Archive for Author Raquel @ Good Bad Food

Sourdough Pineapple Upside Down Cobbler

I didn’t get a picture of this one, but I wanted to make note of the recipe, both so I can replicate it, and because when I took it to church I got a request to share the recipe.

This is a variation on Easy Berry Cobbler. I used this Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe to guide my modifications, as well as my previous conversion to use sourdough starter for the topping, so it may not be very recognizable as the same recipe at this point.

One quick note: I actually prefer crushed pineapple for pineapple upside down cake because of the way the sugar, butter and pineapple all meld together. You can, of course, substitute sliced pineapple if you prefer.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

It has fruit, because of the sourdough starter the grains are fully fermented, and it calls for unrefined sugar, but it is still a dessert.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy
It’s not quite your standard light and fluffy cake but as a cross between cobbler and pineapple upside down cake I think it’s quite good.

 

Sourdough Pineapple Upside Down Cobbler

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
1 can crushed or sliced pineapple, drained

2 cups sourdough starter (I feed mine with whole wheat pastry flour)
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda

 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the butter in a 9×13 pan and put it in the oven to melt.

Meanwhile, mix the sourdough starter, turbinado sugar, and salt.

Remove the pan of melted butter from the oven. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the butter, then place or spread the pineapple on top of the sugar.

Mix the baking soda into the sourdough batter, just until mixed, then quickly pour the batter over the pineapple.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

 

 

Nomato Sauce

 

Nomato paste ready for the freezer

I like to make a big batch of nomato paste at one time and freeze most of it for later. This is about half the amount this recipe makes. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband tries to avoid tomato products because of heartburn and acid reflux. In most cases we just work around this by using other kinds of sauces (white sauce on pizza, for instance) but sometimes you just want a real tomato substitute–to use in place of tomato paste in flavoring my favorite lentils recipe, or because I’m really in the mood for meatballs in a red sauce.

This particular combination of vegetables does decent job imitating the color and texture of tomato sauce. (Changing the ratio of vegetables may affect the color, changing it to an orangier or purplier red, but this exact ratio isn’t crucial to the general impression of nomato sauce.) Once you add in an acid, it’s close enough in flavor to trick your brain into accepting the substitute.

As written, this recipe makes a very thick nomato sauce which works well as a replacement for tomato paste. If you prefer, add a bit of water to thin it down to a normal sauce consistency.

I prefer lemon juice for the acid, but apple cider vinegar also works reasonably well if you need to substitute for any reason. Since I’m specifically trying to lower the acid compared to tomatoes, I use just enough lemon juice to give the impression of tomatoes. If your reasons for replacing tomatoes are different, you may want to increase the amount of lemon juice to taste. (If you’re using apple cider vinegar, the acidity will be stronger, so start with 1/2 to 2/3 the amount of lemon juice you would use.)

I generally prefer lard for roasting vegetables, but coconut oil, ghee and avocado oil are also good choices. I do not recommend roasting with olive oil as the high temperatures destroy most or all of the health benefits.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Being mostly made out of vegetables, I think this qualifies as healthy.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

If you go expecting an exact tomato replica, this will, of course, be disappointing. If  you go in with reasonable expectations of something in the neighborhood of tomato flavors, this should be satisfying.

Nomato Paste or Sauce

6 small zucchini (about two pounds)

3 medium onions

9 medium carrots (about two pounds)

3 medium beets

2-3 TBSP fat or oil of choice

 

1 cup lemon juice

salt to taste

water, if desired

 

 

Preheat the oven to 425.

Prepare the vegetables for roasting: slice (and peel, if desired) the zucchini into 2 inch thick rounds, peel and quarter the onions, remove the ends of the carrots and slice into 2-3 inch segments and peel and remove the ends of the beets, then slice them into halves or quarters.

Toss the vegetables in preferred oil and divide between two large baking sheets. Roast at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft enough to puree. (The carrots and beets may still retain some firmness–how soft they need to be exactly will depend on how well your food processor or blender works.) Let cool.

Puree vegetables with lemon juice and salt in a food processor or food mill. (This recipe makes a large batch of nomato sauce or paste and I had to puree it in two separate batches in my food processor.) If desired, thin down with water to your preferred consistency.

If not thinned down this recipe makes about 10 cups of nomato paste. I like to freeze it in quart bags, with 1 1/2 cups of nomato paste in each bag, as that’s roughly equal to 2 cans of tomato paste.

Inspired by this Roasted Zucchini Salsa and this Tomato-Free Salsa.

What We Eat

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here! I had gotten stressed about trying to keep up with blogging here and took a very long break, but lately I’ve been missing it, and wanted to start posting again, if only to keep track of my recipe adaptations.

Since it’s been so long, I wanted to give a brief update and overview on how we’ve been approaching food, especially the changes since I used to post regularly.

My basic food philosophy hasn’t really changed:

God made food good for you. He also gave us creativity and intelligence to be able to cook, combine and improve the food we eat, but as a general rule, the more processed and refined a food is, the more we risk it changing from the way it was meant to be eaten.

I also believe that there’s a range of individual nutritional needs. Some people do better with lots of meat and vegetables and very few starches. Some people have trouble digesting wheat or grains in general, but still need a good amount starches in other forms. Some people have amazing digestions and high energy needs and are able to eat a wide range of foods with little ill effect. Some people need the detoxifying effects of salads and raw vegetables. Some people have an easier time digesting the nutrients in vegetables after cooking.

I also find that my health does better overall when I eat mostly healthy food, but don’t stress about having some ‘splurge’ foods in the mix. For instance, I’m more likely to crave proteins and fats than I am to crave sugars, so if sweet things sound really good to me, I figure there’s a good reason, and I eat something sweet. If I’m having a really tired day (whether because of a flare up of my chronic health problems, or just because of being extra busy), I may feel better by taking a break from cooking and eating take-out instead of expending my energy on making a perfectly healthy meal.

So, this is how the above three points are personalized for us:

*Most weeks we eat three home cooked meals, every day. Those meals are mostly made from a variety of meats (mostly beef, chicken and pork, with some seafood thrown in), potatoes, rice, occasional other whole grains, vegetables and fruit (with an emphasis on seasonal produce) and some dairy (raw when possible), butter and other fats, such as lard, bone broth and sweeteners (turbinado sugar, honey, and maple syrup). When we eat food at other people’s houses or go out for date night, we don’t worry about the ingredients and simply enjoy what’s in front of us. (With the exception of a few ingredients noted below that cause major problems, such as tomato.)

*My husband started having intense trouble with acid reflux last spring. After a stretch on the GAPS diet his digestion improved, but he still have trouble with certain foods. Eating too much wheat seems to trigger problems, so I try to keep wheat based meals to a minimum, usually 0-2 per week. I also avoid tomatoes and spicy foods in my cooking, but sometimes replace tomato sauce with a beet based homemade ‘nomato’ sauce.

*I have an egg allergy, but am able to tolerate the small amounts of eggs in baked goods and such. So, I don’t make quiches or other egg based meals for dinner, but I am able to make quick breads and cookies and such without having to modify the recipe. I also occasionally am able to get my hands on duck eggs, and go on a big scrambled and deviled egg spree while I have the chance.

*My husband has a fairly fast burning metabolism, and seems to do best with a good balance of protein and carbs, so I try to include a starch (usually unprocessed or minimally processed, like the potatoes and brown rice mentioned above) with every meal.

*I seem to feel best with a high to moderate amount of protein and fat, and moderate to low amount of carbs. We have found very few meatless meals that satisfy our protein and fat needs, so most of our meals are meat based, with the occasional beans or lentils  meal (usually cooked in chicken stock) thrown in. I have been experimenting with switching our meats over to grass fed, but haven’t figured out if I can sustain that on our grocery budget long term. I also digest cooked vegetables better than salads, so I often sautee or roast our vegetables.

