Category Archives: Recipes

Ghee… Huh, wait, what?

Ghee

Ghee

Ghee [gee] – noun – a kind of liquid butter, used especially in the cooking of India, utilizing butter made from the milk of cows then clarified by boiling.

Ghee, funny name, oh believe me I know.  It’s pronounced with a “g” like gorgeous and that’s exactly what it is.  I originally learned about ghee while following a lightweight backpacking online group.  It’s utilized by backpackers because it is shelf-stable (no refrigeration needed) and so much more flavorful than oil for cooking.  All I knew at this point was that it was Indian butter.

My friend’s son is autistic and was put on “the diet” (gluten, casein, soy & corn free  – with great results I might add).  We were busy looking for new and creative recipes for the family so he wasn’t singled out when I once again saw ghee references. I started looking at you tube videos and recipes online.  Now I’m a very confident cook and always ready to try new things but this was different, Tyler could have ghee but not butter so if I made a mistake I could cause problems for him.  I finally worked up the nerve to make a batch with the help of my former boss, a wonderful woman and dear friend from India who walked me through the process better than a you tube video ever could (thanks again Paulomi!).  Once made, we passed it around and tasted it in absolute awe.  It’s like butter, but so so much better.  Unlike anything we’d ever tasted before.

EatingWell

How do you make ghee?

Truly, you boil the butter.  That’s it. Then you strain it.  (Seems too simple, I don’t get it..)

First you start by putting butter in a good solid bottomed pan.  My daughter gave me an enamel coated Lodge cast iron Dutch oven for Christmas several years ago which is now known as my ghee pot.

Next, the butter.  Well, here’s where it doesn’t matter too much because you’re removing the dairy, as well as the salt.  I am in an area where I can pick up Amish butter at a great price.  If you’re looking for grass-fed only, look for Kerry Gold.  To my knowledge it’s the only grass-fed that’s commercially available.  However, I have stocked up on butter at the grocery when it went on sale and made ghee with it and not noticed a difference in the end result.

When the butter starts to melt it will go from its normal pale yellowish white to a bright yellow and creamy.  Once it comes to a simmer/gentle boil, leave it.  Come back every once in a while (20 minutes or so) and stir it.  I use a plastic pancake turner with a straight edge because it allows me to scrape the bottom to keep the solids from sticking.  I have a wooden paddle but I noticed that it tends to absorb the salt as well as the oils.  You’ll find some people will refer to ghee as clarified butter but that is incorrect.  Clarified butter (or drawn butter) is made at this first stage when the butter first separates but is still that bright yellow.  (Think of what they serve at Red Lobster with your crab legs). As it continues to boil it will become more and more clear and more of an amber color and all the butter.  The batch I have in the picture was boiled for approximately 2 hours.

Time to strain.  I have wire strainer that I set over the bowl from my Kitchen-Aid mixer (in the picture).  I then took my cheesecloth and folded it in quarters and put it in the strainer.  I poured the finished ghee through the cheesecloth to strain out the carbonized dairy solids.  Once it all strained, I then picked up the cheesecloth by the corners (making a pouch) and kept twisting it tight to squeeze out any ghee that was left.  Believe me when I say this step is worth it.  Between the solids and the cheesecloth you should be able to squeeze out several ounces.  As you can see by the picture, there are a lot of dairy solids that come out.  This also contains the casein which is an allergen for some folks, as well as one of the offending items for autistic kids.

Here’s what’s removed from the butter when you turn it into ghee. The dairy is completely carbonized. I strained it through cheesecloth then squeezed out the excess.ghee 2I started with 6 pounds of butter (on sale $2 a pound). The finished result netted me 1 quart jar and 7 eight ounce jars. This lasted us for about 12 weeks.  Put the lids on and put it in the cabinet.  Treat it as you would any other oil.  Just so you’re aware, if your home is cool this may start to solidify and that’s okay, you haven’t done anything wrong making it.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Okay, I made it.  Now what do I do with it?

