Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pork Brats and Risotto

This has to be one of the best tasting meals I've made in a while and it was a spur of the moment idea. I had picked up some nitrate free brats that were on sale in the deli at the store. But when I brought them home I realized I had never cooked raw brats only the pre cooked kind. So I looked up some recipes and since I'm not very good at following a recipe I took some things that I liked from each one and set off to cook my brats.

The first thing I did was brown the brats then after they were good and brown on all sides I took them out and set them aside temporarily. Then I cut half an onion like you would for a stir fry and threw them into the pan along with some pre-cut red bell peppers I had frozen earlier in the season. I let them saute in some butter for a while then added the brats back in and put enough chicken stock in to reach half way up the brats put a lid on and let them simmer for about 40 min. At this point you are thinking what is the big deal this is a basic recipe for brats nothing special. Yep although the brats were good they were not the wow in this meal. The wow came after when I saw all the yummy juice left after the brats were cooked. At this point I thought well I could boil it down to make a sauce OR I could put some arborio rice I bought to make risotto and make a mock risotto. So of course I picked the second choice and it was awesome. The flavors mixed perfectly and at the end I mixed a little half and half. It was perfect with the brats. I don't think I would have thought the brats and risotto would work so well together but it was really a great meal. I hope you try it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Healthy Snack Ideas

I have been on a kick to find some healthy snack for my girls. They have been eating like teenagers of the boy variety and it has been hard to keep up with them. So I thought I might share some of the recipes that I have tried and since I haven't made any changes I am just going to link to the original post and write a few notes. I have some other recipes book marked that I want to try but haven't had a chance yet.  I didn't want to wait on that because knowing myself as I do this post would never get done. So we are going to call this post a work in progress and as I find more snacks I will post them.

Kale Chips: This is my youngest daughters and husbands favorite. My daughter likes these so much that when ever we are at the farmers market she asks, "can we get that green stuff to make those crunchy things I like." Its a good thing I speak 4yr old isn't it. The only thing I would change is to add the sea salt after you cook them.

Crispy Chickpeas: Now these everyone liked. They taste like corn nuts, remember those. The thing you have to remember about these is that they are done when they look like they are almost burnt. So I recommend that you keep an eye on them and take out the ones that are done and leave the rest then repeat until they are all a darker golden brown. I used soaked, home cooked chickpeas. It is important to soak beans in an acid medium to get rid of the anti nutrients and have the best digestion. Here is a post on how and why you should soak from the healthy home economist.

Protein bars: A type of a larabar. These are great to have on hand, this recipe is for a banana flavor but all you have to do is swap out the bananas for any other dried fruit. Our favorite is dried cranberries with a little cinnamon. The bars are a little much so I roll mine into TB size balls and then roll them into coconut to make them less sticky. I also take out some nuts and add wheat germ to add some extra omega 3's.

Macaroons are full of protein and very yummy. We all love these. I use honey instead of maple syrup but that is the only thing I have changed in this recipe. As I use egg yokes in recipes I put the whites into the freezer until I have enough to make a large match if you do this don't forget to keep a tally on the bag for how many whites you have.

Dried fruit, nuts and seeds: This is kind of self explanatory but these are great snacks especially mixed together to make a trail mix or mixed into granola. To get the most nutrients from your nuts and seeds they need to be soaked and then dried. If you have a dehydrator then I would soak during the day and then dry during the night. If you are using your stove to dry I would soak during the night and dry during the day. To soak you take a big glass bowl and put 4 cups of nuts or seeds to 2TB of sea salt and soak for at least 7 hr. To dry drain the nuts or seeds and put on a lined baking pan and dry on the lowest temp your oven will go 150 is best, or just put them in your dehydrator. I make big batches to I always have them on hand.

Muffins are also a good snack especially when you put all kinds of veggies into them. Some of our favorite muffins are morning glory, pumpkin, gingerbread, and banana zucchini. I try to make a double batch to keep in the freezer for a easy breakfast or snack.

I plan on working on some cracker recipes in the next few weeks for a cheese and crackers option. I hope these ideas help. I have learned that sometimes the simplest things make the best snacks. I would also recommend Katie's book Healthy Snacks On The Go it gave me lots of ideas. Please share if you have any family favorites.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Make Your Organic Produce Go Farther

  Buying organic anything can get pricey but for my family I feel that it is an important step in getting the most from our food for our bodies.  We have learned to be more diverse in our veggies, eating what is in season and freezing veggies we can't live without for other seasons, at least that is how we keep our cost down. But the best way I have found to really feel like my money is going as far as it can is by saving the peels, ends and stems in the freezer for when I make stock. Making stock will make you feel like your meat money it's going a little further too, especially if you are buying pasture raised chickens and grass fed beef like I hope you are.

Our freezer is always full of stock. I cook with it all the time and there are many reasons why you should make your own. 1. it is so much cheaper then the stuff from the store 2. you control the ingredients 3. the ingredients you put in can make your stock a power house of nutrition for your family 4. the gelatin from your homemade stock helps keep the flue away from your family and 5. it is supper easy.

 I use my crock pot to make stock I just throw in my ingredients fill the pot with filtered water and turn it on low and let it cook until the veggies are mush, strain and freeze in 2 cup baggies. That was the very simple explanation of what I do but I actually put some thought into what I put in. What ever you put into your stock not only enhances the taste but the vitamin and mineral content of the stock and in the winter that really counts especially when your house is hit with colds and flues. So when ever I'm cooking and there are ends left from my organic broccoli, celery, carrots etc. I put them in to freezer bags and put them into the freezer for the next time I make stock. My favorite veggie to save is asparagus ends. I buy tons of asparagus in the spring to have for the winter and as I'm preparing them for the freezer I also blanch the ends and put them in a separate bag just for my stock. It gives the stock great flavor plus asparagus is full of vitamins you can read about that here. Garlic, oregano, and rosemary are also essential as far as my stock is concerned all of them have healing properties especially in dealing with cold and flue.

So the next time you are making dinner or preserving veggies remember to save your ends peals and tops for the next time you make stock. You could also use them to make a vegetable stock as well.

Another way I have been stretching my organic veggies is to save the seeds. We were not able to have a garden this year but next year I plan on having a large one. Seeds are cheaper then starts but even though seeds are not expensive I figured why not just save the seeds from the organic produce I have been getting from my farmers market. It's easy to save seeds but you do need to remember a couple of things 1. the produce can't be GMO which means the seed have been genetically altered and may not reproduce. 2. the seeds need to be dry before you store them and 3. they need to be stored in a cool dark place.

So what I did is each time I wanted to save the seeds I put the seeds on a dry cloth on a plate to dry. Then I put them in a labeled Ziploc bag and put the Ziploc into a container that won't let light in and put it into the frig. It has been that easy and come spring I should be all set to grow my garden.

I hope these tips help. If you have any other helpful tips please share.

This post is apart of Simple Lives Thursday.