Sushi

How to Make Sushi

Sushi is the kind of recipe used to terrify new cooks with the complexities of cooking. Recipes call for strangely obscure ingredients and insist that one *cannot* properly make sushi without a specific type of bamboo cutting board for rolling it. Sushi is mysterious and vaguely associated with raw fish and food poisoning and something that one should not even dare attempt without proper training.

In reality, the sushi we’re familiar with is a variation on the japanese version of a sandwich. The simplest version is a rice ball formed around meat, vegetables, or random leftovers, and is the typical lunch of a Japanese blue collar worker. The nori rolled version is a bit fancier, but still not as terrifying as everyone makes it out to be.

You do need a few distinctive ingredients, but they needn’t all be obscure and terrifying. Let’s go over the basics:

Nori sheets: A nutrient dense seaweed used to hold the sushi together. Very good for you, and with a fairly mild flavor, it is very much worth keeping around for its health benefits. Raw nori is, of course, much touted for it’s extra health benefits, but does tend to be a bit chewier, so you may choose roasted nori sheets for better texture.

Rice: You can use white or brown rice, and it doesn’t have to be any special sushi variety, but it MUST be short grain to stick together properly. (I use brown rice, soaked overnight to improve the texture and flavor.) The rice is cooked with vinegar, salt and sweetener for proper sushi flavor.

Meat: I prefer to use canned crab meat as a traditional style meat. (Imitation crab is cheaper, but laden with chemicals, and fresher crab seems to me have a stranger flavor.)  However, remembering that sushi is essentially a type of sandwich, you can feel free to use any type of meat you might use in a sandwich, such as chicken salad, ham or turkey (for an americanized sushi) or for a more traditional sushi, shrimp, smoked salmon or probably even a canned salmon or canned tuna.

Vegetables: I’m a bit hazy on which vegetables are appropriate for traditional japanese sushi, but some general possibilities are celery (matchsticks), carrots (shaved, or sliced thin), cucumber (matchsticks, or sliced very thin), sprouts, spinach (blanched, possibly dressed with vinegar or other seasoning), mushrooms (chopped or sliced thin), apples (matchsticks), bell peppers (sliced thin), bamboo shoots, avocado (sliced thin), green onions

Extras: Traditionally, one might include things like pickled ginger and wasabi in one’s sushi experience, though I’m a bit vague one whether they should be included in the sushi fillings or used as dipping sauce and topping. Americanized extras would include cream cheese, mozzerella or cheddar, peanut butter (I ran across this idea elsewhere, it fit’s with the idea that it’s just a sandwich, but I have to admit I’m a little weirded out by the idea of peanut butter in my sushi.) and possibly scrambled eggs

Sauces: Traditionally, wasabi and soy sauce (or this ‘soyless sauce‘) might be used as dipping sauces for the sushi. I made a highly americanized version of one spicy sushi sauce by mixing a bit of hot sauce into mayonnaise. Also pickled ginger (which I just recently realized wouldn’t be hard to make) is traditionally used as a sushi condiment.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Nori is exceptionally nutritious, and making your own sushi you can choose rice, sweetener and other ingredients as healthy as you like. The brown rice, seafood (or other healthy meat) and veggie sushi I make, dressed with apple cider vinegar and turbinado sugar is not only healthy, but nearing superfood status.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Any time my husband is raving about eating brown rice, vegetables and a super food such as nori, even with a bit of meat thrown in, I figure this is a meal that should be repeated as often as possible. Naturally, you can customize the fillings to your taste, but there’s something about the small slices of food rolled in flavorful sushi rice that makes them more palatable than you might expect. I normally don’t like cucumber or celery, but in sushi they just add a nice crunch. My husband isn’t a huge fan of avocado, but quite enjoys sushi made with it.

Sushi

(makes about 12 pieces or one to two servings, depending on whether it’s served as an entree)

1 1/2 cups of dry brown rice (I recommend soaking it the night before)

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar for a more traditional flavor)

3 TBSP turbinado sugar

1 1/8 tsp sea salt

3 cups water

 

2 sheets of nori

 

3-4 kinds of veggies, cut in matchsticks or sliced very thin

meat, fish or crab (technically optional, but really, why make vegetarian sushi?)

1-2 extras (optional)

Examples:

avocado slices, cucumber, crab, cream cheese

green apple, ham, mozzerella

carrot, green onion, salmon

Cook rice with water, sugar, salt and vinegar. Let cool to room temperature.

Set nori rough side up on a bamboo sushi board or countertop. Moisten hands, take a handful of rice and spread it thinly across the sheet of nori. Leave some space along the edges for ‘overflow’.

