Heat-Free Meal

July 17, 2010

salmon-salad-salad

Or, What to Fix When Your Air Conditioner Quits Working in the Middle of a Heat Wave. I often find myself longing to own a little farm somewhere, away from “it all.” A place to grow veggies of my choice and raise a cow or some goats, a few chickens, if you know what I mean. (Weird, the song from “Green Acres” just popped into my head) However, there are two times when I never wish this; (1) when I look at the garden in the backyard and, (2) when a major appliance breaks down. Why? Because I am a tenant. And that garden full of wonderful veggies? My landlord does all the work, but shares all the proceeds with us. (He lives nearby, but isn’t allowed to have a garden in his highfalutin neighborhood) I mentioned this “work-free” garden a few posts back. And now you know. To top that off, he even pays the water bill during the summer. Yeah, I know. Who’d want to move away from that? And when things like air conditioners break down, I’m doubly glad I’m not a homeowner. I’m only affected by the heat, not the expense. For the heat, we were treated to a nice room at the hotel where my daughter is the GM. See, those college degrees come in handy, I’m tellin’ ya! But I have seriously digressed.

Even though the a/c got a temporary fix (with complete replacement coming Monday), it’s really struggling to keep up. Well, it’s not having any trouble keeping up with the outside temps! Right now it’s 98 outside (heat index is over 100) and 89 inside. I wasn’t expecting the house to stay so hot, so I was caught off guard for supper. What to do when it’s too hot to think of turning the stove on, yet going out to eat is saved for bigger emergencies than this? Salmon-salad-salad. No, there is no echo in here. It’s simply green salad topped with salmon salad. What with all those free veggies from the garden, it makes perfect sense.

fresh veggies

Salmon-Salad-Salad

2 cans salmon
1/4 cup homemade mayo
1 small or 1/2 large diced cucumber
1 small onion, diced
2 small or 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 green bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
4 cups salad greens
1 ripe avocado
2 Tbs cashews, broken into pieces, (crispy a la Sally Fallon, optional)
2 Tbs pecans (ditto)
seasonings to taste

sockeye salmon

Place salad greens, cucumber, bell pepper, 1/2 the onion, and the tomato in a bowl and toss. Add seasonings. Drain salmon and place in a separate bowl. Add mayonnaise and avocado and mash until well mixed.

salmon salad

Add 1/2 the chopped onion and the nuts. Mix well and place large scoop on top of individual bowl of salad. Serve with some raw grass-fed cheese. Or whatever else you like. It’s basically a “whatever you have on hand” recipe.

Do you have any idea how much heat 2 computers in a small room can generate? More than I can handle! I’m off in search of a cooler spot. (Or a phone call to my daughter, the GM) 😉

This post is a (very late!) addition to Fight Back Fridays from Food Renegade.


Blackberry Cobbler

July 14, 2010

I bought a few too many blackberries at the egg farm last week. Worried they would start to go bad before getting eaten, I decided to make a cobbler with them. This is a tweak of a peach cobbler recipe by Paula Deen I found last year. Which means, of course, that you can adjust this back to a peach cobbler recipe, if that’s what you’d like.

Rise-to-Top Blackberry Cobbler

Ingredients

* 4 cups blackberries, cleaned and stems removed
* Sweetener1 equal to 2 cups sugar, divided
* 1/3 cup water
* 6 tablespoons butter
* 1 1/2 cups spelt flour2
* 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 3/4 tsp sea salt
* 1 1/2 cups raw milk
* Ground cinnamon, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350o.

Combine blackberries, sweetener equal to 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
blackberries in syrup

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.
melted butter

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together with any dry (remaining) sweetener you are using.
dry ingredients

Slowly add milk to prevent clumping. Add in any (remaining) liquid sweetener you may be using. Pour mixture over melted butter.
topping on butter

DO NOT STIR. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in 3/4 of the syrup.
rise-to-top cobbler

Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Top with more syrup and fresh whipped cream, if you like.

blackberry cobbler

1Any choice of sweetener will work and is a matter of preference. I chose to use a total of 1/2 cup of birch bark xylitiol and 1 cup of coconut nectar. The combination equaled the sweetness of 2 cups of sugar.