*I keep a sourdough starter going and usually have fully fermented sourdough bread or rolls in the house, as well as making sourdough pancakes once every week or two.

*I try to keep some fermented vegetables and homemade yogurt on hand, usually at least sauerkraut, but don’t always keep up with it. I’d like to also get back to regularly making kefir, water kefir, and/or kombucha, but haven’t gotten any grains or scobies since last time I killed them.

*We often keep chocolate in the house, and occasionally other candy, but nearly all baked goods we eat are homemade, from either organic white flour, or soaked/fermented whole wheat flour, usually with turbinado sugar though occasionally with honey or maple syrup. I like to experiment with recipes for homemade candies and other ‘copy cat’ junk foods, made with real food ingredients, and sometimes they even turn out well.

 

Overall, the closest match to my food practices would be the Weston Price diet (following the 80/20 rule, of course), with adjustments for personal dietary needs. My first goal in cooking is to make food that tastes good, but I will use the healthiest ingredients I’m able to use to achieve that goal.

I’m not sure yet what my new posting schedule will look like, but I’m hoping to start sharing some recipes soon!

Red Lentils and (Soaked) Whole Wheat Naan

 lentils and naan 001

Tonight I had one of my first attempts at making ‘real’ Indian food (previous attempts have basically consisted of throwing a TON of all the Indian style spices I had into a pan of lentils, which turns out surprisingly well, in case you were wondering). I based this lentil dish off of this recipe, and my naan off this recipe for whole wheat naan.

Despite the fact that this was a meatless meal (using fairly inexpensive ingredients) my husband and I both really enjoyed it (!) AND my husband approved the naan despite the fact that it’s whole wheat. Oh, yeah, and it’s all healthy too. Win, win, win.

I should probably warn you that I didn’t measure  most of my spices, so the the amounts listed below are estimates…

Red Lentils

1 cup split red lentils

water for soaking (optional)

2-3 cups chicken stock

1 diced onion OR 2 TBSP dried minced onion

1 TBSP minced garlic

1 tsp ground ginger

1 6oz can tomato paste

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp black pepper

salt to taste

1/4 cup butter

2 tsp black cumin seeds (nigella sativa)

1 tsp mustard powder

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp paprika

Soak lentils overnight, if desired. (This improves the digestibility a bit, but isn’t strictly necessary.) Drain soaked lentils.

In a medium sized pot, mix lentils, chicken stock, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lentils are completely soft. Add salt to taste.

(I’ll admit I don’t entirely understand how this next bit is supposed to work, but this is what I did in my attempt to mostly follow the recipe I was working from.) Melt butter in a small pot. Meanwhile, measure black cumin seeds into one small bowl, and remaining spices into a second small bowl. Once the butter is beginning to sizzle, dump in the cumin seeds all at once and quickly put the lid on to avoid being spattered. (Mine didn’t really spatter. Perhaps I didn’t heat the butter as hot as I was supposed to.) Remove the lid, add the remaining spices, and let them sizzle and bubble for about 30 seconds without letting them burn.

Mix the butter/spice mixture into the lentils and serve, preferably in a large bowl, scooping it into your mouth with warm whole wheat naan bread.

Whole Wheat Naan

3 cups whole wheat flour (I used red hard wheat aka whole wheat bread flour)

1 tsp honey

1 tsp coconut oil

1 cup sour milk or thin yogurt

1/2 cup warm water

2 1/4 tsp yeast

dash of ground ginger

 

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp salt

coconut oil or ghee (for frying)

melted ghee or butter (for brushing)

Mix first four ingredients and allow to soak overnight. (If using a different type of whole wheat, such as white wheat, you’ll need less liquid, maybe about 3/4 cup.)

Mix yeast and ginger with warm water and let sit until foamy.

