Mother Earth Living

Food Matters

All about fresh, flavorful food


9/27/2013

It's the seasonal coffee drink that has its fans talking months before it debuts each fall. It's frothy, creamy, sweet and full of everything “fall.” But that's not all it's full of. Try this organic, dairy-free, sugar-free REAL pumpkin spice latte instead!

dairy- and sugar-free pumpkin spice latte
Photo By Jennifer Robins

Dairy- and Sugar-Free Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

• 1 cup organic brewed coffee (regular or decaf)
• 1 cup coconut milk (I use this Native Forest)
• 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons organic canned pumpkin
• 25 drops vanilla creme stevia
• ground nutmeg to taste
• ground cinnamon to taste

1. Combine all ingredients and blend briefly until pumpkin is well incorporated.

2. Top with additional cinnamon and nutmeg if desired.

3. Serve with salted caramel shortbread as an extra treat!


Jennifer RobinsI am Jennifer, just a plain ol' mom. Not a "Pinterest worthy" mom, or a "soccer mom," or a "PTA president mom." Just a run-of-the-mill, trying to survive, want-the-best-for-my-family kind of mom and wife. After being gluten-free for about four years, I realized there was still a lot of junk in our pantry, and I wanted better for our family. I began cooking more from scratch, using real WHOLE foods of which I can feel proud. I started predominantlypaleo.blogspot.com to share meals that are primarily grain-free and refined-sugar-free but full of flavor and spirit!



9/26/2013

I love soup. It’s a fact. Another fact? The base to a great soup is a great stock to get it started. Good stock can be a building block for you in your kitchen. I found it is way easier, more cost-effective and healthy to make your own chicken stock rather than buying it at a box store. When I realized it was so easy, I found myself asking “Why did it take me this long to figure this out?” We live. We learn. Sometimes we learn the hard way, right?


Making your own chicken stock is easy and economical. Photo By Jennifer Rose.

The start to making your own chicken stock is to find yourself a really good (preferably local) whole chicken. It is so important to know where your food comes from, to know that it is properly taken care of before feeding it to your family. Next week I plan to visit a bunch of local farms on a farm tour here in Chattanooga, and I am so excited to meet some of the local farmers and see how they raise and grow the food that we eat! I hope to get some good gardening tips and new ideas that I will, of course, share with you.

OK, OK. Back to the bird. If your bird needs all that yucky stuff pulled out of the inside, this is the time to go ahead and handle that end of things. My mother would call these parts the “innards.” I will admit, that’s not my favorite part of the day. I prefer to cook my chicken “low and slow” all day long in the Crock-Pot. If you would prefer to use a large stock pot and put it on the stove, that is fine too. Either way works. I love my Crock-Pot so I use it regularly for this. I put as many herbs and spices in with the bird as I can. This gives it TONS of flavor. Not only will it yield great chicken—which can be used for some yummy sandwiches (stay tuned for those recipes!)—it will also help to flavor the soups that you make using the stock.

I tend to put 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter in with the bird. I cover it with just enough water so that it is submerged completely. Sometimes I will substitute the water for a beer or white wine of my choice to add a little flavor in. That is totally preference, but it does help to add some flavor.

lemon, thyme and garlic on wooden cutting board
Getting prepped! Photo By Jennifer Rose. 

Then add a healthy dose of salt, pepper, lemon, thyme, onion and garlic. Feel free to add in whatever herbs you might have handy…oregano, basil, etc. All of these herbs are great to use; I just enjoy the mild flavor of thyme for ours.

