Tag Archive for yummy

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.)

French Dressing

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.

French Dressing

(based on this recipe)

2/3 cup ketchup (preferably homemade)

1 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup olive oil (or oil of choice)

1 tsp pink himalyan salt

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.

Onion Rings

Homemade Onion Rings

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.

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

1-2 onions

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.)

Pork Dumplings

Pork Dumplings

Chinese dumpling swimming in a soyless sauce based dipping sauce.

 This is one of those meals that scores you major points as a cook. People are impressed that you can make ‘restaurant food’ and it’s really yummy without requiring any particularly exotic ingredients.

 If you like, you can buy the wonton wrappers in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, but considering that you can make your own with just flour and boiling water, it’s worth at least trying to make your own and see if you like it. (They’ve worked perfectly every time I ever tried to make them, except for the first time I tried to make them on camera….)

 If you’re considering freaking out about the fact that I don’t use whole wheat flour for these, first, my husband liked them so much when I made them this way the first time that he didn’t want me to change them, so I decided not to start monkeying the the recipe. Second, I’m not sure white flour is quite the evil specter it’s made out to be.

White flour simply provides large amounts of energy (carbs and calories) with no nutrients.

 Some people can actually put large amounts of readily available energy to good use, and only need to be sure that their energy intake is balanced by high nutrient foods such as vegetables. Others may not be able to process such concentrated energy as easily and need to significantly limit their intake of processed foods such as white flour.

 Pay attention to how to feel after eating various foods to determine how your body functions best, but as long as you’re eating a variety of different kinds of foods prepared in a variety of ways (cooked, raw and fermented), don’t kill yourself stressing about having a perfect diet. (That would kind of defeat the purpose of having a healthy diet anyway…)

 These dumplings are completely scrumptious when made with pork, but they’re also good with ground turkey (which is much cheaper, and a bit more readily accessible), especially if you increase the seasonings a bit to compensate for a blander meat. I’m listing a range of amounts for the seasonings in the recipe below. Simply use the least amount recommended if you have real ground pork, and the largest amount if using ground turkey.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy 

Yeah, after my whole explanation of how white flour isn’t awful, I’m still only rating this kinda healthy. It’s not unhealthy, because you manage to avoid all the chemicals and additives you’d get buying ready made pork dumplings, but white flour is still a zero nutrient food. It could be part of the healthy meal, but in itself, it’s not a particularly healthy food.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

One of my husband’s favorites, and definitely a fun dish to have in your cooking repertoire.

Pork Dumplings

Dough:

2 cups white flour

1 cup boiling water

Filling:

1 lb ground pork or ground turkey

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

2 TBSP fresh parsley, minced

AND/OR

2 TBSP chives or green onion, finely sliced

2-4 TBSP soy sauce or soy sauce substitute

1 1/2-3 TBSP sesame oil, peanut oil or other oil

1 TBSP fresh ginger, finely grated OR 1 tsp ground ginger

Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup soy sauce or soy sauce substitute

1 TBSP rice vinegar (try lemon juice if you don’t have rice vinegar)

1 TBSP sesame oil, peanut oil or other oil

Mix together all filling ingredients and set aside. (You may refrigerate for as long as overnight if you want to make the filling ahead of time.)

If you have a food processor, use the blade attachment, put the flour in, and turn it on. Slowly pour a stream of the boiling water into the flour, and continue mixing until the dough forms a ball. Dough should have a ‘squeezy’ elastic consistency.

If you’re not using a food processor, just put your flour and water in a bowl, mix, and then knead until the dough comes together into a ball with an elastic consistency. (Be careful not to burn yourself on the boiling water!)

Roll out the dough (half the dough at a time) to 1/16 inch or thinner, until translucent. If it sticks to the counter use a little corn starch, potato starch or flour as you roll it out.

Cut into three or four inch squares. Put about a tsp of meat filling in the center of each square. If needed, spread a little cold water around the edge of the square to help it stick together. (Sometimes mine stick better with water, and sometimes without.)

