Saturday, 5 September 2015
How to Sneak Vegetables into dinner
Topic: Nutrition and food safety
(OR- how to sneak vegetables into your children)
During harvest time we are overwhelmed by the amount of zucchini and tomatoes that can come out of the garden. Zucchini bread aside, it's often hard to get more fresh vegetables into your children unless they don't see it coming!
But who doesn't like Spaghetti? It's a favorite for all ages. And even gluten-free pastas are readily available in every market. The trick to making pasta healthy is in the portion control of the pasta and determining what else is being offered with the pasta.
One way is to use Spaghetti squash directly in place of the pasta noodles. That will work for adults and teenagers most of the time. But younger children and finicky eaters of all ages will reject not having the real deal spaghetti.
If that's the situation in your house, your plan will be to increase nutrition by fortifying the sauce, by planting extra vegetables (natural sources of vitamins) and meat (protein) into the sauce to supply needed nutrition.
But, portion control will still be a challenge. Spaghetti from traditional wheat flour contains about 42 grams of starch in 2 ounces. And 2 ounces of cooked Spaghetti is a small amount to serve a hungry growing teen or adult so it is most likely, they'll be filling their plates or bowls with two and three times the amount before saucing it up.
The compromise balance comes in this very simple, delicious recipe for “Spaghetti Casserole.”
This casserole favorite has been doctored up to assure there's plenty of protein with grassfed beef or ground turkey, cheese, and natural sources of vitamins with extra vegetables in the sauce. It's robust and yet the portion control of starch is curtailed. The six generous servings refers to adult portions, so children will eat less volume, but still get balanced amounts of other nutrients along with the starch. You can use your own canned tomatoes, or conveniently start with organic crushed tomatoes- and add more vegetables!
It's so good that virtually everyone's palate should be happy! It's a great casserole to make for a Saturday night casual dinner --OR--to bake and bring to a potluck dinner or a tailgate party!
Creative cooks can readily adapt this recipe to make it vegetarian.
6 generous servings
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 13” x 9” baking pan.
Create your sauce:
Brown and cook 1 lb. of grassfed beef or ground turkey in a heavy skillet or pot.
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium carrot (or 4-6 baby carrots), diced
1 green pepper, diced
1small onion, diced
Cook these ingredients together until vegetables are no longer firm.
Add to above mixture:
1-28 oz can of crushed organic tomatoes
8 oz. tomato sauce
Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
Season with Italian seasoning dried herb blend (basil, oregano,parsley)--or equivalent fresh herbs, finely chopped –amount to your tastes
Salt and garlic powder (instead of garlic powder, add fresh chopped garlic to meat when browning)-amount to your tastes
Note: this is where the personal tastes of the chef prevail—add fennel seed ? adjust amounts of everything to your tastes.)
Cook 12 oz. of Spaghetti according to instructions on package to al dente (slightly firm) stage.
You will also need 2 cups of shredded Italian cheese blend or shredded mozzarella
You are ready to assemble when the pasta is cooked.
Layer half of spaghetti, then half sauce, then half cheese.
Repeat with remainder of spaghetti, then remainder sauce, then remainder cheese.
Additional shaved parmesan, fresh chopped herbs, as desired--
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Allow to sit 10 minutes, then cut and serve portions with a large spatula into pasta bowls.
Maybe add a side of simply sauteed broccoli, Italian green beans, broccoli rabe or greens? Or green salad? You're done!
(I don't have a final picture because we were into devouring dinner before I remembered we missed the “after” shot!)
Posted by Karen
at 14:40 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 5 September 2015 15:01 CDT
Monday, 24 August 2015
An African-Inspired Breakfast
A Healthy African-Inspired Breakfast
In Uganda last month, my group was treated to beautiful tropical fruits, in the form of juices—a tart orange juice, a sweet passion fruit cocktail-- and also fresh fruits, such as mango, pineapple, and their wonderful mini varieties of bananas. We also often had a soft bread, rolled-up that was referred to as “Rollex” to us, but in actuality is a crepe-like bread from north African, called Injera Bread.
