Homemade Chicken Nuggets

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On my quest to provide wholesome food for my family, while trying to balance busy schedules, I realized that my freezer lacked already cooked, ready to heat and eat, good for you food. I wanted to fill that void with a chicken tender- an actual piece of quality chicken, breaded and cooked, waiting for my panicked hand to grab it with relief that I do, in fact, have something nutritious to feed my family.
I perused the freezer aisles of a few grocery stores and left empty handed. I wanted organic chicken in it’s original state, not mechanically separated and reconstituted, not plumped up with liquids or containing unnatural ingredients. Why was this so hard to find? I gave up on the prospect of finding a ready made option and got cookin’. I should add there was one brand I found that fit my criteria (Van’s, I believe), but was so costly it was not a realistic option.
I like to make a double batch of these breaded chicken tenders to cover dinner the night they’re cooked fresh (with gravy) and plenty to freeze for a few future meals.
You’ll need chicken breasts, flour, seasonings, bread crumbs, 1 egg, milk, and coconut oil.

homemade-chicken-tenders
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Storing Bulk Cheese

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Always looking for ways to save a few bucks, I grabbed one of these 2lb organic monterey jack cheese blocks from Costco. Because we typically spend quite a bit on pricey organic cheese slices, this is a definite money saver….its fast and easy too.

bulk-organic-cheese
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Homemade Peas and Potatoes Baby Food

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Our plan for introducing solids to our little one was simply to mash up some of whatever everyone else was eating and offer it. We eat healthy, unprocessed foods and thought this approach would be ideal. We did encounter a few downsides with this method: sometimes we’re in a time crunch and whatever we quickly whip up isn’t appropriate for him or we’re away from home and don’t have something appropriate to offer. Little one has also been keeping us on our toes with randomly changing his preferences so what was planned for a meal sometimes doesn’t get eaten and we need a backup to offer. All of this led me to wanting a larger stash of homemade baby food prepared for these “in a pinch” situations.

baby-food-recipe

One of the things I’ve been doing which has been helpful is baking one or 2 yams, mashing, cooling and storing in the freezer or fridge for easy meals. This has been incredibly easy but he recently stopped eating one of his staple veggie meals and I’m wanting more variety for him (especially of the non-sweet veggie type). Read the rest of this entry »

Local Farmers’ Market

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With my Saturday mornings no longer being occupied by my job, we’ve been able to enjoy some real treats from the local farmers’ market. The farmers’ market season runs from June through September in a beautiful park about 25 minutes from home. Living in a rural area, the size of the market is small, but I’m a believer in quality over quantity. Not only is it nice to peruse around with the family and enjoy the park, there is always a live band in the small pavilion for entertainment.

Here is a shot of the goodies we brought home this week:

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Storing Dried Beans with FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer

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We go through a fair amount of beans and buckwheat in this house. To save a bit of money to allow us to buy higher quality foods we try to buy in bulk. We’ve put our FoodSaver vacuum sealer into action to help store the larger amounts of these dry goods. I spent some time today storing this 50-lb bag of Navy Beans. Finally getting to the bottom of the bag in this picture!

We choose to vacuum seal foods when it’s appropriate to allow for longer storage in the cool, damp basement. We just don’t have room in the pantry to keep everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Homemade Fermented Sauerkraut

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I recently attended a fermentation workshop after husband started eating raw sauerkraut for it’s numerous health benefits. Raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut has been difficult for us to find locally so we’ve resorted to ordering and having it delivered. We both would much prefer to have control over the ingredients in our food so the idea of being able to whip up a batch of the hard to find fermented sauerkraut was very appealing. The short workshop opened my eyes to fermentation as a method of food preservation that requires no heat and no vinegar…score!
The health benefits of fermented, unpasteurized foods are many including aided digestion by way of digestive enzymes, improved nutrient absorption and increased beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Down to business- I started my first batch of raw sauerkraut yesterday with no spices or anything that was not essential to the process. Brace yourself for this long list of ingredients: 2 medium sized heads of organic cabbage and celtic sea salt.