Fold the square of dough from corner to corner, into a triangle shape, and press down firmly on the edges to seal them. Take the two corners of the triangle and fold them up, squeezing them together over the center of the dumpling. Repeat for each dumpling.

Boil about a quart of water in a medium saucepan. Put about six dumplings in the boiling water and let cook for five minutes or so. You’ll see the dough become more translucent, and if you like, you can cut open the first couple to make sure the meat is cooked properly.

Cooking Pork Dumplings

The pork dumpling on the left is cooked. The one on the right is still raw.

Fish out the dumplings with a slotted spoon or other implement of choice and repeat cooking directions with another batch of dumplings.

If  you need to keep them warm as you’re cooking more, you can put them in a warm oven in a small casserole dish with a couple tablespoons of water in the bottom to keep them from drying out.

Mix together dipping sauce ingredients.

Serve dumplings warm with dipping sauce.

Homemade Chicken Strips (with whole wheat breading)

Healthy Chicken Strips

 I’ve never seen an episode of The Pioneer Woman’s cooking show. I’ve been a fan of her recipes and her blogging style for years, but it didn’t even dawn on me until recently that most of her fans probably, you know, watch her show.

I’ve also probably never cooked one of her recipes exactly as it’s written. Granted, there are few recipes I have cooked exactly as written. Because really, who has exactly the same ingredients and food preferences as another cook somewhere? Still, I can see this affecting my qualifications as a true fan.

Despite these fan failings I just want to say that I pretty much stole this recipe from The Pioneer Woman (and then proceeded to tweak it for the way I cook) because she has amazing recipes. Her original version of this recipe is here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/05/quickie-homemade-chicken-strips/

Now for my changes:

I don’t buy the precut chicken strips. I buy ‘split chicken breasts’ with the bone still in, hack out the bones the best I can for the stock pot (the skin goes in with them), and cut the remaining slab of chicken into strips an inch or two wide. Any odd shaped bits are considered bonus nuggets and thrown in with the chicken strips to be fried up at the same time. (Unfortunately I don’t have video of this part of the process, but if there’s interest I can make a video next time I’m cutting up chicken breast.) I buy ahead when split chicken breasts are sale for .99 a pound, and divide the chicken strips into quart freezer bags. Each bag holds around two pounds of meat.

I almost never have buttermilk on hand. At different times I’ve used raw milk, soured raw milk, yogurt and whey to soak the chicken strips in, and they all seem to work equally well. The important part is soaking the chicken so the flour has plenty of moisture to stick to when you go to bread them. I usually just pour my chosen liquid into the freezer bag the night before when I pull the chicken strips out of the freezer, so they have a good long soaking time, but according the the original recipe, soaking them for 15 to 20 minutes before you cook them is good enough.

I use whole wheat flour instead of white. Also, because the whole wheat flour has more texture to start with, I find the touch of buttermilk in the flour to be completely unnecessary. I use soft white wheat, so the breading has little to no whole wheat flour taste. Red wheat should work just as well in the process but would have much more of a whole wheat flavor. (For those who are concerned that the whole wheat flour in this recipe doesn’t get soaked, see my comments on phytic acid here. This would be one of those cases where I think it’s better to enjoy a moderately healthy food than to obsess over making it ‘perfectly healthy’ and ruin your enjoyment of the food in the process.)

I use my own spice instead of the spice blend recommended in the original recipe, including, of course, garlic powder.

I avoid vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil and canola oil (not obsessively, but I’ll make some extra effort to keep other oils in my kitchen instead). I lean toward animal fats and coconut oils as being the healthiest oils, especially for frying, but right now my compromise oil for frying is rice bran oil. It is, at least, non-gmo, and not a food that’s over produced and hidden in most food already, so I’m not afraid of over exposing myself to rice. Sunflower seed oil, grapeseed oil and safflower oil would also fit in the compromise category.

