Archive for December 28, 2013

Oven Roasted Carrots

Oven Roasted Carrots

 

This is more of a technique for cooking vegetables than it is a recipe, but it is an important part of the ‘making healthy food that my husband enjoys eating’ aspect of this blog. If vegetables are going to be a regular part of your diet, you have to fix them in ways that you enjoy eating them, or pretty soon you’ll just decide it’s not worth the trouble and everyone can fill up on bread and butter instead.

We eat some salads, and at some point I may share some of our favorite salad toppers that make it a non-chore to eat salad, but the truth is that if I tried to eat raw veggies with every meal I wouldn’t make it very long. I don’t know if this purely a matter of taste or has something to do with a metabolism that tends toward low and slow causing me to prefer food warm and easier to digest. (There are some fascinating theories about the connection between ‘warming’ foods and raising a slow metabolism.) Either way, we intersperse our salads into a selection of roasted and sauteed vegetables. Cooked vegetables lose out on the enzymes of raw veggies, but since cooking starts the process of breaking down the cells, some nutrients are actually easier to digest and more accessible to our bodies after cooking.

So, especially if you’re just trying to get in the habit of eating more vegetables, I have two words to facilitate this process for you: Butter. Garlic.

Have no guilt in  roasting, sauteeing or lightly boiling your vegetables before you eat them. Have no compunction in throwing a few extra tablespoons of butter into the pot of vegetables so they slide down more easily. Have no hesitation in seasoning them creatively, and allow me highly recommend garlic as my own personal seasoning of choice when trying to move vegetables from the realm of merely edible to  “Yay, we’re having carrots for dinner!”

This oven roasting technique works on many vegetables. It’s particularly effective on root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and of course, carrots. As a bonus, most of these vegetables are cheap in the winter and some can probably be picked up for less than a dollar a pound at your local grocery store.

Healthiness rating: Healthy

Vegetables, butter and sea salt: sounds healthy to me.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

This is one of those recipes that may not change the mind of the veggie hater, but will likely sway a veggie tolerator into actively enjoying a serving of carrots. My husband’s reaction when he walks into the kitchen and sees roasted carrots is “Yum! Carrots for dinner!”. This automatically puts roasted carrots in the top tier for best vegetable recipes ever.

Roasted Carrots

2 pounds of carrots, peeled (or washed) and scrubbed

6 TBSP butter

1/2-1 tsp sea salt, according to taste

optional: garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in an oven proof container, preferable a cast iron skillet. Anything, including a cookie sheet, will work for roasting the carrots, but cast iron helps with the browning process.

Add carrots and salt. Stir until the carrots are well coated with melted butter.

If desired, add 1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder. I do this occasionally to change up the flavor, but despite being a devoted fan of garlic, I don’t think the carrots have to have any flavor boost besides the roasting process.

Roast the carrots for 30-60 minutes depending on your oven, time constraints and desired degree of browning. The carrots should have a slightly shriveled look and be lightly browned when they’re done.

Kiflis (Hungarian Christmas Cookies)

Kiflis (Hungarian Christmas Cookies)

There are a few kifli recipes on the internet (and in some cases, kiefli recipes) but none I’ve found that are really like my great-grandmother’s kifli recipe. Wikipedia will tell you that a kifli is a essentially a dinner roll, with a possible sweet variation having a walnut filling. Wikipedia is confused.

A kifli is a crescent shaped pastry cookie with walnut and raisin filling, rolled in sugar and baked to tender perfection.

As with any good family recipe, handed down with incomplete written information, this recipe comes with a bit of a squabble attached as to the proper way to make it. Naturally, I will share with you in this post the true proper way to make kiflis, as passed down my my grandmother and whose accuracy in flavor is attested to by my father.

