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Saturday, February 27, 2010

30 minute Mozzarella

There is nothing like fresh Mozzarella. It's creamy and melty and oh so good. And, surprisingly, it's something you can make at home. This recipe makes enough for 2-3 pizzas with lots of cheese.

You will need a few supplies. I bought mine at I bought the Cheesemaking kit for Mozzarella and Ricotta, but you could just get rennet tablets and citric acid. You'll need to have the following:

A large stainless steel pot
A food thermometer that goes down to 90 degrees*
A gallon of fresh milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
A strainer
A spoon
Salt or herbs for flavoring
Cheesecloth (optional)*
Rennet Tablets*
Citric Acid*

*these are included in the kit

Directions for Mozzarella

1. Start by getting out all your supplies.

2. Mix 1 cup chlorine free water and 1 1/2 tsp. citric acid.

3. Mix 1/4 cup chlorine free water and 1/4 rennet tablet (just break the tablet into 4 pieces). Stir until dissolved.

4. Add one gallon of milk to the pot. And don't worry, this is going to make a lot of cheese. For the price of a gallon of milk, you will get a large amount of mozzarella. For the price of one gallon of milk (plus your rennet and citric acid), you would probably spend about $6-$8 at the store.

5. Stir in your citric acid mixture vigorously.

6. Heat the milk to 90 degrees while continuing to stir.

7. Remove the pot from the burner and add the rennet solution with an up and down motion for about 30 seconds.

8. Cover the pot and leave it undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Check the curd. It should be thick enough to slice with a knife. If it's not thick enough yet, just put the lid back on and wait another couple of minutes. 
If it didn't form a curd... you're in trouble. (The only time that happened to me was when I accidentally mixed up the rennet and the water solutions.)

9. Cut the curd with a knife. If you look closely, you can see the little slices all throughout. Make sure you use a knife that goes all the way down.

10. Place the pot back on the stove and heat to 110 degrees while slowly moving the curds around with your spoon.

11. Take off the burner and continue slowly stirring for 2-5 minutes. (More time makes a firmer cheese.)

12. Drain the cheese. You can use a cheesecloth inside your strainer to really catch all the little curds. I prefer working without the cheesecloth, but you do lose some of the curds that way.
The next step involves heating the cheese. You can use the microwave or the waterbath method. I use the waterbath method because I'm a little afraid of the microwave. I'm not exactly sure what it does, nutrition-wise, to the food. But that's a subject for another day. If you want to use the microwave, skip to microwave method, below.

13. Heat a pot of boiling water to 185 degrees. 

14. Dip the colander full of cheese into the hot water a few times and let the water drain off. It's easier to work with if you do half the batch at a time.

15. Stir it around with a spoon. Once it starts getting stringy and stretchable, you'll know it's hot enough. If using salt or herbs, add these in now. 

16. Pull it like taffy. Pull and fold over until the cheese gets shiny. Shape into desired shape: a braid, a ball bite size pieces, even string cheese.

17. Put the cheese in ice water for 10 minutes to cool. This will also help it hold its shape.

18. Refrigerate or eat!

Alternate microwave method:
(You may want to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from hot spots.)
Ladle your curds into a microwaveable bowl, draining off as much whey as possible.
Microwave for 1 minute.
Fold the curds into one piece and add 1 Tbsp. salt or herbs (optional).
Microwave for another 30 seconds. Drain and stretch. If it isn't hot enough, microwave for 30 seconds more. 
Proceed with step 16 above.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Healthy Crescent Dogs

MMMmmm, crescent dogs. Just pop open the can and roll them around a hot dog and that's all there is to it.
Well, these aren't quite that easy, but what you gain in health is totally worth the extra effort.
Now, I know some of you who are new to real food are thinking, "How can a hot dog possibly be health food?" and wondering if that's a soy dog or something else in there. Nope! That's the real deal. All beef, natural, uncured hot dogs. I found these at Trader Joe's. You want to make sure they are uncured to avoid the nitrates that are used in the processing of most hot dogs. Nitrates (or nitrites) have been linked to cancer and are not a natural food. They are added to preserve the color and make the product (deli meat, hot dogs, bacon) last longer. So if you can find nitrate-free hot dogs, you are eating a tasty, healthy beef sausage. 
I cut the hot dogs into thirds and wrapped each crescent roll around them. We served it as dinner but it would also make a great snack or party food. We dipped them in homemade barbeque sauce.

