Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Home Gleanings   Leave a comment

Here are a few helpful bits of information relating to homemaking that I have discovered.

Ginger Tea

You’ve heard that ginger is a great anti-nausea, and so it is.  But if you want to deal with morning sickness, or any other cause of nausea, may I recommend fresh ginger tea.  Buy a piece of ginger root at the grocery store.  Grate about a teaspoon of it through a large-holed grater.  Steep this with boiling water in any tea ball or strainer that you have.  The longer you leave it, the stronger it gets.  Then add a bit of honey.  This knocks out nausea and is a lot more appealing, and fresh, than a stale dry ginger snap.

 

Cracked Skin

This happens to me every winter, or any time I have to wash my hands often.  This winter I definitely learned to use rubber gloves when doing dishes, but you can’t really complete all life functions with rubber gloves on, so, eventually, I had one or two places next to my finger nails, on one side or the other, that were cracked and raw.

I hate this!

It doesn’t seem to matter how much water you drink or how much hand lotion you use to try to combat this, it will still happen.

I used to put a tiny dab of petroleum jelly on these spots at night, top with a bandage and this would at least prevent the wound getting any worse overnight.  However, once the bandage came off in the morning, which it inevitably did because it got wet, then the spot was still there.  There was no actual improvement.  I just had to wait for it to heal.

This winter I tried coconut oil.  What a difference!  If you use a dab of virgin coconut toil and top with a bandage, not only does it protect the crack while you’re sleeping, in the morning, it is actually better.  I had one spot heal basically overnight.

I have used coconut oil before for peeling skin on feet, and it is wonderful for curing that as well.

 

How to Get Foam off Broth

If you’ve ever made homemade meat broth, you know that most recipes will tell you to skim the foam that rises to the top of the pot.

What I’ve always wondered was how on earth should this be accomplished when you are getting burns from the steam that is rising up in clouds?

Maybe this solution is obvious, but it wasn’t to me.  I’ve been making broth for several years now and most recipes tell you to bring the meat or bones to a boil with the water, then skim the foam.   What I do instead is put a couple of chicken backs or a beef soup bone joint in my stock pot, and add filtered water to cover or about 4-5 inches deep.  Then I put the pot on and turn it to high.  While it is heating up, I get out a slotted spoon and a small glass dish to drop the foam into, as well as any herbs I want to put in the stock, sea salt and some fresh onion, celery or carrot.  I always put in a bay leaf for either chicken or beef broth.

So now putter around the kitchen doing anything else you need to be doing, such as making lunches, etc., because you don’t want to leave the room. When you see that you are getting a few bubbles and just a tiny bit of foam, probably several minutes before it actually comes to a boil, (I love my glass lid for noticing this!), remove the lid.  Over the next 60 seconds or so, you will start seeing more foam.  Start scooping it out now with the slotted spoon.  It will continue to form and you will skim it off.  By the time the broth or stock actually comes to a boil, you will have most of the foam off, and you will have done it without burning your hand.

I have found that once the stock comes to a boil, if you turn it down, the foam breaks up into small chunks which slip through the holes in the spoon, making it a lot harder to get out.  This above technique has made the process a lot easier and more comfortable.

 

Homemade Sour Cream

I had no idea how relatively simple this is.  If you like sour cream but you want some without additives and stabilizers, you can make your own.  I used one half of a commercial package of yogurt starter, and two cups of cream.  You heat it up just like you would milk to make yogurt.  I believe it is to 180 degrees.  Stir occasionally to keep the temperature as even as possible.  Then let it cool back down to lukewarm, pour a bit of the cream into a clean jar, add the starter, and stir it in.  Then pour the small amount back into the larger amount in the pot, stirring well.

After that simply put your cream in a clean, sealed jar, and let it ferment.  I let it sit 24 hours because I’m currently avoiding lactose, and that longer ferment time is supposed to get rid of  lactose.  If you don’t have a yogurt maker, you can put the jar in a small cooler with warm water.  Change out the water every so often, to keep it pretty warm.  After 24 hours, or maybe less if you like the consistency and aren’t trying to remove the lactose, put it in the fridge and chill.

Fooling with a cooler is a bit of a hassle, but not too bad.  And, I have actually done better with using a cooler than with a commercial yogurt incubator–I think it was too hot.

Voila, you have made sour cream.

 

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Posted March 2, 2017 by swanatbagend in food, health

What Are You Eating?   Leave a comment

As those of you who know me well know, I love to cook, and I love to eat.  Over the years due to health problems experienced by various members of the family, I have learned a good bit about a variety of different diets.  When your nose runs every time you sit down to a meal, you start to do some homework.  In the course of this journey, I have learned to always read ingredient labels.

Well…in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably say that I haven’t learned to do this, because I don’t always read ingredient labels.  For one thing, product ingredients can change.  You think you’re on top of what is in something, and don’t bother checking, and then once you get it home you notice there is something in it that you should not eat.  That’s usually what I run into.

Also, there are surprises, ingredients you don’t expect, usually because it makes no sense for them to be in the product you’re buying in the first place.

There are quite a few additives in most foods in the grocery store, and if you want to avoid them, you’re going to need to read labels and buy fresh foods, not prepared ones.  Oh, and did I mention reading the labels?

Here are a few surprises we had lately.

We enjoyed pancake and muffin mix from family as a Christmas gift.  It is organic and non-GMO.  The pancakes were delicious for sure, but the pancakes included organic malt extract and natural flavoring.  If the flavor of organic pancakes is so fantastic, why do they need flavor enhancers?

I was looking at baby shampoo, which of course you don’t eat, but your skin absorbs whatever you put on it, so thinking along these lines for a gentle safe soap for babies, I was thrilled to see that–no whoops, I  mean confused to see that baby shampoo has, among about 15 other ingredients that I couldn’t identify, two kinds of yellow food coloring.  Slather it on!  I’m sure that will have health benefits for your baby.

You’ve heard that if you want to eat healthy, just buy your food from the areas around the outside edge of the grocery store, thus avoiding the processed, packaged foods that make up the majority of the center aisles.  I think in general that is a good idea.  But, even with fresh food, don’t stop reading those labels.  You still have to look for additives.  I recently discovered that conventional ground beef has natural flavoring in it.

Why does plain ol’ meat need natural flavoring?  Honestly, what is wrong with its flavor alone that requires additional support?  I asked the meat guy about this and he told me it’s been in there for years, basically industry standard, and if you want meat that does not have natural flavoring in it, you have to buy organic.

I have to say, that’s the dumbest, wrongest thing I have heard at the grocery store in a long time!  Meat.  That is all it is supposed to be.  But, if your family, like mine, reacts to food additives and flavor enhancers, you are going to have to find an alternative to grocery store meat.

This in itself is wrong.

In a perfect world, you would not have to read every label and get the life story of the food you want to purchase.  But here we are, in a culture where as long as it’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) it can be in your food.  Why not add another stabilizer, another thickener, another flavor enhancer to this product? must be what the companies are thinking.  What’s one more? the public already takes in hundreds of substances that are not actually food, but that are allowed in substances that used to be food.  It must have started somewhere.  Sometime, natural flavoring was the only additive in your food, and you only ate it once or twice a week.  But just a little at a time, more and more preservatives and flavor enhancers and food colorings were added, and you ate more and more of the prepared and processed foods.

And here we are with a grocery store full of substances that I cannot honestly call food.

And people who don’t make a lot of money and can’t afford to buy organic meat are forced to take in all these substances that aren’t needed in the first  place.

And we are pondering why we are chronically ill.

What are you eating?

 

 

Posted February 2, 2017 by swanatbagend in food

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What is Cooking For?   1 comment

I’ve been forced to examine this question over the past months as I have been doing the GAPS introduction diet.  The diet’s aim is to heal the digestive tract and it requires you to prepare basic foods from scratch, including yogurt, clarified butter, salted and toasted nuts, and many others.

At the same time, while my family has been doing most of their own cooking, since they are not following the GAPS intro diet, I have been managing the schedule of what they are eating as well, shopping for their food in addition to mine, and supervising the cooking and preparation to some extent.

And of course, all four of us have been dealing with the mounds of dirty dishes that are created by cooking meat stock and making three meals a day (times two!) from scratch.

I have realized that I have internalized the advertising and ideas in our culture, even though in general I fight to resist that.

I personally think that cooking should be pleasant and enjoyable.  Food should be nutritious and appetizing.  But honestly, looking at flyers from the grocery,  TV commercials, and product packaging, it’s not hard to conclude that really, the main thing you need to know about food preparation is that it should be convenient.

