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We love quinoa here.  It’s a protein-packed powerhouse of a plant, tastes amazing when toasted and cooked in my homemade chicken stock, and is relatively inexpensive.  By “inexpensive,” I don’t mean “as cheap as beans and rice” for supper, but on a relative scale, for something that’s organic, pre-washed, comes from another part of the world, and is as nutritionally dense as it is, it’s inexpensive.  I think our Costco sells a 2 pound bag for about $11.  That’s a lot of storable protein (it’s dry and easy to put in our food storage) for not a lot of money.  :)

Our neighbourhood has an email list that is a bevy of useful information.  Sometimes with swap/share posts, sometimes with local events, and sometimes with recipes.  So when one of the members put out a call for recipes using quinoa, many responded with ideas.  One of those ideas is what I ended up serving for supper tonight.  Truth be told, it was on the docket for last week, but it got shuffled to this week when my husband and I ended up with an unplanned dinner-date.  :)

Brendan isn’t a huge fan of quinoa.  I can’t figure out why, but as I answered questions about what was in the dinner menu for the week, he began to look forward to it.  He wasn’t 100% certain about the marinated artichoke hearts, but truth be told, neither was I.  😉

We ended up scarfing this meal, uncharacteristically so, between a dance lesson and a Scouting meeting.  But the overwhelming response was, “Ohhhhh…. this is GOOD!”  :)

Mediterranean quinoa salad

  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 c quinoa, uncooked
  • 1/4 c raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice from one lemon
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2/3 c fresh cilantro OR parsley, chopped
  • 1 c cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I used a large organic heirloom tomato, instead)
  • 1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts (feel free to use more – I wish I had!)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

[This first step is optional, but increases the taste-factor of the quinoa by about 100.  So do it anyhow.  It’s worth the effort.  :)  Place the quinoa in a dry skillet over medium heat and gently stir and toast the little seeds until they are a light golden brown colour.  Some of mine got dark brown and “popped” while doing this step – that’s okay.  After the quinoa is toasted, proceed with the rest of the instructions.]

Cook the quinoa in chicken broth in a medium pot.  Bring it to a rolling boil, then turn it down to medium, and put a lid on.  After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and permit the quinoa to continue absorbing liquid, if necessary.  Cool cooked quinoa completely (2 hours in the fridge was sufficient for my batch).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ACV, garlic cloves, lemon juice (I used a large lemon), and the olive oil.  Whisk vigorously until all is combined.  Add in drained kalamata olive slices, cilantro (or, in case you’re a ‘cilantro-hater’, parsley), tomato dices, artichoke hearts, and feta.  I gave up on the whisk at this point and went straight for a spatula.  I seasoned this mixture first, somewhat heavily, as I knew the quinoa was somewhat bland and brought a less-seasoned taste to the party than I wanted.  So my usual suspect of Redmond Real Salt went in the bowl, as well as multiple grinds of fresh pepper.   Chill completely.

Combine the quinoa and the flavourful bowl of goodies and mix well (but gently, due to the fragile nature of the feta) and serve it up.  Good as a side dish; better as a main dish.  :)

IMG_20130305_205830

a close-up of the quinoa salad in question – full of protein and deliciousness!

Καλή όρεξη! target=”_blank” (Kalí óreksi!) [bon appetit in Greek]

Now, lest you think I’m kidding, I’m not.  The zombie apocalypse is coming.  I have it from the best of sources (those who kill zombies in video games) that they’re preparing for The End and will protect us from The Zombies (who want nothing more to eat your brains, by the way).  And if you need more proof, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) have gotten in on the act.  For serious.

The CDC has a blog post and is launching a preparedness campaign based on a Zombie Apocalypse.  It’s not April 1, so it’s not a joke.  The blog post in question appeared on May 16 and has gotten quite a bit of buzz on Twitter and in other forms of social media.

What’s the CDC doing?  Educating people!  By using the common language of “zombie apocalypse” and linking to brain diseases (that are supposed to be at the root of a zombie’s problems) like prions, mad cow disease, and measles, they’re getting people’s attention.

And by talking about making an emergency preparedness kit, they’re encouraging people to think ahead.  In the midst of talking about the coming zombie apocalypse, they’re also talking about preparing for a natural disaster. Under the heading of “Better Safe Than Sorry,” the post talks about how much water is needed per person, per day; what hygiene/sanitation is needed, how much food to store, what medications to have on hand, and other aspects of preparedness.  The author of the post assures readers that he will be assigning disease detectives to the field if indeed the zombies come out with sharpened spoons to eat our brains.

The approach is novel, but I love it.  Not that I’m a-feared of zombies (I know too many people who are versed in killing zombies who would protect me), but I love that the government is using a bit of current culture to reach people with the message of preparedness.  Of course, it’s my belief that by the time the government jumps on the “be prepared” bandwagon, there’s probably not adequate time to actually prepare properly, but hey!  At least it’s something.

Preparing a little is better than preparing none at all, because at least you’re thinking about things like supplies, evacuation routes, and caring for yourself and your family in a time of emergency.  Will zombie-killers be prepared for an EMP? Probably not.  But will they be better prepared than those who don’t read this ad campaign and think about being ready for a crisis?  Most likely.  And that’s a good thing.

If you want to read the whole article, you can find it here.  In the meantime, I’m going to go listen to “Re: Your Brains” by Jonathan Coulton and pack up my food storage for our impending move.  I’ve included a fan video here of the song – hope you enjoy!  :)

I remember when I was a little girl, cereal manufacturers advertised “fortified with vitamins and minerals!” in their wares.  One manufacturer even claimed to have 100% of recommended daily allowance in their flakes. We bought it and ate it because it was Milk and Cerealphoto © 2007 Steven Wilke | more info (via: Wylio)
there; we had very little understanding of nutrition in our family past a straight caloric count.  We didn’t consider things like fibre, protein, whole foods, or anything else that Mark and I now do in our family.  *shrug*  My parents did the best they could with what information they had available.

Now we know about things like bioavailability – your food’s nutrients and their  ability to be absorbed by your body – and how important it is to eat things that have raw nutrients for your body to use.

Enter this little (disgusting) science experiment where we get to see exactly what kind of iron is in fortified cereal.  While this video shows a masked box of Total cereal, it can also be done with any “iron enriched/fortified” cereal.  I’ll have comments below and a bonus recipe to make breakfasts both healthy, tasty, and easy.  :)

Delightful, eh? Yeah.  Blech.  I will still buy an occasional box of organic cereal to munch on, but most often, it doesn’t get eaten much.  I have some tasty flax cereal with raisins hanging about – I’m more likely to make flax muffins with it, but I’m okay with that.

Okay, so now you’re grossed out and a bit wigged out, potentially thinking about checking the boxes in your pantry when you’re done reading blog posts.  What will you feed your family?  Never fear.  I have an easy recipe for you that has whole foods, nutritive oils, and fibre.  No iron filings needed; these breakfast cookies are equivalent to a bowl of oatmeal and I promise you, kids and husbands alike love them.  My son’s eyes POPPED when I asked him if he wanted a cookie for breakfast.  Seriously.  You’d have thought that I offered to buy out FAO Schwartz of all existing LEGO sets.  :)

Breakfast Cookies
  • 1 c. butter, melted (I often use 1/2 c. butter + 1/2 c. coconut oil)
  • ¾ c. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. salt (I like Real Salt)
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk (milk or kefir can also be used)
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 c. rolled oats (NOT steel-cut oats)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Mix wet ingredients, add flour in 1/3 c. at a time. then add oats, raisins, and chocolate chips.  Scoop large (really big!) spoonfuls of batter on to baking tray, bake at 350F for 18 minutes.  Cool on a rack and store in a container in the fridge, between waxed paper pieces.  Yields 12-15 cookies per batch.

