17 September, 2016

Spicy Beef with Black Bean & Corn Salsa on Rice

This year has been quite busy with surgeries, Stockham Hollow business, school, and family life.  I usually have gobs and gobs of things to say about where the recipe came from and blab about certain food obsessions but this recipe honestly came from a short conversation I had with my Mister before he walked out the door to go somewhere last week.  It went sort of like this....

"It looks like it is going to rain out today.  I feel like making a roast or something." - Me

"I wonder how a beef roast would taste with cinnamon on it." - Mister

*I blink at him with a "WTF did you just say?" look on my face*

more pause

"Sure, yeah....I mean Latin cuisines use it all of the time.  Especially with smoky sorts of spices like cumin and also with chiles." - Me

"Tacos!" - Mister

*I threw a kitchen towel at him because when I don't know what to make for dinner and I make the mistake of asking him...his answer is "Tacos", every.SINGLE.time.*

"I'm not making tacos, dork.  You're going to be late." - Me

"Love you!...." - Mister

*door closes*

I got up to look out the patio door window and realized my pepper patch and roma patch were still producing SO much....it annoyed me.  Which seems horrible to say.  I feel like Stockham Hollow and all of the gardening and canning I have been able to do is such a blessing but I haven't been feeling so hot lately.  Been working on a new diagnosis of vascular EDS and EDS itself comes with a bunch of symptoms that just suck...add to it vascular instability and you have a circus for your health.  The sort of circus that is a nightmare...and everything is always broken lol

I walked out the back door to see what I had to bring in...tomatoes, red chiles, green chiles, Hot Hungarian Wax peppers, Anaheim peppers, green bell pepper, cukes, watermelon, squash...  We had peppers coming out of our ears!  Growing up it wasn't really a thing in Minnesota, but we loved salsa so my mother made it.  Most of the time she made it from store bought ingredients including HUGE cans of stewed unseasoned tomatoes from Sam's Club.  I am not a fan of primary bulk of ingredients being canned to begin with and I have never really been in love with tons of tomatoes on or in anything.  So I surveyed my harvest and decided on Black Bean & Corn Salsa and dinner was planned from there.

This recipe LOOKS long but it is a lot of seasonings in list form.  If it weren't for me liking my salsa cold when there are black beans...this whole recipe from start to table only takes about 35 minutes, even with all of the chopping for the salsa.

****Note about red chiles!!!  I used THREE seeded red chiles in my salsa.  My heat level was HOT.  I did that on purpose.  For medium, use 2 and for mild use 1.  Don't kill yourself lol ****

Spicy Beef with Black Bean & Corn Salsa on Rice
3 T. organic extra virgin olive oil
2 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob
1 1/2 c. organic canned black beans, rinsed
1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeds removed, & chopped
5 small roma tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 small red chiles
4 T. of fresh organic cilantro chopped
4 T. fresh organic lime juice
1/4 c. white onion chopped with a Pampered Chef hand chopper
4 garlic cloves minced
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper
1 drop of Young Living essential oil of Lime (optional)

I tossed the olive oil, lime juice, red chiles, cilantro, salt, pepper, lime essential oil, and garlic into my Magic Bullet mixer and just let 'er RIP.  I let it go on for a good minute...almost 2 so I could make sure the oil and juice were completely emulsified and wouldn't separate once they were poured over the vegetables to complete the salsa.

Pour the lime sauce mixture over the rinsed black beans, corn kernels, white onion, roma tomatoes, and green bell pepper in a medium sized glass bowl, preferably with a lid.  Then stir thoroughly with a spoon, put on the lid, and let it sit for at least 2 hours or until cooled through.  You don't HAVE to let it sit that long, but I like my salsa cold when there are black beans in it.  It is a texture thing lol

Spicy Beef
4 tsp. cumin
4 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp. organic evaporated cane juice or cane sugar
4 tsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs beef, cut into cubes (use your favorite cut of beef!)