How to Make Your Own Chicken Stock

• One whole chicken
• 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
• 2 to 3 tablespoons salt
• 2 to 3 tablespoons pepper
• 1 whole lemon, sliced and cut in halves
• One whole yellow onion, peeled and diced
• 4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
• A “bunch” of thyme leaves (trimmed from the stem)

Put all of the ingredients with 2 cups of water in the Crock-Pot, then carefully put the chicken into the pot. Add additional water until the chicken is covered. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Flip the bird over once during the process just to make sure that it all cooks evenly. Make sure to check once in a while to make sure the water isn’t getting too low. You want to be sure the bird stays submerged the whole time. Depending on the size of the chicken and the size of the pot, this recipe will yield different amounts of stock. For me, it makes 12 cups!

chicken in Crock-Pot
Make sure to add enough liquid to fully cover the chicken. Photo By Jennifer Rose.

Once the chicken is finished cooking, remove it from the pot and de-bone it. You may have to “fish” some bones out of the crock-pot once you take the chicken out. Let the broth cool to room temp and then put it in containers. You might decide that you want to run the stock through a wire mesh strainer to eliminate all of the thyme leaves, garlic and lemon rind. I skip that step and just freeze it like it is. You can freeze it in ice cube trays as well for recipes that you might only need a few tablespoons for, or as an easy addition to any sauce or gravy. Now, how easy was that? It basically cooked itself. Done deal.

completed chicken stock
Done! Wait for the chicken stock to cool, strain if you want, then put in containers to store in the fridge or freezer. Photo By Jennifer Rose.

Store-bought organic chicken broth from a local grocery store costs about $4.29 per quart (give or take, based on the brand and store). This recipe yields basically 3 quarts (again, depending on size of pot and bird) for the price of a good chicken and some basic pantry staples. I think that is a great deal!

Next time, I will share an excellent soup recipe that will be a great use of this stock!


Jennifer RoseJennifer is a lover of all things yummy! After traveling the states for 5 years, this Mississippi native brought all her Southern roots to plant them in the funky, easy-to-love, Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she resides with her husband, Phil, and two dogs. She is an avid cook, baker, gardener, and creator of all things wonderful.  She loves being in the kitchen, gardening, hiking, biking, traveling, yard work, anything DIY, good beer and great food! Except kale. She doesn’t like kale.



9/25/2013

As I've learned more about food in the last five years, one thing that I'm happy to be incorporating more of in my kitchen is stem-to-root cooking. Many vegetables we eat are used only for their "end" product, such as cauliflower, beets, watermelon, radishes and celery. You may be surprised to know that each of these offers so much more that we can utilize instead wasting. One such way is these colorful pickled Swiss chard stems. Of course we love use to chard for its big leafy greens that are chock full of vitamins and minerals, but what about those beautifully vivid rainbow stems?

rainbow Swiss chard stems
Don't waste those leftover rainbow Swiss chard stems! Put them to good use. Photo By Amanda Paa. 

Sadly, the stems usually meet the garbage, their full potential left to rot, just like watermelon rinds, beet and turnip greens, citrus peel and corn cobs, to name a few. And many times, they have just as much nutrition as the other parts of the plant. As it relates here, Swiss chard stems are packed with glutamine, which boosts the immune system and aids the body in recovery.

rainbow Swiss chard stems in jars
Turn rainbow Swiss chard stems into quick pickles with this easy recipe. Photo By Amanda Paa.

According to several sources, the average American throws away 35 to 40 percent of the food they buy. I myself am not perfect either. There are definitely groceries or produce that I don't get to before they need to be tossed, but I am making a conscious effort to change that. Last week I bought a huge bunch of rainbow Swiss chard, and after braising the nourishing leaves in coconut milk as part of a curry dish, I was determined to save the stems from the garbage and turn them into something delicious. The end result? These tart and snappy pickled chard stems!

I thought about roasting them, but I really wanted to preserve their stunning neon colors. This recipe is easy and requires only a few ingredients. It's also nice because no water bath canning is involved, just a hot seasoned brine and a few days in the refrigerator for the flavors to develop. A combination of garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds and sriracha spice things up to create this zesty pickle. They’re a perfect snack on their own, diced on top of pork carnitas, or chopped into an omelet.

pickled chard stems
Pickled chard stems made with garlic, mustard seeds and Sriracha. Photo By Amanda Paa.

