Some of my Favorite (Time and $$ Saving) Kitchen Tips

I pulled up my blog the other day and saw that it consistently gets hundreds of viewers every day.  I was humbled and grateful to see this so I wanted to say a formal THANK YOU to all of you who use my blog as a resource and share it with people you know.

I have a passion for health and for cooking and love sharing the recipes I make in my own kitchen.  Like many of you, I have a very busy schedule so I am always looking for easy meals to make and time-saving tricks to make the job easier.  Here are some of my favorites:

Wet Chop – this is an amazing tip for chopping things like onions, celery, cauliflower (think cauliflower rice) or carrots when you need a lot of them.  I often cook for hundreds of people at a time so this trick is an absolute necessity.  Simply chop the vegetables into large chunks and put them in a Vitamix or high powered blender.  Fill the blender with water to cover the vegetables and start on low then increase the speed.  The higher the speed, the smaller the chop.  Typically, I will go to a 4 on the Vitamix to get a nice dice.  When done, simply drain the veggies into a strainer and they are ready for your recipe.  Here is a how-to video.

Freezer Staples – There are some things I always have on hand in the freezer.  I started doing this when I found I was having to throw away things because I wasn’t using them fast enough.  Peppers – bell peppers, jalepenos, poblanos, etc.  I slice them up and put them in a freezer bag to pop out for fajitas, stir frys, soups, and to add a bit of spice to my recipes.  Ginger – I will buy a giant piece of ginger and put it in a bag and right into the freezer.  When I need it, I pull it out, peel a portion, and microplane it. Another trick with ginger is to use a spoon to take the peel off. Berries- organic berries can go bad very quickly so before the do, I lay them out on a baking sheet and freeze them (if you try to put them all in a bag together while they are fresh, they clump together).  Once frozen, you can throw them into a bag together.  Bones – I will take the bones/carcasses of whole turkey, chicken, t-bones, etc and put them in the freezer.  When I have enough accumulated, I make bone broth. See recipe here.

DIY Money Savers – Many people say that eating healthy is too expensive so I am always looking for budget tips.  One of my favorites is to do things myself that the stores charge a premium for.  For example, you will pay extra to buy shredded cheese as opposed to shredding it yourself.  The other benefit to this is that you avoid the added ingredients they have to use to keep the cheese “separated”.  You can get grass-fed cheese and grate it yourself when you need it.  Another great example is to buy bone-in meats.  Again, when you buy boneless, skinless meats, you are paying for that service.  It is much cheaper and healthier to cook meats with the bones (plus you will have them to make bone broth with afterward).  If you must have a boneless cut, you can de-bone it yourself easily at home with a good knife.  Some grocery store butchers will even do it for you if you ask.  That way, you pay the lower price but still get what you want.  There are so many new and convenient products in the produce section as well.  Rather than picking up the riced cauliflower, the chopped lettuce, the chopped green beans, etc.  Buy the whole item and do it yourself.  You can save a lot of money this way.

Cook Once, Eat Twice – Cook with the intention of having leftovers.  Since you are spending time in the kitchen anyway, it is not any harder to make extra to have for another meal.  You can eat it for lunch the next day or have a second dinner.

Make Your Own Nut Butters and Nut Milks – If you have a Vitamix or high powered blender, it is simple to make your own nut butter.  Simply put the nuts in the Vitamix and blend until desired consistency.  To make your own nut milk, simply soak the nuts overnight and drain.  Put them in the blender with some water and then drain with a nut milk strainer to get rid of the skins. Both of these are quick, easy and will save you a ton of money.

Healthify Your Soups – You can blend cooked cauliflower to add to soups.  This makes a nice, creamy addition to any soup and adds an extra punch of nutrition.

Oven Turkey Bacon – I found that when cooking for a crowd or making multiple breakfast items, it can be labor intensive to stand over a skillet frying bacon.  I started putting it right into the oven.  For easy clean up, you can line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cook bacon at 350 degrees to desired doneness.  Be sure to flip it over when done on one side.

Oven Meatballs – Meatballs can be very labor intensive, from rolling the balls to standing over a pan making sure they don’t burn or fall apart, it is a process.  I started using the oven to my advantage when making meatballs.  I simply put the meatballs into a baking dish (ideally, you want them spaced a bit) and bake until done, turning them over a couple of times.  When done, you can either drain the drippings or use them to make a gravy.  My favorite meatball recipe is for Swedish Meatballs.

Tenderizing Grass-Fed Meats – I’ve had many people tell me that their grass-fed meats are tough.  Slow cooking things like roasts, oxtails, and short ribs make these cuts of meats very tender and juicy.  However, for steaks, I like to use a Jaccard Tenderizer.  It works perfectly every time and makes for a nice, tender steak.

