Simple Grain-Free “Spaghetti”

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Spaghetti was always one of my favorite meals growing up. Warm noodles covered in flavorful pasta sauce…the smell alone got me every time. But when I started a grain-free diet, I was pretty sure those days were long gone.

Then enter the spaghetti squash. Now true — it’s not technically pasta, but it sure is a great replacement. As you may have already known (or could probably guess from the name), spaghetti squash comes apart in noodle-like strands when baked. Though the texture is a bit different from pasta noodles, it has a nice, slightly sweet taste, and when covered with sauce, is a pretty ideal alternative. And not only are you taking gluten out (and grains for that matter), but you’re putting vegetables in.

Another great thing about this meal is that it’s super easy. There’s literally three items you need: a spaghetti squash, one pound of ground meat (beef or turkey) and the pasta sauce. That’s it. It’s one of my go-to meals through the week, especially on nights when I don’t have a lot of extra time.

One word on the pasta sauce: I normally just pick up an organic jar of pasta sauce from the store, but feel free to use a homemade sauce if you prefer. If you are looking for a sugar-free option, there are some out there, like this one. I haven’t tried it yet but plan to soon.

squash 1

Start out by rinsing the squash and cutting the stem off. Then cut the squash in half (length-wise).

Now you’ll need to scoop out the seeds. I usually go around the little oval in the middle with the knife to get the stringy pieces loose and then scoop it all out. When finished, each half should have a long hollow oval in the middle.

squash 2Place the squash halves in a glass baking dish (hollow facing down) and bake for about 75-85 minutes. When it’s finished, use a fork to pull some of the squash strands loose; they should be soft and pliable. If the strands are rather stiff, place the squash back in the oven to bake longer.

Once the squash is finished, pull “noodle” strands loose with a fork and place on plate.

Simple Grain-Free “Spaghetti”

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 jar of organic pasta sauce or homemade pasta sauce
  • 1 pound of grass-fed ground beef or free-range ground turkey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse spaghetti squash. Cut off the stem and then cut in half length-wise. Scoop out all the seeds so that there’s a long hollow oval in the middle. Turn face down (hollowed part facing down) in a glass dish and bake between 75-85 minutes. While the squash is baking, brown the meat in a skillet. Drain and place back in the skillet and add the pasta sauce. Simmer over low heat. Pull squash strands loose with a fork and top with meat and sauce mixture. Enjoy!

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This post was shared at Mostly Homemade Mondays, Natural Living Monday, Fat Tuesday, Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays, Healthy TuesdaysAllergy Free Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Waste Not Want Not, Wellness WednesdayPennywise Platter Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Fight Back FridayReal Food FridaysWhole Food Fridays, Savoring Saturdays

 

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Homemade Chicken Broth

One of the key discoveries I’ve made on my journey with real food was making broths from scratch. Not only are there many health benefits to homemade broth, but it just tastes good. No, I mean, REALLY good. And you can use it in so many ways—for sauces, gravies, stews, casseroles…the possibilities are endless.

chicken broth 3So, what’s the big deal with broth made from scratch? Why not just buy it from the store?

First, homemade broth is more nutritious. It just is. Here’s a quick summary of health benefits from properly prepared broth:

  1. It is loaded with minerals and electrolytes.
  2. It is full of gelatin, which greatly aids digestion and helps heal the gut lining.
  3. It helps reduce inflammation in the gut and body.

For more information, see Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon or the Weston A. Price website

Ok, you get it. It’s good for you. But it still seems like a lot of work…and time…and energy…(this was a big concern for me at first). Well, there’s good news on that front too. Yes, broths do typically have a long cook time but the part that you actually do? Really short.

And what about the cost? It’s surprisingly cheap to make chicken broth. Buy a couple pounds of bone-in chicken pieces or even just use the meaty chicken bones that were leftover from dinner last night (just stick them in the freezer until ready to prepare the broth).

Hopefully you are convinced at this point, or at least willing to give it a try, so I’ll just get on to the how-to.

This is what you’ll need to get started:

  • 1 whole chicken (or 2-3 pounds of chicken pieces, bone-in), preferably pastured, cage-free
  • 2 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice
  • Filtered water to cover
  • Carrots, celery, onion (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Place chicken, water, salt, pepper, veggies (if using) and vinegar in a stock pot or crock pot and let it stand for 20-30 minutes.

*A note on the water: When I first began making broth, the one thing that I found most difficult was figuring out how much water to use. I would always “cover” the chicken, but it seemed like it was too watery in the end. It took me a bit to figure out that less is more when it comes to the water. Just barely cover the chicken, or even partially cover it. You can always add more later if needed.