Spicy Pickled Chard Stems Recipe

Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes two 8-ounce jars or one 16-ounce jar

• Cleaned stems from one large bunch of rainbow chard stems, cut to fit into mason jar, about 3/4 inch from the lip
• 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
• 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1-1/2 tablespoons sriracha
• 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds, divided
• 2 cloves garlic, divided

Add each half of the celery seed, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and garlic to each jar. (If just making one jar, this can all go together.) Pack chard stems tightly into jars. Bring vinegars, sugar, salt, and siracha to a boil, in a small saucepan until sugar and salt is dissolved. Then pour over chard stems. Let sit until cool, then put lids on and refrigerate. Wait two days before eating for flavors fully develop. Will last 1 month in refrigerator.


Amanda PaaAmanda Paa is a passionate tastemaker, self-taught cook, and author of the blog Healthy Life, Happy Cook. She focuses on eating seasonally and embracing a farm-to-table philosophy with respect to developing recipes that every home cook can recreate. She enjoys celebrating her own community and roots, as well as incorporating other world cuisines that make meals different and interesting. Amanda believes that the heart of living lies within sharing wholesome, nourishing foods with the ones she loves most.



9/25/2013

For years I indulged in a buttery love affair with the bin of rolls at my local Giant. They were beautiful knotted rolls, glistening and golden in their egg-washed glory. These beauties were just perfect with my morning almond butter, my afternoon chicken salad, and as my evening dinner roll (and as a secret snack).

In 2008 I moved from the big city and was completely devastated that there was no Giant to be found—and consequently an absence of double-knotted wonder rolls.

I frantically searched for the recipe and diligently followed each and every step. Apparently, I wasn’t being as diligent as I thought because my rolls were always slightly “off.”

Several failed attempts later my inner “incredible lady hulk” switch was officially flipped. “What am I doing wrong?”

I read and re-read the recipe and instructions desperately looking for answers. I don’t know why I was surprised when I discovered that the problem all started, like so many other things, with my parents.

For whatever reason I was raised on skim milk, hence, I only bought and baked with skim milk. But if you want rich and delicious rolls, you need to use whole milk.

The rolls were still not the delicate cake-like culinary phenomenon I remembered. Then, while watching my chicken’s free range, it hit me…..EGGS!!! The super market rolls were not just ordinary knotted yeast rolls with egg wash; they were brioche rolls.

Here is the recipe that is complete with whole milk and a fresh farm egg. Enjoy!

Homemade Buttery Rolls Recipe

Ingredients

• 1-1/2 cups whole milk
• 1 packet active dry yeast
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 5-1/4 cups bread flour
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 large egg
• Egg wash (egg and a little water)
• Additional oil for shaping rolls; if desired.

Instructions

1. Put the milk in a sauce pan and heat until warm. Whisk in yeast until it dissolves. Next, whisk in oil, sugar, and butter. Allow the butter to slightly melt. Let mixture rest for five minutes.

2. Combine flour, salt and egg in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment. On low speed add yeast mixture. A ball of dough will form; let the dough rest another five minutes.

3. Here is where you need to decide if you want knotted rolls or plain round rolls. I normally do basic rolls because, well, I am not perfect and my knotted rolls always come out wonky. I have accepted it and moved on. If you are going to knot your rolls, you will need extra oil and a bench knife.

4. Oil your hands and the surface you will be using for kneading. I also keep some milk close by in case my dough is tougher than expected. Knead until the dough is tacky. If the dough is sticky you can add flour. By now the dough should be a perfect ball. Return the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly in plastic wrap, and let proof for an hour and a half.

5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

6. Divide your dough into 16 pieces with the help of a bench knife. I have made mine a little bigger because we are having pulled pork for dinner and I adore a large lovely pork sandwich.