Traditional Injera Bread is made from millet flour or “Teff” which is allowed to ferment for 24 hours in the batter. Natural yeasts allow the fermentation of natural sugars in the flour, which will produce tiny bubbles in the batter and give it a spongy texture. The batter is thin and, when spooned into a saute pan or grill surface, spreads like a crepe. The bread is then rolled up OR placed open on a plate and other foods placed on it, then scooped up and eaten. The basic recipe for Injera Bread is 1 part Teff flour to 1 part water. No additional sugars or flavorings or spices are used..
Below is a picture of a recent breakfast I made at home in the United States I've taken the concept of Injera Bread, but modified the recipe to use ingredients I had available. The “mini” bananas I found at a local market, and the yogurt is plain yogurt (certainly common and readily available in northern Africa) with a drizzle of honey, a commodity also found readily throughout Africa. I could have drizzled mango puree over the yogurt!
My Version or Adaptation of Injera Bread is as follows, note that I avoid fermenting the batter, instead using seltzer water or club soda to provide the little “bubbles”. And you must add additional seltzer or club soda to thin the batter, depending upon the flour you are using—in order to create a thin, crepe-like batter, or it won't spread. You want a spongy crepe, but not a pancake!
Injera Bread (without the fermentation step)
Stir together (or whisk lightly) 1 part flour with 1 part club soda or seltzer water.
You may use all-purpose flour, OR use a pre-made gluten free baking blend , OR create your own gluten-free flour with rice and oat flours.
Add additional seltzer or club soda until the consistency is like a crepe batter.
Set batter aside while you heat about 2-3 tsp oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan or crepe pan
Heat the oil over a medium-high heat until water sprinkled on it immediately fizzles (like you test a skillet for making pancakes)
Make 1 Injera Bread at a time in the pan, turning once.
Remove to a plate and roll while warm, the bread should have the consistency of a spongy crepe, a little thicker, but less than a pancake. It should not rise more than about 1/8 inch or so. (look again at the rolled up bread in the above picture, you can see the little bubble holes)
I also have to work on making this bread perfectly round without the squiggly edges--this batter may have been slightly too thin or I wiggled the pan too much in trying to get it spread out. In any case, better thinner than a pancake. And a good excuse to keep working at it!
Posted by Karen
at 12:16 CDT
Updated: Monday, 24 August 2015 12:31 CDT
Wednesday, 12 August 2015
A Trio of Fresh Vegetable Dishes
We are awash in vegetables now! Why not make three amazing vegetable dishes, refrigerate and pull them out for a salad buffet lunch or readily available sides to serve with a poached, chilled salmon or some grilled meats? All of these dishes contain vegetables that can be freshly picked, whether from your garden or your local Farmers Market!
Green Bean Salad with Walnuts and Feta
Steam 1 lb of French green beans, cut in half—until crisp-tender
Roast 6 oz walnut pieces (either bake for about 10 minutes in the oven or toss in a shallow pan on the stove top)
Cut up 6 oz. Feta cheese
Combine in a large bowl and toss with Dressing made from equal parts white wine (or Balsalmic?) vinegar and olive oil.I usually use about 1/8-1/4 cup of each—depending upon how much green beans you actually prepared. Vegetables should be coated, but not visible liquid sitting in the bowl. Whisk ingredients before tossing into salad.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Wild Rice, Tomato and Kale Salad
Cook 1 package of wild rice (making 2 cups of wild rice, when cooked)
Chop fresh kale leaves, 2 cups
Cut 2 cups of cherry tomatoes into halves
Dice 1 stalk of celery
Dice 2 small carrots
Combine above in a large bowl and toss with Dressing made from equal parts olive oil and lemon juice—see note above--add 1 Tbsp fruit puree (I used Mango) and 1Tbsp honey. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and whisk dressing thoroughly before pouring over salad, “Fatigue le Salad” with at least 40 tosses.
Ratatouille--"a Classic French vegetarian dish"
Combine the following in a large roasting pan:
2 medium Zucchini, chopped bite size chunks
2 large green peppers, larger sized diced
1 large onion, larger sized diced
1 medium, peeled eggplant, chopped into bite sized chunks (I prep eggplant ahead of time by salting directly or soak pieces in salted water about 30 minutes, then rinse and drain)
1 Tbsp capers
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Tsp (or more) Herbs de Provence blend
Additional Fresh Rosemary sprigs
Salt and Pepper
About 1/3 cup of olive oil to toss into and coat the vegetables.
