Seed and Nut Cracker (grain free)

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Seed or nut based crackers are yummy I daresay even addictive. But the price for a girl on a tight budget, is rather prohibitive… 🙁 So after tinkering in my kitchen (batch one and two shown here) batch 3 was the winner, hands down.

imagebatch one & two

You can make them square or round, depending on your preference. Square is a bit less work, but takes a little longer to get to that perfect crunchy state. For either one, flatten or roll out on the prepared cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicon baking mat, that’s how I made them, if you don’t have one of those, at least use baking parchment) by covering with wax paper and rolling out, then peeling the paper layer gingerly from the top.

imagethe only downside? You could always eat more than there are left…

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 3 tbsp sun flower seeds, divided
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds (flax meal)
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds, natural not blanched
  • 1/4 cup quinoa flakes
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
  •  1 tbsp flax seeds, whole (golden or brown)
  • 1 tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F
  2. Prepare baking sheet (if you are making these round, it will make two cookie sheets) by lining it with a silicone baking mat
  3. In a blender or a mini food processor, combine the cashew and 1 tbsp sun flower seeds, blend until it forms a coarse meal
  4. Add ground almonds, flax meal, and quinoa flakes and pulse until combined
  5. Add the water and salt, blend until well mixed
  6. If you have enough space in your mini processor, add the remaining ingredients and pulse 2-3 times, until mixed but not chopped.
  7. Round: drop onto prepared cookie sheet, 1 level teaspoon at a time, distancing about 1 12/” to 2″ apart, cover with waxpaper and roll out until less than 1/8″ thick, basically as thin as you can get it.
  8. Square: Scrape or drop dough onto cookie sheet, spread out, then cover with wax paper, and roll out super thin, (less than 1/8″ thick)
  9. Bake 30 minutes in the middle of the preheated oven, or until no longer soft and pliable. then finish baking another 5 minutes on the bottom rack
  10. Let cool before crunching away!

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Chocolate Coconut Rounds

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There they were, sitting timid in the middle of my fruit basket trying to pretend they were not there. Overripe bananas, like the poor step child in an old fairy tale. Since I only like to eat them when they are still a little green, these brown things in my fruit basket are definitely not my thing. But over time I have come up with various ways to use them up, using them for smoothies, pancakes or baking, after all they do provide a great source of natural sweetness without adding sugar. And yes, I have to admit before I did that, sometimes they would get thrown out. So that’s why they are scared. But fret not bananas, I have something yummy to turn you into 🙂

What do you do with your past prime bananas? Any favorites?

This recipe is grain and sugar free, the only sweetness comes from the banana, so it isn’t your traditional cookie, if you like things sweet, you might want to add 1/4 cup of sugar or some stevia. These are more like a piece of 70% cocoa chocolate, flavorful but just subtly sweet.

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And without further ado here is how to make them:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup egg whites (about 4)
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
  • 2 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup ground almonds, natural not blanched
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup almond butter (cashew butter or other nut butter would work as well)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 dash of salt

Directions

  1. Combine shredded coconut, ground almonds, coconut flour and cocoa powder in a bowl
  2. Add the mashed bananas
  3. Melt the coconut oil together with the almond butter and stir until smooth, add to bowl
  4. Add the egg whites
  5. Mix until everything is fully incorporated
  6. Divide dough into two portions and between wax paper, work each one into a roll of about 1 1/2” to 2″ diameter.
  7. Place in the freezer for about 1 hour or until nice and solid.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  9. Remove one roll from the freezer, and slice into rounds 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick, place ona  lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  10. In  the meantime, repeat the same with the other roll.
  11. Let the rounds cool down on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Kale Mushroom and Meatball Skillet

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The darker the green the more nutritious a plant is, we have all heard that. And as far as color goes, you can’t get much darker than kale. Now for many this is sort of a strange new vegetable. Your Mom never made it unless you happen to be from Northern Europe or maybe Italy. If you grow it in your own garden and it’s young, it can be eaten raw on a salad. But this time of year and coming from the store, the leaves are more made for cooking. Here I made mushrooms and chicken meatballs to round out the meal. All done and only one pot to clean. I am including a simple meatball recipe, but I have also made this using ready made chicken sausage from Carl, my favorite poultry guy at the farmers market.
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The true advantage of using sausage is it comes on its own ‘keep your hands mostly clean’ dispenser 😉 just squeeze off a portion and ‘dispense’ into the pan, one meatball at a time, kinda like squeezing toothpaste. (If you go with sausage, make sure you know what is in them, as sausage can be an excuse to use up whatever is on hand… The ones I get are awesome, made from skinless chicken breast meat, spinach, feta and some salt, that’s it! )

imageleftovers, ready to take to work

Serves 2 hungry mouths

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 lb of chicken breast, ground (or sausage)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup baby spinach, lightly packed,
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed mushrooms, chopped ( I had shiitake and maitake that needed to be used)
  • 2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. To make the meat balls:
  2. Mix ground chicken, chopped spinach and crumbled feta in a bowl, and form into ping-pong ball sized meat balls. If you wet your hand a little, the whole thing sticks less. (If you are using sausage, skip this step)
  3. Clean and wash the kale, then separate the leaves from the tough stems. I usually rip the leaf off, or even strip it off the stem by pulling the stem through between thumb and index finger. Or you can use a knife. Cut or tear into pieces
  4. Heat a little oil in a skillet, add the chopped mushrooms and saute until lightly brown.
  5. Add the meatballs, cook until browned on one side.
  6. Pile the kale on top, all of it (if it looks like it is going to come out of the pan, just add half, wait for it to cook down a bit, then add the rest), add 1/2 cup if water, place (or balance, if there’s a mountain in your pan) a lid on top and allow to cook covered.
  7. After 5 minutes, check to see if there is still any water left, if not, add a little more. Cook until the kale is tender and the meatballs are cooked through.
  8. Add apple cider vinegar, toss and cook another 2 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Pennsylvania Dutch Fasnachts

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Since today is ‘Mardi Gras’ the day before Ash Wednesday, traditionally the Pennsylvania Dutch (which are descendants of German and German speaking Swiss settlers to this area: Dutch comes from the German word for German: Deutsch) eat fried pastries called Fasnachts. It’s a free form donut type treat, that was traditionally made to use up the sugar and lard before Lent and fasting started. And since Judy told me all about how to recognize a real ‘Fasnacht’ and how to distinguish them from all the impostures (for one, don’t trust the ones at the grocery store, they are not real unless they are made with POTATO)

Having lived in PA, albeit not in Dutch country for the last 12 years, it is about time to have one of those. And today is the day. So I scoured the internet for recipes and came up with one that seems authentic enough to me. I decided to give it a whirl myself and see if I can’t make some that would stand up to the scrutiny of my dear ‘Dutchies’. After all, I am from Switzerland, I speak German, so… Looks like that might give me some points towards credentials to make these 😉

Recipe from: bellaonline

I did make my own adjustments, some to return the recipe to a more authentic state (like using lard instead of Crisco) others since the modern kitchen is a bit different and I often find, that older recipes need less liquid in today’s kitchen. I am guessing this might be because back in the day, most houses would be heated with wood, and wood heat is very dry, the flour people would have used would have been drier, and during the rising time, the drier air would have affected everything as well. I think next time I would use 1/2 cup less milk to start and see how that goes. In this recipe I ended up using a whole cup more flour, and even this way, the dough was very sticky and hard to manage. I ended up making Fasnachts (or Fastnachts, translates to ‘fasting night’ or more accurately here, the night before the fast/lent) from about half the dough, turning the rest into baked concoctions.

imageas you can see, the dough is very soft and cutting it into squares, was a bit of a challenge

imageafter that the pieces got to rest and rise, here ready for frying (Note: the recipe suggest to put them on wax paper, which I did. The result? The whole thing sticks, I think next time I will not use wax paper ever again. Floured cookie sheet might work better…

imagesome leftover dough pieces getting fried…

imagethe finished product, here I tossed some in sugar, left some plain. They are also delicious with cinnamon and sugar, but I hear traditionally, some folks cut them in half and butter or syrup them up. Yes, you heard right, syrup 🙂 I don’t think I’d survive that much sugar, but by all means, go try it.

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imagethey end up pretty airy, I think the recipe could easily get away with less yeast. But they are delicious! Now off to the office to have them authenticated by the experts 😉

imageIngredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (no salt, milk, or butter added)
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 stick margarine, softened
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 6-1/2 cups flour (divided, 2 cups + 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 can (3 pounds) Crisco® or similar vegetable shortening for frying  (to make them really traditional, you have to use lard)

Directions

To make the mashed potatoes, either peel and boil or steam, cool and then peel. Mash with a fork. In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk with the mashed potatoes.

Add 1/2 cup sugar plus the margarine. Mix with an electric mixer at low speed. If the mixture is still warm, cool to about room temperature before proceeding with next step. – Dissolve the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in barely warm water. Add to the potato mixture and mix well. Add 2 cups flour and mix again. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 25 minutes.

Add the lightly beaten egg and salt to the mixture. Add 4-1/2 cups flour, stirring it into the mixture with a large spoon. Turn onto a well floured board and knead for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add a small amount of extra flour if necessary so the dough can be handled without sticking to your fingers. Grease a large bowl. Place the dough in the greased bowl. Cover with a thin towel, and let rise in a warm, draft free place for about 2 hours or until it is at least double in size.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough 3/4″ thick. You can use a doughnut cutter to cut the dough or cut as typical Fastnachts – Cut the dough into 3″ to 4″ wide strips, then cut the strips into 3″ to 4″ pieces. To allow the center of Fastnacht to fry completely, cut a small slit in the center of each piece, using a sharp paring knife. Arrange the pieces of dough, about 1-1/2″ to 2″ apart, on large wax paper lined trays. Cover each tray with a thin towel. Place the trays in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough pieces have raised to about double in size. (In the picture on the right, the dough has raised sufficiently and the doughnuts are ready to fry.)

Heat the shortening lard to 365º. Be very careful adding the Fasnachts to the oil, lower gently on a wire spoon, do not drop in the oil, it will splatter and can burn you very badly. Deep fry until both sides are golden brown, turning one time. Drain on white paper towels. Cool completely before serving. Store in a covered, airtight container.

Makes about 20 to 24 Fastnachts, depending on size. 

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Lazy ‘South of the Border’ Soup

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You’re wondering on the lazy part here? Well it all started out with me not feeling like doing much but having to eat like everybody else. So from what I had on hand, I concocted a soup, and here is the real lazy part about it: using up half a jar of tomato sauce that was leftover from a ‘quick-take-to-a-friends-house-Lasagna’. Even I, who make most everything from scratch, (often including tomato sauce) do have some jars of good store bought sauce on hand. A word of caution here: Read the labels, I never buy any jarred sauces with sugar or cornstarch or vegetable protein or really anything other than what you would put in it at home. Lets face it, when is the last time you reached for that soy isolate or sprinkled some monosodium glutamate on your food? Alright then, you might not want to eat that I am guessing. I am even weary of ‘spices’ as they can legally stick all kinds of stuff in there under that label, but I am getting off the subject here.

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Where were we? Lazy, oh yes, so I made a soup for a cold winter day when the soul is longing for some sunshine but you really don’t want to put a lot of thought or energy into the food making process…

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I added spices and peppers, eggplant and cumin, and I had a name picked out and everything! Life was great. Until I bit myself eating the soup three (yes, 3) times!!?  Montezuma apparently misunderstood the title, I mean it was in English and all…          ‘Lazy Mexican-soup‘ there, happy?

Well I do have to say, I ate all the rest of the soup and no more biting myself…

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 1/2 medium eggplant, cut into cubes
  • 1 lb campari tomatoes (they are about ping-pong ball sized), quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (optional: roasted)
  • 1/2  a jar Marinara (Spaghetti) Sauce (about 12oz)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds, whole
  • 1 tsp marjoram, dried
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tsp chili powder, medium or hot, depending on taste
  • 2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 qts plain beef stock (for vegetarian option, use vegetable broth)

Directions

  1. If you are roasting the red pepper: Spread the peppers on a line baking sheet and roast in a 400°F oven until blackened in spots. (You can do this alongside other vegetables, like while making the cumin roasted carrots) or alternately, place under the broiler with the door ajar until some brown spots appear.
  2. Add some oil to a large stockpot, add the diced onion, stir and then cook until softened and browned in parts.
  3. Add the celery, eggplant and cumin to the pot. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, pepper and all the spices. Stir and wait about 1 minute until adding the broth so the spices have toast a bit and time to release their flavor.
  4. Add the Marinara Sauce and bring to a boil.
  5. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Enjoy!
See? It doesn’t get much easier, lazier or cheaper than that!

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Chicken à la moutarde

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Part III of the series: Chicken for every day of the week!

Chicken à la moutarde (chicken with creamy mustard sauce)

A staple in French kitchens and served all over Europe is mustard sauce, or Dijon sauce. A creamy flavorful sauce usually served with chicken or rabbit. And as fancy as it sounds, my version here be made very simply and even better, quickly. I used home made white wine mustard, (yes I’ll do a post on that soon) but any Dijon style mustard would work. I generally like to have both a creamy and a whole grain version on hand, but this sauce works well with just the smooth style as well.

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Ingredients

  • 1 boneless chicken breast half, pounded flat between two sheets of cling wrap
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp mustard, divided
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or water)
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions

  1. Rub the chicken breast all over with 1 tbsp of mustard (I like to use the old fashioned kind for this)
  2. In a shallow dish combine the flour with 1 tsp salt and dredge the chicken breast until covered in a thin layer of flour. Season with pepper and thyme.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet, then add the chicken and cook undisturbed until the edges start to look cooked and the bottom is browned. Turn the chicken breast and cook until cooked through.
  4. Add the wine to the pan, gently stir to loosen up any browned bits. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside, keeping it warm.
  5. Mix the additional tablespoon of mustard with a tablespoon flour until a paste forms, add to the pan, and add the milk.
  6. Stir to dissolve any pieces of flour and mustard and bring sauce to a boil, simmer until sauce thickens, and serve over chicken

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Cumin Roasted Carrots

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I have to admit I was addicted to this recipe for a while last year. Yep, ‘Addictive veggies’, who would have thought? Somehow the way the coarse salt flakes make the cumin taste on those carrots is just beyond description. You have to try it to believe it, but around here, I always make extra so I have leftovers.

And it’s so easy, in fact it only takes 4 ingredients, including the carrots!

I love to bake and roasting is, uhm, almost like baking. Riiight, you’re saying. Well maybe it’s a bit wishful thinking. I have been going sugar and grain free for a while, that sorta limits the baking. One thing you start noticing is your taste buds rejuvenate and become more sensitive. You will be able to taste the natural sweetness in carrots or beets for example, or even milk. It’s quite astonishing how dulled our senses have become to sugar, (read a 1996 study on sugar preference and consumption  between rural and urban population groups in Iraq) apparently the more sugar you eat, the duller your senses become to it and the more you need over time. Works kinda like drugs that way, a  bit scary, ain’t it? But I digress. The roasted carrots are a must try, even if you’re not a big carrot fan, roasting them caramelizes the sugars and renders them sweeter. Part of why roasted carrots have a higher glycemic index than raw or even steamed carrots.

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb Carrots (about), cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse flake salt (such as french grey sea salt, or fleur du sel)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 380°F
  2. In a bowl, drizzle the carrot pieces with the 2 tbsp olive oil, and toss to coat. (Trust me, you don’t want to skip this step and just drizzle them on the baking sheet, won’t work, I tried, take it from a cumin roasted carrot addict), then add the cumin seeds.
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (easy clean up makes me happy)
  4. Transfer the carrots to the baking sheet, making sure you scrape out all the cumin seeds. Sprinkle with the salt and place in the preheated oven
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your carrots and the desired softness. (Mine usually are perfect after 40)
What’s your favorite vegetable to roast?

Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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It snowed yesterday. Not much really, but steady from about 1 o’clock until 11pm. And what does one want to do when snow is falling? Eat stuff that makes us feel warm. Like yummy roasted vegetables. Granted it wasn’t all that cold, but roasting vegetables never needs much convincing in the form of good reasons, sooo…

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Roasted vegetables it was, and soup, and more roasted vegetables 🙂 Ahhh, the way the heat of an oven transforms simple, lowly vegetables into something so utterly delicious, it almost melts in your mouth!

imageSee the snow?

Ingredients

  •  1 lb Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and cut in half
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp flake salt (fleur de sel, french grey sea salt or kosher)
  • 2 tsp zahtar seasoning (Middle Eastern spice blend, or you could add a sprinkle of lemon juice, sesame seeds and some thyme)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 380°F
  2. In a large bowl, toss the cut Brussels sprouts with the oil until evenly coated
  3. Transfer to foil lined baking sheet (easy clean up), sprinkle with salt, and zatar seasoning.
  4. Roast for about 30 -35 minutes, or until tender and browned in spots. Stirring once halfway through.

Other great things to do with Brussels Sprouts:

And next I made some roasted carrots. I mean why stop, when we’re having so much fun??

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

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What to take for lunch? Since most of us here don’t get to go home and have a home cooked meal, and PB&J really isn’t a healthy option (I can hear you all scream right now), take out and fast food… well I don’t think I need to go into detail on that (no, salad from McDonald’s isn’t health food either). I got the idea to add pomegranate seed to a spinach salad from a local Mediterranean deli. But at a whopping $4 for a small container, what’s a girl on a tight budget supposed to do? You got it, try to make a similar concotion myself! And let me tell you, the flavor combination it amazing, it’s definitely a winner!

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So here is a fun and yummy winter lunch box salad that would be a great side for the chicken with pepper and mushrooms, or add some fromage blanc to make it a light lunch, like I did the other day. No good picture exists to proof that, was too good, didn’t stick around long enough 🙂 And, please, don’t use just any dressing, make your own it will be infinitely better, I will of course give you one that will fit this salad perfectly!

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Spinach  and Pomegranate Salad with Pine Nuts

Serves 4

* to get the seeds out of a pomegranate, cut in half and gently pry the seeds out of the white flesh/lining using your fingertips. I usually do this over the sink in a colander. Careful with the splatters if you pop a seed, it’s highly staining. Totally worth the effort.

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved