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Category — Kitchen Life

GNOWFGLINS Post: How to Feed a Scout for a Week at Camp (with food allergies)

My guest post at GNOWFGLINS this month is all about how I helped my son pack enough safe and healthy food to keep him fueled for a week away at Scout camp this summer. Please click here to read how we did it!

August 8, 2013   No Comments

Fancy Fun With Figs

I did it! Two weeks ago, I wrote about wanting to make a fig tart with fruit from the trees of family members (see Fun With Figs). And a little more than a week ago, in honor of Shawn’s birthday and at his request, I actually made it. I followed a recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cookbook The Pie and Pastry Bible, substituting sprouted whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour it called for in the tart crust. We thought it tasted like a fruit-infused tiramisu—especially on the second and third days, after the tart crust had moistened from soaking up the marsala-flavored mascarpone filling. It was the most gourmet item I’ve made in awhile. The process was time-consuming and required focus (something that’s often in short supply around our house!), but it was worth the effort to have something special to celebrate Shawn’s day. And I don’t even think he minded that I refused to mess up the masterpiece by poking 44 candles into it for him to blow out. After all, he’d already gotten his wish. :-)

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

August 3, 2010   3 Comments

Fun with Figs

When Shawn’s sister and brother-in-law gave us some figs from their backyard trees last week (thank you, Bonny and Art!), I was excited to have a new ingredient to play with in the kitchen. I was really inspired to make something fancy, such as the recipe I came across for a Fig Tart with Mascarpone Cream from The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. (I’ve been wanting to try Beranbaum’s pastry techniques with sprouted whole wheat pastry flour.)

But with a tight schedule (swim-team practice, summer homeschooling and recent freelance projects have kept our family hopping)—and an even tighter budget (I could easily sub out the mascarpone with homemade yogurt cheese, but I’d have to forgo some of the pricier and barely-used ingredients like sweet marsala wine)—I set that idea aside and looked for ways to incorporate the fruit into some of the recipes I make regularly. Enter the Basic Soaked Muffins I learned to make from my friend Wardeh Harmon, who shares the recipe on her blog (www.gnowfglins.com) and teaches extra-helpful techniques for making them in her GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse.

These muffins—which call for soaking the whole-grain flour overnight in an acidic liquid to break down nutrient-blocking phytic acid—are super versatile. As long as you follow the basic guidelines of the recipe, you can adjust spices and add-ins (fruit, nuts, etc.) to your preferences each time you bake the muffins. So far we’ve enjoyed them with raisins, apples, peaches, and—you guessed it—figs. The figs imparted a mild, sweet flavor and an incredibly moist texture to the muffins.

I have enough figs left to make another batch of muffins—unless I decide to revisit the idea of making the tart. Of course, we could just eat the figs. Which is what my best friend and mom blogger Wendy Neri—or, more precisely, her fig-obsessed Italian father-in-law—would advise. (Click here for a link to a hilarious post on her blog, www.mothernfodder.com, where she wrote about what fig-harvest season is like around her house.)

For learning to prepare traditional, real foods like the muffins I mentioned—as well as other soaked, sprouted, fermented and cultured foods—I can’t recommend the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse enough. After completing the 14-lesson class a few weeks ago, I have expanded my real-food repertoire to include now-staple items such as water kefir, homemade chicken stock, sprouted beans, soaked rice, and whole-grain sourdough bread. I am so impressed by Wardeh Harmon’s integrity and heart for teaching her methods, which she generously shares on a “pay-what-you-can” basis. The class is available online to start anytime, and you can pick and choose what lessons you’d like to learn when. And I’m so excited to begin Wardeh’s newest class—the GNOWFGLINS Sourdough eCourse—which launches today. It’s not too late to sign up for the class, which features the same pay structure and offers methods for mastering not only sourdough bread, but also other naturally leavened foods—including pancakes, biscuits, tortillas and crackers. I can’t wait to add all of that to my repertoire! :-)

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the book cover above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase it—and if you do buy it after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendations inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it from a friend.

July 13, 2010   2 Comments

A Half-Dozen …

… Kitchen Life musings to share (answering prompts from The Homekeeper’s Journal):

1. In my kitchen this week I’m struggling to stay on top of the meal preparation and cleanup. A lot of other things are requiring my attention right now, so I’ve neglected the dishes and some other regular tasks. I do have water kefir brewing, I’m soaking some pinto beans and brown basmati rice, and I plan to put a chicken in the crock pot today, too. I made soaked muffins with fresh figs for breakfast this morning, and they were super moist and yummy. Just need to tackle and tame the mess!

2. I think we do eat healthily almost all of the time because I insist on it and invest a lot of time into making it happen. Yes, we occasionally settle for foods that are less than ideal when our lives are so busy that I don’t have the time I need to spend in the kitchen. My goal is to have a good system in place that enables me to plan and prepare foods in advance so that we have healthy choices on hand most of the time.

3. My family is not resistant to healthy eating because I try to involve them in the process of choosing and cooking what we eat. That said, some of my family members do balk at trying new things. I think (and I hope) that if I consistently provide healthy food—and teach them at the same time why it’s important on both a personal and global scale—that they will naturally gravitate toward those foods on their own.

4. I don’t have a garden yet, but it is my dream to one day use as much of our suburban lot as I can to grow food for our family. Poor-quality soil means we will need to do a lot of work to build up/amend what we have and/or create a lot of raised beds. My biggest challenge will be finding the time and the money to make it happen. Right now, it’s extremely hot where I live in central Arizona, so I’m planning to make a small start somewhere in the yard in the fall or spring.

5. The hardest part about eating healthily for me and my family is finding the time that’s required to prepare everything. I love to cook, and I aspire to be organized and efficient, but it just doesn’t always happen with all of the other things I’m trying to balance—including homeschooling, house cleaning, freelance writing and editing, blogging, digital scrapbooking and other things that I love to do.

6. My favorite thing about preparing and serving healthy foods is knowing that my efforts are benefiting the people I love most. :-) I also like to think that the choices I’m making with my food budget are helping to ensure that healthy foods will continue to be available as viable options for all of us as consumers. It’s exciting to realize that in providing the best meals for my own family, I am a part of a ripple effect that helps others do exactly the same thing.

This post is part of The Homekeeper’s Journal, hosted by Sylvia Britton at www.christianhomekeeper.org.

July 13, 2010   No Comments

Skillet Skills

Skillet Dish

My Kitchen Life lately has centered around the lessons I’ve been learning through my friend Wardeh Harmon’s GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse. One of my most recent adventures actually employed two of the techniques she’s taught so far: how to make soaked homemade pasta, and how to combine ingredients on hand to make versatile skillet dishes.

In the pasta lesson, I learned to create a dough that “soaks” overnight (which basically means that the flour is moistened with liquid that includes an acid—such as apple cider vinegar—to help break down the grain’s phytic acid, which blocks vital minerals from being absorbed during digestion). After making the dough exactly as it was presented in the eCourse recipe, I got brave enough to try a variation on another recipe—one I’ve made and loved for awhile—from The Lemon Lovers Cookbook, by Peg Bailey. It already included an acid—lemon juice—so I just needed to give it time to soak. And I replaced the all-purpose flour called for in the original recipe with kamut flour, which I’d read lends a “nutty” quality to pasta. Well, it just couldn’t have turned out better! The pasta was a nice golden color, with a heavenly lemon fragrance and flavor. It rolled out easily and held its shape beautifully. I will definitely be making it again—and again!

I decided to put the pasta to work in my very first improvisational skillet dish (which is just a fancy way to say that I didn’t follow a recipe!). The basic idea for a skillet dish—as I’ve learned in the eCourse—is to combine a starch (the lemon pasta, in this case) with a protein (I used diced pastured chicken that I’d cooked in a crock pot) and a scratch-made sauce (I used coconut milk as a base, and blended it with sauteed onion and garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper). I was concerned that the lemon and coconut flavors would clash, but they were actually quite complementary. Topped with a little grated Parmesan cheese, it was an absolutely delicious dish—one that I’m happy to add to my growing repertoire.

What’s been cooking in your kitchen? I’d love to hear about any new techniques you’ve tried or family favorites you’ve come up with!

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the book cover above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase it—and if you do buy it after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendation inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it from a friend.

May 11, 2010   5 Comments

Guest Post: A Tale of Two Tarts

LemonTarts

I was delighted to be invited awhile back to write a guest post for my friend Wardeh’s blog (www.gnowfglins.com). When she asked for some ideas for sharing my real-food experiences, I immediately thought about completing a makeover on one of my family’s favorite desserts: Tiny Lemon Tarts from The Lemon Lovers Cookbook, by Peg Bailey. Did it work? You’ll have to click here to link to the post where I share the delicious details. :-)

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the book cover above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase it—and if you do buy it after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendations inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it from a friend.

May 5, 2010   2 Comments

Making Mayo and Culturing Water Kefir

I have been busy in the kitchen lately—just haven’t had a lot of time to write about it! So I’ll attempt today to catch you up on what’s been cooking, culturing and otherwise coming together (or not) around our house.