Way better than iron filings, eh?  :)

 

Okay, so last week’s intended Two-fer Tasty Tuesday was a bomb, but this week’s is NOT.  I have finally found a mayo recipe that is easy, delicious, and fresh – and did I mention it is delicious?  :)

I’ve experimented with other “no fail” mayo recipes – from stick-blender recipes to “so-easy-you-could-do-it-in-your-sleep” recipes.  The stick-blender recipes were a massive failure – I think because my stick-blender isn’t new and is the better part of 15 years old, it just doesn’t do it right/well/enough.  And the SEYCDIIYS (“so-easy-you-could-do-it-in-your-sleep”) recipe?  Yeah, it tasted bad.  I think mayo “blooms” after it’s made and you refrigerate it.  It’s the only way I can describe the different flavours that appeared after I made it – and that made the final product inedible.  😐

So I’ve searched and hunted.  I’ve tried butter-mayo (a great concept, but I’m not buying a different kind of butter than what we normally use, just to make mayo), olive oil mayo (it needs another oil to mellow its flavour), and finally settled on a blended-oil mayonnaise.  The key to making any homemade mayo is this:  DRIZZLE YOUR OIL IN.  Sounds simple, but really, it can be frustratingly challenging.

My blender is a Bosch and fits on my Universal Plus mixer.  I love it.  The top to the blender has a hole in it, effectively making it like a funnel.  You can see it a little more clearly below and to the left.  If you have a food processor whose “plunger” piece (the one you use to shove food that you want to shred down in to the whirling blades without losing a finger) has a tiny hole, that’s also used for oil emulsification.  I just happen to have a blender with a nifty spot for it.

The other option you have is to use a squirt bottle – like the ketchup/mustard kinds that are $.50 apiece once the summer picnic season starts.  The real point is to drizzle the oil slowly, otherwise you’ll end up with an Exxon Valdez-type mess in your kitchen, and as Alton Brown says, “That’s just not good eats.”

Speaking of Alton Brown, he has a great tutorial on making mayo that I’ll include at the bottom of this post.  They’re worth watching just to get the idea of the science behind the stuff.  I’d be remiss in my duties as an AB-fangirl if I didn’t tell you that his recipes are the bomb and nearly fail-proof.  My one dissension from AB’s advice is this:  NEVER EVER MAKE MAYONNAISE IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOUR EGGS COME FROM.  AB talks about using “pasteurized eggs,” which means they’ve been pasteurized in the shell, but since we’re all about Real Food and Unadulterated Food here, I’m not going to recommend those.  I would never, ever make mayo with store-bought eggs.  Ever.  I’ve had salmonella poisoning and I never want to have it again.  Know where your eggs come from, wash them before sticking them in the fridge, and make sure they are the freshest eggs around.  These are cornerstone rules for making homemade mayo.

My recipe is divergent from AB’s in a few things:  I omit his dry mustard (see above, where I explain my “blooming” theory – dried mustard in mayo = a very strong mustard spread in 24 hours) and I don’t use his corn oil (see above for “Real Food” comment).  I did use a blend of coconut oil and olive oil, and it turned out spoon-lickin’-good.  I prefer an unflavoured/unscented coconut oil for this application – I always have some of Tropical Traditions’ Expeller Pressed CO on hand for stuff like this.  As far as an olive oil, make sure it’s extra-virgin.

Now that I’ve got my explanations and disclaimers out of the way, here’s the actual recipe.  This will make just over a pint of mayonnaise – about a pint and a quarter.  I find it easiest to assemble all of my ingredients first and then begin the mixing process.  :)

Sue’s Homemade Mayonnaise
  • 2 whole, fresh eggs, room temperature
  • 1 t. sea salt (fine grind, I like Real Salt)
  • ½ t. sugar
  • 1 T. white vinegar
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ¾ c. TOTAL olive oil & expeller-pressed coconut oil (equal portions of each)

In your blender, toss your eggs (whites included!), the salt, sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice.  Whirl on highest power for 30 seconds or so.

In a gentle, slow stream, with the blender (or food processor) on high, begin adding your oil combination.  You’ll hear the blender chug differently as the oil begins the emulsification – but keep going until all the oil is added.  Whirl it for about 30 seconds after the last bit of oil is incorporated and then scoop it in to a jar.  The flavour should be light, slightly lemon-y, and altogether creamy.

