Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Grain-Free Zucchini Bread

As the warm season is drawing to a close here, we've been enjoying lots of zucchini bread. This recipe gets a nutrition boost from zucchini, sucanat (unrefined sugar, complete with minerals), and nutrient-dense butter. This recipe is moist, lightly sweetened, and delicious!

Since this recipe is grain-free, everyone in my family has enjoyed eating zucchini bread as much as they want to. This recipe makes a great breakfast, or a snack for any time of day.

Grain-Free Zucchini Bread

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter
  • 3/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup arrowroot starch
  • 1/2 cup sucanat
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground Celtic sea salt
  • 1&1/2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • dash of dried ginger
  • dash of dried allspice
  • 3/4 cup whole milk kefir (or substitute plain, whole milk yogurt)
  • 3 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 medium small zucchinis (to make 2 lightly-packed cups of shredded zucchini)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat and allow to cool a bit.
  3. Generously butter the sides and bottom of a loaf pan. (I use a 9.5X4.5 glass pan.) If desired, you could line the baking pan with parchment paper to make it very easy for the bread to be removed from the pan. The butter makes a nice "glue" that allows the parchment paper to stick to the inside of the pan.
  4. Combine the tapioca starch, coconut flour, arrowroot starch, sucanat, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk to mix it all together well.
  5. Combine the kefir, vanilla, and eggs in a small bowl or pourable measuring cup. Mix together with a fork.
  6. Shred the zucchinis using a box grater. There is no need to peel the zucchinis.
  7. Mix the kefir mixture into the dry ingredients using a hand mixer.
  8. Mix the butter into the batter using a hand mixer.
  9. Fold in the shredded zucchini.
  10. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon or spatula.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for about 55-65 minutes.  It will be done when it is set in the middle (you can lightly touch it, or check to see if a toothpick comes out clean).
  12. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes, and then use a spatula or knife to go around the edges.  Invert the pan and move the bread to a cooling rack.  Remove the bread from the pan when it is mostly cool.
  13. Slice the bread, and serve! A Rada bread knife works excellently for slicing this bread.  
  14. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. If you're freezing it, place parchment paper between the slices so they will be easy to separate later on. We like to re-warm this bread in the toaster oven and serve it with a smear of butter and perhaps some cream cheese or goat cheese.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Fresh Tomato Salsa

My 10-year-old daughter has been learning to cook simple meals for our family, and quesadillas are one of her favorite things to make. I'm not sure if everyone knows what quesadillas are, but in case you don't know, quesadillas are simply tortillas, buttered on the outside, and filled with cheese. We cook them until they are crispy in a skillet.

Quesadillas are a very common food here in the southwestern USA, but we didn't eat them for years since my husband and daughter were not eating many grains. Recently, though, we have found excellent grain-free tortillas, and we've been so excited to once again eat quesadillas.

October is panning out to be the month of the tomato here, with lots of tomatoes fresh from our garden. Fresh salsa and sour cream are perfect accompaniments to quesadillas. This recipe for fresh tomato salsa is very simple. I've purposely made it with ingredients I generally have on-hand by substituting coriander and cayenne pepper for the typical fresh cilantro and jalapenos.

Fresh Tomato Salsa 

  • 1 cup fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp coriander
  • 2 dashes cayenne pepper (use more if you like your salsa very spicy)
  1. Chop the tomatoes and slice the green onions.
  2. Juice the lime. A lemon reamer works great for this.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
  4. Serve immediately. Fresh tomato salsa is great with tortilla chips, quesadillas, or tacos.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bacon and Cheddar Baked Potatoes (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Baked potatoes are usually served as a side dish, but in this recipe they are elevated into the main course. Topped with bacon, cheese, sour cream, and green onions, this recipe for baked potatoes makes a simple, delicious dinner meal. Because I bake both the potatoes and the bacon in the oven, this meal requires very little hands-on cooking time. That makes this one of the easiest meals I can make for my family on a busy day.

Bacon and Cheddar Baked Potatoes

Serves 4

  • 4 Yukon Gold Potatoes, preferably organic*
  • 8 slices (half a pound) of bacon, preferably nitrate-free (I prefer Coleman Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 Tb butter, preferably nutrient-dense yellow butter
  • 4 Tb sour cream, preferably from grassfed cows 
  • 2 green onions, green parts only
  • salt and pepper
  1. Wash the potatoes well. Dry the potatoes on a kitchen towel.
  2. Use a fork to stab the potatoes several times on each side. 
  3. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack in the middle of the oven (or, if preferred, you can bake them in an oven-safe baking dish). 
  4. Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for about one hour. Smaller potatoes may cook quicker and larger potatoes will likely take a little longer than an hour to cook. 
  5. Meanwhile, place the bacon in a 9X13 glass baking dish.  I like to go ahead and bake a whole package of bacon at a time, so there will be a little bacon leftover. Spread the slices of bacon out as evenly as possible, and it is fine that there will be a bit of overlap between the slices. 
  6. Place the bacon on the bottom rack of the oven. This will allow the bacon to crisp up nicely in the oven. The bacon will need to cook for about 30-40 minutes, until it is done to your preferred level of crispiness. Remove the bacon from the oven once it is as crispy as you prefer. 
  7. To check the potatoes for doneness, cover your hands with oven mitts or thick kitchen towels and then very carefully give the potatoes a little squeeze. They will be slightly soft when done. 
  8. Once the potatoes are soft, remove them from the oven. 
  9. Allow the potatoes to cool for a few minutes. If desired, the bacon can be moved to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain off the excess bacon grease.
  10. In the meantime, thinly slice the green parts of the green onions. Chop the bacon into small pieces. (Kitchen shears work fabulously for chopping the bacon and green onions.)
  11. Shred the cheddar cheese with a box grater
  12. Place each potato on a plate. Carefully slice the potatoes open. (BEWARE: hot steam will likely come out of the potatoes.) 
  13. Add a generous pat of butter to each potato. Sprinkle with salt. 
  14. Top the potatoes with the shredded cheddar cheese, bacon bits, and green onions. 
  15. If desired, drizzle a bit of the leftover bacon grease on top of each potato. Add a scoop of sour cream to each potato. 
  16. Season with freshly ground pepper.
  17. Serve and enjoy!
*Potatoes are one of the worst vegetables for being contaminated with pesticides if they are not grown organically. So it's worth it to buy organic potatoes!

