Browsing Category

Cooking

Cooking Recipe

Let’s talk veggies, plus a recipe

March 9, 2016

Alright ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk veggies. Yes, I mean we’re going to talk about vegetables, and I may say some unpopular things.

First off, I love veggies. I am not vegan (though I use some vegan products due to my husband’s issues with dairy) and I’m not even strictly vegetarian, I just eat little to no meat. So, as a proud supporter of vegetables, there are some things I take offense to on their behalf. These include:

  1. The notion that liking meat and liking vegetables are mutually exclusive.
  2. The idea that things that are healthy can’t taste good (new Bai 5 commercial, I am looking at you).
  3. The belief that vegetables have no taste.

Number 1 from the list above is it’s own issue. I have come across people who seem to think you’re either a vegetarian or a meatatarian, and that’s that. I refuse to even address that, as it speaks for itself.

Numbers 2 and 3 however, are more or less the same issue. Now let me be very clear, I understand that people have preferences and not everything is everyone’s cup of tea (or plate of salad, as it were). My husband doesn’t care for bitter vegetables and finds the taste of artichokes weird. Whether it’s a taste, a texture, or something else, I get it. Not everyone likes everything.

But an individual preference isn’t what I’m getting at here. Let’s look at first, “healthy foods can’t taste good.” You know what I’m talking about, the marketing ploys where the spokesperson says something along the lines of “something that tastes this good can’t be healthy!” or “so good, you’d never know it’s good for you!”

Slow your roll here, this is nonsense. I will concede that people who eat mostly processed, high sugar foods do likely have a taste for sweeter things than someone who eats more natural, low sugar things. It’s just what you’re used to. What I take issue with is perpetuating the idea that healthy food is gross and junk food is delicious. I will admit, somewhat sheepishly, that I like Goldfish, and I’m actually a fan of some junk food. But that doesn’t mean that a ripe strawberry isn’t just as awesome, if not moreso. There are so many things that are either actually healthy, or just “healthier” than processed, packaged alternatives that are downright amazing, that the fact that I hear this said over and over is just absurd to me.

Just for argument’s sake, if I bake a snack cake from scratch and use flour, real butter, good vanilla extract and organic eggs, sure it’s not “health food” but it’s a lot healthier than a Twinkie, and probably takes just as good if not better. And it’s not loaded with chemicals and preservatives.

Now, I recently saw comments regarding veganism, and one of the ongoing threads was along the lines of, “I like my food to have taste, so I eat meat.” I’m sorry, what are you eating?! I have known people who actually have a compromised sense of taste, like welders and heavy smokers, but otherwise…what? Seriously, if you think that your options are meat or iceberg lettuce and boiled carrots, we may have found the problem. Try buying fresh vegetables and cooking them in different styles. If you cook your broccoli until it’s falling apart, cook it for a few minutes less. If your green beans are grey and limp when you eat them, that may be your issue. If you can honestly say that across the board, vegetables have no taste, I’m sorry but you’re doing something wrong.

Sautee! Stir fry! Steam! Branch out from seasoning with salt and pepper; get yourself some garlic powder, some herbs, some dried shallots! The world or vegetables and healthy eating has so many options, varying tastes and textures that I absolutely cannot understand how a full grown adult can make these statements seriously, nor think it is fair or appropriate to pass these notions to our children. I could go further into how this affects kids’ eating habits and can feed into this nation’s obesity crisis, but I’ll leave that be.

That’s the end of my snark for today. I do have a pretty excellent recipe I’d like to share, but I want to remind you of something first…you know those food blogs that use such beautiful, evocative photos that you feel like you can practically smell the food cooking? This isn’t one of them.

The Meatloaf and the Meatless Meatloaf: a Basic Recipe

This is really quite simple. My assistant helped.

This is really quite simple. My assistant helped.

The other night I decided to make a simple meatloaf (ground chuck beef, an egg, breadcrumbs, diced onions and seasonings) with roasted potatoes and carrots for my husband and Little Miss. I wouldn’t be eating that though, so I got the idea for a meatless meatloaf. My mother has made a pretty crazy faux chopped liver in the past with canned string beans, so I though hmm, maybe that would work (this is the only time I’ve ever purchased canned string beans, by the way).