While we’re on the subject of frying, are you poised to object when I get down the healthiness rating and declare a fried food as healthy? Once again, it’s  case of moderation and variety. Nearly everything, including water and raw spinach, is bad for you if you over consume it. Yes, I’m in favor of water and raw spinach as part of a healthy diet, possibly even in large amounts, but I think a simple variety of real, non-processed foods takes the stress out of concepts like oxalic acid, phytic acid and other real food scares.

Similarly, a diet consisting only fried food would undoubtedly be problematic, whether that’s because of lack of raw vegetable enzymes or an over consumption of fats. But that’s no reason to declare fried food unhealthy and inedible. Use healthy ingredients, use frying as one of many methods of preparing those healthy ingredients, and enjoy your food before you kill yourself by stressing about your food too much.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Chicken, milk or whey, whole wheat flour and healthy (or healthyish) fats. I’m not saying this one’s a superfood, but as noted above, I think it’s perfectly reasonable inclusion in a healthy diet.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

This one’s a winner, and possibly even a good transition recipe if you’re trying to wean your family off of processed foods. In my opinion, a lot of the real yumminess factor comes in your choice of sauces served with the chicken strips, but they make a solid base for such yumminess.

Breading Chicken Strips

Chicken Strips

about 2 lbs of strips of chicken breast

about 1 cup of sour milk, yogurt or whey (enough to cover the chicken)

about 1 1/2 cups of soft white wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp garlic powder, or to taste

optional: heavy dash of black pepper, sprinkle of cayenne

Lard, coconut oil or neutral flavored oil for frying (about 2 cups or so)

Soak chicken strips in chosen liquid overnight, or for a few hours. (Edited to add: I do this in a quart size ziploc bag, as the chicken is defrosting, but you can also use any bowl with a lid, or without a lid for that matter, if your fridge is sane enough to allow for such things.)

Begin heating lard or oil of choice over medium heat in a frying pan. I normally make the oil about half an inch deep in the pan.

Mix flour and spices. (As long as it’s still BEFORE you dip raw meat in it, you can actually taste a pinch of the flour mixture to make sure the salt and spice ratios are to your liking. You want the spices to be a light background flavor, and the flour should tasted salted, but not too salty.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have  a really good system for knowing when the oil is hot–I normally just wait two or three minutes, make sure I feel plenty of heat coming off the oil, and start frying. If you’re new to frying and don’t have an oil thermometer, I would mix a spoonful of flour with a spoonful of water, and drop it in the oil when it starts to get warm. When this impromptu batter has bubbling oil around it and is turning golden brown. (If you do have an oil thermometer aim for 350 to 375 degrees.) Adjust the oil temperature as you go, if needed. If the breading is only very lightly browned after cooking for 2 minutes on one side, turn the burner up a notch. If it’s getting dark brown or overly crispy by a minute and a half on one side, turn the burner down a notch (or two).

When the oil is ready, dip a chicken strip in the flour mixture. (Tongs make this part less messy.) Thoroughly coat the strip with flour on both sides. Place the strip (carefully!) into the hot oil (the tongs come in handy again here), and repeat until your pan is full without being crowded.

After about a minute and a half, and when the first side is getting golden brown and crispy, turn over the chicken strips. (It helps to have a second pair of tongs for this part–one for raw chicken, one for cooking chicken. Also, one for raw messy breading, one for hot oil.)

Cook on the other side for about a minute and half, then remove the strips to a warm oven. (I like to put a couple of paper towels on a cookie sheet or plate for receiving the newly fried, and dripping with oil chicken strips.)

If you’re concerned about whether the chicken is done or not, here a few tips: The chicken will be floppy and squashy when raw, cooked chicken will be firm and hold it’s shape when pressed or picked up from one end. If you make a slit into the chicken and clear liquid comes out, it’s done–pink or bloody liquid means it’s not done yet. If you’re still in doubt, cut a couple chicken strips in half to make sure they’re done, until you get a feel for how long they take to cook on your stove. (You could also try the whole meat thermometer thing, but it never works for me.)

