Sunday, October 30, 2011

Caramelized Beets and Carrots (GAPS-legal)

If you're looking for a new grain-free side dish, try out these caramelized beets and carrots!  This recipe actually morphed out of a mistake when I was trying to make cold beet soup last summer.  Since then, this has become a favorite side dish in our house (excepting my husband who has a very strong aversion to beets; both of the kids and I just gobble this up). The combination of beets, carrots, and garlic give this dish a wonderful flavor.

Caramelized Beets and Carrots
Makes 4-6 servings
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
  • 4 beets, rinsed very well*, peeled and chopped
  • 7 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • celtic sea salt
  • beet greens, rinsed very well* and chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 1&1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade (use 1 cup if you aren't including beet greens; use 1&1/2 cups if you are including the greens)
  • Optional garnishes: balsamic vinegar, sour cream, fermented bread and butter pickles
  1. Place the butter, beets, and carrots in a pot and season generously with salt. Cook over medium-high heat for about 20-25 minutes, allowing the beets and carrots to caramelize in the heated butter.  Stir occasionally. 
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic, and saute for about a minute until the garlic is fragrant. 
  3. Add the broth and optional beet greens.  Season with salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.
  4. Simmer 30-40 minutes, uncovered, allowing the broth to cook down.  Stir occasionally. The beets are done when they are nice and soft.  Check for saltiness and turn off heat.
  5. Cool slightly and serve.  Delicious on its own, or you can add either a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or a scoop of sour cream.  The beets and carrots pair particularly well with fermented bread and butter pickles. Leftovers are great when served with scrambled eggs for breakfast.
*If you don't rinse the beets and beet greens very well, you may end up with sandy grit in your teeth. Ick.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter, Real Food Wednesday, Fat Tuesday and Monday Mania!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Muffins (grain-free : nut-free : GAPS-legal)

This time of year, fresh local apples are showing their colors at our farmer's market. These apple cinnamon muffins are a wonderful breakfast treat, sure to please the whole family.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
  • 1/2 cup butter or unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3/4 tsp celtic sea salt 
  • 6 eggs, preferably pasture-raised
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp cinnamon (use 1 tsp if you like lots of cinnamon flavor, or use 3/4 tsp if you like the cinnamon flavor to be subtle)
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour 
  • 2 cups shredded tart apples, such as Rome or Granny Smith (leave the skins on and shred them with a box grater)
  1. Melt butter or coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly. 
  2. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, salt, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl.  If using an immersion blender, pulse a few times to combine. Otherwise, mix to combine with a whisk or mixer.
  3. Add the honey to the butter (or coconut oil) and stir slightly.  Pour this mixture into the wet ingredients and blend well with immersion blender or mixer.
  4. Measure out the coconut flour.  Since coconut flour clumps, it will need to be sifted if you are not using an immersion blender.*
  5. Pour the coconut flour into the bowl with the wet ingredients.  Use an immersion blender or mixer to thoroughly combine all ingredients, making sure there are no lumps.  (Since coconut flour does not contain gluten, there is no worry of over-mixing it).
  6. Fold in the shredded apples.
  7. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  Scoop the muffin batter into the paper cups.  I like to use a 3-Tb scoop for this, but you could just use a large spoon.
  8. Bake muffins in 325 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes, until muffins are set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  If you are in a time-crunch, you could bake them at 350 degrees initially, but you'll need to reduce the heat after a bit so they won't burn before being set in the middle.
  9. Remove from oven and cool.  Delicious with a pat of butter and a big glass of raw milk or milk kefir!  Pair these muffins with bacon or eggs for a hearty meal.
Time-saving tips:
*If you use an immersion blender to combine the ingredients, you can skip the step of sifting the coconut flour.  This also gives you less dirty dishes!
**While you are at it, why not make a double batch of muffins and throw one dozen into the freezer?  It doesn't take much more time, and they will make a very easy breakfast for some other week.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday, Fat Tuesday, Grain-Free Carnival, Monday Mania, Fight Back Friday and Pennywise Platter!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Apple Season!

Fresh apples are a wonderful treat at this time of year.  I try to avoid buying apples at other times of year when they are not in season (like during the spring and early summer).  Eating fruit as it comes in season is a great way to ensure that the fruit you buy will always be fresh and delicious, rather than picked and then transported for weeks from some far away locale.

Enjoy them fresh
We love to eat apples raw, but there are also some great ways to cook with apples.  If you haven't tried apple clafoutis yet, give it a whirl.  It is one our top five grain-free breakfasts. Cooked apples make a delicious side dish alongside pork or chicken.  I'm also working on a recipe for grain-free apple cinnamon muffins.