Cube your favorite cut of beef and toss it all into a bowl.  Throw the seasoning and oil onto the pile and stir with a spoon or with rubber gloves on your hand...also tossing it into a ziploc and massaging it works.  When every cube of beef is nicely coated, set it aside for 30 minutes to a hour so the spices can work on the beef.

While the beef is roominating and the salsa is cooling, cook your rice.  I used basmati because my family and I love the nuttiness of it with the Indian spices we all favor and there are a lot of those same tones in Latin cuisine so basmati is a good pairing.  

4 c. organic beef stock
2 c. organic basmati rice
4 T. organic extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper

Pour the stock and some sea salt and pepper into a large pot and bring it to a low boil and pour in the rice and olive oil.  Stir to make sure you get the oil on as much rice as possible.  Cook the rice per the package instructions for length of time and covered or uncovered as indicated.  I always cover mine, it keeps it from drying out.

When the rice is finished, flash fry the beef cubes in a large skillet using 4 T. of organic olive oil and vegetable oil or butter...so it can fry without creating smoke from the olive oil.  As soon as the outsides of the meat are browned, cover it and turn the eat off and leave it on the burner to finish.  This will make medium to medium well beef cubes.

Put about 1/4-1/2 c. of the cooked rice on your plate, then 6-8 cubes of beef and maybe a spoon of drippings on the beef, and add a healthy 1/4 c. of the black bean and corn salsa to the top of your meat.  There...you're ready to eat!

This turned out to be one of the most balanced dinners I have ever made as far as all of the parts working so well on their own but just....INCREDIBLE when you have a little of everything in one bite.  Perfect salt, perfect sweet, perfect texture on the meat, perfect fresh crunch to the peppers in the salsa, and the basmati rice was an excellent choice for this Latin spice profile.  

Everyone loved it as well....all of the children, my Mister, and I.  I wasn't expecting that at all but it certainly is fun to see the children reacting to the parts of it they loved the most.  This is a new family favorite and because I can totally control the heat of the salsa and the meat spice, this is a recipe I'd be comfortable with cooking and feeding to guests without a second thought.  Try this dish on your family or friends, I promise you won't regret it and they'll be thankful.....and stuffed!  Enjoy!

28 February, 2016

GF DF Chicken Bacon Garlic Spinach Spicy Penne

Yeah, the title is long, but that is what it is and I have learned the hard way (because I do it as well...) that if you don't mention in the title whether or not something is gluten free or dairy free and that is what people are searching for, you'll be a up a creek in no time with your readership.  SO there it all is, in black and white.  Dairy free, gluten free and unbelievably satisfying.  A dish the whole family will love...even the tiniest of kiddos!

There isn't much background to this recipe.  I saw it on Facebook a while back, decided to fiddle with it so I could eat it which included changing the spice/heat level to be child friendly, use almond milk and almond cheeses in the place of all of the dairy (you have NO idea how wonderful almond cheese does as mozzarella and parmesan, you just have to try it!), and sprouted grain fettuccine pasta.  The pasta is important, especially if your little's favorite thing to eat is spaghetti...using a fettuccine, linguini, or spaghetti noodle will be the difference between dinner and DUD on your dinner table.  You eat first with smell...then eyes.  Never forget that order, mouth and tummy come far after the initial seduction.  It is the same for a child as it is for an adult.  Even more so on the "eyes" portion.  Most children shy away from trying something that looks "new" or "different".  I am just DEEPLY grateful we have crossed the threshold of  the "two bites no matter what" rule with most of the littles here.  Praise to all appropriate beings that it is so......

GF DF Chicken Bacon Garlic Spinach Spicy Penne
1-3 T. garlic infused grapeseed oil
1 T. reserved bacon fat
1.5 lbs. chicken breasts, cook then cut into strips
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1 drop of oregano essential oil
1 drop of thyme essential oil
1 drop of basil essential oil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning (IF YOU DON'T HAVE OILS ONLY!)
5 med. San Marzano or Roma tomatoes, cubed
1 c. blanched spinach (can use drained, frozen if that is what you have! spinach is spinach, folks!)
5 cloves garlic, pressed (if you don't have a press, mince it)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (increase to 2 tsp. if you like heat)
5 or 6 strips of bacon (cooked, drained, and julienned (cut into thin strips) for your long noodle pairing)
1 1/4 c. almond milk
1 1/2 c. almond milk parmesan or mozzarella cheese, grated
1 box gluten free penne, cooked per box instructions
extra grated almond milk cheese for serving, optional
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

In a large skillet, on med-high heat, heat the olive and bacon oils until they crackle well. Toss together in a small bowl the paprika, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper then sprinkle HALF of it on the tops of your chicken breasts.  Add the chicken SEASONED SIDE DOWN to the warm oiled pan and cook on one side on med-high heat for 1 minute. While it is cooking, sprinkle the uncooked sides facing you with the other half of the paprika, sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper mixture. Flip the chicken over, and cook on the other side for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to med-low, flip chicken over again and cook, covered, for several minutes until no longer pink in the center (you'll have to slice it and check...better safe than pukin yer guts out!). Remove chicken from the pan and keep chicken warm by setting it in the microwave or covering it with foil until it has rested at least the same amount of time it took to cook it or until .

To the same pan (with the chicken drippings, etc), add your chopped tomatoes, blanched spinach, pressed/minced garlic, crushed red pepper, 1/3 of the chicken, julienned and HALF of your bacon (already cooked, drained and julienned). Toss everything with tongs in your pan to gently mix it.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook it according to instructions. Drain the pasta of MOST of the water and put it back into the pot you boiled it in.  While it is still warm, drizzle 1 T. of olive oil on the pasta and toss the pasta in the oil...this will prevent it from sticking together as it waits to be added to the sauce.

Add your almond milk and bring pan to a low boil. Only after half and half starts boiling, add grated almond cheese, then immediately to a simmering heat, allowing the cheese to melt and the sauce appears to be thickening and becoming more creamy, it should only take a minute or 2.  Remove sauce from the heat.  Check the flavor, add more sea salt if necessary but leave the decision for more fresh cracked pepper to your dinner guests/family.  NOW is the time to add the essential oils to the sauce.  ONE drop of each oregano, thyme, and basil.  Never boil essential oils it destroys their properties.  Heat does activate them but heating them to a boiling temperature ruins their molecular structure.  If you are too paranoid to add this to the warm sauce, instead mix these three oils with the 1 T. of olive oil that you drizzle on your noodles.  That will surely not ruin the properties of these beautiful oils!  Also....it will make your noodles stand out on their own in the dish rather than them disappearing into the mix.  Your decision!

Add your pasta to the skillet of sauce. Add remaining julienned bacon, season with more salt if necessary. Slice the remaining 2/3 of chicken into thin strips. To serve, top the pasta with chicken strips and grated almond cheese, if desired.

 I'll keep this short and sweet...  It was perfection on a plate!  Veggies, creamy sauce even without any dairy anywhere near the plate, and succulent, wonderfully seasoned chicken with gluten free penne...all the parts of the pyramid covered all in less than 30 minutes!  I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we all did...wasn't a speck left on any plate.  That's quite the success in this household these days.

31 January, 2016

Allergy Free Living....

Last January I became aware of how horribly high the inflammation levels in my body had become when I was coming down off of the prescription percocet I had been on from July 2014 through the month of December.  Yeah, you read that right.  I never knew what Rx percocet withdrawal felt like until I was in the middle of it during the last week of December 2014 going through the first week of the month of January 2015.  HELL.ON.FIRE.