Add an Omega-3 Punch – I have fallen in love with the little hairy guys I wouldn’t have touched with a 10-ft pole in the past – ANCHOVIES!  I can eat them right out of the can now but many people just can’t so here is my trick.  Heat a bit of oil (avocado is preferable but if you use olive oil- DO NOT let it smoke.  You should not heat olive oil very much at all).  Throw in some anchovies and stir for a few minutes.  They disintegrate into nothing and you are left with a salty, smoky infused oil that is LOADED with healthy omega-3’s.  You can then pour it over salad or veggies or use it in soup.

I hope these tips help you in your kitchen and again, thank you so much for your support!

Be blessed

My new favorite outdoor cooker – Griddle vs. Grill

I love summertime outdoor cooking but have never loved grilling.  Then my husband bought me a smoker and I feel in love with outdoor cooking again.  It makes the absolute best smoked jerk chicken, smoked salmon, and smoked grass-fed roasts.  I could also use it as a regular grill but that never really appealed to me either.

Then, one of my friends showed me his Blackstone Griddle and I have been blown away.  To say I love this thing is an understatement.  It has a solid steel (non-toxic) griddle top that when seasoned properly, becomes an amazing non-stick surface.  It is ridiculously easy to start and to clean.  (Note:  cleaning a traditional grill was one of the main reasons I avoided using it).  It also produces very little smoke and has a great grease-catching pan. It allows you to cook up several different things at one time making it way quicker and more efficient.  Plus, it saves you from dirtying up all sorts of pots and pans in your kitchen.   And speaking of kitchens, you don’t have to be stuck in yours while everyone else is outside.  It is small and portable but still fits a ton of food on it.

I was shocked that the price was under $300 for all it can do.  See more about the Blackstone Griddle here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some pictures of how I used the griddle in the first 2 weeks I had it.

Grass-fed Hamburgers for a crowd

 

 

Veggies for taco night

 

Grainless Pancake, Turkey Bacon, and Free-range Scrambled Egg Breakfast

 

Grass-fed hot dogs with organic red potato hash browns (core plan)

 

Free-range chicken stir fry with brown fried rice (core plan)  and veggies

In the Kitchen – Essentials for Cooking Healthy Meals

by:  Kimberly Roberto and Dr. Janet Early

kitchen tools

Creating nutritious, delicious meals and snacks using food created by God is the most important thing you can do for your family, and the place to do that is in the kitchen! Whether you are just getting introduced or re-introduced to your kitchen, or are a seasoned veteran in the kitchen, you will find the following lists of basics and specialty items of tools helpful.

Basics for every kitchen:

Knives (invest in a good set) Pepper grinder Spatulas and tongs
Vegetable peeler Measuring cups and spoons Salad Spinner
Mixing Bowls Citrus juicer or reamer Colander/strainer
Garlic press Cutting Boards

Small appliances:

Food Processor – Efficient way to chop and puree vegetables to create quick salads, spreads, dips, soups, and snacks. This is especially great for making hummus and mixing the ingredients for the Almond Power bars in the nutrition book.

Blender – good for smoothies and soups. Some high-end blenders, such as the Vita-Mix double as a food processor. Another great trick is to do a wet chop. Simply put roughly chopped veggies like onions and celery in the Vita-Mix and cover with filtered water. Turn the speed up to desired size. 3-4 will be a medium chop, 5-6 will be a very fine chop/dice. Strain the water off and you will have perfectly uniform chopped veggies in seconds. (Great when cooking for a crowd)

Hand-Held Blender – Use for single-serving smoothies, which is especially helpful while traveling. Also make quick, delicious soups by simmering your favorite vegetables in broth until the vegetables are soft, and then pureeing by putting the hand-held blender directly into the pot and blending right there. This tool also comes in handy when blending black beans directly in a mixing bowl to make ML’s Advanced Plan black-bean cake! Prices range from $13 – $50. All work similarly but if you end up using this tool a lot the cheaper one will have to be replaced sooner.

Crock Pot – cooks food slowly. Place all your ingredients in the crock pot in the morning and come home to a hot meal. You can make meals large enough to have plenty of left-overs. Crock pots are terrific for slow-cooking roasts and whole chickens.

Indoor Grill – when it’s not barbecue season, use a cast-iron grill for the safest and least toxic form of indoor grilling.

Steamer – the healthiest way to cook your vegetables. Gently steam them in either an electric steamer or a steamer basket over a pan.

Food Dehydrator – if set on 150° F or less, the food retains its raw, live qualities. This is great for dehydrating sliced fruit (like apple chips), drying fresh herbs, kale chips, homemade grass-fed beef jerky (this is so much more affordable than store bought).

Cookware (Including grill pans and a heavy bottomed soup pot) – the safest and least toxic forms of cookware are cast iron and enameled cast iron, followed by stainless steel, Thermolon™, and glass. Newer brands of non-stick ceramic cookware are not only non-toxic but easy to use in place of traditional non-stick cookware (Teflon® is facing class-action lawsuits and possible extinction within the next decade due to toxicity hazards).

Parchment Paper – this is your friend when baking advanced plan crusts, cakes, and cookies. You can line a baking sheet, square or rectangular baking dishes, and to buffer food from plastics when freezing. Another great trick when making the advanced plan pizza crust is to put a damp paper towel on the counter then the parchment paper. The paper towel will keep it from sliding around on you. (A Silpat is another great non-stick option to line a baking sheet)

As your mastery and creativity expands, you may find some of these tools useful as well:

Vegetable spiral slicer – transform zucchini into pasta instantly. Without the skins, you won’t be able to tell the difference. Cook in any sauce and you’ve effectively replaced traditional carbohydrates with healthy vegetables. The spiral slicer is also ideal for creative salad toppings, such as carrots and onions.

Egg Slicer/Dicer – great for Egg Salad or salads and garnishes.

Citrus juicer or reamer – Nothing tastes as good in your recipes that call for lemon or lime juice then the real thing! Tip: When you have to get out your citrus juicer for a recipe, juice some extra and freeze the rest for the next time you need it. Lemon and lime juice both freeze nicely.

One-quart mason jars and lids for storing and soaking ingredients.

Fine Mesh strainer

Sprout bag – makes growing sprouts a cinch.

Microplane – great for whole nutmeg, ginger, and citrus peels, etc.

Mandoline – Makes uniform slices of tomatoes, onions, zucchini and other vegetables as well as beautiful julienne slices with little effort.

Digital Kitchen Scale – Traditionally used for portion control, but an even better use is weighing ingredients that are messy to measure directly into you mixing bowl, food processor bowl, or sauce pan with use of the “tare” button. You will be able to make easy conversions by looking at the nutrition labels of your ingredients because serving sizes will also be listed in grams. See recipe for Maximized Living’s Almond Power Bars with ingredient amounts listed in grams below.

Funnels – This is an inexpensive item (less than $5) that can make transfer of foods into jars for storage much easier. A wide-mouthed one is great for pouring soup or sauces into Mason jars. If you want to go all-out, try KitchenAid Pro’s set of 3 funnels for $17.49 from Amazon. You’ll get 3 different sizes, including a wide-mouth size and a removable strainer that fits all 3 sizes.

Roaster Pan

Mortar/pestle – blending spices is one of the best ways to ensure a constant variety of flavors in the kitchen.

Juicer – If you find yourself doing more juicing than your blender can handle, and actual vegetable-and-fruit juicer is an incredible tool to create delicious drinks to nourish the whole family.

If you would like to try your hand at using the digital scale…try this converted recipe…

Almond Power Bars using digital scale with grams as unit of measure:

Ingredients for saucepan:

104 grams Coconut Oil

14 grams Pure Vanilla Extract.

Measure the coconut oil and vanilla extract directly into a sauce pan using this method: Put the saucepan and a large spoon on the digital scale and press “tare” to zero out. Use the spoon to remove coconut oil from its jar, and put the oil and spoon directly into the pot and check the weight on the scale. Add or subtract coconut oil from your spoon until you have exactly 104 grams. Zero out the scale again and add the required amount of vanilla extract.

Melt the coconut oil with vanilla gently on low heat for 1 – 2 minutes until the coconut oil is liquid. Do not overheat and cause the coconut oil to smoke. Set the oil mixture aside to be added to the food processor after processing the other ingredients.

Ingredients for food processor bowl:

206 grams Raw Almonds or Almond Flour

60 grams Flaxseed Meal

46 grams Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

60 grams (or two scoops) Flavored Whey Protein Powder

120 grams Raw Almond Butter

Scant 3 grams Sea Salt

¾ Teaspoon Stevia Powder, to taste

Turn your digital scale on, and adjust to measure in grams. Put your food processor bowl on its base and add the chopper. Carefully remove bowl and put finger in bottom side of bowl and chopper to secure the chopper in place. Carefully remove finger as you place the bowl on a digital kitchen scale. Press the “tare” button on the digital scale to reset the weight to zero. Add ingredients one at a time using the grams to measure. After each addition, press “tare” again to zero the scale. When all ingredients have been added, carefully lift the processor bowl, re-insert your finger into the bottom of the bowl and chopper to keep the chopper in place while you return the bowl to its base and lock in position. Turn the processor on until ingredients are mostly mixed. Add the coconut oil and vanilla and pulse until the ingredients have formed a course paste. Press mixture into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish, lined with parchment paper and coconut oil. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour, or until mixture hardens. Cut into bars and enjoy as is, or add a chocolate coating, following the instructions on page. 108 in the Maximized Living Nutrition Plan book.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Pasture Raised Chicken

Health Benefits of Chicken

  • Good source of protein
  • Cancer-protective nutrients – niacin. Niacin deficiency can lead to DNA damage, cognitive decline
  • High in selenium- thyroid function, immune function, lowers cancer risk
  • Good source of Vitamin B6 – lack of B6 leads to higher homocysteine levels (increasing risk of heart disease)

Why Pastured Chicken?

