Thursday, 31 January 2013

Roasted Curry Vegetable Soup

It has been bone chillingly cold here.  Even with the furnace blasting away, I am cold.  Like shivering cold.  I know I am suffering more than most because of a mismanaged thyroid disease but holy moly it would be nice to feel my toes again!!

Not only am I craving warming spices, like cumin, cinnamon and cayenne but I want to have them wafting through the house all day, warming me along with a great piece of meat slow roasting in the oven all day long.....(more an excuse to have the oven on)

The combination of me being sick prior to and then going away for the holidays , left us returning to a kitchen full of potatoes starting to get eyes, some limp cauliflower, saggy carrots, soft onions and floppy broccoli. Instead of any of them getting thrown away I roasted up the lot.

A pot roast one night was served with roasted potatoes and carrots.  The veg leftovers from that meal were thrown into a pot the next day along with another batch of roasted veg, this time a head of cauliflower, a couple of onions and a bulb worth of garlic. Simmered in just enough homemade chicken stock to cover, blended with an immersion (hand/stick) blender and finished with a little salt and pepper

Roasted Vegetables
preheat oven 400

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
3 yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/4 or 1/6 wedges
4 yellow flesh (Yukon Gold) or Russet potatoes, cut into wedges
4-6 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
2 tbsps Cumin

1 head of garlic, the top cut off, drizzled with oil and wrapped tightly in tin foil, set aside

Toss all the vegetables in a light coating of olive oil, salt and pepper and the cumin. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan. Add your wrapped up garlic to the corner of the pan

Let roast for 30-40 minutes or until a sharp knife slides easily into all the vegetables.

The vegetables are wonderful just like this, paired with roast chicken or beef or you can make soup (or both like I did). I have always thought that you crave certain things for a reason.  Good or bad reasons but there is a strong scientific argument that you crave what you need (or what you really don't) I have been craving warm spices so I started to read up on cumin. There are also some wonderful benefits to cumin, which might explain why I have been craving it....(for those of you that read the link, please don't assume I am craving it because I have a flatulence issue......I know that is the funnier choice and it's what I would do....but I'm a jerk....)

Monday, 28 January 2013

How to make Chicken Stock

 "Why is chicken soup superior to all things we have, even more relaxing than 'Tylenol?'  It is because chicken soup has a natural ingredient which feeds, repairs and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine.  The inner lining is the beginning or ending of the nervous system.  It is easily pulled away from the intestine through too many laxatives, too many food additives ....and parasites.  Chicken soup....heals the nerves, improves digestion, reduces allergies, relaxes and give strength."  Hanna Kroeger Ageless Remedies from Mother's Kitchen
I have previously written about the many health benefits of homemade stock.

Many of the recipes I post call for chicken stock.  I use an enormous amount of chicken stock so I have to make it pretty much weekly.  It is part of the weekend routine along with nut milk, a nut or seed butter, home made aioli, and some sort of roast meat for sandwiches.  It might sound like a lot of work but really it is mostly about timing. (I don't need the same quantities of beef stock and tend to make it every 3 weeks to a month)

You think baking cookies makes your house smell good?......I would make a stronger argument for chicken stock, especially in the winter time when there is nothing better than a warm comforting smell through the house.  If I am sick just the smell of the stock makes me start to feel better.

Start a stock at least 24 hours before you need some.  With food prices on a steep incline over the last couple of years it is only more important to get every bit out of your purchases.  In this recipe I have included some cost saving tips - using the bones previous meals or saving the vegetable scraps to use in stock.

Home Made Chicken Stock
The bones of approx 2 chickens. (save all the bones from all the chicken eaten during the week, keeping it in ziplock bags in the freezer until you are ready to make stock.)
2 carrots, snapped in two (or use the carrot peelings from the week)
2 onions, skins on, cut in half (or use the ends cut off for other dishes)
5-6 garlic cloves, lightly smashed, skins left on
2 stocks of celery, snapped in two (or use saved end cuts)
a handful of mushrooms (I only ever use them if I have some older wrinkly ones that need to be used)
1-1 1/2 tsp peppercorns
2 bay leaves
a bunch of parsley
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
approx 4 quarts cold filtered water

Place the bones in a large stock pot with the water, vegetables, bay leaves, peppercorns and vinegar and let stand for 30 minutes to an hour.  The acid of the vinegar starts the process of leaching nutrients out of the bones.  It is important to let this resting period happen before heating to get the most from the bones.

