Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Garlicy Hummus

About once a week it is Big Daddy's night to make dinner.  Usually it falls on one of my busier days when I haven't been able to consider dinner early enough in the day to make sure that the meat is thawed and prep done.  Sometimes it is left overs but most often he does 'Platter Night' or a 'Lazy Mans Dinner'.  This is our huge wooden cutting board covered in cold cuts, raw vegetables, dips, fruit, cheeses, and a few crackers. If there is ever a meal that is eaten while we watch a movie, this is it.

These are our usual platter ingredients

1. Slices of whatever roast meat I did that week or some organic hot dogs (if they were on sale)
2. Carrot sticks
3. Cucumber slices
4. Apple slices
5. Orange segments
6. Hummous
7. Aioli mixed with pesto for dipping
8. Boiled eggs
9. Cheese

I mention these nights because I have had some feed back lately from a few people feeling it would be impossible to keep up with the cooking I do and work full time.  So instead of trying to defend how busy I am and how possible it is (and perhaps causing the collateral damage of making those people feel defensive, which is never my intention) I have added a label here on the site called 'short cuts'.  These are ways to stretch out the time spent in the kitchen to cover more than one meal, or quick meals like this one that essentially give you a night off from pulling off a more complicated menu.  I have also started up the label 'school friendly' so parents can find nut free healthy snacks or lunch bag items to help stem the tide of processed crap kids are being told they need have in their lunch.  Now back to recipes

Garlicy Hummus
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp tahini
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
pinch of salt

Place the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and about 1/2 the olive oil in a food processor and pulse 5-6 times.  Then run continuously slowly adding in the remaining olive oil.  You might find you need a little more or less than I have written here to get a creamy texture.  Taste and see if your taste buds want more lemon juice or a little more salt and then pulse a few more times, tasting and adding.

I like to processes it until it is almost frothy while others like it chunky.

From a health standpoint - tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds) is a great non-dairy source of calcium.  Tahini contains B Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B15. B vitamins promote healthy cell growth and division, including that of red blood cells, which will help prevent Anemia. They also support and increase the rate of metabolism, enhance immune and nervous system function as well as helping to maintain healthy skin and muscle tone. Recent studies have also shown that Vitamin B can help protect against one of the most deadly forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer, but only when consumed in food.

Chick peas are full of fibre, high is protein and have a low glycemic index.  They are also known to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol)

Components in garlic called allyl sulfides and bioflavonoids may be key to the research observations of generally lower incidence of cancer and heart disease in people who frequently eat garlic (and onions).  Eating only 10 grams (about 2 tsps) of garlic a day is associated with a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer and currently a study is being done that indicates that garlic may help reduce the occurrence rate of pre-cancerous tumours (polyps) in the large intestine. Garlic removes key toxins in the blood and lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol.  It is also a natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal.

Raw lemon juice is well known for it’s antioxidants and anti-cancer properties and has been used for centuries in order to cure many ailments. Being rich in Vitamin C, it is also essential for maintaining a fully functional immune system, aiding digestion, fighting cancer, helping wounds to heal faster and can even help to prevent heart failure.  Although acidic to taste, lemons are one of the most alkaline of foods and help to push our bodies to the required pH alkaline state of around 7.4.

And that is just some of the nutritional benefits....

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Real Food Shepherd's Pie

This almost Paleo dish was a huge success around here.  Any dinner leftovers were eaten by a certain 'Daddy Monster' while he did the supper washing up.  I would like to say that we ate this with a huge salad like I would recommend for you and yours to do but after a very cold and busy day we were hungry and looking for filling, yummy, and dense.....but that doesn't mean it can't be healthy. I often find Shepherd's Pie meat to be dry and over cooked.  This one has a whisper of gravy cooked into it.  Never dry and full of tons of flavour.  I made this without mashing the potatoes - you can, I didn't because my son doesn't like mashed potatoes (who doesn't like mash potatoes?) but it was such a nice texture this way that I recommend trying it and went ahead and took photos this way.

Real Food Shepherd's Pie                                                          preheat oven 350
The Filling
1 lbs grass fed ground beef
1 lbs naturally raised ground pork
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 onions, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4-6 brown mushrooms, diced
1 cup frozen or 1 can organic corn niblets (use peas if Paleo/SCD or can't tolerate corn)
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 bottle of Gluten Free Beer (optional)
1 cup homemade Chicken Stock or Beef Stock
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp dried or fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and Pepper

The Topping
3 lg sweet potatoes

In a large cast iron or oven proof pan saute over medium high heat, the onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and garlic in a little oil and a pat of raw butter.  When the vegetables start to soften, about 4 minutes, add the thyme, bay leaves, cayenne and salt and pepper.   Stir to combine.

