Tag Archives: whole foods

Homemade Nutella (Four Ingredients)

14 May

I meant to do a “regular” recipe post this week. A post with a nice pork loin, some tips for grilled chicken, a pasta salad. Something normal, mainstream, everyday.

But then I made homemade Nutella.

Turns out, it’s incredibly easy to make homemade Nutella. Dangerously easy. Too easy to be good to know. So I’ll say it, right now: I will not be held responsible for any Nutella overdoses as a result of this post (mine or any of yours).

I looked at a variety of recipes online and found quite a lot of variety in terms of how people recreated the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread, so after perusing them for awhile, I decided to pull the best from all and work with what I have and, frankly, kind of wing it.

Without further ado, then, here is what I came up with:

  • 1 bag of chopped, toasted hazelnuts (1/5 cups) — of course, using raw hazelnuts that you toast yourself would be delicious, too, but this is what I had on hand.
  • 1 9 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in a bowl the microwave
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk (or any kind of milk)
  • 1.5 tablespoons vanilla-flavored agave syrup (I might actually slightly reduce this next time. And you could easily substitute maple syrup, or honey. If you use a liquid sweetener like stevia or vanilla extract, definitely use less.)

Process the hazelnuts in a food processor, until they form a nut butter (1-2 minutes). After melting the chocolate, mix it, and all other ingredients into the food processor. Run until just smooth and fully incorporated.

Watch as hazelnut & chocolate become one!

BAM. It’s that simple.

Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little runny when it stops. The Nutella will thicken as it cools and stands, so it’s better to stop the food processor early.

Store in an airtight container, not refrigerated, for up to two weeks. And don’t cut your tongue on the blades when you lick the food processor clean.

Homemade English Muffins

7 May

In my ongoing quest to make as much of my food from scratch as possible, I periodically re-evaluate to check myself — what am I buying and eating from the store that I never thought to attempt to make myself? This is how I figured out how to make my own cheez-its and my own granola bars, among other things.

I bake quite a bit, especially breakfast foods at this point. I tried this delicious cinnamon bread last week. But another breakfast favorite — the English muffin — is one I’d never tried to make, and haven’t actually eaten in quite a while, for this reason. This weekend, I had a big craving, though,  so I gave them a shot.

I used this recipe, which I decided was credible because it came from the Brits themselves, but I converted the measurements for you all, helpfully, below:

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast (1-1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour [I used whole wheat flour, so I made sure to sift it a little extra air]
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
  • cornmeal for dusting

Process:

  1. Combine the butter and sugar in a small sauce pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the milk, stir it and remove it from the heat.  Stir in the yeast and the egg.
  2. Combine the flour and salt in mixing bowl.  Add the milk mixture and stir till it’s all well combined.  Cover and set aside for 1-1/2 hours, or refrigerate overnight (removing it from the fridge an hour before cooking).
  3. Heat a griddle or a skillet over medium heat.  If you’re using rings, butter them.  Stir the dissolved baking powder into the batter.  Dust the griddle or skillet with corn meal.  Scoop-pour about 1/4-cup portions onto the griddle, free form or in rings.  Cook for about seven minutes.  Flip them and continue cooking till done, 7 to 10 more minutes. [Mine were free-form.]
  4. Serve with butter, jam, peanut butter, bacon, eggs, etc!

Eating Less Meat — Kiddie Style

2 May

The other day via Twitter, my friend Lindsey mentioned that her family is trying to eat less meat overall, but having a tough time coming up with recipes that translate well into toddler food. With a growing-like-a-weed nearly-16-month old on their hands, this is a major issue. Gavin needs his protein! So I’ve come  up with a couple of ideas to get them — and anybody else out there with kiddos trying to go meatless every now and then.

Some of these are ideas for how to construct a meal for both adults and toddlers (as a former nanny, I have some experience with this, because I am lazy and don’t like to cook twice at each meal), and others are more veg-centric (which, since I was a vegetarian nanny, I also have some experience with).

