Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wild Rice Pilaf

This recipe took a little more time than I usually spend for a dinner side but it made enough rice to last for several weeks so it was good well worth the extra work.

To a heavy bottom pot add:

2 cups broth
2 bay leaves
4-6 sprigs of thyme tide with kitchen twine

Bring to a boil and add:

1 cup wild rice

Reduce to simmer and cook 35-40 minutes.
If all the broth is absorbed before the rice is softened add another 1/2 cup and cook until soft

Meanwhile to a 12" skillet add:

3 T butter
1 onion chopped fine
1 carrot chopped fine
1 t kosher salt

Sauté for 3-5 minutes then add:

1 cup rice (I used short grain brown rice)
1 cup orzo
Cook until transparent another 3-5 minutes then add:

2 1/2 cups broth
2 bay leaves
4-6 sprigs thyme tied with twine

Simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed
Discard herbs and combine wild rice and regular rice mixture. Set aside.

In your skillet melt:
1 tablespoon butter


2-3 large mushrooms chopped fine
3-5 garlic cloves (you can use roasted for a more mellow flavor)

Sauté until browned.

Stir mushrooms into rice pilaf.

In your steamer, cook 2 broccoli stems as described in the "Broccoli" post.

Add to your rice pilaf.

This is enough rice to serve a family of eight twice or a family of two for several weeks. Package according to your usage and refrigerate.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I really like broccoli. I eat it raw or steamed, mixed with other veggies, etc. But usually when using broccoli you only eat the flowerets. Nobody really wants to dip that unappetizing, tough stem into a veggie dip and eat it raw. So what do you do with it? Normally it will just go to waste, trash or compost. But it is still edible, just unappetizing in its current state. I found a great new way to use it.

You've seen those flavored rice packets? My local grocery sells one call cheddar and broccoli rice, and it has all of about, 1/8 of a teaspoon of actually broccoli along with a flavor packet of powdered cheese. I can do better than that. Here's how:

Take your broccoli stem and slice it about a 1/4 inch thick. Put these slices in your steamer with a little kosher salt & a few fresh herbs. Steam them until they get nice and soft.

While those are cooking start your rice. You will need:

1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice or medium-grain brown rice, or short-grain brown rice
2 1/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt
1tablespoons unsalted butter
1tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine these ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until rice has absorbed liquid and is soft, stir occasionally.

Now add your steamed broccoli stem and 1/2 cup shredded cheese, I used parmesan because it was what I had on hand but you can use whatever your favorite cheese is.

Yummy, my hubby is eating brown rice and actually liking it! And I found a way to keep perfectly good food from going to waste. Double score!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mushrooms & sweet Potatoes

Last night I had a little extra time to get dinner and wanted to change things up a bit so the dinner plates don't look exactly the same every night. :-) Well, that kind of a mood is when my kitchen turns into a science lab and occasionally what comes out isn't half bad. So here are two brand-new, straight out of my head recipes that I served last night and what I learned from them.

Mushroom Sauce

Approx. 1/2 - 1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, chopped small the white & light green parts
1 clove elephant ear garlic sliced thin (A vegetable peeler works GREAT for this)
8 oz. of mushrooms sliced

Add these ingredients and sauté until nicely browned. Then add

2T white wine vinegar
1/8 cup white wine

Continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed then add

1/4 cup cream
Kosher salt to taste

Cook stirring constantly for about 1-2 minutes. Serve over brown rice or potatoes immediately

*What I learned on this recipe:

Be careful how much oil you use. You need a little to keep things from sticking but if you use to much the mushrooms absorb it all and the dish turns out greasy. Also, be sure to use olive oil or a sparing amount of Natural butter. I tired another form of fat and it did not mix well with the other ingredients.

Spice Garlic Sweet Potatoes

3 cups sweet potatoes
3-4 cloves roasted garlic
1 teaspoon cilantro
1 teaspoon parsley
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt & Pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. If desired add 1/8 cup cream

NOTE:  I started with cold sweet potatoes so I added all ingredients except cream & warmed them in my steamer. Then I mixed the cream in right before serving

*What I learned from this recipe:

Make sure you don't over do the spice. With only 2 cups of sweet potatoes this was to spice for one family member but just right for another, it depends on your tastes. Add more sweet potatoes if to spice & I added the cream to cut the heat a bit.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's for Dinner? And Breakfast, and Lunch? Plus How to cook Brussel Sprouts

OK. so you are probably asking yourself how does this work practically?

