I missed a few meals on my menu plan, but partly because we were busy eating up the large amounts of leftovers from the amazing mousaka we ate on Friday evening. (I mostly follow the recipe I linked to, but I bread the eggplant before I fry it. I used the batter from my fried dandelions recipe this time, and it was perfect.) It took me just over an hour to put together the mousaka, but considering the we then ate it for five meals, that’s not actually an unreasonable amount of work per meal.)
We also had a couple of unexpected social events, so it’s a wonder we followed the meal plan at all. I did make some really good gaps legal and allergy friendly (tomato free) baked beans for church fellowship meal, but unfortunately the flavor wasn’t quite as good after cooking in the crockpot for several hours. I really have to figure out how keep certain flavors from degrading in the crockpot….
Mexican casserole (this is easily adjustable to what ingredients you have around, and really good way to use up stale tortilla chips) with a green salad (topped with mango, green onion, cashews and lemon vinaigrette)
Pork Ribs, Rice Bites, Roasted Carrots (I got the pork ribs on manager’s special a few weeks ago, and threw them in the freezer. I’m considering making the ribs with an orange sauce instead of traditional barbecue sauce, because the rice bites went so amazingly well with the orange chicken I made a couple weeks ago.)
I think we’ll have plenty of leftovers for lunches, except for one day, which I’ll likely fill in with tuna salad. I’ll also add green salads and fruit as needed to fill in the edges.
I really need to make some muffins or zucchini bread… If I don’t get to that, more smoothies and refrigerator oatmeal (and eggs for my husband).
Baking and Extras:
I made some raspberry cobbler last week (it was sooo good!) and ended up with a lot of pineapple upside down cake leftover that I made for church fellowship meal. This week I need to do some more breakfast baking projects and continue to keep up with my kefir (which isn’t dead! yay!) and kombucha.
Kroger has chicken thighs on sale for 99 cents a pound, so I plan to stock up on those, and probably pick up some fresh green beans for 99 cents a pound, unless the farmer’s marker finally comes through with some fresh produce.
Most of my purchases will be at Aldi though, including some produce that’s on sale:
(As you may have noticed, I like to buy ahead on items, so that I have extra in case I can’t make it to the store for some reason, or have unexpected company.)
organic salsa, 2/$4
boneless skinless chicken thighs, 6lb/$9 (I discovered these work just fine in my chicken strips recipe.)
hamburger, $7 (3 lb)
green onions, about .59
vidalia onions, $1 (2 lbs)
onions, $1.50 (3 lb) (I can’t believe I ran out of onions! Onions are a staple!)
canned salmon, 4/$10.75 (I’m also going to look at the frozen salmon, too, and might pick up some of that instead of a couple of the cans of salmon.)
This is one of those recipes that ‘true’ health food eaters may turn up their nose at. So, yes, I’m going to tell you up front that this recipe is high in sugar. I generally use turbinado sugar, so the sweetness is still packaged with most of the nutrients it was meant to come with, but it’s still a lot of sugar. If you are accustomed to eating lots of unsweetened whole foods already you may want to cut back on the amount of sugar in this recipe, or skip it altogether.
Or, if you’d like, you could probably even substitute 2/3 cup of honey for the sugar in this recipe.
However, if you’re still trying to transition from processed foods, or need lots of variety to be able to enjoy greens on a regular basis, this salad dressing is for you. It’s sweet and tangy, but based on real foods instead of having msg or corn syrup or other weird chemicals.
I use my homemade fermented ketchup as the base for this recipe, and generally use fermented garlic cloves, so it has a dose of probiotics, too. And the flavor is strong enough to cover up the flavor of olive oil, which makes it a good way to get that particular healthy oil into my diet.
Healthiness rating: Kinda Healthy to Healthy
On it’s own this recipe could range from ‘mostly not bad for you’ to ‘actually good for you’ depending on what sweetener you choose and the quality of your ingredients, and of course its real strength is in nudging you toward eating more salads.
Yumminess rating: Yummy
It tastes like bottled French dressing, but without any weird chemical aftertaste.