1. Eat with Your Hands

This is “think like a toddler” advice. If you can eat it with your hands, chances are good a toddler can eat it. Obviously, anything really tough or crunchy may not work, depending on where your toddler’s teeth development is, but for the most part, anything you can pick up is toddler-edible.

When brainstorming finger foods, really think like a toddler. What do you eat with a utensil that doesn’t really need one? We sometimes forget that all the pieces of a salad, for example, when not drenched in dressing, are finger foods. And how cute would it be to get your toddler obsessed with eating raw spinach leaves, or dried cranberries?

2. Sandwiches & Fritters

Some ideas for great vegetarian recipes that are less flatware centric include sandwiches and fritters (as long as they are served cool enough to handle!). Sandwiches can get pretty gussied up for dinner, going way beyond grilled cheese (though that is also delicious): Cucumber and cream cheese, roasted red pepper and goat cheese, eggs and bacon and gruyere!

I’ve also lately come across lots of yummy veggie fritter recipes that would work similarly. Try these summer corn cakes, mashed potato cakes (a great one for leftovers), or zucchini fritters. You could easily mix in summer squash, carrots, or cabbages into similar recipes, too. Great pick-it-up food that is primarily vegetable, rather than fried grain.

3. Split Your Meals into their Littlest Selves

Toddlers need to eat a lot — but they tend to prefer to do it in more frequent, smaller meals, than we do. So when thinking about what you want to make for dinner, ask yourself what smaller portions you could dole out over the course of cooking, and then eating, to your toddler.

If you have a meat-based dinner, for example, with two or three sides, the little one can snack on tomatoes and avocado cubes while you’re prepping, and then some shredded chicken and tortillas while Mommy and Daddy enjoy their grown-up Chicken & Guacamole Tostadas (probably with a Dos Equis or two…). Pineapple Chicken Satay for you can become pineapple and sugar snap peas for him, with chicken and dipping sauce at dinner.

This allows the grown-ups to get grown-up meals without having to cook something different for Junior — and has the added perk of keeping him occupied while you are cooking!

4. Substitute

You can also take a lot of the meat-based toddler-friendly recipes you may already have in your repetoire and transform them into veggie options with some simply substitutions. Once allergy concerns have passed, tofu is very kid-friendly, as are lentils, seitan, etc. If you’re not big on meat-substitute products, you can also find grain and veggie substitutes, like eggplant in place of meat in Italian recipes like lasagna, or quinoa in place of ground chicken in nuggets.

My very favorite thing about kids — whenever I’m around them — is that they remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. Feeding your young is serious business, but it can also unlock a totally different spirit to our cooking. Enjoy little bites! Eat with your hands! Get messy!

Nothing better than eating with a smile…

What toddler eating advice do you have? Anyone out there raising fully meatless kiddos have some tips I didn’t think of? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

Slow-Cooker Honey Soy Pork Roast

30 Apr

(First, as an aside. I still feel weird calling it a slow cooker, not a crock pot. You can take the girl out of New England…)

Anyway.

Today, I have for you all another delicious, easy, slow-cooker recipe for pork. This may be my first official Pinterest post on We Meat Again, as that is where I found this original recipe for Parmesan Honey Pork Roast, pinned by my dear friend Lindsey, who is the working momma of a growing toddler, and therefore, in need of many quick and easy recipes.

Linds, if you haven’t tried this one yet, you should.

The prep time for this is as simple as mixing up the sauce and tossing it all in the crock pot. 15-20 minutes max, and dinner’s served later that night.

I used a pork tenderloin, about one pound, so I cut back the recipe to scale, and it seemed to work fine. Here are my other suggestions for the recipe:

  • The suggested cook time is 6-7 hours. With the same liquid ratio, at seven hours, my one-pound tenderloin was a bit dry. I might try the shorter end of that time, or keep on warm for the last hour or so. Just make sure to check that the meat is cooked through.
  • This may be the first time I suggest a recipe modification, but … I don’t really get the Parmesan cheese in here. I mean, I love parm, but I felt I could taste it too much in the gravy, and next time, would likely just leave it out and let it become a more tangy, Asian-flavored roast.

