Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts


Honestly, you've probably never heard of PAP, but I will assure you, it's a quick and a really historic dish. My grandmother, Edna-Mae, was Cherokee Indian and also grew up during the Great Depression. Somewhere along the way there's a book that talks about family on her side walking the Trail of Tears. If you recall, my family is in Arkansas and we also have family in Oklahoma, where my grandparents, on my mom's side, live. My uncle/aunt, cousins, second cousin, extended family, etc. still live in Oklahoma. Right on the edge of the Oklahoma/Arkansas state line is a town called Fort Smith, Arkansas. Fort Smith is the end of the Trail of Tears. My grandmother had it rough at times and the stories family tells about her is amazing. Her family, my great grandmother/father didn't have a lot and my grandmother would dig for used notebook paper and erase what was on the page so she could use it again for herself in school. I don't look at that as poor, but as resourceful and honestly, she was recycling before recycling was cool.

...I digress, with the family of my late grandmother being part of the Indian-forced movement and also being in the middle of the Great Depression hoarding of food, and trying to extend the use of food happened. And of course, more thought was given to the children and babies than the older children, or adults. So PAP was created as a makeshift type of baby food, since actual baby food was expensive and babies are finicky when it comes to eating. PAP could still be used as a baby food nowadays, but with the options and healthier varieties, it might not be the first choice. Many a night has my grandmother, and many others, during the Great Depression gone to bed hungry. Porridge has been used for centuries, different forms of it, but used nonetheless for a quick, cheap food option to feed many. Makes you appreciate the way the world has become and how it's easy for us to go and find food when needed. We make PAP at least once or twice a year and I think it's best on Christmas morning with pancakes, and reminds us that family history is amazing and we should be grateful for what we have now thanks to their sacrifices.

Here's how it's made-which is incredibly simple.


What you'll need:

5 cups organic whole milk (We prefer Organic Valley brand)
2 cups organic sugar (more to taste, if you like)
1/2 cup organic white flour (or more for desired thickness)
Ground cinnamon (We use Simply Organic brand)

What to do:

Add all five cups of milk to a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler you can use a saucepan full of water and a large bowl over the sauce pan. the point of the double boiler is to keep the mix from burning, which is easy to do. While making this recipe do not leave the stove, or mix unattended. It's a slow process, so be patient. Bring the milk to a small boil over medium-high heat. Don't allow milk to boil rapidly because it will boil over. Once the milk is at a small boil add the sugar and turn the heat down to medium. Stir with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved, about five minutes.

Once the sugar is dissolved add the flour at one tablespoon at a time, whisking the entire time. It will begin to thicken over time, so go slow and add the flour slowly one spoonful at a time. You can either have runnier PAP, or thicker PAP. We enjoy the thicker PAP in our home and growing up my mom's mix was a thick mix as well. Keep stirring in the flour with the whisk until your desired thickness is reached. Removed from heat and allow to sit for five minutes. Serve up on a flat plate one ladle at a time until you have a good amount of the plate. Sprinkle the middle of the PAP with ground cinnamon and serve. You eat the PAP by stirring the middle cinnamon area to combine while leaving the sides white. It's wonderful and I hope it becomes a tradition in your home like it was in my grandmother's, my mom's, and now mine.

Serve it while it's hot and enjoy!

Other forms of PAP:

-Version One
-Version Two
-Version Three
-My post from 2012

(As with any recipe, be sure to use quality, non-gmo, organic ingredients) 

Organic Ranch Potatoes

We have slowly been making the shift in our house to more organic foods and trying desperately to cut our waste. We've been doing a good job with the waste this far, but getting away from non-organic food habits is a struggle still. It's a slow process, but we are making ourselves do it because it's the right thing for our health and wellness. I found a few USDA Organic sales this past week on canned tomatoes and racked up as much as I could. The thing is, it would have been better to grow all of the tomatoes and can them myself, but this was the first year we've tried our hand at growing Roma tomatoes in raised beds and we only had three plants. I am thinking next year one entire raised bed needs to be for growing Romas and I can learn more about how to can tomatoes over the next year. As for now, we had great luck with potatoes in our garden. We grew red potatoes and also gave a go at some Yukon golds. We have stored a lot of them already, but the growing process of potatoes goes clear into the cold season, which I love. I am hoping for a good crop of broccoli and lettuce varies we are growing right now, too. With all of the potatoes I have been coming up with great ideas on what to cook them with and how to cook them alone. One of the good ones I've come across is the ranch potatoes recipe below. The Mr. and The Bean love them and I hope it becomes a staple in your house too, like it has in ours.