2The recipe linked to Paula Deen calls for self-rising flour. The addition of the baking powder and salt will cause the spelt flour to act as self-rising flour. Here’s the measurements for general use: For every 1 cup of flour, add 1.5 tsp baking powder and .5 tsp salt.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.


Salmon Stir-fry

July 13, 2010

This week was as hectic as usual, so I found myself relying on quick-fix meals again. The down side to that is, sometimes I feel as though we eat the same things over and over. Thankfully, our co-op order came in, so I had some canned sockeye salmon on hand for a couple of meals. I usually make salmon-salad-salad (salmon salad on salad) with homemade mayo or salmon patties. I did find this week, when I made Rachel’s Meatloaf, that I could sub sourdough crumbs for the oatmeal with the same results. No one knew the difference. Those end-of-the-loaf pieces came in handy there!

My grandchildren, 9 yrs and 5 yrs, have been real troopers with our meals. They are used to eating chicken nuggets and pizza rolls, so staying with Grandma for the summer is something of a challenge. My granddaughter, the 5 yr old, is so sweet. She says things like, “Well, I don’t like it…but I love it!” She’s hilarious. That’s her way of trying to tell me she can’t stomach what I’m serving, but doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. 🙂
I try to throw in some faux junk food, to relieve their suffering. We made some chocolate chip cookies today. (I was desperate; it’s hard to blog with a little voice declaring every few minutes, “Grandma, I’m bored.” ;)) I used this recipe, using spelt flour, fresh egg, raw honey, crispy pecans (a la Sally Fallon), and cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips.
cacao nibs

Looked and tasted like chocolate chip cookie dough.
cookie dough

Or so the taste-testers said. (At least the raw honey was still intact at that point)
taste tester

The cookies were popular too, but I was glad it only made 1 1/2 dozen. (The rest were still cooking!)
cacao nib cookies

Once that fun was over, I took the little one out to the garden with me. It looks a little jungle-like.
garden

It was really hot (and bright) out there, but she was a good helper.
garden helper

We pulled up a head of cabbage for supper and found the rabbits are getting back into the garden.
cabbage

I used some wild salmon and made a stir-fry.
salmon

Here’s how I made it:

2 Tbs ghee
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced (local)
1 tsp fresh ginger, diced small
2 small bell peppers, sliced (garden)
2 yellow squash, halved, then sliced
1 elephant ear garlic clove, diced
1 small head cabbage, sliced into strips (garden)
1/2 cup frozen broccoli
2 pieces of salmon, sliced
2 Tbs coconut aminos
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice (love Mountain Rose Herbs)

Melt ghee in wok, then saute carrot and onion for about 3 minutes, then add ginger, peppers, squash and garlic. Saute about 3 minutes more, then add frozen broccoli and cabbage and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add salmon, coconut aminos and Chinese 5 spice. Cook a few more minutes, until salmon is cooked. If you’re really ambitious, take the sauce in the bottom of the pan and mix it with a little arrowroot (1/2 – 1 tsp) to thicken it, then add back to the stir-fry. Serve on quinoa, brown rice, or eat as is!

salmon stir-fry

This post is part of Tuesday Twister on Gnowfglins.com.


Maneuvering the Dietary Maze

July 13, 2010

When it comes to healthy eating, I think I have some good basics down, yet there are times I feel like a mouse in a maze. There’s so much conflicting information out there, it’s hard to know which is correct or which is best for me. What’s a girl to do?!

