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

Prep-ahead Clean Lunch for $3.72: Ginger Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, Roasted Potatoes

You know those prep-ahead clean eating lunch videos – often from Tasty? Well, I decided to give one a whirl.

Here’s the basic concept: pick 1 protein for 3-oz servings, 2 vegetables, and 1 gluten free carbohydrate (rice, potatoes, quinoa).

IMG_2144Mine: chicken breast with ginger aioli, brussels sprouts, asparagus and mushrooms, and creamer potatoes.

I took some help from my local Harris Teeter produce: cut and salt/pepper/garlicked brussels sprouts and asparagus pack ($3.99 each) and a ready-to-bake-in-pan package of creamer potatoes (also $3.99). The potatoes came with a seasoning packet, which I chose to use because the sodium was really, really low.

The only thing I made was garlic aioli. How? Peel some garlic – about 2 inches worth – and pour 1/4 cup of your good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut) and a pinch of salt into your bullet blender and let it go. Then I brushed it directly onto my chicken breasts. I drizzled the little bit left over onto the brussels sprouts, just because.

Into a 450°F fully preheated oven for 30 minutes. That’s all it takes.

IMG_2148Let it cool and divvy it up into four microwave safe food storage containers. Voila. Lunch for the week – for me, at least, since I have only four days with a fixed lunch hour.

Cost Analysis

  • $2.90 – Chicken Breast – one giant one from a 6-pack, cut into 4 pieces
  • $3.99 – pre-cut asparagus with sliced mushrooms and minced garlic
  • $3.99 – pre-cut brussels sprouts seasoned with salt and pepper
  • $3.99 – creamer potatoes already in a baking pan and including seasonings

Total = $14.87

Cost per lunch = $3.72

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

1-pan Dinner: Chicken Marbella with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

IMG_1859For a family of 2-4, this meal can be made using 1 cutting board, 1 chef’s or chopping knife, 1 mixing bowl, and 1 large baking sheet. You can make clean up even easier by lining your baking sheet with foil.

For this dinner, you’ll need

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or comparable chicken strips or chicken thighs)
  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced (Yukon gold, red, russet – whatever kind you like)
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
  • 1 Vidalia or sweet onion, large diced (optional)
  • 2-4 T good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut)

For the Marbella marinade, you’ll need

  • 4 prunes, chopped roughly
  • 6-8 green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, chopped roughly
  • 1 T capers, chopped roughly
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut)
  • 1/4 apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper

The night before you’ll be cooking this dinner, combine all of the Marbella marinade ingredients and whisk to mix well. Pour over the raw chicken (yep, it can even be frozen still); make sure the chicken is one layer when you put it in the fridge. It is super important that you marinate the chicken overnight.

For baking, prehead the oven to 375°F, line your baking sheet with foil and spray it down well with cooking spray.

Toss your diced potatoes and halved Brussels sprouts in good oil and salt and pepper. You can certainly add any other spices you like at this time; for pairing with the Marbella flavors, I recommend lemon pepper or dijon, something with a strong, tart flavor to contrast with the salty and sweet of the Marbella.

Lay out the chicken in a row across one end of the pan, layer the potatoes in the middle in one layer, and layer the Brussels sprouts and onions on the other end of the pan. Pour any remaining Marbella marinate over the chicken.

Place the pan on the upper rack in the center of the oven, and set the timer for 30 minutes.

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 Being Healthy, Cooking

Soy and Teriyaki Sauce Alternative – soy free, corn free, gluten free

I’ve got a growing group of friends who have straight up food allergies to corn, gluten, soy – and, Lord help me, all three! And that makes safe store-bought sauces that most think of as a single ingredient not nearly impossible but actually impossible.

Hibachi-at-home: steak, scallops, veggies (zucchini, carrot, onion, peas), rice.
Hibachi-at-home: steak, scallops, veggies (zucchini, carrot, onion, peas), rice – using this homemade soy sauce turned into teriyaki sauce.

Here’s my alternative to soy sauce when cooking for them – and now myself since I can control the sodium level so much more!