The question now is what can’t you do with it?  It can be used in any recipe for oil or butter.  Here’s the best part IMO.  Ever get a pan too hot when you’re going to cook something with butter and it burns?  Not with ghee.  All the parts that would burn, you’ve already removed.  You can pan fry your eggs or fish, brush it on bread for a grilled cheese or as toast, drizzle it on broccoli or popcorn… you name it!.  My favorite is to sauté garlic in ghee for a few minutes.  It’ll taste like you roasted it in the oven for an hour!  Put that in some mashed potatoes or cauliflower and you will think you’re in heaven.

There’s benefits too?

Ghee has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine and diet.  It’s believed to lubricate joints, help with mental function (not unlike newly discovered properties of coconut oil), stimulate digestion and even aid in the absorption of herbs and spices from dishes for medicinal benefit.

Try it out and tell me what you think.  I guarantee you’re going to keep it in the house all the time and convert your friends.  Be sure to share this with them too!

Maggie 

 

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BBQ Shrimp and Mango Salad

BBQ Shrimp n Mango salad

This was so simple, it literally took a total of 15 minutes including the prep.  It doesn’t get any easier.  So delicious and you can add or incorporate anything your imagination allows.  You’ll find that I’m a cook that doesn’t follow a lot of recipes, I follow flavors and ideas so even as I write this to share with you, I’m thinking of what I can do next time (add bacon).

 

This was a perfect summer dinner for 2 but is easily multiplied for guests.  It doesn’t heat the house, not heavy but yet very satisfying.

 

Perfect for that night when you really don’t want to cook because it is put together in the same or less time than a frozen pizza or {gasp} hot dogs and a box of mac & cheese and is so much healthier!

 

This would also be a great dinner for company because you’re not spending time in the kitchen while everyone else gets to hang out with a glass of wine.

BBQ Shrimp Salad Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp bacon fat or extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 – 12 oz bag of large shrimp, uncooked, with shells and tails off

  • Fresh spinach

  • 1 ripe mango, diced

  • 1 ripe avocado, diced

  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin

  • 2 oz barbecue sauce, homemade or your favorite bottle**

  • 3-4 oz water, chicken stock or white wine

** This recipe will be gluten free if you need it to be just by watching your BBQ sauce label or making your own.

Shrimp saute

Over medium high heat in a non-stick saute pan, add the bacon fat.  Once it’s hot, add the shrimp.

Toss or stir with a wood spoon to keep from sticking and to cook evenly.

Salad prep

Plate your spinach and as you prep the onion, avocado and mango put them on top of the spinach.

Shrimp add BBQ

Add your BBQ sauce and toss to coat

Shrimp in BBQ

Add your liquid and let it cook for another 2 minutes to cook out any liquor and reduce slightly.  It will be nice and thick.  Divide the shrimp between the two plates, making sure to use a spatula to get every last drop of that sauce out of the pan and drizzle over the shrimp.

Serve and enjoy!  And you thought I was joking when I said this was easy!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  Tell me what you think!

Maggie

Make Ahead French Toast Casserole

 

I absolutely love French toast, but it’s not practical when cooking for one or for a crowd. Here’s the tasty solution you’ve been looking for!

 

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The “technical” term for this dish is a strata, so if you decide to surf for more recipes that’s the term you want to look for.  There are as many variations as your imagination can come up with.

There are a few things I really love about this dish.  One is that it’s easy to put together.  The other is that it can be made ahead.  Perfect for gatherings with sleep over guests or holiday breakfasts because you can make it the day before and stick it in the fridge, then just put it in the oven when you wake up.  

This is also great for “breakfast for dinner” item since you can just make it ahead and pop it in the oven when you get home from work.  By the time you’re settled in and caught up, dinner is ready!

The other bonus is cooking for one.  Remember that you don’t have to live alone to want to cook in single portions.  This makes for a great traveling breakfast to eat at the office, for the kids to fix themselves when you want to sleep in, etc.

For the strata that you’re seeing here, I used:

  • 1 lb breakfast sausage, cooked & crumbled (mild, spicy, maple – your choice)
  • 1 medium apple, diced
  • 1 handful of dried cranberries
  • 6 seedless, crusty rolls, cubed (these were the size of kaiser rolls)
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1-1/2 c milk
  • 1-1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top

 

 

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What you’re seeing is a one pound roll of breakfast sausage that I cooked up, then tossed in diced apples and craisins.  Blueberries are a wonderful addition as well.  Again, the sky’s the limit!

 

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I got a beautiful bag of crusty rolls that were marked down (frugal!)  French toast is always better with sturdier breads or stale bread. When I made this for Thanksgiving breakfast I found a couple of beautiful sourdough loaves that were just wonderful.  

I love this dish for holidays.  You do so much cooking on the holiday that it’s not a good day to skip breakfast but you don’t want to cook anymore than you have to.  I made this the night before, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.  When we got up that morning, I put it in the oven and started my prep.  By the time breakfast was ready, it was time for a break anyway!

 

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If you’ve never had fresh ground nutmeg, you’re truly missing a treat.  What you’re seeing is a whole nutmeg.  They last pretty much forever and only don’t lose potency when they’re kept whole.  What you buy pre-ground at the store, isn’t nearly as flavorful or aromatic as fresh.  If you’re interested in getting one, Amazon has got a great selection to choose from.

 

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After I cubed the bread, I tossed it in with the sausage/fruit mixture.  In the blender I put the eggs, milk and everything else.  You’ll want to have soapy water in the sink to wash your hands when you’re done, truly the best way to mix this is with two hands so you can toss it well without mashing the bread.

You’ll want to mix/toss this a couple of times while letting it rest a few minutes in between so that the egg mixture can be completely absorbed by the bread.

 

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I used a 13×9″ glass baking pan and sprayed it with non-stick cooking spray before putting the mixture into the pan.  Then I gave it a quick spritz over the top and gave it a light sprinkle of cinnamon sugar before baking it at 350°F for an hour.

 

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Once it was completely cooled, I cut it into 12 pieces and put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet so that they weren’t touching.  Once they were firm and I knew they wouldn’t stick together, I put them all in a Ziploc bag and back in the freezer.   When I want a piece for breakfast, I take one out and put it in the microwave for a few minutes.

Everyone’s microwave is different, so play around with the times to see what works best in yours.  When you figure it out, write it on the bag.  If you find you’re getting hard spots when you reheat it, you can prevent that by putting a cup of water in the microwave along with the slice of casserole that you’re reheating.

As I said, your only limit is your imagination.  The only “rule” for a strata is the egg/milk mixture, the bread and how it’s baked.  You can make it sweet or savory.  Consider things like ham, swiss and spinach or bacon, turkey, broccoli and cheddar cheese.

Remember that you can make this as frugal as you want also!  This is a great use for leftover veggies or fruits, leftover meats, etc. along with bread store and mark down rack finds!

And don’t forget, it takes virtually the same time to make two as it does one.  So make two and have one for dinner and portion the other one for easy meals on the go!

I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe when you try it and let me know what variations you come up with so please post a comment!
{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

Powerhouse Breakfast Cookies

When you don’t have time to make breakfast or need an afternoon snack to keep you going, these are the way to go.  No chemical preservative and are also amazing crumbled up with some vanilla yogurt!

Powerhouse Breakfast cookies

Powerhouse Breakfast Cookies

  • 3 1/2 cups quick oats (they are finer cut and more powdery)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups Peanut, Almond or Sunflower seed butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple butter
  • 3 Bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup shelled sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 dried cranberries or raisins (or both)
  • 1/3 Chocolate or carob chips

Mix all ingredients together. Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper.  Flatten the tops slightly as these cookies do not rise or spread when they bake.

Bake at 325 degrees for 15-16 minutes or until slightly browned. Cool completely and store in an airtight container or freeze in a freezer bag.

Back to School Tips & Tricks at Lunchtime

Everyday a mountain of trash is needlessly thrown away at lunchtime, creating environmental problems, health hazards and wasting hundreds of dollars for every family packing a lunch. School trash cans nationwide are overflowing!

Have you thought about going green at lunchtime? ECOlunchbox is an elegant solution to this problem of lunch waste.

With news about the health dangers of plastics growing, green consumers are seeking out non-plastic food containers as well as generally avoiding potentially leachy synthetics when it comes to food packing.

Plastic water bottles. Granola bar plastic packaging. Plastic chip baggies. Plasticized cardboard juice boxes. Cheese stick plastic wrappers. Paper napkins. Plastic yogurt cups. Brown bags. Plastic utensils. Plastic Ziploc baggies.

