Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homemade Eggnog

As a child, I never liked eggnog.  We would buy eggnog in a carton from the grocery store, but it was too thick and sweet for my liking.  Now I know, from reading eggnog labels the last couple of years, that I probably didn't like the flavors of high fructose corn syrup and thickeners in store-bought eggnog.  

A few years ago I tried Silknog, an eggnog-flavored soy milk.  It's thinner but still has that nice holiday flavor.  We drank it for a couple of years during the holidays, but in the last year I have learned about many problems surrounding soy.  Soy has a very high phytic acid content, and should only be consumed in moderation and properly fermented.  Good sources of fermented soy include natto, naturally fermented soy sauce, and fermented miso.

This year I have been missing my thinner, eggnog drink.  So I started looking around for a real food version of eggnog using raw milk and cream, raw egg yolks (but no raw egg whites, they have enzyme inhibitors!), wholesome sweeteners like maple syrup and raw honey, and as my friend likes to call them "Christmas spices".  Using this recipe as inspiration, I upped the cream and yolks and made delicious eggnog in my blender!  How easy was it? VERY.

You place all the ingredients in a blender, blend them up, and then pour and serve.  If you have seen the way classic eggnog is made, then you'll be impressed with this method.  In the original recipes you are supposed to separate eggs, whip the whites, whip the cream, fold them in at different times, and so on.  I don't have time to mess with that!  And I don't want to eat the raw white anyway.

So enjoy this quick recipe.  It makes delicious, healthy, homemade eggnog that has that not-too-thick texture.  Even R liked it!  And as R would say: "You can really taste the nog."

Homemade Eggnog
1 cup whole milk (preferably raw and grass-fed)
3/4 cup cream (preferably raw and grass-fed)
4 egg yolks (preferably pastured)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of cloves
pinch of allspice
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup or raw honey (I used syrup)
dash sea salt
Bourbon, rum, cognac, to taste (optional)

1. Place everything in a blender and blend for a minute or so.  Pour into glasses and garnish with another grating of nutmeg, or a stirring stick of cinnamon.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

I got this recipe from here and we had it for dinner a few weeks ago. Delicious (even though I'm not a huge savory pumpkin fan), but I think next time, I'll top the dish off with some crumbled goat cheese and pomegranates.

Also, it's categorized as an appetizer, but it's more like a casserole, so I think I prefer it for dinner.

Chicken and Dumplings

I have been looking for a good chicken and dumpling recipe for years, and this one hits the spot (though, I have to admit, I don't consider this recipe easy to quick like the website says). Nate was very excited about it, and my kids loved it. I've put some changes I'll do next time below in italics.

The Ultimate Chicken and Dumplings
Tyler Florence
Food Network website

Chicken and Stock:
1 (3 to 31/2 pound) whole organic chicken
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
4 to 5 black peppercorns
1 head garlic, split through the equator
2 tablespoons salt

Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings: I think I'll halve this part next time; I had a lot of leftover batter.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped chives
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions I think I'll chop a regular onion and saute it with the carrots, celery and garlic. Nate and I didn't like the pearl onions, though I suspect it's more traditional this way
1/4 cup heavy cream Forgot to put this in but didn't miss it.
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish

For the stock:
Place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour until the chicken is tender. Skim the surface of fat and scum as it cooks. I cooked my chicken in the crock pot using the same ingredients all day until I was ready to make dinner.

When done remove the chicken to a cutting board. Strain the stock and shred the meat into big pieces - the stock will be used for the sauce and the chicken will be folded into it.

For the dumplings:
Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, using a whisk, lightly beat the eggs, chives and buttermilk together; pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold. Mix just until the dough comes together; the batter should be thick and cake-like.

To prepare sauce:
In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the butter and oil. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add frozen peas and pearl onions.

Let sauce simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream.

Fold the reserved shredded chicken into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and garnish with chopped chives before serving.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Joyous Almond Cups

Whenever I make these peanut butter cups I always end up making these Almond Joy-esque cups as well.  I use the same mini cupcake pan, the same spot in the freezer to freeze the two layers, and we end up with two flavors of cups to choose from for a sweet, but nourishing treat.  This recipe is my version after being inspired, as usual, by a recipe from Kimi over at The Nourishing Gourmet.

Even more so than the peanut butter cups, these joyous almond cups have a lot of coconut oil incorporated into the recipe.  Coconut oil has many benefits.  Coconut oil has a lot saturated fat.  But don't fear.  This saturated fat is good for you.  Yes you read that right.  The saturated fat in coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids, 50% of which are the fatty acid lauric acid.  Medium chain fatty acids are more easily digested, reducing strain on the liver, pancreas, and digestive system.  Coconut oil benefits a sluggish thyroid by this same logic: it takes less energy to digest coconut oil, freeing up your thyroid to heal and function better.  Coconut oil helps with energy levels and weight loss.  Coconut oil heals you from the inside out.

So when you wonder why I go through all the trouble of researching coconut oil, finding different kinds of coconut oil, and then incorporating it into my diet despite my lack of love for it's flavor, this is why.  I feel better when I have it in my daily diet.  I know the science behind it and am more than happy to have it's help healing my body.

Now let's get back to the treat part.  I make these either with or without chopped almonds.  Sort in the vein of sometimes feeling like a nut...But when I do add the nuts I make sure they are from my soaked and dehydrated stash.  Soaking nuts overnight in salt water helps neutralize the naturally-occuring enzyme inhibitors present in most nuts.  Then dehydrating them returns them back to their crispy state.  The almonds I used in this recipe were soaked, dehydrated, and then toasted for 20 minutes at 300 degrees just to bring out their flavor a little before I chopped them and added them in.

Joyous Almond Cups
coconut base:
1/2 cup gently melted coconut oil
1/4 cup gently melted raw honey
1 1/4 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup chopped almonds, preferably soaked and dehydrated, then toasted for 20 min. at 300 degrees

chocolate topping:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons raw honey
3/4 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon coffee liqueur

1. Make coconut base: Combine melted coconut oil and raw honey.  Whisk well to combine.  Add shredded coconut and almond extract.  

2. Using a small ice cream scoop, divide among 24 mini cupcake molds.  Sprinkle each one with a little of the chopped almonds, dividing evenly.  Place in the freezer on a level surface for 30 minutes to harden.  

3. In the meantime, make chocolate topping: combine cocoa powder, honey, and coconut oil in a glass bowl set over simmering water.  Whisk until coconut oil is almost completely smooth.  Remove from heat and continue whisking, adding vanilla and coffee liqueur.

4. Remove frozen coconut bases, and spoon a little of the chocolate topping on each cup.  Place back in the freezer for another 30 minutes until frozen and set.  

5. To remove, pop out with a spoon or butter knife immediately after removing from the freezer.  Store in the freezer, or else they will melt.  To eat, I like to remove from the freezer and let sit for a few minutes to soften.  Enjoy with cold, whole raw milk, yum!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Cups

I love these peanut butter cups.  I made them last February for R for Valentine's Day.  I wrote the other day about looking for candy for Christmas at the store, but coming up empty.  Even in my compromising mindset I couldn't find anything that would work.  So I am making a few different candies and confections to help satisfy M's and E's sweet teeth on that magical morning.

But back to the peanut butter cups.  I have tweaked the recipe just a bit.  I watch Ina Garten on the Food Network quite a bit, and on her show Barefoot Contessa she occasionally shows how she tests recipes.  Ever since she explained how chocolate is enhanced by a little bit of coffee I have been paying attention to how she pairs them in different recipes.  She says that you do not end up tasting the coffee, but the chocolate tastes better.

Sometimes she uses leftover brewed coffee, sometimes it's instant coffee or espresso granules, and sometimes it's coffee liqueur.  I have Kahlua, so I have used that recently in any chocolate recipe I make.  I just eyeball between a teaspoon and a tablespoon.  I don't know enough about how they make instant coffee crystals to use them confidently, and I don't brew coffee at home.  (The caffeine affects my adrenals and such.)

Oh, and one last thing: after I use up the natural peanut butter in the jars in my fridge I want to make my own peanut butter.  It's very handy to have peanut butter around, so I think it's worth the trouble to soak peanuts in salt water, dehydrate them and then put them through the food processor.  The point of doing all of that is to avoid the enzyme inhibitors present in peanuts and nuts in general.  The soaking process neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors, helping you to not only digest them better but absorb more nutrients from the nuts.

Peanut Butter Cups
peanut butter base:
3/4 cup natural peanut butter, preferably from soaked and dehydrated peanuts
1/4 cup gently melted coconut oil*
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup chopped nuts, preferably soaked/dehydrated/roasted at a low temperature (300), optional**

chocolate topping:
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coffee liqueur

1. Mix peanut butter and coconut oil together until smooth, using a rubber spatula.  Add honey and vanilla and stir until smooth.  Using a small ice cream scoop, divide among the 24 mini cupcake molds in a mini cupcake pan.  Put into the freezer for 20 minutes or so while you make the chocolate topping.

2. In a glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stir chocolate, honey, vanilla and coffee liqueur with a wooden spoon until almost smooth.  Remove from the pot and set onto a hot pot holder while you continue to stir until completely smooth.

3. Remove mini cupcake pan from freezer and spoon chocolate mixture onto each peanut butter cup, smoothing a little with the back of a spoon.  Place back into the freezer until solid, about 20 minutes or more.

4. Remove with a spoon or butter knife.  They should pop out with a little elbow grease, as long as they are completely solid.  If they mush together at all, put them back into the freezer for a few minutes and try again.  Store in the freezer until you want to eat them.

5. To eat, I like to take a few out and let them rest on a plate for a few minutes to soften.  And, of course, my favorite way to eat them is with a cold glass of whole, raw milk.  Enjoy.

*You can use virgin coconut oil (which will taste like coconut), or expeller-pressed coconut oil (which will have neutral taste).  I prefer the expeller-pressed, but I have tried it both ways and the coconut flavor does work in this recipe.

**(I didn't add these, E can't chew them very well; he choked on a swiped cashew yesterday when I wasn't looking, scary!)