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Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

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Trust me, they’re delicious. So, husband’s been on a pretty strict diet as of late which left us with cravings for those delectable baked goods. Then, we were introduced to these marvelous little creations found in Eat Well Feel Well by Kendall Conrad.

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Sugar-Free Banana Bread

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Earlier this week I found myself with a couple of brown bananas. That always means it’s time to bake and the recipe of choice was my sugar-free banana bread. My recipe calls for no added sugar…all of the sweetness comes from juice or fruit. This time I did add some chocolate chips but skip those if you want to keep it healthier. I use a combination of flours to make it dense and full of wheat. Here it is:

sugar-free-banana-bread

First things first: Mix the dry ingredients.
1 cup Whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup Wheat Bran
1/2 cup unbleached white flour. ( you can sub more whole wheat flour if you’d like)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
sprinkle of salt Read the rest of this entry »

Is our food Toxic? Preservatives, additives, and the like.

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Preservatives, artificial colors, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners…when did our food become chock full of stuff OTHER than nutrients to nourish and feed our bodies?
For a long time I’ve followed the old “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it” rule pertaining to the ingredient list. I also eliminate foods if they have an ingredient 12 syllables long. No way can that be natural. If the ingredient list takes up 1/3 of the side panel, it has too much crap in it and most likely doesn’t resemble real food.
The easiest way to avoid the crud in our markets is to shop the perimeter where the fresh stuff typically is- easier said than done. Sometimes I want crackers and dehydrated pasta with pasta sauce. And occasionally, I WANT DONUTS *gasp*.

In the previous post Is our food toxic? The importance of eating organic, I outlined one way to improve the quality of what goes in our bodies while reducing our exposure to harmful chemicals.
Now, I’m going to briefly outline some of the other junk in our food that I think should be avoided.
Don’t expect a full list of every bad ingredient in our food supply.

Here are a few basics:
Preservatives: used obviously to preserve food, making it edible for a longer period of time. It’s a luxury to have the time and resources (or a nuisance depending who you might ask) to pick fresh produce everyday or bake fresh bread to make your meals.
Some common preservatives are:
Sodium Nitrate, which when ingested by humans, can convert to nitrous acid. In animals, nitrous acid increases the rate of cancer.
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Is our food Toxic? The importance of eating organic

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At some point in the past few years I’ve become very aware of what we eat and what we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Maybe it’s the talk about pollution, or the constant recalls of commercially produced foods and prescriptions, or the possible long term health effects of eating antibiotic laced and hormone injected meat…the list goes on.
Whatever the reason, I’m aware and trying to reduce my exposure. I’ll tell you a huge part of my concern stems from the fact that I work in an industry where chemical exposure is the norm every day with most people making little effort to minimize that exposure.

So, where to start? How about FOOD! There are so many different aspects of food toxicity. I will break it down including the points I find most important for me in a few different posts so check back for the rest.

I remember years ago when eating organic was the new fad. I was still very young and convinced it was a new scheme to lure people into spending more money for a product, be it peppers, cheese, you name it, that didn’t taste a whole lot different than the “regular” version. So what gives?
It’s not just about taste. You’re paying for the conditions in which the food is produced.
There are numerous agencies; you probably recognize the USDA Certified Organic logo on many products, which inspect every company that wishes to label their products as organic.

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Homemade Frozen Yogurt!

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Santa brought us a frozen yogurt /ice cream machine and boy have I had a ball experimenting with it. After a few gelato (YUM!) recipes, which I will be sharing soon, I decided it was time to find a less sugary alternative. The answer? Homemade Frozen Yogurt! The idea of a frozen dessert machine was enormously appealing because who really wants to spend 5 bucks for a measly amount of overpriced mass produced ice cream? Not me. And I don’t like the alternative which is cheap, poor quality, mass produced ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Homemade-frozen-yogurt-recipe

The ingredients are simple as can be:
2 Cups Natural Plain Yogurt….no sweeteners, no added flavors, no junk- just milk, cream, pectin and cultures.
1/2 Cup Whole Milk Read the rest of this entry »

Clay Bread Baker

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These clay bread bakers were received as a gift for our wedding and have been sitting in the cabinet patiently waiting for some attention. Today,  I had a few hours to spare and was looking for something to pair with my homemade baked potato soup. Homemade bread fit the bill. Rather than use a traditional bread pan as I usually do I was feeling the need to experiment a bit.

