A big part of my journey towards a real food diet has been learning to make ingredients I would normally have bought in a can or box from the grocery store, which usually contain at least one or more food additives or objectionable ingredients. I was amazed when I started finding recipes for all kinds of things I never even thought about how to make. And so many were so simple and could be made in batches ahead of time and frozen for the convenience I loved about these ingredients. Sometimes making these ingredients from scratch is cheaper than buying the boxed or canned version from the grocery store, but sometimes it is not. Regardless, I feel better knowing I’m not loading my body with chemicals.
I’ll be sharing some of the ingredient recipes I’ve had success with over the coming weeks. Here is also a great post with 30 things to make instead of buy!
One of the ingredients I use a lot, especially in the colder seasons, is vegetable broth. I used to buy those bouillon granules from the local coop…until I looked at the ingredients in them. MSG?! Yep. Ugh. Thankfully, I found a great recipe in this book for making veggie broth in the crock pot, and then got the idea from another blog (though I can’t remember now which one) to use vegetable scraps for making broth instead of fresh vegetables. So, here is the combination of those recipes/ideas.
I leave a quart sized freezer bag in my freezer to accumulate vegetable scraps as I cook over time. I save things like carrot, potato, and sweet potato peelings (washing the unpeeled veggies well), broccoli or cauliflower stems, celery tops and leaves, that outer layer of onion that doesn’t look as great as the rest of the onion, scallion tops that I’m not using, the bottom parts of asparagus, etc. Basically anything that won’t turn to mush when cooked for a while. I have used small amounts of bell pepper, and it works but makes the broth a little cloudier. If that doesn’t matter to you, feel free to include some! The sky is the limit! The only caution I would make is to not make too high a percentage of your scraps any of the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc) since they may make your broth bitter-tasting. The same goes with anything that has a strong flavor of its own that will overpower the rest of the vegetables (fennel for example).
Once I have about a quart sized bag full of scraps, I make broth!
Any of the ingredients below are optional – feel free to mix it up to find what you like. You will definitely need salt, though, for your broth to taste like anything. And the oil will help pull out those healthy fat-soluble vitamins. So, I do recommend including those in some amount.
Homemade Vegetable Broth
- Vegetable scraps of any sort (about a quart sized freezer bag is a great amount for a 4 quart batch)*
- A couple of onions, quartered (if you have lots of onion scraps you can reduce this)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and/or cut in half (to release juices)
- 1 tsp oil (coconut or olive)
- 1 large bay leaf (or several of those broken leaves that seem to always be at the bottom of the jar or bag)
- ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp tamari or other soy sauce
- Water to fill your crock pot
- Place all ingredients in the crock pot (vegetables can still be frozen). Add the water until the crock pot is “full” (leaving the recommended head space for your crock pot).
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours. I’ve left mine go for up to 12 hours and it was fine. I often let mine run overnight using a timer if necessary.
- Allow the broth to cool until you can safely handle the vegetables (this is where the timer comes in handy – have it turn off a couple hours before you are ready to process it!). Using a fine mesh strainer, pull out the vegetables and squeeze as much of the liquid from them as you can (this is where the healthiest and best tasting broth is!). Strain the rest of the broth to remove all the vegetables and spices.
- Store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months. I package mine in labeled containers in convenient amounts (2, 3, or 4 cups) and freeze them for future use. I find that for some applications, I can stretch the broth by diluting it up to 50% when I use it since the broth is much stronger tasting than what you’d get with the bouillon granules. However, dishes often taste better with the full strength broth, especially soups, so experiment and see what you like.
*If you need broth and don’t have the veggie scraps, feel free to use whole vegetables, cut into largish chunks (~1 inch or so). Carrots and celery are great for this and are things I often have on hand anyway. Any random frozen veggies you may have laying around would also work.
I love cooking various ethnic foods and trying all the different spices and flavor combinations. This recipe for a Moroccan tagine is one of my favorites. A tagine is a North African stew named for the pot it is traditionally cooked in. A friend who is learning Arabic says it is pronounced Ta’ zheen (emphasis on the first syllable). This version is vegetarian and is cooked in a modern skillet for a shorter time than the traditional. But it’s still delicious! It is slightly sweet, so the Greek yogurt on top really helps balance the flavors.
Moroccan Chickpea Tagine
- 2 Tbs coconut oil, or butter or olive oil
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 3-4 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans rinsed and drained)
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
- 2 medium red skinned potatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins or dried currents
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2-3 dashes cayenne pepper (or more if you like spicy foods)
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 cups water
- Greek yogurt to top
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute until onion is soft.
- Stir in chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, raisins, spices, honey and water. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are cooked as desired. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve in bowls, garnished with a dollop of yogurt.
This recipe is adapted from one in Vegetarian Times, October 2008.
I’ve been asked to post some quinoa recipes. Quinoa has recently been dubbed a “superfood” due to its high protein and nutrient content and lack of gluten. It is actually a seed rather than a grain.
It tends to be a bit expensive, and for good reason – most of the world’s production comes from a small area of the world – the Andes regions of South America. As the popularity of quinoa rises in western culture, it produces a bit of an ethical dilemma – the local cultures that have relied on this food as a staple for thousands of years have trouble supporting both the local supply demand and the overseas demand. And because exports are often more lucrative than local sales, most of the quinoa is exported from these often poverty-stricken regions.
I love quinoa and eat it on a regular basis. So, I try not to complain about the rising costs, hoping that the farmers are at least getting fairly paid for their crops.
Ok, enough of the soapbox! 😉 Onto the recipe!
Southwest Quinoa, Corn and Bean Salad
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 to 2 cups cooked dried beans)
- 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon grated lime peel (about half the zest from one lime)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (juice from 1 lime)
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt (or less)
- ¾ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- In a fine strainer, rinse quinoa with cold water, rubbing grains together with your fingers (this gets rid of the bitter outer coating); drain well. Combine quinoa and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. You know it’s done when the little “tails” spring out from the seed.
- Add the corn during last 2 minutes of cooking time. Place the quinoa and corn in a fine strainer; rinse with cold water to cool. Drain well.
- Meanwhile, in a small non-metal bowl, combine all dressing ingredients; blend well.
- Add beans, celery, tomato, cilantro, and dressing to quinoa and corn in a serving bowl. Mix well; cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors.
- Serve on a bed of lettuce if desired.
For more information how how to cook quinoa, this is a really helpful post: How to Cook Perfect, Fluffy Quinoa
How do you use quinoa?
Oh, the good intentions! Many projects tend to be much more fun for me to start than to continue, and this blog is no exception. But, I’ve found a new use for it, so I’m picking it back up. I’ll be using this space to share recipes and information I’ve gathered in the last year or so on my journey toward eating a real foods diet and living a more natural lifestyle free of the chemicals that have become characteristic of modern living. It’s mostly for some friends who are interested in starting their own journey, but if it’s helpful to others I’ll be honored to share what I’ve learned.
For those of you who are new to the idea of a real or whole foods diet, there is a really great post here that explains what it means. Basically, real foods are those that are as close to how God made them as possible. In the words of this post:
Real food is wholesome and nourishing. It is simple, unprocessed, whole food. Real food is pure and unadulterated, sustained yet unchanged by man.
Stay tuned for more, and hopefully this wont’ become yet another good intention! If you have specific recipes or information you’d like to see, please let me know!
A few weeks ago, we had the great opportunity to go on a hot air balloon ride, a goal since our honeymoon almost two years ago when the weather wasn’t conducive to flying.
As we took off early in the morning, I was very surprised by how different it was from my expectations; there was no sensation of flying. Since we were moving with the air currents, we felt no wind, no air movement at all except when we moved down into an air mass moving slightly slower than we were. There was also no noise aside from the burner and what little noise there is from a rural landscape at 6:30 am: a dog barking, a train moving goods along the tracks, and birds greeting the rising sun. The scenery below us simply slipped smoothly and silently by, almost too casually, as if our being hundreds of feet above the ground in a small basket suspended by nylon fabric and hot air were the most natural thing in the world. It was quite surreal.
