Posts Tagged ‘food’

J and I experienced the new documentary Food Inc. a couple of weeks ago, and though I’m not through digesting it enough to share a whole lot of my thoughts here, I can’t not tell you about the Chipotle-sponsored free nationwide screenings of Food Inc happening this week.  If you haven’t yet seen this important film, or if you want to take friends or family members, please check out this link for a list of dates and locations.  Here in Houston, the free showing will be at the Angelika tomorrow night (July 15th) at 7:30 p.m.

I am so glad we saw Food Inc.  It reminded me of what I already knew, opened my eyes to new information, and gave me a major kick in the pants to keep me motivated in pursuing local and sustainable food.  Now, off to the Tuesday afternoon Rice farmers’ market!

(Huge HT to Vicki Powers of Houston on the Cheap for letting Houstonians know about this!)


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Well, this is about as anti-climactic as news gets, but that $50 Craigslist freezer does, indeed, work — and beautifully at that.  Sixteen half gallons of raw goats’ milk from Miabella Farm line the top shelf, cooked quinoa in hubby-sized portions waves from the door, and I’m chewing my lower lip over the exact composition of the fifty pound grass-fed beef and lamb order I’m about to place with Paidom Meats to fill up the bottom of the freezer.  What next?  I must say, life with a deep freeze suits me just fine.

On another note entirely, here’s a quick and easy recipe that I’m totally digging right now.  I love the lemony zing, and basil always seems just right in the summer.  It’s also a great way to use up the summer squash spilling over the farmers’ market stands — an annual dilemma for me (I wrote a whole post on the subject here).  Costco’s frozen wild-caught salmon filets keep the dish reasonably priced.  I eat it alone or with hemp seeds because my body still doesn’t love grains, but J enjoys it over quinoa or brown rice.  If you keep individual-size portions of cooked quinoa or rice in the freezer, this dish becomes a one pot meal.  Nice!

Baked Lemon-Basil-Garlic Salmon and Vegetables

4 pieces of salmon filet (4 to 6 oz each)
2 large zucchini, shredded (yellow summer squash would work too)
4 medium-large carrots, shredded

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (if your lemons have a dull flavor, you’ll need more juice)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine (e.g., chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, not riesling or zinfandel)
10 medium cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dried basil or 3 tablespoons fresh basil
sea salt
freshly-ground black pepper (I like to pepper pretty generously)

Preheat oven to 450.

Spray a 9×13 glass baking dish with olive oil and strew shredded zucchini and carrots in it.  In a measuring glass, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, wine, basil, salt, and pepper.  Pour half the mixture over the vegetables and stir to combine.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove the foil and lay the salmon filets on top of the vegetables.  Pour the rest of the lemon juice mixture over the fish and veggies.  Recover and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes, depending on how done you like your salmon.  Serve with hemp seeds, rice, quinoa, potatoes, or all by its sweet self.

Serves 4 to 6, depending on size of salmon filets and appetites.

*Note: If you don’t want to deal with adding the salmon later, you can put everything in the dish at the beginning and cook for 25 minutes.  The downside is that you’ll get overcooked fish.

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coconut bliss compressedBelieve it or not, I still have a pulse — and taste buds.  And those taste buds have been dancing with delight over a new discovery.  Have you heard about Coconut Bliss?  If you haven’t, allow me to share the good news.  It’s a dairy-free ice cream made from coconut milk that you can buy in your health food store, and it’s oh-so-heavenly.

See, I’m on a dairy-free kick for a bit to check for sensitivities, and I really wanted an ice cream fix the other day.  I needed ice cream.  While I’m all about making coconut ice cream at home (hats off to Kimifor that brilliant idea), my new itty-bitty freezer doesn’t provide sufficient room for my Kitchen Aid ice cream maker bowl.  Oh woe.  Until I procure an additional freezer, then, I have to buy my frozen treats in the store. 

Fortunately, I remembered seeing an ad for coconut ice cream and decided to check out Whole Foods’ offerings.  Sure enough, both Nada Moo and Coconut Blissgraced the shelves.  We nabbed Maple Pecan Nada Moo (giggle with me over their tag line: “When Having a Cow Is Out of the Question”) and Vanilla Island Coconut Bliss.  We needed one of each.  For research purposes, you see. 

The Nada Moo was yummy, yes, and far better than rice milk ice cream, but it didn’t come close to touching the profound excellence of Coconut Bliss.  CB was rich, velvety, full-flavored, sweetened perfectly, and just plain fabulous.  My mother-in-law said she might like it even better than regular ice cream.  We all agreed that we’d consider it on even footing with gourmet ice cream. 

Because I wanted to be absolutely sure about this recommendation before posting it, ahem, I bought another pint over the weekend, this time of Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge.  Studded with gorgeous chunks of hazelnuts and a thin fudgy ribbon, it was heaven on a spoon.  I’m so hooked.

So if you’re dairy-free, vegan, or if you’re merely an ice cream fanatic looking for the next thrill, you musttry this stuff.  It costs a pretty penny ($5 to $6 a pint), but it’s made with only organic and fair trade ingredients, and the dessert is so rich, a pint can satisfy four people.  Even once I get my home ice cream maker up and running, I’ll indulge in CB’s version regularly.  You simply can’t get that knock-your-socks-off texture at home.  Check out CB’s website for more info on their ingredients, story, and where to buy their products.

One last thought: The Vanilla Island flavor was awesome topped with fresh, local peaches.  Mmmm!

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When I first started this blog, I sang the praisesof Ina Garten’s Double-Chocolate Layer Cake.  It is, indeed, to die for.  My husband declared it his favorite cake, and he requests it for his birthday and Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately, it is also chock-full of gluten, so I regretfully retired the recipe when I got serious about my allergy.

Last November, though, because I couldn’t bear to see my dear J go cakeless on my account, I created a gluten-free, slightly healthier version of Ina’s masterpiece.  It was my first effort in converting a regular baked good to gluten-free baked good, and it was a huge success.  No one guessed it was gluten-free.  It was awesome!  In fact, this small triumph boosted my courage enough to attempt that gluten-free carrot cake at high altitude over Christmas (also a total success).

Starting with Ina’s recipe, I substituted Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix (found at Whole Foods, Amazon.com, and health food stores everywhere) for the flour, switched vegetable oil for coconut oil and white sugar for Sucanat, altered the leavening ingredients, and increased the frosting to cake ratio.  For what it’s worth, I also used duck eggs, which are supposed to be superior for baking, and I froze my layers before frosting them. 

I wish the pictures did the cake justice, but I had to take them after dark.  Still, if you want a rich, moist, deeply chocolaty, not-too-sweet cake that you can serve to anyone, regardless of health/allergy needs, you need to try this. 



Decadent Gluten-Free Chocolate Layer Cake

1 3/4 cup Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix
2 cups Sucanat or Rapadura (unrefined sugar, different from turbinado)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I like Real Salt and Celtic Sea Salt)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut oil, heated just until melted
2 large eggs (I used duck eggs with fantastic results; they’re especially good for baking)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

9 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 sticks (3/4 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg yolk (actually, I used 1 1/2 yolks, but you could get away with 1)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
4 teaspoons hot water

Preheat oven to 350.  If you’re using high quality nonstick pans, simply butter and “flour” (using Pamela’s or cocoa) two 8-inch round cake pans.  If you have regular pans, butter the pans, line with parchment paper, and butter again.  Then dust them with Pamela’s or cocoa, tapping out the excess.  

In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix Pamela’s, Sucanat, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt at low speed.  In medium bowl, whisk buttermilk with melted coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Slowly beat the liquid mixture into the dry ingredient until just incorporated, then slowly beat in hot coffee until fully incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 30 minutes, or just until a toothpick comes out clean.  Be careful not to over-bake them or the cakes will be dry.  Cool cake in pans 30 minutes, then invert on rack to cool completely.  Peel off parchment paper, if using.

For best results, individually wrap and freeze the layers for 24 hours, removing shortly before you wish to frost them.  This step isn’t necessary, but it seems to produce a moister final product, and it makes frosting easier (something that can be difficult with gluten-free cakes).

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or over very low heat, stirring, until melted.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute.  At low speed, slowsly beat in confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. 

In small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in 4 teaspoons of hot water.  Slowly beat coffee into the butter mixture.

Mix the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.

Set a cake layer on a plate with flat side up.  Spread 1/3 of the frosting on top.  Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up.  Finish frosting.

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Even in the midst of moving madness, I couldn’t resist sharing a new creation from my kitchen.  The story goes like this: I ordered two turkey breasts from my natural meat co-op a few months ago, expecting the breasts to be about five pounds each.  When I arrived to pick them up, I discovered that they were over ten pounds each!  Holy cow.  That’s a lot of turkey for two people to put away at once.   I roasted one this weekend and found myself scrambling for creative ways to present the same ol’ turkey night after night.  Some will go into the freezer, of course, but I’m having cooked meat on hand is super helpful at the moment.

Inspiration struck when I attended a friend’s baby shower on Saturday.  (Well, technically speaking, I missed the shower part, because I mis-read the invitation and showed up two hours late!  Fortunately, my friend was forgiving, the guests were friendly, and the hostess still had plenty of yummy food, so I still go to munch and mingle.  Phew!)  Everyone raved about the chicken salad cups, which I couldn’t eat because the salad rested in phyllo (gluten allergy and all that).  But I asked the hostess how she made the salad.  She mentioned chicken, Miracle Whip, celery, honey, cranberries, and pecans.  Hmmm…  I started thinking. 

And the salad below is what I came up with — shredded turkey studded with sweet apple, tart dried cranberries, rich toasted pecans, crunchy celery, and a kiss of nutmeg.  Yum.  The effect is surprisingly fresh and light tasting.  Think of it as a spring-time twist on a holiday classic.  My husband, mom, mother-in-law, and I all loved it.  This one is a definite keeper!  In the future, I may serve it alongside a salad of baby greens and cranberry vinaigrette.  Hello, beautiful.

Recipe notes:

  • I used cameo apples, which are sweet and crisp.  Choose whatever apples you like best, though I would suggest avoiding Granny Smiths for this project.
  • Don’t under-salt this salad if you’re using home-cooked turkey (as opposed to canned turkey).  You really need enough salt to bring out all of the flavors.
  • Do try to make this a day ahead.  This way, the cranberries soften up and swell a bit, and all of the flavors develop and meld together.
  • A nice variation would be to use a good yellow curry powder instead of nutmeg.  I sprinkled a little curry over a spoonful to test it before I added the nutmeg, and it was awesome!  I just found myself in more of a nutmeg mood this week.
  • Although I chose to forgo the added sweetness of honey (and Miracle Whip too, for that matter), I’m sure a little honey would taste fantastic, if that’s your thing. 


Turkey Salad with Cranberries, Pecans, Apples, and Nutmeg

4 cups cooked, shredded turkey (all white meat or a mix of white and dark meat)
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large apple, cored and diced
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
mayonnaise to taste (I used Vegenaise this time, though I hope to use homemade in the future)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and store in the refrigerator overnight.  Serve with crackers, on bread as a sandwich, or on a bed of greens.  It’s all good!

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I admit that we spend a lot on groceries.  While eating healthfully doesn’t necessarily equal a high food bill, when you toss in the stipulation that grains and most legumes must be avoided too, well, you can only go so low.  Fortunately, I still find ways to cut costs.  I buy quality meats through a co-op, make the most of my Costco membership, comparison-shop like mad, cook from scratch almost exclusively (i.e., no convenience items), buy my eggs from a farmer who doesn’t know his real worth (I wrestle weekly with wanting to tell him that he really should be charging more and yet wanting to keep getting a steal of deal), and try to focus on low-cost cuts of meat and cheap vegetables and fruits. 

Lately, I’ve also been trying to build an arsenal of frugal, grain-free, legume-free recipes.  Most of them aren’t fancy, but as long as they taste good and don’t kill our budget, we’re happy.  The best meals for us are those that work great with the addition of rice or quinoa for my hubby, who needs the carbs.  Poor Man’s Rosemary Beef and Vegetables is just such a dish.  A few weeks ago, I found myself in a real pinch without a menu plan and a dwindling supply of ingredients in my fridge and pantry.  Panicky, I threw a few items together and came up with what turned out to be a new favorite.  It’s not elegant, and it’s not pretty, but, boy, is it tasty!  We liked it so much that we’ve made it a couple of times since, and I have it on the menu for tonight too. 

Made with ground beef (can it get any cheaper?) and the most frugal of vegetables, this recipe is my contribution to The Nourishing Gourmet’s Nourishing Frugal Recipes Carnival.  It stretches a pound of meat a long, long way, especially if you eat it with the rice.  To spread the meat even thinner, try adding diced potatoes to the mix. 


Poor Man’s Rosemary Beef and Vegetables

1 pound ground beef
6 to 8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 medium stalks celery, diced
1/2 small-medium head of cabbage (red or green), thinly sliced
28 ounces petite diced canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
sea salt
black pepper

Brown the beef with the garlic and onions.  Drain.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes.  Adjust seasonings.

Serve alone or over cooked brown rice.

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I’ve tried some really fantastic ones from around the blogosphere lately and thought I should spread the wealth.  In no particular order:


Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Sage Sauce

from Simply Recipes

Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Sage Sauce

(Photo taken by Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and used here with permission.)

This is one of the best meals I’ve ever prepared — rich, savory, addictive, tender, melt-in-your-mouth good.  Whenever I bring it up as a possible idea for dinner, J’s eyes widen and sparkle while he rubs his tummy and moans his enthusiasm.  I’m pretty sure he starts salivating too.  Fortunately for both of us, this is also a shockingly easy meal.  Just a few chops of the knife and a bit of sauteing, and I’m done.  (Fresh sage is a must, by the way.  Don’t even attempt it with dried.)  I served it with Tinkyada rice pasta and steamed green beans with a side salad the last two times I made it, but tonight I’m going to try replacing the pasta with mashed potatoes.  I can’t wait!


Braised 7 Hour Leg of Lamb

from The Nourishing Gourmet

Talk about a slam dunk!  This was another make-J-moan meal.  Kimi posted the recipe on Friday, and I was so taken with it that I fired up the oven on Saturday.  The only changes I made were using a boneless leg (only $3.99 per pound from Costco!), reducing the carrots to 3 large ones, and reducing the cooking time to 5 1/2 hours to suit my 5 lb leg.  We spooned pieces of lamb, carrot, potato, and onions into soup plates and covered them with the cooking liquid, then ate it all like a stew.  Whew, I’m starting to get hungry again.  It was so fabulous that I rushed out to buy another leg to prepare the dish again for my mother-in-law’s visit this week.  The best part?  It’s easy, easy, easy — always a plus with in-home guests.  Especially when you have painters swarming your home to prepare it to go on the market next week.  Eek!


Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos

from Serious Eats

This recipe really hit the spot last night, although I didn’t plan ahead very well.  Yesterday morning, I threw a half-frozen chicken into my crockpot and left it to cook on high for a few hours.  In the evening, J helped me pick the meat off the bones, and I whipped up the dressing described in the recipe above.  It consists of chipotle peppers en adobo, shallots (I used them instead of the red onion), apple cider vinegar, oregano, and salt — all of which I happened to have on hand.  We served the chicken over organic baby greens with avocados.  J had some brown rice too.  It was super-fast and very tasty.  I’ll definitely add it to my what-to-make-in-a-pinch folder.  (Beware if you don’t like heat; this chicken salad burns.)

I just love blogs!  I feel like I learn so much and discover so many exciting things to try every day. 

What about you?  Do you have any newly-discovered healthy recipes you’re really jazzed about?

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