Every single cell in my body was screaming!  This all started on a Tuesday evening.  I was incapacitated.  The Meant to Be's emergency c-section birth is what brought it all about.  A larger than normal opening for an unknown danger that might be lurking inside of my womb...  In the hospital I was on a Dilaudid pump, which in truth...helped VERY little to...not at all.  I asked for heat compresses and that actually seemed to do more than the meds.  Little did I know...my body was already hooked, which was why it wasn't working.  When I went home they tried hydrocodone with little success and, with trepidation on my part (percocet used to loop me six ways to Sunday before I had children...) I consented to trying percocet for pain.  It was a success.  I could function on it and it didn't stop working over time.  That was July...  By September I had been recovering for 12 weeks.  I was sitting in my general practitioners office crying about my back, neck, and head pain.  But, I didn't know THEN what was causing it.  I attributed my pain to my Arnold Chiari Malformation I with Syringomyelia....thinking that having 2 babies back to back just pushed me over the edge from "I can handle this..." to..."My, God, I am dying, aren't I?".  He tried me on tramadol...almost anything he could to avoid percocet.  We discussed the use of Neurontin (originally formulated for BIPOLAR DISORDER...yeah, you read that properly...but also used for epileptics, and now...these days, for chronic, moderate nerve pain) in conjunction with percocet for my pain and moved forward.

I ended up switching providers within the same clinic because they finally agreed with me...with my medical problem list, I needed an internist.  So I got one.  Working with him was one of the best things that happened to me.  A wonderful doctor who is obviously compassionate, but also a man of God.  He prayed with me in my last appointment...for me, my husband, and my children.  For us all to get through this time in my life while I work out the kinks in my health to become strong again.  One of the things that happened at that appointment was he told me that he couldn't give me perocet until the 5th.  The withdrawal that ensued was almost unbearable.  I couldn't function.  Until then, I didn't realize EXACTLY how long I had been on percocet.  That was a Wednesday.  By Saturday I was feeling like drastic measures had to be taken beyond allowing my body to withdrawal from the medicine.  I needed to get my levels of inflammation in check.  NOW!...not later.

I have always known I have had a sensitivity to gluten.  Most of the women in my family do.  I have always known I was lactose intolerant as well.  I tried to mind screw myself into believing that I could eat organic forms of this and that and be fine.  Truth be told...even soy is causing inflammation in my body.  So in ONE day...in ONE minute I decided to go gluten free, dairy free, soy free, refined sugar free (this was easy...I already do that).  Eventually I will try going egg free as well, but while I work through this and get a balanced protein cycle going on, I just have to keep eggs in the mix for now.  They don't seem to be bothering me but I have already noticed...even grass fed beef or bison...I can't do that more than once a week.  My body goes into full revolt and it lands in my tummy like a BRICK.

The results??....well...

On Friday, before this decision, I was at physical therapy and I cried twice during my session about being on withdrawal and wanting to NEVER be on pain meds for life (Arnold Chiari Malformation I, Syringomyelia, Degenerative Disc Disease, arthritic sacrum, and Fibromyalgia) because I can't go through this withdrawal again, etc., etc.  I was a full blown emotional mess.  Fast forward to my physical therapy session the following Monday.  My therapist noticed a difference in me when I walked in the pool door.  I told her what I did on Saturday and that I was also in the process of coming off of the Neurontin (When you don't actually NEED neurontin, it can cause all sorts of wild side effects.  I was having constant numbness and tingling in my left thumb and periodically in my WHOLE left arm.) as of Saturday and I was already getting feeling back in my thumb!  I couldn't believe that part!  I had been complaining to my internist about it for two months.  I halved ONE dose ONE time for ONE day and the feeling came back!  Remarkable.  When that happened, coupled with the results I was already noticing with my gut not pooching out as much from laying off the gluten (intestinal inflammation causes abdominal distention)...I was on my way to getting my body back.  And in good condition!  Fast forward a year....it is now February 2016 tomorrow.

So...how does this relate to this flog site?  Well...if you're willing, you're about to embark on a NEW journey with me.  A journey to see if I can still make FABULOUS food that looks great, smells divine, and is healthy....all while fitting into the mold of excluding most of the known food allergens from the menu.  No gluten, no dairy, no wheat, no refined sugar...and eventually...no eggs.

Wanna come along for the ride?  

Oh good!  I hoped you'd say yes!