  • Fewer toxins
  • Fed without pesticides, antibiotics, and animal by-products
  • Better living conditions
  • Less susceptible to disease
  • Conventional chicken contains arsenic!
  • Conventional chicken subject to bleaching and water incubation
  • Pastured chickens eat a natural diet including grass, seeds, and insects, results in chicken with lower fat levels, more vitamin A, and increased omega-3 fatty acids. Conventional chickens are fed grains, animal by-products, and even arsenic
  • Conventional chicken creates drug-resistant bacteria (meningitis, salmonella)

What about labels?

  • Conventional – Typically less than half a square foot of space per hen where they are not even able to spread their wings.
  • Cage Free –Hens are able to move around inside a hen house without being confined to cages. While this is a bit better, it is common for the tips of the beaks to be clipped or burned to prevent pecking at themselves and others (so many hens in a small space = distress)
  • Free Range – Can be deceiving because this is not a regulated term. All that is required is a door that gives “access” to an outdoor area but unfortunately, the hens never go outside.
  • Organic – This means the hens were fed organic feed (no pesticides) that contains no by-products.
  • Vegetarian – The hen is fed a vegetarian feed, often containing soy. While this sounds like it is good thing, chickens are actually omnivores, not vegetarians, and will naturally eat bugs, grubs, etc. This term is used to imply “healthier” but is not the case.

 

Go Local!

Chickens & Eggs: http://eastwestfarm.wordpress.com

Eggs: www.facebook.com/twobytwofarms

Q. Is raw salmon OK to eat?

I recently received this nutrition question which I thought would be good to share, especially since so many people seem to have a passion for sushi.

Question:  “There are hundreds of differing views on consuming raw fish.
PLEASE, let me know what you think. I freeze fresh,wild caught Alaskan Salmon and slice it thinly for sushi. I’ve gotten a lot of flack for it.
Thanks for any help you can offer.”

My response:  Thank you for your question.  Typically, if you are buying your fish from a reputable source and it is truly wild caught, your process will be fine.  Freezing is what sushi restaurants to to ensure that there are no parasites on the fish.  Salmon eaten in it’s raw form allows you to benefit even more from it’s rich omega content.

If you are still concerned, you can also go an extra step and “cure” the salmon.  It will give your salmon a bit of a different taste.  Here are a couple of methods.

Basic Salt Cure
1- 1 1/2 block of organic, wild caught pacific salmon
1/2 cup kosher or coarse sea salt
any other spices you would like – lemon peel, fennel seeds, black pepper, etc.

Put about half of the salt/spice mixture on the bottom of a baking dish (or anything that will accommodate the size of the salmon.  Lay the salmon on top of the salt/spice mixture and top with remaining salt/spices.  cover with parchment paper and weigh it down with heavy cans, jars, or bricks.  Place in the refrigerator for approximately 2-4 days, turning every day.   (pieces less than 1 1/2 inches thick will take about 2 days and larger pieces will take up to four days).  The salmon will be firm when done.  When it is done, remove it from the dish and rinse with filtered water and pat dry.  Slice to serve.

Ceviche – citrus acid cure
Cut the salmon into bite-sized pieces (you want the marinate to have more surface area to work with ) Marinate the fish in lemon or lime juice until the salmon changes color from orange to a pinkish color.  Once it is done, season it to your liking.

Have a great day!

Grass Fed NY Strip with Chimichurri Sauce

When you are switching from conventional beef to grass-fed beef, there are a couple of cooking secrets you need to know.  Since grass-fed beef is much lower in total fat, it can become tough if not cooked properly.

Here are the basic tricks:

  • Never over-cook!  Grass fed beef is best cooked to medium-rare to medium.
  • Use a tenderizing tool like the Jaccard Tenderizer.  This does wonders for tenderizing grass fed steaks.
  • Marinate the beef for at least 30 minutes with olive oil, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and spices.
  • Cook on high only to sear then cook on low-med heat.  Never cook on high heat.
  • Never cut or puncture the beef while cooking – it lets all of the juices run out.

For the steaks, follow the above steps and cook to desired doneness.  Let the steaks sit for about 5 minutes before serving to seal in the juices.  Serve with Chimichurri Sauce (recipe in the Maximized Living Nutrition Plans book)