Chicken broth 1

Cover and bring to a boil. Once at boiling point, reduce heat to simmer. Allow it to simmer for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours. The longer it simmers the better, both for nutrients and flavor. Once finished, drain the broth into a storable container; discard the veggies and retain the chicken to use for salads, soup, etc.

A really good broth will have a jelly-type texture once refrigerated (hence, the beneficial gelatin). However, if it doesn’t, you can add gelatin to it (here’s a good kind) and then the next time around, try using less water. This has solved the problem for me in the past.

Chicken broth 2If you aren’t going to use the broth immediately, you can store it in the freezer. I typically use mason jars (filled half way) but you could also just use ziplock bags or other freezer-safe containers.

And that’s all it takes!

What are some ways you use chicken broth when cooking? Please share!

 

 

 

This post was shared at Homestead Barn HopPennywise Platter Thursday, The HomeAcre HopSimple Meals Friday,

 

Roasted Garlic Zucchini

Zucchini was always one of those vegetables that I thought went well with other things—throw it in a soup, shred it for a salad, sneak it into pancakes or casseroles. But by itself? Um, no thank you.

But my mind was changed when I happened upon this simple way of preparing zucchini. By adding just a little salt and garlic powder, and slicing thinly to give it a chip-like quality, this rather plain veggie is turned into a tasty side dish or snack. This recipe works well with yellow squash too. Go ahead and substitute or use some of both!

You’ll only need:

  • 1-2 zucchini (or yellow squash)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Garlic powder

Take zucchini and cut into very thin slices. Spread flat across an oiled baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt and garlic powder to taste.

zucchini pic 1

Bake at 350 degrees for roughly 20-35 minutes. It really just depends on how you prefer the texture (a more crisp, almost-burnt texture would need a longer bake time; a more soft and soggy texture would need shorter) and how thin or thick the slices are. You may need to play around with it a few times to find what works best for you.

zucchini pic 2

And that’s it! Enjoy.

What are some other flavorful ways to eat zucchini? Please share!

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Going Green,Thrifty Style: Recycling

Since we’ve relocated in recent months, we’ve had a lot of “new” things to uncover – a new mechanic, new grocery store, new hair stylist... and the list goes on. Among these “new” needs was a way to efficiently and economically recycle. In our previous neighborhood, recycling was picked up on the same day as your trash. You just put all your recyclable items in the nice, yellow can that was provided (free of charge I might add) and that’s it. No sorting, driving or paying required.

recycleNeedless to say, I was dumbstruck when I found out that recycling was not picked up this way at our new place. Sure, you could get curbside recycling service – but for a monthly premium. So I started researching our options and was able to boil it down to the following:

  1. Pay for a curbside service to pick up our recycling either 2 times each month or once every week.
  2. Just opt out of recycling.
  3. Sort our recyclable items ourselves and then drive it to the recycling bin.

So my husband and I mulled it over and weighed the pros and cons. We really wanted to keep recycling because of the many benefits it provides the environment and future generations (more on recycling benefits here) so option two was out. To begin with, option one sounded the best – the prices were reasonable and it just seemed much easier to throw all our stuff together and then set it outside for pick-up (which is what we’d been use to doing). We probably would have went with this option if both of us had been working and had tighter time constraints. However, in the end, we decided to sort our recyclable items ourselves and take them to the recycling center each week (option three). We went with this option for mainly two reasons: 1) being at home during the day with our son allows me more flexibility to make trips to the recycling center each week and 2) this is one less monthly payment we will be making, which is important for us as we’re learning how to live on one income.

We’ve been doing this for several weeks now and it’s worked out really well so far. I’ve become a pro at sorting our stuff, and then the recycling center is conveniently close by. Our only hang-up at this point is how to manage our recycling indoors. We typically have 2-3 trash bags of recycling each week, so it gets kind of cluttered by drop-off day. We’re thinking we can nick this problem by purchasing a couple of sturdy trash cans to place outside that will be dedicated to recyclable items. Then, on recycling day, I’ll go and sort everything and haul it off.

So is this a long-term solution? We aren’t sure, but it is the ideal short-term solution for us right now.

Have any helpful recycling tips? Feel free to share!

Hearty Vegetable Soup (Grain-free, Dairy-free)

Soup. I LOVE soup. You name it and I probably like it—piping hot chicken soup, creamy potato soup, spicy taco soup…and the list goes on. But there’s more to like about soup than simply the taste (although that’s enough for me!). Here are just a few of the benefits that come to mind:

  1. Soup is very versatile. If you don’t have something on hand, it’s usually okay. And if you want to throw in some extra veggies, go for it. Soup is very forgiving and alterations can be easily made to match what you have.
  2. Soup (homemade that is) can be really healthy. By making your own broth, you add tons of calcium and minerals to the pot, while at the same time ensuring that there isn’t any extra additives (more on homemade broth to come). Fresh, organic produce and seasonings add nutrients and flavor to the soup and allow you to stay in control of the ingredients, which is especially important to those with food allergies or sensitivities.
  3. Soup is frugal. You can make a really good soup with very minimal ingredients and usually have leftovers to boot.
  4. Most soups are very easy to make. Throw ingredients into a pot or crockpot, simmer and there you have it.

soup pic

Most recently, I’ve been working on vegetable soup, which my husband and I both really like. There are many varieties of vegetable soup, so I’ve played around with the ingredients and below has been our favorite version so far. It’s very filling and less “soup-ie” so to speak. A pretty good choice for those who aren’t big soup fans and/or are the “meat and potato” type.

To cut the prep time down, you could use a food processor to chop and dice the veggies.

 Hearty Vegetable Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed) – could substitute ground turkey
  • 1 bag of baby carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped
  • 1 28 oz can organic diced tomatoes (I recommend a BPA-free type, such as Muir Glen)
  • 4 cups of homemade broth or water (I like to do half of each)
  • 1 turnip, peeled and chopped
  • 2 potatoes (can use sweet or regular potatoes), cut into bite-size cubes
  • 1 bag mixed organic vegetables
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garnish with avocado, corn chips, etc

Place a little olive oil in the bottom of a large pot and add the carrots, onion and celery. Saute until soft. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, brown the ground beef, drain, and set aside.

Add diced tomatoes and broth/water to pot and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Add turnip, potatoes, mixed vegetables, minced garlic and ground beef. Simmer for about 45 minutes, or until all vegetables are soft. Salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

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Kitchen Storage – Spices, Seasonings and Herbs

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I don’t know about you but I have a ton of spices, seasonings and dried herbs in my kitchen. Some I use all the time and some I’ve only used a couple times for a new recipe, but at any rate, there are a lot of them. We have recently moved into a new apartment, but at our previous residence, I had all the little jars combined on one shelf. And this shelf wasn’t even eye-level – I had to stand on tip-toe just to pick up a jar from the front row (and get a step-stool to reach those in the back). Then, if I wasn’t sure exactly where a particular spice or seasoning was, I would have to go through and pick-up different jars, hoping I’d come across it soon. This was not an ideal situation by any means and took up more time than necessary, especially when using several different ingredients for one recipe. So when we moved to our current place, I knew I had to do something different.

I looked through our new kitchen for some sort of nook, but by the time all the cooking utensils and cookware had been placed, there just wasn’t one. So I decided to re-visit an idea that I’d considered before but rejected: a spice rack. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the thought of having a spice rack. I just wasn’t sure how to make it work (albeit I hadn’t put that much thought into it). I already had a nice swivelly one that I received as a wedding gift several years ago (see picture). It contained 16 different jars, but they were pre-labeled and already contained spices/herbs/seasonings in them (just adding to my vast collection). A few of the jars were empty from where I’d used them up but most weren’t. So what was the best way to use this current spice rack to store all my current spices? I finally came to this plan:

1) Go through all my current spices/seasonings/herbs and discard any that were past the expiration date or that I just didn’t use/need.

2) Empty out all the jars in the spice rack (it was 6 years old anyway, so it was probably time).

3) Wash and dry these jars.

4) The ones that were already labeled correctly for the spice/seasoning/herb I wanted to use (for example, Oregano was already labeled) – fill these jars and eliminate them from my huge stash.

5) For spices/seasonings/herbs that I wanted in the spice rack, but had no labeled jar for – use a label maker to re-label these jars and then proceed to fill with the correct spice/seasoning/herb (then eliminate these from my huge stash as well.)

And wa-la! Just like that, all my spices were eye-level, easily accessed and identified, and took up far less space. I still have a small nook where I keep extras (I had 3 bottles of paprika somehow!) and additional seasonings that I couldn’t fit in the rack.

It was probably possible to purchase an un-labeled, un-filled spice rack, but I wanted to find a way to use what I already had (and hence, save money) and I’m pretty pleased with the result! But I think it’s definitely worth the investment even if I’d had to buy a new spice rack.

 

This post was shared at Homemade MondaysThriving on Thursdays

Coconut Flour Banana Bread

coconut flour banana bread pic

Welcome to my blog! For my first post, I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes. I love banana bread, but since I’m avoiding gluten and dairy currently, I didn’t think I’d be able to have it again for some time. Not so – I came across this recipe online and I’m so glad I tried it! It’s very moist like traditional banana bread, but uses coconut flour instead of wheat flour. I think the key to success with this recipe is to have really ripe bananas. I also like to add some dark chocolate chips to shake things up (I recommend Enjoy Life chocolate chips if dealing with food allergies or sensitivities).

The link is listed below – enjoy!

Coconut Flour Banana Bread