After the wait time bring to a boil, scraping off any 'scum' that forms on the surface. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 6-24 hours.  The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavourful it will be.  About 10 minutes before finishing, add the parsley.  This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth. Let cool until it is just warm.

Remove the bones with tongs or a slotted spoon.  Strain, using a strainer lined with cheese cloth or a kitchen towel, into a smaller pot or large bowl and refrigerate until the fat rises to the top and congeals**.  Skim off the fat and store stock in jars in fridge or freeze.  I don't bother clarifying my stock.

**If you usually buy canned or tetra pack stock you may be surprised to find your stock is getting thick or 'jello' like when it is cooled.  This is the sign that you have made it correctly and that gelatin has been rendered from the bones.  This is a very good thing.....see more here, at my Beef Stock post as to why.

This stock can be used for soups, stews, sauces, cooking rice, liquid for mash potatoes, or warm in a mug with a squeeze of lemon when sick. I promise it will make you feel better.

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Worlds Best Pot Roast (the secret is a little Balsamic Vinegar)

I didn't grow up eating pot roast.  We didn't eat tons of beef when I was a kid.  Maybe because it was too expensive on a single moms budget, maybe it was too time consuming, or maybe because my moms recipe lexicon of 7, one for every day of the week, was full....I don't mean to take a stab at my mom....she is a great mom, but she just wasn't and isn't a very adventurous cook.  She kinda sticks with the few things that she is really good at.

It wasn't until she married my wonderful step-dad, who is a real 'meat'n'taters' farm boy, that she made a point of bringing into rotation some classic beef dishes.  Gone was the 'tuna pie' of my childhood and in was pot roast. I was introduced to pot roast for the first time (unless I had it as a child and don't remember) during a visit and have always sworn I needed to to start making it. (What a great way to use a cheaper cut of meat!!)

With so many of the ingredients of a pot roast being the same as beef stew there is always the possibility of it tasting like a cheap watered down version so I really looked at other recipes to see how people deviate. There are some horrible looking ones out there and I have come to the conclusion that Americans will find any excuse to put  'Merican Cheese on something.....anything!!.  Don't start looking smug Canadians, I could share with you the recipe for 'Pot Roast Poutine' I'm not kidding.....(unfortunately it actually sounds kinda good)

Instead I will share my own, a soon to be classic!

3 lbs beef chuck/pot roast, boneless  *preferably grass fed*
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 fresh sage leaves
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup red wine
1/3 cup good balsamic vinegar
2 cups homemade beef stock

Generous salt and pepper the outside of the roast.  Heat the oil in a large skillet and once hot, sear the roast on all sides - a couple of minutes on each side.

Remove from pan and place in the bowl of a slow cooker.  Add in the onions, garlic, herbs, red wine, stock and vinegar.

Cook on low over night or all day, approx 12 hours.

Simple eh?  Now most people add potatoes and carrots to their pot roast.  I don't but that is because I am not a fan of squishy carrots.  What I recommend doing is roasting them separately.  This brings out the sweet of the vegetables which is a really nice contrast to the slight acid of the balsamic in the roast.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Nuts to you......almond butter

There was a series of books when I was a kid that we kept at our summer house in North Carolina.  The characters were all animals and it might have had something to do with Busy know with Loley Worm? Anyway there was a naughty bird that was always up to no good.  In one story he played a series of jokes/pranks on his friends that ended up with him yelling "Nuts to you" and laughing.  They finally got revenge when he opened a door and a wave of nuts poured in on him prompting them to all yell "Nuts to you ......" But that's the problem, I don't remember his name.  I reminded cousin Noah about the story and he remembered it as 'Nightingale'......but that can't be doesn't sound right.

I am haunted by this story.  I think about it all the time.   I have been trying to remember his name for runs through my head over and over "Nuts to you....." For some reason I always think Gargamel but that's the Smurfs isn't it?

Anyway I digress....If you are an avid reader, and I know you are, you probably remember my recipes for Peanut Butter, Nut Dust and Almond Milk and know that we are pretty nuts around here. So along with a little recipe for Almond Butter I will explain why we are so nutty.

