Tag Archives: cooking from scratch

Secrets to Sneaking More Veggies into your Family’s Diet

fresh veggies

If your family is like mine, you’re lucky if you can get them to eat salad with dinner on a regular basis. French fries are counted as a veggie, and pizza is a full meal (meat, diary, bread, tomato sauce). Indeed, one of my sons honestly admits that the only way I’ll get him to eat more veggies is to hide them. So I do. Hence, today I am sharing my secrets to sneaking more veggies into your family’s diet.

Today we hear that raw is best for you. Although this may be true, even I can only eat so many raw veggies. And I like my meat and eggs cooked – medium rare, over easy, but cooked. Some veggies release their heavy duty disease fighting nutrients only after cooking. I’m thinking about tomatoes, onions and garlic, among others. So for the purpose of increasing my family’s fiber intake and nutrition, I serve lots of cooked veggies. They just don’t know about it.

Salad

Salad before dinner is a mainstay at my house. The more toppings, the better, and lots of ranch dressing. Despite the fact that most ranch dressing contains msg and soybean oil, I have had to concede that ranch is the vehicle to get the veggies ingested. One small victory at a time.

Smoothies

A banana, raw milk or yogurt, more fruit, a raw egg, and, um, kale? Lettuce? Well, you didn’t need to know about that. I can put more greens in mine, but for the fam, just a leaf or 2…

Fried

Stir fry or chow mein makes the table at least once a week. Cooked rice or noodles are lightly fried with carrots, onions, garlic and 3 or 4 other chopped vegetables. Use coconut oil for natural sweetness and add leftover meats or an egg if desired. Chop everything fairly small so that it doesn’t take long to cook. Also, ginger, garlic and turmeric help add an asian flavor.

Casserole

Another favorite one pot meal is the good ole’ casserole. Mix cooked rice, potatoes or noodles with chopped veggies and meats (if desired) and douse with cheese sauce. Or if you’re a canned soup person, cream of mushroom, chicken or celery soup. Season to taste and bake at 350F  until done. This is easier with already cooked veggies and meats (aka, leftovers). Cauliflower hides real well, especially with cheese.

Tacos

Taco meat is a good place to hide veggies. Shred or cut them small and fry with the hamburger and onions. This works well with carrots, corn, zucchini, olives, chiles, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. Moreover, adding veggies to your taco meat will stretch your meat budget further.

Spaghetti

Spaghetti sauce is very versatile. You can blatantly add chunks of zucchini, carrots and peppers, or you can shred or dice them. Use fresh tomatoes or canned sauce. This is delicious with or without meat. Don’t forget the onions and garlic.

Soup

Many people no longer consider soup to be a meal. In reality soup is a superfood. To say nothing of the wide variety of soups. Just think chicken broth, carrots, zucchini, corn, peas, green beans, broccoli, etc. for starters. Add some kind of fat for flavor. Butter, olive oil, and chicken fat all work well and help with digestion and nutrient absorption.  Season to taste. Serve with a good bread and butter.

I hope I’ve sparked your imagination. There are tons more ways to sneak those veggies in. This is just to get you started. Now go feed your family more veggies!

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Side Pork – Better Bacon

side pork
side pork – bacon in the raw

Ah, the wonders of side pork. Just what is it? Side pork is the cut of the pig that bacon is made out of. And they do sell it “unbaconized” in the store. We acquired some the other day and sliced it up to fry as bacon. We also cut it into chunks and put it in with some beans. Sometimes we deep fry it into chicharones.

You can cure your own bacon by rubbing it with salt and pepper and whatever other seasonings you like and store it in the fridge for, oh I don’t know, a week or so and then freeze it and take it out as needed. That way you don’t have to have all those sugars and nitrites that are added to commercial bacon for “flavor”. Here is the cooked “bacon”. Can you tell the difference?

fried side pork
can you tell the difference?
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My New Favorite Way to Can Tomatoes

canning tomatoes
my new favorite home canned tomato sauce
Over the summer, I got a case of tomatoes at the farmer’s market and they were so tasty that I decided I needed to save some for over the winter. Sun drying was out of the question. Too much rain and too much humidity. So, I decided to make sauce and can it. My previous sauces have been too watery, so this time I tried a new approach. Lydia from Lydia’s kitchen, says the tomato seeds can make the sauce bitter, so I quartered and seeded them and filled 2 pots with the pieces, skin and all. I cooked them down for 2 or 3 hours, then let them sit overnight to cool, so I could put them through the blender. The next morning, I processed the cooked tomatoes in a high speed blender on the smoothie setting for a couple minutes, including the skins, which were now soft. I poured the thick, rich sauce back into the pots and cooked it down to half.
canning jars
boiling canning jars to sterilize
The following day, I heated the sauce, sterilized jars, filled them and capped them. I processed them in a boiling water bath for the amount of time indicated by the Ball Blue Book for 7800 ft. elevation.
ball blue book of canning
ball blue book of canning
This is my new favorite way to preserve tomatoes. Sadly, we have already used up all the sauce for spaghetti, pizza, and soup. The good news is, I seemed to have cooked out enough of the water for the sauce to stay thick. The flavor was incredible. I think next season I will be getting several cases of those tomatoes.
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Pumpkin Seeds

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Pumpkin seeds are a healthy, easy-to-make snack. They’re a great way to make optimal use of the whole pumpkin or other winter squash.  They’re packed with zinc, which will help you ward off those winter colds. Stuffed squash and pumpkin seeds are both easy to make in the rv oven. I do my pumpkin seeds on the stove top because it’s easier for me.
I like my homemade, roasted pumpkin seeds, so once I’ve got the squash in the oven, I put the seeds in a colander and rinse well. Next, I pop them off of the membranes, then rinse them real good and drain them. Soak them in salt water overnight, and the next day, drain and either roast them or fry them. I like to fry them because I always forget about them in the oven and they burn.
I’ve already soaked the seeds in salt water, so I don’t add any more salt. I add a few tablespoons of coconut oil to my cast iron fry pan and dump the seeds in. Stir frequently and reduce heat if necessary. I want them a nice, toasty brown so that they’re crunchy, but not too hard. I can tell if they’re not done enough, because they’ll be hard to chew. If that happens, I add the ones I think need more roasting back into the pan and keep stirring.
I like to leave a small bowl of seeds sitting out for my family to grab handfuls of throughout the day. The rest, I put into glass jars with tight fitting lids, after they’re cool, of course. This way we can enjoy them for months, without them getting stale. It also makes them easier to grab and go for nutritious, homemade road food or trail snacks.
Cook fresh, eat healthy, enjoy the road!
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Stuffed Squash

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With all the specials on winter squash right now, you can make really inexpensive, tasty dinners with ’em. They’re not just for jack ‘o lanterns anymore. You can use any kind of winter squash: butternut, acorn, pumpkin, try any of the hard squashes. Rinse off the rind, cut it; in the case of an acorn squash, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and save them. Pumpkin as well. Most squash seeds are high in zinc, which helps build the immune system and ward off winter colds. Squash is a perfect winter food.  The yellow flesh, signals lots of Vitamin A, which is another immune booster, and a critical vitamin in its natural form, from squash and carrots.
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So, scoop out the seeds and cut a flat bottom on the squash, so it won’t tip over when you stuff it. Grease the bottom of the pan and set the squash in it. Then cut up some meat, or even use hamburger or sausage. I used Italian sausage links that I sliced into chunks. Stuff your squash with some of your meat, or all of your meat, as the case may be. If you’ve got extra, throw it in another pan and set that aside. Next we’re gonna take an onion or two and a handful of garlic, and chop that up and throw that in with the meat. You can mix it all together or layer it, however you like. Depending how fatty your meat is, you may need to put a few chunks of butter or coconut oil on top.
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Then you’re going to cover your squash and put it in a 350’ oven for 45-60 min. When the meat is done and the squash is soft, it’s ready to eat.
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Now we get back to our other pan with the rest of the meat, put the rest of the onions and garlic in there, with the meat and chop up some cabbage real fine, or chunky, however you like it. Put that on top and definitely put a few spoonfuls of coconut oil on top of that. Cover it up, put it in the oven with your squash. They should both be done at the same time. That’s it. Easy, peasy meal.
Cook fresh, eat healthy, enjoy the road!
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