I’ve studied and learned SO much about dietary health this past year or so. And, as I stated in my first blog post, what I’ve learned has brought about the healing of various health problems. That my health would improve by implementing better dietary guidelines, I was fairly certain. That I would actually be healed of some things, well, that was nothing short of miraculous to me. But the one thing that continues to be problematic, is that of losing weight. I know there are some ways I could shortcut to a lower weight, but what I am looking for is a livable, nourishing diet that will continue to bring improved health as I make my way to normal weight.

In this journey I’ve learned some amazing things. I’ve learned about the enormous amount of problems associated with the SAD (Standard American Diet). SO much wrong, it boggles the mind. Problems with ingredients, additives, preservatives, bad fats, GMOs, production, storage, mold, mycotoxins. Problems with CAFOs (confined animal feed operations), with cows, chickens, pigs, with grain and garbage fed animal diets, hormones, antibiotics, farm raised fish (fed soy and corn). Problems with candida, leaky gut, chronic diseases – including cancer, and the body’s inability to absorb the nutrients it needs due to all the above. And much, much more. As I said, it boggles the mind!!

But with all I’ve learned, I still find myself confused about certain dietary measures. There are many things that are easy to understand and implement: avoiding processed foods, eating grass-fed meats, farm fresh (raw) milk and eggs, organic veggies (at their freshest), fermented foods and drinks. But after researching so many things, it’s hard not to get confused at some point. How do we maneuver the dietary maze? I keep running into dead ends and “double-backs.” I keep running into signs that say “This Way,” but are pointing in opposite directions. Much of it sounds very convincing, so how do I know which way to go?

I’m at a fork in the road. One the one side, the Nourishing Traditions path. On the other, the Paleo/Primal/Low Carb path. I know low carbing works. I’ve lost and gained a couple hundred pounds doing it. I do want to add, low carbing doesn’t necessarily mean Atkins or any other popular weight loss plan. It just means minimal carbs. I’ve felt increased energy, elimination of carb cravings, natural appetite suppression, rapid weight loss, stable blood sugar and numerous other benefits. On the down side, I’ve seen problems associated with poor nutrition (hair, nails, etc). However, that may or may not have been due to improper diet in general. In the end, the low carb diet is one that I find very hard to stick with long term, because it is so limiting. (And the biggest downside, rapid weight gain once you stop eating low carb)

In the Nourishing Traditions (WAPF) camp, I am drawn toward the old fashioned way of preparing food (prior to the Industrial Revolution). Back when people knew how to cook and knew how to prepare foods that would nourish the body; knew what foods were GOOD for the body. I have to admit also, I like the broader range of food it provides. Mainly, the addition of certain grains (some flours, rice, corn, etc) and legumes (peas, beans, etc), all properly prepared, as well as fruit in season. I like making sourdough. I like eating sourdough. I enjoy having some brown rice with stir fry or simply beans and rice. I like being able to make delicious desserts out of beans! I like oatmeal sometimes (steel cut, soaked overnight). It fills me up and lasts all through the morning. I enjoy eating a fresh, juicy peach, straight from the local orchard, or sliced into homemade yogurt. I like having those options. I like the variety it gives to our menus.

I find myself waffling back and forth between NT and Paleo. And in the midst of it all, my weight stays the same. No gains, no losses. The scales are stuck. (It’s my secret hope that when my body is healed further, the weight will come within a normal range)

One of the problems I am having with the whole Paleo-thing, is that of (don’t laugh) evolution. I am a Christian. It influences every single aspect of my life. We all have preconceived ideas with which we approach life. So when I look at the area of diet (eating in general), I approach it from a Christian perspective. As a Christian, I believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, written by men whose words were directly influenced by God. And all throughout the Bible are references to eating bread, lentils, beans, etc. What do I take away from all this? That the foods God provided for man are good. What do I know from personal experience? That some foods should be eaten in moderation. That mankind has altered the foods God gave us (GMOs, hybrids, processed foods) and those foods are not fit for human consumption.