Nuts are a good quality protein. Although they are quite high in fat it is mostly unsaturated fats.  Essential fatty acids (linoleic acid) and vitamin E are part of the nuts oil. Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts and peanuts have the highest vitamin E content.  Most nuts have a general cross section of the B vitamins and are a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and other trace minerals.  Some nuts even have some selenium. Nuts are a moderate source of polyphenol antioxidants (antioxidants)

Almonds in particular are considered to be a cancer preventing nut because of the presence of amygdalin, commonly known as laetrile. You can also find Copper, phosphorus, manganese, and phyto-nutrients (plant nutrients) beta-glucosides (powerful tool for degradation of plant cell walls for pathogens), isorhamnetin glycosides, kaempferol, catechin , protocatechuic acid, naringinen (all flavonols, part of the antioxidant family) and glucopyraniosides.

When we eat raw nuts, we also eat the enzyme inhibitors that prevent the seed from sprouting on the grocery store shelf. This takes a real toll on our digestion, since these enzyme inhibitors also prevent our own bodily enzymes from breaking down the food in our digestive tracts, inhibiting absorption of precious vitamins and minerals.

There are two ways to destroy enzyme inhibitors, soaking and roasting. As is the case with most packaged food, the term “roasted nuts” that you see on the label is a little misleading. You see, roasted nuts are raw nuts essentially deep-fried in saturated palm kernel or cottonseed oil, heavily salted and frequently have other add-ins like corn syrup, flavoring agents and preservatives. If you ever buy roasted nuts, look for the words “dry roasted” and read the ingredient list to ensure that what you are buying is in fact, just nuts.

Or better yet, roast your own

Almond Butter
2 cups raw/natural almonds

Preheat oven 300
  1. Spread almonds out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes.  You want them to be just toasty brown if you cut one open.  Too brown and they bet bitter.  Remove and let completely cool
  2. Pour almonds into a food processor.  I like to pulse a few times until the almonds are slightly broken up before letting it run.  Blend on the highest setting for 1-2 minutes.  you probably have something that is the consistency of wet sand.  Scrap down the sides and continue to blend.  It will go from sand to wet sand to mud (you may have to break up the larger lumps) to a smooth creamy runny paste.  As many times as I have made it I am amazed every time that something so 'dry' to begin with can become something so creamy.  The more you blend it the more oils are released and the creamier it gets.
  3. Transfer the almond butter to an airtight glass container and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for 1 month.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Elderberry Syrup - The anti-sick boost

I am sick of being sick.  I gave up gluten after being sick for almost a year.  If I wasn't coming down with something I was just getting over it, to come down with something else.  I think I spent 2 weeks of that year not blowing my nose.

About 2 weeks after giving up gluten the cold went away and the frequency that I got sick was like any other healthy human...... for about a year.  I had one cold that lasted a few days.

Well now at almost 3 years gluten free, the constant cold feeling as returned.  The constant run down feeling, the constant stuffy nose, the plugged ears, the tired muscles.

In North America we are having a brutal flu season.  Even the vaccine manufacturers are coming out and admitting that they are having a very low success rate this year (*epic eye roll*) I refuse to spend another moment of my life sick.  So after finishing the antibiotics I went on the assault.  I have been dosing myself heavily with probiotics to rebuild my gut after the drugs.  I brewed a huge batch of Kombucha (which is still fermenting) to start drinking regularly again, I ordered Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil combo and I made Elderberry Syrup AND I cut dairy.  Over reaction?  All of these things are so beneficial to my (or anyone's) general health that I really should be doing them all the time regardless of the flu season.

So before I get to the recipe, for those of you that don't know about Elderberries

Elderberry Facts & Benefits

  • ElderberryElderberries have strong antioxidant quality. Used to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis. 
  • Elderberries have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa.  
  •  Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. 
  • Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995 and people with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not.
  • Elderberries contain organic pigments, tannins, amino acids, carotenoids (yellow, orange, or red fat-soluble pigments), flavonoids (including quercetin and anthocyanins, antioxidants) , sugar, rutin (another class of flavonoid), viburnic acid (known to have a positive effect on diarrhea, nasal congestion, and to improve respiration (Novelli 2003)), vitamin A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. They are also mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic(makes you sweat). According to test tube studies these flavonoids are very powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage.
  •  Elderberries were listed in the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs as early as 1985
  •  Listed in the 2000 Mosby's Nursing Drug reference for colds, flu, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. 
  • In Israel, Hasassah's Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body's immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual's immune system.
  • At the Bundesforschungsanstalt research center for food in Karlsruhe, Germany, scientists conducting studies on Elderberry showed that elderberry anthocyanins(those flavonoids) enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. These unique proteins act as messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response, thus helping to defend the body against disease. Further research indicated that anthocyanins found in elderberries possess appreciably more antioxidant capacity than either vitamin E or vitamin C.
  • Studies at Austria's University of Graz found that elderberry extract reduces oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is implicated in atherogenesis, thus contributing to cardiovascular disease.
1. J Alt Compl Mod 1995: 1:361-69 2. Youdim KA, Martin A, Joseph JA. Incorporation of the elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells increases protection against oxidative stress