In my father’s childhood there would always be a crock full of these cookies at my great-grandmother’s house. (Edit: I was misremembering the stories: actually my great-grandmother also only made kiflis at Christmas time.) As they’re a bit labor intensive, we only make them at Christmas time, but they are probably the single most important Christmas food tradition in my family.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of making kiflis, please, make them according to the original recipe and do not try to healthify them. Healthy is not the point of these cookies. Flaky, tender pastry with filling is the point of these cookies. I made the mistake of using a healthier white flour when I made these in the video (flour with no wheat bran, but the wheat germ left in). They’re still good, but they taste a bit like a cross between a kifli and graham cracker, which is not ideal. (I actually meant to use plain white flour and forgot. Bad me.)

You may, however, use organic raisins in the filling if it makes you feel better.

Oh, and also the amounts I give you here are for half an original batch. It will still make many dozen kiflis and you try to make a full original batch you’ll end up with half the dough and filling sitting around in your fridge for weeks waiting for you to have time to finish using them up. If you do have leftover filling it’s quite good in muffins. If you have leftover scraps of dough you can sprinkle them with sugar and bake them (along the lines of pie crust cookies).

Healthiness rating: Not healthy

It could be argued that with walnuts and raisins in the filling it’s not as unhealthy as it could be, but if you’re even having that argument, you may be missing the point. It’s a Christmas cookie. Healthy is not the point. Live a little.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

Admittedly, raisins aren’t everyone’s thing, and my husband’s siblings don’t love these cookies. But my husband and I both like these cookies a lot, despite not normally being raisin people, so I see no reason to demote the kiflis yumminess status on that basis. (Edited 2015: It turns out my husband’s siblings had only had slightly stale kiflis when they had the ‘meh’ reaction. They are much bigger fans of still warm, fresh from the oven kiflis.)

Kiflis (or Kiepfles or Kieffles or Kiefflis)

Dough

2 1/4 tsp yeast

1-2 TBSP cold milk

4-5 cups white flour

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened

3 egg yolks

1 cup sour cream

Filling

2 cups walnuts

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup raisins

3 egg whites, beaten

Dissolve yeast in milk.

Work together the flour and butter with a fork, pastry blender or two knives, until the mixtures resembles coarse crumbs (such as for a pie crust). Make a hollow in the center of the flour mixture and put the yeast/milk mixture, egg yolks and sour cream. Mix. Knead for about five minutes until silky.

Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least six hours.

The next day, start the filling. Finely chop the walnuts and mix with the rest of the filling ingredients. Cook over a low heat for 20 minutes or so, until the mixture is a golden to dark brown. If needed, add a splash of water to keep the filling from sticking to the pan or scorching.

Cut the dough in fourths and return three quarters of the dough to the fridge. Spread sugar on your counter and across the top of the dough, adding more as needed to keep it from sticking. Roll out the remaining quarter of the dough until it’s very thin–thicker than cardstock, but thinner than corrugated cardboard. (See the video for a visual of thin it should be.)

Cut dough into small squares (perhaps two and a quarter inches–experiment to see what size works well for you). Cut the squares diagonally to make triangles. Put a small amount of filling (perhaps half a teaspoon) on the long edge of the triangle opposite the point. Roll up the triangle toward the point. Bend into a crescent shape. Roll in sugar again.

Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until very lightly browned and cooked through but still soft. Remove from cookie sheet to cool.

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

This is my third year making Christmas pudding. The first year I followed the traditional instructions to make it a month ahead so it can age for proper flavor. It went moldy.

The next year I decided to make it only a week or two ahead of time, and as an extra precaution, poured rum over it as a mold preventative. I served it with a simple brandy sauce (recipe below) and it was amazing.

Christmas pudding is very dense, like a hearty bread pudding. Lightly sweet, with dried fruit and spices, it has a good medley of rich flavors, but none of them overwhelming.

I used a white flour in this years pudding, but it’s one I got through Azure Standard with the wheat germ left in and only the bran removed. With the bran removed you have no pesky phytates to worry about, and a lot of the nutrition is still intact because of the wheat germ.