As a Christian, I find anything that has evolution at its core as having a faulty base. I don’t want to build something as important as my nutritional health on something with a shaky foundation. I found this really good explanation of a Paleo diet on YouTube. (Thanks to PaleoGarden for posting it) The thing is, I agree with almost everything it supports and even recommend watching it. Except when I get to this part, which is repeated twice in the video, “We’ve been evolving for 2,000,000 years, yet we’ve only been farming for 10,000 years.” (Well, that and the pictures above it ;)) Here’s my argument, from a Christian perspective. In Genesis 4:2, it says Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer. Unless you can convince me that Adam and Eve lived for 1,990,000 years before they ever had children, I beg to differ with that statement about farming.

In the meantime, it is my hope that through the Nourishing Traditions form of cooking foods I can achieve (and maintain) optimum health. It’s just a matter of figuring out how much of which foods allow me the variety I’d like with the results I desire. It may mean cutting out bread, beans, rice, starchy veggies, and most fruits for a while, then slowly adding them back in. Sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Is excess weight a “desperate time?” If it affects my long term health overall, then yeah, I’d say so. Maybe I’ll find a happy medium between NT and Paleo.

But I will also continue to study the effects of the following on weight loss (or the lack thereof):

candida and leaky gut
improper fats (good fats vs bad fats)
impaired insulin response

I’d be very interested in hearing any thoughts you might have on the NT vs Paleo debate! Pros? Cons? As always, thanks for reading!


Simple Sourdough Bread

July 10, 2010

This recipe is only enough to make one small loaf and is written to be used with the sourdough starter posted here. Also, these directions are written for using a loaf pan, so I’m not sure how making a round shaped loaf will work. (If the dough is stiff enough to hold its shape, I’m guessing it would work)

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups filtered water
1 1/3 cups starter
4 1/2 cups flour (doesn’t have to be the same as starter; I prefer white spelt)
1 TBS salt

Pour water into a large bowl. Add starter and mix thoroughly. Add flour and mix until well combined and dough is formed. This can be done by hand or in a food processor or mixer with dough hook. The dough shouldn’t be too stiff (especially if working with spelt), so if it seems too dry, add some water, a tsp. at a time. Grease a clean bowl (I used coconut oil, but butter or olive oil will do) and place dough inside, smooth side down. Turn to oil dough and place smooth side up. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 1 hour.

dough resting

At the end of 1 hour, sprinkle all the salt on top of the dough and begin to work in until salt grains can no longer be felt. Smooth dough into ball, replace in bowl, cover and set in warm place for 3 hours. (Don’t worry if you begin to see small white spots where the salt has dissolved)

At the end of 3 hours, oil small loaf pan (again, coconut oil, butter, or olive oil), shape dough into pan shape and set into pan, gently patting to adjust fit. (By small pan, I don’t mean mini-loaf, just the smallest loaf pan you have) With a sharp knife, score 3 diagonal lines (or one long one lengthwise) on the top of the loaf, making sure the dough actually separates*. Unless you want to end up with a volcanic looking loaf like my first one. Then you’d have something that looks like this:

alien bread

Or this:

volcano bread

This is how NOT to score the bread. Cuts did not separate dough on 2 of them.

final rise

Cover with a greased piece of plastic wrap and set in a warm place until it reaches the top of the pan.

*About scoring: I’ve tried scoring in the pan and just prior to putting it in the pan. I’ve found that either way I do it, I have to go back just before I bake it and gently rescore the lines, making sure the dough actually separates. These act like steam vents and if they aren’t done right, well, you see what happens above! A serrated knife works best for scoring.

At first, I set my oven racks in the middle of the oven, then filled a round cake pan at least half full with water and placed it on the bottom rack to one side. I’ve been baking without the water and don’t see any visible difference.