With quinoa, an egg and a sprinkle of Italian cheeses for protein and an assortment of vegetables, this came pretty excellent! It didn’t hold together in a loaf shape, so I spread it in my square Pyrex dish and it baked beautifully next to the meatloaf. I would consider this a main dish alongside some nice sides to fill out the meal, or it would make a lovely side dish itself. Plus I’m pretty sure you could put nearly any veggies in and it’d rock! My favorite kinds of recipes are the ones that serve as a guideline for you to customize, and I think this falls into the category. Here is the recipe as I made it. I chopped my vegetables after they were cooked, but you can also chop them fine then sautee them quickly if you prefer. This is also nice because you can prep it early, then just throw it together and pop it in the oven when you’re ready.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack white mushrooms
  • 1 can string beans
  • 5 leaves fresh kale
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • Salt, pepper, dried parsley, onion powder
  • 1 large egg
  • Sprinkle of mixed Italian cheeses (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, Provolone), if desired
  • Olive oil
  • Handful oatmeal

Instructions:

  1. Cook your quinoa as instructed on the packed. Wash your mushrooms and kale and rough  chop, then sautee in olive oil until fairly cooked (this doesn’t have to be perfect, it’ll be baked again). Set aside to cool to a manageable temperature.
  2. Place cooled mushrooms and kale in a chopping bowl and chop into uniform smaller pieces (I use a wooden bowl and mezzaluna blade). Remove into another bowl, open and rinse string beans and chop.
  3. In a large bowl, mix chopped vegetables, chopped beans and quinoa. Add in a sprinkle of salt, pepper, dried parsley and onion powder to taste. Add large egg and a handful of oatmeal (to absorb excess liquid), plus a sprinkle of cheese if desired, and mix it all up.
  4. Spread into a square Pyrex oven-safe dish and place in oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because I was cooking this alongside the meatloaf, I didn’t time it exactly; it cooked for about 40 minutes I believe, but could go for less because the only ingredient that needs to cook is the egg. It came out with a nice crispy top and I was overall very pleased with it – Little Miss even enjoyed a few bites!

Cooking Uncategorized

Easy Make Ahead Breakfast: Burritos

February 28, 2016

I know this is way, way late but-how was everyone’s Valentine’s Day? I hope you ate chocolate and spent it with people you love! We had our fancy Valentine’s Day dinner out the Thursday before at Cella Bistro. It was, as always, fantastic. We are planning to go back sometime this summer and sit in the more casual bar area, if Tiny Baby has a personality that will cooperate with that sort of thing. As for the day of, we spent a very low-key Sunday, and it was pretty perfect. I made waffles, bacon and eggs, and we braved the sub zero temperatures and ventured out to church. I took church membership vows in front of the smallest group I’ve seen in awhile- probably due to the insane cold. That was okay with me though- as I hate standing up in front of big crowds! Once we got home, we spent the day cooking a whole lot of comfort food- and doing the dishes we created.  We made mini apple pies and chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert. We also made garlic mashed potatoes and the meatloaf style meatballs. It wasn’t fancy, but it was a delicious accompaniment to catching up on Downton Abbey, and watching a ton of Top Gear.

We also decided to take care of breakfast for a few days! My husband made breakfast burritos, and I supervised and then took over the rolling responsibilities. He did all of the hard work though! I’ll share our recipe, which includes meat, but this could easily be made vegetarian if that is your thing! Just substitute out the sausage for black beans or tofu- or just let the egg and avocado be your protein! Cheese would also be delicious in this- but we wanted our burritos to be dairy free.

Breakfast Burritos (makes seven servings)

You’ll need:

7 large flour tortillas

4 eggs

1 lb ground sausage

1/2 a diced onion

2 potatoes (cut into small strips, drizzled in olive oil, covered with a paper towel and microwaved for about two minutes to speed up their cooking time)

a few bunches of spinach leaves

1 avocado

salsa

Salt and pepper (according to your taste)

Making the omelet filling:

First, we cooked the sausage, and then set it aside. Next, we sautéed our diced onions with a little olive oil, until they were soft. We threw in our microwaved potatoes, and sauteed them for a few minutes as well. We again added the sausage to the pan, and let everything mix together.

Next, we cracked four eggs into a bowl, whisked them together with a little salt and pepper, and added them to the pan to make a scrambled omelet. Once the omelet was cooked, it was removed from heat, and allowed to cool enough to handle as filling.

ingredients cooked

 

Assembling the burritos:

By the way- try not to overstuff your tortilla, or it will fall apart when you try to roll it! We learned this after attempting to assemble our first burrito!