Crumble the ground meats into the vegetables breaking up any larger pieces.  When the meat is almost completely browned add the beer and stock (double the stock and forgo the beer if Paleo), scraping up any brown bit stuck to the bottom of the pan. 

At this point there are two ways to thicken the 'gravy'.  One is to spoon out about a 1/4 cup of the liquid into a bowl and whisk in 1 tsp of corn starch making a 'slurry' that is then added back into the filling.  This gives the 'gravy' a nice smooth texture but I am not that fond of the flavour the corn starch imparts and it has absolutely no food valueI prefer to add one white or yellow potato into the pot of sweet potatoes, when done, finely mash it and combine it to the 'gravy'.  It thickens while not adding any foreign flavours.  It is not as 'pretty looking' as using corn starch but it is a real food....neither are Paleo/GI/SCD friendly, both are gluten free.

Turn the heat down, add the corn and let this simmer until the liquid cooks down by about half.

If you haven't already, bring the potatoes to a boil in water.  Cook until tender but not falling apart.  Drain and leave to steam off the excess water.  When the filling is ready, make sure it is evenly distributed in the pan and top with the potatoes. (You can freeze it at this point)

Put in the oven to heat through and brown up the tops of the potatoes.  Serve with a big salad.....or not!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Make your own Baby Bum Spray

My kids are now 5 1/4 years old now.  They are learning to read and write.  They are going to be in grade one in the fall.  So why write about baby stuff?  Well I have had a few email questions about what I did when it came to diapering my kids.  So I thought I would answer some of them

What kind of diapers did you use?
We cloth diapered.   We had around 30 of the 'One Size'  Fuzzy Bunz in rotation.  I had their washable hanging diaper bag and a big pile of cloth wipes like these ones (I don't think I had the actual Fuzzi Bunz brand) I loved these diapers and they made cloth diapering really easy.

Did you or do you use disposable baby wipes?
I made my own wipe solution when I was changing diapers regularly.  We would have a pack of all natural wipes in the diaper bag depending on where we were going. Now that everyone is potty trained I have a box of natural wipes on the back of the toilet in case they need them.

What is your homemade wipe solution recipe?
I am so glad you asked!!  I came up with this solution after reading the ingredients on various similar products.....very expensive similar products and decided to just start making it myself.  Here is what you need

Baby Bum Spray

A 100ml spray bottle

In the bottle combine:
3 drops tea tree essential oil (natural anti-bacterial)
8 drops of an essential oil of your choice. (These are all calming oils and make it smell wonderful)
  • Sweet Orange
  • Lavender True
  • Geranium
1 1/2 tsp Calendula Oil or Calendula infused oil (super healer and moisturizer)
2 tsp Witch Hazel (reduces skin irritation and a natural preservative)
2 tbsp Aloe Vera Juice (healer)

Top up sprayer with spring water.

Shake lightly before every use.  I would spray it straight on the wipes.  We only had one kid (Gabe) with a diaper rash once

**I would make larger batches of this and refrigerate it until I needed it.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

How to make Aioli

This is one of those quests that seemed hard at first.  It seems every recipe is different, all with warnings as to why the other method shouldn't be done. I tried a few different methods and had a couple of absolute failures.  My food processor doesn't want to 'whip it into creamy submission' and putting all the ingredients in a bowl and using my hand blender goes against all the 'mayo making rules' the experts talk about (and it didn't work).  I also watched a bunch of YouTube videos and gagged when one woman taste tested her newly made batch of mayo by eating what was close to a mouthful (maybe this is where the term Food PORN was coined).  Her kids enthusiastically licked the mixer blades like it was cake batter.

And after all that, even with all my fancy kitchen equipment, a large bowl and a whisk ended up being my favourite method.

Homemade mayo or aioli is nothing like the store bought stuff and really worth the effort. I thought that making my own and not buying mayo anymore would be a real hassle but like anything, it is more of an adaptation to the new norm than it is a real pain.  I like my home made stuff so much more that I don't think I could ever go back. Besides, I made my home made version to be real food.  Not filled with canola oil and Calcium Disodium EDTA (Calcium Disodium may sound like a salt, but it is not, the proper name is the EDTA which is short for  Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. It is made from a concoction of poisons and chelation chemicals. It is made from formaldehyde, sodium cayanide, and Ethylenediamine. YUM!)  Also consider this, vegetable oil is an Omega 6, that although good for you needs to be strongly out weighed by your consumption of Omega 3 or the excess Omega 6 becomes a major inflammatory.  Studies now show that it isn't your consumption of cholesterol that causes heart disease but your consumption of inflammatory foods ie. sugar, refined wheat products/bi-products, trans-fats and the imbalance of fat consumptions.  Consider this along with what I have previously written about eggs.

Feeling inspired to make your own now?