  • 1/4 cup strong beef or mushroom broth (use homemade or Pacific brand)
  • 1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar (make your own with this recipe)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 T molasses – be sure to get organic and check the label for corn syrup or corn-derived additives – I get mine raw from a local farm
  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic – I recommend using a garlic press
  • 1/2-inch of fresh, finely minced ginger – I recommend using a cheese grater
  • 1/4 t finely ground pepper
  • kosher or sea salt – add in 1/4 t amounts until you achieve the soy sauce saltiness you like

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Did you know that Teriyaki Sauce is nothing more than a sweeter soy sauce? Add 1/2 to 3/4 cups of this soy-free soy sauce to a sauce pan with 1/2 cup corn-free brown sugar, combine well and simmer for 20 minutes.

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

Butternut Squash Bliss

This weekend, my friend Sarah offered me her entire crop of butternut squash…because she didn’t know what to do with them. Sarah, you don’t know what you’re missing! This delicious squash has a simple, light, nutty butter flavor of its own but also provides a wonderful base for sweet or savory additions.

As we are on the cusp of Fall and the morning and evening temperatures are cooling, I’m ready to start on soups, and butternut squash soup is hands-down my favorite! Luckily it’s also the one I can’t seem to screw up despite the fact that I don’t measure…ever!

Here’s what you’ll need for my savory version of the soup:

  • Butternut squash: peeled, seeded, and diced
  • Sweet onion: peeled and quartered
  • Carrots: cleaned and chopped
  • Garlic: one whole pod peeled (not one clove, but the whole pod of 10-12 cloves)
  • Stock or Cream: up to 8 cups, depending on your preference
  • Spices: Salt, Black Pepper, Ginger, Cumin, Coriander Seeds

Get all the veggies cleaned and cut. I usually do this while watching a movie, a method I “developed” from my days living in a tiny Brooklyn flat with no kitchen counters. If you’re using fresh ginger, peel, dice, and add that to the roasting mix.

Spread them all out on cookie sheets, making sure everything is in just one layer. Dust with salt, pepper, and spices; use as much or as little as you like. Roast at 400°F for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let them sit for another 15 minutes.

Dump all the veggies carefully into a large stock pot. Here’s where I’ve got to talk you through some options.

Option 1: Stock or Cream

The difference between a soup or a bisque is the use of stock or cream as your thinning or thickening agent. There are a few other options besides cream for a bisque, but that’s the traditional one. Vegans can choose vegetable stock or soy or rice milk. For the least flavor interference, use homemade vegetable or chicken stock. For a richer, velvety flavor, use beef stock. For the sweeter version of this soup, use ham or veal stock. And you can always use just plain water, especially if you are looking for a thicker consistency and not worried about having to use too much.

Option 2: Blending Method

If you’ve watched chefs on cooking shows make soup, you’ve seen the two methods: blender or immersion wand. Both can achieve the same level of smoothness, but the traditional blender will get you there faster; just make sure the veggies have cooled to room temperature before using the traditional blender. Me, I like the convenience of the immersion wand because I can pretty much put all of the veggies in at one time and both see and feel the consistency as I’m blending; it offers a level of control that you don’t get with the traditional blender.

I like my soups with a strong “mouth feel,” which usually translates into thick or stew-like. I know it makes the blended soups look like baby food and/or baby poo, which, by the way, reminds me to tell you that this is exactly how to make your own baby food; studies show that children who eat the same food and same seasonings in their baby food as their parents have on their plates aren’t as picky during their formative years, making meal time much easier to deal with.

When my Mom insists on the sweeter version of this soup, it goes something like this:

  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Cream
  • Ginger, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar (during blending)

This version comes out similar to sweet potato soufflé (aka sweet potato casserole) with Thanksgiving spices and sweetness. I just don’t happen to like that very much.

Note for Sarah: other ways I use butternut squash:

  • Oven or deep fried fries…similar to sweet potato fries
  • Winter Veggie Salad with b. squash, zucchini, carrots, onions (or mix with orzo or rice or risotto)
  • Mashed butternut squash
  • Ravioli or Lasagna filling