Monday, November 17, 2014

Make Ahead Breakfast Bowls

After our October Unprocessed adventure, I haven't really gone back to cereal as a breakfast staple. I've been sticking to whole wheat muffins, and quite honestly, I was getting bored. I needed something different-and something with substance. Enter the breakfast bowl!

And the best part about these-you can make them ahead of time!

It does take some time to prepare, but it's well worth it early the next morning! Plan on about an hour and 15 minutes to cook and assemble.

Full recipe is at the bottom, but here's how I made these:

Start with potatoes. I used red and purple potatoes just to add some more color to breakfast.

While the potatoes are cooking, you can also cook and chop your bacon.

Then the eggs. Scrambled was the direction we took, but I'm sure other ways would work too.

Then top with a bit of cheese.

All that's left is to pop the lids on and into the refrigerator they go!

In the morning, I can grab one of these as I head out the door. I can heat it up at work and have a hot breakfast bowl ready to go.

Make Ahead Breakfast Bowls
Makes 9 bowls, but if you want to pack them full, then only about 6

Potatoes (enough to cover a large cookie sheet when cut into 1" cubes)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lb bacon
About a dozen eggs
1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you like)

Start out by cutting potatoes into 1"(ish) cubes. Then toss them with some olive oil, paprika, garlic powder (or minced garlic), and salt. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and roast for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees, or until soft in the middle with crunchy exterior. Let cool just until they can be comfortably touched.
While the potatoes are cooking (or cooling), cook the bacon. I prefer to do this much bacon in the oven. 400 degrees for about 12 minutes is perfect for us, but you may want to cook it a bit longer if you want crunchy bacon. Drain on paper towel lined plate and chop into bite size pieces.
Last, cook the eggs. I used about 10 eggs, plus some more egg whites (maybe 4?). I had a few containers of egg whites in the freezer that I had put in there over the summer. I figured they really should be eaten soon, so defrosting those and mixing them in here seemed like a great way to use them up.

Then it's time to make the bowls. Start with potatoes, then bacon, then eggs, and top with about a tablespoon of cheese. I tried to make sure each bowl had an equal amount of each ingredient, and I knew I wanted 9 bowls, so I probably only had about a quarter cup of potatoes, 2 strips of bacon, and about an egg and a half in each bowl. But, if you want a bigger breakfast, I would only use 6 bowls. Refrigerate for up to 5 days-or freeze!

To reheat them in the morning, about 45 seconds is all it takes.

These would be really good with salsa, or goat cheese with chives, or I suppose some people would prefer sausage instead of bacon, but I was making these for 3 of us, and I didn't want to mess with figuring out which bowls were mine that early in the morning, so we all got the same.

These were so good, I even got a text from my 16 year old stepson telling me how good they were this morning!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Canning Stock

It seems like this time of year, I'm going through cans and cans of stock. I love making my own, but it takes up so much room in the freezer. So this year, I finally decided to can my own. I don't know why I've never canned it before, but I'm so glad I did this year!

My stock always varies a bit depending on what I have available, but it always starts out the same:

Salt and Pepper
Bay Leaves
Parsley (if I have it fresh)

From there, I can make veggie stock, or I can add chicken, turkey, or beef bones to make stock. I add enough water to cover the veggies and bones, cover and let it simmer.

I usually let the stock simmer for at least 6 hours to make sure I get all the good stuff out of the bones. Then, strain the stock and pour into hot jars, leaving 1 inch head space. Process at 10 lbs for 25 minutes for quarts or 20 minutes for pints.

If I have a jar that doesn't seal, I just pour it out into a container and toss it in the freezer.

I think I ended up doing about 50 jars in the last couple of weeks. It sounds like a lot, but with homemade noodles, soups, and couscous, we go through quite a bit of it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Muffins

I was flipping through recipes last night trying to find a decent unprocessed recipe for pumpkin muffins. I couldn't really find anything that sounded all that great, so I decided to take a regular recipe and alter it to fit my needs. I had no idea these muffins would turn out as good as they were! I didn't take pictures along the way, so you'll have to settle for looking at these gorgeous muffins in their finished state.

