Garlic Roasted Chicken & Veggies: One Dish Meal

I'm often looking for meals that can be completed without hours of prep, but that will also deliver in the nutrition area. Canned soups, frozen dinners, and boxed-a-ronis are out for various reasons, but mostly because they are empty calories. By keeping to a nutrient-dense traditional foods diet, I know we are getting the nutrition we need to maintain and/or heal our bodies. However, it's often thought that keeping such a diet necessarily requires long and labor intensive hours in the kitchen. I will admit that I spend more time in the kitchen since getting married and becoming the main chef in the house, but I mostly think this is due to the fact that I like being in there. I love to experiment, try out recipes, throw eggs on the floor, and in general make a mess for my husband to clean up (Our rule: I cook, he cleans! Hehehe!).  Now I've gotten off topic. My main point: eating a healthy traditional foods diet, does not mean never stepping outside the kitchen. Today I have a new recipe to prove it. 
Since I was a little girl I have been enjoying this meal; my mom would prepare it to the delight of the entire family. It's just delicious! It uses everyday ingredients, can be adjusted to seasonal vegetable availability, and the best part is that the entire meal fits into one pan! Easy peasy with no more than 15 minutes of prep!
Garlic Roasted Chicken & Veggies
4 T. butter (or more) 
6 chicken leg/thigh quarters
24 garlic cloves, unpeeled
A variety of vegetables to fill the pan
Sea Salt to taste
1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup or honey
1. Melt butter in a large roasting pan in the oven at 400 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, cut chicken leg/thighs apart at joints. Cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
3. Remove pan from oven when the butter is melted. Carefully tip pan to coat the entire bottom with the melted butter. 
4. Place chicken pieces, and harder vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc) if using, and garlic into the pan. Turn ingredients to coat with melted butter. Leave chicken skin-side up. Then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
5. Place pan in oven and cook for 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and baste chicken and vegetables.
6. Add softer vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.) to pan and coat chicken and veggies with honey.
7. Put pan back into the oven for 20 minutes more. Then, remove from oven and enjoy!

This was shared at The Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania.

Lemon Kefir Ice Cream

This is our first spring living here in Texas, and as a native-Chicago girl, I couldn't be more pleased that our warm weather began showing up at the end of January. We're well into the eighty degree weather, and I oftentimes have to remind myself that it's still March, even though it looks and feels like July. Of course, since it is Texas, I do know that July here will be much different than July in Chicago. We moved to Austin in July last year, and had quite the taste of those blazing temps.

All this warm weather has us taking out our ice cream maker almost every week. And, well, I don't think the cooler weather would have stopped us either. Homemade ice cream is just so deliciously creamy and pure -there's no comparison to store-bought ice cream. We bought our ice cream maker last October in celebration of my birthday... which wasn't until November, that's how excited I was to have rich, nutritious, homemade ice cream on hand.

The best part about having an ice cream maker is being able to avoid all the additional preservatives and junk the manufacturers put into the store-bought ice cream. The scary thing is that many of these additives aren't even required to be on the ingredient list! Another plus to making your own ice cream is being able to choose the quality of milk and ingredients.  Most store-bought ice cream only uses pasteurized skim milk, but we learned how important it is to have traditional fats in our diet. We use fresh, whole raw milk and cream for our ice cream, along with egg yolks and honey as our sweetener. I mentioned in my last post that I'm doing the GAPS diet to heal my gut, and right now I cannot tolerate fresh milk, but I can drink kefir, a fermented milk drink. The sour taste of kefir lends itself well to making tangy ice creams, such as those with fruit - like lemon!

One of my favorite memories growing up is being at Wrigley Field, watching the Cubs play, burning in the hot sun, and chipping away at my lemon freeze dessert. I have no idea what those desserts are called anymore, but it was basically frozen lemon sorbet in a cup. To me, that refreshing, cold, lemon tang is synonymous with summertime, and so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to replicate this treat using fresh and pure ingredients. In this recipe I use kefir, a strong probiotic beverage. I have been promising a recipe in which to use this fermented milk drink in order to make it more palatable. Well, folks, it doesn't get more palatable than this! I love to invent recipes that are not only delicious, but also very healthy. Due to its fermented nature, and the fact that it's made from fresh whole milk, this ice cream is so healthy you could eat it for breakfast without guilt.

