Menu Plan 3/6/14-3/12/14

It ended up being an interesting food week around here: in the past three days we’ve used up almost four pounds of butter, and I may have to make a shopping trip to get more, even though it’s not my normal shopping week! We ended up having a couple of my husband’s siblings stay with us for a couple of days this week, and his sister and I had a baking day: she made fudge, bread and lemon meringue pie and I made eclairs. My first batch of eclair shells was a total flop (we dubbed them bread sticks and ate them with soup), but I figured out what I did wrong and made another batch that turned out much better.

I didn’t get to any of my other baking projects I mentioned  as possibilities for the week, but I did make eclairs, and they turned out very well. Sometimes splurges just need to take precedence over practical choices…

I didn’t end up making deep dish pizza again either–it was one of those days and we ate frozen pizza instead. However I *did* make the oyster soup, which was basically a simple potato soup with that addition of the the can of oysters. (I keep wanting to call it a tin of oysters every time I mention it. Perhaps I’ve been watching too many British tv shows recently…) We ate the soup with grilled cheese sandwiches to stretch it out for having guests, and garlic sauteed asparagus, because asparagus is already going on sale cheap at the grocery stores.

I also tried the spinach gratin recipe, and it was a hit. I used milk instead of stock and parmesan cheese instead of swiss. It still tastes distinctly like spinach, so if you’re looking for a disguised spinach recipe, this won’t help you much. But it did have a soft, almost creamy texture that was lovely, and as an added bonus, 1 lb of fresh spinach made barely three servings (two of us could have easily finished it off), so if you get overwhelmed by trying to eat a whole package of fresh spinach in salads and smoothies, this recipe will easily help you finish off the package.

Dinners:

Sausage and sweet potato hash (This will probably get a last minute side, after I decide whether I feel like counting the sweet potato as a carb or a vegetable that day.)

Deep dish pizza with fruit

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

Ground beef and potato hash

Chicken thighs with roasted carrots and mashed potatoes

Turkey ‘pork’ dumplings with peas

Crockpot meatloaf with potatoes and carrots

(Can you tell I’m trying to use a lot of organic potatoes and carrots I got a good deal on?)

Lunches:

By my calculations, I should have leftovers for every lunch except one. I’ll plan on finding something to pull out of the freezer, and hope I’m feeling more creative about it that day than I am right now. I’m getting low on lettuce, so I do need a plan for vegetables for lunches. We still have fresh pineapple, which would do for a couple of lunches. I wonder how long it would take us to get tired of roast carrots if I cooked up a lot of them at once and them used them for lunches several days in a row. What if I made some sort of cold, marinated roast carrot salad to switch it up a bit? I’ll have to think on that.

Breakfasts:

(I hardly followed last week’s breakfast plan at all. I never made muffins or rice pudding, and we ate eclairs for breakfast the day after I made them–but don’t tell anyone, this is supposed to be a healthy food blog.)

Eggs

Oatcakes (I’m really intrigued by this, both because of my Scottish heritage, and because it’s a way to eat oats without the oatmeal texture my husband doesn’t like. Plus, another way to switch up which grains we’re using on a regular basis, instead of falling into the lazy ‘wheat for every meal’ habit.)

Chia Pudding

Yogurt and/or fruit, on it’s own, or with the above

Baking and Extras:

I need to make fermented ginger carrot ‘relish’ this week, plus I’m sure I’ll go through at least one batch of homemade french onion dip for snacking between meals. Obviously I need to make oatcakes and chia pudding if we’re going to eat those for breakfasts. (I’m off the hook for trying the pancakes because we’re out of chocolate chips now.) I may also try to make the rice pudding and/or the muffins I planned on making last week. I got a lot of ‘fun baking’ out of my system with the baking day, but I’d like to continue my developing habit of trying new (or rarely made) fun recipes on a regular basis, so maybe I’ll try something like fermented ginger ale, or homemade granola bars, if I find the time for more baking this week.

Grocery Shopping:

(Sales are for the central IL area.)

As I mentioned, I need to go buy butter even though it’s not my normal shopping week, but I don’t want to make too much of a shopping trip out of it. After a large Azure order this month as well as a Costco trip and needing to buy a gallon of raw honey (a large expense for two person grocery budget), I want to save most of the grocery money I have left for St Patrick’s Day, both stocking up on corned beef when it goes on sale, and having a little extra money to throw at fun food to celebrate St Patricks Day.

