Posted in Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Make Your Own Apple Cider Vinegar

Yeah, I don’t care if you believe it melts fat or flushes toxins from your body, ACV is yummy. And for folks with a corn allergy, it’s the safest vinegar to have in the kitchen.

What? You didn’t know that white vinegar, acetic acid, and even citric acid are made with corn? So, yeah, sorry to bust your bubble. But, hey, what I’m about to show you will reduce your wasted dollars AND be safe for you to use.

You know those apple peels and cores your kids won’t eat? You’re about to stop throwing those away! I happened to be making stewed spiced apples today and knew I’d have about 10 apple cores – YAY!

It’s best to start your ACV adventures with a quart. That way you’ll be able to experiment with types of apple, amounts of sugar/honey, and overall strength of flavor. I like mine very strongly tart, so I use very little honey.

IMG_1712For a strong, dark-colored ACV in a quart jar,

  • apple peels and cores to fill the jar to the top – stuff it full!
  • 2-4 T honey or sugar
  • water to cover the apple

For a lighter-colored, fruitier ACV in a quart jar,

  • IMG_17143-4 medium apples, diced, with cores
  • 1-2 T honey or sugar (you can wait to see how sweet it will be to add this)
  • water to cover the apple

Now here’s the actual “recipe” – it’s in the timing!

  1. Cover the jar with paper towel or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber IMG_1715band. Store in a dark place (mine goes on the bottom shelf of my pantry) and add a note to your calendar to check it in 21 days.
  2. Strain out the apples and return the ACV to the jar; it won’t fill to the top this time, perhaps a little past halfway. Taste and add honey to sweeten or water to weaken if it’s too strong for you already. Recover with paper towel or cheesecloth and rubber band. Add a note to your calendar to check it in 4 weeks.
  3. IMG_1716At 4 weeks, taste. If you like it, start using it and switch to a sealed jar top or bottle with a cap/lid. If it’s not there yet, re-cover and add a note to your calendar to check again in a week. Continue this process until the ACV reaches your desired taste.

I’m at the point now where I deliberately ferment to different flavor levels and acidity for use in a variety of dressings, sauces, poaching, etc.

  • Dark and Strong for sauces like my soy-free, corn-free, gluten-free soy sauce
  • Sweet and fruity for dressings and vinaigrettes
  • Light-colored short ferment for poaching – to use instead of wine (which often has corn and sulfites) or store-bought broths (which also often have corn)

Tip: if you just want the dark ACV with the peels and cores, you can dice and freeze the apple meat for use in pies, cakes, and applesauce later.

Tip: when it’s not apple season, you can save and freeze the apple peels and cores until you’ve got enough to fill the jar.

 

Posted in Everyday Musings, God Loves Me!, Love Life

Judging a Book by Its Cover: When a Woman Desires to Be “Just” a Wife and Mother

This is short, perhaps just the beginning of an idea, a discussion.

It’s partly about the word “just,” especially when it means “only” and carries the implication of a self- or externally-imposed limitation.

It’s about choice, even when others think your choice is beneath your potential.

It’s about judgment, and others’ failure to recognize that most of us have more or different dreams waiting behind the scenes to become the focus of our lives and choices.

A friend of many years recently revealed two things publicly that have been received with strong responses:

  1. her dream was/is to be a “classic American” wife and mother a la June Cleaver, and that this is her American dream
  2. she recently filed for divorce from her husband

Responses to the second all follow in the same vein: sympathy, compassion, prayers, offers of support.

But responses to the first revelation have raised eyebrows and generated various levels of judgment that her dream is wrong, undesirable, bad, as well as condemnation of examples of newer variations on the American dream as entitled, lazy, absurd, and more.

My first response was personal:

I congratulate your choice to want and to strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman, wife, and mother, though I am baffled at the idea that there is only one American dream, the one anyone refers to as “the” American dream. I would prefer that no one impose any dream on my life and choices, much less a uniform “American” one. I would also prefer that no one judge me for my choice of dream, but as God didn’t grant me control over others’ minds, alas, judgment happens. I love you, sister, and pray for you support, comfort, and peace as you make your best choices moving forward into a new life situation.

But my continuing ruminations led me to wonder what kind of man does God direct as a match for a Proverbs 31 woman. A simple Google search for led to mostly articles and commentary on a Proverbs 31 husband, but my favorite presentation referenced Ephesians 5 and really focuses on the man’s role in lifting up his wife the same way Proverbs 31 focuses on the woman’s actions and choices. Be sure to click on the “Ephesians 5 husbands” in the Searches related to “husband for proverbs 31 wife” at the bottom of the results.