Easy enough. While the yeast was doing it’s thing in the bread dough I started prepping the bread baker. This particular one is a Romertopf bread baker. First step is simply soak it in water for 15 minutes. Clay bread bakers mimic the conditions in a brick oven which is the ideal way to bake bread. This dish is made of terra cotta which naturally absorbs moisture and gives bread a crisp crust and moist interior. Read the rest of this entry »

Freezing Cookie Dough

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In order to prepare for Christmas festivities this year, I started preparing batches of cookie dough to freeze. When I had a quiet evening I would whip up a batch or 2 and freeze it. When Christmas eve rolled around, my task was simply to toss them in the oven. I was so pleased with the ease of this method that I plan to continue to freeze dough to minimize food waste. With only a few mouths to feed it’s impossible to eat an entire batch of baked cookies  before they go stale. Ok, not  impossible but unhealthy to say the least. Honestly, this is a great way to help eat those sweets in moderation. I froze a total of 4 varieties but have lost some pictures.
Here are some chocolate filled Russian Tea Cakes. The key to successfully keeping individual cookies is to freeze them completely before allowing them to touch.

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Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

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Fall is here, days are shorter, cooler and the rain has started. Few things are more comforting on a cold rainy day than some hearty, home cooked food. The rain put a hold on outside projects so my Sunday was now open for an indoor activity. Homemade chicken pot pie fit the bill. Actually, I made the filling 1 day then made the crust and baked the pot pie on day 2.

I had 2 chicken breasts that I browned in a pan the evening before, the remains of a package of chicken breast since that much chicken is always far too much for one meal feeding 2 mouths. The chicken was diced and set aside. All the veggies were also prepped and set aside- potatoes, carrots, celery, mushrooms, onions, parsley, and peas.
In a large pot a couple tablespoons of butter were melted and the onions were added. Crushed garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper were added. A few tablespoons of unbleached flour were added one at a time and mixed well to create a roux which will later thicken the liquid. The mixture was cooked for a few minutes then slowly chicken broth was added to the roux mixing constantly to ensure the flour mixture incorporated smoothly into the liquid.  I used one can of broth then added all of the veggies and chicken then topped off with more liquid. This way, I was sure to have just enough liquid since I was aiming for a thick stew liquid and not a soup. The pot was covered and cooked for an hour or 2.

Buttery, flakey, brown, melt in your mouth pie crust can be so simple. 4 ingredients is all it takes.  I made enough crust for a full size pie and 2 small pies. Here are the measurements I used: 2  ½ cups flour, 1 cup COLD butter, about ½ cup COLD water and a few pinches of salt. The butter should be cubed then added to the flour and salt and cut in until it’s crumbly. I don’t get bent out of shape if some of the larger clumps won’t break down because this is what helps create the flakiness. The cold water is slowly added and mixed. I prefer a fork for most of the mixing. Form the dough into 2 balls and refrigerate for a few hours.

The dough was rolled, the pie pans were filled, the delectable pies baked until golden brown and the house smelled incredible.

Whole Grain Pastry Flour Carrot Cake

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I grabbed a bag of Arrowhead Mills whole grain pastry flour while at the local grocery store. It was new to me, looked intriguing and I wanted to try it. I pulled up Arrowhead Mill’s website for recipes and found this fantastic recipe for extremely moist pineapple raisin carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. These scrumptious little cupcakes are full of texture and have just the right amount of sweetness.

carrot-cake-recipe

Whole grain pastry flour is light in texture, much lighter than whole grain or wheat flour and has a low gluten content. Its not recommended for use in breads or recipes that call for yeast but is great for cakes, cookies and pastries.

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