Sunday, 26 May 2013

Fermented Hot Honey Dills

I know, I know--crazy, right?  Hot and sweet.  In this case--hot peppers and honey.  Yes, they ARE fabulous together.  Especially with dill.  If you don't believe me, try it yourself.

My son keeps eating my pickles.  He doesn't know what I mean when I say "fermented".  All he knows is that they're home made, and more than a little bit spicy.  Which is good enough for me--as soon as I start to talk to my teens about beneficial bacteria and healthy gut flora, they get all grossed-out and think I've finally gone off the deep end into crazy-town.  So we'll keep that little secret to ourselves, ok?

Now, these pickles started out only a little bit spicy.  The taste is a little kick of heat at the tail end.  You could double the hot peppers in this--but be careful--the fermenting really brings out the heat in peppers, and the longer they sit in the  fridge after the initial fermentation  the hotter they become.  You might want to also increase the honey, to keep the flavour balanced.  Or not.  Up to you.

Making fermented pickles is one of the easiest things you can try to ferment.  An old pickle jar, some sea salt, a handful of spices and some cucumbers, and you're good-to-go.  It really is that easy.  I find that kosher pickles and these kinds of fermented pickles are never even close to as crunchy as, say, Bicks Pickles--you can  get SOME crunch in these pickles, but to get that store-bought pickle crunch, you'd need to add a chemical storm of ingredients, so this is the trade-off.  To get the fermented pickles as crunchy as possible, use the freshest cucumbers that you can find, slice off the blossom end of the pickle, soak in ice-water, and pickle them whole.  I don't mind my pickles just a tiny bit soft, so I sliced mine lengthwise before fermenting them.

So, for this recipe I used hot peppers that I'd already fermented several months ago.  I fermented them and then didn't have a clue what to do with them.  I meant to make sriracha sauce with them, eventually, but I didn't.  You don't have to use fermented peppers--any hot peppers  will do.  Using foods like the raw honey and fermented peppers in your pickle ferment will help act as a "starter", getting your pickles going faster, but even if you use regular peppers and regular honey, fermentation will still happen, so don't sweat it.  Pickles are pretty simple that way.  Just be patient and don't forget to taste them along the way.


(for a 2L jar)

2 pkg pickling cucumbers
4 cups (1L) filtered water
3 Tbs fine sea salt
2 Tbs raw, unpasteurized honey
1 Tbs pickling spice
1/2 Tbs dried dill
3 hot peppers (I used fermented ones, but that's optional)
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar + extra for after fermentation (optional)
cabbage leaf or weight to hold down


Soak cucumbers in ice water for at least an hour.  This helps keep them crunchy after pickling.

Dissolve salt in filtered water.  Cut off both ends of cucumbers.  Slice lengthwise (or leave whole--up to you).  Add spices, hot peppers, honey, and vinegar to jar.  Arrange cucumbers in jar, packing tightly.  Pour water solution over top, making sure it covers everything.  Use cabbage leaf (or weight) to pin everything down under the saltwater solution.

Let sit on counter for 1 - 4 weeks to allow to ferment, tasting after about 5 days, until it reaches desired level of sour for your tastes.  Keep an eye out for mould.   If you are using fermented peppers, and raw honey, fermenting may go faster.  Mine only needed 6 days to reach the desired level of hot and sour that I like.

The longer they sit, the cloudier the water will turn.  They will become more sour, and more soft, the longer you let them sit.  I personally add a bit more vinegar--maybe 2 Tbs, after they're done fermenting and leave them in the fridge for 24 hours before eating.  It just adds a touch of that vinegary taste that I'm accustomed to with pickles.  They will still continue to develop flavour (spiciness and sourness) even after being moved into the fridge.

Refrigerate when done.  They should last 6 months to a year once they're in the fridge.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Chicken Chili Verde

I finally got it right!

This is one of those recipes that pre-paleo, my family ate often--which is saying a lot since we rarely ate the same dish twice.  Of course, pre-paleo, this recipe required that I fry the cubed up boneless chicken in italian salad dressing, and it was chock-full of white navy beans.

When I first switched to a paleo-type diet, I tried really hard to convert this recipe to something I could still eat.  I tried to "paleoify" it several times, several ways, and each time the results were less-than-great.  Without the salad dressing, the flavour was flat.  Without the beans, the chili was thin and watery--not very sustaining at all.  But when I tried to fill the chili out with turnip or celery root, the taste of root vegetables overwhelmed the delicate flavour of this dish.  When I filled out the dish with green peppers, the texture went all wrong.  Everything about it just went wrong.