I used homemade bread crumbs this year. I save bread heels and overdone (but still not burnt) toast and other such odd bits of bread in a bag in the freezer, and just throw them in the food processor when I need bread crumbs. This means my bread crumbs were in about the same ratio of wheat to white as the bread we eat–mostly whole wheat, but with a bit of white thrown in here and there. In previous years I’ve used store bought panko bread crumbs.

The last two years I haven’t been able to find suet in our local grocery store and had to fall back on grated frozen butter. This year I wasn’t even going to try to look, but as I was poking through the meat on manager’s special I found beef suet  just sitting there for seventy-five cents. So I finally get to compare and see if it turns out better with suet! I have to say though, I didn’t notice any problems with using the butter instead.

To puree the orange, cut it in quarters, with the peel still on, and put the whole thing in the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, with no large pieces of peel. Last year I used a whole lemon instead of a whole orange, but I didn’t happen to have lemons on hand this year.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

I rate this as kinda healthy, because you can really make it as healthy as you want to depending the ingredients you choose (there’s very little innately unhealthy about the ingredients: dried fruit, spices, breadcrumbs that can be whole wheat, etc). But then, this is a Christmas pudding recipe. Healthy isn’t really the point.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

The brandy sauce tastes especially amazing, but the pudding is very good too. Let me put it this way: How good do you think it would have to be for me to decide it’s worth it to go through the bother of making and steaming a Christmas pudding every year?

Yep, it’s pretty good.

Christmas Pudding

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 tsp sea salt

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

2 cups bread crumbs

6 oz suet or 1 1/2 sticks frozen butter, grated

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup raisins

1 cup craisins

½ tbsp molasses

½ apple, peeled and grated

½ carrot, finely grated

1 orange, pureed

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp of ginger

1 egg

Method

Mix all ingredients together.

Run hot water over a thin cotton dish towel (not terry cloth!). Wring out as much as possible. Sprinkle flour on cloth.

Dump mixture on to the flour in the middle of the cloth. Smooth mixture into as tight a ball as possible, then tie opposing corners of the cloth over the christmas pudding ball. Make it as snug as you can (you’ll probably have small divot in the bottom of your Christmas pudding from the knot), then tie the two remaining corners snugly.

The next step is to steam the pudding. I don’t have any fancy steaming equipment, so I’ve used a few different strategies over the years.

I’ve tied the longer ‘tails’ of the corners of the towel to my stockpot handles, suspending the pudding in the middle of the pot above the boiling water.

I’ve skipped the dishcloth altogether, packed the pudding mixture in the bottom of a 2 qt stainless steel bowl and boiled the whole thing, keeping the water level low enough that the water never got in the bowl. (This option  is nice for aging and reheating as it can just stay in the same bowl for that entire process.)

This year I set my mesh strainer in the top of my stock pot and put the pudding-tied-inside-a-towel  inside the mesh strainer, keeping the pudding out of the boiling water but still in the steam.

Whatever method you use, the pudding with need to cook for about 2 1/2 hours. When it’s done it should be one cohesive pudding and no longer crumbly.

When it’s cooled enough to handle, remove the pudding from the towel, poke a few holes in it with a skewer, and pour over it 2 TBSP of rum, slowly to give it time to soak in.

Put the pudding somewhere cool and dry to age for a week or two (or four if you’re a traditionalist).

To reheat the pudding, use any of the methods listed above for steaming the pudding, but only steam it for about an hour.

Pour brandy over the pudding and light it just before serving. Serve with brandy sauce.

If you want to serve it for Christmas breakfast (which is not as scandalous as it sounds, because the alcohol is cooked off the pudding, even if you serve it flaming, and you can easily cook the alcohol off the brandy sauce as well, if desired) you may want to put it in a small bowl inside your slow cooker, put a couple inches of water in the bottom of the slow cooker crock, and steam it overnight so it’s ready in the morning with no fuss.

Brandy Sauce

3 TBSP butter

3 TBSP flour

1 1/2 – 2 cups milk

3 TPSP sugar

1/4 cup brandy

(All these measurements are approximate, as I really just eyeballed measurements for a white sauce, then added sugar and brandy to taste)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour. Slowly whisk in milk. Add sugar and wait for it to thicken. Remove from heat and add brandy. (If you prefer, add the brandy and cook for another minute or two to cook off the alcohol.)

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Better Than Store Bought Ketchup

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I make my own ketchup.

It started when I was on the GAPS diet. I made a GAPS legal fermented ketchup and was thrilled to have a different flavor available on my plate. My (non GAPS eating) husband was less impressed. It wasn’t bad, he said, it just wasn’t anything like ketchup.

Then it was a challenge. Could I make my own healthy ketchup that my husband enjoyed eating?

I didn’t expect it to be so good and so easy that homemade ketchup would become a necessary item in my kitchen. In five minutes I can make a batch of ketchup that lasts the two of us a couple of weeks, tastes just as good as store bought, has no nasty chemicals, and is actively good for you. Plus, it’s a great trump card to pull out if I’m ever feeling threatened by super talented people or obsessively healthy eaters: “Well, yes, we did eat a frozen pizza last week, but that’s not normal for us, you know. Normally I even make my own ketchup!”

This ketchup can be eaten immediately or fermented for a couple of days to make it a good source of probiotics. (It will be noticeably thicker after fermenting, but both consistencies are within normal ketchup range.) I normally make my ketchup with whey (saved from draining yogurt to make Greek yogurt), but it can easily be made dairy free by substituting water for the whey. With the raw apple cider vinegar and salt in the ketchup it still ferments just fine.

(Edited to add: There are other options for substituting the whey including brine from vegetable ferments or thinned down yogurt or kefir. Brine will affect the flavor depending on the type of brine used, but that could be a good thing, especially if you like the fermented veggies you make in the first place. If none of these are a good option for you, the best flavor replica will be from replacing the whey with half apple cider vinegar and half water. As a last resort, replacing the way with only water will yield the proper consistency.)

If at all possible, don’t substitute any other sweeteners for the honey. In a pinch you could use agave, but only honey will give it that sheen we’re used to in store bought ketchup. (In the store bought ketchup it comes from corn syrup.)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy!

*Cooked tomatoes (as in tomato paste) are a better source of lycopene than raw tomatoes, as it’s more easily digested in the cooked form.

*Honey is classified as a superfood, being antibacterial and containing many enzymes and other nutrients.

*Whey provided probiotics essential for a healthy digestion (even better if it’s from organic yogurt and skips the extra hormones).

*Himalayan pink sea salt contains many minerals, some say containing every mineral our body needs.

*Apple cider vinegar is also antibacterial, high in potassium and seems to help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

Yumminess Rating: Husband approved

Not only does my husband willingly eat this ketchup, he prefers it to store bought ketchup and takes every opportunity to tell people they need to try this amazing homemade ketchup. Everyone who’s tried it has also approved, including his younger brothers and sisters.

Fermented Better Than Store Bought Ketchup

6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup raw honey
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup yogurt whey (see notes above for substitutes)
1 tsp pink sea salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a pint jar. Cap loosely and ferment at room temperature for two days. After two days tighten the cap and transfer to the fridge.

A couple of notes:

Make sure your jar is completely clean before putting food to be fermented in it. A good environment for probiotics to grow is also a good environment for harmful bacteria to grow. I don’t personally go to the extent of sterilizing my jar before use, but if I’m at all unsure about the cleanliness of the jar I thoroughly rinse it in very hot tap water.

Also, make sure your different ferments (such as this ketchup, sourdough, sauerkraut, etc) stay about two feet away from each other while they’re fermenting. Any closer and the strains of bacteria will start to cross over between them, and different ferments work best with different kind of good bacteria.

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