Category Archives: Making Food

Chicken Divan – A Family Favorite

A friend of mine gave me this recipe.  It is FANTASTIC.  I really like it, as does everyone in my family, including my 3 year old.

I’ve made a few changes to the original, but it is so simple, and yummy.

Ingredients:

Steps

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cover the bottom of a 8 x 8 baking dish with the shredded chicken. IMG_0566
  3. Cover that with the partially cooked florets (cook these for about half the time you usually do)IMG_0573
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayo, condensed soup, and  1/2 cup of cheese.IMG_0567IMG_0569
  5. Spread this on top of the chicken and broccoli.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining half cup of cheese over the casserole.IMG_0578
  7. Bake for 25 minutes.IMG_0580
  8. Serve over rice.  (Rice how-to here)

Notes:

As you can see from the pictures, I basically just cover the bottom of the dish with chicken and layer the broccoli over.  As you make it, you may find you like more or less chicken or broccoli.  Again, it’s up to you and what you like.  That’s one of the big pluses of cooking for yourself.

The flavors in the soup is so delicious I find I don’t need to add any extra spices.  The brand is made of whole natural ingredients.  You are not eating chemical soup with this, you are still eating real food. So if you are looking for a good replacement for your Campbell’s Cream of Whatever, I highly recommend these soups.

Simple Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie

It’s easy as pie.  Sorry for the hilarious pun.

Okay, quite frankly, I really don’t have the art of the crust.  I kind of botched this one.  But it was still tasty.

The filling, strawberry filling to be exact, was super easy.  And Simple.

And I think you may be sick of me posting these recipes that only have two steps and very few ingredients, such as homemade peanut butter, and dried strawberries.

But this is Simplicity for Julia.  So let’s go on with this simple recipe, which is my husband’s favorite.

Ingredients:

  • Unbaked Pie shell (I like the Fresh P’s all butter Pie crust, even though I still need practice)
  • 10 cups of whole Strawberries or 7 cups of sliced strawberries (for ultimate yumminess, make sure they are fresh and in season)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Powder (I prefer this to cornstarch, as corn is full of GMOs)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of Vanilla

Yup.  That’s all the ingredients.

What To Do with the Ingredients?

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Slice up your strawberries.  You will have about 7 cups.  More or less doesn’t really matter, This isn’t exact. Place in a large bowl.IMG_0446
  3. Add Arrowroot Powder, Sugar and Vanilla. IMG_0449
  4. Stir and let sit for 15 minutes.  This will cause the strawberries to “macerate” or create their own syrup.
  5. Pour this into your unbaked shell.IMG_0452
  6. Place in your preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Reduce temperature in your oven to 350 degrees, and continue baking for another 40 minutes.  Be sure to check the pie often toward then end of that time so it doesn’t burn.  The crust should be golden brown.IMG_0456
  8. Let cool and then eat the heck out of it.  The addition of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is always welcome.

A Few Notes:

This is a relatively low sugar recipe.  Most fruit pie recipes call for 1 1/4 cups of sugar.  I really don’t think you’ll miss it.  I think you could use even less sugar and still get great results.  Play around with it, and I think you will find the ideal amount of sugar that meets your tastes.

Strawberries – Dehydrated

The strawberries are here!! That means summer is here.

And we have oodles of strawberries.

WAY more than we can use just for fresh eating.

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There are so many things you can do with your strawberries:

  • eat fresh
  • preserve into a jelly or jam
  • strawberry pie (my husband’s favorite)
  • Strawberry Muffins
  • Fruit Salad
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  •  fruit leather
  • freeze
  • dehydrate

With today’s batch-o-berries, I’ve decided to dehydrate.  I like dehydrating strawberries as a way to preserve them.  It’s a much healthier snack than jelly (which is made from the juice of a fruit) or jam (which has the chunks of fruit in it.) as those tend to have lots of sugar, but I still make it.  It’s a tasty treat.  Especially when paired with homemade peanut butter.