Add fillings along one edge, remembering not to be so extravagant with the fillings that they make your sushi too fat, or leak out the edge.

Dry hand carefully before touching the nori. Fold the edge of the nori slightly over the fillings, then carefully begin rolling the sushi into a tight roll. (See video for more details.)

Slice into pieces about an inch thick, or whatever thickness you like your sushi.

Serve with dipping sauces of choice.

Boxty: Irish Potato Pancakes

Boxty: Irish Potato Pancakes

 

While I have a fair amount of Scottish blood in me, and my husband is part Irish, we share an interest in good foods, celtic music and traditions, and church history. As you might guess, we celebrate St Patrick’s Day every year, and with lots of Irish food. Our standard Irish dinner is corned beef with cabbage and potato, a sweeter version of Irish soda bread, and whatever other irish or green (or orange if I’m feeling especially like a cranky protestant Scottish girl…) food happens to hit the table.

I discovered boxty when looking for ways to extend our Irish food exploration beyond just dinner on St Patricks Day–why not have Irish food for breakfast too?

Boxty is like a cross between hashbrowns, biscuits and pancakes, and can be eating like any of those: with lots of butter, with butter and honey or syrup, with meat and gravy, or with ketchup. It can also be eaten as a breakfast food, or as a side at lunch or dinner. (Or as a snack for that matter. They’re even fairly portable, though better when they’re still warm.)

Healthiness rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

While I have no problem with including this in a meal and then classifying the meal as healthy, I am, for some reason hesitant to  put forward this recipe as having a lot of redeeming health food features. Depending on your definition of healthy food, and what kind of flour you decide to use, this could range from healthy to kinda healthy food.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

This one is less complicated: yummy and husband approved. (But then, he’s Irish, and eats cold baked potatoes straight out of the fridge, so in this case it might actually be more helpful to point out that I also like this recipe.)

Boxty

Large batch:

10 cups of mashed potatoes

10 cups of grated potatoes

8 cups of flour (white or whole wheat)

5 cups of milk or whey

1 cup melted butter

2 TBSP salt

Small batch:

2 cups of mashed potatoes

2 cups of grated potatoes

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup milk or whey

3 TBSP melted butter

1 tsp salt

butter or oil for frying

Put the grated potatoes in a clean cotton dishcloth. Squeeze out the excess moisture.  Mix grated potatoes with other ingredients (other than butter or oil for frying, obviously).

Heat butter over medium heat in skillet. Using about 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup batter per pancake, depending on size desired, fry two minutes on each side, until outside is crispy and inside is set to a firm but crispy consistency.

Homemade Chicken Strips (with whole wheat breading)

Healthy Chicken Strips

 I’ve never seen an episode of The Pioneer Woman’s cooking show. I’ve been a fan of her recipes and her blogging style for years, but it didn’t even dawn on me until recently that most of her fans probably, you know, watch her show.

I’ve also probably never cooked one of her recipes exactly as it’s written. Granted, there are few recipes I have cooked exactly as written. Because really, who has exactly the same ingredients and food preferences as another cook somewhere? Still, I can see this affecting my qualifications as a true fan.

Despite these fan failings I just want to say that I pretty much stole this recipe from The Pioneer Woman (and then proceeded to tweak it for the way I cook) because she has amazing recipes. Her original version of this recipe is here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/05/quickie-homemade-chicken-strips/

Now for my changes:

I don’t buy the precut chicken strips. I buy ‘split chicken breasts’ with the bone still in, hack out the bones the best I can for the stock pot (the skin goes in with them), and cut the remaining slab of chicken into strips an inch or two wide. Any odd shaped bits are considered bonus nuggets and thrown in with the chicken strips to be fried up at the same time. (Unfortunately I don’t have video of this part of the process, but if there’s interest I can make a video next time I’m cutting up chicken breast.) I buy ahead when split chicken breasts are sale for .99 a pound, and divide the chicken strips into quart freezer bags. Each bag holds around two pounds of meat.

I almost never have buttermilk on hand. At different times I’ve used raw milk, soured raw milk, yogurt and whey to soak the chicken strips in, and they all seem to work equally well. The important part is soaking the chicken so the flour has plenty of moisture to stick to when you go to bread them. I usually just pour my chosen liquid into the freezer bag the night before when I pull the chicken strips out of the freezer, so they have a good long soaking time, but according the the original recipe, soaking them for 15 to 20 minutes before you cook them is good enough.

I use whole wheat flour instead of white. Also, because the whole wheat flour has more texture to start with, I find the touch of buttermilk in the flour to be completely unnecessary. I use soft white wheat, so the breading has little to no whole wheat flour taste. Red wheat should work just as well in the process but would have much more of a whole wheat flavor. (For those who are concerned that the whole wheat flour in this recipe doesn’t get soaked, see my comments on phytic acid here. This would be one of those cases where I think it’s better to enjoy a moderately healthy food than to obsess over making it ‘perfectly healthy’ and ruin your enjoyment of the food in the process.)