Preserve some apples
To extend our apple enjoyment, I am preserving lots of apples this year.  An apple corer-peeler-slicer has been essential to save time.  So far, I've put away one bushel (40 pounds), and hope to buy some more apples while the season lasts.  I've made:
  • Dried apples: Core and slice the apples; then dry them in a dehydrator or oven at the lowest temperature.  We like to dry them until they are nice and crispy.
  • Spiced apple butter: Throw cored apples (whole or sliced, with the peel on) into a slow cooker and let them cook all day.  Add spices like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, and cloves.  Add a pinch of salt and some honey if desired.  Then blend it all with an immersion blender until it is nice and smooth.  I just store it in small jars in the freezer rather than canning it. I can't wait to try this on some homemade ice cream.  It is wonderful stirred into a bowl of yogurt.
  • Apple worms: Rather than throwing the apple peels into the compost bucket, I sprinkled them with a touch of cinnamon and then dried them in my oven for several hours at 200 degrees F.  The result is a wonderful, crispy snack!  My 4-year-old gets a kick out of eating these "worms".
  • Frozen raw apples: In a large pot or bowl, combine cold filtered water and some sea salt (I used 1/4 cup salt to one gallon water). Core, peel, and slice the apples, and then chop them a bit more into smaller pieces.  As each apple is prepared, drop the pieces into the salt water.  Once all the apples are immersed, give them a stir. Drain into a colander and do NOT rinse the apples.  Put the apples into quart freezer bags, and transfer to the freezer.  These will be wonderful in the middle of winter cooked into clafoutis or an apple crisp. 
  • Frozen cooked apples: Peel, core, and slice apples.  Cook them over low heat with a dash of salt and a little butter or coconut oil.  When they are nice and soft, they are done!  Scoop them into glass jars or bowls and freeze them.  These will make a great quick side dish or treat. 
What are your favorite apple recipes? Are you preserving any apples this year?

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter, Real Food Wednesday, Monday Mania and Fat Tuesday!

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Ways to Avoid Halloween Candy Overload

    Although we've never allowed our daughter to have much candy, Halloween is still a holiday she greatly enjoys.  This includes, of course, trick-or treating.  This will be our second Halloween while on the GAPS diet, so I thought I'd share some ideas for avoiding candy overload.  With all of these options, make sure you talk to your kids in advance of Halloween so they know what to expect. 
    1. Non-edible treats: In advance of Halloween, I buy a few small items that my daughter will enjoy, such as a small puzzle, animal figurines, and even Halloween socks.  I leave these items at my mother's house so that, when we arrive there and say "trick-or-treat", these items get dropped into my daughter's bag.   
    2. "Legal" sweets: Since my daughter isn't often allowed to eat things like fruit leather, they serve as a great candy replacement on Halloween.  I'll drop a few "legal" sweet treats in her bag along with the other items she has collected while trick-or-treating.  Some ideas for legal sweet treats are: 
    3. Candy Fairy: Before bed on Halloween evening, my daughter leaves her bag of candy on the back porch for the Candy Fairy (she knows that the Candy Fairy is really just me, but nonetheless she enjoys the idea that it is a fairy).  In the morning, she finds that her bag of candy is gone, but in its place is a new game or toy.  This has worked particularly well for us.  It may not work as well for older kids, but may be worth a shot. 
    4. Teach moderation: In advance of Halloween, take the time to talk to your kids about moderation.  They should know that, while tasty, candy is not good for their bodies.  This can help soften the blow when they are not allowed to gorge on candy.  
    5. Compromise: I would guess that moderating the candy intake gets more difficult with older children. A compromise may be in order, such as allowing the child to select a few pieces of candy that are favorites and then allowing the child to pick a toy or game to have in return for the rest of the candy.
    6. Trade money for candy: Where we live, there are several dentists who will pay kids for their candy.  This may be a good option for some kids.
    Do you have any ideas for limiting candy on Halloween?

    This post is part of Monday Mania , Fat Tuesday, Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter and Real Food Wednesday! 

      Sunday, October 16, 2011

      Interview about Our GAPS Journey on Wooly Moss Roots

      Taryn, from Wooly Moss Roots, has interviewed me about the GAPS diet.  Some of the interview questions were:
      1. What sparked your interest in nutrition and what has your food journey looked like so far?
      2. What motivated your family to start the GAPS diet?
      3. What changes in your family's health have you noticed since starting it?
      4. What would a typical day or week of meals look like in your house?
      5. What advice would you share for those starting the diet, to make the transition easier?
      6. What kind of diet would you like to eat after GAPS? Or will it stay similar?
      7. What have been your stumbling blocks while on GAPS?
      Head on over to Wooly Moss Roots to check out the full interview!

