Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Healthier "Hamburger Helper"

This post is my contribution to the recipe carnival that Katie at Kitchen Stewardship is hosting today. The theme is making a one-dish hamburger helper-style meal with healthy, whole-food ingredients, replacing the original boxed offering with it's long list of unhealthy ingredients. Here is the recipe my family enjoys:

Beefy-Mushroom Skillet

1 lb. ground beef, preferably grass-fed

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 c. beef bone stock

1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms, sauteed until soft

2 tbsp.butter

3 tbsp. whole-wheat flour

3 c. whole-wheat egg noodles

Brown the ground beef until well browned; add onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Drain beef and set aside. In the same pan, melt butter; add flour and stir constantly until a thick roux forms. Add the beef stock, stirring constantly until all flour lumps are gone. Add mushrooms. Add noodles and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until noodles are tender and gravy has thickened. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Super-Simple Salad Dressings

One thing I strongly encourage my family to eat is salad. I love salad, and as luck would have it, my two oldest boys do too! My hubby not so much, although he will occasionally eat an Italian-style chopped salad.

One way I keep salad interesting for my family is by using a wide variety of veggies/fruit/nuts and salad dressings. I prefer to make my own dressings, as the commercial salad dressings in the supermarket are full of undesirable ingreedients such as hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors and dyes.

I've included here a few of my favorite salad dressing recipes:

Classic Italian Salad Dressing (makes about 1/2 quart)

1 c. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 c. fresh lemon juice

3-4 cloves minced garlic

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning mix

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid; secure lid tightly and shake vigorously until well-combined. Store in jar in fridge for up to one month.

Poppyseed Dressing (this is my personal favorite...great on sliced avacado!)

1 c. mayonaise

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, raw with the mother if possible

3 tbsp. dijon mustard

4 tbsp. poppyseeds

1 minced garlic clove

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl; whisk rapidly until well-combined. Stores in the fridge covered for up to two weeks.

Mandarin-Sesame Dressing

2 tbsp. sesame oil

1 c. extra-virgin olive oil

2 minced garlic cloves

2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

juice of 3 small mandarin oranges, roughly 1/4 cup

pinch of ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl; whisk rapidly until well-combined. Best if used immediately.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Preparing Nourishing Food During Seasons of Busyness

These last 2 months have been quite an eye-opening experience for our family! Having two babies so close in age (Henry is 12 months, Ryan 2 months) has definitely been a lesson in time management....more like a crash-course!

These past two months have been a struggle for me in the meal department. I confess that we have eaten more than our fair share of pizza and more take-out than I care to admit! So what's a mom to do when she desperately wants to serve nourishing, whole food to her family, but she is absolutely STRAPPED for time? Here's what I've learned on my personal journey:

1. Let Go of the Guilt! In my perfect world, a warm, nourishing whole-foods meal would grace my table every night, but the reality is that often times I just don't have the time. I have learned to make peace with this by realizing that sometimes my family just needs my attention more than a perfectly healthy meal! I try to make the best of it by making the best of the situation--for example, if we must eat take-out, it certainly won't come from a fast food hamburger chain, but maybe the local Amish restraunt that serves home cooked meals to go. Or I may make an extremely simple meal of scrambled eggs and toast--nothing fancy, but nourishing and I know where the ingreedients came from.

2. I keep a list of quick nourishing meals on hand, as well as having the ingreedients for these quick meals stocked at all times. I start every day with good intentions to follow my meal plan, but as any mother to small children knows, plans can quickly go out the window before the day even begins! Some of my quick and easy go-to meals are breakfast for dinner, potatoes fried in coconut oil with garlic and onion and sliced nitrate-free beef sausage, shrimp or chicken fried rice made with leftover shrimp or chicken from the freezer, peanut butter and jam on sourdough bread or quesadillas with whatever veggies I have on hand, plus refried beans from the freezer and maybe even some meat from the freezer, if I have any.

3. One lifesaver for me in this busy season of my life has been "planned overs"! If I am making easily-doubled recipes such as a meatloaf, soup or casserole, I just double or triple it to make enough for the next night, saving me a night of cooking! Our family is ok with this, as we don't mind eating the same thing two nights in a row, but if your family prefers more variety, you may try saving the extra portion of your "planned overs" meal in the freezer and serving it the next week or for when you have a particularly exhausting day. I call these emergency meals! Just add some fresh bread and a veggie, and your good to go!

These are just a few of the ways I have saved my sanity in this hectic season of my life. Although I know we are not eating 100% perfectly right now, this season will pass and we can get back on track eventually. My babies will only be babies for a short while, so I prefer enjoy them rather than slave away in the kitchen all day! With a little careful planning, it is possible to serve nourishing meals to our families even when busy.

Birthday Boys!

This month saw to milestones for the Vega family, one being Henry's first birthday, and the other being that Ryan turned 2 months old! I can't believe how fast my little ones are growing!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Nourishing, Cold-Weather Meal

Everyone craves comfort food in the winter season--it's warm, filling and of course, comforting! One of our family's favorite comfort food meals is pot roast. Now, before I began to study more about the benefits of a whole, traditional foods diet for my family's health, I prepared my pot roast dinner much the same way as my mother...canned mushroom-beef soup for the gravy, threw the potatoes in with the roast, canned green beans on the side, etc... While there is no doubt that that method of preparation is easy and tastes (more or less) great, I felt it was definitely time to revamp this meal. Here's what I did:

Pot Roast with Root Veggies

1 large beef roast, preferably grass-fed, well-marbled with fat, for making gravy from the drippings

Assorted root veggies, cut into large chunks and scattered around the roast. I used celery, carrots, onions and turnips with excellent results

Salt and Pepper to taste

Place roast in a large roasting pan; scatter root veggies around the roast. Season roast with salt and pepper. Add about 1 1/2 c. water; cover with aluminum foil and roast at 350 degrees for 2 hours, checking after 1 1/2 hours and adding additional water if necessary. Remove from oven; move roast and veggies to seperate serving dishes. Place roast drippings in a small saucepot; bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat and add a slurry of cornstarch/water to thicken into a nice gravy; pour over roast.

To round out our pot roast meal, I serve steamed green beans seasoned with a bit of salt and butter, as well as garlic mashed potatoes with cream, butter and a bit of salt. I feel mashed potatoes are a healthier alternative to plain 'ol potatoes cooked with the roast, as I get to add butter and cream as well as a healthy dose of raw garlic, an added bonus during the winter cold/flue season due to it's antiviral properties. A meal that's both yummy and immune-boosting!