Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Warm Fall Spinach Salad with Apples & Bacon

As the cool weather starts arriving, fall greens are available locally. Spinach is one of the greens that prefers the cooler seasons of spring and fall.
This salad is made with only spinach as the base and tossed in a warm dressing with local apples of your choice! Enjoy!

1/2 lb spinach
3 medium apples
1/2 lb bacon (optional, if you don't use bacon you'll need to use 1/4 cup olive oil)
1 small onion (about a 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Wash spinach, spin dry, and put in a large serving bowl. Slice bacon, if using, and saute in a pan until crispy. Remove cooked bacon from pan and set aside in a small bowl. Add onions to the hot bacon fat and saute about 1 minute, or until translucent. If you aren't using the bacon, heat skillet, add olive oil and saute onion in oil. Once the onion is cooked add the vinegar, salt, sugar, stock, and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce by almost 1/2. Meanwhile, wash, core, and slice apples and add to bowl with spinach. When dressing is reduced, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Add bacon back to dressing and pour hot dressing over spinach and apples. Toss until coated and serve immediately!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Homemade Almond Milk

Here's the thing: I was uncomfortable so much of the time, I didn't even realize how much the dairy was affecting me. It had control over me! It's so creamy, amazing and potentially crispy crunchy, how could I not put it on EVERY dish I made for the family? How does one stop pouring cream into their coffee and live with it? How does one stop consuming dairy products when they sell them? AND what choice did I have but to bring home the things that were over the "sell by" date? It pained me to throw out perfectly edible goodness. Oh, I suppose I should have figured out a way to donate items to folks that needed food. But I didn't. I suffered the pains of eating the delicious evil.

Flash forward 2 months: Can you even conceive that black coffee or coffee with almond milk is palatable? Actually, I'm so addicted to the wonders of coffee, that I DON'T CARE what color it is. Close your eyes and it's all the same on the inside. And it wakes me up, that's the important part.

My reflex to put cheese on anything and everything still exists; I'm working through that issue, just like all the rest. It's a change of mindset really. Once I removed the offending dairy from my diet, a couple bites of lactose can upset me for days. It's not worth it. I want to feel good AND be healthy.

In light of the recent changes in diet I've undertaken and in an effort to banish as much processed food from my life, I started making my own almond milk! Yes, I make my own almond milk (unless I forget to soak the almonds) and it's very easy (unless I forget to soak the almonds)!! It can be a bit messy if you don't have the correct size bowl under your sieve (or you try to strain it directly into a jar like I've done), and it does separate since there's no gum of any kind to homogenize it (oh no!). It lasts about 7 -10 days (usually less in our house since it gets used up so fast). Kids and husbands may turn their noses up at it at first since it's a bit of a thinner consistency, again, because there's no gum to thicken it. Also, unless you are used to unsweetened almond milk, you'll need to sweeten the milk a bit for the kiddos. I blend up some dates with the almonds to solve that issue.

Here's the recipe: 

1 cup almonds 
4 cups water
1/2 cup dates

Soak almonds in water for 24-48 hours, 48 is preferable but if you *ahem* forget to soak the almonds, 24 will do. 

Drain soaked almonds and put in blender. Add 4 cups fresh water to blender and the 1/2 cup of dates. Blend for 20 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, then blend again for another 20 seconds. Drain through a mesh sieve into a bowl that it fits over. Pour milk into a jar, cover and refrigerate. Let the almonds drain thoroughly and save for other recipes (yes, I'll post those too, soon). Sometimes, we put a tiny bit of cocoa powder in the blender with the almond milk and make some frothy cocoa milk for the kid. 

So there you are! Easy peasy! 
Friday, October 4, 2013

Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, and Apples 3 ways!

1 large butternut squash, peeled, and diced large
2 large onions, peeled, sliced thin
6-8 apples, peeled, sliced thin
1/4 cup butter and/or olive oil, melted

In a large bowl toss the squash with enough of the melted butter or oil (or a mixture of the two) to coat. Place squash in a glass baking dish and roast in oven at 450 degrees, stirring about every 10-15 minutes or so until squash is soft. Heat a large frying pan over high heat, add about 2 tbsp butter or oil (butter works best for caramelizing onions) and add sliced onions. Cover the pan for about 10 minutes to soften then remove, stir and turn down the heat to med-low. Continue to cook onions, stirring every few minutes, until they are lightly browned and caramelized, about 30 minutes or so. At this point, turn up the heat and add the apple slices to the pan with the onions, combining. Cook on high heat, stirring constantly, until apples have browned and are soft. When squash is done roasting, add the apples and onions to the glass baking dish, stir to combine, and season with salt. Cover and place back in oven at 350 until ready to serve. Also can be frozen to enjoy at a later time.

This recipe is also great mixed together with pasta and a white sauce:

1 1/2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

 Or it can be blended with chicken stock to make a yummy butternut squash soup! If you are making a soup to start off, you can roast the squash whole at 400 for about an hour, or until it is soft.

1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, heated
Dash cayenne pepper
2-3 tbsp heavy cream, optional

 Combine heated stock with butternut squash/apple/onion mixture and ladle into blender. Blend until smooth and transfer into a pot. Heat and season if desired with cayenne pepper and a few tablespoons heavy cream. This soup freezes very well.

About Me

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With a degree in Restaurant Managment and Nutrition and a background in and love of the culinary arts, Jess is able to whip up delicious yet nutritious meals. She gardens extensively and uses what she grows to feed her family not only during the summer and fall but throughout the winter and spring by preserving and freezing the fresh produce. She is committed to growing, buying, and eating as much local food as possible. She started this blog to spread information about eating locally and its benefits. She also wanted to have a forum to share the recipes she uses and the stories she writes. She would love the opportunity to be able to share this knowledge to increase the amount of people using local and organic products.
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