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Hash Brown and Beef Hot Dish (gluten-free)

Tater Tot Hot Dish is a popular food in the Great Lakes region of the USA. Ground beef, veggies, gravy, and cheese, topped with crispy potatoes: what's not to like? Most hot dish recipes rely on processed ingredients such as canned cream of mushroom soup and tater tots, but I've opted to instead make this recipe with real, whole food ingredients. The result is a delicious meal that my whole family loves.

When I first made this recipe, I used storebought tater tots, but was dissatisfied with the ingredients therein (especially the unhealthy canola oil). Since my family ended up loving this dish, I developed a way to make it without using tater tots, by substituting hash brown potatoes instead. The resulting Hash Brown and Beef Hot Dish is now a family favorite recipe.

This recipe is one of the regional recipes featured in my All Around the USA Unit Study.

Hash Brown and Beef Hot Dish

Serves 8-10
·         Hash brown topping*:
o   1 stick butter, preferably nutrient-dense butter
o   Two 1-pound bags of southern-style hash browns (organic hash browns have only one ingredient: potatoes)
·         Filling:
o   2 Tb butter, preferably nutrient-dense butter
o   1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
o   8 ounces brown mushrooms, sliced
o   3 large carrots, chopped
o   1&1/2 pounds ground beef, preferably grassfed
o   1&1/2 tsp celtic sea salt
o   1/2 tsp pepper
o   1&1/2 cups frozen green beans
o   3 cloves garlic, minced
o   1/3 cup white rice flour
o   1&1/4 cups chicken bone broth, preferably homemade
o   1&1/2 cups whole milk
o   leaves from 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
o   1 tsp blackstrap molasses
o   1/8 tsp hot sauce
o   1/2 tsp gluten-free soy sauce
o   1 tsp apple cider vinegar
o   1/8 tsp dried allspice
o   1 cup frozen peas (optional)
o   8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

Make the Hash Brown Topping:
  1. Melt one stick of butter in a very large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the frozen hash browns and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt.
  3. Let the hash browns cook for 7-10 minutes, until they are starting to crisp up. Then flip/stir the hash browns. A bamboo spatula works well for this. To make the hash browns crispy, make sure you do not stir them much. 
  4. Continue to stir them only occasionally, until they are well-crisped on all sides.
  5. Turn off heat and set aside.
Make the Beef and Vegetable Filling:
  1. Melt 2 Tb of butter in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and saute for about 10 minutes. It is fine if the onion starts to get some brown, caramelized color, but adjust the heat as necessary if the skillet is getting too hot.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the carrots and mushrooms.
  3. Add the mushrooms and carrots to the onions. Crumble the ground beef into the skillet and sprinkle with 1&1/2 Tb of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. (Use less salt if your chicken broth is salted. My homemade chicken broth is unsalted.) Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring every few minutes to ensure that the ground beef and veggies are cooking evenly.
  4. In the meantime, mince the garlic. 
  5. Combine the molasses, thyme leaves, soy sauce, hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, and allspice in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Add the broth and milk, and stir it all together.
  6. Sprinkle the garlic and rice flour into the beef and vegetable mixture. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes, just until the garlic is fragrant.
  7. Stir the frozen green beans into the beef and vegetable mixture. Then pour in the seasoned broth and milk mixture. Stir well to make sure everything is well-combined.
  8. Bring the beef and vegetable mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes, until the sauce has thickened up nicely. Taste the mixture and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.
  9. In the meantime, shred the cheddar cheese and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Assemble the Hash Brown Hot Dish:
  1. Pour the beef and vegetable mixture into a 9X13 glass baking dish.
  2. Sprinkle the optional peas on top.
  3. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the meat and vegetables.
  4. Spread the crispy hash browns over the top of it all.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until everything is bubbling and hot.
  6. Remove from the oven, serve, and enjoy! Leftovers freeze well for easy future meals.

*Feel free to substitute storebought Tater Tots for the Hash Brown Topping, if desired. If so, skip the steps for preparing the hash brown topping, and just top the filling with the tater tots before baking.

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