2 cloves garlic (fermented, if desired) OR 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup chopped onion OR 1 tsp onion powder
optional: 1 tsp paprika
Put all ingredients in blender. (If using powdered onion and garlic a mixer may work just as well.) Blend on high for about two minutes, or until garlic and onion are thoroughly blended and oil is fully emulsified.
Besides being served on salad, this dressing can be used as a dipping sauce for onion rings, or mixed with equal parts mayonnaise and dash of hot sauce for a sandwich sauce.
It’s been a strange week for me, as, for the first time in over three years of marriage, my husband had to go on a business trip without me. (He’s had one business trip before, and I was able to go along, which was pretty cool.) He was gone for two nights, so I had nieces over to spend the night, and had lunch with a friend to distract myself. It’s a really good thing I was able to have other people here, because when it’s just me for a meal (say, when my husband can’t come home for lunch one day) I have a tendency to not want to bother to cook ‘real food’ for myself. Then I end up at meal time looking in the fridge and discovering I have no quick food, and my blood sugar drops while I’m trying to find something to fix, and I just end up being a mess. Much better to know that other people are counting on you for decent food at reasonably regular mealtimes.
As far as following meal plans, I did pretty well this week. (Last week’s Sweet and Sour Lentils were amazing by the way. I tweaked the seasonings a bit and added molasses and it was another husband approved lentil meal, which are kind of hard to find.)
I experimented with adding lentils to sloppy joe (manwich style, which is my version, not the barbecue sauce version my husband grew up with). I keep reading online how you can’t even tell the lentils from the meat when you do this… As I suspected, this is very untrue, but I didn’t think it was bad, just not quite like having a meat heavy filling in your sandwich.
I also made a completely amazing French Onion Soup using a homemade pork stock, which I was pleased to note was just as good as I remember my mother’s canned beef consumee version being. (As I suspected, I couldn’t bring myself to buy the canned beef consumee when I saw the ingredients, and the canned stock wasn’t worth it, and I couldn’t find beef soup bones, so I make stock of pork tails that were on manager’s special.) I topped the soup with part mozzerella cheese and part seasoned vinegar cheese, with half a homemade roll (white+wheat germ flour) on top.
Tonight I’m making Sweet and Sour Lentils again instead of burritos, because I have a bunch leftover from what I cooked up to put in the sloppy joe mixture.
And for this week’s menu plan:
Baked beans (didn’t end up making these last week…)
Pork Ribs with Roasted Carrots
Turkey Casserole (Haven’t decided on a recipe yet, but it will include celery)
We should have leftovers to cover all the lunches, if my calculations are right. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll do something that involves tuna.
After having my kefir grains ‘hibernating’ in the fridge for a couple weeks, I finally have a new batch of kefir going. Assuming my grains haven’t died in the meantime, smoothies are back on the menu this week! Really need to get some refrigerator oatmeal going too… And I’m planning to make some berry cobbler–that’s a breakfast food, right?
Baking and Extras:
I need to make a batch of ketchup, keep up with the kombucha and kefir, finish making the bread that’s soaking overnight tonight and make some refrigerator oatmeal. I haven’t been very good at extra projects lately, but hopefully berry cobbler and possibly pancakes or something else fun will also fit into the week.
I’m not going grocery shopping at all this week, so I didn’t even pay a lot of attention to the food ads. I know Aldi has some fruit on sale, including mangoes for 49 cents. I think Kroger has sour cream for $1 this week, which is as cheap as it usually gets.
One of my all time most used pizza toppings is something I usually call ‘fake sausage’. It generally involved dumping a bunch of sausag-y seasonings on any ground meat I had around as I browned it, and it was a big hit with my nieces and nephews.
I have managed to standardize my recipe a bit for the purposes of this blog post, but there’s still plenty of room for adjusting the seasonings to taste. As I generally make it, it has a strong herby, savory flavor without being too spicy hot.
Using this seasoning blend allows for control over the healthiness of all the ingredients of your sausage, but it also allows for using cheaper meats (such as ground turkey) in place of sausage if you’re trying to save money, and the convenience of being able to make a quick sausage replacement for a recipe out of any ground meat you have on hand.