4 eggs
1 c sorghum syrup
1 c honey (or agave nectar)
2 c pumpkin
1 1/4 c applesauce
3 c whole wheat flour
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1 t salt
1/3 c cocoa
1/4 c chocolate chips (I used this recipe)

Mix eggs, sorghum, honey, pumpkin, and applesauce in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until fully incorporated, then add the chocolate chips. Remove about 1/4 of the batter into a small bowl and add the cocoa. You can adjust the cocoa to taste. 

Scoop pumpkin batter into muffin tins. Fill each cup about half way. Then add a spoonful of the cocoa/pumpkin batter on top of each. Using a knife, gently swirl the cocoa batter around without mixing it in. 

Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes. 

This made about 30 muffins for us. I seriously could have eaten all 30 of them! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October Unprocessed Week 4

Four weeks of unprocessed foods later, we realized it's not as bad as we thought it. And by we, I mean my husband and step son! The biggest change is how we react when we eat processed foods. Let's just say it's not a fun experience for anyone! 

On the plus side, I'm down 11 1/2 lbs! It's not super noticeable, but my clothes are fitting much better. 

We have also added new foods to our kitchen, which is always fun. 

In the end, there are some minimally processed and convenience foods that will make their way back into our lives, but there are also many unprocessed foods that are staying. I'm not going to feel guilty about eating these pulled pork fries from The Mug. The slaw is made on site with whole foods and the fries are fried in lard. Not exactly the healthiest thing on the planet, but still delicious! 

The hot dog below is unprocessed-no nitrates or preservatives. But the condiments and bun, not so much!

To be honest, I'm ready for some ice cream. And maybe a Pumpkin Spice Latte!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tacos de Lengua

Last week was a little rough. I was really tired all week. I even took naps a few days. It just seemed like no matter what I did, I couldn't get enough sleep. Then Thursday hit and I got the most intense craving for beef tongue. Yeah, I know. Very random thing to crave! But to be fair, my first experience with beef tongue came from Joseph Decuis and it was Wagyu beef. It was amazing. Before I lose you completely, here's the final product-it looks a little more appetizing than the raw meat  :)

Between the exhaustion and the craving for offal, I figured I had to be a little anemic. So I started my search for beef tongue. It turned out to be a lot harder to find than I thought. I called several butchers, but no one had it. My favorite place to buy meat from wouldn't have it until this week, but I couldn't wait that long. I finally found a German butcher that had it! At that point, I didn't care they wanted $12/lb. So Saturday afternoon, I put the tongue in a brine and prepared it for Sunday.

After rinsing the brine, here's what I had:

Cooking the tongue is really easy. It only needs onions, beef stock and a crock pot. Start by laying sliced onions in the bottom.

Then the tongue and beef stock. The liquid should cover the tongue, so add a little water if you're short. Then cook on low for 8 hours.

Eight hours later, remove the tongue and let it rest. When it's just cool enough to handle, remove the skin. No one wants to eat that part and that would be a textural nightmare for me!!

Then use 2 forks to shred the meat

Now you have a big bowl of shredded beef tongue.

You can eat it just like this and it's quite tasty. It kind of has the flavor of a prime steak cut, with the texture of shredded pork. We wanted tacos, so I sauteed some red onions and garlic then added some of the shredded meat, along with my seasonings. I used oregano, chili powder, salt, paprika and cumin. Then all that's left is to top with fresh cilantro and enjoy!

I will admit, my husband had absolutely no interest in the tongue when he saw it raw. He really couldn't even look at it. I practically had to force him to try the taco. But when he did, he loved it! In fact, he took leftovers for lunch today-and this is the guy that snubs all leftovers!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stuffed Peppers

One of my favorite meals is stuffed peppers. It's a great balanced meal, all in one beautiful pepper and it's so easy to adapt to individual tastes. And I knew it was already perfect for October Unprocessed!

What you'll need:

Bell peppers
Ground meat

Start out by cutting the tops off of the peppers and cleaning out the insides. Chop the tops into small pieces to add to your meat.

Saute chopped peppers, onions and minced garlic in a little bit of olive oil, then add your meat. We opted for ground goat. Toss in whatever seasonings you like. I just used salt and pepper with the goat. While that is cooking, prepare your rice. We used the royal blend grains. 

Shred your cheese. We used Parmesan.
When the meat is fully cooked, toss the rice in the skillet and mix well. Then fill the peppers with the rice and meat mix and top with cheese.

 Bake until pepper is soft and cheese is melted. I baked ours at 375 for about 25 minutes

These are really quite filling, so I cut mine in half and saved half for lunch the next day. They are really even better reheated! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October Unprocessed Week 3

After three weeks of unprocessed foods, things are getting much easier. Here's what we learned last week:

1. Some of my coworkers brought in snacks one day last week. It was a little sad to see a table full of food and know all I could eat was the fruit and veggies. There was also a big bowl of fruit salad. I was a little excited about that, until I took a bite. It had preservatives in it! I was a little surprised that I was able to taste it in just one bite.

2. Weight loss wasn't a goal of this for me, but I finally stepped on a scale last Friday. I didn't weigh myself at the beginning of the month, so the last weight I knew was from a doctor's appointment in July. I figured that was probably close to my October 1 weight. I was down 6 lbs! And, I lost another 1/2 lb over the weekend! Yay me!

3. While most of our meals this month have required some alterations, there are others that I haven't had to change a thing-like stuffed peppers.

4. So my work is pushing this "Healthy Lifestyles" website on employees. I get the agenda behind it-by making people more aware of their health, they will (likely) make better choices, leading to healthier employees, leading to less expensive insurance rates. Ok, sounds good. Yesterday, I started digging deeper into some of the tools on the website, specifically those dealing with weight management and healthy eating. I was disappointed to read that the majority of their suggestions included 0 calorie sweeteners in place of sugar and "lite" versions of products. So not to be all conspiracy theorist, but it did occur to me that Anthem and Healthways (owner of Healthy Lifestyles) are partners and they are pushing artificial ingredients. Seems a bit counterproductive to me. And I tried to figure my calorie/fat/protein/sugar/etc intake for the day by entering foods I had eaten. Imagine my surprise when I tried to enter "baked potato" but the only item that came up was "Wendy's Baked Potato"! Really??? That's how most of the foods were-very few items could be found in whole food form. I know eating unprocessed foods has made me more aware, but I find it unacceptable that an insurance company is pushing these processed ingredients rather than whole, nutritious foods. Now I completely understand that not everyone is going to home cook every meal (see below!!), but whole foods should be available in these calculators. Rant complete.

Week three confessions:

I made us donuts for breakfast one day. And not the whole wheat pumpkin donuts made with sorghum syrup-the white flour, white sugar cake type donuts. At least they were baked? Yeah, I don't really have much justification here. I just wanted something different-and donuts sounded good.

We went out to dinner last Friday. We've done really good this month, but I forgot to start dinner in the crock pot that morning and we were all hungry. We picked a local farm to curb restaurant. Most of their products come from a farm owned by the same person and they don't use any fillers in their meats, so I figured that was a decent meal without completely compromising the last 17 days. I had a pork tenderloin and a root beer. These tenderloins are huge.
This was from the soft opening of the restaurant, but you get the idea of the size we're talking about here! 
I didn't even make it 1/3 of the way though the sandwich. In fact, I didn't even get to the bread. So 1/3 of a tenderloin and about half of my root beer later, I was stuffed. As we were heading home, I started having an allergic reaction. My gums and tongue were swelling! I knew I had an epi pen at home if it got too bad, so we continued on home. By the time we got home and I got some benedryl down, my entire mouth was swollen and I was starting to have a hard time breathing. This is the third time this month I've had an allergic reaction to food that has never happened before. I'm still not sure if it was the tenderloin or the root beer, but to be safe, I'll just avoid them both in the future. I guess I learned my lesson about cheating on the unprocessed challenge!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lunch-In a Jar!

