My Dirty Hot Kale Chips

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You’ll never see me more excited than when I’ve purchased or made something that is not only healthy but genuinely tasty as well.  This happened the first time I tried Nasty Hot Kale Chips.  Grocery stores charge a small fortune for about 2.5 ounces of dehydrated kale deliciousness (see link in previous sentence), and I paid it.  Several times.  Much to Joseph’s chagrin.  So I have wanted to try my hand at homemade kale chips for quite some time, but I was intimidated by the ingredients and the process.  After all, soaked cashews and nutritional yeast (or yeast sh#t as Joseph likes to call it) are not standard fare in my kitchen.  Nutritional yeast is pretty fascinating actually.  Read about it here.

I read over numerous recipes, picking and choosing the flavors I thought I would like the best and which cooking method to utilize.  I own a food dehydrator, and everything I read online led me to believe that the kale retains more nutrients if dehydrated.   If you dehydrate instead of bake it is considered “raw.”  Also if you bake them, it is more difficult to maintain their initial crispiness after they’ve come out of the oven.  I have never tried baking kale chips, so if you have a method of doing so that works please share in the comments section.  I welcome it, because dehydrating takes time.  And I’m impatient.  BUT the good news is that dehydrating is not a demanding task.  So even for an impatient woman like me it’s not that bad.  I think the worst part was washing and drying the kale before dehydrating.  I highly recommend buying the pre-washed, pre-torn, bagged kale if it’s available.  I was actually at Earth Fare when buying the ingredients for this, and the bagged kale was not an option.

Also, I decided to use a dry hot sauce made by a local company here in Raleigh.  Benny T’s has a Very Hot dry hot sauce that I thought would be perfect for this recipe.  I was not disappointed.  And Joseph loved it.

So let’s get started 🙂

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp Benny T’s very hot dry hot sauce

1/3 cup yeast sh#t – I mean nutritional yeast

3/4 cashews (soaked in water prior to use for about 2 hours)

1 large red bell pepper, seeded

1 serrano pepper (you may not want to add this in addition to the dry sauce if you aren’t a heat lover)

juice of one lemon

1 large bunch of kale

Directions

Soak the cashews in water for 2 hours.  Drain and set aside.  If you don’t have the pre-washed and bagged kale, then remove the leafy greens from the stem, wash, and dry in a salad spinner.  I had to do this in several batches.  I then put the kale out on hand towels on the kitchen counter to continue drying while I made the spicy paste.

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In a blender combine the olive oil, vinegar, onion powder, dry hot sauce, yeast sh#t, cashews, red bell pepper, serrano pepper, and lemon juice.  Blend until completely pureed.

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Then put the kale in a large bowl and mix with the paste until every kale leaf is coated.

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Then put on the dehydrator trays.  I lined mine with wax paper to start so that the paste didn’t drip down through the trays and onto the heating coils.

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I rotated the dehydrator trays once an hour for about 4 hours.  Then I removed the wax paper and allowed the kale leaves to continue for another 3-4 hours.

Here is the final product.  They are far spicier than the Nasty Hot ones from the grocery store, so if you don’t like spicy I recommend you omit either the serrano or the dry sauce.  If you like dirty hot kale chips, then do both 😉

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Horseradish, Potato, and Bacon Soup

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This post will be abbreviated in comparison to some of the others I’ve done, because I was not planning to post this recipe.  In truth, I had no idea how it was going to turn out.  I asked some family members what their initial reaction was to the idea of a horseradish soup, and the resounding answer was “I have reservations, but it sounds interesting.” Well – it was delicious.  To be fair anything with bacon in it is delicious, but we had leftovers for lunch the following day (sans the bacon on top) and still loved it.

I wasn’t sure what I was creating, so I kind of winged it until it looked “right.” But here is the ingredient list with approximate measurements.

Ingredients

3 strips of bacon (the good nitrate free kind from WF – you can get it in the butcher case)

1/2 of an onion diced

a few cloves of garlic

1 carrot diced

2 large yukon gold potatoes cut into bite size cubes

1 bay leaf

2 cups of homemade stock (see my post from last week 🙂 )

1 cup dry white wine

a few splashes of cream

~ 3 Tbsp of horseradish (more or less based on your affinity for the root veggie)

scallions for garnish

And this is what I did:

I browned the bacon in a large pot and then transferred it to a paper towel lined dish.  I discarded all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings and then added the onion, carrot, and bay leaf to the pan.  Once the veggies were just softened I added the potato and garlic.  I sauteed them until the garlic was fragrant and then added the stock, white wine, cream, and horseradish.  I brought it to a gentle boil and covered the pot with a tight fitting lid and let simmer for about 45 min to an hour, stirring occasionally.  I think simmering it for a good long while helped tone down the boldness of the horseradish, and it really had a nice flavor.  I tasted the soup and added some black pepper.  I was wary of adding salt before final plating because of the crumbled bacon going back on top.  I covered the bottom of the soup bowls with fresh spinach to add a little more veggie (this is pretty standard for me).  I love how the greens slowly wilt under the hot ingredients.