Back to the Dehydrated Strawberries

I think they taste like a gummy fruit snack.  However, this is coming from a person who has probably eaten about 5 fruit snacks my entire life, and has not had one in years.  I believe my opinion on this snack being akin to fruit snack is similar to a vegan’s opinion on meatless bacon.  But these are pretty dang tasty.

And easy to make.

What do you need to make this delicious snack?

  • A dehydrator – You can certainly use your oven on a low temperature overnight, but I really do like my dehydrator.  It’s easier than my oven and more fool proof.  So while I encourage LESS clutter and LESS equipment, I do like having a dehydrator.  I use it to make Kale chips, fruit leather, and other dehydrated fruits
  • Fresh Strawberries – I used about 3 1/2 cups of fresh whole strawberries. Try to get them local and seasonal.  The better the ingredients the better the finished products.

How To Make Dehydrated Strawberries:

  • Slice them about 1/8 of an inch thick.  You can also put them on whole if you have small strawberries.  Keep in mind: the thicker the strawberry the longer it will take to dehydrate, AND the strawberries will shrink when they are dehydrated.

    I sliced, my little guy placed them on the dehydrator.

    I sliced, my little guy placed them on the dehydrator.

  • Place them in a single layer on your dehydrator.  If they are layered, they will stick together.  They will still be deliciousIMG_0437
  • Set your Dehydrator to 135 degrees F and let it do it’s thing for about 3 hours.  It may take longer or shorter depending on the current climate and the thickness of the strawberry slices.IMG_0440
  • EAT THEM!

Storage

I store mine in a mason jar in the fridge.  They may not need to live in the fridge, but I think that’s the best place for them.  They will last for months, if you don’t eat them.

Uses?

These are good for snacks, or in granola, or in cold cereal.  We really like to eat these as snack plain.  I love having this healthy, convenient snack in the cooler months, long after strawberry season has passed.

 

Honey Mustard Lentil Salad

Lentils are super healthy for you.  They have fiber, iron, and other good stuff.  My husband hates most things having to do with Lentils.  Except this.  This salad.  This Lentil Salad has BACON, it has cheddar cheese, and a wonderful homemade Honey Mustard dressing.  AND, it’s super-duper easy.

The best part – the homemade dressing can be used on your green salads. So save the dressing recipe.  In fact, here it is, so you can easily access if for a green salad, if you like:

Make the Dressing:

Gather the following ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar or Sour Kombucha
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup Olive OilIMG_0297

Mix all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl or measure glass using a spoon.  Taste it.  If it’s delicious, it’s ready to use.  You may want to use salt and pepper at this point, if you wish.  I generally do not.

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Ingredients for the Lentil Salad (less the dressing):

  • 6 slices of cooked bacon.  If you do this like I showed you in this post, you can have that baking while doing these other steps.
  • 2 cups of dry lentils
  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese (chopped or grated)
  • 1 cup of frozen corn or peas (adds a little sweetness)
  • If you want to add some extra healthiness to it, wilt some spinach to throw into the mix.

Make your Lentils:

I choose “Organic French Baby Lentils”

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You can use whatever kind you like.  Measure out about 2 cups of the lentils.

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Pour into a pot, cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and bring to a boil (**TIP** While this is boiling, now would be a perfect time to work on preparing the other ingredients and dressing**), stirring occasionally:

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If during this time your lentils are higher than the water level, please add more water.

After about 20 minutes, remove two or three lentils from the pot, let cool and taste.  If the lentil is a little too toothy, let boil for a few more minutes before testing for doneness again.  If the lentil was done, remove from heat and drain through a sieve:

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You have now made Lentils!! Yay!!!

Preparing the Other Ingredients:

Chop 1/2 an onion and add to the bowl that you will be serving the salad in:

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Chop those six slices of bacon and add to the bowl:

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Either cut about 1 cup of cheddar cheese or use about 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to your bowl.

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Add 1 Cup of frozen corn or peas to the bowl.

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If you decided to wilt some spinach to add to the bowl, go ahead an add.  To wilt spinach simply warm oil on medium heat in a pan, add fresh spinach and watch is wilt.  It’s that easy:

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add those lentils to your large bowl.  Now it’s time to add that awesome honey-mustard dressing you made, and stir so that everything is combined and coated with honey-mustard goodness.

Last step, eat it.

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Baking Bacon – Simple, Easy, Clean

Bacon is a favorite food for many. It seems to have a cult like following.  You can buy bacon themed: Pajama pants, tee-shirts, lip balm, air fresheners, and just about anything you can think of.  I find frying it to be a quite messy and a pain.  It always takes me multiple rounds of frying, including some splatter burns on my hands and arms.  Even though this never deterred me from making bacon, I was excited to see there was another way.

I was over at a friends how for breakfast, and she had the most genius way of making bacon.  She baked it!!!

Here’s how you do it:

Place your bacon on a cookie sheet.  For ease of cleaning you may want to lay some parchment paper down.  I didn’t have any, so I didn’t use any:

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My first instinct is to keep it a single layer, my second instinct is to experiment.  I’ve found that adding a few extra strips of bacon on top, so as to use the whole package is fine.

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Insert into a cold oven and then turn the oven to 400 degrees F.

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It should take about 15- 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon.  Keep an eye on it.  You do NOT have to flip it over at any point.  Just let it bake.

Remove from the oven when it is the crispness you desire, place on paper towels or a rack to drain the grease off.

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Consume.

Once I was exposed to this way of making bacon there was NO going back.  This is so basic and so easy.  There have been so many times grease popped in the pan and scalded my arm while I was frying bacon.   Granted this just hurt for a moment, but now I am not hurting at all!

 

Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links.  

Back to Basics: Rice

This is an another installment of my back to basics series.  My first back to basics post was on cooking dried beans.  What goes better with beans than rice?  Rice and beans is a delicious and cheap meal.  Also, the ingredients are great for long term storage.

What Type of Rice to Use?

There are several types of rice: sushi, wild rice, brown rice, basmati rice, and the list goes on.  My favorite type of rice by far is basmati rice.  The basmati rice has a beautiful fragrance and a wonderful taste without having to add any spices.  Although, when I make rice and beans, I do add spices.  I will share how I make rice and beans in a later post.

Let’s Get Down to the Basic Business:

I  make my rice different than I’ve ever seen anyone else make their’s.  I also like my rice better than most any other I’ve tried.

  1. I start off by melting about a Tablespoon of butter or coconut oil in a sauce pan at medium high heat.IMG_0099
  2. I then add about 1 cup of rice and fry it up.  Allow your rice to warm up.  This will only take about 2 minutes.  Take care not to burn the rice.  You will start to smell the beautiful scent of rice fill your kitchen.  Especially if you are frying up that wonderful basmati rice.IMG_0101
  3. After about a minute or so add your homemade chicken broth to the rice.  You can also use water.  I prefer broth; it gives the rice a richer flavor and adds more nutritional punch to the dish.  For this I usually start off with a 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice.  So for one cup of rice, I add two cups of liquid.  I used a combination of defrosted broth and the broth cubes I talked about in this post.IMG_0103
  4. Bring your the liquid to a simmer, continuing to stir.  Bring the stove down to medium heat. Stir every few minutes.  Just to make sure you don’t have any rice burning to the bottom of the pot.  You may have some rice stick, or even some burn.  Your batch of rice is still good.IMG_0108
  5. Your rice will start to plump after about 20 minutes.  Now it’s time to use your most powerful tool in the kitchen: your mouth.  With a clean spoon grab a few grains of rice, and let cool.  Taste them.  If they taste done, you are done, if they are crunchy, continue to cook the rice.  ***NOTE*** if at any point in this process your rice starts to get dry, add another few cubes/Tablespoons of broth (or water).  IMG_0105
  6. When the rice reaches the consistency you desire, you are done.  If there is too much liquid in the pot at this point, continue to simmer your rice until most of the liquid has cooked off.  If you can’t possibly cook all the liquid off, drain the excess liquid from your rice, eat it and call it a learning experience.  Or if it all works out, and I hope it does, call it delicious.  IMG_0111

Enjoy your rice in your favorite recipe or as a side.  Let me know how it turned out!!

