Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sugar? ummm. maybe not.

While we don't eat a lot of sugar over all - I've been trying to figure out ways to do up some of my sweet/sour recipes with less sugar.  Right now, it's made as a sour recipe. *grin*  And, it maybe that it will remain this way ... since seeing the video below has wigged me out about sugar in general (once again).  

What sugar does to your body:

As did this Taubes' article in New York Times "Is Sugar Toxic".

So, I really don't want to add it to our diet.  But, ice cream and cookies (wheat free of course!) and random desserts ... well, are suppose to be sweet. And, once again....some of my sweet and sour recipes or Asian recipes required sugar. 

I know Joe swears by Stevia but I don't know anything about chemical changes when cooking.  And, to be honest - it tastes weird to me.  It's *too* sweet.

So, I was surfing the web this weekend (between long naps which were required for recovery of over working).  And, I think we are going to try out coconut sugar

I know when growing up we had "jaggery", which is coconut sugar. My mum and dad use to cook with it all the time.  So, I figure it is safe to heat. 

It also tastes a bit sweeter than sugar but not in the same way as Stevia does to me.  More along the lines of a good honey or real maple syrup. A little will go a long way - but here are the added benefits unlike sugar which is cool.  Coconut sugar has a GI index of 35 (which is nice and low) and has a lot of mineral benefits such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.

Anyway - I'll let you know how the experimenting is going.   

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kale...Kale and even more K.A.L.E.

We joined a vegetable CSA for the summer months and it's been wonderful.  I figured that since I use to be a vegetarian, it'll be easy, right?

ummm.. yeah, ok, not really.  For one thing, kale.  I know it's nutritious and wonderful and good for you and all that jazz.  But, there is a bitterness to it that makes it challenging to eat every day. And, honestly, our CSA share (an individual share no less) has more than enough for us to eat kale every single day!

The good things about kale:
  • Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium.
  • stores for a pretty long time (might be a bad thing in our case *grin*)
  • apparently a lot of cultures use kale in dishes - so I have a variety of choices
Bad thing?  I now need to know how to cook kale -- aside from the kale chips I made all the time when I was being "good".  :)  And, the BF isn't a big fan of kale's taste - so I needed to find ways to minimize the bitterness.

So, the quest began... and I found some great kale dishes.  The recipe below was made up based on some of the recipes I found.  Mostly because it's been way too hot to bake!  It's an "italian" take.  It is also a way to use up a lot of the veggies I was getting from the CSA. So, you can add or subtract any veggies you like - toss in Italian sausage for the ground beef (or with the ground beef)  but the cheese and the pasta sauce is a must. Otherwise, you really are creating your own dish (no worries on that... but then I can't take credit, can I? *grin*)

Italian style beef with veggies 

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced 
  • kale - minced
  • zucchini (optional)
  • yellow squash (optional)
  • garlic (to taste), minced/crushed
  • tomato sauce/pasta sauce 
  • mozzarella cheese (to taste)
  • dried basil
  • dried oregeno
  • dried rosemary
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter/ghee for browning onions and meat
In a frying pan, melt butter and add onions.  Once onions have started turning brown, add garlic.  If you like kale - you can put it in later - but if you are trying to "hide" it - put it in now as it will cook down to almost nothing.

Add ground beef once the kale has wilted away - as you want to brown the beef and so you need the water content of the kale to dissipate.

Once ground beef has browned, add the spices (basil, rosemary, oregano).  Stir it in.  Add the veggies (if you are adding any additional - and really it is any veggie that you would find in a Italian dish. Eggplant/aubergine is another great choice. )  and cook it a bit so it isn't so raw.  This is also based on how much your family likes veggies.  I tend to shred the veggies in a food processor so that there is a uniformity of taste and to cook it a bit longer.  (zucchini and aubergines aren't favored by the BF either.  *grin*  I'm always surprised he was a vegan... honestly, what would one eat if you don't like most veg?)  

Add pasta sauce and simmer for a bit. Just so the flavors meld.  Add cheese.  Serve.

Some pasta sauce brands we like - when I'm too lazy to make my own:

Coupla Guys :
 - Awesome Arrabiata, Marvelous Marinara, Perfect Puttanesca (you must like olives!)