(Edit: I don’t normally keep fennel on hand, but I have added it to the list of optional spices in the recipe, as you may find it greatly increases the sausag-y flavor of your fake sausage.)
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
One of the main advantages of this seasoning mix is that you have complete control over the ingredients. Want to avoid MSG? Just don’t add any. Want to use only non-irradiated spices? No problem. Want to make sausage out of your grassfed beef? Easy.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
As every sausage brand and blend is a bit different, this one has it’s own flavor profile, but it’s been pretty popular with everyone who’s tried it, and qualifies as husband approved.
Brown meat in skillet, adding spices as it cooks. (Measuring spices is optional. I prefer the sprinkle, stir, taste method myself. ) If you prefer, you can mix up a larger batch of seasoning ahead of time, and simply add a couple TBSP of the mix to your ground meat, but I prefer to be able to customize the exact blend on the fly as needed.
Some of our not-so-planned experiences this week included visiting extended family in the hospital, me having a minor relapse of flu exhaustion after spending most of the day in the hospital, and having our refrigerator stop working for a couple days. We were able to work around most of those issues pretty well, but I have to say, I’m very glad to have a fully functional refrigerator again!
Making the New York style pizza got moved from Friday and replaced our burritos meal (also, the pizza crust killed my food processor), but it was so worth making the effort for! In the future I’ll probably use my standard pizza sauce (less tangy, and more herby) but that was the first pizza crust that I’ve really enjoyed eating, rather than just viewing it as a carrier for the sauce. I finally understand why my husband loves good pizza crust! 🙂
I used a white flour for the first run at the crust, but I’ll be experimenting with whole wheat flours in the future, so stay tuned for my version of New York style pizza crust eventually.
I skipped making the celery gratin this week, mostly because I spent a large chunk of the day processing celery for the freezer, making celery syrup, etc, and I was both tired and celeried out by the time supper rolled around. (Also, our milk wasn’t in the house at the time, because our fridge was still broken, and we were storing in at my husband’s office fridge temporarily.)
(Oh, and that celery soda was really only okay–though I of course tweaked the recipe. I hear it’s good with pastrami and rye, but I don’t think we’ll be trying it again in any food combination.)
Everything else went more or less as planned, but the Sweet and Sour Lentils are on the agenda for tonight, so I don’t yet have a report on how they turned out.
Salmon Patty Sandwiches with celery and carrot sticks
Social Event (thinking about taking celery pesto…)
Baked Beans (for church fellowship meal)
Sloppy Joe with Roasted Carrots
French Onion Soup
Leftovers, as usual, and probably pizza if something else is needed, because I still have 2 crusts worth of New York style pizza dough sitting in my fridge…
Refrigerator oatmeal, eggs… Probably light on the smoothie until my new blender (affiliate link) comes, but I do have an immersion blender in a pinch.
Baking and Extras:
If I’m feeling motivated, I might give whole wheat tortillas another try… Other than that, mostly just keeping up with my ferments, and hopefully a fun baking project at some point.
Aldi has Vidalia onions at 2lb/.99, but I think it’s more of a Kroger week for me. My Kroger list is something like:
seltzer water, about .69
navy beans, about 5lb/$5 (I have a friend who’s just starting up the GAPS diet, so I need to branch out from my standard pinto beans)
beef bones or beef stock (My mother always bought cans of beef consumee to make french onion soup. I’m going to have to look around a bit at the options, but I suspect I’ll just end up buying stew bones to make my own stock.)
Hormel natural bacon, (w/ digital coupon), $4
cheddar cheese, $2 (I’ll get this from Costco instead if I get the chance, but the Costco price is getting so high, I’m not sure it saves me that much money at this point)
butter, 2/$5 (Again, possibly cheaper at Aldi, but the way prices have been lately, I’m not sure I’d save that much)
Dandelions taste wild–a little bit flowery and a little bit green and bitter, but mostly like nothing else you’ve ever tasted.
These pretty little yellow flowers (yes, they are pretty, and I can’t for the life of my understand why people hate them and try so hard to get rid of them) are high in antioxidants and lecithin and a smattering of vitamins and minerals. And not only are they quite nutritious, but most of us have them available for free and very little work involved in getting them to grow.
