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Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

21 Jun

Mushrooms and Onions

Last week, I decided that I wanted to make my mom’s amazing chicken enchilada recipe (don’t worry, I’ll be posting it soon). I also decided to get crazy and make it 100% real food, which meant that I needed to make my own cream of mushroom soup (the sauce for the enchiladas is a combination of sour cream and cream of mushroom soup–it’s amazing).

While making soup from scratch for use in another recipe is not exactly the fastest thing to do, it was amazingly easy. I made it the night before and just set aside what I needed for the enchilada recipe, freezing ready-to-use portions of the rest of the soup. Now, the next time I want to make enchiladas, I’ll already have the soup and I’ll be avoiding all the MSG, Soy Protein Concentrate, and other fun things hiding in the Campbell’s variety.

Oh, and the soup itself tastes great–so by all means, enjoy it on its own!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients

• 5 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (about two 8 oz. packages of pre-sliced mushrooms)
• 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (homemade bone broth is the best)
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon cooking sherry

In a large heavy saucepan, cook mushrooms in the broth with onion and thyme until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Puree the mixture, leaving some chunks of vegetable in it. I used my immersion blender (thanks Mom!) but you can also use a regular blender or food processor. Set aside.

In the saucepan (I actually used another, smaller saucepan), melt the butter and whisk in the flour until smooth. Add the salt, pepper, cream, vegetable puree and cooking sherry. Stirring constantly, bring soup to a boil and cook until thickened. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Stay tuned for the Chicken Enchilada recipe on Wednesday!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Real Food Wednesday: Kitchen Staple – Honey

19 May

For my next few Real Food Wednesday posts, I’m going to be focusing on some of my favorite real food staples. These are some of my kitchen standbys that give me the best value for my real food dollars.

First up? Honey.

Honey

Mmm. I have a sudden desire to bake bread, just so I can smother a hot piece of it in this stuff.

Yes, for the record, sugar and all of its relatives are definitely members of the to-be-had-in-moderation group (look for a post on this in the future). Sugar is in nearly every processed/restaurant/fast food these days, and is one of the biggest culprits in this generation’s health problems. When you’re going to go sweet, it’s best to use a natural, unprocessed sweetener (in moderation). Bypass the white sugar and head for raw honey.

Honey is one of the original traditional foods. Ancient Egyptian paintings show the beekeepers in action while their writings talk about methods of harvesting and caring for bee hives.  The Bible mentions honey in numerous places, speaking of the Promised Land as “the land of milk and honey.”

Ancient Honey

Bees create honey so that they will have a source of food in cold weather, or when their access to food sources is limited. They travel for miles to collect the nectar of flowers and bring it back to their hives to store. This nectar is turned into honey through evaporation: the hive’s warm atmosphere reduces the liquid down until it is thick and sticky.

Since the bees ingest (and digest) the nectar before bringing it back to their hives, honey is easier to digest than other sweeteners. Its enzymes also help your body break down carbohydrates when honey is eaten with bread or oatmeal. Honey also contains traces of protein-rich plant and flower pollen, as well as propolis (the resinous mixture that is used as a sealant for open spaces in the hive).

Bee Collecting Pollen

Honey increases the antioxidant activity of plasma, helping guard against oxidative stress and enhancing the antioxidant defense system in healthy adults (honey should not be given to infants under 12 months old because their digestive system is not fully developed to process it). The pollen in honey has been shown to help with allergy relief, detoxification and anti-cancer properties.

It’s also a great way to naturally sooth a sore throat or cough, and has been shown to be just as effective as cough medicines (without all the chemical side effects). This is especially helpful for parents, since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent recommendation that cough and cold medicines not be given to children under 6 years old. A teaspoon before bed can revitalize your throat for the night, or try drizzling it in a hot cup of herbal tea.

In my kitchen, honey is my go-to sweetener. It’s great for adding a little sparkle to my green smoothies, as a sugar substitute when baking, or simply smoothed on a piece of fresh bread or toast. One jar will last quite a long time, so it’s worth buying the best, raw honey from a local source. Raw honey is truly honey in its purest state—it hasn’t been heated or crystallized, so it contains the richest amount of plant and pollen nutrients.

Jar of Honey

You can often find different flavors of local honey, depending on what flowers/plants the hives are located near. I’m currently using a Blueberry-Wildflower honey that has a mild taste with just a note of blueberries. Lavender, thyme and honeydew varieties are also worth trying.

If you don’t have access to a local honey source, you can find raw honey at your local health food store or supermarket (just be sure to check the label to make sure it’s truly raw). You can also order from a number of online sellers like Really Raw Honey or Browning’s Honey. Store your honey in a cool, dry place that is out of the sun to keep it at its best.

Drizzle it, spread it, just don’t devour it like crazy (it’s hard, I know). What’s your favorite way to use honey?

Real Food Wednesdays

Real Food Wednesday: Tasty Chia Fresca

5 May

Chia Seeds

Everyone remembers the commercials–“Ch-ch-ch-chia!” I always wanted one, but somehow they just didn’t look quite as cool in the store as they did on TV (or when someone got one at as a random Christmas present). I didn’t think much of them other than a made-for-tv marketing product. Chia is just fancy grass that grows quickly, right? Wrong!

Chia has been around long before Chia Pets (and Heads) were marketed with that catchy jingle. They grow like crazy in southern Mexico, where the local people have long heralded the benefits of the seeds. Chia seeds are actually an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids–even more so than flax seeds. They’re also chock-full of magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients. Best of all: they’re easy to mix into things like batter, smoothies and yogurt, and they have an amazing shelf life (unlike flax seeds, which go rancid after stored for long periods of time).

Although it might seem like they’re just a trendy health item, chia seeds are actually a very traditional food. When Columbus arrived in the Americas, chia was one of the four main Aztec crops. The Aztecs considered it a superfood and the Mayan warriors considered it a favorite strength booster (Chia actually means “strength” in the Mayan language).

You can get chia seeds from Raw Reform or in most supermarkets and health stores from Spectrum Essentials. I had a package of seeds in my pantry that I’d been adding to smoothies and yogurt, when I came across this recipe from from Christine at Welcome to My Brain. Chia Fresca is made mainly in Mexico and South America, where the people love how refreshing and energizing it is. Luckily, there’s no reason you can’t make it at home with a few simple ingredients.

The first step is to make the chia “gel.” It’s simple: just combine 1/3 cup of chia seeds with 2 cups of filtered water. Store in your fridge in a closed container (I put mine in a mason jar with a lid). It’s best to let it sit for 2-3 hours so that it can fully gel.

Chia Gel

Chia gel will last for about 3 weeks and tastes like whatever you mix it with. It really has no taste on its own so it’s great to mix with dressings, juice, water, etc. Or you can make it into a tasty, refreshing drink:

Chia Fresca

Grab a tall glass and put a few teaspoons of fresh lemon juice in it (I usually use the juice of one lemon, but you can adjust to your sour preference). Next, fill it 1/3 of the way with chia gel. Add some ice and a pinch of stevia (or sugar) and fill the rest of the glass with water. Stir, drink, and enjoy!

Chia Fresca

It’s like lemonade, but sooo much better for you! You can also use lime juice, orange juice, etc.–it’s great with any citrus. It helps to use a straw so that you can stir it up every now and then (and get all the chia goodness).

Real Food Wednesdays

Homemade Goat Cheese

3 May

I love goat cheese. I love it on soups, I love it on crackers, and I really really love it on wraps. So when we started getting raw goat milk from a local source, I knew that making cheese was somewhere on the horizon.

But it had to be complicated, right? When I read about cheese-making, there’s enzymes and rennet and special molds and all sorts of other crazy words.

Thankfully, cheese is only complicated if you want it to be. I discovered this when I had a quart of goat milk left after a busy week and I knew it would start turning into buttermilk if I didn’t do something with it soon. I had a few hours before I was heading to bed, so I decided, “Hey, I’m making goat cheese.”

The internet is a wonderful thing. After some googling, I found this wonderful recipe. Goat milk? Check. Fresh lemon juice? Double check.

It was easy—and by easy, I mean really really easy. I did most of this in while watching LOST. And it is oh so delicious. In fact, you definitely need to have crackers (and maybe a baguette) so you can do some instant sampling once you’re finished.

Homemade Goat Cheese

Ingredients:
• 1 quart goat milk (you can use pasteurized, but raw is the best—check here or at your local farmer’s market)
• 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1/2 clove freshly grated garlic
• coarse salt, to taste
• optional: freshly chopped parsley or other herbs (rosemary, chives, etc.)

Method:
Slowly bring the milk to 180 degrees (use a candy thermometer to check the temp). Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, then let stand until the milk begins to curdle (about 20 seconds). It won’t be super lumpy, but you’ll see the texture change (note the small curds on my spoon in the picture).

Line a colander with several pieces of cheesecloth (you can get this at any grocery store) and set inside a large bowl. Ladle the milk into the colander, allowing a moment for the liquid (whey*) to drain through.

Once all the milk has been ladled into the cheese cloth, gather the four corners of the cheesecloth and tie to the middle of a wooden spoon. Set over a stockpot or deep bowl and allow to drip for about 1.5 hours.

Remove the cheese and place in a bowl: fold in salt, garlic, and herbs (if using). Your cheese is ready! It will last up to a week (refrigerated) in an airtight bowl, although if you’re using fresh herbs you’ll probably want to use it in the next three days. Of course, it’s so tasty that ours is usually gone after a day or two.

*Save your whey in a glass container—it will last for three weeks and is great for soaking grains so that they are easier to digest and better for your system.

Real Food Wednesday: Journey to Real Food

28 Apr

Since this is the first Real Food Wednesday I’ve participated in, I thought I’d share my journey to real food.

I’ve been a ridiculously picky eater as far back as I can remember. I didn’t like vegetables, sauces, meat that had even the slightest piece of fat on it, food that was mixed with other food, and a whole slew of other things. However, when there was something I liked I ate it…and ate it, and ate it, and ate it. I could put away quite a bit for my small frame. I LOVED McDonald’s. Since both of my parents were teachers with busy schedules, I was always begging to stop there. Not that my mom wasn’t a great cook, because she definitely is, but like I said–I was super picky.

I’ve always been blessed with a fast metabolism (thanks Grandma), which I’m definitely grateful for. The downside is that I could eat things like, oh, an entire Little Caesar’s pizza or a double Big Mac with Super Sized fries, and not notice any difference. I hated water and drank lots of soda and chocolate milk. I wasn’t a complete pig, but I definitely didn’t hold back when there was something that I liked.

When I went to college I took full advantage of the options that the cafeteria offered. Every day after my lunch, I had dessert: waffles with ice cream and strawberry syrup. I still cringe thinking about how I ate like that almost every day for a year, but at the time it just seemed like a special treat. Only, every day. Looking back at my student ID, my face was definitely a little fuller when I started sophomore year, but again, I had no real weight gain and no urge to change my eating habits.

On spring break my sophomore year, I read Fast Food Nation. Wow. It pretty much rocked my world. I had never really thought much about food, I just knew what I liked and what I didn’t like and figured as long as I didn’t eat candy all the time, I’d be A-OK. The realization of just how unhealthy and fake many of the things I ate were hit me like a brick. I swore off McDonald’s completely–I’ve only eaten there twice since (out of necessity). Not that Wendy’s or Burger King are any better (I try to avoid them too), but for me McDonald’s symbolizes everything wrong about the way I had been consuming food.

I moved out of the dorms that year and started cooking more of my own food. I still used a lot of box mixes and frozen meals, but I avoided fast/junk food and started drinking water. Caleb and I cooked a lot of our meals together and I started experimenting more and more with what we made.

When I moved to Florida, I became friends with some fabulous vegetarians and gave vegetables a run for their money. Thanks to Community Dinner, a weekly potluck started by my friends Chris and Erin, I had the opportunity to try a crazy variety of food. After Caleb and I got married, we went “flexitarian” for a while (mainly to save money): we still ate meat, we just never bought it at the store or cooked it at home. We ate that way for over a year, and I expanded my cooking even more by finding some great vegetarian food blogs.

Last summer, I started reading some new food and homemaking blogs that talked a lot about Westin A. Price and Nourishing Traditions. As I began to read about eating traditional foods and learned how processed many of even the “healthy” supermarket foods are, I felt like I had a second food “reawakening.” Realizing that many of the diseases that plague us today are fairly new (and multiplying so quickly), coupled with some family members dealing with heart disease caused me to dig even deeper into food research.

What I discovered is just how political the food industry truly is. The FDA board is a merry-go-round of agro-business executives, funding the very studies they’re supposed to critique. Corn and high fructose corn syrup, along with MSG and a variety of other chemicals are in 80% of supermarket foods, something we’re only beginning to see the effects of. Add to that the fat myth and the cursing of traditional fats and oils and it was easy to see just how twisted the food industry has become.

Now that I truly understand that what I put in my body has a profound affect on my health, I’ve made increasingly bigger changes in what I buy and what we eat. This year we started drinking raw milk, eating eggs from a friend’s chickens, and buying most of our vegetables from local farmers. There are so many things I’d still like to do (make kefir, make more homemade stock, ferment vegetables) and I’m continuing to raise the bar for what we eat.

I do this not to be “elitist” or because I worship nature, but because I want to take care of the body the God has blessed me with. I want to help my family to be healthy and to nourish our bodies with the foods God created for us. And I’m by no means perfect! We definitely live by the “80/20 rule”: eat the best we can 80% of the time and go with the flow for the other 20%. I will always be grateful for any food shared with me by others, no matter where it came from. Because even though food is important, people matter more.

I plan on doing more posts focusing on different aspects of eating real food, but if you’re interested, here are a few of my favorite resources:

Movies
Food Inc.
Supersize Me
King Corn
Fast Food Nation

Books
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

Websites
Weston A. Price
Nourished Kitchen
Keeper of the Home
Passionate Homemaking
Nourishing Days

New Things in the New Year

30 Dec

Okay, so as promised I am back. This time with thoughts about what this year will bring:

1. Uncertainty. As in, I am uncertain about whether or not I will have the same job in the next six months. Our company is being sold, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is very up in the air whether or not my department will remain here. And I’m not going anywhere.

2. Learning. As in, I may be learning to be a Middle School English teacher if my formerly mentioned job disappears. I have enough credits in English to get a Florida teaching certificate (I was an English minor in school). I’m actually a little excited about this…granted, I am praying that my job will stay the same and I won’t have to worry about a career change, but the prospect of teaching English (and getting summers off, wow) is a teensy bit appealing. We shall see. I’m glad I have a backup option.

3. Eating. As in, Mr. Jones and I will be eating much more natural and healthy food this year. I feel like 2009 was my big awakening about food and its true effects on our health. So in 2010, I will be using my new Nourishing Traditions cookbook, making as many things from scratch as I can, and eliminating high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, and white flour from most of our diet (all about the 80/20).

4. Crafting. As in, I will continue on the crafting spree that I started earlier this month. I have really been inspired to turn off the TV and MAKE THINGS! Plus my Christmas presents all got rave reviews, so the goal is to keep the tide flowing with crafted gifts for the rest of this year. Not to mention a few fun crafty things for myself. I might just start taking pictures and posting them here, wait and see.

There you have it, 2010 and the things that will be on my mind New Year’s Day. I’ll post my resolutions here on Friday so I have a place to keep myself accountable. See you in the NEW YEAR!

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