Archive for the 'cooking & food' Category

favorite things friday: flaxseed crackers

Meet my new favorite low carb cracker – the flaxseed cracker. When I say crunchy, I mean crunchy. This one stands up well in dips, with brie, or just for snacking. Or, if you’re like C and prefer them to be a little softer, you can do that, too. Fortunately, when you’re making them yourself, you can easily make both!

I’ve tried several of the recipes out on the internets, but one that I made up myself is by far my favorite:

Flaxseed & Cheese Crackers

Ingredients:
1 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup water
1 cup grated cheese (whatever kind you like)
salt & pepper, to taste
garlic powder & onion powder, as desired

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 250*

2. Mix together the flaxseed and water. Let sit for about 20 minutes – it will form a congealed mix.

3. Add spices and cheese to flaxseed and mix together until combined.

4. Place parchment paper down on the counter and dump your cracker mix on top. Spread with a spatula, or place another layer of parchment paper on top and use a rolling pin to roll it flat.

  • Crunchy crackers – You want to get this as THIN as possible before you start seeing the parchment paper showing through the mix. 1/8” or less is best.
  • Softer crackers (mini-bread) – Aim for a thicker cracker. 1/8” to 1/4” works.

5. Take off the top piece of parchment paper. Place bottom piece of parchment paper with the cracker mix on the baking sheet and place in oven.

6. The bake time varies depending on how crunchy you want your cracker to be. Thin mixtures will be crunchy in about 45 minutes*; thicker mixtures will still be soft at this point. When the edges start to get brown, turn off the oven and allow to cool in the oven (they will continue to crisp up).

*My baking time varies significantly every time I make these, probably because I don’t roll them out the same thickness each time. Sometimes I turn the oven back on after cooking and cooling, if they’re not crunchy enough for me. I’ll watch the times more closely the next time I make these and give an update.

clean eating

My herb garden in the backyard has been a success this summer. I used our back planter boxes to plant some starters, and they’ve done great! Once I got our drip lines turned on, that is. I’m useless when it comes to remembering to water – drip line and sprinkler timers are my friends. :-)

Among my herbs, I planted stevia. I’ve never been a fan of the store-bought stuff – it’s far too bitter for me. I’d heard good things about home-grown stevia extract, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I plan to harvest a few sprigs today and see how it works for me. I’d love to have a natural no calorie sweetener option for when my sweet tooth hits. This time, I found a video showing me how to harvest my stevia plant and grind up the sweet leaves in to a powder form. My plant is still rather small, but I’ll do a few test batches and see how it goes.

I noticed the link to this woman’s blog on her youtube video, and saw that she hosts a “clean eating” website. I’m happy to see so many people glombing on to the clean eating bandwagon. Or maybe I’m just one of the masses, and having my eyes opened to this way of life is making me more conscious of others around me doing the same.

There are a few facets to “clean eating” that I love…

First, it’s a great opportunity to get back to nature, understand where your food comes from and, when possible, grow it yourself. Sure, these things can take longer, and probably wouldn’t fall in to any definition of “convenience” food, but that’s what we’re trying to get away from anyway, right?

Second, it’s not a “diet” in the conventional sense of the word. Sure, it’s a way of eating that can be referred to using that terminology (i.e. “the cleaning eating diet”) but is not intended as a quick fix weight loss. It’s more of a lifestyle overhaul – replacing the junk in our diets with real, wholesome, close to the source food.

Third, there are so many creative adaptations and recipes out there! The internet is such a fantastic place for pooling together ideas and bringing the masses together. There are clean eating recipes for most anything your heart desires (possibly even twinkies… although, again, that’s probably not in the spirit of “clean eating”).

So, what is this whole “clean eating” deal? It’s not so far of from what Ben and I have been doing for the past eighteen months. It’s about eating more whole foods and helping your body help itself. The main things that you reduced from your diet are refined foods – white sugar, white flour, white rice. Foods that turn to sugar quite quickly in your body and give you little nutritional “oomph” for the calories. Now, you bring in the substitutes. Maple syrup, agave and honey are all excellent replacements for sugar (although still to be enjoyed in moderation); whole wheat flour or nut flour to replace white; brown rice as a substitute for white, etc. Overall, it’s common sense stuff… make smarter choices and your body will thank you for it.

I love this page that discusses clean eating. It’s a good, simple explanation. She does a better job at breaking it all down than I, and her website is pretty nifty, too!

