Weekly Dish: Hot ‘N Sour Soup

This is an incredibly nourishing soup when made using the proper techniques and ingredients.

[One caveat: Soybeans are a SOMETIMES food. We avoid them almost entirely, in any form (soy milk, soy “meat”, tofu, etc… Although, I haven’t ever tried Tempeh, which is fermented soybeans and would be okay also as a sometimes food.) This soup is our soybean exception. And only because the soybeans are sprouted. All the anti-nutrients in the soybean itself have been removed, but the phyto-estrogen (plant hormones) still remain. Phyto-estrogen can wreak havoc on a body, especially on young children, teens, men, and women in their childbearing and menopausal years. So, basically everyone at all times. Limit soy and make sure it is sprouted or fermented!]

This recipe is my Nana’s creation. She was notorious for doing this.  She went home and figured out the ingredients for this recipe after liking it so much at a local Chinese restaurant. (This was before the internet.) She has been gone for a few years now, but I still give all credit to her whenever it is due, which is often. I quadruple this recipe and add a tad more vinegar and a tad less sesame oil. I also omit the cornstarch and I just have a thin brothy soup. Just taste preference and my husbands current food limitations/allergies.  It’s a very versatile recipe and a staple in our home.

All of the ingredients should be able to be purchased at your grocery store or local health food store.

Hot ‘N Sour Soup

4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 teaspoon Real Salt
1 Tablespoon naturally fermented soy sauce or Liquid Aminos
1/4 cup pork or chicken, julienned  (I use chicken but pork does give a little more flavor because of the added fat)
1/4 cup bamboo shoots, julienned
4 shiitake mushrooms, dried and reconstituted* or fresh
1 square (1 package) sprouted** tofu, firm or extra firm
1/2 teaspoon hot chili paste (Sambal Oelek brand)
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder or Cornstarch
1 beaten egg
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 sliced green onions
Bring chicken stock, salt, soy sauce, pork/chicken, bamboo shoots and mushrooms to boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
Drop in Tofu and add chili paste and white vinegar. Bring to boil again.
Stir in arrowroot powder/cornstarch. Stir until soup thickens. Adjust cornstarch to adjust the thickness of the soup. Turn off heat and slowly pour in the beaten egg. Let stand for a few seconds, then stir to break up egg into soup.
Stir in sesame oil and garnish with green onions.
*Reconstitute dried mushrooms in hot water for at least half an hour.
**I found this at our local health food store (Whole Foods) next to the other tofu and soy products.

 

I am  sharing this at Real Food Wednesday.

Weekly Dish: Smoky Chicken Saltimbocca

I forgot to get prosciutto from the store on my last trip and Chicken Saltimbocca was on my menu. I needed something to use up the leftover sage from Thanksgiving, still, so improvising here we come. Plus, I’ve been watching a lot of “Master Chef” lately so I felt it necessary to mix it up.  And it was a hit.  Even my chicken hating 4-year-old loved this!

I termed it ‘smoky’ because of the addition of smoked bacon in exchange for the non-smoked prosciutto.

SMOKY CHICKEN SALTIMBOCCA

4 organic, boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon real salt or celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 slices nitrate-free, uncured bacon
12 sage leaves
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon organic, grass-fed butter (Kerrygold)

Dry chicken with paper towel. sprinkle spices onto both sides of the breasts. Wrap bacon around each slice, with the ends of the bacon ending up on the same side, ideally. Tuck 4 sage leaves into each breast, underneath the slices of bacon.

Heat olive oil and butter to Medium-High heat. Place 2 chicken breasts at a time into the pan, frying for 4-5 minutes on each side or until done, depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts. You want the bacon and sage to be crispy, not limp, so adjust the heat accordingly.

Remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes to let juices redistribute before serving.

Kombucha @ Home

Affectionately termed “rotten mushroom tea” by my father, this tea admittedly seems like a strange thing to voluntarily ingest.But when you learn of its incredible health benefits, and discover its surprisingly zippy and refreshing taste (think along the lines of hard apple cider), you, too will want to grow rotten mushroom tea on your kitchen counter. Warning: it will gross everyone out and make you a target to all those around. It will also delve you further into the “hippie” lifestyle and further away from the normalcy of all of your American friends. But it’s worth it.

The History
Kombucha originated in Russia. There it is called “mushroom tea” or “tea kvass” or just “kvass.” Though, it is unlike traditional kvass in that it is not made with bread at all.