Roast vegetables with olive oil in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
Remove roasting pan to counter and add 1-28oz can crushed, peeled and seeded tomatoes and 1-28oz can of stewed tomatoes. Stir into vegetables. Return roasting pan to the oven and bake an additional 30 minutes until vegetables are throughly cooked.
You may serve Ratatoiulle as a hot dish, or refrigerate and serve cold, which is how I have it on my luncheon plate below!
Posted by Karen
at 14:09 CDT
Friday, 31 July 2015
African Vegetarian Stew and Chapati
Topic: Education and Values
I just got back from Africa, Uganda specifically--following a medical mission to a hospital in Nebbi district. This was my second trip and I already miss the patients, staff and entire environment. There is a simple, pure honesty in their day-to-day life, unfettered by the materialism of our western culture.
My observations of their daily rhythms expose the often artificial nature of a day in our lives. Funny values we have, often self righteous to a fault: predominantly consumers, not producers, often petty, unkind, pitting one against the other, instead of uniting. We fail to act as community, instead as little self-interested groups, and this behavior is encouraged by our political leadership. We behave with a poor conceptualization of individuality.
The Socratic saying, "The unexamined life is not worth living" still applies, we should heed that advice.
Instead of preaching about values, let me share a recipe for a meal we often had--seasonal vegetables in a stew, prepared in a kettle over an open firewood fire. Even at the "hotel" in Nebbi, food is prepared off site in an open kitchen, over a wood or charcoal fire. (Yes, they make their own charcoal!). No "fast" food here, also no GMOs, no preservatives or chemical additives.
African Inspired Vegetarian Stew
4 medium carrots, sliced ½ in thick
1 small onion, chopped larger chunks
1 medium zucchini (without seeds) chopped larger chunks
1 large sweet potato or small eggplant, chopped (you might use pumpkin or other hard squash here)
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 large Russet potatoes, chopped
28 oz can crushed peeled and seeded tomatoes
1 tsp salt (iodized, universally needed for thyroid function)
Chili sauce, to taste—
OR—if you prefer north African seasonings:
½ tsp red pepper flakes, 1 Tbsp Za'atar, 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp dried thyme,1 tsp dried parsley or fresh parsley chopped
If in Africa—you'll have to bring to a boil over an open fire in a kettle, then cover and bury in ashes next to the fire or cover with hay and incubate for several hours until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked.
If in the US—suggest putting in an oiled crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. OR- in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil, then cover and bake 2 hours in a slow oven 300 degrees until vegetables are soft.
The Vegetable Stew should be served over rice. I cooked 1 ½ cups dry rice (3 cups cooked) to be divided between 4 bowls, then ladle stew over. . I used canned peeled and seeded tomatoes, imagine if you had to produce the same from fresh tomatoes--you CAN do it, but thankfully, we have the canned product readily available and nutritionally it is equivalent.
Serve the stew with homemade CHAPATI, an African flatbread.
Chapati (African flat Bread)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp oil
½ cup water
½ tsp salt.
Combine in a bowl and divide dough into 4 pieces.
Roll each piece flat, adding extra flour to avoid sticking.
Fry each piece in an oiled pan, turning once. Start with 1 Tbsp of oil in the pan, then add more as needed.
Enjoy this fabulous dish of simple, pure vegetables and easily made fresh flatbread...
Posted by Karen
at 17:43 CDT
Updated: Friday, 31 July 2015 18:46 CDT
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Make a Meatloaf with fresh herbs!
Try Meatloaf with Fresh Herbs
For a quick dinner idea, why not meatloaf ? It will give you a chance to use those fresh herbs that are happily growing in pots near your kitchen right now. And for a little effort, you can create a quick homemade dinner that will give you wonderful sandwiches for lunch the next day.
2 lb grassfed ground beef
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 Tbsp. Worchesteshire sauce
Add a good handful of freshly cut fresh herbs. I decided to grab basil and parsley.
But, it can easily be “Chef's choice” and fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano all make good choices too. Remove extcess stems, thenchop the herbs in a mini-food precessor and add to above.
You may now add a filler* if desired. Then, shape into a loaf and place in a baking pan.