Continuing on in this site, I found an interesting article last night about soaking and drying raw nuts before eating them, similar to how we soak beans. The part that won me over was how the author described the texture and flavor as being enough to entice her to soak. So I decided to give it a shot. I threw some in a bowl, added some salt and let them soak overnight. They went in the oven this morning to dehydrate. Results to be determined…

Hope you all are doing well and enjoying the summer! Until next time…

green monster smoothie variations

I’ve been playing around with the standard green monster smoothie recipe and wanted to share some of my findings.

Apple – My favorite! I cut one up fresh, remove the core and throw the pieces in, skin intact. It makes the drink incredibly sweet and more filling. This is the perfect add in, IMO.

image

Pineapple – refreshing, but the combo with peanut butter just didn’t work well. Leaving the peanut butter out was a nice variation, though. It had a tropical flavor with the banana and pineapple flavors coming through strong.

Blueberries – Yummmm! Great combo. Fresh blueberries didn’t add much flavor, unfortunately. Frozen was a different story. I especially love the frozen organic wild blueberries from trader joes. They’re incredibly sweet and have a great flavor. It also blends up bright blue! I made one this morning, but didn’t think ahead to get a picture before I drank it all. Here’s a photo of the remnants.

Strawberries – ripe ones are fantastic. They add a nice sweetness and flavor. Think banana pb&j sandwich. Well, without the bread, that is. Again, Trader Joe’s has a great frozen organic variety that I like to keep on hand, especially when strawberries are not in season.

Flax seed – I’ve been adding this to just about every thing recently. The flavor is slight, adding just a bit of nuttiness to the drink. The health benefits of ground flaxseed are great, and I have a big container to use up, so why not throw some in.

Frozen spinach – fresh is probably best, but we used all of our fresh stuff for juicing this week, so I scoured the freezer looking for another option. My favorite? Trader Joe’s pesticide free spinach. It has a good flavor and cooks up well. Turns out, it also blends nicely in smoothies! It blends better if it’s slightly defrosted, so throw it in the microwave on defrost or pour some out ahead of time to give it time to defrost.

Let me know about any other creative variations you discover!

favorite things friday: honey nuts

Have you ever had honey nuts? General Mills got it right when they made honey nut cheerios, because the combination? Is DIVINE.

meadowfoam honey

I got this honey from a local shop in midtown sacramento and it is delicious. Unlike any honey I’ve had before.

You might be wondering, how does one make honey nuts? It’s so mind numbingly simple. Put nuts in a jar, cover with honey (enough to fully submerge the nuts) and let soak for a few days. If you want to speed up the process, do what I did and chop the nuts when you put them in the jar. You can either do this separately, them throw them in, or stab repeatedly with a knife after nuts/honey at in said jar (which is what I did). A butter knife worked great for this. By chopping them, it only took overnight before the nuts began to infuse the honey flavor.

Then spoon it up and enjoy! It’s my new favorite treat.

eating off the fat… in practice

nachos... yum

We were feeling supremely lazy tonight… neither Ben, nor I, wanted to make dinner. We actually went as far as visiting a local eating establishment to find out what the wait was. Like I said, feeling supremely lazy. Nevermind that we had a fridge, freezer and pantry full of food at home, we wanted a quick fix. No real reason other than it being Saturday night and wanting someone else to do the dishes for us.

Denied at the local BJ’s and nearing C’s bedtime, we nixed the eating out plan and headed home. Looks like dinner was up to us. *Sigh*

We visited Trader Joe’s to pick up supplies for juicing and managed to mostly stick with our list. Dinner tonight was a great example of making use of our inventory… we had a hankering for nachos, so I scoured our inventory and figured out what I could use to go toward said dinner:

- Corn tortillas (freezer) – I defrosted some, cut them in to triangles, sprayed with oil, sprinkled with salt, then broiled for 5-6 minutes to make some homemade tortilla chips.

- Shredded cheese (fridge & freezer) – ’nuff said

- Refried black beans (pantry) – these were actually opened last night, so we used up the leftovers from the fridge today.

- Pulled pork (freezer) – smoked a few weeks ago, taking up a large amount of space in the freezer (mostly due to the container size).

- Jalapenos (fridge) – this jar has been in our fridge for who knows how long. We had a “spare” in the pantry that’s now made a rotation in to the fridge, as we used the rest of the other jar tonight.

- Salsa (fridge) – we didn’t use the whole jar, but we made a dent in it. Yum.

Wishing we had more beans, sour cream and guac to go with our dish… oh, wait… we have guac in the freezer!! Yay!