I use my own spice instead of the spice blend recommended in the original recipe, including, of course, garlic powder.

I avoid vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil and canola oil (not obsessively, but I’ll make some extra effort to keep other oils in my kitchen instead). I lean toward animal fats and coconut oils as being the healthiest oils, especially for frying, but right now my compromise oil for frying is rice bran oil. It is, at least, non-gmo, and not a food that’s over produced and hidden in most food already, so I’m not afraid of over exposing myself to rice. Sunflower seed oil, grapeseed oil and safflower oil would also fit in the compromise category.

While we’re on the subject of frying, are you poised to object when I get down the healthiness rating and declare a fried food as healthy? Once again, it’s  case of moderation and variety. Nearly everything, including water and raw spinach, is bad for you if you over consume it. Yes, I’m in favor of water and raw spinach as part of a healthy diet, possibly even in large amounts, but I think a simple variety of real, non-processed foods takes the stress out of concepts like oxalic acid, phytic acid and other real food scares.

Similarly, a diet consisting only fried food would undoubtedly be problematic, whether that’s because of lack of raw vegetable enzymes or an over consumption of fats. But that’s no reason to declare fried food unhealthy and inedible. Use healthy ingredients, use frying as one of many methods of preparing those healthy ingredients, and enjoy your food before you kill yourself by stressing about your food too much.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Chicken, milk or whey, whole wheat flour and healthy (or healthyish) fats. I’m not saying this one’s a superfood, but as noted above, I think it’s perfectly reasonable inclusion in a healthy diet.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

This one’s a winner, and possibly even a good transition recipe if you’re trying to wean your family off of processed foods. In my opinion, a lot of the real yumminess factor comes in your choice of sauces served with the chicken strips, but they make a solid base for such yumminess.

Breading Chicken Strips

Chicken Strips

about 2 lbs of strips of chicken breast

about 1 cup of sour milk, yogurt or whey (enough to cover the chicken)

about 1 1/2 cups of soft white wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp garlic powder, or to taste

optional: heavy dash of black pepper, sprinkle of cayenne

Lard, coconut oil or neutral flavored oil for frying (about 2 cups or so)

Soak chicken strips in chosen liquid overnight, or for a few hours.

Begin heating lard or oil of choice over medium heat in a frying pan. I normally make the oil about half an inch deep in the pan.

Mix flour and spices. (As long as it’s still BEFORE you dip raw meat in it, you can actually taste a pinch of the flour mixture to make sure the salt and spice ratios are to your liking. You want the spices to be a light background flavor, and the flour should tasted salted, but not too salty.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have  a really good system for knowing when the oil is hot–I normally just wait two or three minutes, make sure I feel plenty of heat coming off the oil, and start frying. If you’re new to frying and don’t have an oil thermometer, I would mix a spoonful of flour with a spoonful of water, and drop it in the oil when it starts to get warm. When this impromptu batter has bubbling oil around it and is turning golden brown. (If you do have an oil thermometer aim for 350 to 375 degrees.) Adjust the oil temperature as you go, if needed. If the breading is only very lightly browned after cooking for 2 minutes on one side, turn the burner up a notch. If it’s getting dark brown or overly crispy by a minute and a half on one side, turn the burner down a notch (or two).

When the oil is ready, dip a chicken strip in the flour mixture. (Tongs make this part less messy.) Thoroughly coat the strip with flour on both sides. Place the strip (carefully!) into the hot oil (the tongs come in handy again here), and repeat until your pan is full without being crowded.

After about a minute and a half, and when the first side is getting golden brown and crispy, turn over the chicken strips. (It helps to have a second pair of tongs for this part–one for raw chicken, one for cooking chicken. Also, one for raw messy breading, one for hot oil.)

Cook on the other side for about a minute and half, then remove the strips to a warm oven. (I like to put a couple of paper towels on a cookie sheet or plate for receiving the newly fried, and dripping with oil chicken strips.)

If you’re concerned about whether the chicken is done or not, here a few tips: The chicken will be floppy and squashy when raw, cooked chicken will be firm and hold it’s shape when pressed or picked up from one end. If you make a slit into the chicken and clear liquid comes out, it’s done–pink or bloody liquid means it’s not done yet. If you’re still in doubt, cut a couple chicken strips in half to make sure they’re done, until you get a feel for how long they take to cook on your stove. (You could also try the whole meat thermometer thing, but it never works for me.)