A couple of cautions before you start eating dandelions though:
First, make sure the dandelions you gather have not been sprayed with pesticides, weed killer, or any other chemicals. If they’re in your lawn this may be as simple as refraining from spraying any chemicals (as long as your neighbors aren’t spraying anything that’s drifting over to your yard), but I would be reticent to use dandelions growing in any public places, unless I could confirm a lack of chemicals.
Second, if you’re allergic to ragweed or daisies you may also be allergic to dandelions. Be very cautious in starting your dandelion consumption if you have allergies these or similar flowers.
Fried Dandelions can be eaten plain as a simple side dish, with savory sauces such as ketchup or ranch dressing (think anything you might dip onion rings in), or with sweet toppings such as powdered sugar, honey or maple syrup.
I recommend making this recipe with a whole wheat flour made from soft white wheat, but the recipe can quickly be adapted to use white flour or hard red wheat by adjusting the amount of liquid used. The basic ratio is 1 cup of milk to 1 cup of white flour. Use less milk for soft white whole wheat flour and extra milk for hard red whole wheat flour.
You can fry your dandelions in any oil you normally use for frying. Coconut oil makes a nice healthy (and fairly neutral flavored if you use expeller pressed coconut oil) light oil, while lard would have a heavier flavor which might be better suited to a plain or savory side. Vegetable oils would be completely neutral flavored. You might even be able to fry these in plain butter, but you’d want to keep the butter at a lower temperature, and fry the dandelions more slowly so as not to burn the butter.
In the video I demonstrated making individual fried dandelions, but for a faster process, you can also just mix all your dandelion flowers into the batter and form the batter into small pancakes.
Healthiness Rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy
While dandelion blossoms are definitely healthy, your choice of topping or sauce might downgrade this kinda healthy. (Though if you make your own powdered sugar from turbinado sugar, you’re moving back toward healthy territory again.)
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
As I said, it’s an odd, wild flavor, but very yummy. These are very much husband approved, and as far as I can tell, my version even measured up his very fond childhood memories of fried dandelions.
While fried dandelions are definitely addictive, there are plenty of other uses for dandelions which I’m looking forward to trying this summer. If you’re also intrigued by using up your dandelions, dandelion flowers can be added to green salads, or used in any of these recipes:
1 cup soft white whole wheat flour (or flour of choice)
about 80 dandelion blossoms (a little less than two cups)
water and salt for soaking flowers
Remove the entire stem and as much of the green part as desired from each flower. (The green part is somewhat bitter, but if you remove all of it your flowers will tend to fall apart. I find it simplest to just remove the stem.) Soak flowers in salt water for five to ten minutes to remove any bugs that might be hiding in them.
Heat coconut oil or oil of choice over a medium (or slightly lower than medium) heat in a skillet.
Beat egg into milk, then add to flour. Mix just until combined. Mixture should be about the consistency of a thick pancake batter–add more milk or flour if needed to get the right consistency.
Dip flowers into batter, using a fork or tongs to make sure each flower is well coated with batter. (Or, mix all your flowers into the batter, and make small pancakes instead of individual fritters.) Drop each flower into the hot oil. (If you’re not sure whether your oil is hot enough, you can drip a small amount of batter into the oil. When the batter floats and begins bubbling briskly, your oil is hot enough.)
Fry for about two minutes on each side, or until each side is golden brown and slightly crispy.
Remove to plate lined with paper towel or a clean rag to absorb the extra grease. Immediately sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
Remember last week when I said I hoped we were over taking sick days for a while? Well, the flu type bug that my husband came down with finally hit me full force Thursday afternoon. It’s a weird bug, with few and transient symptoms except for extreme fatigue and muscle aches that reminded me of my worse days dealing with Lyme disease symptoms. (So glad that’s not my daily life any more!)
The up shot of all that is that my husband made me take time off to rest and recover, and aside from some brief projects in the kitchen to keep my ferments going properly, he took over all cooking for several days. I had a big crockpot of rice and beans going at the time, meant for freezing, so we ate off that for a little bit before putting the rest in the freezer. We also ate more frozen pizzas than I originally had in my menu plan, along with some other simple food, such as barbecue chicken thighs and hamburgers.
