Perfect Chicken Soup

PerfectChickenSoupLiving in the Pacific Northwest, the weather goes from very dry during the summer to very VERY wet during the winter.  And that transition is usually during two weeks we call “Fall”.  The leaves change overnight and are on the ground two days later.  Then it rains for months.

I’m not one of those people who hates the rain.  In fact, I enjoy the rain.  I find that I’m actually most productive on a rainy day because I’m more contemplative, and tend to dig in a little deeper to whatever I’m doing.  When the sun is out, I want to be out with it, so summer isn’t exactly my best season to get stuff done.  But there’s something soul-settling about the first big rain of the winter.  The accompanying darkness?  That’s a different matter altogether.  I hate the 4pm sunset time and needing lights on all day long.  But that’s another post.

As soon as the rain begins, my desire to make soup appears out of nowhere.  Colds, flus and other seasonal ailments also appear out of nowhere, and there is nothing more nourishing, healing, and comforting to me than soup.  So, be prepared.  You’re gonna see more than one soup here this winter.

The key to successful chicken soup is keeping the flavors clean, layered, and full of nourishing ingredients.  If you can afford an organic, free-range chicken, be sure to get one!  If not, you’ll still get tons of great flavor and health benefits, so don’t let it stop you.

I’m also sharing my secret ingredients.  But you have to promise not to tell.  Here they are: Roasted garlic, fresh lemon, and apple cider vinegar.  All of these ingredients provide a big immunity boost and add layers of flavor. The sweet, pungent flavor of the roasted garlic is delightful, and the acidity from the lemon and ACV make the whole soup bright and light on your tongue.

Perfect Chicken Soup

1 whole organic chicken
2 quarts organic, free-range chicken broth
3-4 carrots, chopped
I bunch of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bulb garlic, roasted and crushed
3 Tbsp fresh grated ginger (optional)
3 Tbsp ACV
Juice of one large lemon
2-3 quarts of organic chicken stock
Chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
1 zucchini, shredded (optional)
1 pkg brown rice pasta (optional)
S&P

1) In a large stockpot, cover whole chicken with water, plus a couple of inches.  Add a tablespoon of ACV, the bottom, core, and top leafy part of the celery and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 40-60 minutes until chicken is cooked.
2) Remove chicken from stockpot and allow to cool. Strain cooking liquid, and add chopped veggies and cook until tender.
3) Add pasta and cook until al dente.
4) Debone and shred chicken and add to stock after veggies are cooked.
5) Add lemon juice, ACV and extra chicken stock. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with cilantro/parsley, zucchini, and serve.

Meyer Lemon Coconut Tartlet

coconut lemon tartletThis time of year is always packed full of sweet treats and ridiculously tasty holiday food.  As a mama on a breast-feeding elimination diet, I find sticking to my eating plan particularly challenging during these winter months.  I wrote about it more in-depth over on The Leaky Boob, and gave a few tips for dealing with social gatherings while on an elimination diet.

I’ve also come up with elimination diet-friendly coconut tartlet, (unless you can’t eat coconut, then let me know and I’ll create something just for you), and handy little infographic that I’m considering printing out in miniature and passing out at holiday gatherings.  Okay.  I’m not seriously considering passing it out, but I’ve definitely daydreamed about it.  Feel free to add your own semi-ridiculous things to the list and share.  We can all have a good laugh over it.

Meyer Lemon Coconut Tartlet

Ingredients for Crust:
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg (optional, binds crust better)
1/4 cup coconut crystals

Directions for Crust:
1) Combine coconut, almond flour and coconut crystals
2) Add butter and mix well, then blend in egg
3) Press into individual tart dishes and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes
4) Remove and allow to cool completely

Ingredients for Tart Filling
3 cans coconut milk, chilled in can (full fat, and use the separated cream only)
3-4 lemons, depending on size
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp raw honey
10 drops liquid stevia (optional)

Directions for Tart Filling:
1) Juice lemons by rolling them on the counter top with the heel of your hand, then squeeze juice. (I always put a fork in the halved lemon and squeeze and twist around it.)  Strain the juice to eliminate pulp and seeds.
2) Zest lemon skin into juice.  Organic lemons are best and recommended for this.
3) Take the cream from the cans of coconut and  whip into lemon juice and zest.
4) Scrape down sides of bowl, then add honey, stevia, and vanilla extract and blend well.
5) Scoop into fully cooled tart dishes, garnish with fresh raspberries, and serve!