I've seen several "in a jar" things floating around the internet and Pinterest for a while, but for some reason, I've never tried most of them. I'm not entirely sure why though. I was intrigued by the salad in a jar though and decided to try it out. I had Monday off work last week, so I made up a few of the salads so we would have them for lunch this week.

I didn't take pictures of the process, but here's what I did.

1. Rinse out enough clean pint size jars, lids and rings. Line them up on the table or counter, wherever you'll be assembling.

2. Get out enough bowls for all of your ingredients, along with a cutting board and knife.

3. Rinse all of your ingredients and start chopping!

4. Assemble the jars

5. Start with the dressing-just a little bit in the bottom of each jar. I used a homemade ranch dressing made from greek yogurt.

6. Then add all of your firm veggies than can stand up to sitting in dressing for a few days. I used carrots and celery

7. Next, the juicy veggies-like tomatoes. I didn't use tomatoes in this round, but I put ultra thin sliced apples here because they are a bit juicy. I also added some green onions here.

8. After that-the proteins. I used chopped boiled egg and feta cheese.

9. Top it off with greens. I had this fabulous mix of exotic greens that I used. You really want to pack the greens down so nothing moves around. No one wants soggy lettuce!

10. Pop the lid and ring on. Now you have days worth of lunches ready to go!

When lunch time rolls around, all you have to do is loosen the greens up then put the lid back on and shake! So I guess you get a little bit of an arm workout at the same time.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Loving These Smoothies

I love smoothies...and with this October Unprocessed challenge, it's actually rather surprising I didn't start making some before the halfway point. But here we are, halfway through October and here I am, enjoying a delicious blueberry, oatmeal, honey, banana, yogurt smoothie. And I love the fact that I can make several of these up ahead of time.

All I have to do is grab one from the fridge in the morning, and whenever I'm ready for it during the day, I have a cup full of fruit and dairy!

I like the added oatmeal because it gives it a thick texture and really keeps me full. And I love that I can use whatever fruit I have around-gives me a nice variety! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chocolate Mousse

At the beginning of the October Unprocessed challenge, I had lots of craving. Lots, and lots of cravings! They have subsided for the most part, but I did do a search the other day for a dessert that was quick and easy, yet still met the "kitchen test". I kept finding recipes for chocolate avocado mousse, but kept skipping past them because chocolate avocado mousse sounds disgusting.

But the more I got to thinking about it (and the lack of wide selection of recipes), I figured I would try it out. I happened to have avocados in the refrigerator and chocolate mousse did sound good.....

I saw several variations on the basic recipe. Some were vegan, some were low fat, and some were clearly just a way to clean out a refrigerator. But they all had the same basic core: 

Milk of some sort (most had almond or coconut milk)
Sweetener (most used agave nectar)

So I grabbed the blender and threw all of my ingredients in: 

1 Avocado, cut into large chunks
1/4 c cocoa
1/4 c skim milk
3 Tablespoons honey
Pinch of salt
Few drops vanilla

After less than a minute of blending, here's what I had: 

Yes, that is the result of just a few ingredients in a blender. And it was delicious! Even my husband, who hates avocados, just about licked the bowl. I didn't tell him until afterwards what it was. he looked at me a little funny, but there was no complaining! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Last weekend, I made the best coconut curry shrimp. It was delicious! It tasted so good, it was worth the time to clean the shrimp, which is the main reason we don't have shrimp very often.

