Monday, September 29, 2014

Black Bean Chicken Casserole

This is a favorite of my guys, in fact, I did not get a photo before they dished their plates!  It is a recipe that I found in a cookbook, What's For Dinner?, by Maryana Vollstedt when the boys were little.  This cookbook has a lot of great ideas and great recipes.

It is a great cookbook for anyone who is beginning to cook with all real ingredients because almost all the recipes use foods as given to us by God, so few modifications are needed.  She does use sugar in her recipes, so I substitute honey or maple syrup in those recipes (I typically use 1/2 the quantity up to 1/2 cup).  I also typically increase the vegetable quantity for all recipes, and use cooked dry beans and homemade tomato products instead of canned.  


1 Tbl olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups homemade diced tomatoes (or one small can diced tomatoes)
1/2 cup salsa (I like Muir Glen's Chipotle)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt 
pepper to taste
1/2 tsp oregano
3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 small cans)
2 to 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken meat
8 organic corn tortillas
~ 4 cups shredded* white cheese, such as Monterey Jack or Colby

In a large heavy skillet or your glass soup pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion, peppers and garlic.  Saute for a couple minutes, then add the remaining ingredients except the corn tortillas and the cheese.

Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Oil a large heavy baking dish with some olive oil and spread 1/3 of the tomato bean mixture over the bottom.  Cover with 4 corn tortillas (break up to fit across entire top surface).  Sprinkle on 1/3 of the cheese.  Add another layer of the tomato mixture, then 4 more corn tortillas and another 1/3 of the cheese.  Spread last of the tomato mixture over surface.  Cover dish and bake in oven at 350 °F for 40 minutes (reserving the last 1/3 of the cheese).  Uncover and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.  Place back in oven and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Allow to cool briefly and enjoy. 

* Shred your own cheese because pre-shredded cheese you buy at the store contains anti-caking chemicals.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dashi (Japanese Soup Stock)

I am not sure where I got this recipe - it is on a very old slip of paper.  And I am certainly not an expert on making a good Japanese soup stock, but this works well for us.  Dashi uses dried fish flakes, not real fish, but I don't have a source of good fish parts.  If you do, experiment!

Dashi (Basic Stock for Japanese soup)

6 cups filtered water
1/2 piece kombu (dried kelp) or other dried thick seaweed - about a 2" x 4" piece
3 Tbl. dried flake bonito (fish flakes)

I usually double the recipe and use it for Udon Noodle Soup.  It can also be used for other Japanese soups such as Miso Soup.

Bring water to a boil.  Wash the dried piece of seaweed under cold water and then add to the boiling water.  Bring to a second boil.  Stir and let bool for 3 minutes, then remove from water and add the flaked bonito.  Bring to second boil and then remove pot from heat immediately.  Allow the flakes to settle, then strain and use as desired.

(Note:  Since all waters and fish products in our world today are polluted with man-made chemicals, I do not make this stock or Udon noodle soup more than a handful of times during the year.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Week 39

Create new food triggers and memories. 

Certain smells and songs and even foods can bring to us nostalgic good memories of happy times with loved ones.  Unfortunately for most of us, the foods that are associated with these memories are junk food (birthday parties at McDonald's?) or sweets loaded with processed sugar.  So this week's challenge is to become aware of your food triggers, and if they are not good ones involving FoodsbyGod, work on establishing new ones.

We discussed food triggers at our September class last year.  I brought the bowl of fresh fruit salad above.  This is one of my good food triggers, but not all my food triggers are good choices like this one.  I told the class that though I have not had any sweets with processed sugar in years now, I absolutely LOVE a good white wedding cake and that I was not sure if I would have the willpower to pass that up!  (As you might know from previous posts, I am a sugaraholic and have been very addicted to processed sugar in the past).  Wedding cake was the first thing that came to my mind when mentioning food triggers and the strong desire for a piece of white wedding cake that this memory produced was amazing to me.  

Since the class, thinking more about why white wedding cake sounded so good, I realize it is not the taste that is so appealing (it would be so sickly sweet to me now - yuck) but the emotional feelings associated with it.  I thank God for showing me this because after recognizing the emotional pull of this food this last week, I know that I now could easily pass it up if offered some.

I pray that each of you can piece together these connections too and bring them into your conscious mind and become free of them.  I think my love of white wedding cake stems from my two older sisters' weddings - I was in both.  I was a flower girl in my oldest sister's wedding at the age of three and watching all the preparation and seeing my big sister in her beautiful white wedding dress was magical for me at that age.  Ending the night with a piece of the sugary sweet bakery white wedding cake planted deep memories into my mind of fairy tale happiness. 

Joanna brought this idea of food triggers to my attention the weekend before our class (thank you, Joanna).  Her food memories are of special times at home with her family after a long tiring day indulging in an endless supply of store bought sweets: cookies, cake and ice cream. Her family would eat away while they relaxed and laughed together.  What great memories of family bonding but all wrapped up with wrong food choices.  

Thus the pull of wrong food choices is difficult to overcome especially if you are unaware of the emotional connection.  If you come home tired after a busy day, you don't want to reward yourself and your family with this kind of unhealthy food.  This is the type of food trigger memories that one needs to realize and break. 

The bowl of fresh fruit salad that I brought to the September class is an example of one of my good food triggers.  For several reasons, a big bowl of fruit salad brings back wonderful memories for me.  Even more special would have been placing the mixed fruit salad in a watermelon bowl rind.  This is a good food trigger which I have and fortunately will be one of the 'happy' food memories that my sons will probably have.  The memory of relaxing summer morning bonding with the family and eating fruit salad on our screened porch.  It is also a standard that I fixed for their birthday parties which hold happy memories.

Another 'good' food memory that we have established in our house is popcorn and Izzie nights.  We have an air popper in which we pop our organic popcorn, and then I drizzle it with homemade sweet creambutter and season it with freshly ground good quality sea salt.  We would watch a movie together and take a break half way through to make the popcorn.  Then we would put a tablecloth down in the center of the living room floor (just eating food outside of the kitchen area was a special treat) and finish our movie night with popcorn and 'soda'.

So my challenge to you this week is to begin to replant good food memories into your mind and into the minds of your children.  Be intentional and claim victory.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will."  Romans 12: 1 - 2

Sunday, September 21, 2014

More Experimenting and thinking out-of-the-box!

Remember those biscuits shown with the country soup?  Well, they were the other part of my experimenting that day. 

Starting with my sweet cream biscuit recipe, I decided to try my new bag of wheat.  Part of my experimenting is to buy new items of excellent quality (things that are minimally processed or altered by man) when they are on sale.  Below is a photo of the bag of Kamut that I purchased.   I have purchased cereals with kamut and did not realize it was an ancient wheat grain when I bought it.  I was thrilled to see the label on the bag.

Luckily, we love this wheat since I bought a 25 pound bag!  It is our new favorite wheat - I have used it in my pumpkin waffles, toad-in-a-hole, dutch apple pancake, etc.  It is an excellent wheat for fall because it has a deep rich orangish hue and its flavor is wonderful.  My guys keep asking if I have added a little pumpkin to my creations (another abundant crop this year from our garden) but typically I have not.  I purchased it from Azure Standard.

The other part of my experiment for these biscuits was to add shredded pear since we have a bumper crop this year of pears.

Recipe:  Sweet Cream Biscuit recipe, substituting Kamut berries for soft white wheat berries plus 1/2 cup peeled and finely shredded pear.  (I did not add any other of the optional ingredients - no honey or squash.)

These 100% whole grain biscuits turned out great, rising nicely.  An excellent treat topped with homemade butter.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Think out of the box II - Country Soup

I want to share another experience (and recipe) with you to help you with the Week 37 weekly challenge.  My friend, Lorena, is the one who encouraged me to grow in my confidence as a cook, and I hope what she taught me encourages you.  I have tweaked her recipe a bit and never make it the exact same way - but that is part of the lesson she taught me!

When Lorena made this soup for me, she imparted great wisdom that helped me grow to the next level of confidence in my cooking.  She encouraged me that day to ALWAYS tweak my recipes based on what I had on hand and based on how I felt the soup needed to be flavored.  Wow - that was really a 'think-out-of-the box' concept for me.  I learned this from her when the boys were very young and her advice has guided me through the past 15 years.

At the time (and I am still this way), I did not 'taste' foods as I cooked them.  I don't know why I am this way - my husband always asked me how I knew what I was making was any good if I didn't sample it.  I told Lorena this that day when she was making me this soup, and she said, "That is o.k., just let your nose guide you."  Another eye-opener for me - that is how I always cooked and still do - based on how the food is smelling.  I often bake using this same principle.  For example, I can smell when the Thanksgiving turkey is done.

Using my sense of smell when fixing meals works for me.  I know this does not work for most people.  But the important thing is that you recognize what works for you and grow in your area of 'expertise'.  Here is the recipe for Lorena's Country Soup.  It has some interesting spices that I did not own at the time and had never used before.  These spices give this soup a wonderful unique Indian flavor.  I am amazed at the huge number of spices and herbs and flavors that God has given us.  Experiment, learn and enjoy this abundance.


2 Tbl EV olive oil
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 fresh tomato, chopped,
1/2 cup cabbage, chopped
1 cup greens (spinach, kale, collard, dandelion, etc.)
2 medium potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup beans, cooked (garbanzo, pinto, black, etc.)
2 cups cooked chicken, torn into bite sizes
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley (or 1 Tbl fresh parsley)
~1 tsp sea salt, to taste 
freshly ground pepper to taste

5 - 6 cups filtered water

Heat oil in large soup pot (I use my glass pot) over medium heat.  Add the fenugreek, cumin and mustard seeds.  When they start to pop, add onion and garlic and saute a couple minutes.  Next add the remaining vegetables and continue to saute another minute or two.  Add the water, oregano and parsley (unless using fresh, then add herbs at the very end).  Add the rest of the ingredients except the sea salt and pepper.  Simmer until potatoes are soft.  Add* sea salt and pepper.

* When cooking potatoes, never add the salt until the end because the potato will absorb the salt and you will end up adding an unhealthy amount of salt.  In fact, if a dish turns out too salty, you can add a potato to it and cook awhile longer to remove some of the salt (then toss the potato).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Week 38

Replace your plastic food containers and dishes with glass or ceramic.

The firstchallenge this year was to drink a glass of water upon rising.  I wrote then about the importance of drinking out of glass rather than plastic.  I hope that you have made that change.  It is so easy to do and so important to your health.

I have since found several nice reusable glass water bottles at reasonable prices.  Not only is it important to drink out of glass or ceramic rather than plastic, but all foods you eat should also be placed in/on glass or ceramic.  Specifically, when you store hot leftovers or cool foods to place in the refrigerator, it is extremely critical that you don't use plastic.

This is especially true if you have children, whose reproductive and mental development is most sensitive to the chemicals that leach into food and drink from plastics.  I am aware that glass and ceramic break, but children can learn to be careful with their dishes and cups.  I know; I have two teenage sons whom I have raised with glass and ceramic dishes and glasses.  For very young children, get them a stainless steel cup to use at the table and don't allow them access to it until they learn not to throw it or bang it.  They will soon be ready for their own glass drinking glass.

Plastics all leach plasticizers or other chemicals due to their chemical structure.  Glass will not leach chemicals due to its chemical structure.  That is why dangerous acids and bases are stored in glass containers - because these glass containers are chemically inert and impermeable, nothing is leached from their structure.  Glass food containers are readily available and inexpensive.  Get some and use them.  

Soft plastics are made soft or flexible with plasticizers.  This has been known for years and due to public outcry, the chemical industry has created newer harder plastics that don't leach the 'plasticizer' chemicals.  Everyone was happy for awhile.  But harder plastics leach another chemical, bisphenol A (or BPA).  

New studies were then released about health concerns and BPA, especially for children and infants.  The chemical industry in now working to slow the leaching of chemicals from plastic bottles and containers, BUT due to the chemical structure of plastics, the leaching of chemicals from plastics cannot be eliminated.  The higher the temperature the plastic is exposed to from food temperature or environmental temperature (i.e. stored in a vehicle in the summer in Texas), the more chemicals that will be leached or migrate out of the plastic.  These chemicals are linked to early onset of puberty, infertility, and cancer (such as breast cancer).  Don't be fooled with the new labeling on plastics stating they are BPA free.

All plastics will leach chemicals, if not BPA or plasticizers, some other chemicals, especially when warm or hot foods and drinks are put in them, and even a little bit is bad for your health.  Plastic wraps leach various endocrine disruptors, which can cause cancer, infertility and mental problems.  Styrofoam leaches styrene which also causes cancer, infertility, depression, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate, to name a few.  The disruptive hormone effects of the chemicals leaching from plastics has even been linked to obesity by altering the body's ability to metabolize glucose and lipids.  Combine this with poor quality man-made foods and chronic health problems develop.  Not surprisingly, our society has problems of epidemic proportions with cancer, infertility and obesity. 