  • Speaking of gravy, definitely take the time to make the cooking liquid into a gravy and serve it over mashed potatoes. That was probably my favorite part (though this does need to be done 20 minutes or so before the roast is ready, if you opt for homemade mashers).
  • Also speaking of Asian flavors, I used sesame oil instead of olive oil, and thought that worked really well here.

And there you have it. Another Marissa-tested slow cooker recipe for a yummy-smelling house with little effort. Enjoy!

The Kashi Controversy, Or, Know ALL Your Farmers

27 Apr

A weird new trend is springing up on the internet,  a trend I think of as “viral images.” Not videos. Just single photos that twelve or seventeen of my Facebook friends will post in a 24-hour window. Yesterday’s was the image below, of some Rhode Island grocery store’s sign explaining their decision to stop stocking Kashi.

I promise I’m going to work very hard to make sure the rest of this post doesn’t come off as a lecture. I know a lot of people — you, me, us, the average consumer — may genuinely not be aware of the Kashi-GMO connection, or any of the others that I will detail here. But an organic grocery store just now finding out? Ok, nevermind that.

So I take this as a teachable moment, and the teach is this (in case you don’t feel like reading the rest of the post): All processed food should be treated as suspect.

This doesn’t mean all processed food is bad. But it does mean we need to start changing our definition of “processed.” Most people tend to think that if a food is labeled as organic, natural, containing all-natural ingredients, containing no artificial ingredients, containing whole grains, etc etc etc. then that’s good enough.

But I tend to judge food based on the package it comes in. If you can pick up the ingredient by itself (like a vegetable or piece of fruit) you’re golden. If it’s in a box, a bag, or the freezer section, you should start checking ingredients lists. Sometimes you will find just one or two things — still golden! Frozen fruits and veggies, a bag of plain pita chips, etc.

The real lesson to me, of the Kashi controversy though, is not the length of the ingredients list. The presence of GMO ingredients, as of right now, is not a labelling requirement, so you wouldn’t see those by reading the package. The reason I wasn’t surprised by this revelation from Kashi (aside from knowing about it for some time) is that I know Kashi is owned by Kellogg’s.

Click to view image larger

Yes. Kellogg’s, the 12th largest food processing company in the world. Producer of many fine sugary cereals, currently lobbying against the FDA’s voluntary regulatory guidelines for marketing those same cereal to children Kellogg’s. Kellogg’s, who also, by the way, owns MorningStar and Gardenburger brands.

Like I said, I’m not here to lecture, or to wag my finger and say you should’ve known better.

Because I didn’t used to know either.

Here’s how I wrote about my moment of discovery in The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat:

Boca burger, according to their website, was founded in the 1970s by a chef determined to make the vegetarian hamburger taste good. What the website doesn’t mention is that Boca was acquired in 2000 by Kraft Foods, the largest food processing company in North America. Up until 2007, Kraft was owned by Altria Group—the new and improved name of the public-relations challenged Phillip Morris, USA.

When I started picking away at the corporate connections in the food industry, I began to feel like an internet crazy. The more I dug, the more I convinced myself maybe I was just making mountains out of molehills—maybe I was looking too hard for something not really there. Maybe it didn’t have to be so hard. Maybe I could just turn away, go back to my old, easy vegetarian diet.

Until I read that in 2001, a U.S. jury ordered Philip Morris to pay three billion dollars in damages to a smoker suffering terminal cancer, a landmark legal victory for the anti-tobacco movement. Phillip Morris appealed the decision, but the next week they went out and raised nine billion dollars, by selling just 16 percent of Kraft Foods. Suddenly, my purchase of a Boca Burger, supposedly free from the stains of corporate greed, just went to helping an evil tobacco corporation from sinking into bankruptcy.

The point is: if the all natural brand is owned by the same multinational corporation that makes the mainstream product you are avoiding, you have reason to distrust their ingredients list, their treatment of workers and animals, and their environmental record.