We set out a square of tinfoil that was larger than our tortillas. We added raw pre-washed spinach leaves to the bottom of the burrito (Next time, I would like to cook the spinach and add it to the omelet filling. It didn’t bother my husband, but the texture of raw spinach in the morning isn’t my jam. This is a total judgment call though!) Next, we added some of the omelet filling to the tortilla. After that, we added three thin slices of avocado and a drizzle of salsa to the top.  The tortillas were then rolled up carefully in the tinfoil. We chose tin foil because this would be easy for my husband to grab on his way to work, and heat up in the toaster oven. If you know you’ll just be eating your burrito at home, you could always roll them and carefully place them in a small casserole dish for storage.

burrito wrapped

We think these breakfast burritos were a delicious grab and go breakfast, which is ideal for us- since my husband leaves for work at 6:00 am sharp! Except for today, when he was a little late because he cleaned off my snowy car. He’s the best.

Try this recipe! I’d love to hear what you guys decide to add to your own burritos!

 

 

 

Cooking

Vegan Penne alla Vodka Sauce

January 21, 2016

On Monday afternoon, I began craving penne alla vodka. What I wasn’t craving, was the stomachache that consuming large amounts of heavy cream would leave me with. Not to be deterred, I looked up a recipe and decided to attempt a dairy- free version. Although it was not quite the same as the dairy-full version topped with parmesan cheese, my husband and I  were pretty pleased with the results! Plus, the sauce is not only free of dairy- it is also vegan if you are into that sort of thing!

 

Vegan Penne alla Vodka Sauce

(Adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1 Small Onion, diced

3 Cloves Garlic, minced

1 Cup Vodka

1 Cup Plain Soy Creamer (or your choice of nondairy milk or plain nondairy creamer)

1 Jar Tomato Sauce (we used our homemade sauce- apparently using tomato puree will make your sauce come thicker- I’ll try that next time!)

Red Pepper Flakes

Penzey’s Shallot Pepper or regular Black Pepper

 

Saute your onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat. When they get soft, remove your pan from the heat and add your vodka. Return your pan to medium heat and set a timer for three minutes, so that the vodka has time to reduce. This step is important because I saw people in the comments complaining about the sauce tasting too alcoholic. I am guessing that these folks did not allow the vodka to reduce enough, because I did not have the same complaint.

Once the vodka has cooked down a bit (you will be able to tell by looking at the pan), add the tomato sauce  and mix to combine with the vodka. Simmer this mixture, and then add your nondairy creamer. Although the soy creamer was plain, I found that the sauce tasted a little sweet. To offset the sweetness, I added shallot pepper and a bunch of red pepper flakes for some heat. After about 10 minutes of simmering, the sauce is ready to be mixed into your pasta and enjoyed!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! We’re excited to be spending lots of time with family this weekend. Stay warm and safe- I hear its supposed to snow or something;)

 

 

Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

Easy and Delicious Weekday Breakfast: Avocado Toast

January 13, 2016

Anyone else bored with their weekday breakfast routine? I was loving my granola and yogurt until I wasn’t, and I overdid it on the cereal during the early days of my pregnancy.  I need change! When my sisters were here, we were on a muffin making kick, which was pretty awesome, but my husband usually needs a little more protein for breakfast to get through the morning.  Then I remembered something I have not made in about a year- avocado toast!

Here is my favorite way to make it:

Avocado Toast For Two

Toast two slices of whole wheat bread.

Mash up one ripe avocado and add a splash of lime juice, and a little salt and pepper.

Spread over your toast and enjoy OR-

Get creative with more toppings!

Add a fried or medium well done poached egg,

add some chopped up bacon,

add a thinly sliced tomato or other sliced veggies of your choice,

or maybe add some leftover beans that you had in the fridge.

When I made some toast  for my husband and I this morning, I topped ours with some leftover bacon and a poached egg each. I highly recommend that you give this breakfast a try if you are an avocado lover!

 

Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

I have broth bowl envy, but no time. Let’s make stir fry instead!

January 6, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I have been seeing a lot of pictures of beautifully styled broth bowls on Pinterest, some of my favorite blogs, and one particularly inspiring Instagram feed. My friend’s picture on Instagram looked particularly enticing, so I looked up recipes from the chef that she was trying to emulate. David Chang’s ramen bowls look lovely, but the broth takes hours to make. Also, I hate mushrooms and don’t have any pork belly on hand. Eww. I’m a carnivore, but that even grosses me out.  This is not ideal for a week day meal. Maybe I will attempt some version of this on a weekend one day, but today I have work and do not want to create a huge mess. We don’t have a dishwasher. In fact- I am the dishwasher. My husband helps, but the poor guy works over 9 hours a day, so I try to handle this stuff during the week. I have learned if the dishes are not done by 8:00 pm, they will not get done until the next morning. Bedtime comes early when it’s winter and you are growing a human. So let’s keep dinner simple tonight, shall we?