Alton says that the acids allow this to “proof” on the counter for up to 12 hours – I let mine sit for no more than 3-4 hours.  I think the heat of Arizona is stronger than the heat of Atlanta, where he is.  😉  Cap it up and stick it in the fridge.  Most people say to use it within 7-10 days, but I can’t find a reason why it wouldn’t be good past then, assuming optimum refrigeration is followed.  The eggs don’t spoil in the fridge, the salt, sugar, and acids won’t spoil, and the oils would still be good.  But follow your own best judgment – never eat something that smells “off” or you find questionable.

My final product looks like this (the mayo has a yellow tinge because the farm-fresh eggs have bright orange yolks and aren’t pale like factory-farmed eggs):

~~~~~~~

And, because I just can’t stop now – here is my homemade ranch dressing recipe.  The seasoning is kept in a jar and then when mixing it to make salad dressing, I add in 2 T. of dried whole milk.  I love that this has no MSG in it and that it tastes SO good.  Brendan declares it to be as good as store-bought ranch dressing; I love that I know how it’s made.

MSG-free Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 4 T. onion powder (granules)
  • 7 t. dried parsley
  • 4 t. sea salt (I like Real Salt)
  • 1 t. garlic powder (granules)

Mix these ingredients in a jar and cap it tightly.  To make ranch dressing, use 2 T. mix, 2 T. powdered whole milk (for a richer flavour), 1 c. of mayo (hey! you just made some!), and 1 c. of milk or buttermilk.  Mix all together well (I use my stick blender) and refrigerate at least 3 hours for optimum flavour-blending.

The spice blend is cheap (important as food prices are rising), is made with spices in my food storage, tastes really good, and is usable in dips as well as dressing (just blend with 2 T. of the mix with 2 T. of dried whole milk and 2 c. of sour cream).  It takes a remarkably small amount of cupboard space, too.  :)

As promised, here are the AB videos on making mayonnaise – enjoy your newfound culinary skillz!  :)

16
Mar

I’ve done it!  I’ve hit the one-year mark on our food storage.  I actually have more than what the Food Storage Analyzer says I do, just because there are things I’m storing which aren’t in their system.  The system is designed to be edited by its users, but when you have bulk nuts, for example, the nutritional information isn’t included, so it’s hard to enter non-existent information.

I knew I was close to the end with my last two Azure Standard orders (that link isn’t to Azure Standard’s website, but to Heavenly Homemakers, where Laura explains how their co-op works).  I added 2 more gallons of honey, 10lbs of raisins (which might actually be the BEST raisins I’ve ever had), and several pounds of spices.  Today, we went to Honeyville in Chandler for a class based on the book “Dinner is in the Jar,” by Kathy Clark and after tasting lentils in chicken noodle soup (which tasted *amazing*, by the way), I decided to pick up a 25lb bag of them.  I’ve never cooked with lentils more than split peas or chana dal, but when thinking about upping the protein content of chicken noodle soup, I decided it was worth adding to the storage.  Unfortunately for me, Honeyville didn’t have a #10 can of them, only a 25lb bag.  So now we have a LOT of lentils.  :)

I still want to get some more pinto beans and white beans (Great Northerns are my favourites) before I consider myself fully “done,” but it’s nice to see the number on the analyzer’s read-out.  I’m feeling quite good about this accomplishment, and the next food-storage task will be building ready-to-cook meals with what I’ve got stored.  I purchased the book I mentioned; when it comes in, I’ll get some more oxygen-absorbers and set to work.  I’ll blog that one, so if you’re interested in having stuff that’s ready to go and things that your family will love, watch for that post.  :)

But for now, I leave you with this glorious (well, to me, at least) image.  :)

foodstorageanalyzer.com/MemberPages/Search.aspx?search=raisins

When we started our food storage, we weren’t really sure why we were doing it, other than to be obedient to what we felt God was telling us to do.  There have been rumours of runaway inflation (where the cost of items doubles every 1-2 weeks), of a double-dip recession, and of other economic catastrophes.

Lately, with the cost of gas increasing (I paid $3.50 per gallon this morning, up from $3.39 on Sunday evening – yikes!), grocery prices have been stealthing upward.  Regular stores like Kroger (Fry’s, out here) used to run “Buy 10 get $5 off”-promotions and now they’ve lowered it to “Buy 10 get $3 off.”  Prices are increasing at Costco, but prices there tend to flux a bit, so I’ve not thought too much of that.  Let’s face it – as it costs more to get the items from a distribution center to the stores, the increased cost of that fuel is tacked on.  The troubling thing to my mind is that the trend of increasing grocery prices has always had a six-month lag behind the actual hike of fuel prices, and this bucks that trend.

My case in point today is Trader Joe’s.  I love TJ’s for food that is largely unpolluted, simple, and inexpensive.  I can get a pound of frozen mixed (organic) vegetables there for $1.69, and we scarf down the veggies when I serve them at dinner. Bananas have always been $.19 per, and the cost of dry goods has been stable for at least the past 4-5 years (as long as I’ve been frequenting the retailer).

Until today.  While the bananas and mixed veggies haven’t increased in price, absolutely everything. else. in. my. cart. has. Ugh.  Up $.10 on my pizza sauce, up $.30 on cocoa powder.  Up a whopping $.50 on the blue corn chips we like….  It made me particularly grateful that I’m only there for incidentals (what food storage experts call “the three-month supply”) every other week or so.

It will be interesting to see how this trend goes – if, once the unrest in the middle east ends, prices will begin a downward movement or not.  It will also be interesting to see how the media picks up on this (or doesn’t – sometimes they just ignore this stuff when it doesn’t play in to what they want to report).

We’re okay at the moment, in spite of increasing prices.  But it makes both of us really grateful that we have this store of food to “fall back on.”

I’ve been meaning to try a recipe for baked oatmeal for I don’t know how long.  At least since my friend Misti mentioned it as a tasty breakfast option.  My brain is full of these tidbits – someone mentions something or gives me an idea, but then due to life and schedules, it doesn’t actually get tried/implemented/experimented until a while later. Someday my life will be simpler and I’ll be able to try new stuff out immediately, but that will probably be after Brendan’s done with school & is out on his own.  😉

Regardless, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of the recipe – maybe a bit more loft and “cake-like texture,” but then again, there is no flour in it, and that’s generally where cake-like texture comes from.  It’s delicious, easy, and allows for tons of variations on a theme.  This batch used frozen black raspberries from my egg-guy’s garden last year… next time I’ll likely use blueberries, bananas, strawberries, or apples (finely diced).  I love that I can use food-storage items to make this – the oats, the honey/sugar, and the fruit are all food-storage worthy.  I will even try using freeze-dried fruit next time; I’m sure it will turn out delightfully. :) The original recipe used regular milk and a fraction of the cinnamon (we like cinnamon!), and I’ve changed out some of the sweetener to reduce the brown sugar content and use honey in its place.

The resulting breakfast food is easy to slice and take on the run, but is even better when warmed slightly and drizzled with a touch of maple syrup.  It’s not overly sweet (in this case, the raspberries make sure of that!), and it’s completely filling. Yesterday I made it until about 1230p for lunch after eating a piece of this with some coffee at about 745a.  I was delighted with the longevity the oats give me – I was able to work for hours and not be interrupted by the pesky need for food.  :)

Baked Oatmeal
  • 3 c oatmeal (I use quick oats, but regular oats would work fine as well)
  • 2 T cinnamon
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. sea salt (I like Real Salt)
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. honey
  • 1 ½ c. cultured buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ c. coconut oil (or butter), melted
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 1 c.  fruit; raspberries, blueberries,  mashed bananas, apples, etc.
  • ½ cup of pecans (optional)

Mix dry ingredients together, add to wet ingredients in mixing bowl.  Combine thoroughly (I let the Bosch do the work). Allow to rest for 5 minutes to increase loft (from buttermilk/baking powder combination), pour in to well-greased 9×13″ pan and bake at 350F for  30-40 minutes. Center should be firm and poke-able just like a cake; top should be lightly browned.

Cut in pieces and serve warm (or cold) – it’s especially delightful with a pat of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.

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