When I said something like this on Facebook yesterday,  my friend Lindsey made a good point in asking what this all actually means. How can we tell which brands are “good” and which are “evil”? Or at least, which to actually buy.

My short answer there, was, half-jokingly: Organic/natural foods are not all made on communal love-farms.

But the good, well-developed answer isn’t that you must simply avoid any and all corporate products. I still buy mayonnaise and pasta that have been industrially-produced. But being aware of the corporate connections and therefore, potential health, safety, and environmental issues for even our “natural” food products is important if for no other reason than it reinforces an emphasis on whole foods, and on foods made with our own hands, as much as possible.

What are your thoughts on the Kashi controversy? Did any of the connections on the chart above surprise you? Do you remember your moment of realization? Leave a comment and share your story with us!

Adventures with an Ingredient: Polenta

23 Apr

Today’s recipe post includes meat, but is really about the base grain ingredient here: polenta. Polenta is a misunderstood and often under-used ingredient, I think, because it requires a certain kind of attention to do it right. I’ll cover some of the basics and then get to the recipe at hand.

First, what is polenta?

Polenta is actually ground cornmeal — just like the stuff you buy to make cornbread, but ground to different consistencies. You can buy polenta either coarsely or finely ground. Coarse ground polenta is a grits-consistency, while fine-ground moves closer to cornmeal, and then to corn flour, with additional grinding.

You can buy polenta in many different forms, too. If dry, you will have to boil the polenta to make it edible. But many stores now sell precooked polenta (usually in a tube) which has already been boiled, and then shaped.

There are two different preparation types for polenta: creamy or solid. This recipe features creamy polenta, so the steps are included, but consists basically of a mashed potato consistency product. (And yes, you can produce creamy polenta from precooked polenta, by adding more liquid and boiling it, or you can just slice it and prepare as baked polenta, below.)

Baked polenta takes creamy polenta and transforms it into a solid by spreading it in a casserole dish (like the kind you’d bake brownie batter in) and either baking or chilling it to harden. From there, you can grill, fry, or slice the polenta into any shape you’d like. Some of my favorite solid polenta recipes include polenta sticks and polenta lasagne.

But I’ve always had textural issues with creamy polenta, so lately I’ve been determined to try a recipe that would make it work for me. When I came across this one for parmesan polenta with spicy sausage, it sounded just right. I thought the chunky sauce would mix well with a flavorful creamy polenta and I wouldn’t mind the mush.

And it worked! I definitely recommend mixing the parmesan into the polenta. It doesn’t have much flavor on its own. I used Italian-flavored pork sausage for the recipe, not the turkey sausage it calls for, but otherwise, stuck to the directions, figuring I could eat the leftovers for lunches this week.

Hopefully this edition of Adventures encouraged you to try something new!

What are your favorite polenta recipes? Leave a comment and share your tips! And as always, if you have any requests for ingredients to see showcased here, ask away!

Baked Chicken Flautas

9 Apr

We’re back! Thanks for your patience over the course of that much-needed hiatus. Look for  site upgrades over the next month, including a full recipe index, and hopefully new design elements, but for now, I hope that new recipes and content will keep you coming back.

This one has the We Meat Again trifecta: easy, healthy, and includes alcohol. I found this recipe for baked chicken and spinach flautas via my latest obsession, Pinterest, and couldn’t resist.

I’m a big fan of Mexican food, and always like trying to find ways to make it at home, for both the sake of my wallet and my waistline. Most restaurant food is deep-fried and includes less-than-traceable meat ingredients, and it’s  been my experience that you can find a way to recreate many of these recipes at home, with ingredients whose sourcing you can trace, and with a healthier spin.

Lauren, over at the Healthy. Delicious. blog found a way to make chicken flautas — by baking, instead of frying. I followed the recipe here almost identically. I left out jalapenos, because I didn’t have any, and added a bit more chili pepper to kick up the spiciness, and used chicken breasts rather than thighs (which are identical, but take a bit longer to poach). I also used white cheddar cheese which worked really well.

These flautas get the crispiness of a fried flauta, with the added perks of eating your greens! Welcome back, We Meat Again!

Mahi Mahi Tacos with Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa

12 Mar

I have been planning to cook and post my reformed Rachel Ray shepherd’s pie recipe for a few weeks now, but the Kansan weather has been too nice for me to want to do much oven-cooking, or to even crave something so hearty. This week, as temperatures soared up into the 70s (!!!) I decided to stop fighting it and embrace the warm.

I defrosted the mahi mahi filet I’ve had in the freezer, and grabbed the chunked fresh pineapple at the grocery store, and went to work finding a recipe to pair the two.

For the fish (I’m sure grilling mahi mahi is best, but it wasn’t an option for me, since I don’t own a grill, so oven-baked was the way to go):

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Coat a glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Arrange fish filets in the dish, and drizzle with about 1/4 cup liquid (I used a mixture of orange juice and lemon juice)
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily

For the salsa, mix all ingredients together in a bowl:

  • 1 cup diced pineapple
  • 1/4 cup diced shallot
  • 1 tbsp chopped jalapeno
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • Black pepper to taste

I also chopped some red cabbage, which I’ve been adoring lately, thinking the fresh, crisp crunch would add some Baja attitude to the fish taco.

I’m  not usually  much of a fish person, despite growing up in New England, and despite knowing how good it is for me. I usually stick with white fish, and I love recipes that toss the fish in with lots of other ingredients. Fish tacos are a great approach, as they really allow the fish to absorb the flavors of all the salsa ingredients.

I could eat these all summer — if it wasn’t March, actually. So enjoy a little taste of the beach, whatever the weather is in your neck of the woods.

How to Make Your Favorite Recipes Healthier

29 Feb

In Monday’s post on how simple it is to make good ol’ tomato mozzarella pizza at home from scratch, I mentioned that I try as much as possible to make my own versions of recipes, in order to keep them healthy. While pizza is a great example of this — delivery from Domino’s being high not only in calories and fat but in processing and preservatives — the truth is, it’s often easy to make even smaller modifications to recipes you already make at home to transform them into healthier alternatives. Here are a few of my favorite ways…

1. Use whole ingredients

I know this seems like a no-brainer here on We*Meat*Again, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get caught up in the “usual routine” of a recipe and never think to make an easy substitution. Instead of a store-bought jar of tomato sauce (which may contain corn syrup, especially if you’re budget conscious) buy a jar of diced tomatoes or some fresh ones and simmer them into your own.

Really think about the ingredients list on your favorite dishes. Use Velveeta in your homemade baked macaroni and cheese? Canned condensed soups for slow cooker casseroles? You’d be surprised what an easy swap actual cheddar cheese or pureed carrots could be. Play around, think about the texture and consistency of the ingredient you’re substituting, and the treatment it will receive in the recipe (heat, melting point, etc.) and brainstorm a whole ingredient that you can reasonably expect to behave the same way. You might even create an interesting new flavor profile!

2. Find smarter substitutes

When these trade-offs work, it’s not only healthy, it’s exhilerating! You can feel proud to have come up with a clever trick to reform your recipe — and most of these substitutions will not dramatically affect the flavor of the recipe (or will do so in a positive way!) Some of my favorites include applesauce, mashed banana or yogurt for eggs , butter or oil (reduce fat, add nutrition!), crushed walnuts or rolled oats for bread crumbs (an easy high-carbohydrate trap), and vinegars in place of salad dressings.

But smarter substitutions don’t all have to be completely off the wall. Trade-offs as simple as milk for heavy cream, or whole wheat flour for bleached white flour make a difference, too. By subtracting an unhealthy ingredient, you often get the chance to add in some extra nutritional benefit.

3. Reduce the fat content

This is really a subset of the above idea. One of my favorite magazines is Cooking Light, and they are a fantastic recipe resource for healthier versions of things. But the strategy the editors and kitchen testers there follow is to avoid substituting ingredients, and instead find ways to reduce fat or calories.

