Home-made Swedish Meatballs

I was perusing a blog that I look at occasionally and they had taken pictures of real frozen dinners, with the boxes.

This looks nothing like the picture on the box, and truly looks inedible.

The ingredients are as follows:

BLANCHED MACARONI PRODUCT (WATER, SEMOLINA, WHEAT GLUTEN), WATER, SKIM MILK, BEEF AND PORK, ONIONS, 2% OR LESS OF MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, DEHYDRATED SOUR CREAM (SOUR CREAM (CULTURED CREAM, NONFAT MILK)), SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, ROLLED OATS, SOYBEAN OIL, MUSHROOM BASE (SAUTEED MUSHROOMS, SUGAR, SALT, CANOLA OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, ONION POWDER, 2% OR LESS OF POTATO STARCH, HYDROLYZED WHEAT GLUTEN, MUSHROOM JUICE CONCENTRATE, CARAMEL COLOR, NATURAL FLAVORS, GARLIC JUICE CONCENTRATE, ONION JUICE CONCENTRATE, SOYBEAN OIL, XANTHAN GUM), SALT, BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, RICE STARCH, FLAVOR (MALTODEXTRIN, SALT, YEAST EXTRACT, SOY SAUCE (SOYBEANS, WHEAT, SALT), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% BEEF EXTRACT, BEEF FAT, FLAVOR, TAPIOCA DEXTRIN, THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE), DEHYDRATED ONIONS, CARAMEL COLOR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE (VINEGAR, MOLASSES, WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SALT, ANCHOVIES, TAMARIND, SPICES, NATURAL FLAVOR, CARAMEL COLOR, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER), GARLIC PUREE, SPICES, SUGAR, YEAST EXTRACT, XANTHAN GUM, BEEF, DEHYDRATED SOY SAUCE (SOYBEANS, SALT, WHEAT), DEHYDRATED GARLIC, NATURAL FLAVORS, CULTURED WHEY, BEEF STOCK

Although most of those ingredients are recognizable, you generally wonder…. just what is Thiamin Hydrochloride?

(Thiamine hydrochloride (Betaxin) is a (when by itself) white, crystalline hygroscopic food-additive used to add a brothy/meaty flavor to gravies or soups. It is a natural intermediary resulting from a thiamine-HCl reaction, which precedes hydrolysis and phosphorylation, before it is finally employed (in the form of TPP) in a number of enzymatic amino, fatty acid, and carbohydrate reactions.)

In case you were wondering.

But why not know all the ingredients? Why not make it yourself? Why does our culture rely so much on convenience and cost over good for our bodies and peace of mind? We all work with people that pop these in the community microwave and mindlessly ingest them, maybe we are one of them. We all are short on time, or short on money. But what are we willing to sacrifice? Our health seems like a dangerous tradeoff.

I have the ability to  make a batch of 30 fantastic meatballs that I personally know what the ingredients are and where they came from, all for less than 10 dollars. Check it folks, that is 33 cents a meatball, in addition you get the added bonus of not having to make two extra meals because you would have left-overs. (Although be forewarned the recipe below is extremely addictive and doesn’t last long in our house)  In the picture above there are 5 meatballs…. that is $1.65 and it is mostly noodles, which automatically turns into body fat for those of us with PCOS. That just doesn’t seem right to me.

I encourage you to take more care, take joy in creating the food that will nourish you, know all of  your ingredients.

Swedish Meatballs with thimbleberry jam  (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Can be served with egg noodles or mashed potatoes, but who needs em?

INGREDIENTS

Meatballs

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup panko or bread crumbs
  • 16 ounces ground pork
  • 1 small onion , grated on large holes of box grater (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 16 ounces 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tablespoon packed brown sugar (can be omitted, especially if you are watching your gi index)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  For the Meatballs: Whisk egg and cream together in medium bowl. Stir in panko and set aside. Meanwhile, in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat pork, onion, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder on high speed until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary. Using fork, mash panko mixture until no large dry panko remains; add mixture to mixer bowl and beat on high speed until smooth and homogeneous, about 1 minute, scraping bowl as necessary. Add beef and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl as necessary. Using moistened hands, form generous tablespoon of meat mixture into 1-inch round meatball; repeat with remaining mixture to form 25 to 30 meatballs.
  2.  Heat oil in 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles (oil should register 350 degrees on instant-read thermometer), 3 to 5 minutes. Add meatballs in single layer and fry, flipping once halfway through cooking, until lightly browned all over and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. (Adjust heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking.) Using slotted spoon, transfer browned meatballs to paper towel-lined plate.
  3.  For the Sauce: Pour off and discard oil in pan, leaving any fond (browned bits) behind. Return pan to medium-high heat and add butter. When foaming subsides, add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour is light brown, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Add brown sugar and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and return to simmer.
  4.  Add meatballs to sauce and simmer, turning occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
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Frittata with Red Pepper, Onions, Bacon and Goat Cheese

We have our milk delivered to our house by a local dairy. A milk man comes to our house in the middle of the night, and when you wake up there are beautiful glass bottles of milk. In addition to the milk, the dairy will also deliver cheese, butter, and eggs. For the past year or so I have been ordering eggs  bi-weekly from the dairy and last week was no different. Do you catch the irony? Now that we have a chicken that is laying an egg a day, I really have no need for a dozen eggs. Face to Palm.

So what do you do with a dozen eggs you can’t possibly eat in addition to the fresh eggs from the backyard? When life hands you too many eggs, make Frittatas. Now if you read my past post, you know I am not a fan of eggs but figured that if I loaded it with enough things that I did like I might not notice the dozen eggs.

Frittata with Red Pepper, Onions, Bacon and Goat Cheese

  • 12 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 ounces of bacon cut into small pieces
  • half a red pepper
  • 4 ounces goat cheese , crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, about 5 inches from heating element; heat broiler. Whisk eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl until well combined, about 30 seconds. Set eggs aside.
  2. Render bacon until crisp. Add onions, red pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt; reduce heat to low and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir half of goat cheese into eggs; add egg mixture to skillet and cook, using spatula to stir and scrape bottom of skillet, until large curds form and spatula begins to leave wake but eggs are still very wet, about 2 minutes. Shake skillet to distribute eggs evenly; cook without stirring for 30 seconds to let bottom set.
  3. Distribute remaining goat cheese evenly over frittata. Slide skillet under broiler and broil until frittata has risen and surface is puffed and spotty brown, 3 to 4 minutes; when cut into with paring knife, eggs should be slightly wet and runny. Remove skillet from oven and let stand 5 minutes to finish cooking; using spatula, loosen frittata from skillet and slide onto platter or cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.

 

 And  you know what? I enjoyed it very much. And that is saying a lot from a girl that doesn’t eat eggs.
For anyone out there struggling with Metformin and the side effects: This morning I had another blood sugar crash at school. I decided to start documenting how I am feeling and the things I do to try and alleviate the symptoms.  I felt very very tired and lethargic, unable to concentrate. I felt nauseous, my stomach was upset and my back ached. I found a loose piece of hard candy, a mint to be exact, ate it and went for a very brisk walk.  I moved my arms and got the blood flowing and you know what? I was fine after that. I will try it again next time and see if the same  thing works and will let you know!

lamb kabobs and baba ghanoush

This summer I happened upon baba ghanoush, and when I say that I mean I had always though it was a made-up -unny word. So when I tried it for the first time I was amazed, and when I learned it was eggplant (I hate eggplant) my mind was blown into smithereens. It is delicious and low on the glycemic index and you can eat it without worrying about the caloric value. It is wonderful with lamb, beef or chicken. It is splendid with raw vegetables.

Baba Ganoush:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. (or if you can… on a grill, so much better!)
  2. Place eggplant on baking sheet, and make holes in the skin with a fork. Roast it for 30 to 40 minutes, turning occasionally, or until soft. Remove from oven, and place into a large bowl of cold water. Remove from water, and peel skin off.
  3. Place eggplant, lemon juice, tahini, sesame seeds, and garlic in an electric blender, and puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer eggplant mixture to a medium size mixing bowl, and slowly mix in olive oil. Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Around this house Indian is a favorite. It doesn’t matter what day of the week or the season of the year. Indian food is always in demand. Maybe it is the homey and rich spices, maybe it is a touch of the exotic, or perhaps it is just Indian food is a perfect combo of  all the wonderful things food has to offer. Tikka Masala is not authentically Indian, as it was invented in a London Curry house, but regardless…almost nothing is as satisfying on a cold evening.

 

Usually this recipe is a quick meal, coming in at around 45 minutes. But I made it this time with garden tomatoes from this past summer. There is something quite depressing about living at over 5,000 ft in elevation, and that is a short growing season, especially for tomatoes. My tomatoes don’t being to ripen until well into August, at which time Summer has blossomed and already started to fade as I head back to school. So as the tomatoes are coming in, and we can’t possibly eat all that the garden has to offer, I gently place them in ziplock bags and lovingly store them in the freezer until a perfect recipe comes along. When that day comes you simply pull the tomatoes for the freezer, run them under some warm water  and the skin comes right off . I then tossed them in the pot of simmering spices and onion and let them defrost in the pan. The rice is optional, as we know that people with PCOS should watch their carb intake. I enjoy mine without the rice, but some family members may not share the same affliction.

 

Chicken Tikka Masala (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

The Chicken (this part can be omitted if you are in a rush for time, just cook the chicken in a pan and add to the sauce)

  • 1/2teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 2pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts , trimmed of fat
  • 1cup plain whole-milk yogurt (see note above)
  • 2tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce

  • 3tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1medium onion , diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1fresh serrano chile , ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced )
  • 1tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1tablespoon garam masala
  • 1(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (but I used frozen garden tomatoes)
  • 1/2teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3cup heavy cream
  • 1/4cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  FOR THE CHICKEN: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.
  2.  FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
  3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
  4.  Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

 

Metformin Makes me Sick

Literally. I was so sick on Friday I thought I was going to have to go home. Being a teacher and being sick are two things that do not mix. On Tuesday I upped my dosage to 1000mg a day, 500 in the morning and 500 in the evening.

So yesterday morning I ate yogurt and blueberries and when I got to work took my pill. About 45 minutes after taking I became dizzy and unfocused. Everything seemed to be spinning, and the kids idle pratter didn’t make any sense. I felt better when I sat down, but the nausea started. I tried to eat something, although what it was escapes me…… I had a massive headache.

I sat in my corner and directed my class from afar, luckily they are good kids and don’t really need me once they know what to do. At lunch I gave in and bought school lunch, chicken sandwich (mystery giblets, cartilage and white bread) over cooked carrots and frozen blueberries with marshmallows? Seriously, no wonder our kids don’t want to eat at school. And half a candy bar. As soon as my blood sugar rose my headache cleared and I felt fine. I don’t understand how I am supposed to make it through the day feeling so terrible. My low carbohydrate snacks did nothing for me.

when I came home the daily camera had an article on the best pho in the area, and so J. And I went out for dinner. I do believe that pho might just be one of the worlds most perfect comfort foods.

http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_19767275

as you might notice homemade pho is sort of a pho-cking nightmare to prepare, so you might as well anti up the $8 and go out.

5 pounds beef knuckle, with meat
2 pounds beef oxtail
1 white (daikon) radish, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 ounces whole star anise pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 slice fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 1/2 pounds dried flat rice noodles
1/2 pound frozen beef sirloin

TOPPINGS:
sriracha hot pepper sauce
hoisin sauce
thinly sliced onion
chopped fresh cilantro
bean sprouts (mung beans)
sweet Thai basil
thinly sliced green onion
limes, quartered
Directions
Place the beef knuckle in a very large (9 quart or more) pot. Season with salt, and fill pot with 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 hours.
Skim fat from the surface of the soup, and add the oxtail, radish and onions. Tie the anise pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns and ginger in a cheesecloth or place in a spice bag; add to the soup. Stir in sugar, salt and fish sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat for at least 4 more hours (the longer, the better). At the end of cooking, taste, and add salt as needed. Strain broth, and return to the pot to keep at a simmer. Discard spices and bones. Reserve meat from the beef knuckle for other uses if desired.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Soak the rice noodles in water for about 20 minutes, then cook in boiling water until soft, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Slice the frozen beef paper thin. The meat must be thin enough to cook instantly.
Place some noodles into each bowl, and top with a few raw beef slices. Ladle boiling broth over the beef and noodles in the bowl. Serve with hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce on the side. Set onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, green onions, and lime out at the table for individuals to add toppings to their liking.

Ethics and Pot Roast

This summer I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I picked it up because I was fascinated with the idea of living off the land for a whole year, not that I could ever imagine doing it myself. As I read more and more I had this odd sense that Barbara was preaching to me, nagging me and admonishing me for not being like her and her family. Her tone carried this “I am better than you”  attitude and I began to resent her condescending words.