Crescent Dogs (or Crescent Rolls)


  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees)
  • 1 cup of water, whey or combination
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups wheat flour

  • Directions
  1. Stir whey/ water combination together with flour. Let sit overnight.
  2. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar. Add eggs, salt and yeast mixture. Stir in enough flour until dough leaves the sides of bowl and is soft (do not knead). Let rise until double (1- 1/2 hours).
  3. Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface; divide in half. Roll each portion into a 12-in. circle; cut each circle into 12 wedges. 
  4. Wrap each wedge around a hot dog OR Roll up wedges from the wide end and place with pointed end down on greased baking sheets. Curve ends to form crescents. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks.

Barbeque Sauce
This flavorful sauce can be used as a dip or basted onto grilled meats. Makes about 2 cups.


1 1/2 cups organic ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar 
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. mustard
3 Tbsp. chili powder, or to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh peeled ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 slices lemon


Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. Stir often until the sauce comes to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. This sauce will keep up to two weeks in the fridge and can also be frozen.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Food Rules & giveaway winner!

The winner of Michael Pollan's new book
 Food Rules, An Eaters Manual
Congrats! I'll get in touch with you!
(The winner was chosen by

For those who didn't win, I'll share a few of my favorite rules from the book, how I put them into practice, and share some of my own rules too!

Michael Pollan's Food Rules:

Rule #3: Avoid food products that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.

I don't know about you, but I don't stock my pantry with any maltodextrin, red dye #5, hydrogenated soybean oil or many of the other ingredients  you see on labels. This rule helps you know what you are eating. It also means that before you eat (or buy) anything, you read the label. For years, I was a diligent label reader. I would scour that "nutrition facts" section for important information- How many calories? How many grams of fat? Now, I don't even look at that part. I just skip right down to the ingredients with one question in mind: what is this? and usually, when I read through that list, I put it right back on the shelf, because it's full of ingredients that are nothing I want in my kitchen or in my food.

Rule #15 Get out of the supermarket whenever you can.

As I've started to change the way I eat, I change the way I shop too. Every Saturday, we pick up locally grown, organic produce from our CSA group. Our beef was raised about 35 minutes away- on pasture- and slaughtered in a local meat shop where I went to pick it up. Our eggs are from happy, truly free range chickens that live outside on a local farm. The local beekeeper was able to tell me what the bees were eating when they produced our honey. There are still many things I buy at the grocery store, and I probably will never totally get away from that, but often healthier, more environmentally friendly choices can be found in other places.

Rule #33 Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi.

Sourdough bread, buttermilk and yogurt count! And someday I may be brave enough to try fermented vegetables.

Rule #39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.
Just last night we had a treat. It was homemade lemon pudding. I made it with 3 egg yolks, whole milk, cornstarch, sugar and a lemon. It was creamy and rich and delicious- and guilt free. I reduced the sugar, and the fats were from whole milk and those happy chickens I talked about earlier.  Preparing foods yourself not only means you control what goes in, but in all likelihood means that you'll eat it less often. And even though I make treats, I never make "junk."

My own rules:

Eat as healthfully as you can... but make sure it tastes good.

I learned to make sourdough bread a while back, because I'd read that it's good for you. But the truth is, I've never liked sourdough bread, and even though my husband does, he wasn't a big fan of my sourdough bread;)  So, after a few attempts, I realized: it may be healthy, but it doesn't do us any good if no one will eat it! If you've read my thoughts on sugar, you know that I don't think that's a good-for-you food... but it does make things taste good. I continually try to cut back, but honestly, I'll probably never eliminate it altogether because it is important to me that things taste good!

