Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How do you cook? Part I

I was inspired the other day to do a post on how we cook around here. A friend of mine got rid of their microwave and it reminded me of when we said goodbye to ours. Ironically we did it months before we changed our diet - it was a wonderful blessing that we didn't really see at the time, but looking back I can see it was just one of the wonderful ways that God has helped us to change slowly over time. Definitely there have been a few intense moments where it felt like nothing would fall into place and I was a little overwhelmed with the change - but overall since I prayed and gave it over to God it has been fairly smooth sailing!

Anyway I am digressing from my topic! Give me a little space to write and who knows how many rabbit trails I'll take :)

Okay - the microwave.

We don't have one.

We haven't had one for 2 years.

Why not?
  • it broke.
  • we were broke.

Therefore: No new microwave.

It was mostly my doing. TR really would have gone out and bought a new one. He felt pretty dependent on it. But we really didn't have much money and every part of our budget was stretched thin. Craving a little security, I really didn't want to spend money we didn't have to. I wanted to buy groceries instead. (go figure!)

So we decided to give it a trial period. We would go without until we had the money for a new one - unless we decided that we could get by without it.

And we did.

We got by without it.

At first it was a little challenging. TR had to figure out how to reheat his coffee (which, back then he did multiple times before it was gone!). I had to figure out how to reheat leftovers. I had to learn how to melt chocolate chips and butter (who knew you could use the stove?!) We learned how to quickly defrost buns when TR got called out to work expectantly. I learned to take meat out early so it could defrost before I needed it.

After a while we re-evaluated it and decided that we just didn't need it. In fact - our lives felt better without it.

I can recall a few times going to other peoples homes after we'd been without it for a while and feeling surprised that they were using the microwave. I guess I had forgotten it existed! That's how much I miss it :)

(Look for Part II coming soon with pictures of the different ways we cook now that we don't have a microwave!)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Roasting Coffee

The photos from my bread making were so fun I've been itching to do it again! So here are some pictures of how we roast our coffee beans. When we buy them they are in their raw form - which is green and doesn't look or smell at all like coffee!

In fact I'd bet you'd turn your nose up and walk away if you didn't know that a little heat would transform them into something wonderful :) By now I can hear you asking - why on earth do you buy your coffee beans raw? Isn't it just easier to buy them already roasted and just grind them yourself? Or better yet, buy the pre-ground stuff?

And the answer is . . .

1. We've been buying beans for our whole marriage. TR is the main coffee drinker in our house and he likes to grind them himself for the best flavour.
2. We were buying the PC bags of dark roasted coffee beans, but then they discontinued them and we were on the look out for some new favourite coffee.
3. We've heard and read a lot about the way coffee is exploited and being mis-farmed. How they're tearing out trees and planting big fields. How the workers don't get paid much and the big kahunas are taking all the profits. One day while TR was at the drugstore picking up some other health food we buy there he saw these bags of coffee that were Fair Trade and organic. Something like $11 a small bag - but anything is worth a try once right? It was AMAZING! Super duper wonderful coffee. He loved it so much that he tried to ration it - only to discover that the amazingness wears off after the bags been opened. So then he had the freedom to drink the bag as fast as he could :)
4. Okay - here is the biggest reason. I say all that to say this. We just couldn't go back to the other kinds of coffee. Not only was this Fair trade and organic. It was also really good coffee. But it was expensive. While I was searching for some other food online I came accross a store in E that sells the green beans. They were still fair trade. Still organic. But about half the price of the stuff we were currently buying. So when my sister was heading that way we asked her to pick us up some.

Okay so here is in a nutshell: Fresh roasted coffee tastes better. It's Fair trade and organic. And it's even fun to roast it!

So here are my instructions :)

Pour some beans into a cast iron skillet. It needs to be clean and dry (no oil). Turn the burner on medium heat.

Once they start getting a little brown they need to be slowly stirred constantly. I say slowly because if they escape the pan they are HOT! And it is not fun to put them back in!

After about 11 minutes they are starting to look a lot more like coffee!

Starting to smoke pretty good - although it is hard to tell in the picture . . . A good fan above the oven would be really good right about now!
And since our fan was not working very well . . . we had to open the door! It was so smoky in our house it was crazy! And after a little while it was cold too :)

You can see the smoke a bit in this picture. It smells a little like coffee - but it's not a very pleasant smell at all.

It's been about 19 minutes now - and it is definitely looking like coffee beans! And the smell is getting better too. More like coffee - but still really smoky. The oils are coming out and I can feel it is a little sticky.

The finished product at about 20 minutes. The beans are really hard to roast evenly so some are much darker than the others. It looks like it would taste a little burnt because some of them are even black - but it doesn't. It just tastes wonderful!

While they are roasting there is a little shell that comes off of the beans. It's just little pieces of flakes that need to be removed. Similar maybe to removing the hulls of of oats and wheat. Anyway - we put it in this colander and swirl it around and they fall out of the holes. Right now the beans are really really really hot! You can't hardly touch the sides of the colander!
I just sweep this up with my hand and dump it in the compost :)

And there you have it! Let it cool, then grind and enjoy!

Before and after. Maybe after I've been doing this for a while it won't be quite so exciting . . . but right now I think it's pretty cool! It's so neat to watch it transform! And it actually makes me want to drink coffee!

A few interesting facts:
  • The raw beans are smaller in size. When they're roasted they swell almost double (don't quote me on that - I'm just guessing, I haven't actually measure, just eye balled it :)
  • Our favourite right now is the Nicaraguan. Our least favourite is the Brazilian.
  • Going through all this effort for coffee makes it a real shame to waste any. So I'm looking for ways to keep that from happening. We compost all our used grounds (we were doing that before so it's not really different) I save the leftover coffee to water the houseplants sometimes. We do pour some down the drain as I don't think my houseplants want that much coffee. Right now I'm thinking I'll start freezing the leftover coffee for icecaps next summer.
  • I wrecked a couple of batches when I was trying it. I took it off too soon and TR said it didn't taste very good. I was so scared of burning it! When TR (who has done it a few more times than me) was watching he told me to keep it on way longer than I originally thought!
  • We paid $18.70/kg for the coffee.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hamburger Helper

I actually don't like hamburger helper - it just tastes kinda gross and makes me feel sick afterwards. But a homemade hamburger helper? Now that's actually pretty good! It came to me a few weeks ago when I was making the kids macaroni and cheese that a little meat would make the meal a little better. I love eating it with leftover roast beef but alas we didn't have any. But we did have some cooked ground beef leftover from something else.

So here's my "recipe"

Cooked noodles
Epicures Macaroni and Cheese powder
Butter & whipping cream
Cooked ground beef
Cheese to sprinkle on

Mix together and voila! How easy is that?! Certainly just as easy as the boxed version - but way better :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bread Day!

T0day was bread day. Always a very busy day! I make my bread using organic wheat that grows near here. I buy the grains from the farmer and grind them myself. Usually I make 5 batches of bread but today I made 6. Each batch has 5 cups of flour in it - so today I used 30 cups of flour! Here is the recipe that I am currently using:

Start the grinder. Measure 8 cups of grains into the hopper. (today I did this 3 times)

Sift the flour 3 times. (I remove a lot of the germ and bran as it is hard to digest without sprouting or fermenting (like sourdough) and it just makes my bread really dense)

Measure 2 cups of warm water - pour into bread machine.

Add 2 tsp. of salt.

Add 1 large tablespoon of honey.

Melt coconut oil on the stove. Pour 1/2 cup of melted oil into machine.

Add 5 cups of sifted flour.

Add 1 1/4 tbsp of instant dry yeast.

Put tired baby to bed :)

Once the machine starts mixing put the timer on for 8 minutes. Turn machine off and put into an oiled bowl to rise.

After about an hour punch the dough down and form into loaves or buns.

(this bowl holds three recipes of bread - or 15 cups of flour)

Let rise until doubled - about an hour or so.

Bake at 350 F. 45 minutes for bread. 20 minutes for buns.

Clean up the kitchen - then enjoy :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

When you can't swallow pills

When TR and I were first married he had to have a drink with absolutely EVERYTHING. Nothing could be swallowed without some liquid close by. I would give him a plate of supper and forget the drinks and he would just look at me - "Where's the juice?"

And even with the drink nearby he would still choke. Not often - but enough to be scarey.
I remember driving to the hospital with a little patch of ice scraped off the window, hardly able to see rushing to the hospital because he was choking.

I remember camping - several hours away from any hospitals - and him choking.
Just remembering these moments is enough to bring the fear back.
He has a narrow throat. Has from the time he was just a toddler. He would choke on everything.

Dairy products make it worse and if he stayed off of dairy he wouldn't choke nearly so much. It actually got to the point that he would even eat without a drink nearby! Hurray!

But then it slowly was coming back.

I went on a trip to P.R. with my sisters and while we were there shopping he calls me and says that he is on his way to G.P. because he has a pill stuck in his throat and the hospital at home couldn't do anything about it. Luckily for him it went down shortly after and he didn't have to go. But scarey nonetheless.

A few years after that when he was getting some tests done we found out why he always chokes and why he can still breath even though he is choking.

He has a narrowed throat. Close to his stomach it gets smaller. They call it a hiatus hernia.
Anyway to make a long story shorter this hernia was the reason he was choking. He had his throat stretched a few times, and that does help. But he still can't swallow pills. Even little itty bitty ones that looks so easy to me are hard for him. But with his colitis he needs vitamins. Right now he isn't on any prescription drugs (Praise the Lord!!!!!!!!!!) but without the vitamins he takes he gets sick. So . . . . all of that to say this. He opens the capsules and empties them into orange juice. And then he swallows it in a few big swigs.

I am just so proud of him! His multi-vitamin is awful. It smells gross and it taste even grosser. But he takes it and I just feel so thankful that he does it even though it is hard.

And in case you were curious here is what he takes:
~ Liquid multi-vitamin from Garden of Life
~ Vitamin D from Garden of Life
~ Alfafa - from Solar-Ray
~ Kambucha - from Garden of Life

Friday, January 13, 2012

Honey Mustard Chicken

Okay - so it has been a LONG time! Yikes! But I will try to start adding some ways that we eat healthier on this blog. And I'll start with a re-made recipe!

In the cookbook (Health and Hospitality) it is called Honey Baked Chicken but we always called it
Honey Mustard Chicken

1 3/4 pound chicken, cut up
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp. mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. curry powder

Prepare oven to 350 F. Arrange chicken in shallow pan, skin side up. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.Bake for 1 and 1/4 hours, basting every 15 minutes until nicely brown and tender. Good served with rice.

Growing up this was one of my favourite meals and it still is - but definitely not the healthiest. And not the quickest either. And who has time to baste every 15 minutes? Since we switched over to butter I've used butter in place of margarine - which makes it a little healthier, but expensive. I love the sauce so I often double or triple the sauce and that adds up to a lot of butter. So I decided to try to substitute it again and it worked great! I couldn't even tell! And I felt much better eating it knowing that I wasn't just spooning butter into my mouth :) I tripled the recipe, so I will give you those amounts:

1 cup honey
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup homemade chicken broth (or store bought if that's what you have)
Canned Chicken with all bones removed (I used my homemade canned chicken, but even leftover cooked chicken would work great!)
6 large squirts of mustard
1 tsp salt (I don't like adding too much salt so I often do less than it calls for)
3/4 tsp curry. (I like the curry taste but find that the amount of the original recipe is a little strong for our family's tastes)
Turmeric powder mixed in olive oil (turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory and very healthy. It's taste is not very strong and we couldn't even tell I had added it. I maybe did 1/2 tsp or so. The olive oil stabilizes it and your body gets more from the turmeric that way.)
Black pepper

It was great! If I hadn't said anything TR would not have even known and I hadn't done it myself I never would have known either!