You Can’t Take Miami Out Of The Girl

When I was a little girl, I went on an RV trip with my parents to the western US. It remains one of the best memories I have, and so, not surprisingly, I told my husband years ago that someday I would love to travel with our children and see the country.

At the time, we were living in Israel and had no plans to return to the US, so I thought it was one of those things that just wouldn’t happen. Little did I know that we would not only come back to this country, but also begin a life of traveling and teaching, living “on the road”….well, let’s just say that our God is an awesome one, and that He does in fact give us the desires of our hearts!

We have been back in the Miami area for about 6 months now and are heading out very soon for our second ministry road trip. (You can watch a video about our first one here). I’m trying to soak up as much of that Miami flavor as I can during these last few weeks, including trips to the beach (did you know how refreshing and energizing it can be to go first thing in the morning?) and lots of Latin American and Cuban food. One new addition is Picadillo.

MYBigFatCubanFamily-ClassicCubanPicadilloRecipe-2

Here’s my version. Adapted from the one on My Big Fat Cuban Family

Papi’s Favorite Picadillo Recipe

  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil (for sautéing)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
  • 1 ½ lbs. ground beef
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • ½ tsp. Pepper
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 4 Tbsp. olives, chopped. Original recipe called for green; I used Kalamata
  • 1 small box of dark raisins
  • ½ tsp. Cumin
  • ½ tsp. Oregano

1) Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, green pepper and garlic until the onion is transluscent.

2) Add the ground beef and brown over medium heat.

3) Add the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking until meat is tender and completely cooked through. About 25 minutes.

4) Serve with rice. And tostones. Or maduros. Or a fried egg for breakfast. Good with anything.

5) Makes 6 servings.

 

How do 8 people live full time on the road? Well, you can be sure there will be more posts about that coming up. I’m really excited about our upcoming travel,  but for now, I’m content to enjoy my Miami.

 

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup Recipe

Dont’cha just love having dinner already simmering along waaaay ahead of time? I do. In order to accomplish that, I employ one of my favorite indentured servants, my crockpot. (Ironically, at the time of this posting, my crock pot is out of service. Good thing that this stew can also be made on the stove).
Using a slow cooker is extremely helpful for anyone who just doesn’t want to deal with prepping dinner at the time when that would normally be done. This can be wonderful for those of you who either work outside of the home, or are busy at that time taking children to or from activities. You can throw everything in at breakfast time, turn it on, and walk away. It’s that simple. During the summertime when you want to keep the house cooler, you can even put that cooker outside on your porch, and during the winter it sure helps warm things up. Yummm. I am craving it now.
And at some point when I begin making meal plans ahead of time again like I know is helpful to do, I will definitely plan this one in. Here it is.

The Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz.) pkg. dried green split peas, rinsed
  • 1 cup diced kosher salami or other smoked meat of your choice
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 ribs of celery plus leaves, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tbsp. seasoned salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
  • 1 1/2 qts. hot water

Preparation:

Layer ingredients in slow cooker in the order given; pour in water. Do not stir ingredients. Cover and cook on HIGH 4 to 5 hours or on low 8 to 10 hours until peas are very soft and ham falls off bone. Remove bones and bay leaf. Mash peas to thicken more, if desired. Serve garnished with croutons. Skip the croutons and you can consider it gluten free!  Freezes well. Serves 8.

Challah Recipe

Here it is…one of my most frequently-asked-for recipes. Republished just for you!

When I was growing up, we used to buy our challah from the Publix bakery. (Publix is a supermarket in Florida; I don’t know if they’re around the country)Publix makes a GOOD challah. (They also make great sheet cake)

Yes! I made this beautiful looking challah. Freshly ground whole wheat and delicious!
The name of this bread, “challah” is so due to the word “separate.” A challah has a small amount separated and offered to G-d. I never knew this until I moved to Israel; I always thought that challah was just a yummy egg bread.
Here is the Bible reference:
Numbers 15:17-21 The LORD instructed Moses: 18 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: After you enter the land where I am bringing you, 19 you are to offer a contribution to the LORD when you eat from the food of the land. 20 You are to offer a loaf from your first batch of dough as a contribution; offer it just like a contribution from the threshing floor. 21 Throughout your generations, you are to give the LORD a contribution from the first batch of your dough.

