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.

 

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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 Being Healthy, Cooking

My Favorite Summer Pasta Salad

It’s summer, which for many means that all the best produce is in season, fresh, and readily available. Definitely true for all of the ingredients of my favorite summer salad.

It couldn’t be any simpler or take any less time or effort…and you’ll find it very versatile:

  • 1 package of your favorite shaped pasta, cooked, drained, and cooled (try an all-rice pasta for gluten free and corn free needs)
  • Equal volume of your favorite medley of fresh veggies (equal volume to the cooked pasta)
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, thyme
  • Olive oil, about 1/4 cup for the whole salad
  • Lemon juice, or other acid like apple cider vinegar (to keep some of the veggies from turning brown)

Me…this week I’ve paired rotelle (spiral) pasta with what I think of as my classic medley: 1 pint of grape tomatoes, 1 large hothouse cucumber (seeded), 1 orange bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper, and 2 small Hass avocados. I love how the avocados, regardless of how firm they are when you cut them, start to “melt” and become part of the dressing, keeping everything nice and lubricated without extra oil in the dressing! And I went with 2 T of herbs de provence to season everything nice and brightly…it’s the lavender flowers that I love best in the American version from Whole Foods.

Some alternative combos:

  • artichoke, orange, red onion with red wine vinegar
  • broccoli, cauliflower, shelled sugar snap peas with grapeseed oil

Sometimes I add a small bag of edamame, organic and non-GMO, if I don’t have any regular protein to go with it (either freshly made or leftover). But this week, I’ve cooked up several chicken breasts with herbs de provence.

The chicken, salad, and a banana will comprise my lunch for the week…all made in about 30 minutes.

But this salad is fantastic to make up on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and just have in the fridge as a quick side or even late-night snack. With the sweet and crunchy veggies, it’s often an acceptable alternative to your palate’s oreo craving at 10:30 pm.

Finally, this is my regular go-to contribution to any summery potluck, especially if I know any vegetarians will be attending; I make a special point to let them know I will be bringing the salad and how I prepare it so they can be comfortable eating it. I’ve had several vegetarian friends attend a potluck for the first time because they knew there’d be something for them other than just what they brought. (In the winter, I do a mushroom risotto for my vegetarian friends.)