However, now I am craving some kind of asian food. I am going to be practical, and use what I already have at home in the name of economy and also, because it is currently four degrees outside.  When I am examining what about the broth bowl I am craving, its mostly the noodles and the egg portion. A stir fry over rice noodles should satisfy this craving, and I can make it colorful and pretty and top it with an egg for extra protein! The good thing about stir fry is that you can use whatever meat or veggies you have around. This would be just as delicious with broccoli or even brussels sprouts or whatever you want!

Easy Week night Stir-Fry

Here’s what you’ll need:

Sesame oil for sautéing or olive if you don’t have sesame

1 chicken breast, cut into short strips

1/2 zucchini, quartered

1/2 yellow summer squash, quartered

2 carrots, peeled and cut into short spears

1 green pepper, cut into short strips

a handful of frozen spinach

1/2 an onion, diced

1 garlic clove, diced

Light soy sauce

1 tspn Powdered ginger, plus a little extra

A few shakes of hot red pepper flakes

1 package of rice noodles

By the way- I am kicking myself for running out of chili garlic sauce. About a  tablespoon would be lovely in this dish if you happen to have it and like the spice!

First, cut up all of your veggies, and sauté them in sesame oil over medium heat. I like to use my wok, but any large pan will do. Once the veggies begin to soften a bit, add a few drizzles of light soy sauce, and about 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger to season the veggies. Add a few shakes of hot red pepper flakes according to taste. We like things pretty spicy at our house.

veggies-2

I ended up sautéing the chicken separately because the veggies took up so  much space.  I removed the cooked veggies from the wok once they were soft and added the chicken. I seasoned it the same way- just used less- a drizzle of soy sauce, a few shakes of ginger and red pepper flakes. The chicken only took a few minutes to cook because the pieces were so small.

I prepared the rice noodles according to the directions on the package. In this case, the package said to soak the noodles in very hot water for 10 minutes, and then strain them. Once the noodles were done, I mixed the noodles, chicken and veggies in a big bowl. Tonight, when I serve this, I’ll  probably drizzle it with a touch more soy sauce, and top mine with a poached egg! Don’t worry, it will be cooked all the way through for the sake of tiny baby!

plate plate2

I hope you give this stir fry a try some night! Has anyone tried to make those trendy broth bowls?

 

 

 

Cooking Recipe

Some favorite side dishes (that rhyme)

December 21, 2015
Old Fashioned Modern Living

I don’t like eating meat, oh no I don’t, I don’t like eating things with feet. I do not it on a boat, I will not eat it with a goat. I don’t like it here or there, I do not like it anywhere!

Thanks for the help there, Dr. Seuss. For real though, I’ve always been a picky eater not in that I don’t like variety, but in that I don’t particularly care for meat. And when I do eat meat, be prepared for a dissection of epic proportions. I have said in the past that my favorite meat is chicken breast – no gross bloody spots appear during cooking like chicken thighs, very little fat and really very little to be offended by. When it cooks, it just changes color and texture with no unpleasant surprises. Basically, it cooks like a vegetable, and I appreciate that.

The past several months I’ve been exploring simple ways I can satisfy my enthusiastic carnivore husband while eating the bare minimum of meat myself – without spending all day cooking or dirtying every pot and pan in the house. One of my tricks is to make a side dish that he can eat, that is substantial enough that it can serve as the bulk of a vegetarian meal. I’m going to share two of my favorites, and it just so happens that they both rhyme.

First up is quinoa and beanoa. If you’re not in the know, pronounce quinoa “keen-wa”…then just add “wa” onto the end of the word bean to make it rhyme. Because why not?

Like most of my recipes, this is more of a guideline. It’s so simple though, that’s all you need. First you take a pot, and you cook 1 cup of quinoa following the instructions on the box. Next, in a nice size pan or saucepan, sautee some onions and garlic in olive oil. Then throw in your favorite veggies, be it spinach, strips of kale, diced zucchini, sweet corn, stir and leave it for a minute while you dice up a tomato. Throw that in and let cook, seasoning as you like. Salt and pepper, parsley, a pinch of basil…or go in another direction and add cilantro. Open up a can of red kidney or cannelini beans (I prefer kidney beans with white quinoa and cannelini beans with red quinoa just for aesthetics) and toss them in. Stir until the beans are hot and the veggies are cooked. Quinoa cooks quick, only about 20 minutes, so when that’s ready, toss it in with your veggies and give it a stir.