Homemade Aioli
1 egg yolk, from a fresh pastured egg, at room temp
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup mild or light flavoured olive oil (not an extra virgin olive oil)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar with success, or try Champagne vinegar)
salt and pepper

In a large glass bowl whisk egg yolk and mustard until frothy.  Now start adding in the oil, drop by drop at first.  Going too fast could cause the mixture to split. Keep slowly adding the oil, quickly whisking in the oil after every addition making sure it is completely incorporated before adding more.  When the mixture starts getting too thick, it is time to incorporate in some of the lemon juice or vinegar to 'water' it down a little. Then add more oil, it can be more of a slow stream now, and continue until all the ingredients have been whisked in. Salt and pepper to taste.

One of the truly lovely things about mayo (aioli) is all the potential it holds for what it can become.  Mayo is the base for so many things so if you start with your home made version, all of these things become something so much better than you have had before

Tartar Sauce
Serve with fish
Add some chopped capers (drained), finely chopped pickle, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a small bunch of parsley finely chopped.

Roasted Garlic Mayo
Use on sandwiches
Add 4-5 cloves of roasted garlic to the finished recipe above and cut it with an extra squeeze of lemon juice.
Fresh Horseradish Mayo

Herbed Mayo (or what the French call Mayonnaise aux Fines Herbes)
Serve with eggs, fish, or poultry
3-4 tbsp of fresh minced herbs, such as tarragon, basil, chervil, chives, parsley, oregano)

Fresh Horseradish Mayo
Serve with roasts and braised vegetables
Mix 2 tbsp of freshly grated horseradish in recipe above.

Curry Mayo Sauce
Serve with meats, as the dressing for potato salad, dip for raw vegetables
Stir in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with the recipe above. Add 2-3 tbsp of curry powder, some minced basil and a pinch of salt. 

Some of the biggest fears around home made mayo is salmonella poisoning.  I am not someone that is at all scared of food poisoning and don't believe I have ever had it. Big Daddy had it really badly once (not from my cooking!) so I do know how horrible it can be and certainly don't want to make you sick with my very casual attitude about food born bacterias.  I think my lack of fear is based in my knowledge of canning and pickling.  Once you have a few seasons of food preserving under your belt and you know the ropes around acid levels etc, you are a lot more comfortable about what you can and can't do.  All the being said, let's get back to mayo and salmonella - the salmonella would come from the raw egg.....there is a very little chance of there being salmonella in the egg to begin with but lets say there are now adding acid into the mix with the lemon juice and vinegar....and the final product is quite acidic (pH of 3.6). That acid will kill any salmonella but with one small can't refrigerate it right away...I know, you are thinking I am crazy.  Thats right, leave your newly made mayo on the counter for 6-8 hours before refrigerating.

Don't believe me watch this, he talks about it at about the 10 minute mark - Anton Brown, The Mayo Clinic .  A great video about the ins and outs of mayo making but just don't follow his non 'real' food recipe.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

Sometimes we got so caught up in the 'other' that we miss the simple.  This week my husband got sick with a bad cold or a flu.  He has an amazing immune system so a cold for him is a slightly runny nose and the need for an extra couple of hour of sleep a night but life can carry on as usual and he is usually over it in a couple of days.

On Tuesday he came home early from work and went to bed....and slept until the next morning!  If he had a fever it was low but he said all his joints ached and he couldn't stop sleeping.  He slept most of Wednesday only getting up for a glass of water and a bit of dinner.  I had made a new batch of chicken stock on Wednesday and I had him drinking a little bit of it but on Thursday, with a bit of a sore throat myself and two kids with runny noses I finally surrendered and decided to be a cliche....or make a cliche....but even better!!

Chicken Noodle Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 cup brown mushrooms, diced
3 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cups cooked chicken (I used the chicken off the bones from making stock)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups small pasta
8 cups homemade chicken stock
salt and pepper

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and saute the onions, carrots and celery in the olive oil.  When they start to soften add the mushrooms, ginger and garlic.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Saute until all are soft and sweet.

Add the thyme and bay leaf and stir.  Once you really start to smell the thyme add in the stock, and turn up the heat to bring to a boil.  Once boiling add your pasta.  I used a gluten free corn pasta because it wouldn't starch up the stock as it cooked.  When the noodles are done add the chicken and lemon juice. Let the chicken heat trough before serving. Check to see if you need more salt and pepper if needed.

And then get better

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Beer Braised Pulled Pork Tacos with Pico de Gallo

Every once and a while there is a recipe I work on that makes me happy right down to my toes.  One that classically has gluten and dairy but doesn't leave me feeling like it might have been better if I could eat gluten and dairy.  That it is perfect and delicious just the way it is.  This is that recipe.  Sure there are versions fulled with cheese, sour cream and flour tortillas but it doesn't matter because I think I would still choose this version.