As for beans, I’m making a pot tonight. We will have backups in the freezer soon enough. This is turning out to be a pretty awesome experiment.

eating off the fat

It’s become overwhelmingly obvious to me that we (as a family) have an embarrassing amount of food. No, really. Between our pantry, fridge/freezer and upright freezer, we have enough food in this house to feed a small army. It might be a strange meal of veggie stock, edamame and roasted eggplant dip, but a meal, nonetheless.

Meal planning, while great in concept, continues to be lacking in execution. I get a wild hair to make this dish, or this one, or maybe this one, and simply must have it. Even if it means the food in our pantry/fridge/freezers goes untouched.

So here’s my goal for the next week… eat from our abundant inventory of food in the house and not go to the store. This is an incredibly difficult thing for me. I LOVE going to the grocery store. Trader Joe’s is one of my and C’s favorite outings. “Want to go to Trader Joe’s?” I ask. “Go to Trader Joe’s? Get sample? Find the horse?” So sweet. I <3 that kid. We also LOVE our farmer’s market outings. It’s a great way to get fresh produce. But, to utilize the things we already own, and for the good of our pocketbook, we must abstain. The one exception I see in this “no buying” plan is getting fruits/veggies for our juice day. I guess I could stock up now, but if that’s all we end up buying in the next week, it’s a small expenditure. Or, maybe we do a smoothie day instead, using up some of the frozen fruits and veggies we already have. Hmmm… that may just work.

Think we can do it? It’s a pretty lofty goal, but I think it’s manageable. We’re working through some leftovers from last weekend and I depleted some of our freezer stock at a St. Patty’s Day party yesterday, so we’re already on our way. The things that will be more time consuming are the beans, and veggie/chicken stocks I need to make (and then freeze). I managed to buy about $25 worth of stuff at the Sprouts market here, though, so I haven’t fully hopped on the “no buying” wagon yet.

c's pantry

The rest are a matter of coming up with creative preparation. We have lots of frozen veggies, frozen fruits, some frozen meats and some carb-y stuff (which, honesty, we never eat and can probably just get rid of). Our standing pantry mainly has foods for C… lots of dried fruit, cereal, oatmeal, pastas, crackers, etc. Stuff that, for the most part, she doesn’t eat. Again, pretty astonishing how quickly food accumulates. Especially when you’re buying in bulk from Costco. We probably don’t need half of what’s in here, and yet, we hang on to it. This next week will be a great opportunity to find out what we need to keep around.

Wish us luck!

favorite things friday: the magic bullet

Have you met my Magic Bullet yet? Internet… meet the Magic Bullet. Magic Bullet… meet the Internet. There, formal introductions are complete. Now, on to the dirt.

I <3 my Magic Bullet. So much, in fact, that I’m on my third model. The internal base of my first cracked while I was blending (which turns out to be a known problem), but I’d gotten a solid three years of use out of it, so I didn’t complain too much. I went to Costco and picked up Bullet #2. That was two or three years ago.

Bullet #3 was non-essential – a purely indulgent purchase. I’d been using Bullet #2 to make green monster smoothies and capacity was an issue. I couldn’t get a full banana in even the largest container. I like a LARGE green monster in the mornings. Supersized, even. I’d heard rumors of a blender carafe for the bullet. I could buy one on Amazon for around $15 + $5 shipping, or I could go to Costco and spend $50 to buy a whole new set, blender included. Given that Bullet #2 was on its third or fourth year, I assumed that the remaining life is limited and opted for the Costco route. Bullet #3 is now in operation, and Bullet #2 is on reserve in storage for crazy smoothie blending parties to come.

Ok, so why do I love it so much? First of all, I’m aware that it has limitations. It’s not fantastic for everything. For larger jobs, my Cuisinart food processor blows it out of the water – in blending, consistency and capacity. My food processor is pretty awesome… but that’s a different post. Let’s get back to the bullet.

So what’s it great for?

- Small jobs, like chopping nuts, making small amounts of fresh whipped cream, blending small batches of pancake batter, making smoothies. The brilliance of it is the fact that it’s small and the blade is attached. The reason this is important is because (just like every other blender I’ve encountered) stuff gets stuck to the sides. I know, a Vitamix would probably blow the bullet away, too, but it darn well should for ten times the cost. And that’s beside the point. With the bullet, when stuff gets stuck, you pick it up and SHAKE it. Bang it on the counter, turn it sideways, turn it upside down, shake vigorously, whatever it takes to get things moving again. Then, when you put it back on the base, you can angle the whole thing to 45 degrees and it blends everything much better. Or, you lock the blender in to the base, pick up the whole thing and shake while it’s blending. Ya can’t do that with no regular blender.