The Basics
A mushroom really has nothing to do with it; it is called a SCOBY (“symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”). The tea is basically black tea (or another variety), white sugar and this SCOBY. Some call it a mushroom, some call it a culture. Most call it disgusting. As the tea sits on your countertop (or in a cupboard, etc…), the SCOBY will begin to feed on the sugar (yeast and bacteria Looooooove white sugar), removing all of the sugar from the tea and trading it for beneficial bacteria, live cultures, enzymes, acids. Each batch of Kombucha will produce an additional layer  or “baby”  SCOBY on the top of the original “mother” SCOBY. Separate them like you would separate two pancakes. These may be discarded, shared with friends, sold, or used for additional batches of Kombucha.

You wouldn’t think that white sugar and caffeinated tea could produce anything that would benefit health, but it is a curing drink, complete with toxic neutralizing qualities. It aids the immune system and assists the body in cleansing itself, not to mention being a cancer (and other degenerative disease) preventer!

(The culture eats up all of the white sugar so don’t let that concern you at all.)

Why Ferment?
When fermentation happens, there is an introduction of live organisms. You have approximately 3-5 pounds of live organisms inside your body at this very moment. Don’t get too grossed out; they are supposed to be there. There are bad organisms (pathogens) and good organisms (beneficial bacteria). You should have more good than bad. Pathogens, when out of control, cause disease and sickness. Good bacteria’s job is to keep the bad bacteria under control and in check, flushing them out of our system along with toxins and harmful substances we ingest or breathe in every day. Fermentation adds to the colonization of good bacteria, keeping our body healthy and able to fight off infection, pathogens, toxins, etc…

Traditional cultures, going back to probably the beginning of time, have fermented their foods and drinks. Some examples of this: Fermented Cod Liver oil, yogurt, kefir, and many vegetables and fruits. We are unaccustomed to this taste and it is a bit foreign to our palates. But give it a chance! Let it grow on you (or in you. I had to…). Let yourself develop a taste for something that can impart such benefits to your immune system as a whole.

People spend loads of money on quality probiotics. You can make Kombucha (and yogurt, and fermented vegetables, etc…) for literally pennies.

Because of the fermentation, there is approximately .5% or less alcohol in this tea, which means that it is technically a non-alcoholic beverage. The longer fermentation goes and the less sweet the tea becomes, the more alcohol it will have in it.

There are variations of flavors and teas for Kombucha. You may use other teas, but black tea has the highest amount of glucuronic acid, which is the detoxifying agent in the tea. Other teas impart drastically different flavors, but you can also achieve this by adding fruit, fruit juices, or ginger at the end of fermentation, after you have removed the SCOBY.

Now for the recipe:

KOMBUCHA

3 quarts filtered water
1 Cup white sugar
4 tea bags of organic black tea
1/2 cup Kombucha from a previous batch
1 Kombucha SCOBY

Boil 3 quarts water. Pour boiling water over the sugar and tea bags in a glass jar/pitcher. Let tea cool to room temperature. Remove tea bags with a very clean spoon or hands washed with soap and rinsed with vinegar. Add the 1/2 cup Kombucha and the SCOBY pancake into the jar. Cover the jar loosely with a cloth so that the tea can breathe and transfer to a warm, dark place. Depending on the temperature of the space you have chosen to let it culture, it could take anywhere from 7-14 days for the tea to be ready. Taste the Kombucha. It should not be too sweet but shouldn’t taste too acidic, like vinegar, either.

Notes:

  • It is important to use white sugar as this is what feeds the yeast. Do not substitute with brown sugar, honey, stevia, sucanat/rapadura, maple syrup, etc…)
  • It is important to use organic tea. Non-organic tea is often high in flouride.
  • Black tea gives the highest amounts of detoxifying glucuronic acid.
  • Store mushrooms in a glass dish in the refrigerator when not in use. Do not ever store it in plastic.

I am sharing this post at Real Food Wednesday.

Weekly Dish: Fuzzy Caterpillars

 

This one’s for the kids! My 4-year old couldn’t wait to bite the heads off of them. Yes, he is a boy.

Fuzzy Caterpillars

  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 8 raisins/dark chocolate/carob chips
  • 4 cashews

Peel bananas. Spread almond butter over the entire banana and roll in the coconut. Cut in half to make 4 caterpillars. Add 2 raisin “eyes” and one cashew “smile” to each one.

Weekly Dish: Homemade Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is the base for countless recipes and so easy (and inexpensive!) to prepare yourself! Don’t be intimidated. It is NOT HARD AT ALL. It costs pennies, especially when you buy the bird whole and cut off the breasts and thighs to use for weekly dinners. Toss the carcass and organs in, and you’re on your way to next week’s soup!

Nourishing Traditions says, “Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that easy to assimilate. Acid wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth.”

It is the perfect way to stretch your protein and make those amino acids in grains go further than if they were eaten alone. It is great when you are sick, truly, not just as an old-wives tale.

Make a bunch! You’ll be happy you did.

HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK

Carcass from 1 free range or organically fed chicken
Giblets
2-3 stalks celery
2-3 carrots
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves peeled and smashed garlic
1-2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar (with the “mother”)
parsley

Put the carcass, vegetables and Apple Cider Vinegar in a stock pot or slow cooker. Fill slow cooker to the brim with cold water (as the ingredients warm in the water, their fibers open and release juices to add flavor).  Let it sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil and remove the scum that rises to the top (if you don’t do this, you could end up with off-tasting flavors in your broth… although sometimes I don’t do this and I don’t notice.) Reduce to a simmer and cook at least 6 hours but as long as 24 hours. The longer the cooking time, the more minerals will be released into the water, the more concentrated the broth will be and the better the chances of having a gelatinous* broth.

After the broth is cooked, add a bunch of parsley. This adds a little flavor but a LOT of nutrition.

After it cools a bit, strain into a bowl and put in the fridge until the fat congeals at the top. Scrape off the fat and store in fridge or freezer until ready to use. In the fridge it will last a week, longer if reheated.

*The goal is to have a gelatinous broth. In the fridge it should thicken, sometimes even jelling completely. This will happen if you have let it cook for a long period of time and let it reduce and draw all the minerals and collagen out of the bones and cartilage. The gelatin quality is desired because of its richness in protein. The gelatin is hydrophilic, which means that it attracts fluids (same way Jello works.) So the gelatin in the stock attracts digestive juices to help with digestion.

 

I am sharing this post at Real Food Wednesday!

Weekly Dish: Cincinnati Chili

Most people think beef is not healthy. Well, think again! It is one of the most incredibly healthy meats for your body, provided the cows are grown eating grass (what cows are meant to eat… not grain/corn!) and provided no antibiotics or hormones have been used in the raising of them. If you can buy your grass-fed beef from a local farmer like we did, even better! I have a post-in-the-making one why meat is good for you, but for now, let’s just say that politically correct nutrition (i.e. no red meat, milk is bad so drink soy milk, butter is the Devil, etc…) is not correct AT ALL. Much more to come on this subject…

This Cincinnati Chili was GREAT! Not in place of chili, but as an additional option with a completely different flavor profile. (I’m sure this isn’t “traditional” but I am going to add a sweet potato next time and see how that goes. Also… we ate it up so fast I forgot to take a photo… next time.)

Cincinnati Chili

1 – 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups tomato sauce
3 cups homemade chicken stock
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 teaspoons honey, sucanat, rapadura, maple syrup or some other natural sweetener (molasses, etc…)

To serve (all optional):
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti, brown rice spaghetti, or spaghetti squash. (I served with spaghetti squash!)
Shredded cheese
beans
1 onion, chopped

Cook ground beef and onion over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Drain off any grease from the beef. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato sauce, chicken stock, vinegar, and sweetener, scraping the pan bottom to remove any browned bits.
Increase to High heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, reduce heat to M-L and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chili is deep red and has thickened slightly, about 1 hour. Season with salt and hot sauce to taste.

Spoon chili over pasta or squash. Top with cheese, beans and onion.

I am sharing this recipe at Real Food Wednesday!

Weekly Dish: Latino-Style Chicken and Rice (Arroz Con Pollo) with Bacon and Roasted Red Pepper

A little twist on traditional Arroz Con Pollo. Who doesn’t love bacon?!


Latino-Style Chicken and Rice (Arroz Con Pollo)
with Bacon and Roasted Red Pepper

6 garlic cloves, minced
1 T plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Ground black pepper
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh/leg combo (or equivalent with just thighs or just legs), extra fat trimmed off the skin (so as to make the dish not so greasy)
4 strips nitrate-free bacon (can buy at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market)
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 small red pepper, stemmed, seeded, chopped fine
1 medium carrot
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 15oz. can tomato sauce
water (to bring the tomato sauce to a full 2 cups)
2 cups medium-grain brown rice
1/2 cup roasted red peppers

Preheat oven to 350.

Place garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Add 1 Tablespoon of the vinegar, organo, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to combine. Place chicken in the bowl with the marinade. Coat chicken pieces evenly and set aside for 15 minutes.

Fry bacon, cut into 1/2-inch peices, in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; pour off all but 1 Tablespoon bacon fat.

Add onion, red pepper, carrot, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies begin to soften, 4-8 minutes. Add 2 T cilantro, stir to combine. Push veggies to the side and increase heat to M-H. Add chicken to the clearing in the center of the pot, skin side down. Cook, without moving the chicken, until the outer layer of meat becomes opaque, 2-4 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken and cook on other side until opaque, 2-4 minutes more. Add broth, tomato sauce and water; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer; cover, reduce heat to M-L and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add rice, 3/4 tsp. salt and stir well. Bring a simmer, cover and place pot in the oven. After 20 minutes, remove pot from oven and stir chicken and rice once from bottom up. Cover and return to oven. After another 20 minutes, stir once more, adding another 1/4 water if the rice appears dry and the bottom of pot is beginning to burn. Cover and return to oven; cook until rice has absorbed all the liquid and is tender and chicken reads 175 degrees.