Well here is a typical day for me:

For breakfast I take a banana and a stone fruit (peach plum, nectarine, whatever happens to be on the best sale at the local farmers market that week) and a small Tupperware of grapes.

I usually eat the banana by 8:30 then perhaps an hour later the grapes and between 10:30 & 11:00 I'll eat the stone fruit, or I might save it till later in the day, the key is I only eat when I'm hungry. I also keep a water bottle filled with ice water at my desk - you should drink about a gallon of water per day and often those "hunger cravings" are actually "thirst cravings" but we have trained our bodies to get most of their water from the food we eat by not hydrating with pure water. When I start to think I'm hungry I drink some water first, then decide if I still need to eat something. When I do want to eat, I have a nice, healthy, guilt free, fresh fruit snack.

At noon I get some raw vegetables (sugar peas, broccoli, celery, carrots, etc.) and dip them into my homemade creamy balsamic dip. I will also have a bit of rice or vegetables left over from dinner the night before. (While I have brought my cooking down from every recipes feeds 8, I still usually have enough to feed 3 instead of 2 but I don't have an aversion to eating leftovers the next day so no problem. )

I will take a variety of dried fruit and another stone fruit back to work for the afternoon and when the 2 o'clock munchies hit and everyone else in the office is scouring for chocolate, I have my sweet dried fruit. Most dried fruit is as sweet as candy because the sugar in the fruit is concentrated. It also gives you a great energy boost without the sugar crash you exporiance from simple sugars like chocolate & other sweets.

For Dinner I have a variety of vegetables that I bought at the farmers market that weekend. When I get something that takes a long time to cook, like potatoes or corn on the cob. I cook it over the weekend and refrigerate it. Then it is a simple matter of re-heating in my steamer and it is ready to go. I usually make a side of either rice or potatoes and two vegetables. I was making more initially because my husband didn't think 2 vegetables and rice would fill him up. After a few days he asked me to limit the amounts I was cooking and keep it to just these three items. At some point, usually midweek, I serve a small portion of tuna salad, which I also made over the weekend so the flavors would have a chance to develop.

As you can see we aren't starving by any means, or even depriving ourselves. In fact, we are eating better, quantity and quality wise, than we had prior to this experiment. We are also exploring new foods and many things that one or the other of us thought we "didn't like" we have grown to love because it was on sale at the farmers market and we learned a good way to cook it.

For example, Brussel Sprouts. Can I see a show of hands, who hates brussel sprouts? Well same here, but my husband has fond memories of his step-mom's brussel sprouts growing up, so once a year I would make them for him. Granted, mine were never as good as hers. :-) Well brussel sprouts are incredibly cheap especially when they are on the "dollar discount" table at the farmers market. So I decided I would learn how to make them. Since I already had my stove burners full that night I decided to try them in the steamer. (besides, I had already tired making them sautéed, boiled, and baked & hadn't liked them much) I put a layer of them in my steamer and sprinkled them with olive oil. Them I decided for flavor to add a mix of herbs, I have a kitchen garden of herbs or you can use an Italian mix. I used oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley) then I took about a teaspoon of kosher salt and sprinkled over them and steamed them until soft.

The result was the best veggie side dish that I could remember having. I now LOVE brussel sprouts and am probably driving my hubby crazy with how often I want to make them. I get so excited when they are on sale at the farmers market and so disappointed when they aren't.
So if you think you don't like something, try it again. You probably just haven't had it cooked right. I can't recommend the steamer enough for this. Vegetables were meant to taste GOOD. (I really don't thing God decided to make something that tastes horrible and force people to eat it :) They are also FULL of stuff that is GOOD FOR YOU. But so often we bake, boil or nuke the flavor and the vitamins right out of them. With the steamer, you retain all the yummy goodness and it takes much less time to cook. Besides just outright experimenting with food, I search the internet for recipes that include a new item I just found at the market or skim through some of the hundreds of cookbooks we have for recipe ideas. I usually use these as just a base idea and modify them according to our personal preferences, but these recipes give me a starting place. Have fun and don't be afraid to experiment. What new vegetable can you cook this week?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Diet

I realize that there has been a long break in this blog, which is to be expected when you suddenly find yourself involved in as many activities as we have had going on over the summer. But this is also due to the fact that we have made a dramatic change in our eating and cooking habits. Over the summer my husband and I were challenged to try a diet/fast that is found in the book of Daniel

Daniel 1:8-16 (The Message)
But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet. The head of the palace staff, by God’s grace, liked Daniel, but he warned him, “I’m afraid of what my master the king will do. He is the one who assigned this diet and if he sees that you are not as healthy as the rest, he’ll have my head!”
But Daniel appealed to a steward who had been assigned by the head of the palace staff to be in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: “Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see.”
The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables.