25 gHusbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and hgave himself up for her,

26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by ithe washing of water jwith theword,

27 so kthat he might present the church to himself in splendor, lwithout spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.1

28 In the same way mhusbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

30 because nwe are members of his body.

31 oTherefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and p the two shall become one flesh.

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

33 However, q let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she r respects her husband.

I’m truly privileged to say that I can easily name 20 men in my regular circle of friends whom I believe and have witnessed who are Ephesians 5 husbands and women who are Proverbs 31 wives. I try hard to be a Proverbs 31 friend. And I dearly pray to God to send my friend her Ephesians 5 husband.

This is by no means the end of this discussion – whether in my own meditations with God or out loud with friends in person or online.  I welcome your thoughts and especially your prayers for my friend and for all people to find the passion and acceptance to pursue the dreams they choose.

Posted in Children, God Loves Me!

Children’s Sermon – Genesis 2-3, focus on Rules and Forgiveness

Scripture: Genesis 2: 15-17, 3: 1-7

Props: house key

IMG_1663When I got old enough (third grade, age 8), my mom and dad decided that I could be allowed to come home right after school instead of going to after school. This meant that I would get on the school bus at school and off near my house in my neighborhood. And I would walk down the street to my house. And I used this key [hold up the key] to open the door and go inside and lock the door back. And the very next thing I had to do was to call my mom at work to tell her that I was home and that I had closed and locked the door.

That’s when my mom would remind me of the rest of the rules:

Rule #1: do all of my homework and leave it out on the dining table for mom to check when she got home. Who else has a “homework first” rule after school? That’s a pretty popular rule.

Rule #2: do all of the chores on the list on the counter. Weekdays, this would be some laundry and some part of getting dinner ready, like making a salad. What chores do you have to do at home?

Rule #3: pick up my room – all toys in the toy box, all dirty clothes in the hamper, bed made up

And sometimes I managed to do all of this in time to watch a show on TV. My favorites were Thundercats and G I Joe. That was my reward if I got everything done. But if I didn’t, my consequences would be an early bedtime, extra chores, and when I was older, losing my telephone time.

In today’s Children’s Church, you guys are going to read and talk about a time when God gave his first children Adam and Eve a rule to follow…and they didn’t follow it. What do you think God did? That’s right: He forgave them. He also gave them new chores and responsibilities to help them learn why following His rules will help them have everything they need. We are such lucky and blessed people that our loving God forgives us when we mess up, when we break the rules, because God knows we will try even harder next time to be better.

Will you bow your heads and pray with me:

Dear God,
Thank you for loving me
And giving me rules
To help me be a good person.
And thank you also
For forgiving me
When I make mistakes.
Help me to forgive others
When their mistakes
Hurt my feelings
Or someone else’s feelings.
I honor you now and forever.
Amen.

Delivered Sunday, March 5, 2017 at Palmetto Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, gluten free, nut free, soy free

The Greek Dinner that Made My Family Sing Opa!

16864914_10155064092529116_1123159716396037580_nMy mom likes your run-of-the-mill shaved meat gyro, and we often get our annual Greek Festival lamb dinner for Mother’s Day each year, but for the most part, my family of four doesn’t really do Greek flavors. So when they asked to have the “Greek Turkey Burgers” I’d labeled for the freezer – for me to have as one-offs – I said sure; it was tame enough even for them.

Menu: Greek Turkey sliders with homemade tzatziki sauce, Greek lemon roasted potatoes, garlic refrigerator pickled cucumbers.

Start with the pickles because you need to make them at least a day ahead; a week is better. And they have so many more uses than just as part of this dinner, so don’t worry about them hanging around too long.

  • 2 thinly sliced hothouse cucumbers with peel on
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup room temparature water
  • 3-4 whole peeled and crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 t each salt and pepper

It’s hard to give measurements because it really depends on the size container you use. I re-use glass jars from things like spaghetti jars and jelly jars. The measurements above work for the spaghetti jar size. Pack all of that in the jar. If the liquid doesn’t quite fill the jar to the top, add more apple cider vinegar instead of water; it won’t be too much. Cap tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. Great as a stand-alone side, as an addition to a salad, chopped up as relish for egg or tuna salad, and as a burger or sandwich condiment.

It’s also best to make the tzatziki a day ahead to give the flavors time to settle together.

  • 1 16 oz container of plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt of your choice
  • 1/2 hothouse cucumber, seeded and grated
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 t each, salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and stir well. Usually, you can return the entire mixture to the original yogurt container for storage in the refrigerator.