Serve with dipping sauces. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, sweet and sour sauce, honey mustard and ranch are all excellent choices.

Garlic Green Beans

Good Bad Food: Garlic Green Beans

This is one of my husband’s favorite vegetables. If your family doesn’t like garlic this recipe won’t help you out much in getting them to eat vegetables, but then if your family doesn’t like garlic, you probably won’t use most of the recipes I post. I like garlic. A lot. I make a conscious effort to use other seasoning strategies at times to switch it up, but if I’m in a hurry and need to season something it will probably get garlic, basil and salt and be declared done and yummy.

Also, anything short of biting into a raw clove of garlic could  not possibly qualify as too much garlic around here, so if you’re a nominal fan of garlic, but less hardy in your garlic consumption, you may want to cut back on the number of cloves of garlic used in the recipe.

A note on the amount of green beans: I generally use 16 oz packages of frozen green beans when I can find them, but as stores continue to sneak price increases by shrinking package sizes, I often have 12 oz packages of green beans on hand. Because I cook so much by feel and taste I don’t specifically adjust my recipe to different size bags of green beans, but if it matters to you, the recipe as written is more specifically formulated to the 12 oz size.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only are none of the ingredients unhealthy, but as a yummy way to eat vegetables, this recipe encourages more vegetable eating than commonly suggest ‘recipes’ such as plain celery sticks or iceberg lettuce with fat free dressing.

 Yumminess Rating: Yummy

To quote my husband, “Even people who don’t like green beans like these, because they taste like real food instead of slime”. (He went on to clarify that he, personally, does actually like green beans anyway. They’re just better with garlic and butter on them.)

Garlic Green Beans

1 package frozen green beans (12-16 oz)

5 TBSP butter

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

Mince or smash the garlic cloves according to your preferred method. (See the video for my preferred ‘smash it with a cleaver’ method. It gets it done fast!)

Melt the butter in a skillet (cast iron is preferable) over medium heat. Add the green beans, garlic and salt. Stir so the butter coats the green beans. Continue to stir as needed until the green beans are all thawed and beginning to warm, then stop stirring for a few minutes.

The green beans will release liquid, which will then boil off until you’re left with just bubbly butter again. At this point, let them cook for one to two more minutes without stirring. (If you’re in a hurry, or able to stand over the pan while they’re cooking, turn up the heat to medium high at this point. If you want them to cook slower, or without direct supervision you can leave the heat on medium and go longer between stirring.) The green beans should begin to develop a slightly caramelized golden brown color by the time you stir them. Be careful not to let them burn, but leave them on the stove until many of the green beans throughout the pan have developed this coloring.

(If you’re in a hurry you can skip the browning step, and just have buttered garlic green beans, but the caramelizing adds a lot to the flavor.)

The above recipe serves 2. If you need to serve a crowd, I recommend using 6 lb green beans, 1 pound of butter, 1 head of garlic and 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste). You may need to caramelize the green beans in batches when making a larger amount.

(Remember the point in the chocolate syrup video where I almost dripped chocolate syrup on my laptop? At about 6′ 18″ in this video, half a spoonful of green beans goes splat right on my laptop, and I totally try to pretend it didn’t happen.)

Tepache: A Fermented Pineapple Drink

Tepache: Fermented Pineapple Drink

Aldi often has fresh pineapples on sale for $1 or $1.29 each. Being the nerd and foodie that I am, I once weighed a pineapple after I’d cut off the top and rind and all the inedible bits to find out how much edible fruit was in a typical pineapple. It weighed right around two pounds, which makes the cost of the fruit on a sale pineapple 50 to 65 cents a pound.

Since my rule of thumb is that any food $1 a pound or less qualifies as cheap food, and I’m especially happy when I find basic, healthy food like fruit, veggies and meat in that price range, I began to make a habit of buying a pineapple or two whenever they went on sale.

However, despite that fact that I knew it was a screaming deal anyway, I started to wonder about all the parts of the pineapple I was throwing away. It seemed like rather a lot of waste. Wasn’t there any use for pineapple rinds?