7. Take your 16th of dough and roll him on the counter top. You want to roll the dough the same way you would roll play-dough.

8. Put your perfect ball on the parchment paper. You can now sprinkle him with poppy seed, sesame seeds, garlic, or whatever you like. After you are finished rolling your rolls, sit them at room temperature for about an hour.

9. Brush rolls with egg wash and put them in the oven while your oven preheats to 375 degrees. The rolls will double their size. Bake for 15 minutes. Let rolls cool before serving.


Kristina Mickey HartKristina “Mickey” Hart is a pretty fun mom and auntie who openly wishes she was Amish. Her many loves include backyard chickening, gardening, honeybees and carbohydrates.



9/23/2013

As the fall harvest and holiday season approaches, I wondered how I would ever survive on my low-carb diet without being tempted to eat every pumpkin pie in sight.  Sure, I did internet searches for a “low-carb” recipe, even found and tried a few. All I can say is “yuck.” So what to do?

Get out your smart phone, evidently. I started looking at my low-carb app and actually started analyzing the individual ingredients that a pumpkin pie requires. I found that real canned pumpkin, not the kind bought at the store, but the kind that your mother-in-law so kindly canned for you last fall, actually has only 3 net carbs for a half cup. Not a bad start.

Now what to blend with it? As sugar is out of the question, I chose to add 2 individual packets of Splenda. Now I had some sweetened pumpkin—still not exactly what I was looking for. I then added 2 tablespoons of softened cream cheese, a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. The final thing I did was add 2 drops of vanilla and blend it. Oh my word—yuck to yum in 2.5 seconds.

low-carb pumpkin pie
This low-carb pumpkin recipe requires only six ingredients. Photo By Char Scace.

This was my tester batch; it came in at roughly 7.5 net carbs. Most prepared pumpkin pies will have about 40 to 45 net carbs per serving. I decided to try a larger batch, so I took one 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese and blended it with 2 cups of pumpkin, 12 packets of Splenda, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I then doled it out into separate ½ cup portions and refrigerated until dessert time. My family loved it. Their only comment was that they missed the homemade crust. I simply told them sometimes you must sacrifice. (Yes, I received some eye rolling.)


Char Scace is a married, busy mother of four with 20 years of professional chef experience.



9/20/2013

While I prefer the texture of almond flour for baking, I think it is good to alternate and use a variety so as not to develop sensitivities to frequently eaten foods. If you are trying to avoid almond flour and grain-based flours, this is a great alternative—served with vegan butter and 100 percent organic maple syrup!

coconut flour pancakes
These delicious pancakes are dairy-free, sugar-free, grain-free, nut-free and gluten-free. Serve them with organic vegan butter and 100 percent maple syrup! Photo By Jennifer Robins.

Coconut Flour Pancakes Recipe

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup coconut flour
• 1-1/2 cups coconut milk
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 teaspoons powdered stevia
• pinch sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat griddle or skillet over low-medium heat.

2. Mix all ingredients into bowl.

3. Place spoonfuls onto griddle or skillet (I use a griddle) and allow to brown on underside before flipping. Attempting to flip too soon will make pancake fall apart.

coconut flour pancake dough
Allow the pancake batter to brown before flipping. Photo By Jennifer Robins.

4. Once flipped, press down slightly on cooked side to flatten pancake slightly.

5. If burning, turn heat down—coconut flour is slightly tricky in the sense that the outside can burn while the inside is still undercooked if the heat is not ideal.

6. Remove from griddle and serve with your favorite toppings!

coconut flour pancakes on the griddle
Enjoy golden pancakes without the guilt! Photo By Jennifer Robins.


Jennifer RobinsI am Jennifer, just a plain ol' mom. Not a "Pinterest worthy" mom, or a "soccer mom," or a "PTA president mom." Just a run-of-the-mill, trying to survive, want-the-best-for-my-family kind of mom and wife. After being gluten-free for about four years, I realized there was still a lot of junk in our pantry, and I wanted better for our family. I began cooking more from scratch, using real WHOLE foods of which I can feel proud. I make meals that are "predominantly paleo," meaning I have used some dairy, but overall I focus on grain-free, refined-sugar-free foods.