How to Pack A Waste-Free Lunch:

  1. Cloth napkins by ECOlunchbox are great for everyday and make great gifts
  2. Snacks packed in nifty stainless steel ECOdippers and ECOpods by ECOlunchbox are healthy for people and our planet.
  3. Sandwiches, and other main dishes, fresh fruits and, fresh vegetables, and treats packed in a non-toxic & reusable stainless steel ECOlunchbox bento
  4. Reusable utensils are also great.

Season to Taste

The best part about making your own seasoning blends is that you can truly season them to taste.

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Here’s one of my favorites!

Adobo seasoning:

  • 1 part garlic powder
  • 1 part onion powder
  • 1 part lemon pepper
  • 1 part dried parsley flakes
  • 1 part dried oregano
  • 1/3 part ground cumin
  • 1/2 part finely ground sea salt

Want it saltier?  Add more.  Want less cumin, cut back.  Want it spicy? Add some chili powder or ground dried chipotles.  It’s your taste buds, make them happy!

Try this with tablespoons at first, try it out and see how you like it.  Note the differences you want to make if any, then adjust it. When you get it perfect for you, get a bottle of each seasoning at the dollar store and mix them together and put them in a mason jar or an empty parmesan cheese container!

This is amazing on chicken and fish, works amazing as a dry rub on pork and is even great to put on the table next to the salt & pepper.

Let me know how you like it!

{{hugs}}

Maggie

Italian Fritata

Sometimes you just have to have a little fun with your food!

Framed

First, what’s a frittata you ask?

A frittata is simply an omelet with the ingredients in the eggs rather than wrapping the eggs around the ingredients.  Some folks refer to these as omelets as well, and that’s okay too.

This is one of my favorite breakfasts (or dinners) but I don’t have it too often.  Like most things I cook, I’m either cooking with the intent of using the leftovers for something else or cooking with them.  This is the latter of the two.  Simple frozen ravioli make this egg dish so yummy and different.

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Ingredients:

  • Leftover crumbled Italian sausage, pancetta or bacon (I used bacon this time)
  • 2 eggs per person, scrambled
  • Spinach, fresh or frozen, thawed & squeezed out
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Onions, diced
  • Sweet Bell Peppers, diced
  • Tomato, diced
  • Pesto, about 1/2 tsp per person/3 eggs
  • Shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese
  • Leftover cheese ravioli (approx 2-3 per person), cut in quarters

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  • Balsamic glaze (completely optional)
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This is basically a balsamic reduction, it is sweet and tangy and amazing! It even goes well over ice cream.  I get it at the grocery for $3-$4 a bottle.  You only use a drizzle at a time so it lasts forever.

Directions

  • Prep all your ingredients so that they are handy.  This goes fast and you want everything available at your fingertips.  Turn on your broiler. leave the rack in the middle of the oven.
  • In a large frying pan with a ovenproof handle, cook your bacon/pancetta or reheat your Italian sausage.
  • Retain some of the bacon fat or use olive oil to continue cooking.
  • Over med/high heat add mushrooms, onions and spinach (if fresh), cook till 3-4 minutes.  Onions will be tender and spinach will be completely withered.
  • Add ravioli, spinach (if using frozen), and pesto.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  Mushrooms should be browned and ravioli will start to brown slightly.
  • Toss in peppers and mix well, then pour eggs over.

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Now you can do one of two things… make it into a frittata or a “scrambled omelet”, it’s completely up to you.

  • For a frittata
    • Turn the stove down immediately to low and cover the pan.  When the eggs are set, uncover, top with cheese and put in oven until cheese is melted and eggs are slightly browned.
  • For a “scrambled omelet”
    • Just keep stirring until eggs are cooked through.  Top with cheese, and pop under the broiler to melt the cheese.

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Serving options:

  • Top with diced tomatoes and drizzle with balsamic glaze
  • or serve with a caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes & fresh basil with balsamic vinegar or reduction) on the side.
  • or make a bruschetta with diced tomatoes, minced garlic, minced fresh basil (or a little pesto) and a little olive oil and spoon on top of sliced, toasted, crusty Italian bread. Toss the tomatoes with a little balsamic vinegar or drizzle plated bruschetta with balsamic reduction/glaze.