They usually achieve this by reducing the amount of fat ingredients, such as butter or oil, swapping egg whites for eggs and cutting back the amount of sugar in a recipe. And in doing so, they’ve found that most recipes, including those for baked goods, can be made equally as delicious without any “weird” or vegan ingredients, just by including a little less.

For example, you can reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half in most baking recipes, and instead, add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla extract or almond flavoring to boost sweetness.

I tend to prioritize finding other ingredients over using less of an unhealthy ingredient. Partly, this is because I also try to avoid processed foods. I’d rather use cheddar cheese than reduced fat 1/3 all “natural” cheeze product simply because it’s “reduced fat.” I embrace a little fat here and there. But a marriage between tips #2 & #3 can go a long way to overall reforming your diet.

4. Cut out the unnecessary

One of the most flawed aspects of following a recipe you find blindly (especially if that recipe comes from any chef featured on the Food Network) is that you can get caught in a cycle of unnecessary unhealthiness simply because the ingredients make the cooking process a bit easier, a bit fattier in flavor or texture (and therefore more mass-market appealing) or a bit more familiar.

Example: I’m working on reforming a Rachel Ray recipe for shepherd’s pie with a mashed potato/parsnip topping to include buffalo meat. (It’s going to be epic. I promise to post it soon.) But the woman has the following included in the mash: potatoes, parsnips, milk, butter, sour cream AND two whole cups of shredded cheddar cheese.

Now, I have made delicious mashed potatoes many many times, and I can guarantee you don’t need four different ways to make them creamy. In fact, a combination of milk and vegetable stock gets a creamier and flavorful mash pretty easily, and with the least amount of fat possible (and trust me, mashed potatoes are my absolute favorite food). But if you are so freaked out by experimenting with new ingredients, you might just follow the recipe to the letter without questioning such a bizarre overuse of fat.

A few simple steps here and there, and a focus on whole, fresh foods, is an easy way to begin the process of transforming your diet into a whole, healthy, sustainable one. While eating well is a lifestyle commitment, you can take baby steps to get there, and this is a great place to start!

What are your tips and tricks, readers, for transforming the recipes you know and love into better versions of themselves? Leave a comment and share your ideas with the rest of us!

Healthy Homemade Pizza

27 Feb

One of my favorite Michael Pollan Food Rules is “Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you make it yourself.”  I think this rule applies even more broadly than just to junk food. Any food is going to be better for you (and likely better-tasting) than a premade version.  You may have seen my homemade happy meal.

So this weekend, when I had my usual cravings for pizza, I decided to put my mouth where, well, my mouth is, and just make it myself. I had homemade pizza dough in the freezer, fresh mozzarella and canned tomatoes, and that was all I needed.

This pizza has only about ten ingredients:

For the dough:

  • Yeast
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Olive Oil
  • Pinches of salt & sugar

For the topping:

  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic
  • Dried oregano
  • Mozzarella cheese

I used Kim O’Donnel’s basic pizza dough recipe, and roughly her method for making easy from-scratch tomato sauce for the pizza, which is as simple as simmering tomato puree with a little paste to thicken it, along with any herbs and spices of your choice.

You could even use fresh tomatoes and puree them yourself with an immersion blender. I used canned diced tomatoes and half-mashed them while the sauce simmered, because I like a little chunk in my sauce. (While I try to avoid canned products in general (BPA freaks me out), in the cold weather months, for a cooked recipe, I opt for organic canned tomatoes over bland conventional tomatoes flown in from South America. ) Add a handful of slices of fresh mozzarella, and voila!

You’d be hard-pressed to convince me that just ordering from Domino’s is much easier, especially when you take into consideration that the dough and sauce can be made way ahead of time and stored, even frozen. You could also cut down prep time by making your dough hands-off, in a bread machine or stand mixer. Then dinner is as simple as rolling it out, throwing on the toppings and baking.

I know plain old tomato, mozzarella pizza seems like a boring recipe to share, but this is one of those places to make an easy switch in your eating habits. Imagine knowing the ten or so ingredients in your pizza were all fresh, whole foods that fuel your body — rather than a delivery or frozen pizza that leaves you feeling heavy with grease and guilt.

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