Mayonnaise

First, I finally made homemade fermented mayonnaise, following the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. It turned out a beautiful yellow color because of the pastured eggs, small amount of grainy mustard and extra-virgin olive oil in the mixture. To both ferment the mayo and allow it to keep for a longer period, I added liquid whey that I had kept from a batch of yogurt cheese I’d made a few weeks earlier. The mayonnaise has a wonderful, tangy flavor, and we’ve especially enjoyed it in egg-salad and tuna-salad sandwiches. (I toned down the taste at first by mixing it with our usual store-bought safflower mayonnaise. Nobody even noticed!)

Waterkefir

My next new adventure was making water kefir. I had been wanting to try this for a long time, but I finally got motivated to make water kefir when I needed it as an ingredient in a gluten-free sourdough starter (more on that later). Water kefir is a probiotic beverage cultured with kefir grains specifically dedicated to that purpose. After culturing, it can be flavored with fruit or juice and even carbonated for a healthy soda-pop-like drink. I made strawberry lemonade from my first batch of water kefir. I loved it, but it was a little on the tart side (too much lemon juice, not enough pureed strawberries) for the kids. And it did get slightly carbonated after I stored it in an airtight, flip-top bottle, but not as much as I’d thought it might. I’m continuing the experimentation with each new batch, trying out different flavors to see what the family likes best.

The rest of my Kitchen Life lately has revolved around the lessons in Wardeh Harmon’s GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse. So far, I’ve soaked and dehydrated almonds (the first thing I made in my new Excalibur dehydrator!), soaked and cooked brown rice, and made soaked muffins and pancakes. Next on my list is soaked biscuits and pasta, plus soaked beans. If you’re wondering what all of the soaking is about, I’m learning about the importance of soaking grains, nuts and legumes with a small amount of acid, such as apple cider vinegar, to eliminate phytic acid (which prevents mineral absorption) and enzyme inhibitors (which make foods difficult to digest). Wardeh will be offering the eCourse again later this year, and if you missed it this first time around, I encourage you to sign up and see how easy it really is to adapt your cooking to traditional, real-food methods.

Finally, I’ll mention my not-so-successful attempt to make a loaf of gluten-free sourdough bread. I got off to a good start with my starter (brown rice flour boosted by water kefir), which I fed for five days before mixing up the bread ingredients. Unfortunately, my bread didn’t rise at all, and the loaf turned out to be a flat brick that was chewy and unbearably sour. I e-mailed the author of the recipe, and together we determined that my starter might have become overfermented, and that my substitution of a half cup of millet flour for chickpea flour was apparently detrimental. I’ve heard that sourdough can be tough to master—and that gluten-free sourdough is even trickier. Still, I’m undeterred and will keep trying until I get it right one of these days. I have a different recipe to try, and I hope I can get to it this week. Stay tuned! :-)

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

March 23, 2010   6 Comments

Sweets for My Sweetheart

Chocolatepeanutbuttercandy

Shawn has always been a big fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so when I saw a healthier homemade version of this treat circulating on some of the blogs I follow, I knew I had to try it. My friend Wardeh Harmon wrote about it two weeks ago (click here to see her results at www.gnowfglins.com), and she found the original recipe here, on a blog called Oceans of Joy.

First, I soaked raw organic peanuts overnight in salted water to neutralize the nuts’ enzyme inhibitors. Then I dehydrated them almost completely in the oven the next day. (I didn’t get them quite as crispy as I would have otherwise because I planned to grind them into peanut butter. Next time, I think I will crisp them up all the way to impart a more roasted flavor.) I placed them in my Vita-Mix (another blender or food processor would work, too) with a bit of sea salt and ground them until they were smooth. It wasn’t what I would call creamy peanut butter—it was a bit crumbly, actually. But I knew that I would be adding coconut oil, honey and vanilla to it to make the peanut-butter cups, so I decided that was OK. And it was. Next I made the chocolate mixture, and then I began layering the chocolate and peanut-butter filling into heart-shaped candy molds. It was a little time-consuming, but not difficult. I popped the filled molds into the freezer, and after dinner I surprised Shawn with his Valentine’s Day treat.

We both liked the peanut-butter cups, although the chocolate layers were the tiniest bit bitter. Next time, I think I’ll add a touch more honey—or maybe even melt in some Enjoy Life brand (dairy-free and soy-free) chocolate chips—to make the sweets just a little sweeter. :-)

Nothing else in my Kitchen Life was new this past week, but that, I’m excited to say, is about to change. I enrolled in the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse (which I wrote about here), and I’ve been preparing for the lessons that will begin after the enrollment period ends Feb. 22. I ordered a free sourdough starter (which I hope will arrive before Lesson 12: How to Make Sourdough Bread!). I’ve lurked a little in the forum, where other enrollees have written introductions and shared resources. And I watched instructor Wardeh Harmon’s sneak-peak video detailing how to make her basic soaked muffins. You can tune in, too, by clicking here.

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

February 16, 2010   4 Comments

Some Sweet Stuff

My Kitchen Life got off to a great start this past week with something that I hope will get a lot of my mornings off to a great start over the coming weeks: a Grapefruit Smoothie, inspired by several dozen grapefruits my friend Juli supplied me with after she read my recent post about our backyard lemons and oranges (click here to read about our citrus supply). As we dug into the grapefruits—eating some and juicing some—I decided to look for some recipes that would help me use them more creatively. A Web search yielded a couple of good ideas, which I cobbled together to make a healthy and delicious blended drink. We’ve been enjoying it for breakfast, but it would make a great treat anytime of the day! (Click here to see the recipe.)

GrapefruitSmoothie

This week I also used some of the pecan butter I made last week in a batch of Pecan Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. I used a recipe that I had previously adapted to make dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free almond butter cookies. They came out darker than usual (probably because the pecan butter is darker than almond butter), but soft and chewy and amazing. (Click here for that recipe.)

PecanButterCookies

A question posed by Wendy in the comments about my Kitchen Life post last week prompted me to include some details here about two of the kitchen items I use and write about regularly but haven’t ever really explained. The first is Rapadura, a brand name for the dehydrated cane-sugar juice supplied by organic food company Rapunzel. As an unrefined sweetener, Rapadura’s mineral content remains intact and lends it a hint of molasses flavor. It can be substituted in equal amounts for white sugar in recipes. Another brand name for it is Sucanat, distributed by Wholesome Sweeteners. I have used both brands with much success—especially in cookies, cakes and muffins. Sometimes, when I don’t want as much molasses flavor (as in the case of say, ice cream), I blend it half and half with a slightly more refined organic sugar. And although it’s not always necessary, I tend to grind the large granules of Rapadura/Sucanat to a finer powder in my Vita-Mix.

Rapadura

Which brings me to the next kitchen item I want to mention. A Vita-Mix is a high-performance blender, food processor and grain grinder. I was first introduced to one about five years ago, when my parents bought one. After seeing what it could do, I begged to borrow it to make baby food and grind gluten-free grains into flour. They graciously agreed, and I’ve been hooked ever since. When my parents hinted that they would like their Vita-Mix back, I purchased my own machine. It’s a pricey piece of kitchen equipment (starting at $450), but it has a seven-year warranty and, along with its top competitor Blendtec, has helped set the industry standard for high-power, multifunctional blenders. The only drawback is that it is SO LOUD when it operates that I have to warn everyone to plug their ears or leave the vicinity. Still, I’m not exaggerating when I say I use it daily—often many times a day—to make everything from soup to nut butters. I puree pizza sauce, make hummus and churn butter in it, too. While I no longer need to make baby food, I’m definitely still at the task of grinding grains. And you can bet that I’ll be using it—while wearing the hearing-protection ear muffs I occasionally borrow from my husband’s wood-working shop in the garage—the next time I whip up a Grapefruit Smoothie. :-)

VitaMix

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here. And if you’d like information about the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse offered by real-food blogger Wardeh Harmon, click on the affiliate link below.

February 9, 2010   3 Comments

Just in Case…

…you were wondering whether Wardeh Harmon’s GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse will work for you if you have a special or limited diet, she has answered that question in a post that features both audio and print explanations about how her lessons in traditional food-preparation methods can work in your kitchen. Whether food allergies or personal preferences have you avoiding such things as dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, corn, nuts or refined sweeteners, most of the lessons include techniques and recipes that allow for substitutions. And the step-by-step methods she’ll be sharing will likely make your diet much less limited and even more special. :-)

To read and/or hear Wardeh address this question in her own words, click on the banner below to be directed to her post. Enrollment in the eCourse opens today and closes on Feb. 22.

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the banner above, you’ll link to a site where you can learn much more about the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse. And if you decide to enroll after clicking through from my site, I’ll receive a commission—for which I thank you. But even if I didn’t stand to benefit in any way from sharing what I’ve written here, I honestly wouldn’t change a word. :-)

February 5, 2010   No Comments