9/19/2013

Mother Earth Living Editors' Pick logoCraving something sweet? Feeling stressed? Chances are you’ll be reaching for chocolate in these situations. More than most foods, chocolate is tied up with emotions: happy, sad, content, stressed. Thankfully, this beloved food offers some health benefits—chocolate contains substances called flavanols that offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and heart-health-boosting properties, among other benefits.

Of course, the source of the chocolate is key to its quality. A grocery store Hershey’s bar won’t offer the same health benefits—or depth of taste—as minimally processed, high-quality dark cocoa. For a chocolate bar whose ingredients pay mind to the earth, whose craftsmanship caters to our taste buds, the eating of which is an experience in itself, check out the chocolate bars below—all selected and happily taste-tested by the Mother Earth Living staff!

Mother Earth Living Editors Pick organic chocolate bars 

Alter Eco Dark Coconut Toffee

Alter Eco’s Dark Coconut Toffee bar was an office favorite—once opened, it didn’t last long! This organic chocolate bar features sea salt and crunchy, buttery coconut toffee surrounded by 47 percent cocoa. It is both USDA organic-certified and fair-trade certified. Alter Eco harvests the cacao beans for this particular bar from a cooperative in Peru.

Cost: 2.82-ounce bar, $4

Divine Chocolate 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange

This fruity chocolate bar from aptly named Divine Chocolate has a lot going for it—subtle notes of spicy ginger, a hint of zesty orange flavor and a smooth chocolate consistency pebbled with tiny bits of gummy candied ginger. All of the elements blend harmoniously into one irresistible and, well, divine chocolate bar.

Cost: 3.5-ounce bar, $3.30 

Theo Chocolate ECI Vanilla Nib Dark Chocolate Bar

For the Vanilla Nib bar, part of the company’s partner collection, Theo teamed up with the Eastern Congo Initiative, which advocates on behalf of the people of eastern Congo to improve economic and social development. This delightfully crunchy chocolate bar—both USDA-organic and fair-trade certified—sports both a mild vanilla sweetness and a rich, bitter dark chocolate taste. What’s even sweeter? A portion of proceeds from the sale of this bar go back to the ECI to help Congolese cocoa farmers improve their crops and strengthen their business.

Cost: 3-ounce bar, $5

Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt

Equal Exchange’s Organic Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt blends several opposing forces—sweet caramel with salty crystals, smooth chocolate with crunchy caramel bits—harmoniously into one delicious chocolate bar. Like other Equal Exchange products, this bar is certified-fair trade and USDA-organic certified.

Cost: 3.5-ounce bar, $3.75 

NibMor Daily Dose of Dark Chocolate Squares

Dark chocolate offers many health benefits, but only if eaten in moderation. And once you’ve opened a bar of chocolate, it can be hard to control your impulses. NibMor’s Daily Dose of Dark chocolate squares are perfect for ensuring you enjoy your chocolate but don’t overindulge. Each square is just 0.35 ounces—a perfect snacking size!—of 72 percent dark chocolate—not too light, and not too dark. In addition to being organic, NibMor’s dark chocolate squares are also non-GMO and vegan.

Cost: 7-count box of squares, $5.75

Madécasse Pink Pepper & Citrus Chocolate Bar

This pink pepper and citrus bar from madécasse chocolate has a sweet, floral taste, courtesy of its vanilla and combava fruit, with subtle spice notes from the pink peppercorns. Unlike other chocolate companies that harvest chocolate at the source but outsource production to another country, madécasse harvests, produces and packages its chocolate bars all in Madagascar, helping to keep the revenue stream at the source to benefit locals.

Cost: 2.64-ounce bar, $6


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on .





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