Bake at 350 degrees until internal temperature is 145 degrees or higher, about 1 hour.
*Comment about fillers: Virtually all classic meatloaf recipes add about ½ cup of bread, cracker, or cornflake crumbs to their meatloaf mixtures. A better filler might be uncooked, rolled oats. If you want to add a filler, with oats you'll avoid possible GMO corn and wheat allergens and get a bonus of fiber. Use one-minute oats, they're finer than old-fashioned oats and never use the long-cooking,steel cut oats.
Cooking with fresh herbs brings the fresh garden to your dinner table while waiting for those vegetables to grow.
Posted by Karen
at 10:58 CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 June 2015 11:00 CDT
Tuesday, 9 June 2015
Find a Spot for Fresh Herbs
Topic: Home Environment
Find your Spot for Fresh Herbs
I encourage everyone, wherever you live, to find a spot to grow something fresh for your family.
The easiest things to grow in a pot are fresh annual herbs. I keep my perennial herbs—like thyme, sage, oregano, assorted mints, etc. growing in beds in the garden. But annual herbs are often more fragile, so I have taken to growing these in pots, kept near the house, where watering is convenient and they can quickly be moved if weather is particularly harsh, like some of our intense thunderstorms can be.
Using fresh herbs during the growing season is one of the classic culinary joys of Summer cooking. Plus- snipping them (and using immediately) assures that their health benefits are “alive and well.”
Some reported health benefits of fresh herbs include:
Rosemary and Mint Family: increased cognitive performance
Thyme and Sage: antioxidants, “anti-aging”, memory enhancers, anti-anxiety
Basil: liver detoxifier
Parsley: anti-cancer properties, vitamins A,C, and K
Peppermint: anti-inflammatory properties useful for Irritable bowel syndrome
Cilantro: high fiber and heavy metal de-toxifier
This is a short list—there are many resources available to consult regarding medicinal herbs and plants. However, even if they had no additional health benefits, fresh herbs contribute to increased savoriness of foods and culinary art and for “foodies” that makes fresh herbs essential!
Because annual herbs germinate and grow quickly, you'll have these herbs ready to snip daily in a few short weeks. You may even want to try some of the more exotic herbs, like the pots of Thai Basil seen in my picture above. Wait until that herb is combined with chicken in an Asian inspired chicken salad, or tucked into fresh Spring rolls.
You don't have to wait for your tomatoes to create a super Tomato-Cannellini Bean salad shown below.
I used a large can of petite diced tomatoes (drained, use that tomato juice in a soup or stew or ?) and 1 can of cannellini beans (rinsed and drained) with 2 chopped carrots and 1 small chopped onion. Then snip a large handful of basil and parsley, chop and add to salad. Dress with equal parts of lemon juice or red wine vinegar and olive oil, to which you've added salt and freshly ground pepper. As usual, toss thoroughly, then refrigerate until serving.
And doesn't that salad compliment the plate of Mushroom Lasagne and cooked Green Beans with butter and dill very nicely?
Posted by Karen
at 09:45 CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 9 June 2015 12:45 CDT
Monday, 1 June 2015
Coq au Vin--for the middle of the week!
Topic: Home Environment
Coq au Vin is a rustic French bistro dish that fills the house with insanely beautiful aromas. If you follow a classic recipe, you probably won't have enough prep time to make it for a weekday meal. But, here are some tricks to get the same effect, while working with ingredients you likely have in your larder.
You'll need a covered heavy skillet—like this:
Then the modified recipe as follows:
Coq au Vin
In a large heavy skillet, brown 3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch strips.
Add 1 yellow onion, chopped and carmelized with the bacon.
(Chopped fresh mushrooms may be added also, if desired)
Flour 6-8 chicken thighs (skin-on and bone in) with flour which has been seasoned with seasoned salt and pepper.
Brown the chicken on all sides in the bacon and onion pan. Add additional olive oil if there is not enough oil from the bacon.
When browned, remove the chicken to a plate and add 1 generous cup of dry red wine to the skillet, loosening and de-glazing the bits of bacon and onion in the pan with a wooden or non-metal, heat stable spoon. Add more wine if needed so the chicken thighs when returned will be partially immersed in the liquid.
Replace the chicken thighs into the skillet.
Sprinkle Herbs de Provence dried herb blend liberally over the chicken.
Cover and cook on a low simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender- about 40 minutes.
Remove the cover from the skillet, and raise heat to "High" to boil and reduce the wine-based liquid by half or more, so that it is reduced to basically a glazing amount of liquid.
Plate with some petite potatoes and carrots, greens—and a little French bread to dip into the juices.
Posted by Karen
at 18:44 CDT
Updated: Monday, 1 June 2015 21:22 CDT
Tuesday, 26 May 2015
Topic: Education and Values
We are well into the chaotic, amazing, unpredictable Season of Spring! What an exquisite annual rebirth it is!
We have all the expectations of Easter, Mother's Day, the countless graduations, end of schools' year, bridal showers for June weddings, Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, —
AND- the new seedling started indoors (they better be outdoors and hardening and ready for planting now!), the new in-ground potatoes and items start-from seeds (hey better be in-ground by now!)
And yet—the joys of pre-planning should be obvious!
We have been harvesting asparagus by the handful for the past month, right?
We have been sniffing the aromas of the lilac bushes in our yards...
(We've been sneaking some of these into our kitchens )
And, if not—now is the time to consider adding flowering bushes and early spring perennials into our lives for the future.
Do you have your planters full of edibles? If not, why not?
Remember that plant foods begin to die as soon as we pick it. The nutrients deteriorate as the fruits and vegetables oxidize. So—plant edibles wherever your patch of Sun is!
Sneak a pear or apple tree into your backyard, instead of one more ornamental.Those little pear buds will be amazing fruits late Summer.
If you absolutely cannot find one spot to plant something harvestable and edible fresh from the vine or cut from the stalk or plucked from the tree—then promise me that you will visit your local Farmers' Market every week and eat plant items that were, literally, just picked, and prepare them for your family.
More to come—recipes for you from vegetables from the Farmers' Markets!
Posted by Karen
at 18:16 CDT
Friday, 17 April 2015
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
Harvest Hills Farm Activity—It's Spring!
The entire environment can change so quickly with lengthening of daylight hours and temperatures that stay above freezing
I thought my readers would enjoy seeing some pictures of the activity around the farm in April, especially sunrise on Easter morning, the new lambs, the greening of the fields, the new nests...
The lambs are born, the first calf has just been born. The chicken coops are cleaned out.
The seeds are started in the greenhouse. Next week the potatoes go in the ground, to be followed by direct sown seeds a couple weeks thereafter.
Let me also remind you to:
Check our website to reserve your culinary beef order NOW
and watch the website for December availability of culinary lamb!
Don't wait too long to get your reservation in!
Posted by Karen
at 15:39 CDT
Updated: Friday, 17 April 2015 15:42 CDT
Friday, 3 April 2015
I've never made a meatloaf in the crockpot until recently. It seems difficult to imagine since I use the crockpot for slow cooking often. The main reason I use the crockpot is because I usually don't have time to watch an oven and, with the crockpot, there is virtually no chance of over-cooking something. You really can fix and forget while you run out of the house for other projects, then return to find dinner already made.
Here's a very quick preparation meat loaf that's sure to please on those chilly “early” Spring nights. And, you can keep it low carb, sneak in chopped vegetables like kale greens or spinach, maybe some chopped green or red pepper, and use a premade canned soup for the gravy!
Prep crockpot with spray-oil.
Combine in a large bowl:
2 lb. Grassfed ground beef
1 large egg
1 package of dried onion soup
¼ cup tomato sauce
1 cup finely chopped, raw mixed vegetables (spinach, kale, peppers, zucchini, squash combination of these)
Mix throughly, add ground pepper (there's enough salt in the onion soup mix).
Form into a loaf and place in the crockpot.
Add 1can of Beefy Mushroom Soup (do not dilute). Pour soup over loaf.
COVER and Cook on LOW for 8 hours--it'll be done! Remove to serving plate and slice. Serve with some mashed cauliflower, salad to round out your nutrients!
Refrigerate leftover meatloaf and slice when throughly chilled for sandwiches (on low carb bread, of course).
Posted by Karen
at 13:40 CDT
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