Archive for Easy to Make

How to Roast Squash

This post is really more of tutorial than a recipe. I use butternut squash in the video, but this method can be used on any kind of squash or pumpkin.

Most squash roasting instructions will tell you to roast the squash for 30 minutes, which results in tender but firm squash to serve cut into pieces. I prefer to roast the squash for closer to 60 minutes, resulting a squash which has essentially pureed itself. (If desired, a quick whirl through the food processor will remove any lingering stringiness or lumps.)

I generally roast squash to prepare it for freezing, though, of course, the roasted squash can also be served immediately, preferably with a pat of butter and perhaps a sprinkling of turbinado sugar and cinnamon or of garlic. I often defrost the squash for a hearty winter breakfast (usually with served with that bit of turbinado sugar), but it can also be used in any soups or casseroles that call for squash puree, or as a substitute for pumpkin puree.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

It’s squash, plain and simple.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

The yumminess rating really depends on what you do with the squash. On it’s own it’s okay, but not that amazing, however it can be turned into yummy amazingness as desired.

How to Roast Squash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. This isn’t really an exact science. 350 or 450 will still get you roasted squash, 350 will just take longer and at 450 you start to risk scorching the squash.

Rinse any loose or excessive dirt from the outside of the squash. You don’t have to be meticulous because you won’t be eating the skin anyway, but I like to avoid the risk of having large chunks of mud fall into the food part of the squash.

Cut of the top of the squash, then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Unless you have a particularly small squash or are particularly handy with a knife, it may be easier and safer to cut the squash in half once crosswise before cutting it in half lengthwise.

Scoop out the seeds. I like to use a large spoon for this because it has enough edge to easily scrape out the orange stringy bits clinging to the seeds, but won’t take away much of the flesh of the squash with it. If you like, you can set aside the seeds to clean and roast later.

Arrange the squash on cookie sheets with sides. (Once I forgot to use cookie sheets with sides and water released by the roasting squash spilled all over the floor of my oven and scorched there. Not ideal.) I can normally fit one squash per cookie sheet unless the squash are abnormally large.

Put the squash into a hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The squash is done when a fork easily pierces the skin and slides through the squash.

Remove from the oven and let cool. (If you’re not going to get to it within a reasonable amount of time you can throw it in the fridge and deal with it later, but generally just letting it cool to room temperature on the counter works fine.) If you like, you can save any ‘squash water’ that’s collected in the cookie sheet and add it to soup or stock.

Peel the squash. Once again, I like to use a large spoon for the process. If the squash has been cooked very well you may just be able to remove the peel easily with your fingers, and if it’s still a bit hard it’s best to peel it with a knife as you would any vegetable. However, for everything in between the spoon does a good job of scraping the squash from the peel without making too much of a mess.

Use or freezer the squash puree/pieces. Half a squash serves the two of us for a breakfast or side dish and fits nicely into a quart size freezer bag.

Did you notice how at 40 seconds in I said “cut the half in piece” instead of “cut the piece of half”? Yeah, I’m smooth like that. But I make up for it and prove I’m a cool person anyway  with that Tetris reference at 2:52 right?

Creamy Spicy Chicken Broth

Creamy Spicy Broth

When I first ran across a recipe for Thai broth I thought it looked amazing. I knew my husband wasn’t likely to go for it as a thin, brothy soup though, so I filed it away on Pinterest, waiting for a flash of inspiration. Maybe I could make a reduction sauce based on Thai broth and serve it as a gravy? Maybe turn it into a noodle soup?

Every time I ran across it again it still sounded good, but I never wanted to go to the trouble of making coconut milk that day just to try it. Then one day it suddenly dawned on me that I could give a try with the regular cow’s milk I always have on hand. (I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, the queen of changing recipes, to come up with that idea.)

Once I started changing it though, I just couldn’t stop. I didn’t have fresh herbs on hand either, so I fell back on my standbys garlic powder and ginger powder, and of course, I had to add turmeric, that powerhouse of adding anti-inflammatories and richness of flavor at the same time. I salted it heavily and added just a dash of cayenne (especially because I was going to be drinking it instead of eating it as a soup, I was skeptical of the chili flakes, and their tendency to burst unexpected waves of heat in unpredictable intervals).

The result was a rich and creamy broth, with lot of flavor and just a bit of spice on the back end. For the first time in my life I found myself drinking chicken stock every morning, and even enjoying the experience.

Now, I’ll tell you that my husband does not like intense flavors first thing in the morning, so I haven’t gotten a good read on whether he will like this broth or not. I’ll let  you know when I get some kind of conclusion one way or the other. I’m thinking maybe adding homemade ramen noodles for supper one night would be good way to introduce him to this broth…

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

This is one of those recipes that just about everyone can agree is healthy. (Except angry vegans, but I generally try to ignore them.) You have all the minerals and gut healing gelatin from the chicken stock, the enzymes and minerals from the raw milk, and the metabolism boosting and immune boosting spices to top it all off.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I mentioned, I don’t yet have my husband’s opinion on the yumminess factor, but myself, I give it a completely yummy rating.