Our flight was over too quickly and we landed in a farmer’s field, packed up and went on with our day.
If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. As we grow in the Christian life, it becomes simpler to us, because we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose. A Christian is someone who trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God. (from August 5 devotional)
Our balloon ride was a picture of our lives as followers of Christ. The Holy Spirit, Who has been likened to both wind (see John 3:8) and fire (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19 and Acts 2:1-4), keeps us afloat and moves us as He wills – up, down, this direction or that. My only job is to sit tight in the basket, enjoy the view and trust the Pilot. I have no wings, no propeller, no jet engine, not even a rudder with which to take control. My life should take on that simple, calm, and relaxed quality Chambers speaks of as I rest in my basket, rather than the frenzied pace I’ve been keeping, trying to control my life’s direction and speed. I want to stop my striving and enjoy the ride and my Pilot, which is both the most natural (what I was made for) and the most unnatural (going against my selfish nature) thing to do.
For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).
1 Peter 1:3, Amplified Bible
Thankfully, God has given us all we need to stop striving and follow Him simply by knowing Him more fully, “personally and intimately” as the Message Translation of this verse puts it.
Are you peacefully drifting with the Holy Spirit or anxiously striving on your own?
We walk into church this past Sunday and take our seats, just behind one of our pastors, as it happens. Before long, the band starts up and the worship begins. This pastor worships in a very enthusiastic, animated way and is soon joined by a boy of about 10 or so years who is new to the church and recently gave his live to Christ. When the pastor dances, the boy dances, when the pastor claps or kneels, he follows suit. It is clear the boy looks up to the pastor and wants to be like him, and perhaps seeks approval from him, though I have seen the pastor point him toward Christ as the object of and reason for the worship.
I am somewhat distracted in my own worship as I watch the two, both in amusement but also with some concern that the boy is focused too much on the pastor. But God changes my perspective in that quiet way He has, by giving me an image. Perhaps God sees me just as I am seeing the boy in the row in front of me, and I have to chuckle.
God does call us follow and imitate Him:
The Lord told Moses to say to the community of Israel, “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1-2, Good News Bible)
Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. (Ephesians 5:1, Amplified Version)
Yet, I know my efforts at this are usually so feeble and awkward, and my motives are often not pure. I stumble, turn the wrong way, get distracted or become stubborn, and end up looking nothing like my Father. Yet, I think God smiles on my efforts because He knows I am but a child. He keeps teaching me, pointing me in the right direction, and encouraging me.
Smiling, I return to my own worship of my Creator, my Father, and my Perfect Example and Model, with a prayer of thanksgiving and an appeal for help with my emulation skills. As the last song ends, before the boy leaves to sit with his father for the rest of the service, the pastor gives him a hug. I accept one from my Father as well.
Who are you imitating today?
Our lives go through many seasons, each with their own joys and needs. Recently, we went through a season of transition in regard to our church. Last April, the church we had been attending dissolved and disbanded. It was a difficult time filled with confusion, hurt, and uncertainty.
Just a couple of months before, a woman in the church had felt God asking her to start a woman’s Bible study and a good number had attended. As the church dissolved, our group kept meeting in various members’ homes. I was relatively new to the church and was enjoying getting to know these women, even as we were all thrown into looking for new churches. For me, it became a place of stability since we were visiting a new church every week.
We met every other week for about ten months, and slowly we began to find churches that suited us and our families. Just last month, we decided to stop meeting regularly since so many of us wanted to participate in studies at our new churches. We are not saying goodbye, but it is still hard to give up meeting regularly with a group you have come to love and respect. But, we are each moving into a new season and the group, so necessary for the last one, is no longer needed. God had provided for a season and I am grateful.
It reminds me of the manna that God gave the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert where there was no food. As soon as they stepped across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the provision of manna ended. It was no longer needed. Instead, God gave them victory over those in the land so they could take possession of it.
For each season, God provides for us exactly what is best and most needed. And when our season changes, so does His provision. What an awesome God we serve!