Sprinkle baking soda, cream of tartar and salt across top of soaked wheat mixture, and mix it in a bit. (Mine was so crumbly that I just crumbled it around a little with my fingers so everything was distributed. If your mixture is more dough like, giving it a few fold-and-press kneads would probably work better.)

Pour in foamy yeast mixture and mix or knead until all ingredients are incorporated together. Knead for a few minutes, until the dough is beginning to feel firm and dough like. (If I’d been doing this in my mixer I probably would have kneaded it a lot longer, until it was closer to passing a windowpane test, but I get tired of hand kneading whole wheat dough.)

Let rise for about 2 hours.

Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a circle about as big as your skillet.

Heat a small amount of ghee or coconut oil in a skillet, just about enough to cover the bottom of the skillet well, but not quite enough to pool. The original recipe says medium-high heat, though I found that medium on my stove got the skillet plenty hot enough–hot enough that the skillet started smoking if it was empty for more than a few seconds, but not hot enough burn the naan.

Put one circle of dough in the skillet, cover with the lid and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Flip over the bread, replace the lid, and cook for another minute.

Brush with melted ghee or butter while still warm, and serve promptly.

Wheat Germ Bread: An Experiment

Experimental Wheat Germ Flour Bread

  Today I did a bit of experimenting to make bread using the white+wheat germ flour I get from Azure Standard. I like the idea of using this flour for quicker batches of bread that don’t require overnight soaking (because the wheat bran is removed there’s no phytic acid to be concerned about), but still has more nutrition than standard white flour. This flour works very well in my version of 30 minute rolls, but I don’t have a good go-to bread recipe using the white+wheat germ flour. Just substituting it for white flour sometimes makes a heavy ‘off’ tasting product.

 I used this recipe as a base for my experiments. My version is below, and it turned out quite well. The texture was much closer to a good homemade white flour bread than I was expecting it to be, though unsurprisingly it was a bit denser (not in a bad way, in my opinion). The graham flavor from the wheat germ did also come through a little, but overall, it was an enjoyable bread for both me and my husband, and I hope to continue tweaking it in the future to make it even better. Ideally I’d actually like to eliminate the whole wheat flour and cornmeal from the recipe as well, so as to completely work around phytic acid concerns.

White Plus Wheat Germ Flour Bread

1 TBSP yeast

2 cups warm water

2 TBSP molasses

1 TBSP turbinado sugar

1/4 tsp ginger powder

4 3/4 cups white+wheat germ flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (hard red wheat)

1 TBSP cornmeal

2 tsp salt

2 TBSP coconut oil, melted

Mix first five ingredients and set aside until foamy. Mix next four ingredients in a stand mixer bowl. Add foamy yeast mixture and coconut oil.

Knead until dough passes window pane test. (Mine never quite got there, even after about twenty minutes of kneading, so I just went until I could stretch it out almost to the windowpane thinness before it tore, and called that good enough.)

Grease bowl and let dough rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch down, divide into two loaves and let rise until doubled again, for about 30 minutes. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees.

Menu Plan 4/2/15-4/8/15

We followed most of this weeks menu plan, except that in order to use up some extra leftovers I moved the burritos meal, and served leftover french onion potatoes with the pork steaks (instead of cheesy broccoli rice).

We did an overnight vacation (kind of a late anniversary getaway) near Chicago last week, so our hot dog meal was planned specifically to be something I could cook easily in the microwave in our room. (Yes, I use microwaves sometimes when I’m on vacation.) I won’t tell you all the snacks I packed, but you could assume if you like that there was other junk food associated with our vacation…

Because we did some other activities in area (an arcade and SkyJump, an indoor trampoline park), we ended up doing our ‘date night’ dinner as a quick meal on the way home instead of doing a nicer, longer dinner. (We didn’t even get Chicago style pizza the whole time we were there!) But we did happen on a really good place to get good food quickly: Johnny’s Beef and Gyros. We both got gyros, but there were plenty of other options like hamburgers and hot dogs and salads, many of which had a Chicago twist of some kind in the toppings. It was so good, that we may just plan future Chicago trips around stopping at the same place!

While we’re on the subject of restaurants, we have a double date planned for this coming week, where we’ll be going to Hokkaido. While I fully admit to not being a sushi expert, Hokkaido seems the nicest (though this does translate into being pricier) of the sushi places we’ve tried in the area. As relative novices in the sushi world, it’s especially fun to get use their ‘unlimited sushi’ option to try new kinds of sushi without having quite as much pressure to order something we know for sure we’ll like. Another bonus to Hokkaido, especially for a double date, is that while three of us will probably be ordering the unlimited sushi, they do have some nice steak type options available for less adventurous eaters among us.

I’m getting very ready for some lighter spring foods, so this weeks menu is a combination of using up a few ‘leftover’ winter foods and moving into some light, fresh foods. The details, however, are very subject to change depending on what I find when I go grocery shopping.

Dinners:

Social Event x2

Burritos

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

Rotisserie Chicken (from Costco, for church fellowship meal)

Chicken Heart Pate, Bruschetta, Baguettes

Apricot Pork Steak, Carrot Salad (I’ll likely add rice or pasta to this last minute, I’m just not feeling it right now)

Lunches:

We should enough leftovers to cover most lunches. If needed I may fall back on toasted cheese sandwiches or something from the freezer.

Breakfasts:

Eggs and toast, maybe beginning to transition into fruit and smoothies. Also, after having a couple of very low energy days, I discovered that a heartier oatmeal breakfast improved my energy levels a little, so I may do some kind of fruit and oatmeal combination a few times.

Baking and Extras:

I’m hibernating my water kefir grains in the fridge again, so any extra time and energy I have for kitchen projects can go into actual baking. Maybe some apple fritters, homemade kahlua, and homemade baguettes to go with our bruschetta? Oh, and I still need to start a new batch of yogurt, and maybe some sprouts.

Shopping List:

I didn’t get the Kroger ad this week, and I’m not seeing a lot that’s jumping out at me in the other ads, so I mostly have a basic Costco list. I may also stop by Aldi for .99/lb ham and some basic staples. (Most of my typical grocery prices are stored in an app on my tablet, which is too low on charge to turn on right now, so I’m working off memory on the price estimates.)

Costco:

ground beef, about $35/10lb

chicken, (maybe, depending on price)

rotisserie chicken, $4.99

onions, about $8/8lb

tomatoes, not sure of price

carrots, $6.99/10lb

bell peppers, not sure of price

cream cheese, $6.99/6pk

turbinado sugar, not sure of price

Aldi:

organic potato chips (depending on price–I found then on clearance last time and loved them!)

ham, about $8/8lb

eggs, about $3/2dozen

pineapple, $1.29 (I just found out the pineapples are in season in early spring!)

granola bars, about $1.89 (for ‘desk snacks’ for my husband)

 

 

 

 

 

Menu Plan 3/26/15-4/1/15

We followed the first half of our menu plan this week, but then we replaced the burritos with quesadillas (using up some leftover chicken in one of the quesadillas) and replaced the pork steaks and broccoli rice meal with a previously unplanned social event.

Part of the week I continued to feel bleah as I recovered from the stomach bug I’d had, and the second part I was still glad to have easy meals and leftovers as I ran around like a crazy person trying to catch up on all the cleaning and such that I needed to get done after having been sick for most of a week.

In this coming week we’re having a couple of less healthy, more fun meals, and then just some more simple, mostly out of the freezer meals. I’m looking forward to when our Farmer’s Market opens so we can start to enjoy some truly fresh vegetables!

Dinners:

Hot Dogs (with fermented ketchup and sauerkraut), Baby Carrots

Date Night/Dinner Out

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

French Onion Potatoes (for church fellowship meal)

Pork Steaks and Cheesy Broccoli Rice (from the freezer)

Meatloaf, Potato Salad, Peas

Burritos (using burrito filling from the freezer)

Lunches:

We should still have plenty of leftovers, and we’ll fall back on hamburger patties or grilled cheese if we run short on protein for lunches.

Breakfasts:

More of the same: eggs (for my husband), toast, homemade hot cocoa (unicorn fuel version). Once we start getting some more fresh fruit in season I’ll start up the breakfast smoothie habit again.

Baking and Extras:

I didn’t really get anything done with baking last week. This week I’d like to keep up with water kefir, make ketchup and start a new batch of homemade yogurt. Other than that, we’ll just see how the week goes.

Shopping List:

I actually did a quick shopping trip at the tail of the last sale cycle at Kroger. (I found organic spinach half price on manager’s special and threw it in the freezer for when I start up those smoothies again.)

There are a couple of good sales this coming week, though I don’t know if I’ll try to get out shopping again or not. For those who are interested, here are the noteworthy sales as I see them:

Shop N’ Save:

roma tomatoes, .88/lb

chicken leg quarters, .68/lb

pork spare ribs, $1.68/lb

organic applesauce (24 oz), $2

 

Aldi:

ham, .99/lb

avocadoes, .69 each

mandarin oranges, $2.29/3lb

cream cheese, $.89

butter, $1.89/lb

 

Hyvee:

split chicken breast, .97/lb

eggs, $1.28

(3/26 & 3/27 only) turkey breast, .99/lb

 

Menu Plan 3/19/15-3/25/15

We ended up adding a couple of extra social events to our plan for this past week, but aside from that, and a brief bout with a stomach bug, we followed our menu plan pretty well.

The Pear and Feta Rice Pudding turned out well–I made it very heavy on the pears and feta and kept other spices low key, with just a few dashes of salt and a dash of cinnamon and fennel, and it managed to ride that precarious line between sweet and savory that I was aiming for.

I experimented with a whole wheat version of homemade ramen noodles, using half a cup of hard red wheat flour and a fourth of a cup of soft white wheat flour, and using my food processor to do the dough kneading. It turned out quite well, except for the fact that I over salted them when I added the seasoning. They did have a bit of that whole wheat flavor, but the texture wasn’t bad. I’m planning to use the leftovers in a soup to dilute the salt a bit.

The french onion potatoes using spices from the french onion dip turned out well, though even doubling the salt wasn’t quite enough salt for my taste. Potatoes absorb a lot of salt! I also need to remember in the future to make sure the potatoes are well stirred before serving, because a lot of the spices and butter dripped down to the bottom of the crock pot during cooking.

I did get corned beef, potatoes and cabbage in the crockpot on St Patricks Day, but then discovered I was coming down with a stomach bug, so I ditched my more elaborate plans for making Irish Soda Bread and homemade Irish Cream in favor of curling up on the couch, playing Hexcells Infinite and sipping coconut water. My husband ate a bit of supper, but stayed cautious about food in case he was also about to come down with the stomach bug, and I stuck with beef stock and a banana.

I’m feeling mostly better, but have heard of the possibility of relapse in a couple days with this particular bug. Adding that to the question of whether my husband is going to come down with the bug or not makes menu planning a bit difficult this week. I’m going to try to focus the menu on foods like chicken, broth and rice that can be easily digested, and then adjust for more or less simplicity as called for the events of the week.

Dinners:

Social Event

Leftovers + Hamburger Patties (We have plenty of leftover rice and potatoes in the fridge, but less in the way of protein leftovers.)

Beefy Noodle Soup

French Onion Potatoes (for church fellowship meal, using spices from homemade french onion dip)

Burritos (using burrito filling from the freezer)

Pork Steaks and Cheesy Broccoli Rice (I found another package of Cheesy Broccoli Rice in the freezer! Yay!)

Leftover Corned Beef, Cabbage & Potato + Irish Soda Bread (If we’re feeling well enough, I’ll use the leftovers from St Patricks Day to do a late celebration.)

Lunches:

We should have plenty of leftovers for lunches this week, but if we run a bit short on protein leftovers I may make grilled cheese or tuna salad.

Breakfasts:

The usual eggs (for my husband) and toast, plus maybe some unicorn fuel hot cocoa for me, and the possibility of banana smoothies.

Baking and Extras:

Last week I did finally make preserved lemons, though I lapsed a bit with keeping up with my water kefir and sourdough starter. I’m not going to make any elaborate plans for the week, so the only definite on my list is keeping up with water kefir. Other possibilities, if I get to them, include experimenting with sourdough banana bread, making sourdough bagels, making yogurt and making Irish soda bread.

Shopping List:

We should finally have a car again after tomorrow (yay!) but I didn’t see any super amazing deals in the Aldi ad, and in the interest of keeping our plans for the week low key, I probably won’t do any grocery shopping.

 

 

Homemade Spice Mix for Corned Beef Brisket

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, St Patrick’s Day is a holiday we really enjoy celebrating at our house, for both culinary and historical reasons.

Our typical main course for a St Patrick’s Day dinner is corned beef. This is one of those areas of compromise between health and budget: the best option would be to get a high quality beef brisket and brine it myself to avoid all chemical additions to the meat. Instead I buy inexpensive corned beef on sale, throw away the spice packet and use my own blend of spices, so that I at least avoid any msg or other mystery ingredients in the spices.

In case you’re wondering, the rest of our St Patricks Day menu typically looks something like this:

Cabbage (cooked with the corned beef)

Potato wedges (cooked with the corned beef) OR Mashed Potatoes OR Boxty (Irish Potato Pancakes)

Irish Soda Bread (my husband prefers a sweeter version, technically closer to Spotted Dog Bread than traditional plain Irish soda bread) with butter

Sometimes we may also add an Irish cheese such as Dubliner which is made by Kerrygold (I’ve seen this particular cheese both at Aldi and Costco) or homemade Irish Cream. (Because it’s already a hearty meal, if we do get an Irish cheese, we’re more likely to it as an appetizer or an evening snack than part of the meal. The Irish Cream is also more of an after dinner drink.)

Today I’m sharing my recipe for the spice mix I add to my corned beef brisket. This is my own interpretation of a pickling spice blend, which is basically what the mysterious spice packet included in the corned beef package is supposed to be.

I’ve found it to be a pretty forgiving recipe. In fact, until I was getting ready to write this post, I’d never measured the spices, I just used a heavy sprinkling of some spices and a lighter sprinkling of others. You should be able to pretty easily adjust this recipe to taste and based on what ingredients you have on hand.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

As with a lot of my recipes, your healthiness results will vary based on the quality of the ingredients you use, in this case most notably the quality of meat. However, this spice blend is on its own merits good for you, and allows you to replace a prepackaged spice packet with mystery ingredients that might include MSG. It seems to me that should merit a healthy rating.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

It’s been so long since I’ve had corned beef fixed with the included spice packet that I’m not going to try to make any claims this spice mix tastes the same. What I can say is that this spice mix makes the corned beef taste very good and very savory, and based on the results I have no reason to wish for a spice packet or any other spice options.

Spice Mix for Corned Beef Brisket

3-4 pound corned beef brisket

1 TBSP mustard powder

1 TBSP black pepper

1 tsp dill seed

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp turmeric

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp clove

Sprinkle spices on corned beef and cook according to favorite method. This is how I like to do it:

Chop 1/2 a head of cabbage and 2-3 pounds of potatoes and put them in the bottom of a crock pot. (If you’d like, give the potatoes a light sprinkle of salt, but be careful because the corned beef is going to add a LOT of salt to the dish.)

Remove corned beef from packaging, discarding the spice packet and juices. (If you like you can rinse the corned beef as well.) Put the corned beef brisket on top of the potatoes and cabbage, sprinkle with the spices, and cook on high for 4-7 hours or on low for 7-10 hours. (Corned beef is best with a long, slow, moist cooking time in order to tenderize well.)

 

Water Kefir Flavors: Homemade Ginger Ale

Water Kefir Ginger Ale

I have already posted a general recipe for using water kefir grains to turn sugar and water into a carbonated probiotic beverage, and today I’m posting a more detailed recipe for my favorite flavor of water kefir: ginger ale.

This post has been delayed because my water kefir grains suffered some neglect recently while I was recovering from surgery and I wasn’t sure for a while that they were going to survive. They’re still not going quite as strong as they were before that, but they are fermenting and carbonating just fine, simply a little slower. Because of that, (and possibly also affected by the warmer spring weather) I still haven’t gotten my timetable down for maximum carbonation. Because of the health of the grains and the temperature and possibly other smaller factors can affect the exact speed of fermentation, it will probably take you a bit of experimentation to achieve maximum carbonation anyway.

Here are the carbonation tips I do have:

*Cap the jar tightly on the second fermentation to trap all the carbonation gases inside.

*Make sure you don’t ferment too long, as the carbonation with start to dissipate after it peaks. (I think this is my current problem, as my water kefir is getting fizzy in its original ferment, but is flat by the time we drink it.)

*On this last batch, instead of doing a true second fermentation, I put the jar of ginger and water kefir in the refrigerator to ‘steep’. The carbonation seemed to improve slightly, so I may incorporate this strategy into my further experiments on timing for peak carbonation.

In this recipe I assume that you have already followed the steps in my basic water kefir tutorial, and have a jar or pitcher of fermented water kefir that’s ready for flavoring and a second fermentation. Note that my original tutorial makes a half gallon of water kefir, while this recipe is for flavoring a quart. This allows you to split your water kefir for different flavorings if you’d like, but you can also simply double the flavoring recipe to make a half gallon of ginger ale.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

The water kefir already contains some excellent strains of probiotics, and adding fresh ginger supercharges its good effect on the digestion. I find this fermented ginger ale to be mildly energy boosting, easy on an upset stomach and overall a very good and gentle digestive tonic.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband prefers this drink with a slightly shorter original fermentation time so it’s sweeter, while I prefer it with a moderate length fermentation so it has a bit stronger flavor, but we both enjoy it both ways. My husband thinks ‘ginger beer’ conveys the sense of the flavor better than ‘ginger ale’, but either way, this recipe is husband approved.

(A note on flavor: if the water kefir is over fermented it can develop an overly sharp, funky/musty flavor. My husband says it smells like vomit at this stage. If your water kefir isn’t going over well with your family, try experimenting with a slightly shorter fermentation time and see if that helps.)

Fermented Ginger Ale

1 quart unflavored water kefir

1/2-1 tsp freshly grated ginger

optional: 1 tsp cinnamon chips (pieces of cinnamon stick NOT baking chips)

Grate the fresh ginger into the water kefir. (I like to use a grater similar to this.) Half a teaspon will give you a mild and mellow ginger ale, while a full teaspoon will give you just a bit of sharpness to the ginger flavor, more link a typical ginger tea. If you like a very spicy, intense ginger ale flavor (along the lines of Blenheim), you could reasonably increase the ginger to 2 tsp or more. Experiment a bit and see what level of ginger flavor you prefer in your ginger ale.

The flavor with just fresh ginger is quite good, but sometimes I like to add about a teaspoon of cinnamon chips to add some depth and balance to the flavor, depending on whether I’m in the mood for the simple sharpness of plain ginger, or the more rounded complex flavor of ginger with cinnamon.

Cap the jar tightly and let sit on the counter for 1-2 days. Strain out the ginger (this mesh strainer is very handy for this sort of job) and drink immediately or refrigerate. (I often just refrigerate the whole jar with the ginger still in it and strain out the ginger as I pour it into my glass when I drink it.)

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