Recently, I got an email from Kroger advertising their Clicklist service, which is apparently now improved so that you can place your order online and then pick it up within hours, instead of having to wait until the next day.  The email conveys the view that not only should you not have to cook, you shouldn’t even have to shop.  All you have to do is place your order online, and then relax while store employees get it ready.  You drive up to Kroger and they load it straight into your car!  All this is normal, right?  This is what you deserve.  This is how things should be.

Procuring food and preparing it should be convenient–because you can’t afford to waste your valuable time actually cooking real food.

That seems to be the message.  But I wonder if this view is not realistic.  Or perhaps it’s one of those ideas which allow you to get the consequences of your choices.  I doubt that any advertising is going to tell you what those might be.

What is it that we are doing that is so important that we can’t raise, purchase or prepare nutritious fresh vegetables and fruits, locally raised meats, eggs, bread?  So pressing that we can’t cook these foods ourselves, but we must outsource almost all of the preparation of what we intake to sustain our bodies and our lives to large companies who don’t even know us?

I’m not saying that you are a moral failure if you don’t cook every meal from scratch.   I believe in outsourcing any food preparation that doesn’t drive my cost too high and that doesn’t require me to feed myself or my family ingredients that will cause us mental or physical health problems (substances marketed as “food” that do cause mental and physical health problems abound, but that is another blog post).  Also I like to cook and many other people don’t.  So if you don’t like to cook, that’s fine.

What I object to is our culture’s view that cooking is a waste of time.

When did other responsibilities become more important that sustaining and nourishing our bodies?

What is so important about our activity that we cannot utilize real foods to heal our illnesses?

When did our lives become so full that there is no time to prepare a meal and eat it together?

Why is convenience more important than just about every other quality of food that you could mention?

Cooking is not an obstacle keeping you from a better life.

Posted January 21, 2017 by swanatbagend in diet, food

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Unexpected Ice Cream   Leave a comment

I love surprises like this one.  After running around doing errands on a day which was too warm for my taste, and involved too much traffic due to its being warm and pleasant (at least I guess that is what brings drivers out en masse when the sun shines), I was grateful to come to a point where my 11-year-old son and I were done with errands and could go sit on the comfy chairs in the library with books/New York Times/new novel, our Wednesday ritual.

But guess what his sharp eyes spotted?  A Graeter’s Ice Cream food truck outside Whole Foods.

I’m glad he did.  They were giving away free samples.  We both got a small but still generous serving of peppermint chocolate chip.  That hit the spot.

Not that I needed a sample to know I love Grater’s…

Posted November 5, 2015 by swanatbagend in food

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That Worked Well   2 comments

I did it.  I changed some things about a recipe I found in a magazine and improved it.  Talk about satisfying.

I got this stir fry recipe from Kentucky Living magazine a few years ago.  Here’s how I make it.

 

Broccoli and Beef Stir Fry, serves 5-6

1-1.5 pounds good quality beef steak cut into thin strips

garlic powder to taste

1/4 cup soy sauce (or more to taste)

3 cloves fresh garlic

1/4 cup olive oil or other oil

1 medium white onion cut into 3/4 inch chunks

1 sweet red pepper cut into 3/4 inch chunks

5 or more cups fresh broccoli florets cut small

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

cornstarch and water as needed

Combine steak strips, soy sauce and garlic powder; I used about 1/2 teaspoon maybe of the garlic powder?  You could marinate with the fresh garlic but I like using both, so I start with the powder.  Set aside for 15 minutes.  Prepare all remaining ingredients.

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok.  Add beef and stir fry for a couple of minutes.  Move the beef to the side and add broccoli, garlic, and onion.  Put the wok lid on to steam, checking frequently so you don’t over cook the broccoli.

When the broccoli is almost done, add the red pepper and continue to stir fry until vegetables are crisp tender.  Reduce heat, and add a tablespoon of cornstarch with a couple of tablespoons of water if it’s too runny.  Add more soy sauce if desired.  Toss in the red pepper flakes, and serve with rice.  Delicious.  I like to serve it with yellow rice as the consistency is less sticky (turmeric is good for you anyway), so the kids eat more of the rice and it makes it all go further.

What made this improved?