Organic Ranch Potatoes

What you'll need:

Olive oil (Make sure it bares the USDA Organic label)
Dry Ranch Dip seasoning (2 packages) (We used Simply Organic's USDA Organic Ranch Dip Mix)
Organic Potatoes (about 10)

What to do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Wash and remove any blemishes from the potatoes. Take your time on this step to make sure there are no "bad" spots on your potatoes. After washing and prepping, slice into thin, even slices. I used red and Yukon gold potatoes for this recipe and they both baked up nicely. The thicker the slices the less chance of the thinner slices burning. 

Drizzle olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Lay the slices on a baking sheet-slightly overlapping just a bit. 

In a separate bowl add a cup of olive oil and one package of the Ranch Dip mix and whisk. Pour over the top of half of the slices making sure to cover them completely. Repeat the same steps above with the second half of the potatoes. Shake on a handful of salt over the potatoes and a handful of pepper-or to taste. (if you are cutting back salt in your diet, skip this step)

Place baking sheet in the middle of the oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve hot and enjoy!

(As with any recipe, be sure to use quality, non-gmo, organic ingredients) 

Homemade quick pizza

Every Friday night in our house, we go for pizza. We have created so many different varieties of pizza in our home kitchen that it almost seems to come second nature to all of us to throw together something on a pie fast.  Here is our version of a 10 minute homemade pizza.

What you'll need:

• Pizza dough:  You can either make this from scratch or use one of the many varieties out on the market now days.  Of course, we have tried both ways and we prefer the Mama Mary's variety in the Thin & Crispy.  The crust comes out in perfect texture every time.

• Pizza sauce:  We really like to doctor any type of pizza sauce we get, so we go with a varieties that doesn't have too much garlic with and just enough of the other spices to make it delicious.

• Toppings:  We go with the old standbys of pepperonis and black olives (smashed by hand), as well as cheese. 

We also incorporate the cheese flavoring from BRAGG Nutritional Yeast Seasoning.  We are trying slowly to eat more clean, and these "secret" ingredients allow us to slowly introduce our bodies to new tastes and flavors that are healthy for our systems.

We cover the entire pizza and make it a family effort.  Everyone gets to add something to the pizza before it's cooked.

Once it's covered in the toppings, it cooks for eight minutes at 375 degrees. (adjust this temperature and time depending on your oven.)

Once it's done cooking, remove it from the oven and slice up.  

Rosemary Red Potatoes

I simply love rosemary, the scent, the plant itself, and I love cooking it with it most of all.  Along with my Rosemary Mashed Potatoes, I love incorporating the rosemary into other dishes.

Recently I have been using my steamer more and more for fish dishes, vegetables, and even for some fruits.  Steamed pineapple is delicious   The most recent steamer dish I made was steamed rosemary red potatoes.  They are super yummy and very healthy addition to a dinner plate.  Here's how it's done.

I use (roughly) 20 small red potatoes, also known as new potatoes.
2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Lemon Pepper Seasoning
1 tsp. Rosemary (dried)
3 springs Fresh Rosemary

Wash and cut the red potatoes into bite-sized piece.  Place them into your steamer and add the water underneath.  The steamer I use is an Oster, similar to the ones below. 

Add your herbs and seasonings, all but the fresh rosemary.  Close the lid.


Set the timer to 20 minutes.

Cut and wash your fresh rosemary.  I keep a plant growing in my kitchen window for easy access and it thrives there.  After 20 minutes of cooking, add the fresh rosemary on top of the potatoes.

Steam for an additional 20 minutes.

The smell through your kitchen is amazing during this time!

After 40 minutes of total cook time, your potatoes are ready to serve!


Eco-Tip:  The seasons are changing and now is the time to start mowing your lawn once again.  Instead of bagging your grass clippings, leave them on the lawn to fertilize the grass once again.  This method also reduces the amount of grass waste left in landfills too.  For this and other tips on going green visit, The Earth and Me Go Green.

A Southern Tradition

Biscuits and gravy are indeed a southern tradition for sure.  I grew up on biscuits in gravy in the countryside of Arkansas and loved the smell of homemade biscuits cooking throughout my parent's home.  My mom makes some of the best biscuits you ever put butter on and she really knows how to bring people to the table with her gravy as well.  

Biscuits have gotten a bit more fluffy over the years that they have been baked.  The first biscuit was actually a flat bread that would be pout back in the oven hence the "bis" part of biscuits...."bis" meaning twice, as in twice cooked.  The flat bread was hard and was eaten by soldiers  to help keep them full while traveling to and from war zones. (Source)  With that said the flakier, fluffier biscuit came from the southern kitchens over time and were added to just about every meal that came out of the kitchen in the south.  I remember having a biscuit with breakfast at least and at almost every dinner.  

Gravy came along with the turn of the need for a fuller meal to keep farmers and military men full.  It was a cheap way of using all the parts of cooking meat.  The meat fats were either used on the biscuits straight or milk, flour and water were added to make the grease and fat go further for more mouths.  

Now days there are a bit more choices and the options for biscuits and gravy are thought to be a treat rather than a need for a hearty meal.  Here is my twist on a history making, southern tradition.

A few months before Valentine's Day last year my mom sent me a package of the Loveless Cafe biscuit mix.  If you want a great tasting buttermilk biscuit without the hassle of all the measuring and mixing, give this mix a try.  All you add is the buttermilk!

The Loveless Cafe is in Tennessee and you can snag your own biscuit mix and Loveless Cafe jam set  HERE for under $40.

I baked my biscuits in a cast iron skillet just like my mom used to do when I was a kid.  I love the skillet biscuits because the bake up all smashed together and just seem like real biscuits that way instead of on a cookie sheet.  

How tasty and yummy do those look?

Next came the gravy.  A simple gravy is made with a fat, flour, milk, and finally water.  That's just about it!

  Here's how it's done the southern way:

Start with a cup of bacon grease.  Heat the bacon grease over medium heat and add a cup of flour.  Turn the heat up to medium high and combine the bacon grease with the flour and begin to "burn" the flour.  Once the flour begins to burn or turn brown slightly, reduce the heat back down to medium and add 2 cups of milk.  Combine the milk with the burned flour and bacon grease mixture with a wire whisk until thick.  Add 3 cups of water and turn heat on high.  Whisk the gravy mixture until thick and reduce heat to low.  Serve over the top of prepared biscuits.  

Serve with a pad of butter and salt/pepper on top.  The BEST biscuits and gravy you ever tasted.  Such a southern tradition for breakfast on the weekends! 


Eco-Tip:  Use bulk items when you can.  Buying items in bulk and storing in reusable food containers can help cut down on manufacturers package waste with each item you buy.  When you do go buy bulk items, be sure and take your own reusable bags to fill as well too.  For this and other tips on going green visit, The Earth and Me Go Green.

Reading the wine bottle

Opening a wine bottle is really rather easy and most people freak out a little when cork gets in the wine inside the bottle. That doesn't really affect the taste, but it could be a bit embarrassing if it pours out into a wine glass with the wine. 
Even if you pull the cork out perfectly there is still a chance that some cork could end up in the wine inside the bottle inevitably but having a good cork screw is important as well. Having a cork screw that doesn't do it's job, can mean more work for you pulling the cork out and possibly more cork chips to end up in the bottle too. Look for one with a rounded spiral and a handle that's easy for you to grip. Metal spirals are the best for digging dip into the cork and pulling it out with ease.

When it comes to pouring the wine, fill it only 1/3 full and never to the rim of the glass. You want to leave room for the wine to move around in the glass and allow oxygen to hit the wine to help release flavors in the process. End your pour with a turn as you come up to end the wine's forward motion so that not a drop is dripped more. 
Good rule of thumb only decant young and old wines, young wines for oxygen to help with the flavor of the wine and old wines to help remove sediment. 

Always drink wine slow and enjoy the taste. If you sip it fast, you won't get to really see if the wine is one that you will like in the future. Smell the wine, let it sit on your tongue and enjoy the taste and scent of the wine to fully grasp the entire boldness, fruitiness and freshness of the wine overall.

Common Wine Flavors:

• Zinfandel, Shiraz:  Peppery Flavor

• Chardonnay, Champagne:  Toast or Butter Flavor

• Burgundy:   Nutty Flavor

• Pinot Blanc:  Peach or Apricot Flavor

• Riesling:  Citrus Flavor

• Pinot Noir:  Red Fruity Flavor (strawberry)

• Cabernet Sauvignon:  Chocolate or Mint Flavor

• Sauvignon Blanc:  Vanilla Flavor

Look for body, weight, depth, and texture in the wines above.  Your taste pallet may differ from someone else so don't guaranty you will like what someone else does automatically without tasting it. 

Go for these tips in restaurants as well, just don't go for the expensive wines for the first time in a restaurant.  Use that time to spend money on expensive wines for when you are at home.

Brandon's Great Guacamole

Photo credit:

2 avocados
1/2 fresh tomato
1/4 onion
1 fresh diced jalapeno pepper
1 lemon squeezed
salt to taste

Cut and scoop two avocados into a bowl and mash the into a paste. Dice half a tomato, a quarter of an onion and one jalapeno pepper and place them into the bowl. Cut and squeeze one whole lemon into the bowl and the salt to taste. Mix the ingredients together and you have yourself a very quick and tasty guacamole.


Eco-Tip:  Remember, unless you have Celiac Disease your body can digest gluten products.  Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by the intake of gluten in genetically predisposed individual.  it is estimated that the 1% of the population have Celiac Disease  but a vast majority of the population still remains un-diagnosed.  If you suspect that you may have CD talk to your doctor.  For this and other tips on going green visit, The Earth and Me Go Green.


Cooking with tomato

Tomatoes may not be in season right now, but if you played your cards right with your garden, I do hope you canned a few jars of them.  If not, there are many varieties or organic, natural, or good brands out there from companies that sell whole, chopped, or diced tomatoes in a can or jar.

Tomatoes always give an added touch that some dishes are just missing.  A lot of dishes require some sort of tomato in the form of whole, paste or even cooked or diced and, tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to grow on your own. From growing them in a small apartment to a large garden layout in your backyard, tomatoes are really a great fruit to have on hand, and the added joy is if you grew them yourself   

Here are two very easy and quick recipes to try now with tomatoes that you grew or ones that you have purchased locally.

• Fish and Spinach Bake with Tomatoes
Makes 4 Servings

1 package frozen spinach , thawed (10 ounces)
1 Pound fish fillets, thawed (Talapia or similar.  Chicken may even be used in place of the fish.)
1 tsp. Cajun Seasoning (To taste)
1 LARGE TOMATO, SLICED (Or use canned tomatoes)
4 green onions, sliced

Squeeze out spinach and remove excess liquid from leaves.  Spread spinach in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

Arrange fish fillets over the spinach laid and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning, to taste.  

Cover with foil with a small slit in the top to allow for steam to escape and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 20 minutes until fish flakes with a fork.

• Easy Chili
Makes 8 cups

1 pound ground meat (your choice)
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp. chili powder
2 cans beans, 15 ounce cans (Pinto, black and kidney beans will work)
1 can tomato soup (10 ounces)
1 cup water

Brown the meat and onion in a skillet together and drain off excess fat.  Add chili powder and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring in powder as you cook.

Add tomatoes, drained beans and soup.  Stir in water and simmer for about 30 -45 minutes on low heat.

Chili is ready to eat!


Eco-Tip:  If you get magazine subscriptions to your home, consider recycling them once you have read them.  Or consider donating them to a local library, clinic, or hospital   For this and other tips on going green visit, The Earth and Me Go Green.


What's the deal with grain?

Most of us are not unfamiliar with brown rice and grains as a whole, but did you know there are different forms of grains that are just as good for you as brown rice? If you are stuck in the brown rice blahs there are many other forms of grains that can give you that boost back to where you enjoy grains once more and guess what, they are not only healthy for you, but also very easy to find.

Wild Rice

1. Kasha: You may be familiar with this name through the Kashi brand of foods, but Kasha is one of the most amazing grains out there. You can either eat them cooking into your food or cook them alone. Bring water to a boil and add your desired amount of Kasha to the boiling water. 

2. Quinoa: This grain may be familiar to you, but have you tried it yet? Quinoa is a grain that is very tender and very enjoyable if prepared the right way. Rinse under cool water and cook the same way you would Kasha, but cover and simmer 15 minutes in order to enjoy this grain in a hearty way.

3. Bulgur: This is a form of wheat kernels and can be boiled just the same as the other two above. Boil 1 cup Bulgur with 1 cup water and remove from hear and stand for 10 minutes before enjoying. This can be added to a pasta salad or eaten alone alongside your main meal.

4. Wheat Berries: Boil 3 cups of water to 1 cup of wheat berries in a large pot. Then turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour to bring out the complex flavor of this grain. It can be enjoyed straight.

Fields of Barley
5. Barley: Boil Barley about the same as you would the other grains, but Barley can also be made into breads, pastas and even muffins or rolls. And this grain is so popular that even Sting made a song about it. Add it to your diet and make it just as popular in your own home.

Whole grains are one of the most common foods our bodies need more than anything else, not only for the fiber, but also for the other supplements they add to our diets.  Here is a list of what whole grains can add to your body.
  • Natural, soluble fiber
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Zinc
  • Potassium
  • Folate
  • Protein
  • Iron
  • Thiamine
  • Riboflavin
Pick up these grains the next time you are at the grocery store, Farmers' Market or even the local grower.  Try one or the two at the same time and find your favorite grain and start adding it into your own cooking.


Eco-Tip:  When gone from your house during the long hours of the day, turn your thermostat down a little.  There isn't an estimate of how much you will save due to the different variations of houses, heating systems, climate and weather changes, as well as energy cost in your own home.  But one thing to keep in mind, each degree of Fahrenheit you set the thermostat back in either direction you save about an 1 percent savings within an eight hour period.  For this and other tips on going green visit, The Earth and Me Go Green.


ONIONS! Let's cook with them


Onions, when added to certain dishes, they come alive with flavor.  Here are a few of the dishes I simply love to add onions to.

• Sweet Onion Soup

Ingredients:  1/4 cup butter, 2 sweet onions (Sliced), 1 tbs. all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup red cooking wine, 2-10 oz. cans condensed beef broth, 1 loaf of French bread or garlic bread, and croutons.

In a 4-quart saucepan cook onions in the butter for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the flour and blend well with the juices from the onions in the pan.  Add water, wine and broth and beat till a rolling boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes with a cover on the pan. Lower heat to low and serve with bread and croutons.

Tip:  Bring sauces and soups to a boil when reheating.  Bring heat to at least 165 degrees before eating and always keep leftovers at a safe temperature, heat doesn't always kill bacteria by reheating when food isn't kept at proper degrees when stored.

•  Chicken with Onions

Ingredients:  1 tbsp  extra-virgin olive oil, 1 whole chicken (quartered), salt and pepper, 1 large red onion (cut into wedges), 1 lb. carrots (cut into 2-inch pieces), 3/4 cup white cooking wine, 1 tbsp  honey, and parsley for garnish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large Dutch oven heat oil on high heat, season chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot, skin side down.  Cook for about 8 minutes and place chicken on a plate and set aside.  Add onions and carrots to the pot and cook, stirring often.  Cook until onions are golden brown and add wine and honey and bring to a boil.  Scrape brown bits with a wooden spoon and then return chicken to the pot.  Add 1 cup of water and bring to a rolling boil.  Cook for about 35 minutes or until chicken is done.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.

Tip:  Separate raw meat and seafood from other foods in your shopping buggy and also in your refrigerator.  Meat and other liquid from animal products contain large amounts of bacteria.

• Onion Soup

Ingredients:  1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 tbsp  unsalted butter, 6 yellow onions (sliced thin), 1 tsp. sugar, salt and pepper to taste, Thyme sprigs, 1 Bay leave for taste, 1 tsp. all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp  Brandy, 4 cups beef broth, stale-toasted bread, 1 garlic clove (peeled), Parsley

Using a Dutch oven, heat oil and 2-tbs. butter on high heat.  Add onions, sugar and 2 tsp. salt.  Add the thyme and bay leaf and reduce heat to medium-low.  Be sure and scrape up brown bits with a wooden spoon.  Once the onions reach a medium brown color (About 1 hour )  Reduce heat if needed while cooking and add water when needed if onions begin to stick.  Set 1/2 cup onions aside and leave the rest in the Dutch oven.  Stir in 1 tbs. butter, flour and Brandy and cook until butter is melted completely.  Add broth and simmer on high heat for 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with garlic bread and soup on top of bread.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Tip:  Don't cross contaminate!  Never place food back on a plate that was use before with raw meat or seafood!

• Bean Burger with Pickled Onions

Ingredients:  1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, 1 small red onion, 1 tsp. sugar, 2 tbs. red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, 2 1/2 cups cooked black beans, 1 red bell pepper, 1 cup fresh, chopped cilantro, 1/3 dry bread crumbs, 1 large egg (beaten), 3 tbsp. mayo, 1 thinly sliced avocado

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and add the red onion that's been thinly sliced and cook for 1 minute, add 1 tsp. sugar and cook together until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Place the mixture in a small bowl and wipe skillet off.  Mash 2 cups of the cooked beans in a bowl and then drain, stir in bell pepper that's been finely chopped.  Add in 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and the bread crumbs, along with beaten egg and 1/2 cups cooked black beans (not mashed but, drained).  Season with salt and pepper and form mixture into patties.  Heat 1 tbs. oil and cook patties until crisp and flip once to make crisp on opposite side.  Serve on Kaiser rolls that have been spread with mayo and top with avocado and red onions. 

Onions are one of the foods that often get overlooked when it comes to certain dishes.  You can add an onion to just about anything you're cooking to get it just a hint of flavor, or a lot.  And the best part, onions come in a variety of different species.

And many, many others.  


Eco-Tip:  Try to eat less meat.  Reducing meat consumption will reduce pollution problems within our food-related land use and factories.  If cutting meat out completely isn't an option, try to opt for only 2 meals of meat-related dishes a week.  For this and other tips on going green visit, The Earth and Me Go Green.