*Note: One really great thing about this recipe is the tarts don’t need immediate refrigeration.  They are actually best at room temperature.  If you do refrigerate them, make sure to remove at least 30-40 minutes in advance so the coconut can warm up and be nice and creamy when you serve it.

 

All-Natural Gummy Snacks

Photo of Gummy SnacksGrowing up, Halloween was always a loaded holiday.  In our circle of family friends, my parents were considered renegades.  We didn’t do Harvest Festivals.  We didn’t stay home and have family night.  We put on our best costumes and went door-to-door asking for treats (and occasionally getting tricked by neighborhood kids).  My parents were unapologetic about our trick-or-treating because it wasn’t about glorifying death and destruction, it was about dressing up, having fun and getting the best sugar high of the whole year.  And nobody I know ever got a razor blade in their candy bar or a poison candied apple.  Or possessed by demons.

I’m positive I was a fairy princess at least 5 times. Original, right?  Our move to Texas was pretty spectacular because I could actually wear my costume without my usual Alaskan uniform of  heavy raincoats and rubber boots.  People actually got to see more than my glitter star wand, tiara, and  make-up!  I proudly wore my mom’s fancy old pink and white bathrobe, glittery jelly shoes that made my feet hurt, fairy wings and plastic jewelry on those bone-dry Texas Halloween nights.  The only bummer came when mom and dad shelved the candy almost immediately afterwards, well out of my reach and doled out ONE PIECE per day.  ONE PIECE!  I’m positive they pillaged my stash, though, and so did my brothers.  It never seemed to last 100+ days, despite my careful calculations.

In my middle age, I realize I’m turning into Raisin Lady.  You know, the lady who hands out miniature boxes of raisins and calls them “nature’s candy”?  That’s me.  Except raisins contain way too much sugar for me to tolerate more than just a few.  Plus, I think they’re gross. Do me a favor and don’t tell the children of America I feel this way, okay? Because these little “treats” are moderately healthy and even though I would rather eat nothing at all than eat a raisin, SOME PEOPLE like them.

But I think I take Raisin Lady to the next level. In fact, I think next year for Halloween, I will dress up as 
”Homemade Gummy Snack Lady”.  It totally sounds legit, right?  Because if it wasn’t considered dangerous, ill-conceived, or sketchy, I would actually hand these tasty treats out to kiddos on Halloween.  Tart, sweet, with a little protein punch and a very low calorie content, these are amazing. And because these chewy treats have very few ingredients, they are ideal for our kiddos with food allergies.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp high-quality beef gelatin (I like this brand)
  • 
1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
  • 20-30 drops liquid stevia (or to taste)

Optional Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp blueberry or pomegranite juice (not from concentrate)
  • 
Lemon, orange, or other fruit extracts for extra flavor
  • 
All-natural, non-toxic food coloring (like this from India Tree)
  • Fresh berries

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine water, juice and stevia.  Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
  2. Slowly add gelatin to liquids while continuously whisking until fully incorporated.
  3. Add food coloring until desired color is present.
  4. Pour into candy molds, soft latex ice cube trays or into a pan.
  5. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes or refrigerate for an hour until set.
  6. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Yep, these bad boys are stable at room temperature!

*If these are too chewy for you, increase the water content by 1-2 Tbsp. Just be careful, otherwise you’ll end up with jello instead of gummies.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Picture of Chocolate Chia Seed PuddingChia seeds…love them or hate them, they are packed full of micro-nutrients. While chia seeds are a relatively new food to the United States, they sustained ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures for generations. In fact, in the ancient Mayan language, the word “chia” literally translates to “strength”. How great is that? Food should make us strong. And stable. And restore our vitality. And be genetic building blocks to produce other, stable, strong, healthy, whole, and vital offspring. According to the USDA, this is how a single ounce of chia seeds help keep folks healthy today:

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
  • Decent additional amounts of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

So, why are we not eating chia seeds by the handful?

