My journey to becoming a foodie!@

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Before I was introduced to all the wonderful chefs of Food Network back in 1999 there was Jamie Oliver–the Naked Chef. I admit that the first time I heard the title of his show on BBC I thought “I wonder if they’ll show it here on American TV seeing as how he is naked”.  Much to my surprise the title of his show was just that and not to be taken quite so literally. Previous to my love for American chefs, and American cooking I was also highly influenced, and still am, by these British chefs also- Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, and Delia Smith. Of course before Jamie there were the fabulous French chefs on PBS every afternoon at 4pm. Now those chefs have been in my life for many years starting with Julia Child (American chef) whom I still watch today (DVD collection). I love the cooking shows and documentaries on PBS – to this day PBS is still my favorite television station. Some of the very first blogs I read, way back in the late 90s, were foodie blogs. My favorite to this day, that I’ve followed for twelve years, is Sarah Cooks .

So to continue my journey’s beginning- my favorite cookbook of Jamie’s is Jamie at Home. My favorite recipe is Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad. I love that Jamie was one of the first chefs to create and promote healthy recipes/living. At the same time I was watching Jamie’s show I was also watching the first of Martha Stewart’s cooking shows.

From Jamie, the Naked Chef and Martha Stewart’s food segment’s on the Martha Stewart Living shows in the early nineties to Ina Garten, Tyler Florence, Mario Batali and Paula Deen. I became utterly and completely smitten with Food Network and its cooking shows. Eventually, I began collecting cookbooks and instead of just watching the chefs cook or bake something– I began cooking or baking their dishes. From that came wanting to source the best ingredients and the beginnings of a love affair of ordering exotic ingredients or hard to find ingredients online. From that came my passion for building a beautifully stocked pantry and purchasing the best pots and pans and cooking gadgets available on the market. Finally all of it led to my ambition in 2004  to cook and bake with whole foods, whole food ingredients- which is were chef Alice Waters and documentarian Michael Pollan come in. From this ambition and life-changing way of living came this blog which started in 2008.

After having sourced most of our food from farmer’s markets for so many years, I eventually became quite interested in homesteading. Which is were following blogs like those listed under my I heart homesteading blogs come in to play. From my absolute love of farming, growing my own, and living a more sustainable life, has come the desire to buy land and grow my own food.

Relocating has been something we’ve talked about for quite some time. It was always going to be something we did by our retirements. Finally, the stars have all come into alignment and we’ve decided to return back to the country I was born and raised for some time in and buy a piece of land. I am still a citizen of that country so our relocating there is a lot easier for me (and my family) to do than it might be for others. Our plan is to purchase the land very soon and then start the moving process shortly after. We hope to be settled by this time next year.

I hope you have enjoyed my journey on becoming a foodie. Until next time–do your body a big favor and choose to eat good food!

Pantry Essentials for Whole Food Living

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When I think of pantry essentials I think of two things right away- homemade bread and homemade pizza or pie dough.

The essentials needed for those homemade goodies are- flour, salt, baking powder, or soda and yeast packets. So just those few things, plus butter or shortening or lard, will get you homemade bread, and pizza or pie dough.

To start stocking your own pantry start with the simple and fairly affordable items like- flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder, sea salt or kosher salt, and yeast in packets. To bake cookies you’ll need to stock things like raisins, or currants, chocolate chips, oatmeal, peanut butter, honey and jam. Homemade icing can be made with powdered sugar or cream cheese and butter, vanilla and milk to thin the icing. Homemade brownies require you to have cocoa powder on hand. By now your pantry is starting to look stocked.

A well stocked pantry is overflowing with inspiration. You can see all the possibilities in one place- homemade baked beans, pies, pasta, cakes and soups. It’s essentially a mini version of a grocery store- all the staples for good whole food in one place. I began stocking my pantry from a list I found on Food Network some years back and still use this list today. It’s easy to see when I’m out of something, and all I have to do is take a look at what I have and my mind begins to construct the day’s dinner meal, dessert and sometimes the next days set of meals. Here’s the Food Network Pantry Essentials List .

Cooking meals from your pantry helps you in the best possible way to learn how to make whole foods meals for your family. A well- stocked pantry means skipping the processed box and jar ingredients and taking control of the ingredients you want in the meals and desserts you make for your family. No more list of ingredients 20 ingredients long. Soon you won’t remember what it was like to not make your own healthier home-cooked meals.  I’ll be honest the convenience of meal making and meal time for awhile will be gone. But the pride you will feel and the money you will save, not to mention the healthier lives you and your family will live will more than make up for the time you spend preparing them. Get the family involved in meal time and then it won’t be just you in the kitchen. Kids can learn too!

