Real Chicken Parmesan

>> 3.30.2010

Being a fairly new Real Food enthusiast I am pleasently surpised when I can continue preparing my staple recipes simply by rotating out the bad ingredients and exchanging them for the healthier, more nourishing alternatives.  Even just substituting my Target-brand diced tomatoes (I know, I know) with an organic variety from Trader Joes gives me thrills =).  This chicken parmesan recipe is modified to incorporate good fats, sprouted grains and organic vegetables.  The taste is modified too~ it has so much more flavor! Enjoy feeding your families this wonderful, Real meal: 
  • 4 free-range, organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 1/2 cup sprouted spelt flour
  • 2 pastured eggs
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1 cup organic bread crumbs (or make your own!)
  • 2 Tbs celtic grey sea salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 slices Mozzarella cheese
  • freshly grated parmesan
  • 6 Tbs olive oil
  • 16 oz. cooked organic sprouted grain spaghetti
Preheat the oven to 450°.  Pound chicken breasts to 1/2 inch thick.  Place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with 1 Tbs salt and 1 tsp pepper; mix together with a fork.  In a wide bowl combine the eggs and water and beat until frothy; lay bowl next to the flour.  Place the bread crumbs on a wide plate, season with remaining salt and pepper and place next to eggs (you should have a little assembly line of ingredients).

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stainless-steel skillet.  Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken in flour, dip in the egg wash to coat completely (letting excess drip off), then dredge in the bread crumbs.  When the oil is hot add the chicken and cook for 4 minutres on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.

Ladle marinara sauce over the chicken and top with both cheeses.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.  Serve hot over the spaghetti.

For the marinara sauce:
  • 28 oz. organic diced (or stewed) tomatoes 
  • 6 oz. organic tomato paste
  • 4 Tbl fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp celtic grey sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 6 Tbl olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely diced organic onion
  • 3-4 organic garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
In a food processor, blend until smooth: tomatoes, paste, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper.  Set aside.  In a large, stainless steel skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat; saute the onion and garlic.  Add in the tomato mixture and the wine.  Simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This will yield roughly about 3 cups.

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop 


Consider the Lilies

Right now in the central valley of California, wild flowers are painting the hills. It is not often that we get these breathtaking views, in fact, most of the year the hills are covered in dead grass, not able to withstand the scorching heat. However, a few weeks out of the year, God blesses us with a beautiful display. I decided today to take a couple of hours, even though I had ten million other things to do, to take my children out and enjoy them. I'm so glad that I did!
The verse that kept coming to my mind, was Matthew 6:28-29. "See how the lilies of the field grow? They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." After we got home, I looked up an old John Piper Sermon on this verse. I am often convicted of worrying too much about things. This sermon was very convicting! Especially lately, since learning about real food, and the effects the SAD diet, I've found myself finding new and more elaborate ways to sin in anxiousness. "What effect has this diet had on my kids? How long will it be until they will eat, willingly, all of the new nourishing foods I'm introducing to them, what if it is too late and they are already scarred for life???" However, that is not biblical.
Jesus taught that we should not worry about our clothes, our shelter, or our food. That doesn't mean that we don't take care to provide well for our families. We should be "looking well into the ways of our households, and not eating the bread of idleness." (Proverbs 31:27) Of course we should be doing the very best that we can, because that glorifies the Lord! Most of us seem to cross that line though. At least I know I do, I am the master of taking something good, and turning it into an idol. However, isn't it comforting to know the words of Jesus?

"If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Yes, it is important to take good care of our families. It is a blessing to be able to feed them well. It is true however, that we can not add one minute to our lives that He has not ordained. We don't have to be anxious about our lives, (not even about processed foods!) and that is such a wonderful thing to remember.

With Love, Jen

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For the Love of Gardening

>> 3.28.2010

There it is, the first blossom on my Fuji apple tree.

I am not an accomplished gardener...yet.  But I aspire to be... to be able to feed my sweet family nourishing, organic produce out of our very own garden.  I've learned that it is not enough to just have aspirations... I am going to actually have to know what I'm doing.  Soil testing, composting, thinning seedlings, rotating crops... there is a lot to know. 

This is our third year planting a vegetable garden.  The last two years have been an even balance of successes and failures.  I've had great success with all of our herbs (rosemary, sage, parsley, chives, basil, thyme and oregano) and with crookneck squash.  Mild successes have come with carrots, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and sugar pumpkins; and I've had nothing but complete failure with sweet corn, watermelon, bell pepper, leeks, scallions and butternut squash. 

My goal this year is to have my tomatoes flourish.  Saturday, at our local farmers market, we came across some gorgeous beefsteaks.  After talking with the grower I learned the reason for the splitting of my tomatoes last year was due to inconsistent watering.  It's not enough to just have them on a drip-line and water them every-other day~ they must be watered daily.  Because of the high heat during the summer here (upwards of 105° on the bad days) my tomatoes would plump up on watering day and shrivel under the sun the next.  Apparently after so many times of this the splitting occurs.   I am planning to learn to "can" my veggies this fall and tomatoes were what fueled this desire so I will need them in quantity, and quality.  I am also going to plant my tomatoes in separate planters this year to more easily customize my care for them. 

I am also excited about my strawberry patch this year.  I planted 16 ever-bearing transplants last spring but we only harvested about 50 strawberries.  The owner of the local nursery where I purchased them told me not to expect a large crop the first year and to make sure I cut away any of the "daughter" plants that tried to take root.  At the end of last season I let the vines go and several more plants have secured themselves in the soil. I truly have a strawberry patch now, with seemingly hundreds of buds flowering.  And when I caught a glance of my first few berries starting to ripen I couldn't help but think of my favorite spinach and strawberry salad with homemade vinegarette dressing (recipe to be posted soon).  I love gardening!


Making Meat Go Further

>> 3.25.2010

When you eat right, you pay more. While meat is very nourishing (and delicious!) it can be difficult to afford free range pastured chicken, grass fed beef and wild caught fish at every meal. We decided that in order to incorporate this wonderful nourishing meat into our meals, we would cut back on the amount we ate. Now, instead of each of us eating half a chicken breast for dinner, I will often cook one half breast throw it in a stir fry or tacos or a salad. (My children still do not eat much meat, so this works for us!) One thing I love to do it pop some frozen chicken in the slow cooker with some salsa first thing in the morning, by that evening I have yummy flavorful shredded chicken to use in many different recipes. A little goes a long way, especially if you are using good fats in your side dishes to supplement your meal. It is possible to eat well, frugally... you just have to try a little harder! We think is is well worth the effort.


This post is a part of Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet


Cuban Sea Bass

>> 3.23.2010

Wow, what a yummy dish this was! We were recently given the opportunity to buy (at wholesale price) wild-caught, sushi-grade fish. This excited my husband most of all as he grew up in Virginia Beach and loves seafood. This also makes him quite picky about the fish we buy which is why we are rarely able to get it. Anyway, we ordered about 7 lbs. of fresh albacore and sea bass and have been thoroughly enjoying the health (and taste!) benefits. Here is one of our favorite recipes~ Enjoy!

*4 6-oz. Sea Bass fillets
*Olive Oil, for sauteing
*1.5 cups thinly sliced white onions (we prefer 2-3 shallot bulbs instead)
*4 garlic cloves, minced
*4 cups plum tomatoes, seeded
*1.5 cups white wine
*8 oz. sliced mushrooms
*1/8 cup capers, drained (more to taste)
*1/8 tsp cayenne (red pepper flakes can also be used)
*1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
*2 Tbs Butter

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften. Stir in wine, mushrooms, capers and cayenne~ heat to a simmer. Place the sea bass into the sauce. Cover adn gently simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Transfer the sea bass to a serving plate and keep warm. Increase the heat of the sauce and add in the butter. Simmer until the sauce thickens then stir in the cilantro. Serve sauce over fish.
Pair this with brown basmati rice and lightly steamed asparagus, sprinkled with butter and sea salt.
DISCLAIMER: I would love to take credit for this wonderful meal, but all the praise goes to my husband who made it into the kitchen before I did. ;)

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop


Fried Rice Perfected

>> 3.13.2010

I have always loved fried rice. It is probably my favorite food of all time. I used to love getting chinese as a kid, and would just get a huge plate of fried rice and nothing else. It is the ultimate comfort food, but as I've found lately, it is also very easy and versatile. It can also be very nourishing if you do it right. Lately, I've been making a big pot of rice a few times a week and chilling it. It is so easy to just throw some together if you have chilled rice already waiting for you. The kids even love it, so it is definitely a favorite around here. Here is my fried rice recipe:

*4 Cups cooked chilled rice
*4 Tbs fat
*4 Eggs
*Whatever veggies you have on hand

Start with your fat.  I usually chop up some bacon and fry it until done.  The fat leftover is perfect for frying, and the little bits of bacon are wonderful in your rice, although you can also use coconut oil, or even olive oil with good results.  After you have your fat ready to go, add your veggies.  Cook until tender.  When veggies are finished, add rice.  I probably cook it for about 5 minutes.  Just long enough to heat through and encorporate the fat all the way through the rice.  If you want to add eggs, just transfer your rice to a serving dish and scramble your eggs in your pan.  Add your eggs to your rice, and you are good to go! 

Yes, it is very simple. However, this is what I have come up with after years and years of tinkering. I think fried rice is the first thing I tried to learn how to make. I actually remember cooking it at my childhood house, and I don't think I did much cooking there at all. Yes, many years of trial and error...much trial, and many errors! But this is it, easy and so so good. I usually stick to the 1:1:1 ratio when making it. I just put 4 up there because that is the amount I make for our family for dinner. Here is the secret: cooled rice. I cannot stress this enough. Your rice must be cold, or it will turn into a big clumpy sticky gooey mess. Also, you must use a good fat. Do not use vegetable oil. Only good fats, our favorites are bacon fat, coconut oil or beef lard. I can't wait to try some duck fat... I am planning to try this the next time I cook duck. I bet it is out of this world! The veggies don't matter so much, whatever you love. I usually just do peas and carrots because it is the old standby and the kids love it. In this picture, I used leeks and kale. It was extremely yummy this way. Just use your imagination! Oh, and I almost forgot: Only flavor with tamari. That is fermented soy sauce, and the flavor is so much better than your average soy sauce... you will never go back! :) Enjoy!

This post is a part of Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet

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Going Green

>> 3.03.2010

I hate that phrase... I really do. It reminds me of the wacko environmentalists who value the life of some sort of minnow over the lives and well being of people. We know that people are made in the image of God, minnows are not. However, unlike the equally wacky extremists on the other end of the spectrum, we have to acknowledge that as people made in His image, we have been given dominion over creation and that includes protecting it. I don't believe that it is wrong to sacrifice certain things (like minnows) in order to make progress in areas that promote the well being of others (like people). However, so many of our "advancements" are actually harmful to not only the environment, but to our own families. There has to be a healthy balance. I've been learning a lot lately about different cleaning products as well as beauty/health products that have toxic, harmful ingredients. The fumes of these products have been breathed in by my children, the chemicals rubbed into our skin absorbing into our blood... it can't be good, right? I began to notice as I changed things, a lot of the symptoms my husband and children had have been disappearing. Rashes, eczema, breathing problems and headaches have all decreased dramatically, especially the skin problems. I think one of the main culprits was my laundry routine. Bleaching clothes and sheets and then overloading them with fabric softener sure made my clothes pretty and smelling good... but at what cost? For a while I went back and forth between different natural detergents, no bleach, no fabric softeners to my old habits out of frustration from disappointing results. However, I think I've found the perfect solution. For Laundry Soap, I have been using Soap Nuts. For Fabric Softener I have been using Distilled White Vinegar. Now, that may seem crazy, but actually it works remarkably well and there is not a hint of vinegar smell when those clothes come out of the dryer. I am very happy with that combo... the next thing I need to change is my stain remover, but that is another post.

As far as cleaning products, I have been thrilled with the changes I've made. I got a great "recipe" for an all purpose cleaner from Ann Marie over at Cheeseslave. It is my favorite thing, I actually look forward to cleaning now. I used peppermint oil in mine, and when I am finished cleaning my house smells very subtly of peppermint. It is a beautiful thing. :) Another favorite is my furniture polish: 1 cup olive oil mixed with 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice. When I squeeze the lemons, I save the lemon peel to throw in my garbage disposal. My kitchen smells fresh and lemony after running it through there! As far as candles go... I have dumped all of my regular ones. I picked up a 100% pure beeswax candle the other day and love it! (I am a huge candle person!) The only downside is that it is a bit more expensive than a regular candle, but with the longer burn time it seems to even out. However, for those times when you want to freshen up the air in your house without a candle, I've learned a great trick! Put a pot of water on the stove and add things to it that smell good. That's it! It's fabulous! My favorite right now is pumpkin pie spice. It is like mulling spices, only way cheaper and I feel great about it because I have finally found something to do with the stuff! (It is certainly not fit for pumpkin pie) I have also loved orange peel with a few drops of vanilla extract, just let it simmer away all afternoon and your house will smell unbelievable. I'm sure you can use just about anything, just make sure you remember it is there!

Moving right along to beauty products... I am obsessed with moist skin. People who learn about my lotion habits always ask me if I have dry skin. Honestly, I don't know. I have been slathering on lotion from head to toe for years, every morning and evening. My skin never has a chance to get dry. I love lotion and that was the hardest thing for me to give up. I did give it up though, and discovered that no, I really don't have dry skin. Pretty normal actually. It made a lot of sense to me when I read, "why would you go to all of the trouble of eating organic and still rub harsh chemicals all over your body??" I still missed lotion though, and was THRILLED to discover that I could use coconut oil, as lotion! It works beautifully well also. I love the way it smells, but if you don't you can always add a couple of drops of essential oil to it. :) Other options for beauty products can be found out there, they are becoming more common. I ordered an oil blend for my husband that he has been loving. My favorite website for these things is Terressentials. Be warned that there are naked women on the website, as well as on the labels of some of their products. Not the best when you are ordering things for your husband... but you can rip them right off and the products are worth the effort! My favorites that they have are the white chocolate chap stick, and the mint hand soap. They are wonderful! :)

I will add more later, but these are a few of the things I've been doing lately to "go green". You have to eat an elephant one bite at a time. :)



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