And there you have it. I don’t have a photo, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Quinoa is packed with protein, as are beans. This is one of my favorites to serve for dinner, then use the leftovers the next couple of nights so I don’t need to make another vegetarian entree.

Note: Yes, I will use canned beans if I don’t have dried that I have soaked and cooked waiting in my freezer. I try to buy organic when possible, and rinse them well before using to remove all the “can sludge”.

Old Fashioned Modern LivingNext up is beets and sweets. I spent much of my life resisting beets. They stain your hands, they taste like dirt…not interested. Less than a year ago I tried again, roasting red beets and sweet potatoes, slicing and layering them drizzled with balsamic vinegar. And it was good. Like, my husband was happy to eat it good, and he is a total beet hater.

Then I discovered golden beets. I buy them at the supermarket, they’re a delightful sunny yellow inside, and handling them doesn’t stain your hands. So, beets and sweets. Grab your golden beets and a couple of sweet potatoes. Wash them and peel them, then dice into nice little chunks. Line a baking pan with parchment paper (or don’t, as you wish), and lay out the chunks, then drizzle or spray some olive oil on them. Bake at 400 degrees fahrenheit until tender enough you’d want to eat them – mine took about 45 minutes to be fork tender. Once they’re done, hit a frying pan or skillet with diced onions and a little garlic until it starts to get tender. For me, I would skip this next step (and you easily can to keep it vegetarian), but I was making this for a crowd this last time, so I chopped up a slice of thick bacon to throw in to add a little extra richness and a salty tang. Stir that around then throw in the beets and sweets. I seasoned with pink sea salt, black pepper, parsley and a touch of rosemary and thyme for a warm, earthy taste.

The only reason sage wasn’t sprinkled in was that I couldn’t find it. Sorry Simon and Garfunkel, I tried to go all the way with it for you.

And then that’s it. It came beautiful! The colors popped, the flavors were fantastic, with the contrasting sweetness of the beets and sweet potatoes playing off each other.

I like to cook, I like to cook, and I rarely do it from a book. I make up recipes you see, I create them, I make them be! I shared two vegetarian sides so how about you, what kind of side dishes do you do?

Cooking Recipe

Tips for Preparing Grass fed Beef

December 14, 2015

Hello Everyone! I am back with some quick tips for preparing grass fed beef to (what we feel is) its full advantage. Prior to purchasing grass fed beef in bulk, I hadn’t had much experience with eating or preparing this type of lean beef. I just knew that it was healthier for you and that many restaurants boasted grass fed beef on their menus. When we began preparing our grass fed beef using our usual methods, we were a little disappointed by its slightly gamey flavor and lack of moisture. Now that we have been cooking this meat for about a year, we’ve learned how we best like it prepared.

 

Tip 1: Add a little moisture to the meat. We often use olive oil. We use this technique when browning ground beef for spaghetti and meat sauce. Follow the same tip for making meatballs and hamburgers! No need to add too much oil, just a little bit goes a long way.

Tip 2: Use good, high quality seasonings. We are crazy about Penzey’s seasonings! My husband’s family has been using them forever, and we’ve been using them since we received the big wedding crate of seasonings as a wedding present. We use the Italian herb mix whenever we are making meatballs or meat sauce. When we make burgers, we often add fresh chopped onions, jalapeños, and red pepper flakes.  Seasoning well, but not over seasoning really brings out a good flavor in the meat.

Tip 3: Make a homemade gravy or sauce to be ladled over the meat. Last week, I made beef brisket in my crockpot for our Chanukah dinner. My husband and I enjoyed it, but although it was seasoned, we still felt like the meat had a slightly gamey flavor. After dinner, I used the juices leftover in the crockpot to make gravy to put on the brisket. We both enjoyed it much more this way!

Here are a few of our favorite recipes:

Spicy Burgers

You’ll Need:

1 lb grass fed ground beef

A little drizzle of olive oil (skip this step if you are not using grass fed meat)

A drizzle of Worcester Sauce

1  fresh jalapeño diced up with the seeds removed (you may want to wear gloves)

About a quarter of a small onion diced very small

A few shakes of salt

A few generous shakes of pepper

Mix all of these ingredients and shape them into patties. Use your favorite method of making burgers- grilling or broiling work fine!

Beef Short Ribs

All credit must go to the amazing Pioneer Woman. I cannot describe how delicious this is. Although it is a time consuming recipe- it is  very enjoyable! Make this when you have time to cook and enjoy a leisurely dinner. This is one of my husband’s special dishes that he occasionally makes on Sundays.