We decided that as a spiritual discipline we would eat only fruits, vegetables and nuts for two weeks. In no way did we expect this to be easy or something that we would want to do long term. I am the Queen of Desserts (especially chocolate) and my husband is the King of Carnivores. We decided to do this for only two weeks as a spiritual discipline.

Here's what we found out:

  • The first three days are the worst, especially when your co-workers bring donuts, bagels and chocolate into the office.
  • Days 4 and following, you begin to feel "GREAT" and you loose the craving for sweets, breads, and meat.
  • By day 14 we were converts. We felt healthier than either of us could remember and both of us had lost 10 pounds!
  • Another benefit - Fruits and vegetables don't cost near as much as we thought, our grocery bill was cut in half by shopping at our local farmers markets and Whole Food, Greenwise stores. These are some of the more expensive stores but we weren't buying, meat, bread or prepared foods so it came out MUCH cheaper than "normal" shopping at a cheaper store.
At this point our spiritual exercise was over but we had also learned some valuable health lessons and as good stewards of the bodies and life God has given us we decided to continue this experiment with a few modifications.
  • We began incorporating fish 1-2 times a week. On the weekend, or if we are entertaining we will have a nice fish fillet and I make a nice tuna salad that we have a some point during the week.
  • We switched from two gallons of regular milk per week to a quart of organic, non-homogenized milk per week. (Yes organic, non-homogenized milk is more expensive, but we actually come out cheaper here b/c we are dinking less. I'll go into the problems with homogenized milk and milk products in general later).
  • We also buy dark chocolate covered pretzels from a local chocolate factory (yes, I can make my own but don't have time right now) we allow ourselves one chocolate pretzel per day if we want it. The surprise, we don’t always want it! When you have cut out sweets completely for a few weeks the craving isn't there anymore. Now when I get that occasional craving, I have something mildly sweet that doesn't leave me craving even more sweets and fat. It also doesn't have the milk products that were causing us so much trouble.
  • We also use chicken broth in our cooking and occasionally eggs.
As you can see this isn't strictly following any one diet, while it has similarities to vegetarian diets, vegan diets and the Daniel diet it is really not any one of them; instead it is a lifestyle choice that we have made for this time in our lives to eat healthier foods.

So how do we do it? I'm sure some of you are wondering if you can even think of 14 different vegetables, let alone ways to cook them. I know that is how I felt at the begin of this experiment. Well over the next few weeks I'll share some of the ones I've tried. I am finding that there are many wonderful new things to try at your local farmers market and just because you think you don't like something, don't write it off, you probably just haven't had it cooked the right way yet.

So what does a typical meal look like for us? Well here is what I am serving tonight.
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green beans w/mushrooms & herbs
  • Brocciflower w/balsamic dip
Here's what I did

  • Sweet potatoes I wrapped in foil and baked at 350 for 90 minutes (until soft) I did this over the weekend so tonight all I have to do is put them in my steamer for about 12 minutes to warm up. Then I mash them with a little kosher salt. I have found that this year the fresh sweet potatoes are so sweet they don't need anything else to flavor them, if you want other flavoring feel free to play around.
  • In the second tray of my steamer I put the brocciflower and sprinkled it with just a touch of olive oil and some Italian herbs (fresh or dried) When it is finished in the steamer I cut a few leaves of fresh basil overtop and grate a tiny bit of parmesan cheese over them. I serve creamy balsamic dip on the side.
  • The only thing left to do is the green beans. I take a small handful of chopped mushrooms (about 4-5 small white mushrooms) and sauté them in olive oil with about 5 basil leaves chopped and 6 cloves of roasted garlic. I then add three handfuls of green beans and sauté for just a few minutes until al dente.
Dinners is ready and it only took 12 minutes! Doesn't sound like enough? You'd be surprised how filling vegetables are but if you feel the need for more add a side of rice.