The original recipe did not have enough garlic–only one clove.  All the items I put in except the meat had a strong flavor.  Some would say the soy sauce provides the flavor, but I think a stir fry is tastier if you keep fewer ingredients that all have distinct flavors.

Also, the original called for both yellow squash and cauliflower.  I’m sorry, but yellow squash does not belong in a stir fry.  It gets much too soggy too fast and spits seeds into the dish.  Yuck.  And cauliflower is too hard.  Plus you’ve already got the broccoli.  I just don’t see it.  And the cornstarch wasn’t called for either so I added it.  I like a sauce, instead of watery liquid seeping out from my rice on the plate.

So there you have it, my not so humble opinion.

The really fun thing was that the changes I made tasted the way I thought they would.  As Mrs. Elton comments in Jane Austen’s Emma, “My friends do say I have a way with chicken salad.”  However, I don’t know why I’m good at this.  I’ve never known why I just picked it up from the beginning, right after we got married.  I think there must be a spiritual gift of cooking because I certainly haven’t done anything to earn the good results I’ve gotten.  Sure, experience helps, but–not that much.

Posted May 22, 2015 by swanatbagend in food

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Keeping my Powder Dry   Leave a comment

In this case, my pudding powder.

I mixed up a box of chocolate pudding earlier today to serve for dessert at dinner tonight.  Both kids looked at me funny because they know my idea of dessert is usually purchased ice cream. They haven’t had store pudding in years.

That’s not to say that I don’t like dessert.  Those of you who know me know I very much like dessert.  Rather I don’t often take the time to make dessert.  When I do make it I always enjoy it.  My favorites usually involve chocolate, hence my current list of favorites starts with homemade vanilla ice cream with homemade hot fudge sauce.  I also like grain free almond butter brownies, warm with ice cream.  Chocolate creme brulée is wonderful, but has only been made once.  You get the idea.

Anyway, I had noticed an old box of instant pudding in the back of the baking cabinet, and since we’re out of ice cream, I decided to mix that up.  I haven’t done instant pudding since we went MSG free six years ago.  As part of that diet, processed foods are out.

It mixed up fine and is currently in the fridge chilling.

But on the way home from errands, I told my daughter what I just realized about the pudding.  It is Meijer brand.  I don’t shop at Meijer.  I haven’t shopped at Meijer for–hmm–maybe 12 years?  Does anyone remember when they opened up their store in Lexington?  It would have been a year or two after that.

So since there apparently wasn’t an expiration date on the pudding, I happily went ahead and mixed it.

And honestly I am sure it will be fine.  Kind of like the Twinkie the roach eats in Wally.

But in this case I certainly have been spending a long period of time–keeping the powder dry.

 

Posted November 5, 2014 by swanatbagend in food

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May Be My Favorite Dessert   Leave a comment

No special occasion.  I have just started making homemade vanilla ice cream and Grandma’s chocolate sauce because it is so good!  If you have an ice cream freezer, I think it’s worth the time to make homemade.   Later, I decided I needed brownies also.

So, here are the recipes.

Almond Butter Brownies (from my cousin Meghan with a few adjustments I made)

1 16 ounce jar creamy roasted almond butter

2 eggs

1 cup honey or maple syrup

1 T. vanilla extract

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

In a large bowl, warm up the almond butter until it stirs easily.  I microwave it on low.  Blend in eggs, then honey and vanilla. Blend in cocoa, soda and salt.  Then fold in the chocolate chips.  Bake in a  greased 9×13 casserole dish at 325 for 35 minutes.

 

Vanilla Ice Cream

2 cups milk

1 tsp. salt

1 3/4 cup sugar

1 T. vanilla

6 cups heavy cream

Scald the milk in a large pan until bubbles form around the edges.  Stir in salt and sugar until dissolved.  Then add the vanilla and cream.  Chill 30 minutes and then put in your ice cream maker and freeze.

The consistency of this is better than most homemade ice cream, because I don’t use half and half.  Just go for the cream.

 

Occidental Hotel Hot Fudge Sauce

This is my grandmother’s recipe.

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

3 T. flour

Stir together these ingredients well in a large saucepan.  Then add

1 cup milk

and cook on medium heat until thick.   Remove from heat and then add

1 tsp. vanilla and 2 T. butter.

Store in the fridge and serve either hot or cold.

 

You won’t regret the effort on these.  I guarantee it.

Posted September 24, 2014 by swanatbagend in food

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