Crockpot Beef Brisket

You’ll Need:

1 Medium sized (or so) Beef Brisket

1 cup of red wine

1 onion cut into large chunks

a sprinkle of dried thyme

a sprinkle of dried rosemary

We also used  a bit of Penzey’s shallot pepper and Northwoods seasoning. I think they enhanced the flavor, but they are not a requirement. You really can use whatever seasonings that you like. By the way, if you sign up for the Penzey’s catalogue, you will receive coupons for free jars of seasonings! I’ve gotten so many free things from them over the years- its definitely worth it.

Put your brisket in the crockpot, and pour the wine over it. Season as desired and allow it to cook on low for 8-9 hours.

Cut into slices and place on a serving platter once the meat is cooked. You can cut it with a fork!

Gravy

All of the meat/wine juices (strained of most of the onions)

A few tablespoons of butter

About 3 tablespoons of flour (I have successfully made gravy this way with gluten free flour as well, so that is a fine substitute)

Melt the butter in a small pot over medium low heat , and then mix in the juices. Using a sifter, gradually sift in the flour, mixing after each addition to achieve the desired thickness for your gravy.

 

I hope that you find these tips and recipes helpful when preparing grass fed beef. They can also be used with whatever beef you have in your freezer, and you won’t have to worry about adding extra moisture. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Cooking Life

Eating Local

December 7, 2015

 

“Eat local? Why would I want to eat a bird I might know?”- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Hi there, Kristen here. For two years, my husband and I have been eating locally raised beef almost exclusively. It all started in 2014 when one of my husband’s coworkers asked us if we’d like to buy part of a cow with him. It gets rather expensive to buy meat in bulk, but my in-laws also decided to go in on it with us. It is a lot of money to pay up front, but you probably won’t be buying beef for a year or more, and you know your meat is healthier, and hormone free. Plus, you have the benefit of knowing where your food is coming from.  I have to say, that held a lot of the appeal for me. While I am by no means a vegetarian, whenever I read or hear about factory farming, I become extremely uncomfortable. I do not believe that eating meat is wrong, but I do believe that God has given us the responsibility to be good stewards of our planet, and that definitely extends to how we treat the animals in our care. Many of the men in my family are hunters who do their best to only take quick, clean shots, and only shoot what they plan to eat. We try to have respect for the animals who nourish us. My husband and I definitely liked the idea of supporting a local farm where the cow was living a good life up until the very end.

The first year that we bought a cow, we used the farm Anderson Acres, and got grass fed/grain finished beef. This was absolutely our favorite year. The steaks were tender, and the ground beef was the best we’d ever tasted. Although we realized that a good, fancy steak was from a higher quality of meat, we had never really considered the quality of our ground beef. Meatballs, sauces and meatloaves were out of this world good that year- and I used the same recipes that I’ve been using for years.

Last year, we decided to try a different farm, West Wind Acres, and buy a cow that was completely grass fed. We are still working through our supply! The quality of the meat is very good, and being entirely grass fed means it is leaner, and healthier, but admittedly, not as tasty. It has a slightly gamier taste that reminds me of the venison that my husband goes hunting for every year. Over time, we learned the best way to prepare this meat is to add a little fat such as olive oil to it. This seems to improve the level of moisture.  I also find that a good seasoning goes a long way toward masking the slightly gamey flavor. We now have several delicious go-to recipes when it comes to preparing this meat. While we had a good experience with this cow, we decided we’d like to go back to grass fed/ grain finished next time.

When it comes to selecting a farm to work with, you’ll definitely want to do your research! Shortly after we picked up our meat from West Wind Acres, we were dismayed to discover that the farmer was being investigated for animal neglect! We were very upset, but after my husband talked to the farmer and did some more research to find out exactly what the charges were, it turns out to have been a big misunderstanding. It made us feel better to educate ourselves and to see the community rallying around to support this farm, with local high school students volunteering to help out while the farmer fought these charges. Today, West Wind Acres has an excellent local reputation. This experience impressed upon us the importance of educating ourselves about who we are choosing to support and work with.

The next thing to consider is filling out what is known as a cut sheet. This lets the butcher know exactly how you would like your meat- ground beef, steaks, roasts etc. If you are purchasing a cow with a group, its important to communicate with the others to compromise on who gets what and wants what. There are only so many filet mignons to be had! Discussing this with the group is only fair.