      Wednesday, October 12, 2011

      Pumpkin Pie Clafoutis (GAPS-legal, gluten- and grain-free)

      Fall always makes me think of pumpkin.  This clafoutis recipe is spiced like pumpkin pie and so delicious!  It is rich and has just enough body to stand-in for the usual pumpkin pie. Serve it as breakfast alongside some bacon or sausage, or top it with whipped cream for a special dessert.

      Pumpkin Pie Clafoutis
      Serves 5-7
      • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (or try coconut oil or ghee for a dairy-free option*)
      • 1 & 3/4 cups pumpkin puree, preferably homemade
      • 1/3 to 1/2 cup honey, or more to taste
      • 4 eggs, preferably from pastured chickens
      • 1/2 cup milk kefir or plain whole-milk yogurt (or try coconut milk for dairy-free option*)
      • 1/3 cup almond flour, preferably from crispy nuts
      • 2 tsp vanilla extract
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
      • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
      • pinch nutmeg
      • 1/4 tsp celtic sea salt
      • Equipment needed: blender or immersion blender
      1. Melt the butter in a small pot over low heat.  Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly.  If your butter has been overheated, let it cool before combining it with the other ingredients.
      2. Blend together all ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender (don't forget to add the melted butter).  Taste for sweetness, and add more honey to taste if desired. 
      3. Pour mixture into a buttered 8-inch square glass baking dish.  Bake in 325 degree oven for 35-45 minutes, until center is set.
      4. Allow to cool and then transfer to the fridge.  Best if served cold (if you can wait that long). Serve it as breakfast alongside some bacon or sausage, or top it with whipped cream for a special dessert.
      *You may need to add a bit more of the spices if you substitute coconut products for the dairy, as the coconut flavor may mute the spices.

      This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Monday Mania, Fight Back FridayPennywise Platter and Real Food Wednesday!

          Sunday, October 9, 2011

          Ways to Keep Young Kids Happy While You Work in the Kitchen

          As a mother of two young children, one of the biggest challenges to cooking real food is keeping the kids happy while I work in the kitchen. Some ways I have found to keep the kids content are:
          • Find a good place for your children to watch. Kids, and especially babies, love to watch dinner preparations.  If you can, clear off a large space on the counter where the baby can sit to watch (obviously this will only work if you have a large work surface and keep a close eye to make sure no one gets near the edge of the counter).  My kids also love to stand on a step stool to watch food preparations.  You can even give them little snacks to eat while they watch.
          • Wear your baby or toddler on your back or hip. This is a lifesaver for moms of infants, or even toddlers on days that they are needing some extra mom time.  On some days when my son resists napping, wearing him while I work in the kitchen is great as he will finally relax enough to take a nap on my back.
          • Let the kids help in the kitchen.  Kids love to help out, even from a very young age.
            • Toddlers can:
              • Put scraps into the compost bucket.
              • Put chopped fruits and veggies into a pan.
              • Stir some ingredients together (beware of a mess if you let them stir dry ingredients like flour).
            • Preschoolers can:
              • Break eggs into a bowl.
              • Measure and stir ingredients.
              • Put away silverware.
              • Rinse off dirty dishes in the sink.
              • Peel carrots.
              • Slice eggs using an egg slicer.
              • Chop some vegetables with a child's knife.
              • Tear and wash lettuce.
              • Put together salads with already-prepped ingredients. 
              • Set the table.
          • Let them play! There are so many options for kids to play in the kitchen while you work. 
            • Clear out a space to allow kids to play inside a cabinet.
            • Get a stool and let them play in the measuring spoon/gadget drawer (remove sharp objects first, of course).
            • Let toddlers play with the salad spinner.
            • Let kids play with water at the kitchen sink; this can be a dribble of water from the faucet, leftover dishwater, or even a pot of water.  Add a few spoons and measuring cups to really make them happy.
            • Let them play kitchen using some pretend food along with real pots, pans, spoons, etc.
            • Set them up to color/scribble with crayons or colored pencils
            • Let them play with a couple pieces of robust produce (leeks and onions are some favorites in my house).
            • Put in a favorite kids' CD so everyone can sing and dance along while they work.
          What are your favorite ways to keep the kids happy while you work in the kitchen?

          This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter, Real Food Wednesday, Fat Tuesday and Monday Mania! 

            Wednesday, October 5, 2011

            Egg Drop Soup (gluten- and grain-free)

            Egg drop soup is a wonderful way to eat some nourishing eggs and broth.  This recipe is subtly spiced with sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger.   It is so simple to make in just a few minutes, and makes a wonderful side dish or even main course.