Elderberry Herb Notes / Side Effects
Latin Name: Sambucus nigra
Common Names: Elderberry, Black Elderberry, North American Elderberry
Properties: antioxidant, diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory
Uses: Immune system boost, coughs, colds, flu, bacterial infections, viral infections, tonsilitis, lower cholesterol, improved vision and heart health.
Indicated for: Cancer, HIV, asthma and bronchitis, reduce inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder.
Infusions of the fruit are said to be beneficial for nerve disorders, back pain, and have been used to reduce inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder.

 How to Make Elderberry Syrup
(You can buy Elderberry Syrup at most health food stores but it is very expensive)
 What you need:
  • 1 cup dried elderberries (about 1/4 lb., cost me $10 at Thuna)
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger (optional)
  • A 1-qt. mason jar with lid
Bring the elderberries and water to a boil (include ginger if using), turn down and let simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid has cooked down to half.

Turn off the heat and let cool to luke warm then add the honey.  If you don't let it cool the heat will kill all the beneficial enzymes in the raw honey (which help fight virus' as well)

Strain the juice into a mason jar, pressing all the juice out of the berries to get all the benefits out.

Refrigerate.  Can be kept in the fridge for up to 6 months.  If you are wondering what it tastes like, to me it tastes like water that had raisins soaking in it.  It isn't a strong or unpleasant taste.  The kids like it

Children 1/2 to 1 tsp daily
Adults 1/2 to 1 tbsp daily
When sick dose every 3 hours. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Dairy Free Vegan Sour Cream

Dairy Free Vegan Sour Cream
Going dairy free isn't easy
Eating a Paleo diet or any diet (and obeying all the rules) ain't easy.

At this point I'm not trying to adhere to any particular 'diet' or plan other than gluten free and dairy free (with the exception of butter....I use so little of it and where I do use it can't be replaced by something else).  I will also continue to limit refined sugar.....again I eat so little of it (ie.Birthday a birthday or the very rare Chai tea latte at Starbucks) that I am not losing my mind about that.

I decided that during this transition stage....I will be slowly heading further into the direction of SCD (Specific Specific Diet) ...I will try out some of the recipes for the dairy free/soy free/grain free/ 'regular foods' replacements.  I never really got into this with the transition to gluten free.....scared that they would all be too disappointing.  Some of these I have been surprising, like this one

Dairy Free Sour Cream
1 cup raw cashews
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt

Place the cashew in the small bowl and cover by about 1/2 inch with boiling water.  Let soak for 30 minutes

Drain and reserve the liquid.  Put the cashews in a blender or food processor with about 1/4 of the soaking liquid and blend until smooth.  Add some of the reserved liquid as needed.  Add in the vinegar, lemon juice and salt.  Use as a sour cream replacement.

I put it on my Chili Con Carne

Review: not bad at all.  It doesn't taste exactly like sour cream but it has a vaguely similar taste.  It is a bit sweeter and really takes care of the rich creamy texture that you might miss going dairy free. I will make it again and experiment with adding other flavours....lime for Mexican inspired dishes etc.  I recommend it and suggest trying it.

I can't take credit for this recipe but I can't find who to give credit to either.  It seems to be 'the recipe' for vegan sour cream on the internets. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Tom Kha Gai or Tom Kha Goong

I am officially completely obsessed with this soup.  I don't mean in a 'I like to eat it' way but that I would bathe in it if you weren't going to judge me.  I have made 3 batches of it since Sunday (it is Tuesday).  I love the smell, the sweet, salty, sour and bitterness, the depth of flavour, the health benefits, how easy it is to make and that my whole family loves it. And it is dairy free...