That said, there are a few tempting sales this week. Fresh asparagus is on sale again, the cheapest being at HyVee for 99 cents a pound. Aldi’s canned (wild Alaska) salmon is 20 cents cheaper than normal, so 2.49, which makes it a good time to get ahead if canned salmon is staple for you. (Aldi is the cheapest place I’ve found to get canned salmon anyway, so even a small price drop makes it an even better deal.) They also have frozen salmon fillets discounted, and fresh lemons for 99 cents a pound.

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.)

Menu Plan and Shopping List 2/27/14-3/5/14

Most of last week’s menu went according to plan. I even tried out making deep dish chicago style pizza for our pizza night, it was a definite success! (Okay, it didn’t quite taste like Giordano’s pizza, but it was still really good.) The chicken strips were also notable, as they turned out so well I commented that maybe I should make a video showing my recipe for them, and my husband’s reply was, “Yes, you should definitely do that, because then you’ll have to make them for dinner again”. So chicken strips are on the menu again!

I even got most of my baking projects done, except, of course, once again it proved to be a bad week to make pancakes, as my husband ended up needing to work on our car Saturday morning and it just didn’t make sense to plan for a leisurely pancake breakfast in that case. Does anyone else have these cooking projects that repeatedly get put off? Please, comment and let me know if I’m not the only one…

Dinners:

Social Event (1 or possibly 2)

Deep dish pizza with salad

Leftovers/fridge scrounging

Ground Beef/Potato Hash

Oyster Chowder (This is completely new ground for me, but I was curious about the canned smoked oysters at Aldi and decided to give them a try in some interesting sounding recipe) and fruit salad

Homemade Chicken Strips (with homemade ketchup, or perhaps more ambitous dipping sauces) and Spinach Gratin

Lunches:

Leftovers, and probably quesadillas or grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup if we run short of leftovers. (I love to throw extra ingredients in both quesadillas and grilled cheese, so with mushroom or onion or tomato in there, it should make a sufficiently full meal.)

Breakfasts:

Rice Pudding

Eggs

Muffins

Yogurt and/or fruit with any of the above

Baking and Extras:

I want to make rice pudding to have in the fridge for a couple of easy breakfasts, plus some raisin nut muffins. I also need to make some bread, which will probably be my whole wheat version of irish soda bread, since we’re currently out of the hard red wheat I use for making yeast bread. And probably another batch of yogurt… But on top of those fairly basic baking needs, I’d really like to make a fun dessert this week. Maybe lemon mousse? Or homemade eclairs? Or is that too ambitious for someone who can’t even seem to make pancakes and I should scale down to something like brownies? I guess we’ll just have to see how the week turns out…

Shopping List:

While Aldi does have avocadoes on sale (.59) I think this week I’m sticking with Kroger, including such buys as:

fresh pineapple, 2/$2

pinto beans, around 2lb/$2.50 (I normally would buy these in bulk, but in this case I’m going to buy a few pounds at the store to tide me over to the next bulk purchase.)

pepperoni, 4pks/$4 (I know, I know, nitrates, etc. But that’s why I haven’t had pepperoni around for a while, and I’m starting to miss it, and it’s on sale this week.)

sour cream, 5/$5 (On sale for $1–time to stock up!)

Chicken leg quarters, about 5lb/$4.00 (I usually buy leg quarters, as that’s the cheapest cut of chicken you can get, and sometimes divide it into thighs and drumsticks myself.)

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.)

Menu Plan 2/20/14-2/26/14

Because of some tired/sick days and extra leftovers we had a couple extra leftover nights this week. I’m trying not to let the fact that I’m posting my menu plans affect the fact that I need to adjust for real life. In fact, one of my main goals with my videos and this blog is to show the ‘real life’ side of cooking with real food, and admit to the flops and fails and changes and even the frozen pizzas when those happen. It’s just sometimes hard, as a food blogger, to announce to the entire internet when you didn’t serve vegetables with a meal.

Speaking of which… I was, in fact, a little lax on the veggies this week. We had vegetables included in our meals, but some of them were more in the realm of handwaving and ‘onions count as vegetables, right?’. This tends to happen when I’m tired or focused on other things, and this week I was both. I’m concentrating on some other health habits this week, and so the veggies took a back seat to that, but don’t worry, I have not abandoned vegetables forever.

(Crazy thought here, but I kind of wonder if truly eating seasonally would mean eating fewer vegetables in the winter. I mean, traditionally you’d have a few high carb vegetables that store well, but you’d mostly be eating grains and potatoes during the winter months right? Which makes sense if you don’t keep your house at a fixed 72 degrees year round and actually need to burn a lot of carbs and fat to stay warm all winter.)

Anyway, I did make the turkey dumplings, and need the bump up the seasonings more if I use turkey in the future (instead of pork), but they were still really good. After a bit more tweaking, the recipe will likely show up here.

Dinners:

Homemade breaded chicken strips with homemade dipping sauce (depending on my mood, possibly barbecue sauce, ketchup, sweet and sour sauce, honey mustard or ranch, or any 2-3 of those) and stuffed mushrooms

Homemade pizza

Leftovers/fridge scrounging (This is our Saturday meal, and basically means ‘anything easy that sounds good’. So, yes, sometimes it’s my code word for frozen pizza.)

Ground Beef and Potato Hash

Salmon Patties with homemade bread, lemon yogurt sauce and onion rings

Lasagna with homemade noodles (Yep, this did indeed get bumped to the next week. But this time it’s totally happening! Yeah…) and garlic green beans

Burritos

Lunches:

Leftovers, as usual. We may not have enough lettuce to do side salads all the time, but we should be able to do fruit salads as a substitute.

If we end up short of leftovers for one of the lunches I might make some soup. I keep a bag of veggies in the freezer and add to it when I have a slice of tomato left over after making sandwiches, or a couple spoonfuls of sauteed vegetables that aren’t worth saving to reheat. The bag is getting close to full, and being cold season, it’s probably about time for some nice brothy soup anyway.

Breakfasts:

I made (regular, white flour) waffles for breakfast last Saturday, having not planned ahead enough to make the soaked pancakes that have been on my list for weeks. I think this may be the week to finally make the pancakes though…

Soaked Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Eggs

Fried Potatoes

Yogurt (with chia, honey, fruit, etc)

Hopefully I’ll bake muffins or something too…

Snacks and Other:

Nearly miraculously, I made both oatmeal raisin cookies and chocolate covered strawberries last week. This week I need to make sauerkraut and ketchup, saute and freeze mushrooms, make the soaked pancakes, and either make muffins, or at least make some baked oatmeal ahead for breakfasts this week. Hopefully that’s not too ambitious…

Grocery Shopping:

It’s my ‘off week’ for grocery shopping again, though I’m really hoping to get to make a Costco trip soon as I need several things including:

organic carrots, 10lb/$6.99

organic tomato paste, 12/$5.99

shredded cheddar cheese, 5lb/$12ish

Also, I noticed some good vegetable deals at Aldi:

mushrooms, .69 (Again! Anyone who’s trying to shop on a budget should be using a lot of mushrooms right now!)

roma tomatoes, 1lb/.79 (Under a dollar pound… Great week to make homemade salsa.)

zucchini, 1lb/.69

onions, 3lb/.79 (Like the mushrooms, still on sale, but even cheaper per pound than the mushrooms, and you can throw a chopped onion in just about everything you cook, in addition to making onion rings, stuffed onions and other onion based dishes.)

I also noticed boneless, skinless chicken thighs for 1.49/lb at Aldi. I tend to buy my meat on the bone, cut it up as needed, and make stock from the leftover bones, but for a ‘convenience food’ the boneless, skinless thighs could be a good deal.

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.)

Menu Plan and Shopping List 2/13/13-2/19/13

I’m tired today as I’m menu planning, so my plans are even more subject to change than usual, as I may go ‘what was I thinking?’ when I look at this week again with a clearer head. 🙂

We stuck to last week’s menu plan surprisingly well, with a few small changes, such as going out for chinese instead of making pizza, and switching chicken thighs for drumsticks. I found the Creamy Mushroom Peas to not be that impressive–perhaps in a different mood I would differently, but I felt I’d just as soon eat plain peas with bit of butter.

Menu Plan

Dinners:

Potato Chowder

Turkey Dumplings (in the style of pork dumplings, but experimenting with using ground turkey–I never got to this when it was on my menu plan a couple seeks ago) with sauteed veggies

Seasoned Ground Beef (I’m thinking something in the style of Italian Beef, but based on ground beef instead of roast)

Social Events x2

Salmon Patties with homemade bread, lemon yogurt sauce, tomato and mayo plus stuffed mushrooms

Lasagna with homemade noodles (Yes, this is ambitious, and so will be the first thing to get bumped from the menu if I’m have a tired day or week, but I did it once before and it was really good, so I really need to try it again.) plus a salad

Lunches:

Leftovers, possibly with side salads added

Judging by the layout of the week and the way food has been going lately, we won’t have any shortage of leftovers for lunches.

Breakfasts:

I *still* didn’t make those soaked pancakes, having failed to take into account that I had an event to attend on Saturday morning and didn’t really have time to do pancakes for breakfast. I did remember that we had some cooked squash in the freezer, and added some variety to our breakfasts this week by warming it up with some salt, sugar, butter and cinnamon.

For this week:

Fried Potatoes with cheese and homemade ketchup (We finally got our Azure Standard order in and are really enjoying having organic potatoes on hand again.)

Oatmeal with yogurt, chia and raisins (We also got organic raisins in this order.)

Eggs

Sides of fruit with any of the above breakfasts.

Snacks and Other:

I don’t know if I’ll get to it this week, but now that I have organic raisins again I’m really badly wanting to make oatmeal raisin cookies. I’m also hoping to buy some strawberries and make chocolate covered strawberries… We shall see.

Grocery Shopping:

I generally found the sales to be uninspiring for this week, though there were a couple of good items on sale at Aldi. This is a smattering of what I’m buying there this week:

Blue Corn Tortilla Chips, $1.69 (While they’re made with run of the mill not so healthy oils, they use organic blue cormeal, so a good mostly healthy option for Aldi only weeks.)

Yellow Onions, 3lb bag for .89

mushrooms, .69 (I still haven’t used up all the mushrooms I bought two weeks ago when they were on sale, but at these prices I’m going to try sauteeing and freezing a bunch.)

strawberries, $1.99 (Yes, they’re out of season, and normally I would only eat organic strawberries because they’re on the dirty dozen list… but I’m splurging because I inexplicably wanted to make chocolate covered strawberries. Why do I post my grocery list for everyone to read again? 🙂 )

Pineapple, $1.29 (They had one sad looking pineapple last time, so I didn’t get one, but I really want to get one this time if they have any decent looking ones, so I can make tepache again.)

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…

Menu Plan 2/6/13-2/12/13

As often happens, some plans changed after coming up with last week’s menu plan. We ended up with more leftovers than I’d planned on and going to fewer social events than I’d planned on. Also, I was more tired than I planned on being.

The upshot is that some of last week’s planned meals are being moved to this week, and I’m going to try to account for leftovers a little better so I don’t have to throw away so many next time I clean out the fridge!

(We did have the bacon guacamole grilled cheese sandwiches on my birthday as planned. I added tomato and they were AMAZING! I left the guacamole off my husband’s sandwich at his request, but he did really enjoy his bacon tomato grilled cheese sandwich as well.)

Menu Plan

Dinners:

Hot Cheesy Artichoke Spinach Dip with Blue Corn Tortilla Chips (I may put another dish with this at the last minute, but since it clearly contains veggies and the cheese has protein, I’m willing to let it pass as a fun meal without too much angst over whether it’s as balanced as the rest of the meals this week.)

Homemade Pizza (Usually using Sally Fallon’s yogurt dough, homemade pizza sauce and seasoned ground beef or white sauce and chicken, plus mushrooms and onions. One of these days I’m going to get adventurous and try making chicago style deep dish pizza at home.)

Leftovers/Fridge Scrounging

Ground Beef and Potato Hash

Salmon Patties on homemade rolls with lemon yogurt sauce and garlic green beans

Chicken Drumsticks (Probably using leftover sweet and sour sauce I have in the fridge) with Creamy Mushroom Peas (Haven’t tried this recipe, but was looking for a good way to use up mushrooms. Truth be told, I’m going to be throwing mushrooms into most dishes this week because they were cheap at Aldi last week and I stocked up.)

Indian Spiced Lentils and Rice with Roasted Tomatoes

Lunches:

As usual, leftovers, sometimes with an extra side salad. I don’t anticipate running short on leftovers this week, but if we do have a lunch without sufficient leftovers I’ll either make a main dish salad or pull some soup out of the freezer.

Breakfasts:

Last week we pretty much only did fruit, yogurt, toast and eggs. This week I’d really like to make up the batter for Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes on Friday so we can have them for breakfast on Saturday.

Also, more yogurt, fruit and eggs. I’ve also been contemplating making up some chia pudding for breakfasts, but that’s unlikely to happen in the next couple of weeks.  (For one thing, it’s cold season and we’re going light on the dairy right now.)

Grocery Shopping

I try to keep my grocery shopping to once every two weeks, except when I’m tempted by a lack of fresh produce at home or unusually good sales at the store. I’m probably going to stick other errands besides grocery shopping this week, but there are a few deals that stood out to me as I was glancing over the ads (central IL area).

Aldi:

mangos, .49

chicken breast, 1.59/lb

Hyvee:

(2 day sale, Thursday and Friday) bananas, .28/lb

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.