            Egg Drop Soup
            Serves 2-3 as a main course
            Serves 4-6 as a side dish
            • 2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
            • 2 cups filtered water (if using store-bought chicken broth/stock, don't add water; instead increase the amount of stock to 4 cups)
            • 1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
            • 1/2 tsp gluten-free tamari soy sauce*
            • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
            • 1.5-2 tsp celtic sea salt, plus more to taste (my chicken stock is unsalted; reduce the salt if yours is salted)
            • 3-5 eggs, preferably from pastured chickens (if you like your soup very brothy, use only 3 eggs; if you want to make it more hearty and filling, use 5 eggs)
            • 1 Tb finely chopped green onions, green-part only
            1. In a medium pot, bring the chicken stock and water to a simmer.
            2. Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, and salt.  Use a garlic press to squeeze the ginger into the pot (or chop it very finely with a knife and add it to the pot).
            3. Taste the broth and add more salt to taste.  It should be nicely salty.
            4. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a fork.
            5. Pour the eggs, a little at a time, into the simmering liquid.  Stir a little after each addition of eggs.
            6. Sprinkle the green onions into the pot, turn off heat, and cover with a lid.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
            7. Ladle into bowls and serve!
            *Soy sauce is not GAPS-legal. However, my family has had no problems with using this very small amount in our GAPS diet.
              This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Monday Mania, Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter and Real Food Wednesday!

                Sunday, October 2, 2011

                Solar Cooking Wrap-up

                A few months back I announced a solar cooking challenge.  No one actually signed up for the challenge, but I thought I should still keep my promise to fill you in on the results of my own solar cooking experiments.

                I did a bit of experimenting with cooking in the solar cooker, and I used a spreadsheet to track each cooking experiment (hey, if you are going to experiment, you may as well keep track of all of your variables).  Each time I used the solar cooker, I recorded the sun conditions, time of day, cooking durations, food cooked, solar cooker configuration (facing different directions, using different cookware, etc), temperature of the food, and results.

                Pros and Cons of Solar Cooking
                Some great things about solar cooking are:
                • It really works! I was so excited the first time I used the solar cooker and found water condensing on the lid of my crock.  My thermometer verified that the food was heated to over 165 degrees.  
                • Solar power is free to use.
                • Similar to cooking in a slow cooker, there is no need to stir foods cooking in a solar cooker, so you can just put the food in and walk away.
                • It reduces the heat in your house during the hot summer months.
                I learned some down-sides to solar cooking:
                • Solar cooking takes quite a bit longer than stovetop cooking, and a little longer than cooking in a slow cooker.
                • The solar cooker will not work well if clouds move in.  You really need some great sunshine to make it work the best.
                • There are peak times to use the cooker, and these may not always correspond to when you'd like to prepare your food.  For instance, when I tried to push dinner back an hour to 7:30PM, the solar cooker lost too much heat and the food started cooling rapidly since the sun was going down. To be fair, though, I've heard that this is less of a problem with other types of solar cookers that insulate better (such as box-style cookers).
                • It was a bit annoying having to make sure my toddler wouldn't be out back whenever the solar cooker was in the back yard (although this wasn't a big problem because no one really wanted to be out there when it was around 100 degrees outside anyway).  This would have been less of a problem if I was willing to move a table out into the middle of the yard to put the cooker on, but I didn't want to have to do that repeatedly.

                Solar Cooking is Great for Lunch Time!
                The prime time to generate heat with the sun in the summer here is from about 10am to 3pm. The solar cooker works great for quick lunch cooking such as reheating leftovers or cooking hot dogs. Hot dogs were ready in about 30 minutes (yes, that is slow compared to the stovetop, but this is solar cooking after all so the temperatures are lower). Raw sausages take a little longer, needing an hour to be cooked thoroughly.

                Solar Cooking is Great for Cooking a Winter Squash
                One of my favorite ways to use the solar cooker is for cooking winter squash.  All you have to do is put the squash in whole and let it cook for several hours in the sun.  You can do this the day before you need to use the squash, or even early in the day so it will be ready when you need to use it for dinner. 

                Tips for Cooking Dinner in a Solar Cooker
                • Make sure you won't be eating too late.  Solar cookers will start to lose heat as the sun starts heading towards sunset.
                • Check your weather forecast.  During our monsoon season of July and August, heavy clouds come in almost every afternoon.  I got so tired of moving food indoors to cook that I gave up on solar cooking dinners towards the end of July. 
                • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough time to cook in the solar cooker.  The cook times really lengthen as you move out of the peak time (which is around 10am-3pm during the summer in our location).

                Now What?
                Do I use the solar cooker often? No, I don't use it very often.  Most frequently, I use it for cooking winter squash or heating up lunch.  Beyond that, it would also be great to have around in case of an emergency or disaster.  It was a fun experiment, though.

                Have you ever tried solar cooking?

                This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter, Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!