What I used: 

About 30 medium sized shrimp, peeled and cleaned
One onion, diced
2 Tablespoons garlic
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 can coconut milk
Salt to taste

I started the rice while the shrimp was defrosting. I didn't want plain rice, so we tried this blend. Kind of love it! It was great for this dish because it could stand up to the curry flavors, but was still mild enough not to overpower the coconut flavor. 

After the shrimp was defrosted, I started the onions and garlic in a just a bit of olive oil. 

Then it was on to peeling and cleaning the shrimp....Ugh, I hate cleaning shrimp. But, I kept reminding myself that it would be worth it. And finally, I had clean shrimp to toss in the pan.

I only cooked them for about a minutes on each side because I didn't want to cook them all the way through at this point-they would be rubber by the time the sauce was thick. Then, I added the curry powder. I had yellow curry on hand, but this would be good with so many varieties.

Then I added the coconut milk and the paprika.

The coconut milk will start to thicken just about the same time the shrimp finishes cooking. Somehow, I managed to time this perfectly because the rice had finished cooking and sat for exactly five minutes. All that was needed was a quick fluff with a fork, then on to the plate!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October Unprocessed Week 2

We're halfway through this challenge and I've had some time to really think about the long term impacts of it and our lifestyles. Here's what we learned this week:

1. We love barley. Love it. It's kind of fun to discover new foods that we like.

2. My taste buds are starting to change now too. I'm not sure why it took longer for me to notice it, or maybe it was because I eat less artificial sweeteners than my husband, but I'm starting to pick up on more natural sugars now.

3. Not all cottage cheeses are created equal. I found only one brand that didn't contain preservatives or artificial ingredients. We all got really excited....over cottage cheese. I never thought I would get excited over cottage cheese, but here we are!

4. I'm sleeping better. My guess is this has more to do with not having the extra caffeine in the form of Starbucks than all of the other processed foods.

5. While I thought giving up Cheerios was going to be the worst part, I actually don't think I'm going to go back to cereal. I love having whole wheat breads or muffins in the morning. They keep me full for a long time. That's not to say I won't ever eat cereal again, but it's not going to be my breakfast staple anymore.

6. We are eating a lot more salads, and skipping the salad dressing altogether. I have been making a big bowl of salad and we can eat off of it for several days. The bacon and feta cheese add a nice salty flavor and really bring out the juiciness of the tomatoes. I've never been a huge fan of iceberg lettuce, so we've been using frisee and romaine.

Week 2 Confession

I had a really bad day of cravings. All I could think about was chocolate cupcakes, peanut butter M&Ms, and Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream. It was rough. I finally gave in and made peanut butter cookies. (1 c peanut butter, 1 c sugar, 1 egg) After I had a few cookies, I developed the most intense headache. I have to assume the two are related. The peanut butter and the egg are allowed in this challenge, but all that sugar was just too much for me. I used to love those cookies, but I don't think I'll be able to eat them anymore. And if I do, I'll just have 1.

Last night, I had a roast in the crock pot. It just wasn't getting tender. It was kind of a dinner fail. Normally, I'd throw in the towel and just have cereal for dinner. Since I couldn't have cereal, I ended up making popcorn, which actually is perfectly acceptable in the unprocessed challenge, but not exactly a balanced meal.

All in all, it was as pretty good week!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Crock Pot Roast Duck

For some crazy reason, we decided to raise ducks this year. I must admit, I much prefer ducks in the freezer than in the back yard!

I enjoyed watching them in their little pool. But they were stinky!! I was ready for them to go to freezer camp. 

We've cooked a couple of them now and we've decided our favorite method is in the crock pot. When we butchered, we didn't pluck them; we skinned them instead. It made our job a bit easier, but we lost some of the flavor and the fat that the skin offers. 

To cook the duck, I put a layer of sliced onions in the bottom of the crock pot, then put the seasonings (fresh sage leaves and thyme) in the cavity and salted the outside of the duck. Then I added carrots and potatoes around the duck. We turned the crock pot on low for 6 hours and let it cook away!

When I got home from work that day, the house smelled delicious! The meat just fell off the bones and was so tender and juicy! To finish dinner, I all had to do was pour the drippings out of the crock pot and make the gravy. 

Not only did this dinner taste great, but the duck, onions, carrots, potatoes and sage all came from our back yard! I don't know if it's because of the October Unprocessed challenge or the fact that we just grew more in the garden this year, but we've realized we are eating a lot more local food this month. And as much as I like eating the animals we raised, I'm going to let the folks at Maple Leaf Farms take care of raising the duck we eat in the future! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Last fall, we tried spaghetti squash for the first time and loved it! I can't even begin to tell you how many dinners we had that involved spaghetti squash last October and November. I may have gone a little overboard on it. But as spring and summer came around, it was forgotten. Our spaghetti squash plant in the garden produced just one very small squash, but someone else was kind enough to share their extra bounty with me, so we are once again stocked!

Spaghetti and meatballs is a favorite in my house, but I just don't have enough time in the day to make spaghetti from scratch all the time. When I decided to try to October Unprocessed challenge, spaghetti squash was the first food that came to mind.

For the spaghetti squash, I just cut it in half and rub each half down with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then, place cut side down on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and roast for about an hour at 425. Then using a fork, pull out all of the strands into a glass baking dish. I usually add about a tablespoon of butter and toss that well and top with grated Parmesan. Just before it's served, put it under the broiler for a few minutes for the cheese to melt.

While that is cooking, I start the sauce. Tomato sauce is one of my favorite things to make and it's so easy! I can use tomatoes I canned over the summer so it has a fresh, summery taste.

Saute one diced onion and a tablespoon (or 2) of minced garlic in some olive oil until the onions soften.

Then add in a quart of diced tomatoes (drained), a pint of tomato sauce, and herbs to taste. I used fresh basil, oregano and parsley from the garden. Then, just let it simmer.

For the meatballs, I combined a pound of ground pork, an egg, breadcrumbs from some peasant bread I made the other day, Italian seasoning and salt. Then form into balls and brown in a cast iron skillet. When all sides are browned, toss them in the oven to finish cooking. Usually by the time my sauce has simmered down to a good thickness, the meatballs are done.

When the meatballs have cooked all the way through, I add them to the sauce. This allows the tomato sauce to pick up some of the pork flavor and the meatballs to absorb some of the tomato sauce.

This is a pretty involved dinner, but it's always delicious and makes a great lunch the next day!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beef and Barley Soup

We're heading into Week 2 of October Unprocessed and things are going well. As part of this challenge, we decided to try some new foods, specifically grains. The first new food we tried was barley. I looked for a few recipes online and got an idea of how I wanted to cook it. Beef and Barley Soup seemed like the easiest route and I could use up some stuff from the freezer!

1 1/2 lb chuck steak (fat trimmed and cut into small pieces)
3 c beef stock
2 c sliced carrots
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 c peas
1/2 a medium onion, diced
1 c quick barley

I sauteed some of the trimmed fat from the steak in my big pot to get the flavors started, then removed the fat and browned the steak pieces and onion. Next, I added the stock.

( I had grabbed a container of what I thought was beef stock from the freezer, but when I went to open it, I noticed it said turkey stock. At that point it was too late, so I went with it! It still turned out great.)

When the stock started to boil, I added in all the veggies and seasonings.

The peas and carrots were semi frozen, so I let it simmer for a bit-maybe 20 minutes-then brought it back up to a full boil and added the barley. 

Finally, put the lid on and let it boil on low heat until the barley is tender.

The barley absorbed most of the liquid, so at this point, it wasn't really a soup anymore. Either way, we all loved it! Barley will be making its way onto our menu again. 

I was able to use carrots from the garden that I had frozen, turkey stock from our turkeys we raised, rosemary and thyme from our garden that I had dried, and peas from Husk-a local company that processes Indiana grown veggies. If you're in Indiana, I highly recommend checking out some Husk products!