Monday, April 27, 2020

Cooking from "Scratch"

Cooking from scratch is sometimes simple, sometimes complicated or requires a mixture of experience and knowing what flavors work best with the dish. The southern, down-home recipes on this blog are designed for the new cook as well as the very experienced. All it takes is a little time in understanding the ingredients and steps.

I offer you recipes that I prepare often or recipes that are family traditions. I will tell you in advance if it is one that requires a bit of thought as I sometimes do not measure exact ingredients. These you can experiment with easily and none of them are complicated. That's the best part of scratch cooking, you can claim the dish as your own.

Note to new cooks: from scratch means you start with basic ingredients where nothing is pre-mixed and you have to measure the quantities.

Of course, there are recipes from others that have proven just too good to not share. Like the Best Breadmachine White Bread. It would be wrong to keep that to myself. Then there are those that are simply links to articles I've written elsewhere but they take you directly to the recipe.

We discuss using fresh vegetables, making your own seasonings, growing your own herbs and how to use them. I hope you stay for a while and enjoy using the recipes and suggestions. Leave a comment or share something. I will post the recipe with full credit to you if you do.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Simple Plain Roasted Chicken for Beginners

Simple Plain Delicious Roasted Chicken for Beginners

For new cooks, cooking a yummy roasted chicken is simple. Don't think you have to rub it in all sorts of seasonings and chemicals to make it delicious and tasty like the ones at your grocer's or supermarket giant. All you need are seasoned salt and black pepper and even the pepper is optional.


  • Ingredients:

  • 1 organic whole chicken any size
  • Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • Black pepper (fine to medium ground)


Heat oven to 375degrees. Move oven rack down to the next level so chicken will cook in the center of the oven.

Wash chicken all over, drain and pat dry. Sprinkle chicken all over and inside with the seasonings.

It doesn't matter if you use a roasting pan or open pan with rack... cook chicken for 1 1/2 hours or until juices run clear. A good way to tell is to move the drumstick. If it pulls away from the body easily then it is done. But use the 1 1/2 hours as a marker. Or use the chart below as a guide:

  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1 to 1-1/4 hours
  • 3 to 3-1/2 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours
  • 3-1/2 to 4 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours 
  • 4-1/2 to 5 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1-1/2 to 2 hours
You can use the juices from cooking to make a gravy. Easy gravy is to add some water to the juices, bring to a boil. Put two tablespoons or more of organic cornstarch in a cup and stir in a little cold water. Quickly add the cornstarch to the boiling liquid, stirring, and cook until thickened. It doesn't take long.

Serve all with mashed potatoes.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Non-Gluten Butternut Squash Bread


Non-Gluten Butternut Squash Bread. Delicious, moist and healthy...

When I first took this bread out of the oven I couldn't stop eating it. It is so good! It was warm with a soft center and crispy outside. Super moist.

Perfect amount of sugar. I do use sugar as long as it is pure granulated and not made from beets. I also never purposely use stevia or artificial sweeteners. Stevia does not taste good to me and the other sweeteners are just not healthy.

Using my favorite non-gluten baking mix, non-gluten flour mix, you are in for a tasty treat. Make the non-gluten flour mix ahead of time and you won't have to stop while you are putting together this very easy bread/cake.

NOTES:  This recipe is  not complicated and can be put together quickly.

The recipe lists a very ripe banana as an ingredient but you can use all squash. The banana just makes it a little sweeter. If you keep ripened, frozen bananas in the freezer they are easy to add to any recipe including smoothies. But for this recipe thaw it so that it is soft and doesn't have to be mashed. Add it to the measuring cup first and then fill the rest of the cup with the squash puree.

I also had a fresh orange so I peeled and grated the skin and added it to the wet ingredients.

The squash will be stringy but unlike sweet potatos the strings will disappear in beating and baking. Just scrap them off the beaters back into the bowl.


Non-Gluten Butternut Squash Bread
  • 1 very ripe banana (optional, you can use all squash)
  • Pureed squash 
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (I use brown)
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup pure granulated sugar (like C&H)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (you can use all coconut sugar if you have it)
  • 1 3/4 cup non-gluten flour mix 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (I love using fine quality Ceylon cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom (I used allspice. Use whatever spices you want)


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a loaf baking pan with coconut oil or melted butter.