Creamy Spicy Broth

4 servings

4 cups chicken stock

1-2 tsp salt*

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ginger powder

1/8 tsp cayenne, or to taste

4 cups milk (preferably raw and organic)

Heat chicken stock to just below boiling. (If you like your broth very hot, go ahead and heat it to boiling–I prefer more moderate temperature for drinking broth, and a moderate temperature also preserves some of the enzymes in the raw milk.)

Whisk in spices and salt.

Add milk.

Drink as is, or use as the base for a soup.

*NOTE: I use homemade chicken stock which has not yet been salted when making this recipe. If using store bought or pre-salted homemade stock, you will need a lot less salt, and possibly none at all.

French Onion Dip

Homemade French Onion Dip

The cast of characters…

 This recipe comes from a post I found here. I have tweaked the ingredients slightly, but the original recipe is also amazing. (Despite the fact that it contains celery seed… and really, who needs to be eating celery seed? Bleah.)

 I had to share this recipe because it’s one of the recipes I find myself making frequently and wanting on hand at all times. It tastes better than most store bought dip, but close enough to my mother’s ‘open a package of french onion soup and mix it in sour cream’ recipe to bring back fond memories. It not only eliminates the junk that’s in an envelope of store bought french onion soup mix, but gives you an opportunity to include more healing herbs and spices in your diet.

 Do you have any idea how amazing turmeric is? It’s anti inflammatory, high in antioxidants, may help fight Alzheimer’s, may help prevent cancer and alleviates depression. And one of the active ingredients (curcumin) is absorbed much better by the body when it’s eaten with black pepper, which also happens to be an ingredient in this recipe.

 All of the that information about turmeric and pepper is interesting and can be useful, especially if you’re working to treat a specific condition, but also works with my theory that you don’t have to be a research enthusiast to be healthy. Just eat real food of different kinds and it will do amazing things in your body, whether you know it or not. Also, foods that tend to work well together also often just happen to taste great together, and you might find yourself frequently combining black pepper and turmeric without ever knowing why this duo was especially good for you.

 So bascially, don’t fret. Just eat the food. (It’s amazing.)

 Turmeric also happens to be one of my favorite spices from a flavor standpoint. (Garlic is, of course, my favorite all time spice, but sadly, there is no garlic in french onion dip.) A small amount of turmeric often provides the final piece of the flavor puzzle when trying to recreate processed foods with real ingredients. In large amounts it can be a little bitter, but a dash or two provides a background flavor that blends all the other flavors and makes them ‘pop’ just a little more.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

 This gets an unreserved healthy rating from me (as long as you’ve checked the ingredients in your sour cream and it doesn’t have any crazy additives) and as an extra bonus, you might just be inspired to eat a lot more raw veggies if this dip is sitting in your fridge.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

 All the fabulousoity (which is, of course, an actual word, and not something I just made up) of french onion dip, but better.

French Onion Dip

1 tub (16 oz) sour cream

3 TBSP dried minced onion

1 TBSP parsley

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

dash cayenne

 Mix all ingredients thoroughly. If you’d like, you can let it sit overnight to let the flavors blend, but it’s still amazing if you eat it right away. Store in the refrigerator.

Cooking 101: How to Brown Ground Beef

Today I’m continuing in my Cooking 101 series, aimed at novice cooks. This post may be a bit dull for old hands at cooking, as I really don’t have any new or exciting comments about cooking ground beef, I simply wanted to provide a basic tutorial for beginning cooks to have some confidence about how to to perform this foundational task in cooking a meal.

Once again, my nephew Toby guest starred on this video, lending his status as a bona fide beginner to make sure my instructions qualified as simple and comprehensive enough for anyone to follow.

When we went to film this video, I discovered that my ground beef had not defrosted as quickly as it should have, and so this video does provide some technique for cooking ground beef even from a partially frozen state. I include written instructions below for both the standard method of cooking completely thawed ground beef, and the jury rigged method of cooking partially frozen ground beef.  (I have recently learned that putting a bit of water in the skillet helps when cooking ground beef that’s still frozen, so I will be including that in the instructions below, though it was not included in the video.)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only is ground beef healthy, but learning to brown ground beef, if you don’t know how, opens up a lot of options for making your own meals that don’t include chemicals and processed foods.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Adjust the salt to your own taste, and again ground beef a great tasting food just on it’s own, but it’s also the foundation of a lot of other even more amazing dishes.

How to Brown Ground Beef (The Basic Method)

1. Remove ground beef from packaging and place in a skillet. (I like to wash the raw meat juices off my hands at this point before I proceed.) Turn on burner to medium.

2. Use spatula or wooden spoon to break up the ground beef into small pieces.

3. Stir ground beef every minute or two (or more often if you like) as it begins to brown. You might also like to continue to break up the ground beef into smaller pieces as you stir.