One of my primary concerns is my family.  I can be pretty crunchy when I want to be as far as food and sticking to a diet that *I* need to be on, but what about the rest of them...?  Do they suffer from the same allergies?  I tested this out in a variety of ways.  One of the things I was doing was trying to heal my "leaky gut" while eating differently.  Using "IntestiNEW" in the morning and drinking 1 ounce of liquid Aloe Vera in the morning and 1 ounce at night.  I was feeling pretty awesome in just 48 hours.  In fact...my menses that had been non-existent and totally out of whack since the Meant to Be was born was BACK...and NORMAL.  In just 48 hours!  So...all three of our little ones have been ill for quite a spat here.  What if I started giving THEM aloe?  So I did.  The Sweet Pea showed improvement in 48 hours, the Sprout's nose stopped running, and the Meant to Be was markedly improved in just HOURS...according to my Mister.  HE was the one that noticed.  I also rubbed his tootsies down with Ravintsara essential oil, ran it gently down his torso and across the top of his forehead.  In 5 minutes he was breathing much better than he had been.  

Have I ever mentioned that I used therapeutic grade essential oils?  Well, I do.  I have for about 16 years now.


The Sprout had been begging me since we came home from Minnesota to make him more "ginger people".  After "Saturday" happened I wasn't sure what to do...or IF I could do that given the new rules I'd set in place for myself and the health of my family.  I had to dig into my old archives in my brain and unearth the idea of vegan butter...but soy free this time, and delve into the concept of gluten free, wheat free flours...xanthan gum...starches...  *crossed my eyes*  Oy...  But!...my health and my family are worth it...so I'm workin' it.  I will keep you posted on this progress as I find that it can still be called "progress".   I have lost 4 pounds in 5 days.  Remarkable how much weight your body sheds when it is letting go of inflammation and water weight that it was holding onto in order to protect your organs.  Fascinating!

All of that ^^^^^ is how this recipe was born for gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, refined sugar free....Chewy Gingerbread Cookie Cutouts...  I hope you love them...He surely did, and so did everyone else! (Yes, I made these in January lol...so what if Christmas has passed.  My son still acts like next Christmas is just two weeks away, as long as there is a SPECK of snow to be seen on the ground.)

Allergy Free Chewy Gingerbread Cookie Cutouts
3 c. Domata Gluten Free Flour (has the xanthan gum IN it!)
3/4 c. organic dark brown cane sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 T. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks soy free vegan butter (Earth's Balance) or lard
3/4 c. unsulphered molasses
2 T. almond milk
*extra organic cane sugar if pressing instead of cutting out

Mix the flour, salt, soda, and spices in a medium sized bowl with a whisk and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the vegan butter and the sugar.  When it is fluffy, add in the molasses and milk and fully incorporate both into the mixture.  Add in the dry ingredients 1/2 c. at a time until all is incorporated.

Allow the dough to chill for 30 minutes in the freezer OR 3 hours in the fridge.  Both work well.

Preheat your oven to 350 F and line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide your dough in half.  Roll each half out on floured parchment paper.  It doesn't stick very much, but the parchment paper is just extra "insurance" on that score.

Use cut out shapes of your own choosing or....skip rolling out altogether and use a Pampered Chef medium scoop to measure out dough balls.  Mash the bottom of a flat glass into some dough, then dip it in organic cane sugar, then gently press the sugar side down onto the balls of dough.

Bake for 8-11 minutes and allow to rest on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

You can put royal icing on these if you wish....but our Sprout likes them plain the most.   Silly little boy.  I love him so...

I made the mistake of telling him I had fresh baked "Ginger People" in the kitchen when he came home.  There are no photos of the completed product.  In the amount of time it took me to go through his folder (they send it home everyday FILLED with things he made, paperwork for me to sign if there is any, and his take home reader for the night.....), refill his snack box for the next day, and remind him to try to use the potty before he sat down to play with the neighbor girl or watch his Octonauts show on Netflix....the Ginger People were no more.  He didn't eat dinner that night, and I am okay with that.