky, you have to fry them till they just have the faintest hint of brown then take them out quickly. Not long enough and they aren’t crispy like a chip. Too long and they turn brown quickly and burn. I want to add, her recipe for House Seasoning was so simple, but so tasty. I find myself using it in lots of dishes! I used it on some buffalo (bison) t-bone steaks and it really gave them a great taste.

If you aren’t able to locate a farmer’s market or veggie stand nearby, there are still lots of good things found in many stores. I buy this spring mix from Sam’s Club.
Spring mix

Even though it says it’s triple washed, I still wash everything with GSE.
This can be found at stores like Whole Foods or ordered off the internet.
I wash the whole thing at once in my sink.
Washing spring mix

Whether you shop at a farmer’s market, vegetable stand, or supermarket (hopefully, one that sells organic produce), I hope you are enjoying some of summer’s bounty!

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays at Food Renegade.

RIP Yogurt Maker

June 7, 2010

yogurt thermos

I was very sad to discover, after blogging about how to make raw milk yogurt, that my yogurt maker (aka my Eddie Bauer gallon thermos) bit the dust. How does a thermos bite the dust, you may be wondering (or not). Well, this fancy thermos has a spigot. A spigot that was a bit of a pain, as I had to cap it off every time I made yogurt. The cap came with the thermos, but it was hard to clean. And, as I also blogged, cleanliness is of extreme importance when making yogurt. And most other times.

So, the seal on the spigot sprung a leak. Or two. I’m not really sure. I just know that when I poured the entire gallon of freshly made yogurt into it, a lovely pool of yogurt suddenly appeared around the bottom of the thermos. (You have to understand, this was not cultured yogurt, therefore, it was still in it’s totally liquid-y milk form)

I creatively then poured it back into the pan, grabbed two insulated shopping bags and my heavy, yogurt-making towel, and did my best to insulate the pan to retain the proper heat for culturing yogurt. Though I do not recommend this method and don’t plan to use it again, it worked. Mostly. I’m hoping maybe some handy person might be able to fix the seal on the thermos and resurrect my yogurt maker. In the meantime, I’ll be looking around for either another gallon thermos (preferably without a spigot!) or some other method of making yogurt. Maybe I’ll try the heating-pad-in-a-cooler method. If I could just figure out what to do with the cord…

On a happier note, as I needed to strain the somewhat runny yogurt at the same time I needed to use my large, yogurt-straining pan for cooking supper, I found a new way to strain my yogurt. I introduce to you the new strainer:

Yogurt strainer

It works. I’m happy.


I love multifunctional appliances.