I have made it twice so far for family and friends, and we've manage to finish it all off before I was able to snap a photo. It's THAT good. This dessert is so full of flavor, it's an explosion of summer in your mouth. You're going to love it!

Lemon Kefir Ice Cream
4 cups kefir from fresh whole milk (read this to know how to make kefir)
3/4 - 1 cup organic lemon juice (use 1 cup if you like it more sour)
3/4 cup raw honey
Zest of 2-3 organic lemons
A handful of organic blueberries
1. In a blender or mixer add all the ingredients (except blueberries) until well combined.
2. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the directions for your personal machine. Our ice cream maker usually takes about 25 minutes to make the ice cream.
3. Store in a sealed container in your freezer until you're ready to serve.
4. We like to throw a few blueberries in our bowl, having found the flavors quite complementary. 

This is one of my favorite ways to eat kefir. 
How do you enjoy eating your kefir? Please share!

Milk Kefir: What, Why, & How

Newly-made Milk Kefir
When we began our journey with fermented foods, I promised to share some of my favorite veggie and fruit ferments, as well as fermented drinks. Kefir is a staple in our house, especially because  I cannot currently tolerate milk, but can handle fermented milk. Milk kefir is simple and quick to make, and can be used in all sorts of recipes, including homemade ice cream!
What is kefir?
Kefir (pronounced: kÉ™-feer) is a beautifully creamy, pungently sour, and slightly effervescent fermented milk drink. This isn’t the typical American or Greek yogurt you buy at the store, but you can think of it as another type of yogurt. Eating it plain is definitely an acquired taste due to its intense sourness, however there are many delicious kefir recipes that soften the flavor. Kefir originated in the North Caucasus region (the Russian region between the Black and Caspian Seas) and is prepared by mixing fresh milk with kefir grains. Grains of kefir are live probiotic cultures of yeast and bacteria; they are not grains like pasta and bread. The kefir grains range in color from white to yellow, have a cauliflower-like appearance, are squishy like gummy bears, and can vary in size from 1/2 inch to a bit more than 1 inch.
Kefir Grains
Why drink homemade kefir?
The word, kefir, originates from the Turkish region and means “feel good.” This offers us a hint of its health benefits. The kefir grains, through a fermentation process of approximately 24 hours, produce a living culture comprised of more than 30 microflora. Kefir is a great aid to the immune system. We know a healthy immune system is very dependent upon a healthy intestinal tract. Kefir bolsters the immune system by rooting out the bad bacteria in the gut. Unlike your typical yogurt that normally has three to four strains of probiotic bacteria, kefir typically has 30 or more good “bugs.” Basically, kefir is a turbo-charged-crazy-colon-cleaning-energy drink. The excess enzymes found in kefir have been shown to adhere themselves to the wall of the colon to help clean out the pathogenic bacteria from the gut. The yeast (which creates the slight bubbly-ness of the kefir) penetrates the lining of the intestines, where so many destructive yeasts and bacteria reside, forming a bacterial SWAT team to clean house. The bad yeast and bacteria are destroyed, and the intestines is strengthened. The friendly yeast in the kefir was even found to destroy candida albicans, a strong and very pathogenic yeast found in most people’s guts. Many people have reported huge improvements in digestive function as a result of consuming this probiotic beverage. I, myself, drink it almost daily and can attribute part of my healing to this wonderful and tasty beverage.
Similar to most other fermented foods on this blog, I recommend making kefir at home. You can purchase this beverage at your local supermarket, however, I believe you are purchasing an inferior product. By making it at home you can control the quality of milk used and the amount of time it is fermented. I highly recommend using fresh, raw milk from local grass-fed cows and for fermenting at least 24 hours, especially if you have ever had any reaction to dairy products in the past. It’s good to note here that many people who have experienced lactose intolerance to dairy products are able to consume raw milk, and if not plain, raw milk they are able to consume homemade fermented kefir from raw milk. This is due to the live cultures which are also contained within the raw milk. In fact, I have a friend who was diagnosed with celiac disease, and was told she wouldn’t be able to consume milk products for the rest of her life, who is now successfully drinking kefir and healing her gut. So, if you are experience lactose intolerance, you may want to look into the GAPS diet. The ability to eat ice cream in your future might not be so impossible, especially if that ice cream is made with kefir! I have a super delicious kefir ice cream recipe that I’m so excited to share in one of the next upcoming posts.
Regardless of lactose intolerance, or gut problems, this is a drink that would benefit even the healthiest of people. Kefir is a complete protein with all the amino acids. It contains an abundance of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus - minerals most of our bodies are lacking. Kefir provides a range of B vitamins to your body, making it a great source of folic acid, often recommended to pregnant women in order to avoid spinal deformities in their unborn child. (source: The Body Ecology Diet, by Donna Gates)
Do you need more reasons to drink kefir? :) I have listed so many here, but kefir has also been known to help in the fight against cancer, IBS, immune dysfunction, allergies, colitis, and leaky gut among many other things (source). It’s so easy to make kefir, and yet provides your body with maximum benefits. Check out the recipe below which includes step-by-step directions for making kefir at home.

