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Yo-Cheese

Making your own cream cheese is so easy, super scrumptious, and inexpensive. This is the softest creamiest cream cheese evah!!!
All you have to do is get a quart (or two- because believe me, you are going to love this stuff) of full fat plain yogart. Do not skimp and go for the low fat- and don’t even get me started on the low fat craze. In fact, The Man just told me that he needed to go back on a low fat diet so that he would gain some weight. Ha!!!! This time I am using greek yogart, but regular yogart makes creamy deliciousness as well.
Spread cheese cloth over a bowl, and dump the yogart on top. Allow the liquid to drain out, and voila… what you have left is cream cheese. For certain varieties of yogart, you may need to tie the cheese cloth to a wooden spoon and place it across the top of a deeper bowl to allow more liquid to drain. I have not had to do that yet, but may need to with the greek yogart.
The liquid that is left is whey. It will last in your fridge for 6 months and is perfect for soaking grains with excellent health benefits. Your cream cheese will last in the fridge for 2 months (if you don’t eat it in a week).
After you make your cream cheese, I highly recommend making some caramel popcorn and dipping it into the cheese. I think I’ll go have some now.

You’ll Flip

If you are in the Atlanta or Birmingham area, you need to check out Flip Burger Boutique.

The tagline for this Richard Blaise (of Top Chef Season 4 Fame) restaurant is “Fine Dining Between Two Buns.”  It is an accurate take on this trendy restaurant in Midtown Atlanta. 

For lunch on a Friday, we sat right down at the bar.  The atmosphere was modern and eclectic, and our waitress, Promise, happily handed us a menu as she poured a couple of beers. 

While we waited…

…we were entertained by John Mayer on the vintage framed flat screen. 

Chris ordered the Flip burger with onion, lettuce, marinated tomato, house made pickles, and ketchup.  And, I ordered the Butcher’s Cut with carmelized  onions, blue cheese, and red wine jam.  Oh my word… Super Yumm!!!  We shared a Krispy Kreme shake on the side.  This shake literally has three Krispy Kreme donuts blended into it. 

While we waited, I contemplated asking the girl sitting next to me if I could eat one of her zucchini fries.  They looked A-mazing!  I refrained. 

Chris photo bombed my first pic of the Butcher’s Cut…

  So, I tried again.

Chris’ burger and fries were delicious as well. 

While we ate, Chris asked if we would see “the guy from Top Chef.”  I told him that I assumed that we wouldn’t because he is probably not actually there that often. 

A couple of minutes later, Richard Blaise came out and started walking around the dining room and talking to the customers. 

Check it out. Yummy food, fun atmosphere, and all around good time.  Give me a call when you go, and I’ll meet you there.

I got a phone call the other night from a young foodie.  My friend’s son, Elijah called to borrow “the green olives that you have in your refigerator.”  He needed them for his sandwich recipe.

Of course, I told him that he could borrow them.  Upon further prodding, I found out that he wanted to make sandwiches for me and my family.  I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and since I had spent the afternoon making pastries instead of thinking about dinner, I was ready for a seven year old to descend upon my kitchen to prepare dinner.

So, he got to work.  He made sammies with sweet peppers, hot peppers, pickles, mayo (only Helmann’s would do according to Master E), black forest ham, mozzarella, and colby jack cheeses.

We made a little tomato soup to accompany the sammies and enjoyed some yummy eats!

They were delicious, and E was very proud of himself.

Amythecook, Elijah’s mom made some serious caramel sauce to go on top of the apple pastires I had made earlier.

Thank you Elijah and Amythecook!  You can cook in my kitchen anytime you like.

I was up in the middle of the night earlier this week and discovered this simple, delicious recipe.  Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of finding a recipe in the middle of the night is that you might not be able to remember where to find it the next day.

Disclaimer: This is not my recipe.  If this is your recipe, please comment and claim it.  I will revise and give credit where credit is due. I have searched for the original recipe, and I have had very sweet friends searching as well to no avail- shout out to Anna and Kim.  I have to post though.  It is too yummy and refreshing to keep to myself. 

So here it is…

Balsamic Strawberry Sorbet

*Note: the higher the quality vinegar and syrup you use the better.

3 cups frozen strawberries

1/4 cup pure balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup

Combine ingredients in high powered blender and blend until combined to the consistency of sorbet.  Freeze or eat immediately! 

Fantastic served with dark chocolate covered biscotti.

Carbs to the Max

I almost feel like I need to clarify this next statement with a current photo of myself.  But, here goes…

I grind my own wheat.

I know what you are thinking, and I promise that this does not mean that I wear ankle length jumpers or never cut my hair. And, I wear make up and jewelry- not that there’s anything wrong with that.  

The reason that I grind my own wheat is because the wheat kernel (as well as other whole grains) stores its nutrients within.  As soon as it is broken- as happens with the milling process- the nutrients begin to oxidize.  Over 50% of the nutrients oxidize withing 24 hours, and over 90% of the nutrients are lost within the first 72 hours after milling. 

This, as well as separating the wheat (very basically sifting), is the reason why you see “enriched flour” on the grocery store shelves.  Approximately 30 nutrients are removed from the wheat, and 4-5 are added back in to “enrich” the flour.  And, don’t even get me started on the synthetic “nutrients” that are added back into the flour to keep us from getting sick.

Wow!  I am all about the quotation marks, arent I? If I could type air quotes, I would.

Another reason that I grind my own wheat is because the milling process heats the grain to the point that it starts to break down, and the flour becomes rancid very quickly.  As a result most flour, as well as all processed products made with commercial flour on the grocery store shelves (baked goods, crackers, cereals, and flours, ect.) that you purchase in the store is already rancid and lacking in any nutrients.

I apologize for the science lesson.  I am trying to justify my neurosis here, people.

So, I grind my own wheat.  I make my own bread and baked goods.

With that, I have had several of you ask about my bread recipe.  I have been making our bread at home for a year and a half now, and the is the recipe that has evolved for sandwich bread.  This recipe is very loosely based on the techniques from Bread Beckers’ bread recipe, and the ingredients from Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking.

Bread- Troye’s Take (for this recipe I prefer to use a mixture of hard red wheat, hard white wheat, and kamut)

4 1/2 cups filtered water (hot)

1 1/2 tbsp salt

3/4 cup coconut oil

3/4 cup honey

1 egg

1/3 cup ground flax seed

11-12 cups fresh ground flour

2 1/2 tbsp dry yeast

Place water, salt, oil (melted if your home stays cool), honey, and egg in mixer.  Add half (approx. 6 cups) flour and flax seed, and turn mixer onto speed 2.  Once combined, add 5 more cups of flour and pour yeast on top.  Turn mixer back onto speed 2 and watch until combined.  If dough does not pull away from the sides of the bowl, slowly add more flour (about 1 tbsp at a time) until dough pulls away and creates a dough ball.  Allow mixer to knead for approximately 10 minutes total.

Remove dough to a greased bowl and allow to rise until doubled (about an hour). Punch down and divide into four equal parts.

For perfectly shaped loaves, roll dough into a rectangle and then roll up into a loaf.  Place in greased loaf pans and allow to rise again until doubled (about 30-45 min).

*Note: I turn my oven on low while I shape the loaves, and then turn it off and allow my loaves to rise in the warm oven.  Because my house stays pretty cool, I do this for the first rise as well.

Turn the oven ont 350 and bake for 30 min.  Remove from oven, and allow to rest in pan for 10 min. before removing to cooling rack.

This makes four loaves.  They freeze exceptionally well.  Although there is nothing like a fresh- from- the- oven loaf, the frozen loaves are very tasty and well worth not having to make bread every other day. 

The oxidation of the milled wheat stops when baked, so the nutritional value is preserved only by baking.   Fresh ground wheat is an excellent source of over 30 nutrients, including many B vitamins, but it is also the richest source of Vitamin E. 

As a side note for those with gluten intolerances… Many of the B vitamins help our bodies to process gluten.  We need the natural source of Vitamin B in order to break down the gluten in our baked goods as our bodies are intended to do.

…you think about what you will eat for lunch while you are eating breakfast.

…you plan your vacation schedule around where you will eat.

…or better yet, you choose your vacation destination based on a restaurant that you would like to visit.

…you take pictures of your food to post to social networking sites.

…you have trained your friends and family members to take pics of food to post to social networking sites, and they tag you in them without being asked.

…the first thing you ask your friends when you talk to them on the phone is “what did you make/eat for dinner?”

…you make dinner plans during lunch.

…when you are eating at a restaurant, other customers ask what you are having because you are enjoying it so much.

…you go to dinner with friends, and the server notes that you sat down and immediately began talking about food, and continued to do so throughout the entire meal- including dessert.

…you walk into a particular restaurant, and the staff knows your name.

…you have more recipes printed from the internet than you will be able to eat in a lifetime.

…you treat going to the supermarket as a field trip.

…people ask to go to the supermarket with you.

…you shop at 6 different supermarkets on a regular basis to find what you need.

…your Christmas list can be completely purchased at Williams-Sonoma.

…your pastor asks if anyone knows about how wheat is grown, and you raise your hand.

…you’ve ever called someone while you were eating something to describe it to them in detail.

…you’ve spent any time on the internet looking at food porn.

…your stress relief involves hours in the kitchen.

…you read cookbooks like a novel- from cover to cover.

…when someone asks you what your favorite food is, and you can’t answer.

…your spouse yells at you because he or she can’t take a picture of the kids because the camera is full of photos of food.

…you’re more excited to receive a kitchen gadget as a gift than a piece of jewelry.

…you’re upset that your family is too busy in the evenings, and you haven’t been able to cook dinner all week- and it’s only Wednesday.

…your child missed the following question on his IQ test:  “Point to the picture of food, and the choices were a chair, a glass jar, a rainbow, and a box of jello”… and, his teachers knew not to count it against him.

…you’re eating at a restaurant, and your six year old says, “Mom, this is so good. You have got to try this.”

…you throw up in your mouth every time someone even says the word “Velveeta” in front of you.

…you had to pause the movie “Julie & Julia” to make eggs with sautéed spinach- at 11 o’clock at night.

…your friends name a sandwich after you.

And, to think, five years ago, I didn’t even know what a foodie was.

Since I had a bunch of red kale in my box from Nature’s Garden this week, I needed to find a way to prepare it that I really enjoyed.  In the past, I have sautéed it, and I like it just okay.  I have never really been a kale lover though.  So, I decided to make pesto out of it.  As, I thought it through though, I really wanted something that could stand on it’s own, so I decided to break the ingredients down and deconstruct the idea of pesto. 

This is what I came up with.  The depth of flavor is really amazing.  I hope you give the recipe a try, and enjoy!

Deconstructed Kale Walnut Pesto with Chickpeas

2 tbsp olive oil

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 bunch of red kale, stems removed, and rough chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4- 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

zest from 1/2 lemon

juice from 1/2 lemon

Heat oil in large skillet over med high heat.  Add beans and spread into a single layer along bottom of pan.  Cook for about 3 min without stirring, then stir and cook for another 3 min. (to almost brown the peas).  Add kale and saute for approx 1-2 min. Add walnuts and garlic and continue to heat 2 min.  Add 1/4- 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg- according to taste), zest from 1/2 lemon, and juice from 1/2 lemon.

Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Can be served over pasta or alone.  

Wrangling Doh

 

“If you are confused, and you do not know what to do, Bake Bread!”

I stumbled upon this quote the other day and immediately fell in love with it!  It is so true.  Something about baking bread seems to clear the noise in my brain and refocus my thoughts.

Anyone who has come into contact with me in the last year and a half knows that I am passionate about making my own bread.  That passion seems to be contagious, and I often get the joy of teaching others how to make bread. On a beautiful Thursday morning, I did just that with the Silverman Sisters.  Teresa Silverman, and her four, hip homeschooled daughters came over to bake bread.  Teresa is a fellow sojourner on the real food journey, and wanted to teach her girls how to make bread (and maybe learn a little herself along the way). 

The enthusiasm of these girls was absolutely contagious.    Mary Anna (11) came in boasting how much she loves to cook, and Sarah (9) came in and immediately started copying down the bread recipe in her notebook that she brought along.  Let me just tell you that these girls have got it going on.  They are smart, funny, down-to-earth, and definitely much cooler than I was when I was their ages or than I ever will be. 

So we set right into the business of making dough.

You can see me talking with my hands even as I add the ingredients to the mixing bowl.  Big Shocker!

See how quickly I turn that dough to prep for the first rise?  Pay no attention to how my fingers look like an alien in this photo.  I promise it has nothing to do with the fact that my thumbs are not proportional to the rest of my body.  And, if I catch anyone staring at my thumbs in the future, I will try not to break down in tears. 

I got some fabulous help with shaping the dough after the first rise, and while we waited for the dough to rise, we made pizza dough as well.  We girls need our sustenance. 

Since Sarah announced that she LUUUUUUVED grating cheese, I was happy to let her help.  It was a sacrifice, but I was willing to be a gracious hostess.  She did and amazing job, and we turned out a Pesto Mushroom Feta Pizza, a Garlic Rosemary Cheesy Bread, and four individual sized pizzas made to perfection by each girl.

Sarah’s “Rustic Cheese Please with Shrooms” Pizza

Mary Anna’s “Extra Sauce Cheesy Mushroom Delight”

Abby’s “Pesto Tomato Shroom Spinach I’ll Never Be Able to Eat All of This” Pizza

And, finally, Hannah’s “Too Cool Mushroom Spinach Spinner”

We had a ball, and we completely lost track of time.  As we waited for the bread to bake, Abby looked at her mom and gasped, “Is it really 2:20?”  Time flew, and I am pretty sure really, really hope that the girls enjoyed it.  Although, there is no way they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Maybe Sarah was a little over it as the afternoon went on, but she hugged me as she walked out of the door, so I’ll take that as a sign that she had a good time. 

As a sidenote, this is the first of my “Cooking With…” Series.  I will feature various friends and family members as we experience the joy of cooking together.

the beginning?

Food is love.  I love food.  Therefore… 

There is something about preparing a meal for someone that just makes me feel connected to that person and to those around me.  It is a passion.

Food is such a common denominator in our lives, and I love the walls that come down over a plate of good eats.  I find pleasure in both the experience and the accomplishment.  Not only the accomplishment of a complete meal, but also the accomplishment of improving the health of those around me.

I guess I have been a food lover my entire life.  My mom always called me her vegetable eater.  I’m not sure if it was a sophisticated palate or a healthy fear of my mom’s hand on my backside, but I was willing to try any food.   In my mother’s home day care, I always took responsibility for the afternoon snack.  I would make pasta with olive oil and parmesan cheese or pizza after school for eight kiddos. 

In high school when I wanted to eat something that was not on my parents’ menu, I was sent to the grocery store on my own and would come home to cook it myself. 

As a young wife because of comfort level (or lack thereof) and budget constraints, I pretty much “fixed” food.  I didn’t really cook.  I still enjoyed the process, and often the outcome, but I didn’t care much about the ingredients or the health benefits.  I remember thinking how difficult certain recipes were, and avoiding them or saving recipes for “special” occasions because of the level of difficulty.

My food journey kind of grew new depth when I began to research food a few years ago.  With a kiddo that has food sensitivities, I began to study some of the science behind the food that we eat.  Our family went on a gluten free/ casein free diet for several months.  With that knowledge of the source of our food, and the components in our food, it was difficult to turn back.

We are no longer GFCF, but we do eat real, unprocessed, whole foods.  My eating philosophy is that I want to eat good food that was made in a kitchen, not a laboratory.  My goal is to seek food that is as close to its original source as possible, as close to home as possible, and to make it pretty and tasty… and to share it with others. 

As my passion for food has grown so has my desire to share my research about good food with those around me.  I am a know-it-all.  *But as long as I know that I am a know-it-all, that makes it all right, right?*  This new blogging journey is an avenue to share information with you.  From recipes to ingredients to sources for local food, I will attempt to inform you without boring you.  

So, let it begin. Please comment, and let me know what you would like to hear.