Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Ending Discrimination: The Ugly Food Movement

We as consumers, naturally want the 'best' and 'most' for our buck, or at least what we perceive as such.  Now that is all fine and dandy as certain things go, for instance; we wouldn't pick up a loaf of sandwich bread that is already smooshed or a carton of eggs with cracked ones or even a box from the shelf, that has either a razor type slash or is slightly marred in any way.  
This of course is understandable, but sometimes this attitude makes certain very special produce a target to be forgotten.  We all love the perfectly round and bright tomato when picking our fruits.  We want to eat the rainbow and the colors to match. We want the stuff of legend and much falsity like the burgers and food scenes we see on television and in ads. We want the straight, perfect carrots like the ones Bugs Bunny always had.  The banana must be free of bruising and the pepper should sit upright when placed on the table.  You get the drift.   The 'ugly' produce is left in back or never even makes the cut when the buyer checks the crates or boxes.  Poor little veggies... "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

A simple truth, resonating from words, centuries past.  Let's give these loving morsels a chance, your carrot cakes,veggie medleys, casseroles and risottos will taste the same, if not better. Especially if you're going to cut it up anyway.   Better because we are doing a service to the energy it takes to grow produce.  Better because of the land usage and care the farmer, commercial or residential, has put into the finished product.  Better because the poverty levels in the United States are still rising. Children are hungry during the summer without school breakfasts and lunches to supplement.  
We are at the helm of  being some of the most wasteful consumers in the world.  We snub the ugly produce, while some long only for basic sustenance of a meal, that they didn't have to wait days for...
We must set aside the superficiality of our exacting standards, as far as food image is concerned. 
On a lighter note, the people in the know, myself included, are fine with the imperfect produce and are  able to cop these babies at a discount, saving upwards of 30  to 50% off, which for any economically savvy individual means lower food costs for the family. I think their design makes them special and unique, individuals among minions. Betterthaneverians. Not to mention the fun you can have guessing all the things it resembles. Thanks! And while you're at it, get on board and enjoy the bumpy, gnarled, Siamese twin looking ride! Be kind to the "Ugly" and "Imperfect" Produce and it will certainly be kind, delicious and money saving to you and for you! 
Stop Hating, Start Eating.  

Monday, June 17, 2019

Cheddar/Ranch, Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Meatloaf

Turn an ordinary meatloaf into an extraordinary one by adding some go- to favorites and  a little technique.  I find that a good way to get kids and adults alike to eat their veggies is to pair them with some of the usual suspects, cheese and bacon!.  Luckily, my girls are fans of veggies, so this recipe is just a fun way to include your meats and veg in the same bite!
I rolled this meatloaf so that the cheesy spinach mixture is present throughout and not all crammed into the same middle space.  Mixing the spinach, ranch seasoning and  helped to distribute the flavors of the spices and seasoning mix.  This recipe was created with lots of shortcuts for those extra busy days.
This recipe is great as leftovers and on sandwiches! Imagine a loaded bacon double cheeseburger with spinach instead of lettuce and you have is dish, hearty enough for a hard working mate or chic enough to be added to your recipe lineup for those extra special weeknight dinner days.  Substitutions where needed for your personal diet can be made accordingly. Makes enough for sandwiches or meals the next day.

Recipe:
2 1/2 lb. ground chuck
1 pkg. precooked bacon
1 lb. bag fresh spinach, excess stems removed
1/2  1 oz. pkg. ranch recipe mix
1 pkg. onion soup mix
1 8 oz. pkg. Cheddar cheese blend
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
Olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine ground beef and onion soup mix, stirring in using a fork.
Place in fridge. This may be done ahead of time to marry flavors and hydrate the onions. Try to marinate for at least 15 minutes if possible.
In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, drizzle pan with olive oil and add spinach.
The spinach may be added gradually as it wilts.
Add garlic, SPST and wilt the spinach, cooking out excess moisture. 
Remove from pan to cool slightly before use. This may be done ahead also.
Toss half of the ranch recipe packet with the bag of cheese.
When ready, heat oven to 375*F.
Using a cookie sheet, about "11x13", lined with plastic wrap and press the protein across as evenly as possible, end to end.  Make sure the plastic wrap extends from one side for several inches. THIS WILL MAKE YOUR MEATLOAF EASIER TO ROLL.
Lay strips of cooked bacon lengthwise along the protein.
Spread the spinach across the meat mixture and bacon.
Set aside about 2 tbsp. of the cheese blend for garnish for your meatloaf. 
Finish with the cheese blend.
Press the ingredients down slightly.
Starting from the side with extra plastic wrap, begin pulling it towards you and curving the meatloaf onto itself.  Begin rolling and pulling the plastic wrap off at the same time, as not to roll it into the meat roll.
Once rolled, place in baking vessel or on cookie sheet seam side down.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165*F and golden.
Add reserved cheese, more if desired and continue until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3 minutes.
Let rest for several minutes before cutting.
Makes 10-12 serving sized slices.

For Betterthaneverians swap outs:
Use 1 tbsp. liquid aminos and 1 tsp. onion powder in place of onion soup mix.
Use reduced sodium ranch recipe mix.
Blend low fat sour cream, chopped chives, parsley, garlic powder and dill in place of ranch seasoning.
Use reduced fat cheese blend instead of full fat cheese.
Use lean ground chicken or turkey in place of ground chuck.






Saturday, June 15, 2019

Strolling After Dark; A Post Dinner Memoir

Dinner is served. The preparatory chopping, measuring and 'eyeballing' has been done and the kitchen is down to only the low hum of the appliances, things are running smoothly.  The dishes you chose to present have been plated and consumed, the once shuffling, clanging and wiping of plates and sawing of the knives and scratching of forks has subsided, recognition for a job well done is in order.  Surprisingly, the kiddoes  helped to clear the table this time.  There were no send backs, no burns, refires, nothing was raw, no allergic reactions..feelings of jubilation from the pleased palates and faces mark the time and date, the menu.  Cleanup is winding down, leftovers have been properly cooled and stored, midnight snacking may ensue.  Foggy brain and food comas for some, a nice glass of red for others, some whisky. SHIFT DRINK!  Chit Chatter continues about the day's occurrences, who wore something hideous, talks of the next game, the annoying office coworker and let's not forget that new line cook that can't pull their weight, new job openings for the establishment imminent.  Alas, all's well that ends well. Nothing like a romantic stroll to burn a few calories and expedite the digestion process.  Some will feel sand squishing  between their toes, some the soft matte of the grass, others the cooling concrete, once scorching hot from the day's sun.  The breeze of the ocean with its briny mist is welcome to the exposed skin of faces, legs and arms.  Melodic Aromas of dinners still happening, cafes still teeming with patrons, and dinners of home cooks who arrived late, permeate the air, the show must go on.  The smell of fresh flowers and cut grass, gas fumes and something not quite so pleasant may wander through the air as well.  Satisfaction is abundant, everything from light reading to the club is in the near future for those at the finish line, sleep is also an option. All these things made possible because dinner has been served; in restaurants, bars, food trucks and home kitchens.  You have given the people what they wanted.  On the morrow, you will be ready to do it all over again; for the passion, for provisions or for the hell of it.  Either way, it's time to appreciate, good job.

Southern Fried Tofu

This recipe is a quick and easy way to serve up some smiles featuring tofu.  It makes a wonderful protein for a veggie laden sandwich or for dipping in marinara, they're a snacking sensation, packed with protein, calcium and iron.  I used extra firm tofu for this recipe.  I drained and wrapped the tofu in paper towels to expunge all the excess moisture from the exposed surfaces.
The texture of the protein is nice and crisp on the outside, but also not mushy in the interior.  There is actual 'bite'.  I double dipped these pieces in milk and breading to protect the tofu and add an extra layer of insulation and backbone so it would not be so limp.
I added the element of ranch via the seasoning package.  It's safe to say that many Americans, especially southerners are obsessed with ranch flavors.  I personally prefer Southwestern Ranch, which consists of combining barbeque sauce and ranch, plus a splash of heat via Sriracha for me!  Another splendid duo I adore is ranch and  Thai Chili Sauce, a great dipper for crunchy, fried snacks like Cauliflower Egg Rolls or Delectable Beef n' Zucchini Wontons, also Chipotle Chicken and Caramelized Onion Wontons.  Dippin' and Dining that's perfect for small gatherings and game days or just a day you feel like eating something tasty!
Recipe:
1 pkg. tofu, extra firm
2 tbsp. Dale's Steak Seasoning
Seasoned flour, such as A1
1/2 pkg. ranch seasoning
milk
oil for frying
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Directions:
Wrap tofu in several paper towels to absorb excess moisture on outside of tofu.
After several minutes, slice tofu carefully and evenly and lay slices on more paper towels.
Drizzle slices with Dale's.
Refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes, until ready to fry.  Meanwhile heat the oil.
Once oil reaches 375*F, you are ready to drop.
Toss in Seasoned flour, then dip in milk, then toss again and place in hot oil.
Cook in small batches until floating and golden, about 3 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and serve.

For a Betterthaneverians version of this recipe, use one or more of the following:
Use liquid Aminos or  Nutritional Yeast to marinate
Use a blend of Organic Coconut and Almond Flour to coat
Use a nut milk to dip
Add a blend of freshly fine chopped dill, parsley and chives in place of ranch seasoning mix.




Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Roasted Chicken w/Meyer Lemon /Blood Orange Pepper Jelly Glaze

I love a good glaze.  I love the added layers of flavor they bring to the table.  The sticky goodness that prompts the here and there finger lick is a part of being connected to the foods we eat.   Glazes on foods make us more inclined to be comfortable eating with our hands.  I certainly prefer a knife and fork partly because our society is one that has conditioned us to believe that is the appropriate way.
 Eating definitely becomes more intimate when using our hands and can contribute to a relaxed atmosphere when we fellowship.  Napkins are good too, a must have, regardless of the dish, but I am not afraid to use my God given wetnap, if it fits the bill.
I found this particular base for my glaze at Walmart.  I am a big fan, no shame.  I like to use the specialty jellies they have to add body for quick and easy elevation of my proteins.  I generally pair the glaze with seasoned rice vinegar, soy, fish sauce and/ or ketchup.  I also like to reinforce my glazes with strained pan juices.  This kicks up the flavor profile tremendously.  I also like add fresh garlic and herbs, aromatics are everything!
After condensing the pan juices by boiling in a small saucepan, usually to about 1/3, I simply stir in about 2 tbsp. or less of the jelly, plus a couple of the above mentioned, and your family thinks you have spent hours preparing a sumptuous feast.  There are countless combinations, but I like to have a sweet/savory, salty/sour /hot result to hit all the right notes in a tastebud medley.
Boneless proteins can especially benefit from a coating of some sort, be it breadcrumbs or a sticky one.  It helps to seal in moisture and aids in color development towards the end of cooking process.
If you're tired of your usual suspects in the kitchen, but stick with them because they are safe, try a delicious glaze to transform and elevate your menu.  Your tasters will thank you for it!

Monday, June 10, 2019

5 Cheese/Pepperoni Keto- Fabulous Stuffed Chicken Breasts


I had a hankering for something stuffed, creamy and cheesy; these Italian inspired gems are a good fit.  Prep is relatively easy and the kids loved the results.  This is also a recipe your kiddoes or tween can help you with.  I served this chicken with a cauliflower mash to round out the meal and complement the cheeses. A green salad adds a great, fresh crunch, plus essential vitamins and minerals.  Making sure the breasts are proportionate to one another will ensure smooth sailing and a fantastic meal you can enjoy and be proud of.

Recipe:
6 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless and about 6 to 8 oz. each
1 pkg. deli sliced or bulk  pkg.pepperoni
12 slices Provolone cheese
1 8oz. pkg. Italian cheese blend
EVOO
Italian Seasoning
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)

Preheat oven to 375*F.
Carefully make a slit along side of each chicken portion, without going all the way through.  You are essenially making a pocket for the cheeses and pepperoni.
Each chicken portion gets :
2 deli sized or 6 small pepperoni
2 slices Provolone Cheese
1 Pinch Cheese Blend
Layer ingredients, then fold in half to insert.
After all breasts have been stuffed, place in baking vessel sprayed with cooking spray or drizzled with olive oil.
Arrange chicken evenly spaced and drizzle with olive oil and SPST.
Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning.
Bake covered about 20 minutes, then remove foil.
Cook until chicken starts to turn golden and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Continue until cheese is melted and internal temp. reaches 165*F.
Let stand for several minutes before serving.
Goes well with Cauliflower Mash, (cauliflower steamed or cooked in chicken stock, then SPST, little cream or milk and butter, optional)






Friday, June 7, 2019

Grandma's Apple Butter Bread Pudding


Instead of chucking your loaf of day or two old French Bread, transform it into an old fashioned classic, bread pudding.
Bread pudding dates back, way back, and made its debut here in the Americas, by way of immigrants that settled in Louisiana.
Bread Pudding started as a way to utilize stale bread and stretch a buck. Over the years, it has evolved and made its way to even the Michelin starred tables.
A rainy day like today is a perfect day for the warm and inviting smells and satisfaction of a freshly baked bread pudding.  I successfully canned my first batches of Apple Butter this past summer and used some to execute this warm and cozy recipe.  Prep is relatively a cinch and the results can rival any actual Grandma's recipe, because it's made with the same heart and soul.  Of course recipes will vary, depending on your finished apple butter product, but delicious will still be in the description when it's all said and done.
Recipe:
1 lb. day or 2 old Fench Bread, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 c. milk, I used 2%
1/2 c. heavy cream, optional, you can use more milk if desired
1 8 oz. jar Apple Butter, preferably Grandma's homemade
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
4 tbsp. butter, unsalted, cut into small chunks
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. good quality Vanilla extract
Pinch of salt or to taste
Raw Honey to Garnish, optional
Vanilla or your favorite icecream for an extra special experience
Whipped Cream, optional
Instructions:
Combine wet ingredients, cinnamon, vanilla and pinch of salt until well incorporated.
Spray or grease baking vessel with cooking spray or butter.
Place half of the butter cubes along bottom of vessel.
Arrange bread cubes evenly across baking dish.
Pour liquid over bread slowly, giving bread time to absorb. 
Dot with rest of butter pieces.
Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. 
Remove plastic wrap, but not foil . You will be baking this covered for the first 30 minutes or more, allowing the custard to rise and set.
Bake in a 350* oven for about 35 minutes, then remove foil for last 15. 
Bake time depends on depth of vessel. 
Bake until golden, also until toothpick inserted towards center, comes out clean.
 I used individual serving cast iron pans and cut the time more than in half. 
Serve Warm or room temperature not Hot for best results.

Looking for a good homemade Apple Butter recipe, I will be posting mine soon.  Be sure to follow up for the recipe!;)










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Smokinhotchef
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