Serve with dipping sauces. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, sweet and sour sauce, honey mustard and ranch are all excellent choices.

Garlic Green Beans

Good Bad Food: Garlic Green Beans

This is one of my husband’s favorite vegetables. If your family doesn’t like garlic this recipe won’t help you out much in getting them to eat vegetables, but then if your family doesn’t like garlic, you probably won’t use most of the recipes I post. I like garlic. A lot. I make a conscious effort to use other seasoning strategies at times to switch it up, but if I’m in a hurry and need to season something it will probably get garlic, basil and salt and be declared done and yummy.

Also, anything short of biting into a raw clove of garlic could  not possibly qualify as too much garlic around here, so if you’re a nominal fan of garlic, but less hardy in your garlic consumption, you may want to cut back on the number of cloves of garlic used in the recipe.

A note on the amount of green beans: I generally use 16 oz packages of frozen green beans when I can find them, but as stores continue to sneak price increases by shrinking package sizes, I often have 12 oz packages of green beans on hand. Because I cook so much by feel and taste I don’t specifically adjust my recipe to different size bags of green beans, but if it matters to you, the recipe as written is more specifically formulated to the 12 oz size.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only are none of the ingredients unhealthy, but as a yummy way to eat vegetables, this recipe encourages more vegetable eating than commonly suggest ‘recipes’ such as plain celery sticks or iceberg lettuce with fat free dressing.

 Yumminess Rating: Yummy

To quote my husband, “Even people who don’t like green beans like these, because they taste like real food instead of slime”. (He went on to clarify that he, personally, does actually like green beans anyway. They’re just better with garlic and butter on them.)

Garlic Green Beans

1 package frozen green beans (12-16 oz)

5 TBSP butter

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

Mince or smash the garlic cloves according to your preferred method. (See the video for my preferred ‘smash it with a cleaver’ method. It gets it done fast!)

Melt the butter in a skillet (cast iron is preferable) over medium heat. Add the green beans, garlic and salt. Stir so the butter coats the green beans. Continue to stir as needed until the green beans are all thawed and beginning to warm, then stop stirring for a few minutes.

The green beans will release liquid, which will then boil off until you’re left with just bubbly butter again. At this point, let them cook for one to two more minutes without stirring. (If you’re in a hurry, or able to stand over the pan while they’re cooking, turn up the heat to medium high at this point. If you want them to cook slower, or without direct supervision you can leave the heat on medium and go longer between stirring.) The green beans should begin to develop a slightly caramelized golden brown color by the time you stir them. Be careful not to let them burn, but leave them on the stove until many of the green beans throughout the pan have developed this coloring.

(If you’re in a hurry you can skip the browning step, and just have buttered garlic green beans, but the caramelizing adds a lot to the flavor.)

The above recipe serves 2. If you need to serve a crowd, I recommend using 6 lb green beans, 1 pound of butter, 1 head of garlic and 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste). You may need to caramelize the green beans in batches when making a larger amount.

(Remember the point in the chocolate syrup video where I almost dripped chocolate syrup on my laptop? At about 6′ 18″ in this video, half a spoonful of green beans goes splat right on my laptop, and I totally try to pretend it didn’t happen.)

Tepache: A Fermented Pineapple Drink

Tepache: Fermented Pineapple Drink

Aldi often has fresh pineapples on sale for $1 or $1.29 each. Being the nerd and foodie that I am, I once weighed a pineapple after I’d cut off the top and rind and all the inedible bits to find out how much edible fruit was in a typical pineapple. It weighed right around two pounds, which makes the cost of the fruit on a sale pineapple 50 to 65 cents a pound.

Since my rule of thumb is that any food $1 a pound or less qualifies as cheap food, and I’m especially happy when I find basic, healthy food like fruit, veggies and meat in that price range, I began to make a habit of buying a pineapple or two whenever they went on sale.

However, despite that fact that I knew it was a screaming deal anyway, I started to wonder about all the parts of the pineapple I was throwing away. It seemed like rather a lot of waste. Wasn’t there any use for pineapple rinds?

Turns out , there is a use for them. Google turned up this recipe for tepache, a fermented mexican drink made from pineapple rinds, sugar, and a bit of cinnamon.

Traditionally, tepache is mixed with beer, but on it’s own it seems to have a very low to non-existent alcohol content (depending somewhat, of course, on just how long  you ferment it). We’ve used in rum based cocktails a couple of times, but we also just drink it straight as a kind of pineapple soda or use it as a smoothie base.

 Healthiness Rating: Healthy

It’s fruit based, probiotic, contains cinnamon which is good for your immune system and blood sugar response, and you can adjust the sugar content down for a more tart, less sweet drink if the turbinado sugar disturbs your healthy food sensibilities.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I’ve said in other recipes occasionally, this isn’t one of those foods that we discovered and decided we had to keep it on hand all the time. It’s a nice change of pace, and it tastes good (and yes, it’s husband approved), but it’s not something I often find myself craving.

Tepache

1-2 cups turbinado sugar (1 cup for a tart drink, 2 cups for a sweet drink)

12 cups water

1 pineapple

cinnamon and ginger to taste (1/2-1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 tsp ginger)

optional: clove and/or nutmeg to taste

Put the turbinado sugar and two cups water in a saucepan over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Cool.

Rinse the pineapple lightly, but don’t scrub too hard, or use cleaners–you don’t want to remove the natural yeasts that start the fermentation process. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple, then cut off the peels (see video for more detailed instructions in cutting up your pineapple). Save the pineapple fruit for another use. (If desired, when  you cut up the fruit you can add the core to the tepache.

Put the peels in a large bowl or crock suitable for fermenting. Sprinkle with spices. Pour in sugar/water mixture and ten more cups of water. Cover peels with a small plate to keep them submerged.

Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and set aside to ferment for 3-5 days. It should be bubbly and a bit foamy like this when it’s ready to referigerate:

tepache foamRemove the peels and pour the tepache into a jug or jar. Cap tightly and refrigerate for two to three days until fizzy. (You can also drink it right away if you don’t care about carbonating it.)

Chocolate Butter Mints

chocolate butter mints

The front mint is coated in cocoa powder, which is totally a valid serving option, and also a valid photographic

option for those with minimal photography skills trying to make chocolate look edible in a picture.

 So, as I may have mentioned before, I have the kind of metabolism that runs well on proteins and fats. Unlike my carb metabolizing husband, I’m not that thrilled with being given random pieces of bread, but I could eat sour cream by the spoonful and have been known to lick off butter wrappers before I throw them away.

Enter this recipe for a socially acceptable way to eat butter. It looks like candy and tastes like chocolate, but has all the satisfying healthy fats of eating pats of butter. If you were so inclined, you could use half coconut oil to increase the types of healthy fats in this candy. Because my husband’s digestion strenuously objects to coconut oil I haven’t tried this yet, but I might in the future, as my metabolism and energy levels highly approve of coconut oil.

Now, even with straight butter, when my husband first tasted these he said they were good, but a little too much like eating butter for him to really love them. However, he found himself regularly snitching them as they sat in the fridge, so either he as over thinking it as first, or they grew on him rapidly.

The first batch I made was lighter on both the honey and the cocoa powder (probably 2 TBSP of honey and 1 heaping TBSP of cocoa, but of course, I didn’t actually measure). I preferred the lighter sweetness of the first batch for snacking, but for the full blown dessert experience the second batch (with 4 TBSP of honey and 2 heaping TBSP of cocoa) was amazing.

I mentioned in the video that I use Young Living brand peppermint oil, and while I’m not going to fangirl over it, there is an important point to be made about the quality of essential oils. There are some substances labeled as essential oils which are extracted by chemicals, diluted with other substances or otherwise carelessly and fraudulently handled, and those are completely UNSAFE to use, especially internally. I can’t say that I’ve researched every single oil company out there, but I can say that I believe Young Living to make a completely safe, high quality oil. Please make sure you do your research before choosing a brand of essential oil, to make sure you’re confident in the safety of what you’re using.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Butter, raw cocoa, raw honey, and sea salt. Can you say superfoods?

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

With the small proviso that if you’re a carb person these are just ‘good’, as a non-carb person I proclaim these butter mints to be completely amazing.

Chocolate Butter Mints

1 cup butter, softened

6-8 drops peppermint essential oil (Young Living oils are intense–you may need more if you’re using another brand)

2-4 TBSP honey

1-2 TBSP cocoa (feel free to make them heaping TBSP)

pinch of sea salt

Put all ingredients in mixer and blend, or blend by hand with a fork. Make bite sized mints by squeezing through a pastry bag, ziploc bag with the corner cut off, or by dropping small spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until firm.

(I bet these would easier to handle if you rolled the mixture into a small log, refrigerated it for an hour or so, and then sliced off bite sized chunks. I haven’t tried this  method yet, but it would probably be tidier than anything I’ve tried so far.)

Chocolate Syrup

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Homemade chocolate syrup on top of whipped cream on top of hot chocolate,in my favorite mug, which was a Christmas present from one of my nieces.

Everyone should have a chocolate syrup recipe in their arsenal. If you make homemade vanilla ice cream, you don’t want to have put store bought syrup full of nasty chemicals and corn syrup all over it, do you? And certainly you’d rather make chocolate milk out of your organic raw milk by adding homemade honey sweetened chocolate syrup, wouldn’t you? Especially if if doesn’t taste like honey? And that’s not even mentioning the decadence of adding squirt of homemade chocolate syrup to a cup of coffee with cream and a bit of coconut oil melted in, or the fact that it’s worth eating by the spoonful.

What I really love about this chocolate syrup recipe is that every ingredient is actively good for you.

The butter gives you healthy fats.

The cocoa gives you antioxidants, and if it’s raw it also provides magnesium and other minerals (hello, superfood!).

The raw honey is anti bacterial and contains a range of enzymes, vitamins and minerals, and as a bonus, if it’s local honey it helps prevent allergies by essentially ‘vaccinating’ you to the local pollens.

The raw milk also contains good enzymes and, of course, the commonly know range of nutrients such as calcium.

The sea salt contains many minerals.

Even the vanilla has compounds that reduce stress and inflammation and may even increase mental performance.

I have to admit, you’re not going to eat this chocolate syrup in large enough quantities to get your daily calcium out of it, (at least, I don’t think you are… but it is pretty good stuff, so maybe I shouldn’t make such a sweeping statement) but the point is, there’s good stuff instead of bad stuff.

This recipe was based on Sally Fallon’s carob sauce recipe in Nourishing Traditions. I made a few changes, first because carob should never be used as a chocolate substitute, and second because I rarely have cream on hand. (No worries, I increased the amount of butter to compensate for the lack of cream.)

I’m sure God had a good reason for making carob, and it must have good uses all it’s own, but it’s really hard to discover those uses when everyone wants to pretend it tastes like chocolate. This is exactly the sort of ‘healthy’ philosophy I’m opposed to here on this blog. A lot of people seem to think that if tastes good, if must be bad for you.

I once heard a lecture with the great premise that foods ‘by God’ are good and foods ‘by man’ are bad for you. So, fruits and vegetables are good for you, but chemical food additives are bad for you. Except that coffee was on the ‘foods by man’ list with no explanation as to what made it unnatural other than an assumption that it must be bad for you, so it had to go on that list. Now, I do happen to believe that coffee was designed as a boost for when you need extra or unusual amounts of energy, and constantly seeking that boost (daily or several times a day) will eventually wear out your adrenal glands. However, that is no excuse for claiming it’s evil and bad for you across the board. My point in all that being, of course chocolate is good for you! There are now studies come out that verify this, but we really could have guessed this to start with.

People stress too much. People just need to chill and eat more chocolate. (And have no guilt in occasionally eating that chocolate in the form of a mocha latte.)

For some reason, this recipe tastes good and chocolaty despite being honey sweetened. I’ve tried making homemade chocolate  with honey it tastes weird. (Agave works better.) But in this syrup the honey taste is hidden enough that even my husband likes it. We really need to do a side by side taste test with this syrup and store bought chocolate syrup, because I bet this also deserves the title of better than store bought, but I can’t officially vouch for it.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy As covered above, every ingredient in this chocolate syrup is good for you.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy Complete, 100% yumminess.

Chocolate Syrup

1/2+1/3 cup butter (13 1/2 TBSP)

2/3 cup cocoa powder, preferably raw

1/3 cup honey

3/4 cup milk

pinch of sea salt

1 TBSP vanilla

Melt butter over medium heat. Turn off heat and add all other ingredients.

Whisk 1-2 minutes until it begins to thicken and look shiny. Refrigerate until use. (The syrup actually turned out super thick after refrigeration, so it may need less whisking than I thought. I’ll update this post when I figure out how long to whisk for consistent results.

Variation: Increase butter to 1 cup and decrease milk to 1/2 a cup. When whisked until thick, pour into chocolate molds or a small baking pan and refrigerate. Eat as chocolates as they are, or use as the centers for truffles.

(Also, it’s just occurred to me that you could probably make an amazing peppermint chocolate syrup by adding a couple drops of peppermint essential oil.)

Be sure to watch for the moment at about 6′ 16″ in the video when I almost drip chocolate syrup on my laptop keyboard…

Cold Brewed Tea and Tea “Latte” Style Drinks

I know that most of you probably aren’t thinking, “Wow, I could use a nice tall glass of iced tea right now,” at this time of year. But the fact is, there are a lot of kinds of tea with really good health giving properties, and sometimes a variety of preparation methods helps to keep your enthusiasm from waning as you’re trying to drink tea regularly.

In particular, I find this method of brewing tea to make green tea a lot more palatable for me, and since green tea matches up point for point with many of my health problems and symptoms, I’ve figured I should really be trying to drink more of it. (Even if doesn’t taste all that great naturally.)