Eat food the way God intended it to be eaten.

I'm pretty sure corn was meant to be eaten as... corn. Or maybe ground into corn flour or corn meal. That's a lot different than the chemical process involved to make something like high fructose corn syrup or maltodextrin. I eat the whole egg, not just the white. Whole milk instead of skim. Wheat flour instead of white flour. As much as possible, I eat foods whole, because that is how God made them.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Desert Island Dish

Last week I posed the question: What one food would you bring to sustain life on a desert island?

It was interesting reading your ideas. If I had to choose one food to bring on a desert island, I'd bring raw milk. Here's why:

What is Raw Milk?

Raw Milk: The kind of milk you would drink if you had a cow. It's just milk, with nothing added or done to change it.
Store bought whole milk: homogenized and pasteurized. Homogenized means that they mix it really hard so that it won't separate. Every cup of milk is the same consistency. Pasteurized means that the milk is heated to kill bacteria.

At first glance, you may think that whole milk would be the better choice. I mean, every glass is consistently creamy, right? And we killed off bacteria, so we won't get sick. Sounds good, right? Not really...

Raw vs. Store Milk

Pasteurization kills off enzymes, vitamins and minerals. These are all found in abundance in raw milk. In fact, enzymes make raw milk so much easier to digest that it doesn't cause lactose intolerance in people who are prone to it.

Good Source of Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates

Raw whole milk is a good source of healthy, saturated fat. We need saturated fat for energy, for reproduction, to protect our immune system, even for our cells to function! 
Raw milk contains proteins. We need to take protein to help our body replenish and repair muscles, cell walls, tissues, bones and nerves. 
Raw milk also contains carbohydrates, used for energy, and also for the nervous system to function.

What about safety?

I know some people are scared of drinking raw milk. I had similar concerns at first. I worried that we needed milk to be pasteurized to make it safe to drink. But if you think about it, people have been drinking milk for thousands of years, and routine pasteurization of milk only began in the U.S. in the mid 1900's.

A little history...
Cows natural diet is grass. But in the mid-1800's they had an idea. There were many thriving distilleries making whiskey, and that produces left over "swill"- hot, mashed up grain. Some unscrupulous distillery owners decided to feed it to the cows. The cows were packed in crowded, unsanitary pens, eating unnatural food. This milk was then sold and drunk raw. People got sick. Children and babies died. So the government stepped in and came up with a solution: make laws that the cows eat a healthy diet? No! Just heat the milk and kill any pathogens that might be in there.

Drinking milk from cows fed a healthy diet of grass is a lot different that eating "swill milk" (or corn milk for that matter).  Healthy cows produce healthy milk. If safety is still a big concern to you, I recommend reading the powerpoint "A Campaign for Real Milk."

Raw milk diet

In the early 1900s at the Mayo clinic, a raw milk diet was prescribed. Patients drank raw milk exclusively to cure and treat several diseases. The following was written in 1929 by J.R. Crewe, MD about his experiences treating patients with raw milk:

"The treatment is used in many chronic conditions but chiefly in tuberculosis, diseases of the nervous system, cardiovascular and renal conditions, hypertension, and in patients who are underweight, run-down, etc. Striking results are seen in diseases of the heart and kidneys and high blood pressure. In cases in which there is marked edema, the results obtained are surprisingly marked. This is especially striking because so-called dropsy has never been treated with large quantities of fluid. With all medication withdrawn, one case lost twenty-six pounds in six days, huge edema disappearing from the abdomen and legs, with great relief to the patient. No cathartics or diuretics were given. This property of milk in edema has been noted in both cardiac and renal cases.

Patients with cardiac disease respond splendidly without medication. In patients who have been taking digitalis and other stimulants, the drugs are withdrawn. High blood pressure patients respond splendidly and the results in most instances are quite lasting. The treatment has been used successfully in obesity without other alimentation. One patient reduced from 325 pounds to 284 in two weeks, on four quarts of milk a day, while her blood pressure was reduced from 220 to 170. Some extremely satisfying results have been obtained in a few cases of diabetics.

When sick people are limited to a diet containing an excess of vitamins and all the elements necessary to growth and maintenance, which are available in milk, they recover rapidly without the use of drugs and without bringing to bear all the complicated weapons of modern medicine."

Not only would you survive on a desert island with only raw milk to drink, you would thrive.

I'll finish with a quote from "Raw milk from grass-fed cows is a complete and balanced food. You could literally live on it and nothing else for the rest of your life."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Arthur episode: what food would you choose?

My kids watched this episode of Arthur recently. I'm including the video in case you want to watch it. For those of you who get enough kids television ( I know I do!), I'll give you the gist of it.

Mr. Ratburn gives his students an assignment. They are supposed to choose one food that they would bring to a desert island. They need to choose the food that would sustain life as long as possible if this was their only food.

Interesting question. The kids come up with a few different answers:

Buster decides to bring ice cream. Mr. Ratburn says that this choice gives you "calcium, but not enough vitamins, fiber or protein."

Francine chooses BBQ potato chips. Mr. Ratburn is worried about the salt content of those.

Arthur wants to bring breakfast cereal. His teacher says, "How long can anyone survive on sugar and yellow dye #5?" He says that this choice gives carbs, but with far too much refined sugar and too little protein.

In the end, the kids get together and each bring one food from one of the food groups. They explain that you need a lot of different foods to be healthy.

I think most of us would agree that we wouldn't want to live off of one food for the rest of our lives. But, back to the original assignment-- what one item would sustain life for the longest? And what one item would you bring?

I'll post my answer on Monday, based on some recent reading I've done. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject and see what food you would choose!

And don't forget to enter my giveaway for Michael Pollan's new book. It ends 2/22.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How to make buttermilk & Soaked Buttermilk waffles recipe


Buttermilk is so easy to make and costs less too. You can use store bought buttermilk for a starter, as long as it is real cultured buttermilk. Use the freshest buttermilk you can find.

1. In a clean quart jar, add 6-8 ounces cultured buttermilk.
2. Fill the jar with milk.
3. Shake.
4. Leave out at room temperature until the buttermilk has gotten thick and coats the sides of the jar, usually 8-12 hours.
5. Take out a portion to use for your next starter. Refrigerate.

Soaked wheat recipes make the wheat easier to digest and better for you. (For more details on soaking grains, check out Kitchen Stewardship.) When you soak your flour, you start the night before. It just takes a short amount of time, but helps a lot with the morning rush. You already know what you're having, and with a good hot breakfast all planned, you're less likely to reach for the packaged breakfast cereal. 

Soaked Buttermilk Waffles with Orange Syrup

The night before:
In a large bowl, mix 2 cups wheat flour and 2 cups buttermilk.

The next morning, add:
2 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup melted butter

Mix well and cook in a hot waffle iron.  You will notice the texture of the batter is a little different (gooey-er than regular waffles)-- don't be scared, when cooked the texture is just right. When you soak the flour the night before, it makes the waffles lighter, even though they are made with all whole wheat flour.

Orange Syrup

1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice (about 3 oranges)
1 Tbsp grated orange peel
4 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar

Blend all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over med-high heat, stirring frequently, until thickened.

I like to juice and grate my oranges ahead of time and save them in baggies in the freezer. Then, I just thaw a pack and add the other ingredients in the morning. This has such a fresh citrus flavor- it is so good!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Michael Pollan's new book- it ends 2/22, so be sure to enter before then!

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My first giveaway!

Food Rules 
An Eater's Manual
by Michael Pollan

Product Description from Amazon:
A pocket compendium of food wisdom-from the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food 

Michael Pollan, our nation's most trusted resource for food-related issues, offers this indispensible guide for anyone concerned about health and food. Simple, sensible, and easy to use, Food Rules is a set of memorable rules for eating wisely, many drawn from a variety of ethnic or cultural traditions. Whether at the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat-buffet, this handy, pocket-size resource is the perfect guide for anyone who would like to become more mindful of the food we eat. 

This is the book that Michael Pollan talked about when he was on Oprah recently. Below is a clip from the show. Michael Pollan talks with Oprah about a few of the rules in the book, and the Western Diet.

Here's how to enter to win a copy of Food Rules. You get one entry for each of the following, for a total of up to 3 entries:

1. Subscribe in a reader or via email to Simply Real (or tell me if you already do).
2. If you have a blog or website, post about this giveaway linking back to this post.
3. Make a comment on any previous post on Simply Real.

Be sure to post a comment below telling me everything you did.  I'll choose a winner on February 23rd, so be sure to have your entries in by midnight on February 22nd. This giveaway is only open to residents of the continental U.S. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Perfect Crockpot Yogurt- so simple!

Yogurt sounds a little intimidating to make when you're starting out, but with a crockpot, this is so simple!

I've tried a few recipes and had great success with this one. We like our yogurt with a thick, creamy consistency and this recipe makes perfectly thick and creamy yogurt.

For plain yogurt, all you need is:

A Crockpot
Milk (we use whole)
Fresh, good quality yogurt (store bought or homemade)

Amounts for 2 quarts:
1/2 gallon milk
1/2 cup yogurt

Amounts for 4 quarts:
1 gallon milk
1 cup yogurt

Turn crockpot on low.
Add milk.
Wait 2 1/2 hours. (Set a timer!)
When the timer beeps, unplug the crockpot.
Set the timer for 3 hours.
When the timer beeps the second time, stir in yogurt. 
Replace the lid and wrap a towel around the whole crockpot to keep warm. 
Let sit for 8-12 hours.

That's it! Add your flavors next, and refrigerate to chill.

Flavoring yogurt (directions per quart):

Banana- blend 1 ripe banana in a food processor or blender. Add banana and 1 Tbsp. sweetener (honey, maple syrup, sugar). Stir gently to maintain consistency.

Berry- any berry will work, or you can try mixed berry. Chop 1/2 cup berries in a food processor. Add 1 Tbsp. sweetener. Stir gently to maintain consistency.

Maple Syrup- Add 2 Tbsp. maple syrup. Stir gently to maintain consistency.

Vanilla- Add 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 1 Tbsp. sweetener. Stir gently to maintain consistency.

Dessert yogurt- Use any flavor above and add sliced bananas, chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts are my faves), and some chocolate chips. It's a great "treat" with tons of nutrition.

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff
This is a great meal for busy weeknights. It comes together quickly and is full of nutrition from the beef, broth and butter. The sauce is creamy and has such a delicious flavor I want to lick the pan clean. (I try to restrain myself.)


1 pound grass fed beef tenderloin
5 Tbsp. butter, divided
4 Tbsp. flour
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 Tbsp. sour cream
1 tsp. dijon mustard
sea salt and black pepper to taste


Slice beef into thin (1/4 inch) strips. Season with sea salt and pepper. In a medium saucepan, melt 3 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir with a whisk until smooth. (Note: you can use wheat flour here, but I like the smooth consistency of white flour for this sauce.) Add beef broth and whisk constantly until sauce is smooth and thickened (about 5 minutes).  Set aside and keep warm.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Cook the onion until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the beef strips and cook quickly, 1-2 minutes. The meat should remain pink in the center. Grass fed beef is most tender when served rare to medium, so don't overcook.

Return the sauce to the heat and add sour cream, mustard, sea salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve with noodles.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Milk, milk, we love our milk

We just bought our 7th gallon of milk for the week.

We switch off weeks with buying whole, rBst free milk, and the other week buying raw, organic whole milk. We'd buy all raw milk if we could, but the cost is um, prohibitive, to say the least. So, what do we do with all this milk?!?

The two year old would live on milk if he could, but we ration it- 3 sippy cups a day, max.
The rest of us drink milk sometimes, and my husband uses it daily for cereal.

Making Buttermilk:
We use a lot of buttermilk for bread, for pancakes and waffles, and for soaking grains.

Making Cheese:
A new skill I'll be posting about soon- making homemade mozzarella and ricotta cheese. It's not hard at all!

Making Yogurt:
I found a new method in the crockpot that is so easy and so good! Recipe to come...
Yogurt is something else that goes quickly in our house.

Making mistakes:
One whole gallon went down the drain this week after I put the wrong ingredient in my cheese. I was trying to multitask and not paying enough attention to what I was doing...

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Real Food Basics: Grass Fed Beef

The Real Food Basics series covers the difference between industrial (grocery store)  food and traditional, real  foods. 

Let's talk about cows. If you live anywhere rural, you've probably seen them grazing on grass. It doesn't seem so remarkable- until you realize all the work that is actually involved. Cows have 4 stomachs (okay, technically, one large stomach with 4 parts, but 4 stomachs sounds cooler). The first two stomachs start the process of digestion. The cow eats her grass, and it gets partially digested. But, not digested quite well enough, which is why they have to spit it back up and chew it again.  This cud gets swallowed, and is finally digested by the other stomachs.
It's amazing that a creature as big as a cow can survive on something as simple as grass. It takes a grass fed cow about 5 years to be fully grown and ready for slaughter.

Industrial Cows:

But industry has shortened the process: Feed a cow corn and it can be ready for slaughter in a short 18 months! Pretty much all the beef in the grocery store is grain fed (mostly corn).
Cows have long digestive processes adapted to eating grass, not grain. They are meant to graze in the open. When they are fed corn and live in feedlots, there are all sorts of consequences:
~The cows get fatter- usually they are about 30% fat.
~Grains make them sick, and grain fed beef increases the risk of E. coli in humans
~There are less omega 3's, vitamin E and beta-carotene in feedlot cattle
~Feedlot cows are treated with antibiotics and growth hormones to prevent illness and fatten them up quicker
(Source: Real Food, what to eat and why by Nina Planck)

Grass fed beef:
"~Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner than grain-fed beef.

 ~Omega 3s in beef that feed on grass is 7% of the total fat content, compared to 1% in grain-only fed beef.
 ~Grass-fed beef has the recommended ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats (3:1.)
~Grass-fed beef is loaded with other natural minerals and vitamins, plus it's a great source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) a fat that reduces the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and a number of immune disorders.
Beef, in its natural grass-fed state, is a health food of the highest order." (Source: Mercola) 

"You are what you eat":
You've heard the saying "You are what you eat." Cows too, are what they eat. There are healthy, natural, grass fed cows, and then there are the grain fed cows that are sold in the grocery store. Michael Pollan, the food writer takes it a step further when he says, you are what you eat eats, too.  Grass fed cows are natural cows. They have stomachs adapted to eating grass, and they are at their healthiest when they are allowed to graze. It makes sense that eating a healthy animal would positively impact our health.

Where to Buy:
Check out for grass fed beef in your area.
Trader Joe's does sell some grass fed beef, imported from Australia.

When I talk about grass fed cows, I mean that they eat a diet of predominantly grass. Some cows are grass fed, but grain finished, which would be acceptable, if not ideal.

*I'll be posting recipes with grass fed beef later this week!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Uses for Kitchen Scraps

Besides just trying to get my money's worth when I buy food, I try to get every last use out of food after I bring it home. We buy the most nutritous food we can, and I try to make sure none of that goes to waste.

I buy whole free range organic chickens. At first I was too scared to try to cut it up them myself, but after watching video demonstrations on the subject, I went for it. And it's not that hard! Buying whole chickens is more economical. It costs almost as much to buy 2 chicken breasts as it does to buy the whole chicken.
First I separate the chicken into 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 wings. These will all be used for meals.
To make sure none of my chicken goes to waste, every bit of bone, fat, skin, or gizzard goes into my broth. When the broth is done, a layer of fat will form on the top. I peel this off and use it for cooking.
From one chicken, you are left with meat, broth, and cooking fat.

Like chicken, with beef or any other meat, you want to save those bones. The bones are loaded with nutrition. I usually save a baggie in my freezer and fill it with bones until I've accumulated enough to make broth.

Besides the bones, you will need carrots, celery and onions for your broth. Anytime we go on a picnic and have leftover carrots, those go into my broth bag in the freezer. For onions, I used to throw away the outer layer (you know the one right under the skin?) because it is usually a little tough. Now, I peel off the skin and throw the outer layer in the freezer. Celery and carrot ends can also be thrown into the freezer for later use in broths.
Some vegetables just aren't good for broths, though, so those go into our compost bin. I'm fairly new to composting, but I love it because it's a way to make sure nothing goes to waste: even the scraps get used to turn into great soil to grow more vegetables.

When our bread is starting to get stale, or when all we have left is a crust (bread skin, my kids call it) that no one wants to eat, I throw that in the freezer also. My bread ends get used for bread crumbs or croutons.

Bacon grease:
We save all our bacon grease in a jar in the fridge. You can use it where you would use any cooking fat, but because it has such a strong flavor, I like to use it most when cooking eggs and omelets, or when sauteing green beans.

We save and reuse all kind of containers: store bought yogurt containers are used to store our homemade yogurt in, hummus containers have been reused for feta cheese or pesto, old spaghetti sauce and peanut butter jars hold our rice and beans in the pantry.

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Whole Wheat Bread

This bread is a family favorite. Though I would rather have 100% whole wheat, my husband and I have compromised and I now do most recipes with half wheat, half white. It does make the bread much lighter when you use the white flour too. We like this bread because it is soft and fluffy, while still holding its shape enough to slice for sandwiches. This recipe also includes a great technique for shaping the loaf, so it turns out beautifully every time.

Soaking Grains
I adapted this recipe to soak the grains. If you are short on time, you can do it all in one day and still have delicious results.
I soak the grains to break down the phytic acid; it makes the bread more digestible and nutritious.
This recipe is adapted from William-Sonoma's Bread.

Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups tepid buttermilk
1/4 cup raw honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup melted butter, cooled slightly
1 tbsp. salt
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 cups unbleached bread flour

Day One:
Mix 3 cups of wheat flour with 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. Cover with a towel. Leave out overnight.

Day Two:
In a bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a heavy duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the buttermilk/ flour mixture, sweetener, butter, and salt. Beat on medium low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the yeast mixture. Beat for 1 minute.  Add the bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook. Knead on low speed, adding the bread flour 1 Tbsp at a time if the dough sticks, until smooth but slightly sticky when pressed, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and turn the dough once to coat it. Cover loosely and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1- 1/2 hours.

Lightly grease two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide in half and pat each half into a long rectangle. Fold one rectangle like a letter, overlapping the short sides in the middle; press to flatten. Beginning at the narrow end, tightly roll up the dough into a thick log. Roll the log back and forth with your palms until it is the same length as the pan. Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal. Place the loaf, seam side down, in prepared pan, tucking the ends under to make a neat, snug fit. Repeat with the second portion. Cover loosely and let rise until about 1 inch above the rim of each pan, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Bake until the loaves are golden brown and pull away from the pan sides, 35-40 minutes. Turn out onto racks and cool completely.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday,  What's cooking wednesday and Pennywise platter.