What the Helt is Spelt? A Discussion About An Ancient Grain

Spelt is a type of flour that folks who are gluten intolerant use.  Surprisingly this flour has more gluten than your regular wheat flour.  Over 98% of the time, when I use flour, it’s spelt.  What is it’s history, why can some gluten intolerant people eat it, and how on earth do you use it?

History of Spelt

Spelt is an ancient grain.  Evidence exists that this grain has been used as early in the “fifth millennium BC.”  Let me translate that a bit.  The fifth millennium BC means 4000 BC.  In other words, over 6,000 years ago.  Yes, it is ancient, and we already know it’s a grain. Farmers in the United States used spelt as one of their main wheats until the 1980s.  At that time, spelt was replaced by common or bread wheat.

Common wheat, which accounts for 95% of the wheat grown in the USA, has been bred to have a shorter, more even stem.  This allows for greater ease when applying chemicals.  (This maybe our first hint as to why common wheat is not so great for us).

When the idea of going “organic” came about in the 60s, spelt made a rise back into semi-popularity, due the fact that spelt needs less fertilizer to be happy. Spelt stayed out of the main stream eye, allowing it to escape from the hybridization that common wheat experienced over the past few decades.

Why Is Spelt Easier for Some to Digest?

Common wheat has been hybridized to contain more gluten (albeit less gluten than spelt).  This gluten is a protein, as I discussed in previous post, and proteins are made of amino-acid chains.  These amino-acid structure can vary widely from one type of wheat to the next.  This means that your body can react differently from one type of gluten to the next.  Our bodies have had over 6,000 years to adapt to processing the unchanged spelt gluten proteins.  As common wheat and its structure keep on changing, we are not even one generation into adapting to process this gluten.

Anecdotally, my parents do not eat wheat or sugar.  Their diet has been wheat and sugar free for over a year, closer to two.  If they eat wheat, even if it’s hidden, their body lets them know.  Their reactions to eating common wheat is primarily sore and swollen joints and digestive upset.  When they tried eating some spelt, in the form of the bread I baked, they had none of the negative reactions they experience to common wheat products.  Please note, spelt is not part of their everyday diet, but rather a way for them to treat themselves to some bread without the immediate health repercussions.

How Do You use Spelt?

I have read a lot about how you have to modify your recipes in order to use spelt flour.  I’m not sure if you add more liquid or less liquid.  Maybe you kneed spelt dough for less time than other dough? Maybe there is a dance included?  I have not changed any recipes I’ve used.  The recipes that were designed for common wheat have worked fine for the uncommon spelt. I have done nothing different.  Please note: I dance while I bake, but that’s because of the awesome tunes I have playing in the background.  It has nothing to do with apeasing the Gods of Spelt.

So I encourage you to pick up some spelt and give it a try.  Let me know how it turns out!

My Favorite Chili Recipe: A Winter Favorite

Here is my favorite chili recipe.  It’s not only my favorite, it’s my husband’s favorite, too.  To taste this is to love this.  I’m not sure where the recipe originally came from, but I’ve modified it a bit over the years.  I’ve been making it for just under 9 years, and I have it just about dialed in for my tastes.

It’s so super easy, and they are ingredients you may have lying around.  Perfect for a day when you may be snowed in.  Or make it in the dutch oven and re-heat it on a campfire.

You need:

  • Some Butter (or oil, but please no veggie oil, that’s really bad for you) (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
  • An onion, diced
  • 3-4 Cloves of Garlic, diced
  • 2 pounds of ground beef
  • 2 16 oz cans of beans.  Or you can cook up dried beans, I started with 1 1/3 cups of dried beans and went from there.  Here’s my post on how to do that.
  • 1 cup of water (if you are using store canned beans, put the whole container (bean goo and all) in the chili, OR 2 cups if you are using the dried beans, which at this point will be strained.
  • 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 14.5 Ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chili
  • 2 14.5 Ounce can of diced tomatoes (if you like it spicier, have two cans with green chili’s and one without.  We don’t like a lot of spice in our house)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Chili Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons of Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon of Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Black Pepper
  • If you like it hot, you may want to add some hot sauce, too.  I’m not a spicy fan, so I don’t have any expertise here.