Put the banana in a measuring cup (a dry measure) and then add the pureed squash, enough to make a cup full. Level the top of the cup off just as you do with flour or other dry ingredients.

Put banana and squash in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, water, vanilla and melted coconut oil. Beat on medium to avoid splashing.

Measure the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well. Add carefully to the wet ingredients and mix well. With non-gluten flours you do not have to worry about over-beating. Just make sure everything is mixed well.

Pour batter into pan, set pan on rack in middle of the oven. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until cake springs back when light pressed on top. Or when a toothpick pressed into the middle comes out clean.

Cool bread in pan for about 5 minutes then turn out onto plate or rack.





Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gluten-free Yeast Rolls

Turn gluten-free yeast rolls into savory, indulgent Monkey Bread
Ever since I decided to become fit I've searched for ways to turn my favorite dishes into healthier versions. Monkey Bread is a triumph because there is no difference in taste or texture with my new version.

The traditional recipe calls for regular white wheat flour. Even though I turned to using organic wheats and felt much better about it, it still seemed possible to make it even healthier. And there was.

Instead of butter (I don't think butter is unhealthy but wanted to try an alternative) I used organic coconut oil with a little organic olive oil mixed in. And then... I found an excellent recipe for non-gluten baking mix that is substituted cup for cup of the traditional flour. Use this non-gluten flour mix recipe for the flour and then come back and get the recipe for Gluten-free Yeast Rolls...

NOTE ABOUT USING YEAST IN NON-GLUTEN RECIPES:
Non-gluten breads can only rise once. Therefore, adjustments are made to all recipes, not just this one.


Gluten-free Yeast Rolls
  • 1 cup warm water (105F top 115F)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, butter or olive oil or a mixture of all
  • 1/2 cup sugar (real cane sugar... no artificial or alternative sweeteners)
  • 3 organic large eggs (I usually use brown)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4- 4 12 cups non-gluten four mix
  • Extra melted coconut oil, butter or olive oil. If you are not vegan I would suggest butter.


Brush a bundt pan with with butter or olive oil making sure the entire inside is covered.

Combine the wam water and yeast in a large bowl. Let the mixture stand until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in butter, sugar, eggs and salt.

Beat in flour, 1 cup at a time until it is all incorporated. The dough will be wet. 

At this point is when the recipe moves from traditional yeast roll instructions...

Sprinkle some of the non-gluten flour mix on the table. Then scrap your dough out of the bowl on top of the flour mix, making sure it is not on any bare spots on the table. Then completely cover the top with more flour mix. Pat the dough out until it is about 1/2 or 3/4 inch thick. 

Cut into strips (a few at a time) then cut into rectangles. Nothing precise. Dip pieces into melted butter or oil then toss into bundt pan. Repeat until all the dough is in the pan. Let rise until double in size.

Bake bread at 375F until bread top is brown, around 20 minutes. When it is a nice dark golden brown remove from oven. Allow to cool for a bit then turn it out of the pan by placing a plate on top of the pan and then turning it over. Set on table and remove pan. It may fall apart like in the photo or it may hold the shape of a bundt cake. Whatever happens here is perfect! You will not regret the results.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Pheasant- the most delicious recipe

Pheasant- the most delicious recipe

This is the most delicious recipe for pheasant. And to add to that, look at all that bacon. This Thanksgiving proved that anything covered with bacon will turn out to be amazing!

I'd never had nor cooked pheasant before but for some reason decided that it would be the main protein for the holiday. First of all, they are expensive. A four pound bird costs as much as a free range turkey. Second, to get a good price they came 9 per box so I asked several co-workers if they would consider going in with me. It worked out perfectly.

I can't wait to return to work to find discuss their recipes and how they served theirs. As for me, I used a recipe I found at food.com but modified it slightly to cut down on the sodium and sugar. Not much of a salt fan, not only for health reasons but I really prefer to actually taste the flavors of the food I am serving.

I got them from Big Rick at www.cityfoodswholesale.com. If you are local, drop by on Saturdays when he has the grill set up and is passing out samples. Rick has everything you may need for any type of cookout, dinner or event. He also has gator, sausages of all types (wild and domestic meats), seasonings, gumbo fixings and, of course, your high quality pork, grassfed beef, poultry and seafood.