First off, they’re seeds. They are tiny and get stuck in your teeth and taste like seeds. Not like pumpkin seeds, which are pretty flavorful when roasted. These taste…earthy. Earthy isn’t bad, it’s just not always palatable as a stand-alone flavor. Chia seeds also absorb liquid, which makes them challenging to chew. The good news is, they are very easy to add to salads, side dishes, main dishes, drinks and desserts. They quickly take on the flavor of other foods they are prepared with, and trade in their earthy flavor without any resentment.

My favorite vehicle for this nutrient-dense food is a no-cook, dairy-free pudding. It’s so simple, ridiculously satisfying, easy to prepare, and appeals to many palates. My dad loves tapioca pudding, and I originally created this for him. My young nieces also like it, so I consider this a multi-generational food win. It is also easy to mak

Ingredients:

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 cup high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 
1/4 cup coconut crystals or other low-glycemic sweetener
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 
1 Tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 
10-15 drops vanilla stevia (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix everything together until well-combined.
  2. Chill for 2-3 hours, or up to 4 days.

Alternate Preparations:

*You can omit the chia seeds. Of course, then this will just be Pudding, not Chia Seed Pudding.  If you do omit the seeds, also omit the almond milk.  Chia absorbs moisture and thickens things up, so your pudding won’t hold up otherwise. It will look more like cold, chocolate coconut soup.

**You can also put the pudding in popsicle molds, which is delicious and will last much longer.

Charlie Brown Bars

Picture of Charlie Brown BarsI am not a morning person.  And I know roughly 97% of America can relate.  I’m usually a give-me-coffee-so-I-can-be-human kind of girl.  No, that’s not entirely true.  The complete truth is, I literally stumble around for the first 15 minutes I’m awake.  (I once tripped getting out of bed and fell into my open closet, then managed to knock the sliding closet door off it’s hinges as Itried to get up.)  So, after I stumble dazedly about for a bit, THEN I get my coffee and become human.

Making breakfast is a struggle for me.  I used to grab a protein bar or piece of toast with some peanut butter on it and eat it on the way to work.  Then I stopped eating protein bars and bread.  Then I had a kid and had even less energy to put toward breakfast. I’m not so keen on trying to make breakfast when I can barely function as it is.  What to do, what to do…

Oh, I KNOW!  Eat chocolate and peanut butter.  For breakfast.  (And although I think cold breakfast is generally not the best option, I think not eating at all is much worse.)

Apparently, these are called Charlie Brown Bars (maybe because of the peanuts?), but I’ve been making them for ages.  I saw them on display in the fancy dessert case at a certain store that sells “whole foods”, and guess most of the world eats them for dessert.  To each their own.  The great thing about it is you can use whatever nut or seed butter you like, and eat them whenever you want.  They are packed with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and calories, so you might have to watch your serving size.

*Please note due to the coconut oil, these bars need to stay cold or they turn to mush.  Delicious mush.


Ingredients for Bars:

  • 
1 1/2 cups nut or seed butter (no sugar, unsalted is best)
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup unsalted nuts or pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup coconut crystals or erythritol (I prefer to powder mine in a coffee grinder first)
  • 
1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30 drops liquid stevia
  • Pinch of salt
cinnamon to taste

Directions for Bars:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt nut butter and coconut oil together over low heat, then add vanilla extract and stevia
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine nuts, seeds, coconut, erythritol, and cinnamon and mix
  3. Pour melted coconut oil and nut butter mixture into bowl, and mix with a non-stick spatula until combined
  4. Spread mixture into 9×13 pan and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or until very firm)

Ingredients for Chocolate Topping:

  • 3 oz 90% cacao chocolate
  • 
1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 15 drops stevia

Directions for Chocolate Topping:

  1. Melt chocolate and coconut oil in your home-made double boiler
  2. Add vanilla and stevia
  3. Once melted and stirred well, pour into the pan of chilled nut butter mixture
  4. (Optional and delicious step: Spread a layer plain nut butter over the pan first, then pour your chocolate over it.)
  5. Allow to harden in the refrigerator for an hour, then cut into serving sized pieces and store.