Preheat oven to 350*

When oven is heated, place loaf pan on top rack (opposite the cake pan side, if you’re using it). Bake 40 minutes, checking at the 30 minute mark to make sure bread isn’t turning too dark (aka burning). My first loaf was cooked 20 minutes and was definitely undone. My second loaf was cooked 30 minutes and still not quite done to my liking. My third loaf was cooked 40 minutes and was pretty good, however, ymmv (your mileage may vary) according to your tastes.
Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Or cut into it warm and slather lots of grass-fed butter all over it. Go on! It’s good for what ails ya!

sourdough accomplished

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


Frugal Sourdough Starter

July 8, 2010

How to Make a Sourdough Starter in 7 Days

This starter recipe does not involve throwing out half the starter every day, as most recipes do. Also, these amounts will only make enough starter (in 7 days) to make one loaf of sourdough bread, with enough left over to continue your starter. I recommend this method, because it is an ideal way to find out if your starter is active enough to produce a loaf of bread without the risk of losing a lot of ingredients. While this post deals with whole wheat or spelt, I will soon be posting my recipe for gluten-free sourdough starter.

Day 1: Take 1/4 cup of whole wheat or spelt flour (the fresher the better) and place in a bowl (glass or plastic, see through is best). To this, add 1/4 cup of filtered water (especially if your water is chlorinated) and stir well. Cover loosely and set in a warm place and leave undisturbed for 24 hours.

Day 2: Add 1/4 cup of water to the starter, stir well, then add 1/4 cup flour and stir till well combined. Re-cover, return to warm place and leave undisturbed for 24 hours.

Days 3-4: Repeat Day 2. At this point, you should be seeing some bubbling action. If not, don’t give up! Transfer starter to a clean bowl on Day 4. (Bowl should be larger to accommodate the upcoming increases)
Bubbling Brew” This is what an active starter looks like.
Starter

Day 5: If you don’t see any bubbles at this point, continue with Day 2 instructions until you have bubbles. Change to a clean bowl every 3-4 days. Don’t worry about odors as they may come and go during the fermenting process. However, if you see mold in your bowl or on your starter, throw it out and start over, changing bowl more frequently. If you have bubbles by this point, you want to begin to build your starter up to the amount you’ll need to bake bread. Add 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour, stirring till well combined. This will be a stiffer starter. Cover, set in warm place, undisturbed.

Day 6: Your should be seeing some rise in your starter. (It should begin to fill more space) It should have air holes throughout (visible from the side, if you are using a see through bowl). Stir down and add 2/3 cup of water and 1 cup of flour, stirring till well combined. At this point you don’t want to lose your starter to mold, so go ahead and place in a clean bowl. Cover, set in warm place, undisturbed.

Day 7: Repeat Day 6, without transferring to a clean bowl. You should be ready to bake a loaf of sourdough bread on Day 8!

Note: if you want to bake 2 loaves rather than one, continue with feedings following Day 6 instructions, until you have enough starter to make 2 loaves (2 2/3 cups) and a little left over to continue your starter.

Once you have removed your starter to bake with, you can refrigerate the remaining starter (covered loosely) or continue to build it back up, changing bowl as needed, until you have enough to bake more bread and some to continue starter. If/when you refrigerate your starter, it can be fed weekly. However, if you forget, don’t throw it out! There’s still a chance it’s good. Once my starter became active, I took some out and put it in the fridge when I started building it up for baking (after the first loaf). I did this just in case I ruined the starter I was building. This way, I wouldn’t have to start over completely from scratch. Once you have your starter established, you can dry it if there will be periods of time when you won’t be using it. Those instructions can be found here. Just scroll to the bottom of the post.

A general rule of thumb with starter is, never add more in feedings than the amount you already have. For example, if you have 1/2 cup of starter, do not add more than a total of 1/2 cup of water and flour. Once you get past the initial stage, you can begin to build it faster if you choose to bake 2 or more loaves at a time.

Next post: Recipe for Sourdough Bread.
Very easy, 4 ingredient bread.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop. (It was my first time to participate and didn’t know what I was doing, so the link to my blog is titled “Karen” – entry #52)


More Fast Food

July 6, 2010

This week has been an interesting week in my kitchen. It was a mix of old and new. I unveiled my attempt at making a Kombucha SCOBY. I still haven’t quite decided whether it’s a SCOBY or something I should pour down the garbage disposal, but I did separate it from the bulk of the tea and put it in a separate jar with some of the tea until I decide. I found a store that was still selling GT Kombucha, as well as Synergy. I bought them out. 😀 I noticed on the top of some of the bottles, the stuff floating looks a lot like my attempt at a SCOBY. This is the main reason I decided to hold off on throwing it out. My husband and I braved another taste. We both agreed, it tasted very much like the store bought version, except for the ginger taste added to the latter. I plan to try again, using Kristen’s version of growing a SCOBY, with one of the bottles from the store (with the stuff floating on top). Stay tuned!

With VBS wrapping up near the end of last week, and because I have my grandchildren all day during the summer, I relied a lot on “fast food” dinners. These are the things I either make when I don’t take meat out early enough or things that don’t take long to cook (though they require having the meat thawed). My grandson, who is a very picky eater, loved the cubed steak.

cubed steak, sweet corn, tomatoes and cukes

I put the (grass-fed) steak in a bowl and pour a little Bragg’s Enzymes on it and let it sit a few minutes.

grass-fed steak in Bragg's

On a separate plate I put a little sprouted spelt flour with some all purpose seasoning (Mountain Rose Herbs), some garlic powder, and a little sea salt and pepper.

steak and flour

Cover both sides of the steak with the flour mixture and fry in either ghee or some coconut oil till just cooked and browned on both sides. I served it with some sweet corn I bought at our “milk and egg” farm. I don’t know if it’s contaminated by the GM crops, but that corn is the best I’ve ever eaten. (I’m hoping there was no cross pollination, since the sweet corn is harvested earlier) Though I love grass-fed butter, that corn was so good it didn’t need anything on it! To cook the corn, I simply put it in a pan with one of those steamer inserts you can buy anywhere and steamed it for 15 minutes. Yummy!

corn steaming

Helpful this week was the addition of the first vegetables from the garden. One of these days I’m going to write a post about this garden. It’s a special garden, with minimal work, as I’ll write about. First to make it into the house: cabbage, cucumbers (2 types), bell peppers, tomatoes. The onion came from the same place as the corn.

garden vegetables

Another easy dish I made was my “Thicker Than Fog” split pea soup. I fixed a small ham on Thursday (last night of VBS!), then fixed the soup on Friday, because the grandkids left early. (They wouldn’t touch it!) It’s such an easy dish to make. I dice up a couple of carrots, an onion, some garlic and throw it all into a pan with some ghee or coconut oil, stirring often, for a few minutes. Then I add 4 cups of chicken stock, and 4 cups of water, throw in the leftover ham on the bone and a bunch of split peas, bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour to an hour and a half. (I’ll have to work on those measurements for a real recipe) This soup is SO good! It’s usually good for 2 or 3 meals. Though, according to the “Pease Porridge Hot” song, it’s even good “in the pot, 9 days old!”

split pea soup

Another simple dish is salmon patties. I used canned Alaskan sockeye salmon and it’s very good. (Recipe soon)

salmon patties

Yesterday I wrote about my sweet friend, Rachel. It was her birthday and I wanted to share a great meatloaf recipe I got from her. I also wanted to mention her Etsy shop where she sells vintage items. And, of course, I wanted to brag about what a wonderful friend I have been blessed with! The recipe for her meatloaf is in the post. It’s super easy and delicious. This isn’t a very good picture (sorry, Rachel!), but it definitely qualifies for “fast food.”

meatloaf

That’s some of the stuff that’s been twisting in my kitchen. Thanks for reading about my week!

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister at Gnowfglins.com.