Styrofoam is the worse plastic to use and SHOULD NEVER BE USED with food, especially with HOT liquids or foods.  This is a well known fact so I do not understand why coffee is often served in Styrofoam cups and to-go boxes at restaurants are made out of Styrofoam.  Don't be a blind follower, conforming to these unhealthy trends and pretending they won't affect you.  Just because you can't instantly perceive what is happening (no short term negative response such as a stomachache or headache), these chemicals are building up in your body and your children's bodies. 

Storing any hot food in any type plastic container is not good practice.  Did you know that plasticizers disrupt reproduction hormones?  People wonder why infertility in such a huge problem in our society today and spend billions of dollars on fertility treatments while continuing to use plastic.  Don't be a victim or subject your children to these terrible health problems that could be solved so easily by not using plastic.

Glass containers are readily available.  I like the ones with plastic lids (which do not touch your food).  We don't use plastic cups or dishes in our house either.  We drink out of glass glasses or ceramic cups, and use porcelain dishes.

The only use I have for plastic is to repackage chilled foods that I plan to freeze (glass easily shatters when the food freezes and expands in it) or to transport chilled foods.  I always first cool the food/liquid to just above room temperature in a glass or ceramic container and put it in the refrigerator first to chill.  Only after the food is chilled to refrigerator temperature do I transfer it to a plastic container to store in the freezer or to pack for a lunch.

While it may be difficult to learn which are the best quality ingredients to buy or to learn to cook from scratch, it is not difficult to replace your plastic containers with glass or ceramic.  Please take this challenge seriously.

"The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways but the folly of fools is deception."  Proverbs 14:8

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Think out of the box!

I want to further inspire you with this week's challenge by relating some ways in my life that help me continue to experiment and have fun.  

First would be connecting with a friend.  In fact, I think this is so important that it was something I encouraged you to do BEFORE starting the weekly challenges.  IF you immediately think - oh that is easy for her to say, I don't have any friends who eat healthy or even want to eat healthy - then your first step is to change your thinking!

I have several good friends who help me grow in many ways, not only with eating healthy but more importantly in my spiritual walk with the Lord.  I have not always had good friends like this.  ONLY after I started praying to God to bring friends like this into my life, did I begin to develop these friendships.  SO if you don't have anyone to connect with right now, I would suggest your first step would be to ask God to bring someone into your life.  Friends can encourage and challenge us and hold us accountable.  It is so important for everyone to have someone to connect with.  My son and his friend shown above both LOVE good food and are helping each other with different school subjects.  

As you experiment, try to think outside the box.  I am inspired to experiment and have fun with food and to think out of the box by my good friend, Lynn (her son is pictured with mine above).  Lynn is an excellent chef and walks closely with the Lord.  We help support and encourage each other to grow in the area of healthy food and growing closer to God.  She has recently been blessing me with amazing lunches and every time I visit her I learn something new in the area of food.  She keeps me thinking and experimenting.  Lynn has always helped me think out of the box!  In fact, it was Lynn who challenged me to think out of the box a week before my mom died from dementia.  I had given up on reaching my mom.  Thank God I listened because my mom is now in heaven so I will see her again one day.  I might post this amazing story sometime.

But for now, I'd like to share two of the latest things I learned from Lynn over the past couple weeks:

1.  Our latest fun snack that we are having almost daily!

Warm rice and roasted seaweed.  I had bought these packages of roasted seaweed through Azure Standard, and we were just eating them plain.  But Lynn suggested we try them with some warm rice (if I don't have newly made rice we reheat some in the oven).  Take the seaweed sheet and scoop up some warm rice and enjoy.  Delicious.  I like to use yellow rice for our snacks at home

2.  Quick mint ice tea.  This trick of Lynn's is brilliant.  Instead of seeping fresh mint with a tea bag for a long period of time, just add the mint to your ice tea and then smash it. Prepare your tea concentrate, add water, a bit of ice, and a large handful of freshly cut mint.  Take a large wood pestle (a French style rolling pin works great) and smash mint against the bottom of your pitcher (don't use a plastic pitcher!) for about 30 seconds and you will have a wonderful mint flavored tea.

I am amazed how I learn something new every time I visit Lynn.  She shows me things that I would never think of on my own.  I hope these two fun ideas inspire you to also start thinking out of the box.  Experiment!  Have fun!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Week 37

Experiment and have fun!

It is SO important that you enjoy eating the excellent quality real foods that God has provided for us.  Don't forget that you are not being deprived but that you are blessed by this knowledge.  This week get your hands dirty in the kitchen and whip up a new dish.  I have lots of possibilities for you - pick something that looks good to you.

Jon and I decided we should come up with a good basic yellow cake recipe that could be used for a birthday cake.  Our goal is to make it with freshly ground 100 % whole wheat pastry flour, pure honey or maple syrup, and real butter - all foods created by God with minimal processing - instead of white flour, sugar and margarine .  Since I had excess white patty pan squash, it became part of the experiment too!  We had lots of fun with this experiment and we aren't done.  I am not giving you the recipe yet because it is still in progress but it was certainly yummy eating our experiment.

For this first try, we decided to ice it with the chocolate pudding that Jon has been making.  I knew this would not work well but I had no butter softened to make icing (the pudding was too soft and the top layer slid off!) and we wanted to eat the cake with some icing.  We had fun eating and laughing and making a mess.

Last summer's experiment that became a regular treat was making chocolate milk and this summer strawberry/peach sherbet.  Jon's high school graduation gift is going to be a Vitamix blender.  He loves experimenting and whipping up new concoctions in my Vitamix, using it almost daily.  He definitely wants to take one to college.

I have posted many of my recipes and I have SO many more to post and really there is a limitless number of recipes because the ingredients I have on hand changes each week and each year as does my mood and my inspirations for different dishes.  Now remember that before my sons were born, I did not know how to cook anything.  So if I could learn to cook meals from scratch and have fun doing so, I know that you can too.

Thus my challenge to you this week is to experiment (invite a family member or friend to help you) and have fun creating and eating a new food dish or concoction made with only real, quality ingredients (don't forget I have provided a list of foods and ingredients to avoid).

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."  Proverbs 17:22

Monday, September 8, 2014

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

I love the change of seasons and with it the change of seasonal produce.  We have harvested our pie pumpkins and I have been experimenting with new pumpkin recipes.  This new twist to baked oatmeal, using both pumpkin and apples which are now again in season, makes a great fall breakfast.  


1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or 2 Tbl wheat berries, ground finely)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon

2 range-free eggs, fork beaten
3/4 cup light cream or half & half
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbl butter, melted
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup shredded apple (1 medium)

Preheat oven to 375 °F.  Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In another bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined.  Stir in the shredded apple.  Pour into a greased oven proof baking dish, either a pie dish or small rectangle casserole dish.  I grease my pan with butter.  Bake at 375 °F for 40 to 50 minutes, until set.  Allow to cool and serve with a dollop of whipped cream and freshly ground nutmeg if feeling indulgent.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Week 36

Be intentional.

Be intentional!  This is something that Jennifer taught me last year in the area of house cleaning and decluttering.  But it is a wonderful principle to follow for success in all areas of one's life! 

If you want to make changes, you must be intentional about your efforts.  The meaning of this did not sink into my brain right away.  Jenn states in her ebook to start each day making one's bed.  I have started this habit - intentionally forcing myself to make my bed in the morning.  I quickly learned that there is something wonderful that lifts my spirit when I walk in my bedroom now and see my bed made!  I love it and it starts my day out right.

The same is true with what one eats.  If you start your day with a good morning routine, such as the'break fast' plan (drinking water, eating a piece of fruit and then having a good breakfast), it starts your day off right and sets you up for success with food for the day.

Even more important to the success of your day is beginning your day spending time with God.  Filling yourself with praise and worship of our wonderful God, creator of heaven and earth, sets you up with a joyful heart.  I grab my glass of water and my Bible first thing in the morning.  I ask God to fill me with His spirit and to guide my day.    

All of these actions - making your bed, drinking a glass of water and eating some fruit, praising God and spending some time in His word (Psalms are a great place to start - songs of praise to God) - must be intentional acts.  Soon they will become habits and you will be so blessed as you grow in each of these areas.  Do these things, intentionally fill yourself with the best things - both the food you feed your body and the food you feed your soul, and the peace of God will be with you.

Be intentional this week!

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."  Philippians 4: 8 - 9