Now- where do you plan on storing this large amount of meat? We only had a standard size refrigerator/ freezer the first year we did this. We definitely needed to clean out our freezer to fit our quarter of the cow in there! The next year that we did this, we had a chest freezer that my in-laws generously gifted to my husband and I during deer season. Now I use my upstairs freezer for things I use most often, and my freezer in the basement as storage. Make sure you have room for your meat before you commit to purchasing it!

I realize that not everyone has the space or money to purchase local meat in bulk like this. I also do buy my other meat from the grocery store, so it is not like everything we eat is local. This is just a small step that our little family has decided to take toward eating more ethically and supporting local businesses.  I am all about small steps. Trying to dive headfirst into a huge lifestyle change is just unrealistic. Maybe meat isn’t your thing, but over the summer you can sign up for a CSA and purchase a bounty of vegetables from a local farm. Maybe you grow your own beautiful garden every year. I have a friend who uses only beauty products from companies that never test on animals, and my siblings love to shop at thrift stores and make an effort to re-use. I also know families who use cloth diapers. All of these things count. Know that however small, your effort to make the world a better place matters. Small changes lead to bigger ones. I would love to eventually only eat local meat, even if it means reducing the amount of meat that our family consumes.  For now, I’ll focus on the little changes that are realistic for our family. What steps do you try to take to live or eat ethically?

I’ll be back in a few days to share a few ways that we cook our grass fed beef!

 

Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

Easy Dinner: Spicy Chicken Pasta

December 3, 2015

Now that we are finally finished with our Thanksgiving leftovers, my husband requested that I make this spicy chicken pasta dish.  We had some for dinner last night, along with a tomato and mozzarella salad. It’s best enjoyed with a generous glass of red wine, or some sparkling cranapple juice- if that’s more your speed! My husband enjoys it so much that he was excited to bring leftovers for lunch today, despite the fact that it is Chinese Food Day, one of the happiest days of the work week. Anyone who has worked long hours at a job, especially one where you sometimes feel a bit cooped up, knows how exciting ordering out is, or even just lunchtime in general. When I worked as a job coach, the Starbucks and McDonalds runs that I’d make with my coworkers got us through the long days at the office when we weren’t out coaching. The point is, on Thursdays, I’m competing with Chinese Food Day, and today, I won.

This is an easy enough dinner to make on a busy week night. Just be sure to take some chicken out of the freezer to defrost in the morning. We usually use one large chicken breast, but you can add more if you like a dish that is a little more meat heavy. You could also use spiralized zucchini instead of pasta if you are looking for a gluten free or lower carb dinner. You can adjust the level of spice, but please don’t- the spiciness makes this dish interesting.  We think it’s pretty perfect, but it is really spicy, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Large Chicken Breast

1 Shallot or about a quarter of a small onion

1 Cup of Frozen Peas

1 Pound Pasta (we like rigatoni)

1 Jar Tomato Sauce (Homemade is best, but your favorite store bought brand works too:)

1 Tablespoon Italian Herb Mix

2 Teaspoons Hot Red Pepper Flakes  (plus a little more to sprinkle on top)

Grated Romano Cheese (for a topping when you serve)

 

Before you start chopping, put up some water to boil the pasta. Dice up your shallot, and sautee it in olive oil over medium heat. While keeping an eye on the shallots, cube the chicken breast. Add the cubed chicken to the shallots and sautee them together. Once the chicken is beginning to cook, sprinkle on the Italian herb mix, and toss the chicken so that everything is spiced. Next, do the same with the hot red pepper flakes.

onions  cutting-chicken

Is the water boiling yet? If so, add your pasta and just mix it once in awhile and keep an eye on it while you are cooking the chicken.

boiling

Once the chicken is nearly done, add the peas into the mix to defrost (make sure you are adding loose frozen peas because a giant frozen block will take too long to defrost. Hit the bag on the counter if you need to break up clumps of peas). My least favorite part about cooking chicken, is making sure everything is cooked. I end up using my spatula to break a bunch of the bigger cubes in half to check if they are cooked. Its not the best method, but that’s how I do it!

chickn

Once the chicken is cooked, as well as the pasta, get out the biggest bowl that you have. Add a little tomato sauce to the bottom, and then add your pasta to the bowl. Top with the chicken, shallots and peas, and then pour on the rest of your sauce. Mix everything evenly together, and then feel free to sprinkle on some more hot pepper flakes if you like things extra spicy.

pasta

Enjoy it for dinner! And then maybe again for lunch tomorrow!

bowl tomato-salad

*For those of you interested in the salad, we used mozzarella pearls and halved cherry tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and balsamic. I also sprinkled Italian herb mix over the top. No measuring required, just follow your heart. Unless your heart tells you you to add the whole jar of seasoning or something. That’s just wrong.