Turns out , there is a use for them. Google turned up this recipe for tepache, a fermented mexican drink made from pineapple rinds, sugar, and a bit of cinnamon.

Traditionally, tepache is mixed with beer, but on it’s own it seems to have a very low to non-existent alcohol content (depending somewhat, of course, on just how long  you ferment it). We’ve used in rum based cocktails a couple of times, but we also just drink it straight as a kind of pineapple soda or use it as a smoothie base.

 Healthiness Rating: Healthy

It’s fruit based, probiotic, contains cinnamon which is good for your immune system and blood sugar response, and you can adjust the sugar content down for a more tart, less sweet drink if the turbinado sugar disturbs your healthy food sensibilities.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I’ve said in other recipes occasionally, this isn’t one of those foods that we discovered and decided we had to keep it on hand all the time. It’s a nice change of pace, and it tastes good (and yes, it’s husband approved), but it’s not something I often find myself craving.

Tepache

1-2 cups turbinado sugar (1 cup for a tart drink, 2 cups for a sweet drink)

12 cups water

1 pineapple

cinnamon and ginger to taste (1/2-1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 tsp ginger)

optional: clove and/or nutmeg to taste

(Edited to add: A commenter on youtube mentioned using vanilla instead of cinnamon, which sounds good to me. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’d guess using about a TBSP or two of vanilla in place of or in addition to the other spices would be about right.)

Put the turbinado sugar and two cups water in a saucepan over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Cool.

Rinse the pineapple lightly, but don’t scrub too hard, or use cleaners–you don’t want to remove the natural yeasts that start the fermentation process. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple, then cut off the peels (see video for more detailed instructions in cutting up your pineapple). Save the pineapple fruit for another use. (If desired, when  you cut up the fruit you can add the core to the tepache.

Put the peels in a large bowl or crock suitable for fermenting. Sprinkle with spices. Pour in sugar/water mixture and ten more cups of water. Cover peels with a small plate to keep them submerged.

Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and set aside to ferment for 3-5 days. It should be bubbly and a bit foamy like this when it’s ready to referigerate:

tepache foamRemove the peels and pour the tepache into a jug or jar. Cap tightly and refrigerate for two to three days until fizzy. (You can also drink it right away if you don’t care about carbonating it.)

Chocolate Butter Mints

chocolate butter mints

The front mint is coated in cocoa powder, which is totally a valid serving option, and also a valid photographic

option for those with minimal photography skills trying to make chocolate look edible in a picture.

 So, as I may have mentioned before, I have the kind of metabolism that runs well on proteins and fats. Unlike my carb metabolizing husband, I’m not that thrilled with being given random pieces of bread, but I could eat sour cream by the spoonful and have been known to lick off butter wrappers before I throw them away.

Enter this recipe for a socially acceptable way to eat butter. It looks like candy and tastes like chocolate, but has all the satisfying healthy fats of eating pats of butter. If you were so inclined, you could use half coconut oil to increase the types of healthy fats in this candy. Because my husband’s digestion strenuously objects to coconut oil I haven’t tried this yet, but I might in the future, as my metabolism and energy levels highly approve of coconut oil.

Now, even with straight butter, when my husband first tasted these he said they were good, but a little too much like eating butter for him to really love them. However, he found himself regularly snitching them as they sat in the fridge, so either he as over thinking it as first, or they grew on him rapidly.

The first batch I made was lighter on both the honey and the cocoa powder (probably 2 TBSP of honey and 1 heaping TBSP of cocoa, but of course, I didn’t actually measure). I preferred the lighter sweetness of the first batch for snacking, but for the full blown dessert experience the second batch (with 4 TBSP of honey and 2 heaping TBSP of cocoa) was amazing.