When I learned the importance of using freshly ground flour and started making my own bread, I needed a good challah recipe. I tried variations, but this one has been the best so far.
RECIPE
1 3/4 c water
1/3 c oil
2/3 c honey
1 1/2 tbsp yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, plus another beaten egg set aside for brushing on later (4 eggs total)
7-8 c freshly ground whole wheat flour
1/4-1/2 raisins (optional. But I always use them.)

Combine water, oil, honey and yeast, and 3 eggs. Add half the flour and salt, mix. Add the rest of the flour and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10-15 mins by hand or about 5-6 mins in KitchenAid stand mixer). Let rise till double. Shape, adding raisins if desired. Brush with beaten egg, let rise till double again. Bake at 325F for about 25 mins. Brush again with beaten egg for the last 5 mins of baking.

This recipe makes 2 small loaves (usually a regular 3 braid) or one large (4 or 6 braid).
I have better luck getting it to rise and be big and puffy if I do a large loaf, with a braid using 4 strands. Below is a video showing one way to braid with 6; there are many ways. Do whatever you like and enjoy!
If you want to know more about challah, here is another article and recipe: Challah: The Divine Dough
Shabbat Shalom!

The BEST (non-dairy) Creamy Tomato Soup

Do you like cream of tomato soup? I do! Of course, the best way to make it taste great is by adding lots of CREAM. However, most of us don’t want all those calories, and those of us who want to avoid dairy products also would probably decide to just go ahead and…..skip the creamy-ness.

 

Never Fear, I Have The Solution.

Here it is: A fantastic creamy tomato soup that is basically dairy free!

Here’s the recipe (for a huge batch, halve it for a normal size family)

2 large onions + about 4 cloves garlic, chopped, sauteed in olive oil + 1/2 stick butter till soft and sweet

add 1 large can crushed tomatoes + 1 can tomato paste plus water (dunno how much)

2 cans coconut milk

2 potatoes peeled & cubed

curry powder (amt?)

salt

molasses + some sugar (= brown sugar)

dash of vodka

juice of 2 lemons (added at the end with final seasoning)

Cook till potatoes are soft, then blend solids. Voila! A creamy, delicious tomato soup w/o dairy (other than the butter)

Serve with chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

Of course, add salad and fresh homemade whole wheat bread, and you’ve got yourself a first class meal!

Yes WHEY!!!!

Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet (A footstool or low seat), eating her curds (like cottage cheese) and WHEY.

Why whey? What IS whey?

Whey is the cloudy, yellowish liquid that is leftover after milk is curdled. It’s packed full of protein, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.

It’s really good for you and a total shame that it’s basically seen as a waste (byproduct) from making cheese; most people who have it just throw it away. Too bad.

Although I haven’t made my own cheese yet, I hope to someday (yes, I have dreams of having a goat…or at least access to fresh, raw, cow’s milk), and have heard about this stuff you end up with.  And when we began to enjoy the wonderful products from Beyond Organic, we experienced drinking flavored whey drinks as sports drinks (wonderfully refreshing and replenishing).  Now Beyond Organic has come out with Suero Gold, which is a pure whey beverage, and I did a little research to figure out what I could do with it (besides, of course, drinking it).

I saw this article called 16 Ways to Use Your Whey, which inspired me.

So far, Hubby has used it to make some yummy fermented sour craut, and some soaked almonds which were then seasoned and dehydrated to make crunchy again.

And tonight seemed like a good night for a pancake dinner. Although I usually make these whole wheat pancakes, I figured it was time to try some made with whey. They were great!

I found this recipe for pancakes with whey when I was looking for things to make with my Beyond Organic Suero Gold.

It came from King Arthur brand flour’s website, and here is their article on whey along with the recipe.

Brinna Sands reports that in Iceland whey, known as “mysa,” is sold in quart containers as a thirst quencher. It is actually very refreshing, similar to buttermilk but thinner; if it has been drained from a sweetened skyr, the whey is slightly sweet as well.
In this country, whey has generally been considered a “waste product” of cheese making. Large amounts of it have been “dumped” in waterways, creating general havoc with their ecosystems. But people here have missed the boat with whey, since it has several nutritional benefits that are quite substantial. It contains almost all the calcium found in milk (1 cup contains 1/3 of the calcium you need daily). The flip side of this is that once the whey has been drained from milk, the resulting products, whether yogurt cheese or cottage cheese or other cheese, contain only about 15% of the calcium found in a whole milk product. This doesn’t mean they are nutritionally empty but it does mean that these particular products are not good sources of calcium.