 

 

Cooking

Say “good morning” to overnight oats

December 1, 2015
Overnight Oats. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

On weekends, I enjoy making involved breakfasts for my husband and daughter. There can be any combination of over easy eggs, belgian waffles, pancakes, toast and crispy hash browns. Weekdays though, are nothing to write home about. I make a scrambled egg and cut up some fruit for Little Miss, and I eat something brilliant like an apple, a small yogurt or maybe some leftovers.

On an average day, that’s fine – Little Miss tends to wake up late, and I’m giving her lunch within a few hours anyway. But it does happen, on occasion, when either I’ll be out during the day or for whatever reason, I just think maybe I should actually eat something. Eggs aren’t my favorite, and if I’m going to bother eating more than just fruit, I’m thinking about protein.

I’m on a kick now, where my go-to morning protein boost is overnight oats. The only downside to overnight oats is that they need to sit, well, overnight. So making them requires a little forethought, but they only take about 5 minutes to assemble and then time does the rest.

Overnight Oats. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

Flat rolled oats on the top, versus the steel cut oats below.

The first time I made overnight oats, I used organic rolled oats from Trader Joe’s and while they tasted fine, the texture didn’t do it for me. It was somewhat soft and gummy. The second time, I used steel cut oats (which I had purchased accidentally) and I was a lot more into it – the thick pieces of steel cut oats softened up nicely, but remained chewy. Finally, the third time, I hit on the perfect compromise. I just mixed the two together. Add in some flavoring, sweeteners and stir ins and there you go. This has been my overnight oatmeal of choice ever since.

Steel cut oats boast 5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup, with 150 calories. Rolled oats are looking at about 3 grams of protein and 85 calories per 1/4 cup. So I go half and half for a base of about 8 grams of protein in the entire batch (sometimes I eat the entire batch, sometimes I have a few spoonfuls and leave the rest for the next day). Oats have plenty of protein and fiber, but I’ll add some ground flax and chia and hemp hearts for good measure. If you’ve never had hemp hearts, they’re a little pricey, but mild and nutty in flavor and packed with protein and omegas; I like them mixed into yogurt too.

Now, you’ve probably seen overnight oat recipes shared on Facebook or popping up on Pinterest, full of pretty pictures of layered oats in mason jars (and I do think mason jars make everything more appealing). Here’s the thing though…I don’t think you actually need a recipe. I think what you need is a guideline, and from there, you make it your own. Here’s my favorite, for your consideration.

Cocoa Overnight Oats

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp ground flax/chia blend
  • 1 tsp hemp hearts
  • a handful of sliced almonds
  • a few pinches of dried cranberries
  • a sprinkling of mini dark chocolate chips
  • a generous drizzle of maple syrup (the real kind, please)
  • enough cashew milk to cover (feel free to use almond milk, coconut milk, dairy milk, or mix milk with yogurt instead)
  1. In a small container, place your two kinds of oats (a jelly jar is the right size but difficult to stir in, I like to use my 2 cup covered Pyrex). Add the cocoa powder, chocolate chips, flax/chia, hemp hearts, cranberries and almonds. Go on, give it a stir.
  2. Pour in enough of your milk or milk substitute, slowly, to cover the other ingredients. They’re going to suck it all up, so don’t worry about going slightly over. Add in a generous drizzle of maple syrup and give it a good stir. Don’t be afraid to taste the liquid now to make sure it’s sweet enough for your liking (cocoa powder by itself is bitter!), though I don’t recommend eating the oats like this, just because they’re hard.
  3. Cover your container and pop it in the fridge overnight. In the morning your oats should have drank up most of the liquid, softening up nicely. Give it a stir and enjoy.

So the “recipe” is, place your oats in a bowl. Add things you like – this one has chocolate in it because I’m a beast and a chocoholic, but go for nuts, dried fruits, whatever you like. It all works. Add your liquid, whether it’s dairy milk, non-dairy milk, or a combination of milk and yogurt, and your sweetener, if you require it.

And that’s it. You get a quick-to-prepare breakfast that is loaded with plant based protein and gluten free, and using milk alternatives can easily be non-dairy and vegan. Between the oats, dairy/nondairy milk, nuts and any flax/chia/hemp you add it, you get a compact little protein powerhouse. I’d say that’s worth greeting with a hearty, if not slightly groggy, “good morning”.