I mentioned in the video that I use Young Living brand peppermint oil, and while I’m not going to fangirl over it, there is an important point to be made about the quality of essential oils. There are some substances labeled as essential oils which are extracted by chemicals, diluted with other substances or otherwise carelessly and fraudulently handled, and those are completely UNSAFE to use, especially internally. I can’t say that I’ve researched every single oil company out there, but I can say that I believe Young Living to make a completely safe, high quality oil. Please make sure you do your research before choosing a brand of essential oil, to make sure you’re confident in the safety of what you’re using.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Butter, raw cocoa, raw honey, and sea salt. Can you say superfoods?

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

With the small proviso that if you’re a carb person these are just ‘good’, as a non-carb person I proclaim these butter mints to be completely amazing.

Chocolate Butter Mints

1 cup butter, softened

6-8 drops peppermint essential oil (Young Living oils are intense–you may need more if you’re using another brand)

2-4 TBSP honey

1-2 TBSP cocoa (feel free to make them heaping TBSP)

pinch of sea salt

Put all ingredients in mixer and blend, or blend by hand with a fork. Make bite sized mints by squeezing through a pastry bag, ziploc bag with the corner cut off, or by dropping small spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until firm.

(I bet these would easier to handle if you rolled the mixture into a small log, refrigerated it for an hour or so, and then sliced off bite sized chunks. I haven’t tried this  method yet, but it would probably be tidier than anything I’ve tried so far.)

Chocolate Syrup

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Homemade chocolate syrup on top of whipped cream on top of hot chocolate,in my favorite mug, which was a Christmas present from one of my nieces.

Everyone should have a chocolate syrup recipe in their arsenal. If you make homemade vanilla ice cream, you don’t want to have put store bought syrup full of nasty chemicals and corn syrup all over it, do you? And certainly you’d rather make chocolate milk out of your organic raw milk by adding homemade honey sweetened chocolate syrup, wouldn’t you? Especially if if doesn’t taste like honey? And that’s not even mentioning the decadence of adding squirt of homemade chocolate syrup to a cup of coffee with cream and a bit of coconut oil melted in, or the fact that it’s worth eating by the spoonful.

What I really love about this chocolate syrup recipe is that every ingredient is actively good for you.

The butter gives you healthy fats.

The cocoa gives you antioxidants, and if it’s raw it also provides magnesium and other minerals (hello, superfood!).

The raw honey is anti bacterial and contains a range of enzymes, vitamins and minerals, and as a bonus, if it’s local honey it helps prevent allergies by essentially ‘vaccinating’ you to the local pollens.

The raw milk also contains good enzymes and, of course, the commonly know range of nutrients such as calcium.

The sea salt contains many minerals.

Even the vanilla has compounds that reduce stress and inflammation and may even increase mental performance.

I have to admit, you’re not going to eat this chocolate syrup in large enough quantities to get your daily calcium out of it, (at least, I don’t think you are… but it is pretty good stuff, so maybe I shouldn’t make such a sweeping statement) but the point is, there’s good stuff instead of bad stuff.

This recipe was based on Sally Fallon’s carob sauce recipe in Nourishing Traditions. I made a few changes, first because carob should never be used as a chocolate substitute, and second because I rarely have cream on hand. (No worries, I increased the amount of butter to compensate for the lack of cream.)

I’m sure God had a good reason for making carob, and it must have good uses all it’s own, but it’s really hard to discover those uses when everyone wants to pretend it tastes like chocolate. This is exactly the sort of ‘healthy’ philosophy I’m opposed to here on this blog. A lot of people seem to think that if tastes good, if must be bad for you.

I once heard a lecture with the great premise that foods ‘by God’ are good and foods ‘by man’ are bad for you. So, fruits and vegetables are good for you, but chemical food additives are bad for you. Except that coffee was on the ‘foods by man’ list with no explanation as to what made it unnatural other than an assumption that it must be bad for you, so it had to go on that list. Now, I do happen to believe that coffee was designed as a boost for when you need extra or unusual amounts of energy, and constantly seeking that boost (daily or several times a day) will eventually wear out your adrenal glands. However, that is no excuse for claiming it’s evil and bad for you across the board. My point in all that being, of course chocolate is good for you! There are now studies come out that verify this, but we really could have guessed this to start with.

People stress too much. People just need to chill and eat more chocolate. (And have no guilt in occasionally eating that chocolate in the form of a mocha latte.)

For some reason, this recipe tastes good and chocolaty despite being honey sweetened. I’ve tried making homemade chocolate  with honey it tastes weird. (Agave works better.) But in this syrup the honey taste is hidden enough that even my husband likes it. We really need to do a side by side taste test with this syrup and store bought chocolate syrup, because I bet this also deserves the title of better than store bought, but I can’t officially vouch for it.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy As covered above, every ingredient in this chocolate syrup is good for you.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy Complete, 100% yumminess.

Chocolate Syrup

1/2+1/3 cup butter (13 1/2 TBSP)

2/3 cup cocoa powder, preferably raw

1/3 cup honey

3/4 cup milk

pinch of sea salt

1 TBSP vanilla

Melt butter over medium heat. Turn off heat and add all other ingredients.

Whisk 1-2 minutes until it begins to thicken and look shiny. Refrigerate until use. (The syrup actually turned out super thick after refrigeration, so it may need less whisking than I thought. I’ll update this post when I figure out how long to whisk for consistent results.

Variation: Increase butter to 1 cup and decrease milk to 1/2 a cup. When whisked until thick, pour into chocolate molds or a small baking pan and refrigerate. Eat as chocolates as they are, or use as the centers for truffles.

(Also, it’s just occurred to me that you could probably make an amazing peppermint chocolate syrup by adding a couple drops of peppermint essential oil.)

Be sure to watch for the moment at about 6′ 16″ in the video when I almost drip chocolate syrup on my laptop keyboard…

100% Whole Wheat Bread (soaked flour, soft and fluffy!)

004

I didn’t believe 100% whole wheat bread could be this soft and fluffy until I tried this recipe over at Passionate Homemaking. It was amazing. Even my husband, who is a devoted fan of white flour, truly enjoys this bread, without asking me if we can have white bread sometimes too. He does enjoy a variety of bread, so I need to get a couple of my other good bread recipes back in the rotation, but this makes a really good every day bread. It’s good for sandwiches and toast and eating plain with butter. What more could you ask for from a loaf of bread?

But, of course, in true Good Bad Food style, I couldn’t just leave the recipe alone. I substituted chia seeds, which I’ve been trying to get into my diet more, for the flax, which I don’t always have around. (I know, cooked chia doesn’t have the full benefit of omega 3s, but it still has fiber and protein and is generally good for you.) I didn’t want to have to deal with sprouted flour (to many steps and too much work to make, and too expensive to buy when you could just mill your own non-sprouted flour for pennies) or with the phytic acid from the unsoaked flour (see this post for a full discussion of my thoughts on phytic acid and soaking grains), so I found the perfect ratio of flour/chia/grains to water to make a dough soft enough to be kneaded but still stiff enough to use only the soaked dough without the addition of extra flour. And of course, I had to employ the technique I learned from Ada Lou Roberts in Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farms and add ginger to the yeast proofing mixture.

Also, I cut the recipe in half so my Kitchen Aid wouldn’t die while kneading it. (Seriously, this recipe almost killed my Kitchen Aid at first. I have a Professional 600 model, the same one used by my sister who has 9 children and hasn’t killed her mixer yet, to the best of my knowledge. I didn’t know you could overheat this mixer with bread dough until the first time I tried making the full batch version of this recipe.)

The result is a reliable healthy recipe for bread, using only ingredients I usually have on hand (no added vital wheat gluten or dough conditioner), and that’s really enjoyable. It’s also versatile as I often make hamburger buns and sometimes hot dog buns out of the same dough I use for my every day bread. (The buns are a little less flexible than store bought white buns, which is especially noticeable with the hot dog buns, but the hamburger buns at least have always worked just fine for us.)