That’s it for now. I have a great recipe for Roasted Tomato Basil soup coming up and  a new recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake. Have a great weekend!

Fall food goodness

The last of the local zucchini is available this week, so I made sure to grate a bunch and freeze for pasta dishes this winter. Local apple orchards are announcing new varieties of apples every week. The first week we tried some new varieties and this week we bought Macintosh, Honey Crisp and Ginger Golds. Pears were plentiful too and ripened nicely next to our apples and bananas on the counter. A tomato plant I bought late at Bauer’s Market in La Crescent Mn. still producing. All total for a $9.00 plant, sold towards the end of planting season, it produced 17 tomatoes for me. To save seeds from tomatoes you cut the tomato in half and squeeze its pulp out into a small dish or container and cover for three days. The pulp ferments, allowing the covering that the seeds are encapsulated in to disintegrate. Each day you must stir the pulp and on day four rinse the pulpy seeds in a sieve careful not to allow seeds to sift through sieve (just the pulp) and then place on a piece of dry paper towel. As the seeds dry on the paper towel remove them from clumps to separate and allow to dry. You should store these dried seeds in a cool dry place, even the refrigerator- do not freeze them.  Coming up in future posts- seed saving, freezing vegetables, pumpkin recipes and pantry staples. Until then be well and always remember to eat good food!

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Eating Whole Foods

Hello friends and welcome to my blog. In my last post, I defined the term whole foods. In this post, I am going to blog about how I started my family on the road to a healthier whole foods diet. Our first conversion was to start incorporating milk back into our diet after not drinking milk. I decided to try drinking organic milk after reading an article about Organic Valley. So we drove an hour away from hour to a grocery store that sold it. From that day on we have drunk nothing but Organic Valley milk and use many other products from their product lines. The first part of the change in our diet came from switching what we could that was non-organic in our diet to organic (milk, eggs, butter and produce). When we couldn’t find organic (way back in 2004) then we purchased produce from friends that weren’t using chemicals in their farming practice. From there I began to make as much as I could from scratch.

The first thing I began to make homemade was applesauce. The reason why I chose applesauce was that it is part of the packed lunch I made/make for my husband every week. Our goal here was to remove as much high fructose syrup from our lives as possible. Thus helping to pave the way to consume more whole foods. The applesauce recipe posted above in the applesauce link has eight ingredients, but I make it without using salt, lemon juice or cinnamon. The second product that we use a lot of is spaghetti sauce. We have a pasta dish at least once a week, but sometimes two times depending on our appetite for it. The third ingredient in store bought pasta sauce is high fructose syrup. My husband and I were so over high fructose syrup by this time. Virtually everything we were eating had high fructose syrup in it. Here we were riding our bikes all over Wisconsin trying to get and stay in shape and our diet high in fructose syrups was sabotaging us. Here is the recipe I use for homemade pasta sauce (roma tomatoes work best for homemade pasta sauce).

Before long I was making homemade applesauce and pasta sauce like a pro. Each time we were going to have a dish that required pasta sauce, I would pull out the Roma tomatoes I’d frozen for just such an occasion and use them to make the sauce. Prep time for the sauce is about 5 minutes and cook time is 30 before your sauce is ready to eat. Double the batch if you are going to be having a pasta dish later in the week. This sauce will keep for 5 days in your refrigerator.

So let’s do a rundown of the things changed so far in my family’s diet at this time. First off non-organic milk to organic milk and other organic dairy products, 2nd- produce from farmer’s markets, our own gardens or other people’s gardens vs. canned store-bought fruits and vegetables, and last but never least the elimination of foods heavily preserved, or containing high fructose syrup.

I would be lying to you if I told you the transition doesn’t take time. It does. You will meet resistance from your family and there will be a lot of times that you’ll want to do what you perceive everyone around you is doing and that’s buy everything pre-made or frozen pre-made or microwaveable and throw in the towel. Time constraints will cause you to cheat.. It happens. There have been a few times I didn’t have enough tomatoes or I had something else to do after dinner and I just went out and bought a jar of Ragu. But the good news is as time goes on and you grow more confident in your ability to provide good, safe, and nutritious food for your family -you will feel empowered. If the grocery stores ran out of food (temporarily) tomorrow, I’ve got enough tomatoes and frozen vegetables put by to feed my family for at least 2  possibly three weeks. I’ve also got enough flour to make homemade bread, homemade pasta noodles,and pie crusts galore. As long as power isn’t lost. Because we buy a lot of produce every week, even in the winter, we’ve always got fresh food on hand no power required. But a generator is definitely on our wish list.

Every time you go to a farmer’s market buy a couple ears of sweet corn, or 2-3 roma tomatoes or 2 or more squash and take them home and process them. I have a new blog post almost ready on freezing roma tomatoes. As far as corn- just cut it off the cob, toss in a freezer bag and freeze. I use the corn for soups and stews all winter. With squash I line a cookie sheet with halved squash brushed with butter and bake until tender. I let cool once out of the oven, then scoop out the shells, and put 2 halves worth of squash in each freezer bag and tuck them away in the freezer. I roast peppers for homemade pizza, which both my husband and I love, and love having a taste of summer on a pizza mid-January. Don’t let the process of the transition to whole food living overwhelm you, take it a day at a time and you will be there in no time.

I’ve included some pictures of what I’ve been cooking- fried zucchini, kale and red potatoes in olive oil and real butter ; homemade pumpkin bread made from all freshly grown/produced ingredients; small farmer’s market haul-mid week ; everything put away- yes I refrigerate potatoes ; much requested picture of my refrigerator (notice not everything I use is homemade or organic-it all takes time), kale and homemade chili tucked away ; roasted peppers and roma for sauce.  Later this week I will post about freezing roma tomatoes for sauce and also talk about using a real pumpkin for pumpkin bread vs. canned pumpkin along with a whole foods menu and cooking times. Until next time always remember to eat good food!

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Food and flowers

A few pics uploaded while we are away enjoying Kansas City, MO. Before we left I froze six big bags of kale and dried my flower bouquet. So far I have harvested two freezer bags of rosemary. I usually get three by the time the garden is done. I also picked seven tomatoes. Five of the tomatoes are from one plant. I still have three tomatoes on one plant that will not turn red? I’ve tried pinching the suckers, removing the dead branches, and not watering. No luck. The real secret to getting tomatoes to turn red is HOT balmy weather. We had three days where heat index temps went up over 100 and humidity was at or above 85%. All of my tomatoes, except these three, turned red. After the hot spell, my parsley was nearly dead. But a little tender loving care and it’s looking good again. The cucumbers are growing fast, I replanted some in another container before we left. Pumpkins are in too but weren’t up before we left. We are staying here and we love it!  Next year I think we’ll be planning a vacation to Round Top Antique Fair in Texas. We’ll be back on Tuesday and I’ll be back on Wednesday with an easy recipe for Chocolate Mousse.

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Summer menu ideas & herbs

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Summer Menu Time- What’s Cooking?

Breakfast in the summertime is usually fruit leftover from our meal the night before. And water, lots of cold water with lemons and cucumbers in it.
Lunch- Lots of salads. Is there anything better than a fresh from the garden cucumber diced with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and buttery lettuce? We have salads for dinner too though we throw in chicken, eggs and sometimes sliced Fuji apples to make a more filling meal.
Monday– Monday has to be an easy day for us, meal wise, so it’s often a quick pasta dish like Shrimp Scampi Zoodles.
Tuesday-Once a week we have breakfast for dinner. Since I froze quite a bit of asparagus, lately it’s been Mini Quiches w/asparagus.
Wednesday– I volunteer after work on Wednesdays, so I pack a salad and a snack bar. My husband usually makes a pizza.
ThursdaySouthwestern Chicken wraps and soup- usually homemade that I defrost in refrigerator -(it’s good for two meals)
Friday– We almost always have seafood for dinner on Fridays so it’s either a local fish fry or I make something with salmon like Salmon Cakes with Cucumber Dill Salad.
Saturday-I grill once a week 9 months out of the year. I love grilling. In the summer we have hamburgers, hot dogs, and brats. Once in awhile, I will BBQ a whole chicken.
Sunday-We almost always have roast chicken for dinner on Sundays. Now that I am able to source new baby potatoes we have those, fresh onions, fresh tomatoes, fresh parsley (potatoes) and fresh rosemary(chicken) and homemade baked beans.

This past weekend we took a ride to our local farm stand and loaded up. We bought a flat of strawberries, some yellow marigolds, another tomato plant,  some more thyme, parsley, new potatoes, radishes, butter lettuce, and peaches. For two grocery bags full it cost us $23.00. I was able to get 5 -4″ pots of thyme for $1.50.  Here is a couple of pictures of my patio garden. I am thrilled to say I already have 3 small tomatoes on one of my plants. I’m also happy to say my lavender is near flowering.

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That’s all for now. Until next time–be well!

Pantry Essentials

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Pantry Essentials – by Kim VanderWerf

7 Days of Meals

Breakfast- breakfast in our house usually consists of juice, fruit and PBJ sandwich for my husband (because that’s what he ate growing up) and a banana, prunes, orange sections, toast and tea for me. We have in the past made smoothies as well as had cold cereal but both are very rarely eaten in our home. Juice is always freshly squeezed, and fruit is nearly always bananas, strawberries in season,  and anything else I can find in the organic frozen fruit section (blueberries, melon, pineapple, cherries).

Lunch- lunch for my husband during the work week is a lunch meat sandwich, applesauce, and a Clif bar. Lunch on the weekends is any leftover in the freezer from during the week- (sloppy joes, pizza, casserole or stir-fry usually). Lunch for me during the work week is a salad with chicken, Luna Bar and an apple. Lunch for me on the weekends is a PBJ sandwich both days with celery, carrot or cucumber spears.

Dinner- as you can see it’s fairly low-key until dinner time. The biggest challenge for breakfast and lunch meals is to be able to buy all of it- organic.

I have a rotating fall/winter menu, just like I have a rotating spring/summer menu. Which means that for two weeks (not in a row) every month in the winter months (Dec, Jan, Feb, March) we eat the same meals each day and then on the other two (also not in a row) we eat entirely different meals. So for meals that include vegetables, we would eat squash, potatoes, beets and carrots in the fall and winter. In the spring as things grow and are harvested we begin to include rhubarb, asparagus, spring onions, beans and so on into our meals. We buy all of our fruits and vegetables from our local cooperative. We buy our meat from a local supplier of grass-fed beef and our milk and eggs from a local organic farm.

Monday- homemade lasagna, small salad, garlic toast

Tuesday- homemade roasted chicken- the sides change out for example sometimes I make mashed potato, otherwise homemade stuffing or brown rice. Vegetables- there is always two- brussels sprout, cauliflower, broccoli, squash or beets.

Wednesday- Spinach and kale salad with homemade chicken soup

Thursday- homemade sloppy joes and home fries

Friday- homemade beef and broccoli, homemade cabbage slaw

Saturday- homemade pizza- my husband and my favorite pizza is always pepperoni. The recipe for my homemade crust is here; the gluten free pizza crust is here.

Sunday- roast, mashed potatoes, gravy and two veggies. I usually make homemade rolls to go with this meal. The recipe for my rolls is here.

Preparation is really the key to being able to make good homemade meals while balancing a very busy schedule. I do a lot of the prep work, when I can, the day before sometimes two days before. Whatever is left over is frozen for quick meals on busy weekends. I start making dinner after work, so about 5:45 pm, and can get most meals made and on the table by 6:30 pm. I usually bake the chicken the night before and then serve it warmed in gravy the next night for dinner. The lasagna is also prepared and ready to go by the time I get home so that all I need to do is pop it into the oven. I rely heavily on tried and true recipes I found through Food Network years ago. I am a faithful follower of Ina Garten, Paula Deen, Tyler Florence, Emeril Lagasse,  and Nigella Lawson. I’ve purchased most of their cookbooks and they are time-worn, food stained and dearly loved. We spend about $650.00 a month on food and household goods. In my next post, I will share some of the ways we save money and also stay organized and on task shopping.

It’s salad time again!

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It’s that time again when our go-to meals will be salad and soup, soup and sandwich and of course fresh veggies and fruits found at local vegetable stands. We are both ready to hit the Dane County Farmer’s Market again, the outdoor market started a couple of weeks ago. I don’t mind saying that it’s been quite a balancing act trying to tend to my starter plants- carrots, tomatoes, beets and lettuce along with full-time work (busy season beginning to wind down) and the last couple of weeks of school- heavy course work with a project winding down and exams to study for. Let me not forget spring volunteer activities, vet appointments on my day off and spring cleaning. Whew, I’m beat. Friends are planning a graduation party for me and I’m not allowed to bring anything, unless of course its my spinach salad. Which I’m happy to oblige. We eat a lot of spinach, we throw it in scrambled eggs, make several different types of salads with it, use it for spinach and strawberry smoothies and just about every soup and stew I make. The recipe for the spinach salad above, which I will be bringing to my grad party, is here. I feel I’m a bit behind posting to my blogs, so today a rare weekday off I am catching up on posting, instagram and some correspondence with my 3rd cousin regarding family history research we are both working on. I mentioned soup and I’m going to share a delicious recipe for Dutch Vermicelli soup. We eat a lot of it in this household. I first learned of this soup from my mother-in-law and I’ve grown to love it over the years. I skip eating the little meatballs (I use ground beef) but I do make them for my husband. It’s a soup he has been eating all his life.

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That’s about it for what’s been going on here. I hope everyone is enjoying the nice weather we’ve had the last couple of days. I bought a bunch of bedding plants-impatiens,  begonias, geraniums, and cosmos just to name a few that I’ve been having to bring in at night still. Soon though I will transfer them to bigger pots and it’ll be warm enough for them to stay outside all night.  This weekend we are going to our first ever Badger rowing event. The Wisconsin Badgers Men and Women teams will be rowing at Devil’s Lake this weekend. So excited! Until next time have a great rest of the week! Source

Homemade Chicken Soup

This time of year is especially important to me, as it is when I am called upon to volunteer.  Although my husband and I are available throughout the year to volunteer, this time of year is very special to us. We started volunteering several years ago when we found ourselves without family to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the years we’ve made ourselves available to cook, serve, put together care packages, deliver meals even hand out blankets and coats. Turns out we didn’t really need a reason to reach out and help people all those years ago. But we’re sure glad we did. Volunteering has been good for us. But having to balance work, full-time school, commutes, our household (including a pet with health problems) and volunteering takes some work. Organization is key along with nutrition, sleep, and overall good health.  Time and again I turn to homemade chicken soup as our go-to meal when we are busy and finding ourselves in need of a good hot, good for your health meal. Chicken soup really is good for the soul and I continuously tell people I believe it to be one of the reasons I haven’t been sick with a cold or sinus problem since 2006. I’ve tried several recipes for good soup but love Ina Garten’s recipe the best. I like everything Ina cooks and bakes, who am I kidding?

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Chicken soup and volunteering, both good for the soul!

 

In the garden

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The Ball canning company has helped me immensely with a way to preserve my herbs. Usually, I just take my rosemary and lavender and freeze them in freezer bags. Saturday I was shopping, and there in the canning aisle, I found a 4-pack of jars with screw on lids (plus shaker insert). Instead of freezing all my herbs, I kept some back and then used these jars to store some fresh in the refrigerator. I found them at Walmart- 4 pk (4 oz. each) for $4.98 in the canning section.

This past weekend I put up 13- 1/2 gallon bags of sliced beets;

I cook the beets until tender, remove their skins, cool in an ice bath and freeze in 1-gallon freezer bags.

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10- 1/2 gallon bags of sliced carrots; I peel the carrots and chop off the ends. I then slice and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes. I give them an ice bath to stop them from cooking and freeze meal portions in 1-gallon freezer bags.

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My current diet is eating three or four different veggies and two fruits each meal. Occasionally I will really crave a form of protein so I boil two eggs. I am able to eat other foods as long as they are gluten-free. I am doing great on this diet, feeling better than I have in a long time. I am down to pre-married weight-yay! In a way, my being gluten intolerant has been a blessing for me. Silver linings friends, silver linings. A typical day of meals for me goes something like this:

Breakfast– 3/4 c. of Fage plain yogurt, 1 glass of fresh squeezed Oj, and 3 prunes.

Mid -morning snack– handful of raisins, apple slices or celery sticks

Lunch– gluten free bread with gluten free lunch meat topped with tomatoes, lettuce and cuke slices, apple or pear and usually a mozzarella stick or two.

Dinner– sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, boiled egg, tossed salad with beets and zucchini, banana with either strawberries or applesauce for dessert.  I substitute the egg for a baked potato, or couscous or quinoa at times. Sometimes, depending on how hungry I am, I add a good hearty vegetable soup by Wolfgang Puck to go with my dinner meal. As I said I eat gluten free meals-pizza, pasta, soups along with 3-4 servings of fresh veggies a day and 2-3 servings of fresh fruit a day.  As far as beverages go- I drink fresh orange juice, Pom juice, water, lemonade and at least a 1/2 c. of whole milk a day. Now and then throughout the summer, I drink good cold A & W root beer and in the fall/winter homemade hot cocoa.

 

Have a super last week of August, until next time.