Now the next steps are really simple.  You’ll love this:

  1. Melt your butter or heat your oil.  Mix in your onions and garlic.  Heat until the onions are translucent. 20150108_175338
  2. Add your 2 pounds of Raw Beef to the pot 20150108_175434
  3. And Brown it. This really shouldn’t be a third step, but I have a picture!20150108_181209
  4. Now, add in all your other ingredients:20150108_181801
  5. Stir the ingredients together and let simmer for at least 1/2 an hour.20150108_184713
  6. Now EAT IT!!!20150108_184946
  7. And/Or Serve it to you family (we like ours with a little Parmesan Cheese sprinkled on top):20150108_190144

All of our bowls looked like this at the end:

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This is a great and simple chili recipe that I have used for years.  Once it sleeps in your refrigerator overnight, it gets even better!  This is a family favorite in my house!

Storage Tip for Broth

Making broth from chicken bones is super easy.  I outlined how to do it here: How to Make Broth.  Once you have all this broth you can freeze it, but what if you only want a portion of what you have frozen?  Do you have to thaw it and refreeze the remainder?

No!  A super easy solution for broth storage is to freeze in ice cube trays.  On a minimum, I let the broth sit overnight in the fridge and skim the fat off the top.

There is still a bit of fat on top.  I was able to remove most of it, the little bit left is fine.

There is still a bit of fat on top. I was able to remove most of it, the little bit left is fine.

I then pour it into trays.

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And put the trays in the freezer and let it freeze.

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When I take my cubes out of the freezer, I have to leave it sit out for a little bit before I’m able to get the cubes out of the tray.  Make sure you transfer the cubes into a freezer bag or other storage container or your cubes may get freezer burnt.

Now, if you want to make a small batch of soup, or just need a little more broth for a project, you are ready to go.

A standard ice cube trays make a cube that is about 1 1/2 Tablespoons.  That means that if you need 1 cup of broth, you will need about 11 cubes.  This may vary depending on how much you fill you tray, and the size of the cubes on the tray, but for this type of cooking, you rarely need exact measures.

This simple tip has made life a little easier for me, and I hope it does for you, too!!!!

Lacto-Fermented Cashew “Cheese”


I am a meat eating, cheese eating human being.  So when I say that this vegan (AKA non-dairy) cheese is delicious, you can take that to the taste-bud bank.  It is also lacto-fermented, and with that comes all the health benefits of pro-biotics.  (See my other pro-biotic rich recipe here: lacto-fermented carrots) This was inspired by the Fresh P, over on YouTube.  Holy Hannah.  It is good to have this recipe.

Start with:

  • 2 1/2 cups of raw cashews **They need to be raw for this to work**
  • 1 Tablespoon of Chili powder

Place your 2 1/2 cups of RAW cashews in a quart mason jar, add 1 Tablespoon of chili powder and fill with water so that your cashews are completely submerged.

Place it on a relatively warm shelf and wait.

Wait for 3 to 5 days.  They will start to bubble, and if you try one, it will be a bit tangy.

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Drain the cashews and save the liquid.

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Set this aside while you:

Continue with your blender or your food processor.  If you have a high powered blender (think VitaMix) use that, if not, pull out your food processor.  I made mine in a standard, low powered blender.  It was a pain and I didn’t get the consistency that I wanted.  However, it was delicious.  In your powered mixing vessel, whatever you use, place in:

  • 1/4 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (this is my favorite spice)
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 10 peppercorns (or 1/4 tsp of ground pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika

Grind all these up until they are a powder, add the cashews, and add the liquid one tablespoon at a time while blending until you reach your desired consistency.

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Use it as a dip for fresh vegetable or on toast.  Most importantly enjoy!!!!

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