Tomato Mountain Farm's Tomato Basil Pasta sauce ( they also have great salsa's and jams)

Lucini Italia  Spicy Tuscan Tomato Sauce

Dave's Gourmet Organic Spicy Heirloom Marinara Pasta Sauce (isn't that a mouthful? *grin*)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The "meatrix"

Found this video online and it is well done... this is the 1st episode

I haven't watched any of the others in the series but here is the site so you can check it out.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making of the Bacon

So, it is a second attempt at making home made bacon.  It was a bit salty... but still very yummy.

The most important thing I've learned is that the type of pig makes a huge difference.  The first go we bought Yorkshire (I think) and this go it was a Berkshire.  The first attempt, the bacon didn't hold form and ended up as a yummy shredded pork belly versus getting bacon.  This time, we got BACON! yea!

 The recipe I found was at Daves Cupboard and I used the dry cure as the base.  I did reduce the amount of sugar and skipped some ingredients (mostly because I didn't have them).

So here is my base for curing:

3 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme (actually I think I put a bit more)

Rub the cure all over the pork and put it in a zip-lock bag in the fridge for 7 days.  Turning about once a day, squishing it a bit as I did so to get a feel for how the meat was curing.  You are looking for the meat to be feeling a bit firm to the touch, you will see some liquid in the zip-lock bag as the salt is pulling out water from the pork. 

Once you have cured it for a minimum of 3 days to a max of 7, you pull it out of the fridge and wash off all the curing spices on it.  I then placed it in the oven at 200F for about 2 hrs - to both dry it out and 'smoke' it.  I would like to try out properly smoking it out in the backyard with my old smokey-joe grill.   But right now, I have to say, aside from the salt issue - it was yummy!

One of the things I've seen to try to reduce the salt taste is to submerge the bacon after curing in a cold water bath for 4  to 24 hours. ( see here)  But, I haven't tried it to say if it will work or not.

Ron - if you do make this - let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Indian Resturants and resources in Chicago

This is for the girl from World Market today.

Just know that I haven't been to a lot of Indian restaurants in a while.. so this list is based on what I recall as being good.

  • India House - 59 West Grand Avenue, Chicago - I was there a few weeks ago and the buffet was pretty good. 
  • Hema's Kitchen - 2439 W Devon Ave  - Chicago (Devon Ave) - I use to love this place but haven't been in about 7 years.  Still gets great reviews .... so, I'm thinking it's still good.
  • Udupi Palace -  2543 W. Devon Ave.  - Chicago (Devon Ave) - this is the veg. place I was telling you about  - the masala dosa's are amazing!
  • Cumin Restaurant -  1414 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago - it's a Indian and Nepalese restaurant.  I haven't actually been there but my boyfriend has and said good things about it. 
  • Tiffin - 2536 West Devon Avenue, Chicago - I haven't been there in a while but last time I went it was very good. 
Spice Resources: 
  • Patel Brother's - 2610 W Devon Ave, Chicago- I can only vouch for the one on Devon.  I've been to the one in Schaumburg (I think) and the product wasn't as fresh.  
  • Spice House - - I've only been to the one in Evanston, but I know there is one in the city. 
  • Whole foods (of course) - pricey but you can get a lot of stuff there
Cook Books / Authors: 
  • India's 500 Best Recipes - (amazon link) - some great recipes - especially Balti (regional section that has Butter Chicken). 
  • The Best of India a cookbook ( - really simple stuff, very small book - kinda a good starter book
  • Book's by Madhur Jaffrey (the English actress I was telling you about)
  • Also - check out Chicago Public Library - they have a huge section of cookbooks and you can request some from other libraries as well. 
 Websites: honestly, I go to so many that I have no idea what to suggest.  Searching in Google for Indian recipes might help.  But, it also depends on the style your aunt (I think it was your aunt, right?) wants to eat/try.  Most people in the US eat North Indian food because most restaurants are North Indian.  Udupi is one of the few exceptions, as is Mysore Gardens (but I've never been there to say if it is good or not - also on Devon).

Good luck on your quest for Indian food... I do love the hunt for a good restaurant or recipe.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Crepes - Grain free - OMG good

So, I finally figured out how to make grain free crepes.  I've seen and tested out a lot of the recipes out there but nothing quite worked for me.   A few were too egg-y.  Some were too thick or oddly grain-y textured. 

So, this does taste like crepes and usually holds together well.  This is a general guideline as it depends on the cashew butter that you get.  We are very lucky in that one of our wholefoods has a nut grinder where you can grind your own nut butter.


1 cup cashew butter
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
butter or ghee for pan

Mix cashew butter, milk and egg until you have a thin batter.  You do not need to add sugar to this as the cashew provides a sweet taste - but, if you haven't lost the taste for overly sweet add some to meet your needs.  You can add cinnamon, a pinch of salt or whatever you would put in for a "regular" crepe.

Place butter in a non-stick pan (yes, it's the only time I will use a non-stick pan because even with a ton of butter a regular pan doesn't seem to work quite well).   Once pan is heated - on medium heat, place about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan.  Take the pan and give it a quick turn, to spread out the batter.  Cover it and let cook for about 2 or 3 min.  The edges should be a brown a bit, flip over (carefully!) to brown the other side.  Plate.  You can add jams or chocolate or cheese or whatever filling you want.   

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Art piece showing Iowa's top soil loss

 I found this on BoingBoing, which shows the amount of top soil being lost due to large scale farming over the last 150 years.   Basically, from 14-16 inches in the 1800's to less than 6-8 inches today. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Picadillo - Cuban (ish) style

I think I've shared that we are in a Meat CSA.  Have I said that I am now the CSA coordinator for said CSA? Yes! I am the first ever Meadow Haven CSA coordinator.  whoohoo!  Of course the CSA only started out about six months ago, so it's not like there was a lot of coordinating going on.

Anyway, in our meat share we get a lot of ground beef.  No complaints, I love ground beef because it is so versatile and there are so many ways to cook it.  And, you can get a flavor of a country just by adding spices or other ingredients to create a whole new dish.  We've had South African, Italian, Spanish, Indian and so on. Aside from the not so basic burgers that the BF makes for us, as he makes great burgers.

Picadillo is a fairly common name for a Latin American and Filipino dish made up with (usually) ground beef .  The dish comes with a variety of flavors based on the country of origin.  I even found one in a Tex-Mex cookbook but it looked so boring compared with this version that I didn't even write it down or try it.  But, once you have a great recipe it is very hard to muck around with a blander version.   The dish is usually served with rice or as the filling in a taco - but we just eat it straight from a bowl. Best of all, if you double the quantity, it reheats great for work.

Another good thing is that you can add almost anything to it to meet your tastes.  The idea is a sweet, salty, beefy combo.  The BF likes cashews and we added that for a bonus crunch.  The original recipe is from Three Guys From Miami who also have a cookbook that has some great recipes.


1 cup diced onion
1 cup seeded and finely chopped bell pepper
butter/fat for sautéing
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lbs. ground beef or ground round
1 1/2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or one can of chopped tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup chopped olives  (optional - green or black)
1/6 cup raisins
Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup raw cashews (optional)

Melt butter/fat in a large frying pan. Sauté onion and green pepper for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and ground beef. Cook until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and oregano. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.  If you don't want any sauce, cook it uncovered.  You may still have to simmer it longer to reduce the liquids if you used canned tomatoes.

Add olives and raisins and simmer 5 minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste.

While the olives and raisins are cooking.  Heat up a frying pan with butter, toss in the cashews and stirring constantly wait until lightly brown.  Then toss them into the pan.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chocolate Peanutbutter balls

The BF's mum makes this Christmas "cookie" that she calls goofballs. I do not know if this a official cookie or not but Google did find a lot of recipes. Not quite like the recipe from the BF's mum but similar.

The only problem is that her cookie recipe has graham cracker crumbs in it and well, we try not to eat wheat.  So, I have been creative with her recipe and came up with this "finalized" version.

Now, you can make it vegan by using coconut oil instead of butter, which I have done in the past and it is very good. But, I like the creaminess of butter. :)

Just note, because this version doesn't have graham cracker crumbs nor parafin (edible wax which keeps the chocolate solid in warmer conditions) you have to keep this in the fridge and eat them pretty quick once you have them out. However, it hasn't been a problem in our house.

Chocolate Peanut Butter balls or Goofballs 2

2 sticks butter, softened (1 cup)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 package chocolate bars (I used 90% Lindt chocolate)
2 cups cocoa powder (optional)

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar until well incorporated.  Add peanut butter and vanilla, mix some more.   Remove from mixer - as the nuts tend to get more crushed by the mixer than actually mixed (at least for me)

Add in coconut and nuts and stir with a spoon.  Place the bowl into fridge and let it get cold.  About 45 min to a hour in the fridge.

Set up a cookie sheet with parchment paper to put the peanut butter balls on.  Pull out and make peanut butter into balls, approximately a inch or so in diameter.  Once all the dough is shaped into balls, cover with plastic and place in the freezer (if you have space) or fridge.  You want them to be solid so that when you place the balls into the melted chocolate, they do not loose shape or turn into a mucky mess.

Once balls are solid. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (or however you melt chocolate).  Drop one or two peanut butter balls into the chocolate.  Once coated (and this is really quick) pull out and place on parchment paper to cool.  You can coat it in cocoa powder at this point if you want - which makes it even richer.  

Store in fridge.  It lasts about 2 weeks (depending on the chocolate fiends in your house - ours it lasts about 1/2 a week. *grin*)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Asian inspired ground beef

I've been on a hunt for ground beef recipes because our CSA provides a lot of ground beef and one can eat chili and burgers so many times.

It's probably just me. :)  I really have trouble eating the same dish multiple times and if I've made it once, unless it's requested again I probably will forget about the dish. I know, it is very odd.  But, I like to make new things and try new flavors - hence the blog.  So, that I can recall a really good dish and do it up again.  And, you thought I was writing for you. uh?

Ok. I was writing for anyone who is willing to put up with my random moments of writing. And for the people I love who really don't need to hear about me going on and on and on about food. ;)

The thing I love about this dish is that you can add any veggie you want to it and I had some cabbage and spinach.  So, I tossed it in.  The original recipe is from This Primal Life which I haven't tried anything but this recipe.  It looks cool and I'm hoping to wander around her site some more.

Asian Ground Beef

1 lb. ground beef
3 tablespoons butter/ghee
1 bell pepper, sliced - red/yellow/orange - something to make it pretty
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup cabbage, shredded (optional)
1/2 cup spinach, chopped (optional) 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

3 tablespoons almond butter or peanut butter
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

Mix the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

In a warm skillet, melt some butter/ghee.  Add onions and cook until softened.  Add garlic and ginger, cook about a minute or so.  Add ground beef and cook until browned.

Once the beef has browned, add veggies (carrots, spinach, peppers, etc).   Once the veggies are cooked to your taste, I like it a bit on the al dente side so there is a crunch.  Add the sauce. Give a quick stir.  Turn off the stove, add the cilantro.  Serve.


Notes on the recipe:

  •  I cook my onion as I don't like the sharp bite of onion. You do not have to do so. And, in the original recipe it is not cooked early. 
  •  If using cabbage, you can put it in with the ground beef depending on how much you like cabbage. The earlier you put it in, the less the cabbage flavor will show through in the dish. Since the BF isn't a big fan of cabbage, I chopped it up into tiny bits and cooked it earlier in the process.
  • While I say use "pretty" peppers, this really isn't that attractive of a dish. Yummy! but not pretty. But, I figure taste wins! And, as long as I don't do this up for company... we're all good, right? 
  • Now, you can put these in lettuce leaves and serve. I'd suggest Boston or even the dreaded Iceburg which both have nice big leaves. But, we just ate it up right from the bowl.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Log thing, you make my heart sing...

I made this desert a while back which the BF loved.  I had started with a chocolate fudge recipe but I was craving chocolate and raspberries. So, I ended up creating this yummy desert that turned out really great.

So yesterday, the BF requested the chocolate/raspberry desert.  He named it "log thing" so he could sing a song in it's honor... which makes me happy. :)

And, while it's not pretty in log form - it does cut up beautifully and I could see serving it for a nice dinner.  And, it is so easy.

Log Thing

Chocolate fudge:
1 cup cream
1 tablespoon sugar (more or less or not at all)
1 3.5 oz chocolate bar (I used 85% green and black)
1/2 cup hazelnut flour (finely ground nuts)
1/2 cup almond flour (finely ground nuts)
1 tsp vanilla

Raspberry Filling:
1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
1/3 cup raspberry jam (depending on how much you like raspberry)

parchment paper
cookie sheet or flat pan you can place into the freezer

In a sauce pan put in cream to heat.  Break up chocolate bar into small pieces and add to cream.  Bring the cream to a simmer, whisking the chocolate and cream while it is heating so that nothing burns at the bottom.  Once it comes to a simmer, turn off the heat.  Add flours and vanilla.  Stir until everything is nicely mixed.  

On the cookie sheet, place the parchment paper.  Spread the chocolate mixture smoothly on to the parchment paper so that you have a nice flat rectangle about 1/2 inch or so thick.  You want it to be fairly thin so that you can roll it easily. Put another piece of parchment on top and place it into the freezer to cool down and solidify a bit - about 15-20 min.

While you are waiting for the fudge to set, put the cream cheese and raspberry jam into a nice size bowl.  Take a wooden spoon or fork and mix the two ingredients together.  Taste to see if you want it to be more raspberry or sweeter.

Pull out the fudge, remove the top parchment paper.   Put the raspberry filling on top of the fudge and smooth out covering the rectangle as much as possible.  Trying to keep it even and fairly thin.  Once the fudge is covered, pick a short side to start the roll.  Take the parchment paper and push over a small portion of the fudge into the cream cheese.  Starting up the roll.  You are going to use the parchment to help you roll the fudge into a log shape.

Place it into the fridge, wrapped in the parchment paper.  Let it solidify a bit more or not - depending on how much control you have. :)  Cut slices and serve.  It will keep in the fridge for a week wrapped in parchment paper in a ziplock bag.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Quick links for the lady at Gene's

I was at the Gene's grocery store today to get some cream and milk, as they are one of the few that carry Kilgus dairy.   There was a nice woman in front of me who was deciding which milk to buy - whole, skim or low fat.  I was behind her, waiting and hoping really, really hard that she would not pick the very last container of whole milk.  Lucky for me...she didn't pick the whole milk!  We then got into a conversation about fat and how it's not bad for you.

And being who I am... I couldn't help myself and told her about Mark's Daily Apple and the whole paleo/primal thing.   So, I'm going to post this up for her... and hopefully it's helpful.

PaNu's getting started has a great listing on what you should or shouldn't eat and to some degree why.
Gary Taubes Blog while only has two postings takes on from his book Good Calories/Bad Calories and is a pretty easy read.  I especially like the first posting on "The insanity of over eating".
The LA times article on fat/carbs - I'm not sure I completely agree with the article but that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows me. *grin*
The Gary Taubes article in Science from 2001 on "The Soft Science of Fat" - in which he shows that dietary fat hasn't been proven to make one fat.  But, the switch to a high carb diet has definitely proven to make one fat and more prone to diabetes.
Mark's Daily Apple primer has loads of info.  I like the "10 steps to primalize  your pantry" and "Why Grains Are Unhealthy". 

Mostly the info above are starting points - as are the links on the blog.  I've found from reading various sites that people tend to make primal work for them.  And, isn't that the point? :) 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Brisket

Apparently we have started a new Christmas tradition where I am responsible for cooking the Christmas brisket.  Lucky for all of us, my family is very willing to be experimented on... even for Christmas dinner!    I have also been very lucky that the Christmas brisket has turned out well two years running.  Whoohoo!

Hopefully the streak will hold. ;)

This brisket recipe is based from a Hungarian Jewish brisket I found here.  I have no idea how the original will turn out - as I changed it from the get go.  But, it sounded really good!

Here is my version.

Paprika and Rosemary Spiced Brisket 

Rub to be done the day before:
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, chopped finely 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4- to 5-pound beef brisket
Ingredients for the day you plan to cook it:
  • 2 tablespoons butter /ghee/bacon fat (or if doing Kosher - then schmaltz or olive oil)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, medium dice 
  • 12 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled 
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste 
  • 1 (14-1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 (6-inch) branches fresh rosemary 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar 
  • 1 or 2 cups of chicken stock or water - enough to almost cover the meat at the start
The night before, prepare the rub and make sure to thoroughly cover the brisket.  Place in fridge until the next morning.

It takes about 5-6 hrs, so I usually start up pretty early since we have to pack it and take it out to my sister's house for the gathering of the masses.

The big day:
Pre-heat oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. In a large roasting pan or cast iron pan - heat the fat.  Once hot, brown the brisket and then set aside.

Check to make sure you have about a tablespoon or so of fat still in the pan.  Add the onions and let it brown just a bit.  Toss in the garlic. Wait a second or two.

Lower the heat so that the tomatoes don't burn.  Put in the tomatoes (paste and diced) and cook it down a bit.  About 5 min.

Add rosemary, bay leaf, vinegar, and water/stock and stir to incorporate.  

Add brisket.  Increase heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Cover the pan and place into the oven.  Every few hours, pull out of the oven and flip the meat over.  Cook until tender - approximately 5 to 6 hrs. 

Pull out the brisket and cover to keep warm.  On high heat, reduce any liquid you have left until you have a nice thick sauce.