Using tongs, remove chicken. Remove and discard skin. Shred and place chicken in a bowl and toss with 1 Tablespoon oil, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 2 Tablespoons cilantro, and the roasted red peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place chicken on top of the rice in the pot, cover and let stand until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Serve, passing lemon or lime wedges separately.

(Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Weekly Dish: Lentil Chili

No beans in this household at the moment. But it’s Fall and who does Fall without Chili??? So here is a seriously delicious version of traditional Chili. (Of course, you can always just make your own Chili recipe and replace the beans with Lentils)

LENTIL CHILI

1-2 T Butter and/or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped or sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped or sliced
6-7 C chicken broth, homemade
2 1/4 C Lentils, soaked overnight in enough water to cover
1 28oz. can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/4 Cup cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste

Method: Saute onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery in saucepan over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on medium-low until lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and cook 10 more minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper as needed.

[You can also saute all the vegetables and then add the whole thing to the Slow Cooker and cook on low for 4 hours or so.]

Top with a squeeze of lime, cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Serve!

Add-ins or Variations:

Use Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
Add a few Chipotle peppers in Adobo
Add a Sweet Potato
Add Mushrooms
Add Beans and/or Corn
Add Meat
Add Green Chiles or Roasted Peppers

 

I am sharing this post at Real Food Wednesday!

Weekly Dish: Quinoa Bowl

Well, well, well… what do you know… I figured out how to take my own pictures of recipes instead of posting others (though I always link back to them, anyway).

This picture was kind of out of necessity, though, because it wasn’t a recipe. My own creation. Husband loved it. 4 year old loved it. Even 1 year old who will eat ANYTHING on the ground but when you try to feed her from the table, she doesn’t want it… Even she loved it.

It is highly versatile so really, add whatever you want/have on hand! This is what I did for this recipe. You can always use more or less of the ingredients, as desired; I just used what I had in the house.

QUNIOA BOWL

3 C Quinoa
6 C Water
1 boneless-skinless chicken breast
2 red peppers
1 onion
1 head of broccoli
1 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/8 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/8 – 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

Rinse Quinoa to remove the bitter taste, then put it pot or dutch oven with double the amount of water or chicken/vegetable broth. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer until all the water is gone and quinoa is done.

Meanwhile, cook chicken breast in a Tablespoon or two of Olive Oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over Medium High in skillet on each side until browned. 3-4 minutes on each side? Remove from pan, set aside to rest for 10 minutes. Then dice or shred.

Steam broccoli head and chop into small pieces.

Dice red pepper and onion. Add to skillet you cooked chicken in with a little bit more olive oil, another Tablespoon. Cook over medium high until caramelized and tender.

Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, just until lightly browned.

Add feta cheese crumbles and all above ingredients.

Pour ACV, Olive Oil, Soy Sauce, Worchestershire, season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve!

Weekly Dish: Peach BBQ Sauce

Have you ever looked at how much sugar BBQ Sauce has in it? I thought it had to be that way and that’s what made it so good… but I came across this recipe with peaches for the added sweetness and it’s delightful (it does call for ketchup which has sugar in it, but there is no added sugar… and you can buy sugar-less ketchup at Whole Foods!).

It’s Gwenyth Paltrow’s recipe out of her new cookbook “My Father’s Daughter,” which I am looking forward to perusing, but haven’t yet (disclaimer!) Had to share.

Peach BBQ Sauce

1 cup chopped peeled fresh peaches or 9-10 oz. frozen sliced peaches, thawed and chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (I used Apple Cider Vinegar for the acidity since I was fresh out of lemons and it was great!)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle chilies in adobo (or 1 tsp. soy sauce if you don’t like the heat)
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine first 5 ingredients in small sauce pan. Season lightly with salt and pper and bring to boil over low heat. Reduce to low; simmer until peaches are very soft and flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; let cool. Pour peach mixture into a blender and puree until smoth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For Grilled Chicken:

4 skinless, boneless organic chicken breasts (I used bone-in breasts and thighs and it was also great)

Place half the sauce in a medium bowl; add the chicken and turn to coat. Let marinate at room temp for 20 minutes, or cover and chill for up to 8 hours, turning occasionally. Cover and refrigerate remaining sauce.

Prepare a grill to M-H heat. Brush rack with oil. Grill chicken until browned and almost cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side. Brush on all sides with reserved sauce; grill until glazed and cooked through, 1-2 minutes per side. Slice crosswise. Serve remaining sauce alongside.