- Easy clean up. The Magic Bullet’s original design was such that you drink from the container you blend in, so the only thing to clean is the blade (until you finish your drink, that is. EASY. With the blender carafe, if you transfer in to another container for drinking, you have a bit more cleaning to do. Really, you could just throw a straw in the sucker and drink away. Looks a bit silly, but it works.

yup, i went there.

- Bullet Blender. The blender carafe has lent some of the brilliance of the small, enclosed design over to increased capacity, and it makes things like shaking the entire unit a bit more difficult. However, I’ve done it. I’ve also done the 45 degree tilt while blending. It’s still small enough to manage. The flaw I see with the bullet blender is that when you lock the lid in place, the lid is ready for pouring, which doesn’t work great if you want to shake or tilt the machine. Oh yeah, there’s also a ridiculously low “max” fill line on the blender carafe. About half way up. Pshhaw. That’s for wussies. I just ignore it. Fill it up.

waaaay past the "max" line

- It’s small. I love that all of my pieces fit in a small box under the cabinet. I pull out the few items I need, then put the rest away. It takes up minimal counter space while out.

box'o bullet stuff

- Larger cups. These new cups are just slightly larger than the “large” old ones, but that little bit helps. It’s the difference between fitting half a banana and a full one.

old cup on the left, new on the right

- Flip lids?!? These things are AWESOME! I love that they added these to the new package. Nicely done, Magic Bullet. Nicely done.

no spill flip lid! woohoo!

In summary… the Magic Bullet is pretty darn awesome. I <3 it. It’s definitely in my favorite things list.

cooking: chocolaty peanut butter bites

I’ve heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention, and really, that’s where these little bites of heaven were derived from… a pure and overwhelming need for something sweet. I searched our fridge for low carb ingredients, and came up with the right combo to make these little beauties:

chocolate peanut butter bites - don't they look wonderful?

Here’s how I made them:

1. Start with chilled peanut butter. I use Trader Joe’s organic peanut butter (just peanuts!). Make sure it’s chilled or it will be too goopy to do what we want to do.

start with peanut butter (chilled!)

2. Crush some peanuts in whatever method you like best. I used my pampered chef slap chopper here. Again, Trader Joe’s brand peanuts – 50% salt, only because they don’t sell unsalted. :-p

crush some peanuts

3. Drop a scoop of peanut butter in to your crushed peanuts. About 1/2 teaspoon works well.

drop a scoop of chilled peanut butter in to crushed nuts

4. Roll the peanut butter around in the peanuts until they’re coated and you can form a little ball out of them. Place these on wax paper and put in the freezer to chill for ~ 10 minutes (while you get the chocolate ready).

roll, roll, roll that scoop of peanut butter until it's fully coated with peanuts

5. For the chocolate part – put some very low carb chocolate (godiva 72% dark) in a small bowl. Then add a bit of oil (whatever kind you like best, grapeseed oil works well because of it’s light, buttery flavor). The amount of oil will vary depending on how much chocolate you are making, but I’d say probably 1 Tbsp oil per chocolate bar. Adjust accordingly.

6. Heat the bowl in the microwave on high for 45 seconds. Stir a bit, put it back in for another 45 seconds. Repeat this process until your chocolate is melted.

7. Pull the peanut butter bites from the freezer, use a fork to drop them (one by one) in to the bowl of chocolate and roll them around until covered. Then, scoop them out and place back on the wax paper. Chill in fridge or freezer to allow chocolate to harden.

8. Eat and enjoy!!

coated with chocolate... yummmmm. a low carb treat!

 

#recipes, #lowcarb, #dessert

all day i dream about food (a.d.i.d.a.f.)

I’ve been slacking a bit on getting posts up and it’s not for lack of ideas. Those, I’ve had plenty of. My time has been whittled away by other things, and I find myself heading to bed at the end of the day tired and without a blog post to show for it. Lots of stuff happening, no time to write about it.

So today, I made it a point to write. Grocery shopping is done, lunch is over, C is napping, I have two recipes baking in the oven and rather than giving in to my most primal urge to nap, I’m sitting here blogging. What else have we been doing? Well, we cleaned our garage over the weekend, I’ve been doing lots of cooking, followed by lots of cleaning (cooking certainly is messy business!) and watching a sick toddler last week solo (Ben was traveling). Phew! I’m exhausted after this past week.

Yesterday was our weekly juice fast day. Which means I spent a good part of the day thinking about food. Avoiding it, planning out the next day, drooling over C’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I’ve been prepping C’s food the night before our juice fast day to make things easier on myself. The less time I spend handling food when I’m avoiding it, the better. Sunday night, we set to work making our juice ration for the following day (remember when I said we’d gone to all fresh juice? that got old really fast), and I started working on C’s breakfast for the week. I had a recipe for banana and nut almond meal pancakes from a natural foods magazine that I really wanted to try. No wheat, no sugar, just eggs, almond meal and very ripe bananas (a few other ingredients, too – I’ll get the recipe up here soon). And you know what? They turned out pretty darn good. Very light and fluffy. C liked them a lot, too! I made some “mouse” shaped pancakes for her, which always gets her to eat more. Go figure. This blog has a recipe posted that’s very similar to the one I used.

Today’s recipe trials include roasted chickpeas, garlic flaxseed crackers and homemade ricotta. I’ll let you know if they turn out any good.

I developed a new system for cleaning the house. Something that breaks it down, makes it a bit easier and makes it feel less overwhelming. I have a chart that shows each day of the week, and in each day, I’ve written a task to get accomplished. Yesterday was laundry and floors. Laundry alone seems like a full day chore, so floors may get moved to another day, but you get my point. I’ve even left a section open for special projects – like cleaning out the garage, or organizing our guest room/office space. Here’s what I figure – I don’t get to something one week, I don’t have it hanging over my head as one of those infinite “to do” items. As long as it’s not a critical chore screaming “this needs to be done now!”, I know it’ll come around again next week and I can do it then. Things like dusting, or mopping, or cleaning the baseboards… you know, that stuff we all loooove to do.

chores... organized!

Fairly random stuff today. C is up from her nap early, so it’s time for me to bid you all farewell. Have a fantastic day!

(kudos to you if you got the music reference I was making in the title)

cooking: delicious black beans

I’ve never been able to get my beans right. Despite the fact that Ben doesn’t complain, they are never as good as I want them to be. I guess I have pretty high expectations.

I compare my beans against a standard that’s been set by our Oregonian friends. They are mostly vegetarian and I drool at the very thought of visiting them for dinner. Black beans are a commonly requested and served item, often paired with a cheese enchilada (with ingredients fresh from the Hispanic market). The meals there are always delicious.

Our friends have shared their bean recipe secret with us in the past, but I’ve never been able to replicate it… until last week. This was the turning point in my life story with beans. And can you guess what their trick was? Caramelizing the onions. I’ve never been able to get it right before. I’ve either crowded the onions in the pot or rushed them with too high of heat, resulting in a less than optimal outcome. This time, though? I was careful to use enough oil, keep the pot at a medium high temperature and let the onions do their thing. My patience paid off – the onions turned a beautiful brown and a sweet smell wafted up as their sugars were released. Later, I found this tutorial online that would have helped tremendously in my past failed attempts.

For the rest of the steps to obtain the perfect beans, I adapted this recipe I find on Gen Y Foodie (check out the site – lots of yummy recipes!). The flavors seemed right and the directions were simple, so I gave it a whirl. I replaced a few things, added others and left some out entirely (like I said, I adapted it). The red wine vinegar was an interesting addition, and I think it worked really well in the recipe. Definitely a trick I will have to remember! I made a large batch last week and we’ve gone through it so quickly that we’ll be ready to make another batch this week! Beans are one of those things that freeze really well and can be defrosted quickly to pair with dinner. Add some guacamole and you have the perfect side dish… or meal, depending on how hungry you are.

black beans a cookin'!

Here’s my recipe (printable version here):

Delicious Black Beans

Ingredients
2 cups dried black beans, soaked (retain soaking liquid for cooking)
1 small can diced green chilies
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tsp garlic (+/- to taste as desired)
2 tsp cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp oil
salt and pepper, to taste (use after fully cooked)

Directions

1. Grab a LARGE pot – this is a one dish meal, baby.
2. Add oil to pot and saute onion in oil over medium-high heat until caramelized. Adding a pinch of salt will speed this up.
3. Add garlic and spices. Cook over med-high heat for ~3 minutes.
4. Add green chilies and bell pepper. Cook over med-high heat for ~5 minutes.
5. Add black beans (with soaking liquid), tomato paste and vinegar. Add water to cover beans by at least 1 inch, if needed.
6. Cover with lid and cook for 45 minutes, or until beans are soft.

Top with some guacamole and enjoy!

mmmm... beans with guacamole



Mom to "C", wife to Ben. I'm a part-time blogger, cook, organizer, seamstress, house cleaner, taxi, nurse (the mom kind), accountant... I could go on, but really... it's all in the blog. Read away!

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