On the day of dinner, set out any ingredients to thaw in the morning. Here’s what you’ll need to for cooking:

For the Greek lemon roasted potatoes:

  • 4-6 medium potatoes (yukon gold or russet work best)
  • 1/2 preferred cooking oil
  • 1/4 lemon juice (approx. 2 lemons juiced)
  • 2 T lemon pepper seasoning (we use Mrs. Dash for sodium control)
  • 1 t each, salt and pepper

For the Greek Turkey Burgers

  • 1 lb ground turkey (your choice to use turkey breast or blended turkey meat)
  • 1 package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and with liquid squeezed out
  • 1 package of feta cheese (we like the tomato and basil seasoned kind)
  • 1 T lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 t each, salt and pepper

Start with the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350°F (for 90 minute potatoes) or 450°F (for 30 minute potatoes). Clean and chop into large 1.5 inch chunks if you’ve got at least 90 minutes or small .5 inch dices for a 30 minute dinner. Add in oil, lemon juice, and seasonings and mix well with your hands. Pour in a single layer in a foil liked baking sheet. Time for 60 minutes (for 90 minute potatoes) or 10 minutes (for 30 minute potatoes).

In the same bowl, combine turkey, spinach, feta, lemon pepper seasoning, salt and pepper. Divide mixture into 4-8 patties: 4 to fit standard hamburger buns or 8 to fit standard slider buns). Place on foil lined baking sheet and sprinkle a bit more lemon pepper seasoning on each patty. Add to oven when the first potato timer goes off. If you started on 350°F, increase oven temp to 450°F and time for 20 minutes. If you started on 450°F, time for 20 minutes more.

On a baking sheet, open hamburger or slider buns with the cut side facing up. Once the potatoes and burgers are finished, turn the oven to broil at 500°F and toast buns for approximately 2 minutes. Do not leave unattended and do not try to get something else done, or you’ll burn the buns – not a pleasant taste.

 

Assemble burgers by spooning tzatziki on both sides of the bun. And more tzatziki in a small bowl or dolloped on the plate makes a great dipping sauce for the potatoes.

My plate in the photo above shows some pickled asparagus because my family ate up the pickled cucumbers so quickly that I didn’t get any for my photo. Next time, sigh 🙂

Posted in Cooking, corn free, gluten free

Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

Keep the amazing flavor but take the work out of traditional Chicken Cordon Bleu with this easy layered bake:

If video does not load, click https://youtu.be/79zm7E5C58g for the full YouTube video recipe.

Here are a few ways to round out the meal and make it a little cleaner:

Start with a layer of lemon rice: cook up 2 cups (raw) of white or brown rice according to package instructions. Add the juice of 2 lemons (approx. 1/2 cup lemon juice if using jarred).

Make your sauce gluten free and corn free by using Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Flour and either homemade or corn-free vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

Simplify the toasted panko crumbs to just fresh garlic, salt and pepper. For corn free, use HT Trader’s panko (unseasoned) for a corn-free option. For gluten free, use GF panko crumbs from the GF section of your grocery store. To date, I have not found bread crumbs or panko that is both gluten free and corn free.

Posted in Children

Cheddar Corn Chowder

Corn chowder is a personal favorite, and I love the addition of the cheddar and the use of turmeric!

thebrookcook

IMG_5415

I try a lot of new recipes, but there are a few that I repeat EVERY season. This is one of them. I make it with fresh corn- but at the end of the season- when it starts to get chilly and we are ready to eat warm soup. This recipe was adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten.

Note: I wrote a guest post on SimplyVegetarian777.wordpress.com with a vegetarian version of this delicious soup. The recipe can be found here.

  • 8 ounces bacon (about 8 slices)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cups chopped yellow or sweet onions (3 to 4 large onions)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds medium-diced boiling potatoes, unpeeled
  • 6 -10 cups corn kernels, fresh (from 10 ears)
  • 2 cups half-and-half

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Posted in Children

Churro Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

LOVE ❤ these! My nieces adore churros, and I love making a simple but special treat for the families I cook for each week. These will be perfect for fajita night coming up soon!

thebrookcook

My kids had friends over for a taco dinner the other night, and we “needed” a special dessert. These churro cupcakes were perfect for our theme!

This recipe was adapted from Lady Behind the Curtain, via Sweet Carolines Cooking. I loved the cinnamon-sugar topping underneath the cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Although we did debate whether or not these cupcakes were more “churro” or “snickerdoodle,” we all agreed they were tasty. 🙂

I’m sharing this party food at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #140 this week, co-hosted by Julie @Hostess at Heart and Linda @Fabulous Fare Sisters. Enjoy!

Yield: Makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cupcake Batter:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups cake flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 1½ T ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1¾ granulated sugar, plus 2 T for dusting
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2½…

View original post 404 more words