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I removed the bay leaf and then used the immersion blender to thicken the soup up a bit.  The potatoes didn’t fall apart quite as much as I was hoping.  Joseph mentioned he would have preferred no immersion blending at this point.  I think he had in his head that the soup would have had more chunks of potato.  So please feel free to go either way on that.  Then ladle the soup in the bowls and garnish with some thinly sliced scallions and split one slice of crumbled bacon between two bowls.

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Then I added a slice of bacon in each bowl for good measure, because, well, it’s bacon.

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And I paired it with a True Britt ESB, compliments of my husband’s brewery Lonerider.

I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks about this one!! Enjoy!

Easy Homemade Stock

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Before I go into what this post is actually going to be about, I’d like to show you a beautiful picture from lunch yesterday. 

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I finally got to use my brie baker that we received as a wedding gift last March, and our friends brought over a goat and cow’s milk cheese blend as well as a Cambozola – which is like soft blue cheese heaven.  The brie was topped with candied onions and walnuts.  We also had cured meats, lemon basil orzo, rosemary and olive oil bread slathered with (2 heads of) roasted garlic, and spinach salads (it’s all about balance…right??).  Needless to say yesterday’s lunch was a major indulgence.  But it was TOTALLY worth it. 

Okay, moving on to healthy things once again.  I’ve had a few folks ask about the stock from my initial post.  Well it just so happens that I need to make stock today, so it’s a perfect time to delve into it.  It is quite possibly the easiest thing in the world to make, and grocery stores can charge upwards of $3.99 a quart for it.  At least that’s what it costs at Whole Foods for the organic and low sodium varieties.  I generally buy organic veggies (only the ones they say it’s worth it to buy organic), and I ALWAYS buy antibiotic and hormone free chicken.  Any time that I am cutting up veggies for a recipe, I pull out a ziploc freezer bag and put all the scraps in it.  Then I throw it in the freezer until I’m ready to make stock.  That and a few seasonings is all you need to make homemade stock.  It literally costs you nothing other than the scraps of food you would likely have thrown away.  Also if you buy a rotisserie chicken or cook any chicken at home, just save the bones, leftover skin, etc.  You can throw that in the freezer until you’re ready to use it as well. 

This isn’t the prettiest of pictures (like the cheese one above 😉 ), but here are the frozen veggie scraps and seasonings I tend to use in my stock.  I have fresh thyme in the fridge a lot, but the bay leaves are rare.  I had them though, so I’m using them.  The spices are salt, pepper, and coriander.  Honestly I think you could use many different spice combinations depending on what you have on hand.  As for the veggies, I will generally use scraps of ANY vegetable I cook with, except tomato.  You could use them if you are okay with maybe a bit of a tomato base to your stock.  In this batch I’m using the dark green ends of leeks, celery, onion, ends of carrots, core of a head of cauliflower, stems and seeds of bell pepper, brussels sprouts ends, stems of jalapeno peppers and Tobago peppers (Tobagos are habaneros that are cultivated without their well known heat), and cabbage.  There were also a few pieces from a smoked turkey, so this is not going to be a true veggie stock. 

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I put all of the veggies in a large dutch oven, add several sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons each of black peppercorns and coriander, and 1 tablespoon of salt.  Then I fill to the brim (almost) with water.

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Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and simmer for at least an hour.  Then I turn off the burner, take off the lid, and let it cool.  You can strain the stock when it’s piping hot, but why in the world do that?  You can use a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, but what I have found to be easier is to use this little guy (http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Scoop-Large-Colander-Red/dp/B007447QMU).  Once you have all the veggies and peppercorns strained out, you transfer to storage containers.  I use plastic “Reditainers” to store my stock (which I purchased from Amazon).  I use some tape and a marker to put whether it’s 100% veggie or if it has any meat products in it and the date it was made.  Then you can keep in the fridge or freeze it.  Boom.

Carbs – You better work b*tch

First of all, let me apologize for the delay in posting.  Things have been a bit busier in the Wheeler household in the past few weeks.  The main reason?  This fella:

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We named him Lil Pi.  He is a rescue from Triangle Beagle Rescue (http://www.tribeagles.org/).  Check out the website.  There are plenty of other cuties that need a home too.  They may not be as adorable as this though.  Sorry 😉

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So while the new guy in the house has been super time consuming, I’ve still been cooking and working out.  I just haven’t had a ton of time to write about it.  Haha.  But here I am!  I have a few free moments and want to talk about carbs with you all.  I know a lot of people tend to stay away from or are completely terrified of eating (too many) carbs.  I get it.  I really do.  And as lame as this sounds, I got some of the best advice about eating carbs from watching an episode of Dancing with the Stars.  I can’t remember the dancer’s name, but she is majorly svelte and is often referred to as the dancer who is in the best shape on the show.  She said (and I can’t quote because I don’t remember her name) that she never eats carbs after 5pm.  She eats them during the day for energy, but after 5pm the time for energy is over.  This made TOTAL sense to me.  I’m not going to bore you with the chemistry of how we metabolize carbohydrates (you can find that here: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/metabolize-carbohydrates-4489.html), but basically they yield energy due to the sugars in them.  And as the dancing with the stars svelte dancer said, after 5pm you don’t need it.  I saw this on tv about 6-7 years ago and have been following that train of thought ever since.  (Side note – I order pizza for dinner from time to time).  This is a lifestyle not a short diet.  Nothing can ever, or should ever, be a rule 100% of the time.  If you do, you will feel like you’re limiting yourself – FOREVER.  Then you’ll be pissed off.  Which is awful.  Don’t do that.  K?  Also, I only use brown rice, whole grains, whole wheat, etc.  I rarely ever eat white bread or white rice.  Again not 100% rule, but it’s probably 99% for me.  It helps I like the wheat breads, brown rice, and such. 

And on that note…let’s talk about risotto!  I made this killer risotto dish for LUNCH yesterday.  See, I said for lunch.  Before 5pm.  Then I worked out.  On this.

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It is an amazing elliptical machine that works out your body three different ways.  I love this machine.  I want one in my home one day.  Hint, hint Joseph 😉

And I worked out to my favorite (right now) music mix which includes:

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Nothing pisses me off more than Britney Spears telling me to work b*tch.  I’m serious.  Try it.  You will get a really good work out thinking about the hypocrisy of that song.  And it has a good beat…

Back to the risotto.

Joseph and I went to Charleston, SC for Labor Day to meet up with family, and while we were there he got me a cookbook filled with recipes from local restaurants.  One recipe that caught my eye was Risi e Bisi (Rice and Peas) from the Bacco Restaurant on Houston Northcutt Boulevard in Mt Pleasant, SC, just outside of Charleston.  The reason it caught my eye, given the very mundane title, was the first item under the ingredients – Parmesan broth.  Not chicken or veggie broth.  Parmesan broth.  Then I saw pancetta.  DONE.  I knew this recipe was a winner simply based on those two ingredients.  Before we go into pictures and descriptions, it should be noted that I switched out brown rice for the white Arborio rice.  Arborio rice is the traditional rice to use for a risotto, and brown rice will not lend quite as creamy a texture when you’re done.  But it’s still damn good, and better for you.  So there. 

For the Parmesan broth:

8 cups water

1/2 pound Parmesan rinds (which I asked for at the cheese counter at Whole Foods – cost me a whole $3.14)

1 bay leaf

About a small handful of whole black peppercorns (go less if you don’t like pepper as much as I do)

1/4 of an onion

This is what it should look like as it warms up:

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Put all the ingredients together and simmer for 30-45 min.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve and keep on low on the stove.  You don’t want to shock the risotto with cold broth, so it’s important to keep it warm.  

For the risotto:

1 cup diced pancetta

olive oil

1 cup brown rice (I suggest par-cooking this – I did not.  It took 45 min to get to al dente…)

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

1/4 onion diced

4-5 cloves chopped garlic

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

salt and pepper

Start by browning the pancetta with a bit of olive oil over medium heat.  Once done, transfer to a paper towel lined plate using a slotted spoon.  Add the onion and garlic to the pancetta drippings and cook till softened.  Then add the (par-cooked) cup of rice and cook for 30 seconds.  Add just enough Parmesan broth to cover the rice.  Stir constantly and keep adding Parmesan broth in 1/4 cup increments to keep the rice moist.  About 15 minutes in add the peas.  Keep adding broth as needed.  Cook until the rice is al dente.  This should take 20-25 minutes (please use par-cooked brown rice for your own sake).  Remove from heat and stir in butter and Parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over a bed of your favorite greens (we used baby romaine, arugula, and spinach) and top with a bit more Parmesan and browned pancetta.  RIDICULOUSLY GOOD.

Here are the stages:

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Onions, garlic, rice, and broth a- simmerin’

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Addition of peas that gives us extra veggie.

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and the finale served atop greens with the cheese and pancetta topping. 

Enjoy!!!

Whole Wheat and Cornmeal Muffins with Raspberry Jam

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Here is the recipe as promised!

1/2 cup millet

1 cup yellow cornmeal (I used medium grind)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (pastry flour works best)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup raw sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup applesauce

1 – 8 oz cup of yogurt (you can really use whatever you have in the fridge, but I typically use vanilla, greek or plain)

Almond milk or skim milk – Use about 1/2 cup but once you start mixing the ingredients you’ll know if you need to add more.

Homemade raspberry jam (which I only made myself for the first time for these exact muffins.  It’s really easy – put your fruit and sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to let it simmer for a bit.  Let cool.  Done.  Seriously, that’s it.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Toast the millet in a small pan over low heat.  You’ll know when the millet is ready when you start to get a little toasty aroma coming from the pan.  Set aside and let cool.

Whisk the dry ingredients together including the millet.

Mix all wet ingredients together.

Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients.  Fold the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined.

Grease or line your muffin tin and fill with batter about 3/4 full in each cup.

Bake for 15 min and check with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean.

Let muffins cool entirely on a wire rack.

Assemble your pastry bag (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pastry_bag) with a metal tip and then fill with the raspberry jam.  Push the metal tip into the top of the muffin and squeeze until you think the muffin can hold no more and starts to run over the top.

Take a picture and post to Facebook.  You will be the talk of your news feed 😉

Introducing One Fit Drunk

My best friend once said to me “no one would ever guess you drink like a fish.”  This was not meant as a slight or condemnation of the amount I can (and do) drink.  Rather it was an observation of how I do not look like I drink.  And I admit that I pride myself on this.  I work very hard to be healthy and in good shape while still allowing myself indulgences on occasion and drinking beer on many occasions.  My girlfriends often ask me how exactly I do it.  Well, that’s what this blog is going to be about.  I am going to lay it all out there for you.  ALL of it.  I am going to detail what I eat, my workouts, my indulgences, and the beer.  Beer isn’t even an indulgence at this point in my life.  It’s a staple.  Did I mention my husband works at a brewery?  Right, soooo…yeah.  We love beer.  But I do, in fact, love being healthy as well. 

I shop at Whole Foods regularly.  Now I know what you’re thinking, that Whole Foods is ridiculously expensive and there’s no way you can afford to shop there.  False.  You simply have to shop smartly there.  Really.  I promise it can be done.  I’ll tell you how I do that too.

I work out quite a bit.  It’s not always easy, and often times it is a struggle for me to get started.  But usually once you get going it’s not too hard to keep going.  And when you’re done, you generally feel great.  And ready for a beer.  After all you’ve earned it.

**Disclaimer**

I have a decent metabolism.  Obviously this makes staying healthy and fit a bit easier for me than it can be for people with slow metabolisms.  This blog should only be a reference for those of you trying to attain or maintain a healthy body while not giving up everything you love.  But it is not to be used as rules that work for every single person.  I have read A LOT of nutrition information over the years and I have tailored my lifestyle using what works best for me and delivers the results that make me happy.  You will have to do the same thing.  It will take time to find out what works best for you.  What I can promise is that this is a good jumping off point. 

Okay so now that we’re done with my little disclaimer, let’s move on to the fun stuff 🙂

I want to share a couple of photos that I have on hand to illustrate the types of things I like to do in the kitchen.  I would say about 70% of the time I bake muffins weekly for me and Joseph to have for breakfast.  Below are some whole wheat and cornmeal muffins filled with a homemade raspberry jam. 

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If we aren’t having homemade muffins we’ll typically eat cliff bars in their place, but we always have fruit and yogurt as well.  I plan to provide detailed meal plans later, but this is just to give you an idea.

Also, I like to make my own stock.  It’s ridiculous how much stores charge for stock when it is essentially boiled remnants of things you would otherwise just throw away.  So see the pic below of what will be veggie stock after it’s boiled and simmered for about an hour.  It’s just the ends and cores of veggies that I use in everyday cooking.  I’ll give you a recipe for that later too.  Again, this is just to suck you in 😉

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Okay so I guess that’s it for our introduction.  I’m making something new for dinner tonight using tomatillos from a coworkers farm.  I’ll take pictures and tell you all about it.  Before dinner I plan to do a workout, so I’ll let you know what that consisted of as well.  And of course, there will be beer.