I discovered this method of brewing tea after trying Ree Drummond’s Perfect Iced Coffee. I figured if the method worked so well for coffee (and it does–you should try the coffee version too if you ever drink coffee) it should work for tea too.

Admittedly, unlike my homemade ketchup, this is not a healthy recipe that I constantly use and keep on hand. This is a ‘fun for changing up my normal routine’ kind of recipe that sees use when I feel like it. But, it’s kind of good to have an arsenal of healthy recipes that are fun and different too, instead of always having to turn to unhealthy recipes when you want a change from your normal routine.

I  use agave in this recipe. I’m not completely sold on agave’s healthiness. In fact, I’m sure it’s not as good for you as raw honey, and possibly not even as good for you as turbinado sugar. But it does have some attributes that make it handy for recipes like these, such as a more neutral flavor than honey, and an ability to dissolve easily into cold liquids. I’ve decided that for us, agave falls into that category of ‘eat lots of different kinds of foods, and it will probably all balance out’.

Yes, agave is high in fructose. It would probably be bad for you to eat it all the time. It might (or might not, depending on who you ask) be processed in such a way as removes all of it’s health benefits. Or, it might just be one of many options for a mostly natural sweetener that like everything else, has it’s pros and cons.

If you don’t want to use agave, you have a couple of options. for replacing it. You can make a simple syrup out of sugar (white or turbinado) and water. Or you can warm honey in a small amount of water until it dissolves easily into the water and stir that into the tea. Or, possibly, you could try blending honey into it in your blender or using an immersion blender and see how well that works.

The chai tea I used in the video really is the best chai I’ve ever had. It’s rooibos based, so it’s naturally caffeine free, and adapts well to various water temperatures and brewing times. (Meaning, if you tend to forget about your tea after you start brewing it and over brew it, this is the chai for you.)  If you’re interested in trying it, you can buy here from my friend Whitney’s Etsy shop.

I’ve made this recipe with both green tea and chai, and I also want to try this tea with spearmint and/or peppermint soon. I think it should work with any of your favorite teas.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Given the proviso about agave, I would definitely classify this as healthy. Tea and milk are both good for you, and you can adapt this the healthy sweetener of your choice if you’re willing to put a bit more work into it.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband enjoyed both the green tea and the chai tea versions of this drink I made, despite not usually being a fan of chai, and despite usually being skeptical of agave. I also enjoyed them both, despite not being a fan of green tea flavor, and being a huge fan of chai.

Cold Brewed Tea

1 tea bag or 1 TBSP loose leaf tea

1 quart cold water

This amount of tea makes a normal strength iced tea, or a very mild tea latte drink. If you want a stronger tea latte drink, double the amount of tea used.

Put the tea bag, or spoonful of loose leaf tea into a quart jar. Cover with water, put lid on jar, and let sit for 18-24 hours. Remove tea bag or strain tea through mesh strainer. Refrigerate until use. You can drink this plain, sweetened as you would iced tea, or make the following tea latte out of it.

 

Tea “Latte”

1 quart brewed tea

1 quart milik

1/2 cup agave

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate leftovers.

 

100% Whole Wheat Bread (soaked flour, soft and fluffy!)

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I didn’t believe 100% whole wheat bread could be this soft and fluffy until I tried this recipe over at Passionate Homemaking. It was amazing. Even my husband, who is a devoted fan of white flour, truly enjoys this bread, without asking me if we can have white bread sometimes too. He does enjoy a variety of bread, so I need to get a couple of my other good bread recipes back in the rotation, but this makes a really good every day bread. It’s good for sandwiches and toast and eating plain with butter. What more could you ask for from a loaf of bread?

But, of course, in true Good Bad Food style, I couldn’t just leave the recipe alone. I substituted chia seeds, which I’ve been trying to get into my diet more, for the flax, which I don’t always have around. (I know, cooked chia doesn’t have the full benefit of omega 3s, but it still has fiber and protein and is generally good for you.) I didn’t want to have to deal with sprouted flour (to many steps and too much work to make, and too expensive to buy when you could just mill your own non-sprouted flour for pennies) or with the phytic acid from the unsoaked flour (see this post for a full discussion of my thoughts on phytic acid and soaking grains), so I found the perfect ratio of flour/chia/grains to water to make a dough soft enough to be kneaded but still stiff enough to use only the soaked dough without the addition of extra flour. And of course, I had to employ the technique I learned from Ada Lou Roberts in Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farms and add ginger to the yeast proofing mixture.

Also, I cut the recipe in half so my Kitchen Aid wouldn’t die while kneading it. (Seriously, this recipe almost killed my Kitchen Aid at first. I have a Professional 600 model, the same one used by my sister who has 9 children and hasn’t killed her mixer yet, to the best of my knowledge. I didn’t know you could overheat this mixer with bread dough until the first time I tried making the full batch version of this recipe.)

The result is a reliable healthy recipe for bread, using only ingredients I usually have on hand (no added vital wheat gluten or dough conditioner), and that’s really enjoyable. It’s also versatile as I often make hamburger buns and sometimes hot dog buns out of the same dough I use for my every day bread. (The buns are a little less flexible than store bought white buns, which is especially noticeable with the hot dog buns, but the hamburger buns at least have always worked just fine for us.)

In the bread I made for the video, real life intervened, and my bread dough soaked for an extra day before I got around to making the bread. The bread was still good, though with just a hint of sourness in the flavor from the extra soaking time. Also, you’ll notice in the video that it didn’t rise nearly as high as it should have. While the texture was still soft, this particular batch of bread was just a bit less fluffy than normal, and doesn’t demonstrate quite what ideally ‘doubled’ dough should look like.

Also in the video I make the comment that you can substitute coconut oil for the butter if you want to make it dairy free. I neglected to mention that if making the bread dairy free, you can substitute 1 TBSP vinegar or lemon juice in 1/2 cup warm water for the yogurt.

You can use honey instead of agave in this recipe, but I prefer to save my raw honey for eating, well, raw.

You’ll really want to check out my videos for this post, as in the course of making this recipe, I demonstrate all the basic techniques of bread making, which can applied to any recipe. For instance, if you’re not sure how to tell when your dough is done being kneaded, take a look Part Two of my video, around the 5′ 53″ time mark, where I show you how properly kneaded bread dough stretches thin without tearing.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

No bad ingredients, all whole grain. This bread is about as healthy as bread gets.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Even people who don’t like whole wheat bread like this bread. It’s soft and fluffy, hold together well for sandwiches and toast, and is hearty without being dense.

Whole Wheat Bread

6 TBSP butter, melted

5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or a scant 4 cups of hard red wheat, ground)

1 cup oats (I use quick oats)

2 TBSP millet, (optional, though I haven’t tried the bread without it)

2 TBSP chia seeds

1/2 cup yogurt

2 cups warm water

1/2 cup agave

 

1/4 cup water

1 tsp honey

1 TBSP + 3/4 tsp yeast

1/4 tsp ginger

2 1/4 tsp sea salt

 

Melt and cool the butter.

Rather than measure an exact amount of flour, I usually calculate how much wheat I need to make the right amount of flour for the recipe. So in this recipe, aiming for 5 1/2 cups of flour, I grind a scant 4 cups of hard red wheat and don’t bother to measure the resulting flour. Mix the flour with the oats, millet and chia. Add the butter, yogurt, 2 cups warm water and agave.

Let the mixture soak for 12 to 24 hours.

Mix together yeast, ginger and 1/4 cup warm water. (Very warm water but not hot enough to burn you is about the right temperature.) Wait for the yeast mixture to become very foamy then mix into the soaked flour mixture, along with the salt.

Knead for 20 minutes, or into a small piece of the dough will stretch very thin, almost translucent. Remove the dough from the bowl, put a small amount of oil in the bottom of the bowl, put the dough back in the bowl and flip it over so all sides of the dough are coated in oil. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled, probably for 1-2 hours. (Note: In the video I put the dough on top of my oven to rise. This works very well if the oven if set on warm or 200, but when I’ve tried to do this while cooking other food at 350 or higher, the bowl has gotten hot enough to start to cook the dough. This is not helpful. So, be careful that you find a warm place, but not too hot, for letting your dough rise.)

Punch the dough down and, if you have time, put the dough back in a warm place to rise until doubled again, for 30-60 minutes. (This makes a better finished product, but isn’t strictly necessary if you’re running short on time.)

Punch the dough down and shape as desired. This dough makes 2 loaves of bread or 12 large hamburger rolls or 16 hot dog buns. I often make one loaf and 8 large hamburger rolls.

Put the shaped dough in a slightly warm oven to rise. (If you’ve had your oven on warm or 200 degrees and then turn it off when you put the dough in the oven, this is perfect.) In 20 to 30 minutes, when the dough is doubled, turn on your oven to 350 degrees. Rolls with take about 20 minutes to cook. Loaves will normally take about 30 minutes.

If you’re not sure whether your bread is done, carefully remove it from the loaf pan and tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.

Technically, you’re supposed to let your bread cool before slicing into it, or it smooshes somewhat. But if you happen to want to slice into it immediately and enjoy hot bread, straight from the oven, slathered in butter, I shan’t disapprove this choice. I might even join you.