Monday, December 19, 2011

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Have you ever looked at the ingredients label on a package of flour tortillas?   How about gluten-free flour tortillas? I don't honestly know if the long named items on the ingredient  list are bad or not, but I certainly can't pronounce them. Corn tortillas  have much fewer ingredients, but the store bought ones are pricey and a bit rubbery.

If you are like us and eat tortillas as an infrequent treat, you might want to try to make your own corn tortillas. If you are just making a few it literally takes 20 minutes start to finish and contains such simple and few ingredients: corn flour, warm water and salt.  Since we eat Mealpods most nights, spending 20 minutes to make fresh tortillas (while the Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Burrito Filling Mealpods are warming up in the oven) is painless.

I buy Maseca Corn Flour at the grocery store in the Mexican Foods aisle. You know you have the right one if it has the instructions for making tortillas on the back of the bag. You don't want to use corn flour that is not made for tortillas so make sure those instructions are on there.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sweet Potato Burrito filling Recipe

Sweet Potato Burrito Filling Mealpod Recipe

3 sweet potatoes
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 small onions
3 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tsp minced garlic
2 pkgs Italian chicken sausage (24 oz)

This is one of my favorite Mealpod recipes that is already in our archive on the website. It admittedly is one of my husband's creations that we fiddle with all the time. Today's version is different from the website and you can adjust it to your tastes as well. It's base is smashed (not to be confused with mashed) sweet potatoes, peppers, Mexican spices, and Italian sausage. You can use chorizo instead but I find it a bit strong for this recipe and the mild Italian sausage works so well with the mexi flavours. Eat as is or as a filling in homemade corn tortillas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Two Easy Gluten-free Cheesecakes & Sugar Talk

I feel a bit guilty about making another sweet post, but it is almost Christmas and I wanted to bring a gluten-free dessert with me to a party tonight so I could have some while I was there. I don't exclude sugar in my diet anyway, whereas my paleo eating sister does. Hi Sis! <3

Sugar is an interesting topic. I find that eating sugary foods does not effect me like eating gluten does. I get no perceptible spikes and lows in my energy, and no extra hunger. For some people, however, sugar in every form can effect their body and they need to lower their intake if not eliminate it from their diet. Lowering the amount of sugar we eat should also lower the amount of overall calories consumed as well because sugar is a dense calorie food.

If you want to limit your sugar, you could start during the holidays not by taking out the dessert you want at a party but by being more aware of the added sugars in your food. I don't mean the sugar you add into your food - you are aware of that. I'm talking about the sugars hidden in things like tomato sauce, bagels, health food bars, yogurt and more. These hidden sugars according to the Emory University School of Medicine and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) account for 16% of the sugars we eat. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Exercise in Moderation As Well - & the Biggest Loser

I have to admit a guilty pleasure. I love watching competition shows: the X Factor, Top Chef, Expedition Impossible... and yes, The Biggest Loser. The producers must know what they are doing, because I can't get enough of them. I particularly like watching the Biggest Loser on my treadmill days: I feel like Bob is yelling at me sometimes - yay. I'm a bit upset that this morning at the YMCA,  the news was on and they showed who the recent winner was when I have not watched the episode, but that is not the subject of this post. (Please don't tell me who was last booted off the X Factor either as I am behind on that show too!)

I have conflicted feelings about the Biggest Loser however.  I know they do cover eating healthy on the show, but I can't help but think that the show sends the message that crazy work outs is the best way to lose weight. I am no nutritionist or personal trainer, but I have found that for myself when I've relied too heavily on working out to keep my weight at a healthy level, it backfires.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beef Mushroom Risotto Recipe

 I had a very busy weekend this weekend. My oldest daughter turned 13 last week so we had her teenage initiation party. Saturday was a wash, but I did get to make one Mealpod recipe Sunday. We still have peppers, alfredo, and spaghetti Mealpods  in the freezer so we are doing well. I ate all the lasagna from last week though. I didn't even freeze it as I knew it would be gone by the end of the week.

This week I had my husband pick what to make and he picked a mushroom risotto from a magazine. It didn't have a protein though so I altered it to make it into a full meal. Now it is Beef Mushroom Risotto with a touch of red wine and baby arugula. 

I photographed it as a Mealpod because this is the way I eat it. We had some fresh last night after it was made, but I froze the rest and reheated one in the oven today at 350 right in the foil pack for 25 minutes. I have to say it tastes even better today... the Parmesan cheese mellowed and the mushroom flavor came out more after reheating. If you are a risotto snob I am sure freezing and reheating it is a no no but I think it is delicious.  The rice will soften when reheating, but you can always undercook it from the start so when it is reheated it is cooked right.
Click read ore below for the recipe.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Meringue Spice Cookies - gluten-free cookie

 I wouldn't go so far as saying these cookies are good for you, they are packed with sugar, but they are gluten-free and are really yummy. If you need to bring some treats for a holiday party these are a great alternative. They also make a great almost guilt-free dessert present.

I came up with the recipe for these cookies by accident. I was trying to make organic cookies, so I used fresh organic eggs and organic turbinado sugar (raw sugar).  Turbinado sugar tastes like molasses similar to brown sugar, but brown sugar is made by adding molasses to refined sugar. Turbinado sugar is (according to wikipedia):

produced by extracting the juice from sugar cane, heating it to evaporate water and crystallise the sugar, then spinning in a centrifuge to remove some impurities and further dry the sugar. 
Needless to say the cookie batter turned out smelling very molasses-y so I added some pumpkin pie spice that I had around (we put it on our squash) to make them into a quick spice cookie. Now they are my favorite meringue cookie! -- Nicole

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Microwave Popcorn without the Chemicals

There is an article going around social media right now entitled "7 Foods You Should Never Eat"  by Prevention Magazine that lists foods that specialists in different jobs won't eat. The farmer won't eat corn fed beef, the Endocrinologist Won't Eat: Canned Tomatoes etc. One of the foods listed that has some lingering chemicals  I didn't know about was microwave popcorn. 

3. The Toxicologist Won't Eat: Microwave PopcornOlga Naidenko, is a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.
The problem: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize--and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.
The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.
Budget tip: Popping your own popcorn is dirt cheap
Read more:

I didn't know about the chemicals, but I don't eat microwave popcorn because of the salt and added calories from oil. Basically if I pop it myself without oil I can eat a whole bowl for a couple hundred calories instead of part of a bag of packaged micro popcorn for the same calories.

I know microwave popcorn is easy but there are easy ways to do it without prepackaged versions with "movie style butter."

Method 1: I use one of these bowls made specifically for popping popcorn kernels. Its a bowl... with a lid... that doesn't get too hot in the microwave and is shaped correctly to pop the popcorn. No oil needed. I find that I like to put the salt in the bowl with the kernels instead of putting it on later. It pops great and then if you want you can add real melted butter on to it or have it plain.

I have the cheap Nordic Ware one below but there are fancier ones. I may have to get the red one as mine is probably 5 years old and is getting discolored.

Method 2: You can also try popping your kernels in a paper lunch bag. Put 2 tbs popcorn in a lunch bag, roll up the end and pop in the microwave for about 2 minutes or until you stop hearing the popping. You can also add a tsp or more of oil into the bag if you like. The bag will get messy, but if you prefer it made with oil its worth it.

Method 3: Another option is an electric airpopper although not technically a microwave popper, it is a fast and healthy method.  I can remember as a kid in the 70's eagerly waiting for the popcorn to spit out of the machine before the Muppet Show started (Pigs in Space were my favorite).  They haven't changed much since the 70's, but every year they have a cute new model. This year I spotted the one below that mimics movie theater poppers.  --Nicole

Monday, December 5, 2011

Italian 3 Ways - Nicole - Noodle-Free Eggplant Lasagna, Spicy Stuffed Peppers & Meaty Sauce

I don't know what was with me this weekend. I usually cook a couple of double batches twice a week and my sister does the giant cook off on Sunday. I think I was just really craving Italian... and decided to do Italian 3 ways (or make one big batch of meat sauce and use it 3 ways).

First I made a noodle free lasagna using eggplant slices instead of noodles. It was beyond yummy with the thick meaty sauce and ricotta. The recipe for the meat sauce is at the bottom of the post. Next I made stuffed peppers and last I used up the last of the meat sauce by simply combining it with whole wheat noodles for my family who eats wheat. -- Nicole

All the recipes are in a giant post below: Noodle-Free Eggplant Lasagna, Spicy Stuffed Peppers, and Meaty Spaghetti Sauce.

Crockpot Pork Verde

Crockpot Pork Verde
I took it easy this week and just made one thing. That doesn't mean I don't prep my breakfast too, it just means I make something easy like hard boiled eggs to eat all week.

I was baking my holiday goodies to give away and my kitchen didn't have much room for extra cooking, so I took it easy and used the crockpot this week.

This is super simple and delicious and pretty cheap to make too! With the recipe yielding 8 servings, I will take 5 for lunch this week and freeze the extra 3. That way on a week I don't have time to cook, I build up some reserves.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jamaican Chicken Stew

Jamaican Chicken Stew

This hearty Jamaican Stew's main ingredients are chicken, sweet potatoes, red pepper and curry powder. 

This is one I have trouble stopping at two Mealpods! Yum Yum Yum.

I even love the look of all the orange ingredients - that must be the still-life artist in me!


click read more for recipe and more photos.