One cup of whey also contains 1/6 of the potassium you need on a daily basis (almost as much as in a banana). This is another reason it functions well as a thirst quencher, particularly for athletes who have an increased need for potassium. And finally, it contains about 25% of the protein, and is fat-free, as well.

The flavor of whey takes a bit of getting used to. If you like buttermilk, you’ll probably find it very pleasant. But it you’re a bit more tentative about it, you can mix it with juice, or flavored carbonated water… or use it in recipes.

Once you use whey in baking, your mind will start spinning with all the places you can substitute it. Its benefits in baking are two-fold. Wherever you might ordinarily have used water, whey is a nutritional plus. And its natural acidity reacts perfectly with baking soda to produce all the leavening (carbon dioxide bubbles) you need.

The reaction of baking soda with whey creates pancakes that are extremely light.

I doubled this recipe for my family of 7.

2 cups  Whole Wheat Flour

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whey
2 large eggs
2 to 4 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

In a smaller bowl, beat together the whey, eggs and vegetable oil.

Blend the liquid ingredients with the dry taking about 20 seconds. (Don’t overdo it. Pan-cake batter is like muffin batter; a light hand in mixing means a light pancake on the plate.)

Cook on a cast iron skillet, if you have one. (Cast iron is the original non-stick cookware. Once it’s seasoned, you need only to grease it very lightly for the first batch of pancakes. It also maintains an even heat so you’re less likely to lose a batch of pancakes through scorching.)

Enjoy!

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

As I recently mentioned, I’m Back in the Baking Game.

And since we moved, I have only replaced my baking sheet, and don’t have any cake or muffin pans, and therefore have only baked cookies or brownies in our baking dish.

And for the past several weeks, I’ve been completely off processed sugar, which unfortunately for my tastebuds means NO CHOCOLATE.

And I want dessert! I want cake! I want something YUMMY!

And, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m Back in the Baking Game.

So, I bought some unsulphured molasses since I’m no longer buying brown sugar (did you know that brown sugar is only white table sugar with some molasses added?) and I like that molasses flavor in some things (like oatmeal), and it came with recipes. Yummy looking recipes.

One of them is called: Old-Fashioned Gingerbread. And so I made it, and it HIT THE SPOT.

Here’s the recipe:

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp flour (whole wheat, of course!)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves (I used nutmeg)

pinch of salt

5 tbsp butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar (I used about half of that in granulated stevia and the rest organic evaporated cane juice)

1 large egg

3/4 cup molasses

3/4 cup cold water

powdered sugar (again, I used granulated stevia)

Heat oven to 350F. Grease an 8×8 cake pan ( I used my cast iron pan, remember: no cake pan).  Sift together the flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and creamy.  Add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until well combined.  Pour the molasses in a slow, steady stream, beating all the while.  Add half of the sifted dry ingredients and mix just until well combined.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  Slowly pour in the cold water and stir until well incorporated.  Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.  Let cool in the pan about one hour before serving.  Cut the cake into squares  and dust with powdered sugar.

I couldn’t wait a full hour.  It’s even better when it’s still a little warm.

Enjoy!

Back in the Baking Game

I’ve found that there are a few types of things in life that people naturally categorize themselves into those who do and those who don’t.

For example: baking. When I was a child, my baking was limited to following directions on a ready-made mix box.  (By the way, did you know you can make your own mixes?)  Anybody who baked “from scratch” was seemingly in a whole different league. So, I did bake, but only from a box.

Then I found out why it is so important to use whole wheat flour, and later still why it should be freshly milled.  Not only did I begin to bake from scratch, but I became someone who did make bread.

Since our move, I have not made any bread until just a few days ago. We sold our grain mill, and with all the stress of everything, it just wasn’t something I prioritized.  However, I’ve finally decided that enough is enough. Even if it isn’t freshly milled, it’s still better than the alternative.