This is serious folks - make some soup

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken) or Tom Kha Goong (Shrimp)
yields 6 servings
4 cups Good Chicken Stock (homemade is best)
1 1/2 cups water
1 inch piece of galangal (Thai ginger) or ginger, cut into coins
6-8 Kaffir lime leaves, torn
5 inch stock of lemongrass (about 1/2 of one full stock) cut into quarters lengthwise
2 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 tbsp fish sauce
the juice of 1/2 to a whole lime (preference and juiciness of lime)
3 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tbsp Thai chili & basil paste
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 fresh Thai chilies, cut in half lengthwise (optional)
2 organic chicken breasts or 4 thighs, thinly sliced or 3 cups of raw, peeled and deveined shrimp (cut larger shrimp in half)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (I like brown mushrooms best but white are good too) or try an Asian variety

1. Bring stock and water with galangal, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass to a simmer. Let simmer for around 30 minutes. You can simmer it with the Thai chillies in it if you want an extra heat kick.
2. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar.  Let simmer for another 5 minute
3. Using a slotted spoon remove the galangal, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass (and chilies if added) and discard
4. Add the lime juice, chili paste and chicken or shrimp, stir and let it come to a simmer.
5. Add the mushrooms and let simmer for 2-3 minutes to soften
6. Stir in the cilantro and spoon into bowls.  Top with a spoon full of sliced tomatoes

This recipe can easily be doubled for a group

Monday, 14 January 2013

My Good Morning Coffee

This road to recovery is so much longer than I anticipated.  I thought when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease that it meant my health issues were solved.  That finally they would have a path and a treatment plan for my on-going symptoms.  It is almost 5 years later (since the diagnoses) and I am still dealing with the endless barrage of symptoms. Still dealing with days that I am so physically, emotionally and intellectually exhausted that getting anything done is out of the question. The doctors say that on the days that I have energy I should rest too.  Letting my adrenal glands heal, letting my body 'right' itself and rest - yeah right...I have 2 five year olds.  I have a hard time with the feeling of accomplishing nothing.  If I don't get something done during the day I can't sleep that night -  a long list of 'to dos' haunting me, hanging over my head, tension rising.  I can feel my adrenals dumping adrenalin, I start getting 'restless legs', my brain swirling, my hands in tights fists.

There is something about being a stay-at-home mom or work-at-home mom that makes me feel pressure to prove my days accomplishments. When Big Daddy gets home from work if he can't physically see what I have done I feel the over-whelming need to tell him. Proving my worth? None of this is pressure that he has put on me.  The only thing that ever annoys him is if dinner isn't made but this is totally motivated by his stomach not his judgement of me. And the kids start getting whiny if they don't eat dinner as close to 6 as possible.

Days when I get things done (even just writing) I feel better about myself.  I feel prettier, skinnier......more desirable.....weird? I feel like I have contributed to the forward motion of my life, the family, the day......maybe the universe!......On the days when nothing, or very little is done, I feel it is a day wasted.  The day rolled over me like a train and passes me by. It is a day further behind from where we should be......

Maybe that's the bigger issue....that we all feel like we 'should be' further along in life....ah, North American society pressures....why aren't we kinder to ourselves?

I am still reeling from the adjustment of cutting dairy out of my diet.  I know it seems inconsequential, especially in the quantities that I ate it and I really shouldn't be having such issues but major dietary restrictions when you're feeding not just yourself but your whole family and have the job of recipe changes everything not just the food on your plate.

I am starting to see a bit of light.  I solved my morning coffee issue.  A small victory but sets the mood for the rest of the day. I tried the coconut coffee 'creamer' that the health food stores sell.......have you seen the list of crap in the ingredients?? It wasn't even very nice.....making my 1 to 1 1/2 cups of coffee a day a sad reminder of what I would spend the day missing.  Not only that, it was expensive!! I looked up some homemade alternative recipes and tried a few.......meh...and usually heavy on the 'favoured coffee creamer' idea which I don't like.

I really wanted to stick to a coconut based replacement for the half and half and not resort to soy which really is the most available alternative out there (soy isn't so good for you) But after having some truly disappointing mornings I trekked out to our local Asian Supermarket (T & T Supermarket) and found some cans of coconut milk that are a higher percentage of cream (70%) than the standard can (60%) and I have been using that for the last couple of days.  It isn't as coconutty tasting as you would think and it has that nice rich creamy texture.  After opening a can I have been pouring the contents of the can into a mason jar to store.  The only draw back I have found is that the higher fat coconut milk gets quite thick in the fridge so I been adding about 1/2 cup of regular fat % coconut milk for every can of the higher fat.  This gives me about 750ml of coffee 'cream' per batch.  The cans are $1.99 each regular price but frequently go on sale so it ends up being about the same price as buying crap free cream and cheaper than organic cream. So win win that it might have made coffee drinking a little cheaper for me.

**one word of warning, make sure when buying coconut milk that the list of ingredients is Coconut Extract and Water ONLY.