Milk Kefir: Recipe
2 tablespoons kefir grains (see below on where to find some)
1 quart of fresh, raw whole milk
2 quart-sized mason jars
1 large bowl
1 non-metal strainer
1 non-metal spatula or spoon
Small piece of cheesecloth/flour sack cloth or mason jar lid
1. Place kefir grains in a quart-size mason jar.
2. Add milk to fill jar, place cheesecloth or other cloth on top to allow the kefir to breathe, and secure with the metal band from a 2-piece mason lid. The other option is to use both pieces of the mason lid, but do not secure the top. Set the lid gently on top so as to still allow for the exchange of air.
3. Place in a cabinet for approximately 24 hours (more or less time depending on temperature of kitchen).
4. After 24 hours, strain out the kefir grains using a strainer and a rubber or plastic spatula (never use a metal utensil which can harm the live grains) and repeat the above process to make more kefir, or place grains in a jar, cover with milk and place in refrigerator until you desire to make more kefir.

Use a spatula to help push the more solid kefir through the strainer
5. Place the newly made milk kefir in a jar and keep in the fridge. The kefir will last for quite awhile. I’ve never had any of my kefir go bad (due to the live cultures).

The best place to find plump, healthy grains is through your local Weston A. Price group, or you can purchase grains from Cultures for Health, but you will need to go through a process to rehydrate them.

Classic Guacamole: Recipe

It’s been quite the month here in our household. I took a break from blogging to give my time and attention to a community event I was co-chairing in mid-February. It went off smashingly well, but it was followed by a a couple weeks of migraines. It may have been due to all the sewing I was doing, as I reupholstered a big, comfy chair I bought off of Craigslist, and I always seem to get my neck out of place while sewing. Fortunately, these were solved by my awesome chiropractor after a couple visits. I’d never experienced migraines before, and let me tell you, I have much greater empathy for those that experience them on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I then came down with some sort of flu/congestion. The Master Tonic I keep on hand was excellent for this, and I was quite happy I had made it this past autumn. I also kept up my liquids, rested a lot, and cut out most dairy. During the height of the fever, I was still able to pull off a surprise birthday party for one of my best friends. Then, finally, it was Spring Break and my husband was able to be home for the entire week. I took this week to recuperate and enjoy some carefree timelessness with my love. This past week finally offered me the time and relaxation I needed, so now I can get back into blogging. Thank you for your patience as I just suddenly disappeared without an explanation. 
I have a great treat for you today! For years my family has been making this guacamole recipe, and I have yet to come across any other guacamole recipe that compares. This is what converted my heart to loving avocados. I wouldn’t touch the things prior to eating this; now I enjoy even plain avocados with any dish. There’s not much of a secret ingredient to this recipe, but I will say that the lime juice adds a great bite, and paired with the cilantro - mmmm - it’s just heavenly. This doesn’t last long in our home, so I’m glad my husband was able to quickly snap a photo. 
I have brought this to friends’ homes to share, and served this to our guests, and many times I have heard, “Oh, no thank you, I don’t care for avocado.” But, then they try it, and oh! the flavor. They can’t help but enjoy this delightful combination.

Without further ado...
Classic Guacamole
3 avocados, mashed
1 lime, juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup onion, diced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 pinch ground cayenne, or more according to personal preference
1. In a large bowl, mash together the avocado, lime guice, and salt.
2. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic.
3. Stir in cayenne pepper.
4. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately.
The lime juice will keep the guacamole from going brown while it is in the fridge for an hour. Actually, when we last made the guacamole it stayed green overnight in the fridge without a cover!
This is best served with homemade tortilla chips (or store-bought, too, however we try to avoid hydrogenated oils, since they are so bad for you). Lately, we most often eat our guacamole on our tacos, or with slices of cucumber and red pepper since I’m eating grain-free.

Building a Medicine Cabinet: Elderberry Syrup


We have officially entered the coldest month of the year for us Texans. In the last few weeks our house had gotten quite dry, and I hadn't been running the humidifier as often as a should. It wasn't surprising, then, when the husband recently came down with a cough and sore throat. He promptly made himself a pot of tea made with echinacea, marshmallow (the plant, not the fluffy white cylinders), fennel, orange peel, and cinnamon bark - we use Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat. But, after a few days the cough and sore throat were still there. Master Tonic should have been the first line of defense, but we were lazy and didn't reach for the bottle as early as we should have. The Master Tonic, while extremely powerful, does have quite a zing, and therefore, isn't my husband's favorite medicine (although, he did take it with him to work the past two days!). 

As with any sickness, it is important to first reflect on your diet, the amount of sleep you're getting, exercise, and the stress in your life. Remove all refined sugars, if they are still present, from your diet. Drink copious amounts of homemade chicken broth, and increase your daily servings of lacto-fermented foods. Take more time to relax, avoid stressful activities, if possible, and go for a walk once a day. Your body needs to rest, so find the time to nap, and go to bed earlier. Once you have thought over these steps, use herbal medicine to ease your symptoms and aid your healing. 
Knowing my husband's throat was one of the main factors in his illness, I decided to whip up a batch of elderberry syrup. The berries from the elder flower are highly esteemed for their use in fighting colds, flus, and upper respiratory infections. Both the flowers and the berries of this plant work well in reducing fevers, if present, by inducing sweating. The elder plant contains immune-enhancing properties, and tends to be especially effective when combined with  echinacea. An important note: use only blue elderberries, as the red elderberries are potentially toxic. Also, never eat elderberries that haven't been cooked yet.
I also decided to use other ingredients to make this syrup: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and raw honey. Each of these ingredients adds its own particular benefit. Cinnamon has antiviral and antiseptic qualities, and increases one's circulation. Cloves are known to have the highest antioxidant quality than any other food. They also have germicidal benefits which help fight colds and flus. Ginger is a classic herb of traditional Chinese medicine, and is highly regarded as a primary herb for reproductive, respiratory, and digestive systems. In this case, it is used to increase blood circulation since it is a warming herb. Finally, the raw honey is used for its antibacterial qualities, and for its ability to make the syrup more palatable.
Lastly, I buy my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs or the Bulk Herb Store. I am just beginning to be able to grow herbs consistently, and I hope to expand my meager collection, but until then these two companies offer high quality products at reasonable prices (I don't receive any sort of benefit from promoting either of them). It only takes about 10 minutes of prep time, and then 20-30 minutes of cooking time to end up with a fantastic syrup that your family will think is delicious. The best part is that it will help your family through the winter flu blues!

Elderberry Syrup
1/2 cup dried elderberries, or 1 cup fresh elderberries
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 cups filtered water
1 cup honey

1. In a small pot add the elderberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, and filtered water. Cover, and bring to a boil.

2. Once the water has boiled, turn the stove down to a low simmer for 20-30 minutes. Keep the pot covered. After this time the liquid should be reduced by half.
3. Strain the liquid into a bowl. Take a spoon and push the berries down to squeeze out the liquid.

4. Add the honey and stir until thoroughly combined.
5. Pour into glass jars (I like to use dark amber jars). In the fridge the syrup will last for only 2 weeks, however, you can easily store the syrup in the freezer and pull it out when a bout of illness strikes.

Dosage: Take 1 tablespoon/day to prevent illness, or take 1 T/hour if you are already experiencing cough and sore throat symptoms. Children under 12 years of ago can take half the adult dose (1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons). Toddlers can take 1/4 of the adult dose (a little less than a teaspoon).

There are thousands of natural remedies for all sorts of ailments. 
What topics are of interest to you? 

This post was shared at The Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania,  Real Food Forager's Fat Tuesday, and Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday.