Category Archives: In the Kitchen

Remake of old favorite

Since I am no longer purchasing a previous pantry staple, cream of mushroom soup, I have had to find an alternative and have come across a mighty tasty homemade version using healthy ingredients without unnecessary additives. Here is my version:

 Condensed Creamed Soup (makes the equivalent of 2 cans condensed soup)

 Basic Sauce Base:

 2 tbls butter

2 tbls coconut oil (or olive oil) I just didn’t want to heat my olive oil so chose the coconut oil

 1/4 c white whole wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

 2 cups whole milk

 Heat butter and oil. Add flour and stir until well incorporated. Add milk and stir until thickened. Use in any recipe calling for condensed soup.

VARIATIONS:

 Cream of Mushroom Soup: saute in butter/oil  – 12 chopped fresh mushrooms and 1/2 cup chopped onion until softened.

 Cream of Chicken: add 1 tsp chicken base (a paste with no MSG), 1 cup milk, 1 cup chicken stock, chopped cooked chicken (optional)

 Cream of Celery: substitute celery in place of mushrooms, 1 cup vegetable broth, 1 cup milk

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Week 2 Recap

I can hardly believe that 14 days have past on the 28 day challenge. Here is my week in review:

Day 14: Happy Valentine’s Day:  This afternoon my husband and I went to check out a co-op and new source of milk. I was pretty impressed with the system they had in place. They place your orders and provide a drop off point for picking up local meat, milk, eggs and much more. I have actually purchased from some of their same farmers, so I was familiar with the quality of what I would be getting. After visiting the co-op it got me thinking….there needs to be one closer to my home and maybe I should check into opening one here. I know there has to be a need in my local area for this same type of service and maybe I could become a drop off /pick up point. My wheels are spinning….AGAIN!

Day 13: Get your (good) bacteria: I made Gingered Carrots (recipe from Nourishing Traditions). I actually started them earlier in the week not even realizing this was going to be part of this week’s challenge. I decided to start with the carrots as my first fermented veggie. Last week I drained some organic, whole milk yogurt so that I would have the whey to add to future recipes. I was surprised to find that the carrots are very mild tasting. They were a good accompaniment to the baked chicken we had for dinner last night. I am now on a good rotation with my Kombucha and now have a steady batch at all times – one for drinking and one fermenting. I can’t wait to try making water kefir.

Day 12: Finding Real Milk: I already have a good source of real milk, however I am not able to purchase it as often as I would like. Even though the health benefits should supercede the cost, I still have to be careful on a tight budget. I did find and try some raw milk cheddar cheese this week and found it very tasty.

Day 11: Sourdough: The starter I have is going strong. I made another batch of Whole Wheat Sourdough Crackers and a loaf of Sourdough French Bread. The bread is not totally LEGAL for this challenge however, as it has regular, unbleached flour in it and a small amount of yeast. I really want to make a 100% sourdough bread but the recipes I have come across call for baking it in a special heavy duty pan that I don’t have and I am a little intimidated to improvise with this type of recipe.

Days 10 & 8: Fats to eat Raw / Fats for High Heat:  I haven’t used olive oil for cooking for over 6 months after learning that heating it changes it’s properties making it unhealthy. I use it in salad dressings and for dipping sourdough bread in along with balsamic vinegar (I think this is better than garlic butter!) It makes me crazy watching cooking shows and how they always use olive oil to fry in. I want to scream into the television not to cook with it! This week I rendered my first ever batch of lard. It took several hours, but it was worth the effort. I purchased 10 lbs of pastured leaf lard and rendered 2 1/2 lbs which yielded 5 cups of pure, white lard.  I typically use butter or coconut oil for frying and in baked goods and now that I have lard I will replace the butter, saving the butter for my vegetables.

Day 9: Fight against GMO’s:  I have had a copy of the GMO Shopping Guide since last October and I keep it in my purse so I have it available when I am shopping. The first time I read through the shopping guide I was shocked to see all the products that have GMO’s in them and has made me more aware of what I am buying and feeding my family. I can safely say that there are no GMO products in this house!

I must admit that I am finding this challenge to be pretty easy. I really think I am feeling better and I can honestly say that the arthritis pain I was suffering from in my right hand is virtually gone. I am convinced that the foods we eat play a big role in how our bodies function and I will continue to monitor how I am feeling.

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First Week Completed

It is now day 7 of the 28 day real food challenge and reflecting back on the week has made me realize that I have been doing pretty good. Processed foods haven’t been in my kitchen for quite some time now, so I didn’t have an issue with this portion of the challenge.  The hardest part was the white flour (unbleached).  I have never had a lot of success with whole wheat flour so I am anxious to see how to do away with the white flour and still make baked foods taste good.  I was a little intimidated about soaking my wheat, but today when I rinsed the kernels I was so excited to see the little sprouts! I actually used some in our pancakes this morning and I think they were the best pancakes we have eaten (and they were ‘flour free”).  Now I have to figure out if I will be able to dry the sprouted wheat in my dehydrator.

I have the full support of my husband and our ‘new’ way of eating.  All the things sitting around the kitchen – soaking wheat, sourdough starter, kombucha brewing – has been pretty comical and made him proceed with caution.  I feel a bit like a ‘mad scientist’ and my brother in law said it was all my witches brew!  The biggest challenge for my husband has been that he can’t just go into the kitchen and grab something easily. Snacks take more thought than just opening a bag of chips or crackers. However, I did make some sourdough whole wheat crackers that were an instant hit. (I was ahead of the challenge this week and already had sourdough starter made).  These crackers were so good that I will be making more tomorrow.

I tried to incorporate whole grains into various meals. I made soaked brown rice and grass-fed beef that we enjoyed for two of our dinners, baked oatmeal with soaked oats for a healthy breakfast and my sprouted wheat for pancakes.

Moving forward I really want to start fermenting some vegetables.

I am looking forward to the day that preparing and eating ‘real food’ will become second nature.

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Day #2 – Good to go

Not knowing what the second day would bring turned out to be not so bad. It was directed to be a day to do some grocery shopping and at first I was a bit concerned since I will not be able to do this until Thursday. However, I had most of the real food items already in my kitchen so I feel much more confident that I am on the right track. Maybe this will be easier than I thought…..

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Day #1: Clean out the Pantry

This morning I received my first email instruction for the beginning of the 28 Day Real Food Challenge. I felt pretty confident with this step – I keep healthy foods, or so I thought. Well it wasn’t too bad, but I did have to remove more than I thought was in there. It actually was a good time to clean out the cupboards since some of my shelves are so high up that I can’t see what’s on them anyway. Well needless to say, I found some  old stuff that was outdated.

 This is the big Costco shopping bag of the purged items

 Here is what I cleared out:

  • Marshmellows – these were there actually because I used them in a craft project before Christmas.
  • Jar of Marshmellow Creme – I think this has been in there going on 2 years. Think it was for fudge or something….obviously didn’t need this one!
  • 3 boxes pasta – one box was whole wheat noodles (and I thought I was doing so good…) looks like the macaroni will make great kid crafts!
  • Box of instant milk (I knew this was bad, but just didn’t want to throw it out)
  • Soy nuts (GMO’s anyone! lol)
  • 3 pudding mixes – sugar free and regular sugar varieties (all outdated!)
  • 4 jello mixes – sugar free and regular sugar varieties
  • 1 box Jiffy chocolate cake mix – I don’t even remember why this was in here
  • 2 boxes Melba toasts
  • 1 jar ‘powdered’ peanut butter – this from when I was on a “healthy” weight loss program!
  • Bottle of Corn Oil
  • Organic Agave Nectar (I am undecided on this one, there is good and bad press regarding this product, but will go along with the challenge on this one)
  • Non Dairy Creamer – used in Hot Chocolate mix 2 Christmas’ ago for gifts…
  • 2 cans tomato soup, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, low fat of course! ; ) , 1 can lentil soup

 

Even though it looks like I had a lot of BAD stuff in there, I actually have much more ‘legal’ foods. I have the healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil), raw cider vinegar, dried beans, brown rice, wheat berries, barley, raw honey, real maple syrup, tons of spices and sea salt, crispy nuts (pecans and almonds), homemade sourdough crackers, assorted teas, whole wheat flour, oats, organic corn meal.  As for the cream of chemical soup, I have been making my own version for a while now (this was just a straggler from the past) and it really tastes so much better and isn’t that much harder than opening a can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I looked through the refrigerator (no picture because it really doesn’t look very appealing) and really didn’t find anything to move out. No skim or lowfat dairy lives here. I do not have ‘raw’ milk currently (cost prohibitive at the moment) but the dairy I do have is whole, organic milks and plain yogurt, real butter both regular and some grass fed, some Kombucha and miscellaneous vegetables. I have a few ‘husband’ friendly items that I will not be removing. He is supportive of the real food goals to a point, but it will take a bit more time with him. I feel that if the majority of our meals and snacks are made healthy that a few less than ideal items will just have to have a place here as well. The freezer has some grass-fed hamburger amd a few chicken breasts.

In addition to the clearing of these things today, I also made a batch of chicken stock and kombucha. Not too bad for day #1 except I think I fail the extra credit : (    and I thought I was doing so well, but I have a few items that boast more than one ingredient: tuna (water, salt), diced green chiles (salt, calcium chloride, citric acid), pineapple chunks (pineapple juice and clarified pineapple juice from concentrate, water, clarified pineapple juice concentrate<they add this twice ??>)

Looking forward to Day #2.

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Real Food Challenge

I haven’t been blogging for very long and I guess when I started I didn’t have just one focus. I enjoy so many different things: cooking, sewing/crafting, gardening, reading etc., that it seems to have made my blog a jumble of things. I don’t know that I will change it that much and I know it doesn’t look as professional as all of the other blogs I read, so hopefully anyone stumbling across it will take it for what it is. I do know that the focus of my life has made a serious shift to what and how we eat. I was so excited to see Michael Pollan on Oprah yesterday. She has such a large following and the information shared was a good start and it should help the public make better choices.

I don’t think I will go as far as one of my ‘blog friends’ and doing a take off of the Julie/Julia thing and cook my way through Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, but I commend her efforts. Check out her challenge here: http://thenourishingcook.com. I was excited to find her site, especially since she lives near me and shares the same ideas. They even own their own remodeling business, just like we do! (such a small world)

With all the reading I have been doing – various blogs and books, and my attempts in my own kitchen trying to swith over to more Real Foods, I feel like I am doing it alone. I have the best of intentions and am trying to work it into my daily meal routine. I am going to join the 28 Day Real Food Challenge, (http://nourishedkitchen.com/28-day-real-food-challenge) being sponsored by The Nourished Kitchen. I think this will be an adventure worth taking and maybe will take the “challenges” out of working real food into our daily life. Anyone want to join me in the challenge?

So for the next month I am going to just focus on the challenge above and let you all know how it goes. Let’s see if I can do this on a budget. I think I can……

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Eggs, Eggs…boy I’ve got eggs!

 

It started with the babies….

  

They get lots of fresh air and outdoor pecking… 

They even get special ‘treats’. The kids love to feed them.

 

Now, we are blessed with lots of healthy eggs.Aren’t they beautiful! 

However, one can only eat or use so many eggs. I think I have 6 dozen as of this morning and am regularly getting 8 or 9 every day. I think I am going to try freezing some just to see how they do. Anyone need any eggs?

Today in my kitchen: 

 

Kombucha 

It is cooling and scoby is awaiting the new brew!

 

Pita Bread waiting to rise

 

Chick Peas soaking for hummus and falafel… 

and in the background is my sourdough starter growing! 

This post appears to be a photo gallery, but this is my life today….Simply Basic!

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Real Food on a Budget, can it be done?

In my continued effort of trying to decipher “Real Food” and how to incorporate these foods into our daily life, this week I read the book by Nina Planck, Real Food: What to Eat and Why. What an interesting book. It really helped to drive home the meaning of ‘real food’ and now I am processing how to do this on a very limited budget. It does cost a bit more to eat organically  and naturallly, but I have to realize that I can’t do it all. No matter how much I want or need to eat grass-fed beef, fresh wild fish, locally raised poultry and pork, I have to pick and choose what I am able to do without doing everything. I will continue to buy organic, fresh produce and we have our own fresh eggs. I will cook with coconut oil, EVOO, and butter. I will incorporate grains and legumes – these are budget friendly. On a daily or weekly basis I am not able to purchase the grass-fed beef or wild fish. I just can’t spend $14 for salmon for one meal or $10-$20 for a local grown fresh chicken. (hmmn, my backyard chickens better mind their manners….)

My goal for this week is to incorporate more ‘real food’. I am working to limit white flour and sugar, but with my plan to make pita bread this week, I will be using unbleached, white flour. I am not sure how to get around this one yet. I have started a new batch of sourdough starter and am using white, whole wheat flour for this. I can’t wait to make bread this week. The starter should be ready by Weds. Stayed tuned for my sourdough bread attempt.

I actually tried a new recipe for Collard Greens and Lentil Soup that used home canned chicken broth that was absolutely yummy along with some cornbread. I also made chili with the beans I canned last October. This was the request of my husband.  Luckily my pantry and spice cabinet are very well stocked. I can’t take credit for the Lentil soup recipe, this is courtesy of  http://mindfulplate.com (thanks Lisa). The cornbread recipe used mostly healthy ingredients and only had a small amount of flour and sugar, so this did fit into my goal.

CORNBREAD

1   1/2 cups organic cornmeal

1/2 cup unbleached bread flour

2 tsp organic baking powder

1 tsp organic sugar

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 c coconut oil or bacon fat (I used bacon fat)

1   1/2 cups buttermilk (didn’t have, so I used regular milk with 1 1/2 tbls. lemon juice)

2 eggs

Heat oven to  450. Mix all ingredients, beat vigorously 30 seconds. Pur into buttered 8×8 pan. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.

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A Bucket of Fat!

Yesterday I baked and pureed the pumpkins from Halloween which gave me enough puree to make 6 pumpkin pies….considering I only spent $1.00 on the pumpkins, this was pretty basic frugallity. I also roasted the seeds, an added treat and healthy for you too!

In another of my efforts to not eat chemical laden foods I have also been really trying to avoid anything that has GMO ingredients and came across a Non-GMO Shopping Guide. I have known of the possible GMO’s in a lot of our foods, but once I read the list it really made me more aware and thoroughly disgusted. Who would think that Baking Powder would contain GMO’s. This was just one of the eye opening discoveries that was on this list.  If you would be interested in finding out more about the potential dangers of GMO’s here is the site: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/Home/index.cfm

Next after reading another blog that I follow I stumbled across the following site and actually entered into the contest, which I would truly love to win. I have been wanting to render my own lard, but have not done this yet.

Kelly the Kitchen Kop is promoting a give-away from U.S. Wellness Meats for a huge bucket of rendered tallow.

This is a healthy fat for deep frying and the secret to amazingly flaky pie crusts.

Visit Kelly’s post to enter (up to 7 ways to enter), while I keep my fingers crossed that it’s me! http://bit.ly/2aVGnB

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Beautiful Beans

Now that it is cooling down outside and we had ran out of canned beans, I decided that it was a good time to get out the canner, can some beans, and warm up the house a bit. I ended up canning black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans.  I ended up with 5 quarts of kidney beans and 8 pints each of black and pinto beans. Next, I am planning on making and canning some baked beans. They are so easy to do and so cost conscious as well.

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Canning Dry Beans

This is the easiest process I have found, just a little prep time is all that is needed. The kidney beans need to soak for12 hours and the pinto and black beans need to soak for about 6 hours. 

2 lbs of pinto/black beans will be enough for 8 pints. 2 lbs of kidney beans will do 5 quarts or 10 pints. 

 Measure out 3/4 cup of beans for each pint  or 1 & 1/2 cups for each quart jar you want to can. Then wash and sort the beans.

When your beans are washed and sorted, measure 3/4 cup of beans into each pint jar (1 & 1/2 cups for quart jar). Fill the jars with water, cover with a towel and soak  for the times mentioned above.

When done soaking (the beans will fill about 3/4 of the jar at this point) empty the water from the jars and refill with hot water to leave 1 inch of head space.  I added 1/2 tsp salt in the pints and 1 tsp salt in the quarts, this is optional.  Note: You may need to adjust some beans in the jars. I noticed that the kidney beans got very compacted in the bottom of the jars, so after soaking I had to remove them completely from the jars and refill. If you want, you can save and heat the soaking water that was in the jars. This leaves more nutrients, however, it also leaves more bean gas. I use new water.  After the jars are filled, put a lid and ring on each jar according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Place the jars in the Pressure Canner and process at 10 lbs pressure for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
By canning my own dry beans I saved quite a bit of money over a can bought from the store.  Here is just one of the cost breakdowns:
I spent $1.47 on my 2 lb bag of pinto beans, enough to make 8 pints of beans (18¢ per pint jar in beans). Lids are $1.49 for 12 (12¢ per lid). I had the jars so I didn’t factor them in this cost. So the pinto beans only cost me 30¢. These purchased at the store cost between .89 – 1.39 depending on the brand. Also, a pint of home canned beans is equal to at least two cans of store bought beans. You end up with a jar full of beans with little to no liquid – the store beans are a can of liquid with some beans floating around in it.

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