Tonight we’ll have some Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans) soup with freshly made garlic herbed bread.

The soup is simple: take chopped carrot, celery, and onion and saute. Add some water, can of crushed tomato, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and cooked white beans.  If you’d like, add other veggies like: cubed eggplant, cut green beans, peas, sliced mushrooms.  Simmer till yummy and serve over small pasta like macaroni.

And as for the bread, just make this baguette recipe and add some dried herbs into the dough.  I usually add 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp of oregano or basil.

Tastes of Jamaica

When I first met my husband-to-be, we talked of many things.  He spoke of a wonderful, seemingly magical place called Jamaica.  Of course, I’d heard of that popular vacation destination,  but had never been there.  He insisted that it is unlike any other in the world; the people there are genuinely kind and the whole attitude of the island tends toward relaxation, calm, peace, satisfaction, and love.

Sounds pretty good.

After several years of piquing my interest, we finally had an opportunity to go there together.  And although I was only there for 3 days, I indeed saw a tiny glimpse of what he described.  I also had an opportunity to taste some of the local flavors.  My favorite was Ackee with Saltfish for breakfast (yes, even I drank some of the famous Blue Mountain coffee with ‘sweet milk’).  Freshly squeezed orange juice was sold everywhere, sugar cane was to be chewed, and pineapple was to be munched.

And the sunsets….the white sand….the clear water….

Someday, I hope to go back.  And stay for a loooong time.

Meanwhile, we’ll have to be content with bringing some of those flavors to the dinner table.  The Jamaican Rice and Peas (which are not actually “peas” at all but red beans) is one of the simplest dishes I’ve ever made; it’s also inexpensive and healthful. You already know how I feel about beans

These and other recipes which I have not tried I found at this site.

Jamaican Rice and Peas Recipe

3 cups of rice
1 can of tinned or 1 cup of fresh red peas (either kidney beans or pigeon peas) note: I use 2 or 2 1/2 c beans
5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 uncut scotch bonnet pepper (1 jalapeno pepper may be used as a substitute)
3 Scallion (spring onions may be used as a substitute)
1 tin (or one cup) of coconut milk
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (2 teaspoons of dried thyme may be used as a substitute)

Soak beans overnight, rinse, then cook in 7 cups of water with the garlic until cooked through, about 45 mins. Add rice, coconut milk, scallions (crush them-don’t cut), salt, pepper, and thyme.  Simmer till all water is absorbed, about another 45 mins.  Remove hot pepper and scallions, serve, and enjoy!

Of course, you can do this in the crock pot.  Just allow more time, and be ready to add more water if needed.

I usually end up adding a little more salt, and if I want to be fancy-schmanzy, I squeeze on some lime juice, sprinkle some fresh cilantro, and accompany with some mango salsa(healthy) or fried sweet plantains (unhealthy).  Some fresh sliced cucumber goes nicely with it on the side.

And if I really want to go all out, I serve it with Jerk Chicken.  Fantastic combination.

Jerk Chicken

Here’s how to make the sauce:

NOTE: this recipe makes a HUGE amount of sauce. If you don’t mind having lots leftover to store in the fridge for another time, go for it. Otherwise, cut it in half and you’ll still have plenty for 3 or 4 pounds of chicken.

6 sliced scotch bonnet peppers (jalapenos may be used if scotch bonnet peppers are unavailable) NOTE: I’ve made this sauce twice, and have omitted the hot peppers both times with good results. I’ll add some heat after the fact if needed.
2 Tbsp. thyme
2 Tbsp. ground allspice
8 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Medium onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tsp. ground black pepper

1 to 2 Tsp of the following (to taste)
-ground cinnamon
-nutmeg
-ginger

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
Juice of one lime
1 cup orange juice
1 cup white vinegar

Blend it all up, marinade meat overnight, and use some of the rest for basting, and the rest for dipping.  Cook chicken (in pieces) about 1/2 hr on each side.  Enjoy!

Here’s a funny thing: I mentioned Jerk sauce to a friend, and was reminded about the “Jerk Store”.  For all Seinfeld fans, this is for you: Watch this clip (unfortunately, embedding was disabled, or I would have put a player right on here.)

My Newest Kitchen Gadget

I love kitchen gadgets.  And yet, I do show restraint when it comes to acquiring them; I know well how NOT fun it is to have drawers and cabinets that are overflowing with gizmos you use only twice a year (sandwich maker and fondue set) and some which you’ve used….never (deep fryer) but don’t want to let go of just in case you have an A-list guest who simply MUST have fresh, homemade potato chips.

We’ve moved now, and in all my decluttering I DEFINITELY took to heart the concept of owning intentionally. I want to only have things which I will really use (preferably often or in more than one way), and also those which are easy to store or travel with. And if it doesn’t use electricity, that’s an added plus.

I’ve seen these old fashioned mortar and pestles, and always wondered what they were used for and why they were necessary….I mean, if you have a food processor, Vitamix, or even a garlic press, why on earth would you use one of these?

Well, I’ll tell you.  I don’t know.  But I just bought a simple wooden one and I’m excited to use it tonight in the only recipe I have that calls for one: Cuban Black Beans.   It says to crush the garlic with the salt and pepper in this way; I’ve always just chopped it and I’m sure that’s why the dinner has always been only excellent….now it will be FANTASTIC, I’m sure.

In researching now, I see that the wood is highly absorbent, and it might be better to get one made from another substance.  I thought that might be the case, but this one had the right price.  If I really like it and use it, I’ll upgrade.

Here’s a great video of Jamie Oliver teaching how (and why) to use one.  Great info.

But until then, I’m happy to use this one.  I really do like simple, old fashioned things.  Not that I’d give up my high-tech gadgets, mind you.

What’s one of your favorite gadgets (kitchen or otherwise, simple or high tech)?

I am excited to have finally bought myself one of these old fashioned things

Nightshade Foods: Should You Avoid Them?

I recently posted a new favorite soup recipe I found for Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup. I received a comment which asked about eating nightshades, and whether or not they should be avoided.

You may be wondering what a nightshade is and picturing something you put over your eyes to block out the light–I was too.  (By the way, I LOVE my bucky eyeshade. If you need one, I highly recommend it.)

Anyhoo, nightshades are a group of plants called solanaceae (officially) and the potato family (unofficially).  I’m sure you’ve heard of the potato. And I don’t mean the one that looks like this:

Nightshades include the potato, tomato, eggplant, bell pepper, cayenne, tobacco, belladonna, petunia, and others.

Apparently these nightshade foods are rich in alkaloids which affect nerve-muscle function and joint health.  However, usually only people with gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and other joint problems are sensitive to these alkaloids. They may see a reaction after eating these foods.

Many people eat these things with no problems; I feed them to my family and have enjoyed them for years, also with no problems. So, to answer the question: “aren’t nightshades bad for you?” I say NO. They are not bad for ME.

But they might be bad for YOU.

In other words, if you have a bad reaction to nightshade foods, then you should avoid them until you’ve healed and therefore would not have such a reaction.  And yes, I’m saying that even a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis can be healed through proper detoxing and nutrition.  But that’s not the point now.

I want to caution people against what I call “medical mindset logic.”

It goes something like this: A man has high blood cholesterol levels, which are supposedly caused by a high fat diet. The man goes to his medical doctor and is given a prescription for cholesterol-lowering drugs and told to avoid all fatty foods. INCLUDING AVOCADO.

The absurdity of this is that raw avocado, like any other raw fruit or vegetable, is one of the most healthful foods a person could eat. High cholesterol does not come from eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables; animal products and processed foods are the ones to watch out for. Most health authorities now agree that avocado need not  be avoided. But this was actual advice given by a medical doctor to a patient with high cholesterol.

That’s because “medical mindset logic” only seeks to affect symptoms, and not necessarily to find the cause of the problem.  So while a person with gout or rheumatoid arthritis may be affected negatively by certain nightshade foods, that doesn’t mean that the answer is to simply avoid those foods while continuing to take drugs to manage symptoms, and continue this for the rest of her life, assuming there is no other answer.

There is another answer. Get to the bottom of the problem. Detox. See a naturopath. Get your body working properly, and then you won’t need to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to enjoy Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup or Eggplant Torte. You will.

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=62

http://www.suite101.com/content/nightshades-a59252