Framed

 

As with everything, the only limit is your imagination.  Let me know what additions you think up!  Enjoy!

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

Best Tool for the Job Can Save You Money

I am a kitchen gadget fanatic and I’m not ashamed to say it.

Having the right tools in hand can allow you to do many different things.  It’s not enough just to have them though, knowing how to use them properly can make you more efficient and do more tasks that can save you money.  Most people have one of these beauties on their counter these days, more often than not people use it for show and just grab the first thing their hand lands on.

Knife block

Knives are designed with a specific purpose in mind, the blade, the grip, etc are all with your hand in mind while you’re doing the task at hand while giving the right cutting surface for what you’re working on.  For example, a filet knife is thin and flexible for bending so that it can get as close to the fish skin as possible without leaving meat on the skin.  A chef’s knife is a great all-purpose knife with a sharp edge – perfect from slicing the most delicate tomato to chopping carrots.  A great test to check the sharp edge on a knife is to cut a tomato, it should take no pressure at all to pierce the skin.  If you have to saw back & forth it’s time to sharpen your knife.

A bread knife always has a serrated (or toothed edge) blade so it can dig into the crustiest of breads without having to press down or flatten the bread.  A smooth blade can slide across a denser crust forcing you to press down on the knife to begin the cutting.  On the rare occasion I go to a sandwich shop I’m always regretting not bringing a knife and a handy video to demonstrate this.  It never fails, they pull out this beautiful loaf from the oven and then mash it down when they cut it.  It kills me every time.

 

Knife ID

 

I have 5 knives that I use almost daily: a Chef’s knife, a vegetable cleaver/Chinese Chopper, a bread knife, a carving knife (it was my Mom’s and it’s amazingly sharp) and a paring knife.  That’s it.  I have my blade sharpener and I’m ready to go.

If you’re new in the kitchen or just want to see how your skills compare, here’s a video on basic knife skills.

If you watch the cooking shows, you’ll see a lot of great techniques in action.  I’m a huge fan of the ones that explain and educate the audience as they go.  You never know when you’ll pick up something new.  I learned a much better way to remove an avocado pit from Bobby Flay a while back (thanks Bobby!) by giving it a solid whack with my chef’s knife then turning it as if the knife was a screwdriver and the pit is a screw.  Comes right out, every time.

I know, I said about saving money and you’re wondering how, right?

If you’re unfamiliar or just normally don’t shop for these due to the cost, check out the prices of boneless pork chops the next time you go to your grocery store.  They’re sometimes called “America’s Cut” pork chops.

GetImage
“America’s Cut” pork chops

In my area those pork chops average around $5 a pound and rarely if ever go on sale.  Ever wonder where they come from?  Look for whole or half pork tenderloin.  Not those dinky, overpriced little pieces of marinated meat, but the ones that are the size of a baby to a toddler.  Literally.  If you’re unsure, ask the person at the meat counter to show you.  They’ll show you where they live in the meat case or bring one out from the back.

Here’s mine…

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Now, look what I paid for it…

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If you have a Sam’s Club membership, they almost always have full tenderloin around this price per pound.  I’ve never seen them higher than $2.23 a pound.  They’re generally as long as your leg and worth every penny.  Great for stocking your freezer at a great price.

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Out of this tenderloin, I cut 12 hearty 1/2-inch thick chops.  As you can see on the chops in the upper left corner, there is a bit more marbling at the end.  I saved the end, about 3/4 pound, which I’m going to mince up and use for fried rice later on.

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Because it is boneless you can do what you want… chops, roasts, fajita strips.  And you can cut your chops as thin or thick as you prefer or even butterfly them for stuffing.  I will usually alternate between chops and roasts so I have a good rotation of both.  Then put it in Ziploc freezer bags, date & freeze!  If you prefer, you can put marinade right in the bag with the meat saving you time later on (really awesome for fajitas).

Good quality meat, cheaper than what you’d pay for bone in chops and no waste.  This is a frugal win saving $3 per pound on meat and all for the low, low cost of 5 minutes of my time and a sharp knife.  You’re going to eat well and save hundreds of dollars on your annual grocery bill.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie