Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Soak Pecans for Digestion


Soaked Pecans | Buttered Side Up
Soaked Pecans | Buttered Side Up
Soaked Pecans | Buttered Side Up

The first thing you might be thinking is: why would I ever want to soak my pecans?

Pecans are a great source of vitamins and minerals. They contain vitamin B1, Copper, Magnesium and Manganese, Zinc, and much more. However, like other nuts and seeds, pecans contain enzyme inhibitors, tannic acid, and phytic acid. These substances can mess with your digestion and absorption of nutrients. Thus the healthy properties in nuts are kind of negated.

What's a health-conscious girl to do?

By soaking your pecans in a briny solution you can deactivate the negative properties. The salt in the soaking water also activates enzymes in the nuts that neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.*

Once your pecans are soaked for the proper amount of time you can dehydrate them to make them a lovely, crispy texture. 

You can read more about the benefits of soaking nuts in this great blog post by Kimi of The Nourishing Gourmet. She also gives methods for soaking other nuts here.

Note: It's important to dehydrate your nuts at the proper temperature. If you go higher than 150 degrees F (65 C), the beneficial enzymes that you activated by soaking can be destroyed. My oven only goes down to 170. Next time I'll leave my oven door open a tad to lower the temperature.




Soaked and Dehydrated Pecans

Ingredients: (can increase amounts as needed)
  • 1 cups of pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon real salt
  • Filtered water to cover nuts

Directions:

Place the pecans and salt in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Add enough filtered water to cover. Stir. Place a kitchen towel on top and leave in a warm part of your kitchen for at least 7 and up to 12 hours. 

Drain in a colander, spread on a stainless steel cookie sheet (or dehydrator trays) and place in a warm oven (105 to 150 degrees) until the pecans are nice and crispy, stirring occasionally, about 12-24 hours. 

Store in an airtight container in a cool place for a few months, or longer in the refrigerator. 




*From Nourishing Traditions, p.512

Note: Some links are affiliate. As always, all opinions are my own.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Nākd Fruit and Nut Bars Review


Nakd Bars Review
Last month, the people at Natural Balance Foods contacted me, wondering if I would be interested in reviewing some of their "Nākd" fruit and nut bars. I had never heard of the brand, so after doing a bit of digging and asking a few questions, I agreed to give them a go!




Nakd Bars Review

Natural Balance Foods is a UK-based brand that has just recently started offering their products to US customers. Their Nākd Bars have no added sugar or syrup and are wheat, dairy and gluten free. 

What initially drew me to try out these bars was the small list of ingredients. Most of them are composed of dried fruit, nuts and natural flavorings.

I was a bit concerned about the "natural flavorings" at first, but the lady I communicated with gave examples of the natural flavor such as "extract from an orange" and "natural chocolate flavour from cocoa powder." 



Nakd Bars Review

The Nākd Crunch Bars do contain "soya protein crunchies." The added crunch was pleasant, but I personally try to avoid soy products.

Another thing to note is that these bars contain nuts that haven't been soaked for optimal nutrition and digestibility. I do think that these are a better choice than the majority of the snack/protein bars on the market, but I wouldn't recommend consuming huge quantities. You can read about the importance of soaking nuts here and here.

Also, some of the bars are listed as "GM Free" on the website, while others are not. I'm not sure if that means that those not listed as GM Free contain genetically modified ingredients or not. I'll let you guys know if I find out.





Favorite Bars

I thought I'd highlight for you guys my top five bars (in no particular order) from the ones I received:

1) Rhubarb Custard: I liked how this one was slightly tangy.
2) Cocoa Orange: To my surprise, this one tasted very much like a tootsie roll!
3) Ginger Bread: I thought the spices went really well together.
4) Berry Delight: I'm a raspberry fan, and again I enjoyed the tangy flavor. Reuben didn't care for it as much.
5) Pecan Pie: Pecans are my favorite nuts, so of course I enjoyed this one.


Now for a few that didn't quite hit the spot:

I couldn't quite like the cocoa mint - I felt that the mint flavor was a bit strong. Reuben said that the cashew cookie was: "Not horrible, but not very tasty." He also took the banana crunch to work one day and didn't like it at all. We liked the rest of the crunch bars - it's just unfortunate that they're made with soy.


In conclusion:

I think these are a fun option for on-the-go snacks, but I wouldn't want to eat copious amounts of them. They work out to about $1.27 a bar, which isn't outrageous but it isn't super cheap either. But they're using higher quality ingredients, so you wouldn't expect them to be as cheap as, say, a candy bar. I might consider purchasing them online at some point, but I'd be much more likely to buy them if I could find them at a local shop.

Shipping is free on their website until January 31st, 2015.