Until the other day.

It suddenly dawned on me to try it one more time--and this time I think it tastes just like the old recipe, only without all the crap that I no longer eat.

There's something really delicious about green chili.  Even though it is much more mellow than traditional chili, it can still be quite fiery, and is much more about the unique flavour of cilantro upfront.  The flavour is so delicate that only chicken will do, as far as I'm concerned.

So give it a try, and let me know what you think.  I use bone-in chicken in the recipe, but you could just as easily de-bone the chicken first.  I just find that wasteful, personally, since boiling the meat off of the bone gets the bones cleaner, and allows you some of the benefits of the minerals in the bones, too.

You will notice that I use salsa verde and canned green chilis interchangeably.  While I slightly prefer the taste of salsa verde in this recipe over canned green chilis, the two taste close enough to be used the exact same...

So here's what I did.
Serves 5-6


1 onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 lbs bone-in chicken (skinless--fry that chicken for cracklin's instead!)
2 cups chicken broth
1 green pepper, chopped
1 Tbs zesty italian dressing spice mix
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 cup salsa verde (or 2 cans green chilies)
1/3 cup fresh or frozen cilantro

optional garnishes:  cheddar, yogurt, olives, avocado


On medium heat in heavy dutch oven, saute onion, celery and parsnips in fat until onions are translucent.  Add spices and cook 1 minute more.  Add chicken to pot, along with broth, salsa verde and vinegar.  Add green pepper.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1/2 hour until chicken is cooked through.  Using tongs, carefully remove chicken from pot and de-bone it, returning chicken to pot to heat back through.

Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Garnish with cheddar, avocado, and plain yogurt, if using.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Easy Tomato Soup

Alright, so now that my husband has declared this is "favorite soup right now", I guess I have to post the recipe, right?  I mean, it DOES totally taste like Campbells "Healthy Request" Tomato soup, after all.  And it takes all of 10 minutes to prepare.  And it is so rich and creamy tasting that you could just eat the soup as-is for a light meal--but imagine it with crumbled bacon and some shredded swiss, if you eat dairy at all.  Or bacon and green onions, if you don't.  This stuff is amazing and versatile and uses basic staples that you probably already have in your kitchen all the time.

But I can't take total credit for this recipe.  This recipe was originally posted by Canadian Living Magazine, and can be found online here.  And as you can easily see, all I've changed is the fat I use (I love it made with butter) and I use home made chicken bone broth in place of the stock they suggest.  And I add a bit of cream at the end.  Because when I was a kid, and ate Campbells' Tomato Soup quite often, we always added milk to the can instead of just water.  I find that adding cream to this recipe takes me right back to that memory. 

So here's my version
Serves 4


1/3 of a Spanish onion, or 1 cooking onion
large pat of butter, for frying
4 cloves minced garlic
1 28-oz can of chopped tomatoes
1 5-oz can tomato paste
2-3 cups bone broth (I use chicken)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup heavy (35%) cream, optional
bacon, green onions, sour cream, yogurt, cheese for garnish, all optional


In large Dutch oven (or heavy-bottom soup pot), over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic until onion is translucent.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste and bone broth, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Using hand blender, remove from heat and blend until smooth.  If you don't have a hand blender, pour (carefully) into food processor and puree until smooth.  (Be careful to add it slowly--you don't want to crack the casing, now, do you?).  Return all to pot.  If using cream, add it now and heat through, if necessary.  Add garnishes after serving.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

DIY Pallet Love Project #2--The Bookshelf

And so my love of the humble skid/pallet continues.  Yes, this IS a bathroom that we put a bookshelf in.  Don't try to tell me you never read in the bathroom.  It's quiet in there.

But our bathroom was really boring:  It needed some creative decor.  (This thought only dawned on me after visiting a friends' place, needing to use the bathroom, and finding myself in the coolest, craziest, most whimsical bathroom ever--and wondering why didn't I think of that?  It's a bathroom, people, why not have fun with it???  

So this is really only the beginning...

This pallet project was really simple.

See the curve in the wood on the top image?  They cut those curves into the back of the side supports on the pallets--don't ask me why--but most pallets have those curved notches.  So all I did here was cut the top of the pallet off to the height that I wanted the back of the bookshelf.  What you are looking at is the pallet turned backwards.  I didn't even try to re-space the slats that became the back of the bookshelf--I liked the wonky way they were nailed into place.  I did, however, add screws just to hold everything together better.  I couldn't fit the whole width of the pallet into where I wanted too hang the shelf, so I cut it in half just past  the middle supports.  I pulled off one extra piece of wood and cut it to fit the bottom and screwed it into place.  
I used the top of the back skid--see the uneven and mis-coloured slats?