This is actually the combination of a few recipes I have been working on.  One is for a gluten free pulled pork....seems easy enough right?.....problem is, I seem to have a real preference for pulled pork cooked in a beer braise and almost all gluten free beer is terrible!!  It has never really bothered me because I am not, nor ever have been, much of a beer drinker but it is these small inconveniences, when the lack of good gluten free beer wrecks a favourite recipe, that frustrates me more than any other restriction.

During the Gluten Free Garage a couple of months ago I met Parda who is a beer and wine distributor who specializes in organic and gluten free.  He told me that he had a gluten free beer that was good and promised to send me some.......and than followed through and sent it!!

So not only did we try it but more importantly, I cooked with it.......

Now as far as drinking tasted like beer to me.....which is a good thing, but about as complex a review as I can give.  Big Daddy, who is a pretty avid beer drinker tried it and did say it was the best gluten free beer he has ever had. Parda at The Healthy Wine Agent tells me it is 100% gluten-free, made with organic millet malt and it is not made with any glucose, rice syrup or sugar like some of the other gluten-free products the LCBO carries.  Even more reasons to like it!!  The best part of this made really good pulled pork!!

Beer Braised Pulled Pork
Preheat oven 300 or set up slow cooker on high
4-4 1/2 lbs pork shoulder or butt
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp chilli powder
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp refined coconut oil (unflavoured), warmed
8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 med habanero chilies, sliced into rounds
2 med yellow onions, thinly sliced
24 ounces of a brown ale or 2 bottles of gluten free beer
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Prepare the spice blend, mixing the salt, chili powder and cinnamon together.

Coat the pork in a little of the oil and rub with the spice blend.  Let rest for 30 minutes or over night in the fridge

Heat the remaining oil in a large dutch oven over med-high.  Brown the pork on all sides. Remove and set to the side (or into your slow cooker if you are using one).  Remove excess fat.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions, garlic, and chilies.  Cook, scraping up any browned bits, until soft.

Increase heat back to med-high and add the beer bring it to a boil.  If you are using a slow cooker, pour this over the pork, cover and let cook. If you are cooking this in the oven, add the pork back into the pan, cover and transfer to the oven.

Cook until pork is tender and falls apart - 3-4 hours

Strain the liquid from the pork and skim the excess fat.  Shred the pork, add back to the liquid and add the vinegar.  Serve on a gluten free corn tortilla with avocado slices, Pico de Gallo and dairy free Sour Cream and tell me you miss gluten and dairy

Pico de Gallo
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp red onion, finely diced
1/2 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime
1 tbsp olive oil
a pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a bowl.  Add more lime juice or salt if needed

***Want to order some beer from The Healthy Wine Agent?  Contact Parda at

Monday, 4 February 2013

Braised Vegetables

Roast Beef with Braised Vegetables and homemade Horseradish Mayo

I'm not sure if I will actually get the posts I promised done this week.  A couple of my planned shots were eaten by someone in this house before I was able to take a picture......I'm not naming names or nothin'....... but I don't know if Santa is showing up for these kids next Christmas!!

So here we are with something completely different....

Another winter favourite.  Another excuse to have the oven on all day.  Another filling meal with no dairy in sight.....which is the plan these days....I don't make this all that often.  It isn't that it is difficult but more that it is a dish that requires a specific craving.  It is one of those dishes that I only really enjoy with a bloody steak or rare roast beef.  Not to turn off any of my vegetarian readers because I am sure it is just fine with some tofu or tempeh I really don't believe that for a moment....

Braising vegetable to for the hardy and robust veg.  The stuff that will stand up to a long slow cooking - cabbage, onions, carrots, some mushrooms, shallots, peppers can all survive depending on how long you wanna cook it for and how small you cut it up.  And a great way to use up the winter veg in your CSA box!! Here's what I did this time

Braised Vegetables
Preheat oven 250
1 cabbage, savoy, red or green, thinly sliced
2-3 onions, thin sliced
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 3 inch pieces
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups homemade chicken stock/vegetable stock/some white wine
2 tsp dried thyme (I say dried because I am assuming you are making this in the winter but fresh can be used)
1/3 cup melted butter
salt and pepper

Arrange all the vegetable in the bottom of a roasting pan.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.  Pour in the chicken stock and put in preheated oven.

Leave to slowly braise, basting every once and a while until the vegetable are soft and caramelized.  There should be little to no stock left in the pan.  This could take up to 6 hours!! Take the pan out of the oven and turn the heat up to 425 or turn the broiler on if you have one.  Using a brush, brush the melted butter over the veg and return to oven.  This is to crisp and brown up the top.  Serve with any roast, braised meats or BBQ meats.