In the bread I made for the video, real life intervened, and my bread dough soaked for an extra day before I got around to making the bread. The bread was still good, though with just a hint of sourness in the flavor from the extra soaking time. Also, you’ll notice in the video that it didn’t rise nearly as high as it should have. While the texture was still soft, this particular batch of bread was just a bit less fluffy than normal, and doesn’t demonstrate quite what ideally ‘doubled’ dough should look like.

Also in the video I make the comment that you can substitute coconut oil for the butter if you want to make it dairy free. I neglected to mention that if making the bread dairy free, you can substitute 1 TBSP vinegar or lemon juice in 1/2 cup warm water for the yogurt.

You can use honey instead of agave in this recipe, but I prefer to save my raw honey for eating, well, raw.

You’ll really want to check out my videos for this post, as in the course of making this recipe, I demonstrate all the basic techniques of bread making, which can applied to any recipe. For instance, if you’re not sure how to tell when your dough is done being kneaded, take a look Part Two of my video, around the 5′ 53″ time mark, where I show you how properly kneaded bread dough stretches thin without tearing.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

No bad ingredients, all whole grain. This bread is about as healthy as bread gets.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Even people who don’t like whole wheat bread like this bread. It’s soft and fluffy, hold together well for sandwiches and toast, and is hearty without being dense.

Whole Wheat Bread

6 TBSP butter, melted

5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or a scant 4 cups of hard red wheat, ground)

1 cup oats (I use quick oats)

2 TBSP millet, (optional, though I haven’t tried the bread without it)

2 TBSP chia seeds

1/2 cup yogurt

2 cups warm water

1/2 cup agave

 

1/4 cup water

1 tsp honey

1 TBSP + 3/4 tsp yeast

1/4 tsp ginger

2 1/4 tsp sea salt

 

Melt and cool the butter.

Rather than measure an exact amount of flour, I usually calculate how much wheat I need to make the right amount of flour for the recipe. So in this recipe, aiming for 5 1/2 cups of flour, I grind a scant 4 cups of hard red wheat and don’t bother to measure the resulting flour. Mix the flour with the oats, millet and chia. Add the butter, yogurt, 2 cups warm water and agave.

Let the mixture soak for 12 to 24 hours.

Mix together yeast, ginger and 1/4 cup warm water. (Very warm water but not hot enough to burn you is about the right temperature.) Wait for the yeast mixture to become very foamy then mix into the soaked flour mixture, along with the salt.

Knead for 20 minutes, or into a small piece of the dough will stretch very thin, almost translucent. Remove the dough from the bowl, put a small amount of oil in the bottom of the bowl, put the dough back in the bowl and flip it over so all sides of the dough are coated in oil. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled, probably for 1-2 hours. (Note: In the video I put the dough on top of my oven to rise. This works very well if the oven if set on warm or 200, but when I’ve tried to do this while cooking other food at 350 or higher, the bowl has gotten hot enough to start to cook the dough. This is not helpful. So, be careful that you find a warm place, but not too hot, for letting your dough rise.)

Punch the dough down and, if you have time, put the dough back in a warm place to rise until doubled again, for 30-60 minutes. (This makes a better finished product, but isn’t strictly necessary if you’re running short on time.)

Punch the dough down and shape as desired. This dough makes 2 loaves of bread or 12 large hamburger rolls or 16 hot dog buns. I often make one loaf and 8 large hamburger rolls.

Put the shaped dough in a slightly warm oven to rise. (If you’ve had your oven on warm or 200 degrees and then turn it off when you put the dough in the oven, this is perfect.) In 20 to 30 minutes, when the dough is doubled, turn on your oven to 350 degrees. Rolls with take about 20 minutes to cook. Loaves will normally take about 30 minutes.

If you’re not sure whether your bread is done, carefully remove it from the loaf pan and tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.

Technically, you’re supposed to let your bread cool before slicing into it, or it smooshes somewhat. But if you happen to want to slice into it immediately and enjoy hot bread, straight from the oven, slathered in butter, I shan’t disapprove this choice. I might even join you.

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