I find myself in the unique position of having many opportunities to provide myself with healthy and local sources of food. I realize that not everyone can have backyard chickens, or plant their own garden, or visit their local famers market. But I can only tell my story as it unfolds and the choices I make, and hope that I always come across as grateful and humble.

Whew, now that is out of the way…. J. used to work for a big “beef company-who-must-not-be-named” here in Colorado. He worked in their corporate offices. We had a first-hand look into the world of meat processing and packaging. It totally changed the way I felt about beef and my relationship to it. I couldn’t continue to buy into this corporation that produced such mediocre product and filled the cows with corn, hormones and anitbiotics (neither of which are good for the cows or you and I).

So we made a choice that I recognize is not available to everyone. We bought a 1/4 of a cow from a ranch located just 15 miles from our house. In the late spring we drove out to the ranch to meet the people who were raising the cows in their pasture. The cows were peacefully roaming the through the grass, a beautiful stream with spring run-off rushed by the cotton wood trees. No feed lots, no cows crammed into small spaces with manure and mud. When the time came the cows would be taken to slaughter and the meat would be aged for 21 days. The meat was then packaged by a USDA inspected company and hand delivered to us by the lovely people who own the ranch.

I can honestly say you can taste the difference, and not in a Boulder Hippy Organic Yoga way. The beef is richer, more tender, intense in its texture and flavor. It is a win-win situation. Not only do I help out a small family farm in my local area, but in return I get beef that has been raised humanely and tastes far superior to anything I have ever had. (To my vegetarian friends and family I understand your concerns and convictions, and I respect your choices)

If you find yourself with the opportunity, I highly recommend supporting your local rancher and community by buying locally.

This weekend I made a pot roast from an English Roast that was part of our 1/4 cow purchase. It was amazing.

Published November 1, 2010.   From Cook’s Illustrated.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1(3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast , pulled into two pieces at natural seam and trimmed of large knobs of fat
  • Kosher salt
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2medium onions , halved and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
  • 1large carrot , chopped medium (about 1 cup)
  • 1celery rib , chopped medium (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1cup beef broth , plus 1 to 2 cups for sauce (see note)
  • 1/2cup dry red wine , plus 1/4 cup for sauce
  • 1tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1bay leaf
  • 1sprig plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Sprinkle pieces of meat with 1 tablespoon salt (1½ teaspoons if using table salt), place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. 2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add carrot and celery; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, ½ cup wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme sprig; bring to simmer.
  3. 3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, tie each piece of meat into loaf shape for even cooking.
  4. 4. Nestle meat on top of vegetables. Cover pot tightly with large piece of foil and cover with lid; transfer pot to oven. Cook beef until fully tender and sharp knife easily slips in and out of meat, 3½ to 4 hours, turning halfway through cooking.
  5. 5. Transfer roasts to cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Strain liquid through mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Transfer vegetables to blender jar. Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then skim any fat off surface. Add beef broth as necessary to bring liquid amount to 3 cups. Place liquid in blender with vegetables and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer sauce to medium saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.
  6. 6. While sauce heats, remove twine from roast and slice against grain into ½-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to large serving platter. Stir chopped thyme, remaining ¼ cup wine, and vinegar into sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half of sauce over meat; pass remaining sauce separately.

Eggs a Miracle!

Well maybe it all it takes is a bit of complaining. Two fabulous farm fresh eggs from my backyard. If you wake up early enough they are still warm when you collect them. It seems so sad that we are so detached from our food source that an egg seems like a foreign occurrence. We should be collecting an egg once a day from here on out, and as soon as the other chickens are old enough we will be collecting up to 4 a day.

Poached Eggs

2-4 Fresh Eggs (the fresher the better, but does not necessarily need to be from your backyard)

1-2 tsp of vinegar

Over medium heat bring 2 to 3 inches of water to a boil/simmer in a skillet. Pour in vinegar, 1 tsp per cup of water.

crack single egg into liquid measuring cup, be careful not to break the yolk. Pour egg carefully into water. Repeat with the rest of the eggs.

Turn off heat and cover. Wait patiently until the yolk has set to your desired hardness.

J. likes the yolk to be mostly set, but still a bit runny. 7 minutes or so.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over top