Thank you to Natural Balance Foods for providing these bars so that I could let you guys know what I think of them! As always, all opinions are my own. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Maple and Onion Jam


Tasty Kitchen Blog Maple and Onion Jam 13.jpg
Tasty Kitchen Blog Maple and Onion Jam 06.jpg
Tasty Kitchen Blog Maple and Onion Jam 10.jpg
Tasty Kitchen Blog Maple and Onion Jam 17.jpg

This jam was delicious: a wonderful blend of savory and sweet. It's great on toast, as a relish for meat, or on a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich. Mmhmm. 

For the grilled cheese I used bacon, butter, Havarti cheese, thinly sliced apple, and the onion jam. It was so very yummy. 

Check out my guest post on the Tasty Kitchen Blog to get the step-by-step instructions and the recipe for this maple onion jam.

Happy Monday!




Maple and Onion Jam

Friday, November 7, 2014

Phone Friday: Pumpkin, Kale and Hashbrowns




Hooray for Friday! 

On Sunday I suddenly contracted a nasty head cold that lasted for a few days. I was unable to do as much recipe testing for y'all as I had planned. There's always next week!



Pumpkin Seeds

I cooked up some pumpkins for puree the other day, and Reuben requested that I roast the pumpkin seeds. I used Nourished Kitchen's method for soaking and cooking them, except I only tossed them in 2 tablespoons of butter instead of the egg whites and other seasonings. They were quite tasty - I had to stop Reuben before he ate them all. :)



Kale Chips

I made kale chips for the first time! It's surprising how easy they are. All you do is wash the leaves and cut out the center rib, massage them with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 300 for about 25 minutes, rotating halfway through. They got really crispy. Helen loved them.



Hash browns

This morning I had some extra time to make breakfast, so I decided to make hashbrowns. They're Reuben's favorite. He loves them so much that he found a recipe and made them himself the other day. He claims that the ones I made were twice as good as his (I used the same method), but I think it's because of all the butter I put in the pan.

Here's the method: Grate potatoes (we've used russets or reds) over a bowl of cold water. Rinse and squeeze out the excess water using a dishcloth or paper towel.
Heat a large cast iron pan over medium high heat and melt lots of butter (I used half a stick for 2 potatoes). Add the potatoes in a thin layer, turn the heat down to medium and season with some salt and pepper. Cook until crispy. Flip and cook until the other side is crispy. Devour.


Have you tried any new, delicious food this week?

xoxo
Erica


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Biscuits + Gravy



This post was originally published on November 9, 2010 on Cooking for Seven. It has been one of my favorite meals (breakfast, lunch or supper) for many years. I still use this recipe today. Speaking of which, I've been meaning to make this again...


Biscuits + Gravy
When I was a little girl (around eight or ten) I would always request Biscuits and Gravy for my birthday. To me, there was no meal more delicious.


Biscuits and Gravy | Buttered Side Up
Hot, homemade biscuits.


Biscuits + Gravy
Crumbled, ready to receive some gravy goodness.


Biscuits + Gravy
Drenched in sausage gravy. Seriously delicious.

Notes:
  •  I have included my favorite recipes for homemade sausage, gravy, and biscuits. You could, of course, use store-bought sausage, but I find that it is often filled with MSG.
  • We usually double or 1.5 times the biscuit recipe. One recipe makes about 12 biscuits.
  • I know this recipe looks long, but it’s definitely worth it.


Homemade Biscuits & Gravy
Ingredients:
For the Biscuits: (Makes about 12, double if desired)
  • 2 cups (8 oz) whole-wheat pastry flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces or lard
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, plus more if needed
For the Sausage:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed summer savory
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 pound ground pork
For the Gravy:
  • 12 tablespoons butter or lard
  • 3/4 flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 cups milk
Directions:
For the Biscuits:
Preheat oven to 450° F.
1) In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and toss lightly with a fork to coat the butter with flour. Using a pastry cutter, a fork, two knives, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour. Work quickly to keep the butter firm.
2) Add 3/4 cup buttermilk; stir with a fork until the dough gathers into one large lump. Add more buttermilk if necessary.
3) Transfer dough to a flat surface sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup flour. Roll the dough to coat with flour then pat out into a rough rectangle about 1/2-inch thick and fold into thirds. Repeat the patting and rolling. Pat the dough out to a thickness of about 1 inch. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut out biscuits and place onto an ungreased baking sheet, placing the biscuits 1 inch apart as they will spread.
4) Bake 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.
For the Sausage:
1) Mix all seasonings with the pork thoroughly.
2) Crumble into a pan. Cook on medium heat until no longer pink. Set aside.
For the Gravy:
1) Melt butter in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Blend in the flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until smooth and bubbly.
2) Slowly stir in milk. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Boil and stir one minute. Add the sausage and stir.
To Eat:
Crumble one or two biscuits onto your plate. Ladle some gravy over the top. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
Serves approximately eight.

Biscuits + Gravy | Buttered Side Up


Friday, October 31, 2014

Phone Friday: Soup, Snow and Bars



First of all, let me apologize in advance for the number of Helen photos in this post. What can I say? She was pretty cute this week. 


Butternut Squash Soup
With the butternut squash I found at the Farmers' Market I decided to make a soup. Reuben didn't care for it, but Helen and I really enjoyed it. 

Here's what I did: Sliced the squash in half, scooped out the seeds and put it in a big roaster pan. Added an apple, half an onion and half a head of garlic. Spread ghee on the squash + garlic and spooned it over the apple + onion. Baked at 400. Added beef broth as need to keep things from getting too burned. Scraped out the squash and added everything to a blender with some more broth. Pureed until smooth. Added salt to taste. Served with cream drizzled on top.

If I did it again I would cook the squash by itself for a while before adding the other ingredients. I would also wrap the garlic in some parchment paper - it got a bit too done.



Oops...
One evening Helen decided to give herself a yogurt hair mask. Maybe it will help her hair to grow in. :P



Target Haul
I got stuck in the Target dollar section. It's a dangerous place, folks!



Enjoying her soup...
I LOVE making my own broth. It makes the best soups. I'll have to do a post about it sometime. 



The folks at Natural Balance Foods sent me some of their fruit and nut bars to review. So far my favorite flavor has been the gingerbread. I'll have to do a more in-depth review once I try out all the flavors.



Snowy Day
We had quite the snow day on Tuesday. Of course it didn't stick, but it won't be long before we have to don our snow boots before heading outside. It was 20 degrees this morning. Brrrr.


What's your favorite soup to make on a chilly day?


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to Make Mocha | His and Hers



How to Make Mocha
How to Make Mocha
How to Make Mocha
How to Make Mocha
How to Make Mocha
How to Make Mocha

I don't remember the first time I tasted a mocha. It was probably at a Starbucks or Caribou Coffee when I was 18 or so. In general I am nonplussed about most chain coffee drinks, but, if my memory serves me well, I believe that I quite enjoyed it. It wasn't extremely sweet like most specialty drinks. The flavors of the coffee and chocolate meld almost seamlessly.

I also can't remember the first time I made my own mocha, but I have made many since. Not gonna lie: it isn't the simplest coffee drink you'll ever make. But if you're already in love brewing your own lattes, the only extra steps are stirring in chocolate and adding whipped cream. If you're having a relaxed morning/afternoon, I highly suggest going to the extra effort to try this out.

I have included two ingredient lists: one that's milder and sweeter and one that's more intense. Reuben enjoys his coffee soft and sweet, I like mine with a bit of a bite. You can always experiment with the sweetener/milk levels until you get it just how you like it.


Notes:
  • This recipe is for an 8 ounce mug. You could use a larger one, but it won't be full.
  • You can use either cold or fresh espresso. If you decide to use cold, make sure that your milk is piping hot.
  • I like to use my little milk frother (I got mine at IKEA) to whip my cream. I can't be bothered with dragging out ANOTHER piece of equipment. 
  • This recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder, but you could also use chocolate syrup for a smoother consistency. Make sure you leave out or cut down on the maple syrup if you do.
  • I actually don't use a recipe most of the time when I make a mocha: I make it up as I go. Think of this recipe as a starting place and customize to your liking!
  • My preferred coffee maker is the Aeropress. Of course if you're all set up with an espresso maker you can make your espresso and froth your milk using your machine. Lucky you. 






How to Make a Caffe Mocha
recipe by Erica Kastner
makes one 8-ounce serving

His:
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons half and half
2 teaspoons cocoa powder (I used cacao powder)
1/2 oz espresso, fresh or cold
1/2 ounce maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Hers:
3/4 cup half and half
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
4 teaspoons espresso, fresh or cold
2 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Directions:

1) Place your half and half in a small pan and heat until steamy. 

2) Meanwhile, place your cocoa powder in your favorite mug. Pour in half of the espresso. Stir until you have a fairly thick, very smooth mixture. This could take a bit of time. Stir in the remaining espresso, then the maple syrup and vanilla extract. 

3) Froth the hot milk using a handheld milk frother. Slowly pour the frothed milk into your mug. Whip your cream in a small bowl or cup with the milk frother until it's softly whipped. Spoon over your mocha. Enjoy!




How to Make Mocha

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