4. Continue cooking the beef until all traces of pinkish hue are gone and the beef is completely brown all the way through.

5. If there’s an excessive amount of fat in the pan after brown the ground beef, you may want to remove the fat. You can do this by (a) scooping out the meat with a slotted spoon, leaving the grease behind, or (b) pouring the meat into a colander. If you choose option (b) remember that the grease has to go somewhere. You can put the colander in a bowl and empty the grease into the trash after it’s cooled, or put the colander in the sink, remove the colander after the meat has drained, and run lots of hot water and bit of dish soap down the drain to prevent the grease from clogging your drain.

How To Brown Ground Beef (From Frozen)

1. Remove ground beef from packaging and place in a skillet. (I like to wash the raw meat juices off my hands at this point before I proceed.) Turn on burner to medium low.

2. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape any thawed meat off the sides and edges of the hunk of frozen meat.

3. Add a bit of water (maybe 1/4 of a cup) to the skillet. Put a lid on the skillet and let it simmer for about 3 minutes.

4. Repeat step 2, stir and break up any clumps of cooking meat that are separated from the main block of frozen meat, then put the lid back on the skillet for another 2-3 minutes.

5. Repeat step 4 until all the meat is thawed.

6. Increase heat to medium. Stir ground beef every minute or so (or more often if you like) as the ground beef continues to brown. You might also like to continue to break up the ground beef into smaller pieces as you stir.

7. Continue cooking the beef until all traces of pinkish hue are gone and the beef is completely brown all the way through.

8. If there’s an excessive amount of fat in the pan after brown the ground beef, you may want to remove the fat. You can do this by (a) scooping out the meat with a slotted spoon, leaving the grease behind, or (b) pouring the meat into a colander. If you choose option (b) remember that the grease has to go somewhere. You can put the colander in a bowl and empty the grease into the trash after it’s cooled, or put the colander in the sink, remove the colander after the meat has drained, and run lots of hot water and bit of dish soap down the drain to prevent the grease from clogging your drain.

Cooking 101: Easy Berry Cobbler

Cooking 101: Easy Berry Cobbler

This cobbler is made with raspberries, while the cobbler in the video is  made with blackberries. Blueberries, strawberries, peaches and other fruits can also be used.

 

My nephew Toby guest starred in the video for this recipe. He’s sixteen years old, and recently learned how to make eggs and toast, so in the very strictest sense he’s not a complete beginner at cooking, but he is very close. (He’s a brilliant absent minded professor type who could solve for x in his sleep, but didn’t learn how to turn on the stove until he was ten. Also, as you will notice when you watch the video, he’s very funny and makes me laugh a lot.)

I’m going to be posting a few recipes that are very simple for new cooks to learn, and I wanted to have a true novice cook use the recipes to make sure that I didn’t skip over anything in the instructions because it seemed ‘obvious’ to me. If I did miss anything, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at gbfoodrocks@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have. (That goes for any of my recipes, in fact.)

This particular recipe is pretty adaptable to different types of flours and sugars (though I haven’t tried gluten free flours) so you can make it with healthy ingredients (whole wheat pastry flour aka white wheat flour and turbinado sugar) or ingredients found in typical kitchens (white flour and white sugar). I wouldn’t recommend using a hard red whole wheat flour, as it will have the typical whole wheat flavor and texture drawbacks, but it would probably do in a pinch if that’s all you have.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

This cobbler could qualify as completely healthy if you choose to use whole wheat flour and turbinado sugar. If you use white flour and white sugar it’s not going to have a whole lot going for it in terms of nutrition.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

It’s a really good basic cobbler. My version is heavy on the cobbler, but if you prefer it heavy on the fruit, just double the amount of fruit used.

Easy Berry Cobbler

based on this recipe

4 TBSP butter

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (aka whole wheat pastry flour) OR unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup turbinado sugar OR white sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

6 oz package berries of choice (or 1 cup of sliced fruit such as peaches)

Fresh or frozen fruit works fine in this recipe. If using fresh fruit, rinse the berries and leave to drain dry, or prepare the fruit (remove seeds or pits, slice, etc).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter in a 8×8 square baking dish and put it in oven to melt.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. (Note for beginners: This is an important step, so make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined and you don’t see any patches or lumps of seperate ingredients.)

Add the milk. (Note for beginners: Stir briefly, then scrape along the bottom of the bowl to make sure you don’t have any pockets of flour mixture that haven’t been stirred in. Do NOT overmix. As soon as the batter is smooth and all the flour is incorporated, stop stirring.)

Remove pan with melted butter from the oven. Pour the batter into the pan.

Sprinkle the fruit across the top of the batter. Return the pan the oven and set a timer for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. If a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, the cobbler is done. (Note for beginners: ‘Clean’ in this case means that there’s no gummy or liquidy batter sticking to the toothpick. You may get fruit juices or even a dry crumb or two stuck to the toothpick, but if the toothpick is coated in crumbs or other signs of uncooked batter, the cobbler needs to back in the oven for five or ten more minutes.)