Thanksgiving side dishes were plain kale steamed in chicken broth, poached pears with parsnips, cornbread dressing, old fashioned (civil war era) jelly cake and gravy.

NOTES: for some reason several sites listed pheasants as mostly dark meat. My bird had the same amount of white breast meat as a regular turkey or chicken. The same with the dark portions.


Our bird was raised on a vegetarian/non-hormone diet therefore it was not wild. It was tastier than a regular chicken and what some term as "an improvement on turkey".



If you are counting calories to the point where you have to be mindful even of holiday meals then this is not a good recipe for that. And even though there is no salt added for roasting, the brine has 1/4 cup of salt. Please be aware if sodium intake is a concern.



Recipe for Pheasant- the most delicious recipe

8 cups water

1/4 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed 
1 pinch ground cloves
1/2 lemon, juice of 
1 dash cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (4 lb) whole pheasants
2 tablespoons butter
6 slices of natural processed bacon (optional) 

Heat together the water and salt until salt is dissolved, then allow to cool to room temperature for about a half hour.

Add the sugar, syrup, onions, garlic, cloves, and lemon and cayenne pepper (if using).
Add pheasant, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the brine until the sediment can be spooned off top. Boil more to make sure it contains not uncooked sediments. Use this for basting.

Place brined pheasant in a roasting pan breast up and insert a tablespoon of the butter under the breast skin.

Rub the rest of the butter all over the pheasant, then roast uncovered for about 1-1/2 hours; check after an hour, though. Since my bird was larger than the original recipe it took around two hours to cook fully.

Baste frequently!

And if you like, to keep the breast meat moist, you can cover it with bacon strips as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Non-Dairy Protein Drink for After Weight Training

quiinoa milk
Suzie's Quinoa Milk


In a way, I guess I am a pain addict because hurting after a workout never deters me from exercising the next day. But since I am intermittently on my own without a trainer I do a lot of research to make sure I am doing things right. I found out there are things you can do to cut down on the soreness that make your muscles heal faster.

It is strongly recommended to have protein at least an hour before and within 30 minutes after training.  Getting your protein solely from shakes does not complete daily requirements but it does get you to optimum, especially if your diet is right.

Some answers:

What happens if I don't get all the protein I need? Will my muscles shrink?

Absolutely not. If you're eating an appropriate amount of protein in general, an occasional low-protein day will not affect muscle growth. The only reasons muscles would get smaller are from lack of use, injury, or severe calorie restriction. - See more at: http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/protein-guide-maximum-muscle#sthash.BeTiJnIs.dpuf



Is there any benefit to getting protein from bars or shakes instead of whole foods?

No. Shakes and protein bars might make it easier to meet your daily protein requirements, but in the end, high-protein foods like meat, eggs, peanut butter, and nuts may actually be more satisfying because they have higher fat content and take longer to digest than shakes or bars. - See more at: http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/protein-guide-maximum-muscle#sthash.BeTiJnIs.dpuf


For women:
So, how much protein do you need? The suggested number differs depending on the source. 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the standard food guide recommendation for the average individual is set around 46 grams per day for women and 65 grams per day for men.4
Keep in mind, however, that this is the recommendation for the average, semi-sedentary individual. If you're constantly exercising and breaking down lean muscle tissue, your required protein intake needs to increase. Likewise, if you diet and consume fewer calories from carbs and fats, the macros you consume from protein will need to increase. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/women-and-protein-your-complete-guide.html
The essential form of protein in shakes is whey. Whey is a dairy product and that is bad for those who lactose intolerant. There is no way to make it work for us.

About a year ago I discovered non-dairy milks... almond, oatmeal, hemp, sunflower seed. Last week I found some quinoa milk and that was the essential component for me. Quinoa is the king/queen of protein. 

When buying milk alternatives the best ones contain no carrageenan, no GMO products, is unsweetened, unflavored and has little processing. Of course, you can always make your own but that is another post. Above is one brand that is ideal but there are many others.

Recipe:

  • 1 cup Quinoa Milk (46 calories/2 g protein)
  • 1 large egg (70 calories/12 g protein)
  • 1 large banana (105 calories/1.3 protein)


Suggestions:

  • Keep fully ripened bananas handy in the freezer. They add sweetness and will chill your shake.
  • Add any fruit or vegetable you think will work for you.
  • Add fresh turmeric. It has benefits for the heart, digestion and is high in antioxidants. In order for it to work properly always add some black pepper to whatever dish where it is used. Even your shake.
  • Try different milks but be mindful that some are higher in carbs than others.









Friday, October 10, 2014

Sweet Red Bell Pepper Jelly (Not spicy)


Red Pepper Jelly c/a common street peddler 2014

Canning and jelly making used to be a very big event at my house. My mom would search farmers' markets, travel miles out to their farms and/or place orders at local markets for fruits and vegetables. The largest project was putting up the okra, onions, bell peppers and tomatoes as the base for her famous gumbo. 


Since the last jar of it was eaten a few years back I began to make it fresh and only when I needed it. But it wasn't the same for some reason. So, this year I put in the extra effort and made about 15 quarts. But that is a recipe for another posting.



Since then, I've canned a few jellies, fruits and pickles. And, just no ordinary recipes would do since it is easy to purchase those organic products locally. I looked for things that were, at least to me, different in combining tastes, textures and aesthetics.



Today, I am posting a recipe for Red Bell Pepper Jelly. It contains no pectin but is made with Agar Agar instead. From now on, all my jellies and recipes which call for pectin will be made with the seaweed product. Don't worry it's tasteless and very simple to use. 

The brand that is recommended is Eden Sea Vegetable Flakes http://www.vitacost.com/eden-foods-agar-agar-sea-vegetable-flakes-1-oz-1 that is sold at Vitacost (incliuded in the link). Here is why Eden is recommended... http://www.edenfoods.com/about/geofree.php. Briefly, it is non-GMO/GEO.


Sweet Red Pepper Jelly (Non spicy)


  • 4 large red bell peppers (Organic)
  • 2/3 cup Bragg's cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon clarified butter (organic)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt (salt with iodine is not recommended)
  • 3 1/3 cups pure cane sugar
  • water to bring mixture to 4 cups after cooking
  • 4 tablespoons Eden Agar Agar Sea Vegetable Flakes
  • 4 half pint jelly jars (8 oz size)
  • 4 rings
  • 4 lids
  • Canner for water bath



Heat some water in canner and leave it on the lowest heat level.



Wash jars and lids/rings either by hand or in dishwasher. Remove jars from drain or dishwasher. Set them in canner by putting enough water in each to make them stand upright. Turn heat off under post with water. Take some of the hot water and put into a smaller pot. Add rings and lids to smaller pot and set aside. Do not boil.



Wash, core, seed  and remove veins from bell peppers. Cut into 2 inch chunks and pulse in food processor until chopped finely.



Put peppers in a large pot with remaining ingredients. (NOTE: if you will be cooking using a candy thermometer make sure the pot is not really deep. The heat will be too intense to hold your hand over it long enough to check the temperature).



Add the rest of the ingredients except for the water and agar agar.



Bring mixture to a boil and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat and measure in a heat proof measuring cup. Add enough water to bring it to 4 cups. Return jelly/water mixture to the pot. 



Add the 4 tablespoons of Agar Agar and bring mixture to  a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring, until Agar Agar is dissolved. Turn off heat.



Remove jars from water. Drain and dry them. Fill with the hot jelly mixture and leave 1/4 inch of head space. 



Remove lids and rings from pot and dry with paper towel. Place lids on jars and then screw on rings.


Secure each and set jars of jelly into larger pot with the hot water. jars should be covered by at least an inch of water. Bring water to a boil and do a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


After 10 minutes turn heat off, remove jars and set on clean dish towel. Let them cool. You will hear the lids "ping" as they seal themselves. Safely sealed jars have lids that do not pop back up when the center is pressed.



If you want your bits of pepper in the jelly to remain evenly distributed, turn the jars upside after about an hour. Leave them that way until they are near room temperature. If the jelly does not return to the bottom of the jar after they are returned to the upright position, don't worry. It will when you open the jar to use it. But if, for aesthetics, you want to avoid that just make sure you return them to standing right side up before the jelly sets.



Agar Agar has fantastic gel properties. Once you try it you will probably like it a lot.