I have to say, it’s nice being married to a man who can cook enough to keep us from existing entirely on frozen pizzas when I’m sick. It’s also completely awesome that he was willing to cook meals (and wash dishes and refill my glass of water and pretty much anything else he could do to keep me from having to get up while I was sick) after coming home from kind of stressful days at work.
I’m still not back up to a normal energy level, but I have taken the kitchen back over (and got some laundry done–yay!), and hopefully meals will resume a more normal course this week. Amongst other projects, that means getting more aggressive about using up the entire case of organic celery I got through Azure Standard. (Celery soda anyone?)
Salmon Salad rollups with celery sticks and carrot sticks
New York Style Pizza (If something happens to prevent me trying this recipe this Friday, I’m totally breaking tradition and making pizza on a day other than Friday. I’m getting impatient to try this recipe!)
Sushi (Not only was I not feeling up to making this for church fellowship meal last week, I was so exhausted we didn’t even stay for the fellowship meal)
Leftovers, and if needed, my imitation of my nephew Samuel’s version of quesadillas: mozzerella cheese, mushrooms and chili powder.
We ran out of bread, so there was very little toast involved in our breakfasts this past week. Let’s try for more toast and more smoothies this week. Oh, and more refrigerator oatmeal.
Baking and Extras:
I need to make bread, get my kefir grains out of the fridge and going again, keep my kombucha going (I’m quickly becoming a kombucha addict…) and use up as much celery as possible. I also want to try making ginger syrup to use up some (not so) fresh ginger that’s sitting in my fridge. Oh, and fried dandelions! I must make fried dandelions! That sounds like about enough to fill up my baking time this week. 🙂
I didn’t make it out to the grocery store after all last week, but fortunately, mangoes are still on sale at Aldi this week. 🙂
I also noticed a non food item that’s on sale for $2 this week at Aldi: hula hoops. Hula hooping is one of many, many childhood activities that I was never able to figure out as a child. I can blow bubbles with bubble gum, but it’s hit or miss if I make any noise at all when I try to whistle, and my big yo-yo accomplishment was when I could (usually) make it come back up to my hand instead of dangling at the bottom of the string. So, I’m kind of thinking that for $2 maybe it’s about time I gave another try to this hula hooping thing…
I didn’t see anything really striking in any of the other food ads this week.
I’ll also be dropping by our local farmer’s market to see what they have available at this point in the season. I don’t want to get much produce, as I still have plenty of celery to use up, but I suspect we’ll want something to break up the celery monotony anyway.
The problem with blogging about yummy food is that sometimes by the time you go to take a picture there’s not much left.
I have really fond memories of pre-packaged onion rings. When I was growing up we would often have a brunch on Saturday mornings, usually while listening to Car Talk as a family. (When I was little I more often got to listen to Children’s Bible Hour and Ranger Bill while my father listened to Car Talk in the other room, but as I got older Car Talk became the official family activity.) I didn’t know it was technically a brunch until much later, as we always just called it Big Breakfast, and it usually included scrambled eggs, some kind of potato such as french fries or tater tots, often onion rings, and occasionally juice, which was a huge treat for us. Every so often it shifted to focus more on either creamed eggs or chipped beef gravy over biscuits, but no matter what, Big Breakfast kind of summarized everything that was good about Saturdays: Daddy was home from work, everything was on a later schedule because we got to sleep in (because no schoolwork!) and we got to just hang out together eating fun food and listening to fun radio programs.
I distinctly remember my confusion the first time I watched my father making homemade onion rings. I hadn’t known my father could cook, to start with, and I had no idea that you could make onion rings out of real onions. Onions were a prosaic food, and raw onion was pretty much the only food we were allowed to be picky about eating, as they were deemed too strong for young children to be expected to eat.
And, as it turns out, real homemade onion rings are completely different from the store bought ones. Store bought onion rings are uniformly crispy on the outside, but with a vaguely onion flavored mush on the inside. Homemade onion rings have a more knobbly kind of crispness on the outside, with a whole piece of beautifully tender onion on the inside, which, if you’re not careful as you bite into it, pulls right out of the breading, leaving behind a ring shaped shell that tastes only of crispiness.
I loved both kinds of onion rings.
I remember my father’s recipe as being very much a ‘throw stuff in a bowl and tweak it until it comes out right’ kind of recipe, and also being heavily egg based. Since I was at the height of my egg allergy symptoms around the time I decided to try making my own onion rings, I started searching for a recipe on my own. I didn’t want to have to deal with egg substitutes (flaxseed onion rings anyone?) or complexities like double breading the onion rings. This turned out to be the best and simplest base recipe I could find. I have, of course, tweaked it heavily since discovering it, but the concept of using carbonation to make the batter light and airy was a vital discovery in my onion ring quest.
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
A couple of caveats to the rating of healthy: 1, the healthiness of the onion ring depends on lot on what you fry it in. Choose the healthiest oil you have access to. I would rank lard and tallow as the best frying oils, closely followed by coconut oil, followed by ghee if your frying temperature isn’t too high. If none of those are option you can use a neutral oil such as grapeseed, safflower or rice bran, but stay away from soy oil, corn oil and hydrogenated oils like Crisco if you possibly can. 2, the whole wheat flour is unsoaked in this recipe, leaving a high phytic acid content. I think this is fine for most people, especially for occasional use, but if you have digestive issues or chronic health problems you may want to stay away from unsoaked whole wheat. (For a more full discussion of my opionions on phytic acid, see this post.)
I go back and forth on whether I consider onion rings a full vegetable side in a meal or not, but especially when paired with homemade ketchup, and as part of a diet that includes raw vegetables at other times, I think they can reasonably be considered to fill the vegetable niche for a meal.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
This one is a favorite at our house. The whole wheat doesn’t seem to bother my husband at all as he raves about homemade onion rings, and it always rates an, “Ooh, onion rings. Yum!” when he comes home from work to find me frying onion rings.
2 cups flour (white or whole wheat, depending on preference)
1 1/3-2 2/3 cups seltzer water (depending on type of flour used)
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
lard or oil for frying (about two cups)
( The basic ratio of flour to seltzer water is one cup of white flour to one cup of seltzer water. If using a soft white whole wheat (my flour of choice for less ‘wheaty’ flavor), start with 2/3 of a cup seltzer water per cup of flour, and add more seltzer water if needed. If using a hard red wheat, start with 1 1/3 cups of seltzer water per cup of flour, and again, add more seltzer water as needed. I haven’t tried this with hard white wheat, but I would start with the soft white wheat ratio, and plan on slowly adding more seltzer as needed.)
Begin heating lard or oil over a medium heat. (Unsurprisingly, I prefer my cast iron skillet for frying, but you can use any skillet you have around.)
Peel onion and slice into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch slices. Separate slices into rings. Don’t worry if you break some–they make great onion ‘strings’. I also fry up the centers that are too small to separate into rings. Those are onion nuggets, and they taste just as good as the onion rings.
Mix flour with seasonings. Add seltzer water and mix. The batter should be thinner than even a very soft dough, but on the thick side for batter. If in doubt, throw in one onion ring. If the batter clumps and sticks to itself more than the onion, add a bit more liquid. If it coats the onion ring with a very thin layer of batter and drips off quickly, add a bit more flour. If it sticks to the onion ring in a thick layer, it’s perfect.
Drop a small bit of batter into the oil to see if it’s hot enough. The batter should bubble and begin to brown within a few seconds, but not smoke or start to burn quickly. Adjust oil heat if needed.
Drop onion rings into batter, coat thoroughly, and transfer to hot oil. (I like to use tongs or a fork for this part of the process.) Let cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, flipping over when the bottom is light golden brown and lightly crispy. (I like to use a clean pair of tongs for this part, but a metal spatula can also work.)
When light golden brown and crispy on both sides, transfer to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels or a clean rag to absorb the extra grease. If needed, keep the plate in a warm oven to keep the onion rings warm as you continue frying the rest of them.
Serve with ranch dressing, homemade ketchup or other sauce of choice. (We just discovered that homemade french dressing mixed with mayo and just a dash of hot sauce make a great onion ring dipping sauce.)