In it's raw and splintery state, I grabbed an old can of white latex paint--it was actually primer--and barely touched a paintbrush to paint, brushed most of the paint back off on a scrap of wood, then "dry-brushed" a bit more patina onto the pallet bookshelf.  I basically whitewashed it very lightly.  I didn't want to cover the existing patina  of the wood, I just wanted MORE patina.  

This was such a small project that I sanded it by hand.  I just sanded it enough to take all the rough splinters off and round down the worst spots.  I did not sand it until it was perfect.  The sanding helped to make the paint look like it had always been there, too. 

And then I added a latex clear-coat (yep, more of that Benjamin Moore Stays Clear--that single pint can has been used in more projects around here...)--2 coats of it with a very light sanding in between coats with a sanding sponge (you could use 000 steel wool).

And that was it.  Used 2 wall plugs to hang it.


And yes, that was what I was reading at the time of the bookshelf photos.  

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Taco Salad Pizza

You can never have pizza too often, not in our house.

I think that since switching to a paleo-styled diet, we may have it a bit less than we used to (pre-paleo), but we do still have it regularly--generally, as often as I am "on" with eating cheese, lol.

So, back to my love of pizza!  There are just a million ways to make it--paleo has liberated me into experimenting with just about everything I can get my hands on.  For pizza, there's the toppings--pepperoni or hamburger-style or many veggies ontop (with pesto!), or tandoori chicken or buffalo-wing-flavored chicken, with any type of cheese you could imagine.  And there's also crusts to consider:  The almond flour thin-crust pizza (here), there's cauli-crust pizza (here), there's meatza, and if you're especially lazy, you can serve pizza toppings over a baked sweet potato (here).   I even had a fabulous cauli, kale, and carrot crust, thanks to fresh4five here.  The variations continue with this post, too!  (And I have more variations on this one in the near future, so just wait and see!)

I recently received my quarterly edition of Kraft's What's Cooking Magazine (Spring '13  And this (below) is what I saw on their front cover.  I know, cruel, right?  Not as cruel as their dessert issues, let me tell you.  I saw this one and immediately thought I could paleo-ify this!  It combines two staples from our household--the taco salad, and pizza.  What's not to love?

It was easy, really, and I already owned all the staples in my house to make this with.  (Don't let the list of ingredients fool you, it's not hard at all).  So here's what I did:


Taco Meat
The magazine image at Kraft....
1 - 1 1/2 lbs ground meat--I used beef
2 Tbs salsa
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs chili powder *
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt

1 cup almond flour
1/2 c coconut flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
2 eggs
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs water

2/3 c cheddar, grated
1 plum tomato, sliced
spring greens lettuce
ranch sauce (recipe here) ***


First, cook your meat; brown beef in skillet and when almost cooked through, add spices.  When meat is no longer pink, add tomato paste and salsa.  Turn off and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375F.

While meat is cooking, make pizza dough:  In large bowl, mix dry, add eggs, oil, and water and form into dough ball.  Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet or perforated pizza pan.  Slightly flatten dough with hands, then place another parchment over top of it and slowly roll out into a circle (or rectangle).  Bake crust for 8-10 minutes, until set but not browning.  (Prep your cheese, tomato, lettuce and ranch sauce here if you haven't already)

Remove crust from oven and spread with taco meat, grated cheese, sliced tomatoes, and place back in oven for 8-10 minutes more, until cheese is completely melted and crust is just beginning to brown.  Remove from oven, sprinkle immediately with lettuce and drizzle with ranch sauce.

Eat up and enjoy!  You can totally hold this crust in your hands to eat it.  I like mine with extra hot sauce, but you could top it with extra salsa, too.

A couple of notes:

* This spice blend comes from Mark's Daily Apple (here).  I don't make his taco shells, but the spice mix is PERFECT and I've used it a thousand times.
**  Because almond flour is expensive around here, I altered the usual thin-crust pizza for this recipe.  If you can afford it, go for the original.  This one is cheaper for me to make, though, and holds together just as good.
***  This ranch sauce is perfect, but if you don't have yogurt, just add a splash of lemon juice to the mayo and add the spices.  It's just as good that way.  And thin enough to drizzle.