Sunday, November 24, 2013

Our Super Not-Secret Health Tonic: Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
I could write a lengthy post about why raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) is good for you. But there are plenty of resources that have already done that. They claim that apple cider vinegar does the following:
  • Increases calcium absorption, reduces nighttime cramping, or eases sore throats.
  • Helps with sinus drainage/mucus, eases indigestion, and aids detoxing.
  • Shortens the length of a cold, boosts the immune system, and helps fight constipation.
  • Helps stabilize your blood pressure and balance your blood sugar. 
I could write lots about apple cider vinegar. But since I’m not a medical professional or a scientist, let me just tell you 4 reasons why I personally choose to take ACV on a daily basis.

My Personal Reasons
1. I believe it helps correct the body’s pH balance, making one less susceptible to bugs and viruses. There’s lots of fascinating information about our body’s pH balance. “Folk Medicine” by Dr. D.C. Jarvis is a great place to start.

2. I believe it helps curb mindless hunger cravings. Maybe because it tastes good. Maybe because it helps me stay hydrated. Maybe because the fiber content helps give me that “I’m full” feeling. Maybe because it increases the metabolism and boosts digestive capabilities. I don’t know how or why it works – but I’ll take it!

3. I believe it helps knock out sore throats by killing bad germs on contact. (Related to #1)

4. I believe it helps detox our bodies. When the little people in my life are fighting an illness, we’ll give them an extra cup of water with a little ACV mixed in. They suck it down like candy. I’m always amazed how quickly they will scamper to the bathroom afterwards; just drinking plain water doesn’t do that to them! ACV helps flush the kidneys, liver, and lower digestive tract in a gentle and beneficial way.

Stressed? Sick? Chilled?
I find that when I’m stressed, my body craves ACV. In his book, Folk Medicine, Dr. Jarvis repeatedly mentions 2-year studies he ran testing urine with litmus paper (on both children and adults). When the body is healthy and not under duress, the urine showed an acid reaction on the paper. However, both emotional stress AND physical illness would push that reaction toward an alkaline response. According to Jarvis, an alkaline environment leaves the body vulnerable. By taking ACV – sometimes within a day – the urine began shifting back toward an acid balance.

Have you ever wondered why you get sick when the temperature drops? According to Jarvis, a drop in temperature also shifts the body into an alkaline (weakened) state.

Odds are, if you’ve made it this far into this post … I don’t need to convince you to take apple cider vinegar on a regular basis. Rather, let me show you HOW my family takes it.


The Nitty Gritty
We [try to] take a daily dose of ACV. We mix raw apple cider vinegar with raw honey -- which also has great benefits! -- in approximately a 50/50 solution. You can add a little more honey or a little more vinegar … the choice is yours.
L-R: Raw (Local! Woot!) Honey, ACV/Honey Mix, ACV
Then we combine it and store in a glass jar on the shelf, ready to use. Some people store it in a bottle and pour from a decanter. We occasionally get fruit flies in the house and I don’t like floaters. So we just keep it mixed up in a mason jar. Sometimes I use crystallized raw honey and whiz it in the blender.

Then we add two large spoonfuls to a glass of water. There’s no harm in adding it to grape juice or apple juice, if that’s your vehicle of choice! And no harm in doing one spoonful at a time! The important thing is to get it on a consistent basis.

My kids call it “honey water,” but I think it tastes like a delicate ginger ale. Delicious!

What Type of Vinegar?
Be sure to purchase RAW apple cider vinegar, ideally with the words “with the mother” printed on the side. That means it’s a living ferment and contains probiotics, like yogurt. I purchase mine from Azure Standard by the gallon for a really great price; you can also find brands like Braggs or Spectrum at the grocery store and even at the military commissary.

And it needs to be APPLE CIDER vinegar, not white/red wine/rice/balsamic … or any of the other varieties.

So raise your glass of Honey Water high and enjoy your Apple Cider Vinegar!



Resources:

Folk Medicine, D. C. Jarvis: (from Amazon)

Articles worth consideration:
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/06/02/apple-cider-vinegar-hype.aspx
http://www.webmd.com/diet/apple-cider-vinegar?page=2
http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/facts/the-health-benefits-of-vinegar2.htm
http://www.rd.com/slideshows/8-health-benefits-of-apple-cider-vinegar/
http://bragg.com/healthinfo/acvdaily.html




I'm a humble stay-at-home mom. I am not a doctor or medical professional. Be smart: "Always consult your physician before beginning any kind of anything." I'm not responsible or liable for any actions you take based on the information I've provided. Just use your common sense. And let's enjoy learning along the way together.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Recipe: Chicken Puffs

Recipe: Chicken Puffs

This recipe is just synonymous with comfort food. It tastes great, fits in your hand great, freezes great, reheats great... it's just ... great. And it only calls for 4 ingredients. Which is great. Can you tell my bias? :)

While the original recipe from a friend called for crescent-dough in a tube, there are some much healthier (and tastier) options out there. My favorite recipe to use is from HeavenlyHomemakers.com. It's a perfect crescent dough alternative. In fact, children in France learn to make this dough themselves because it's so easy.

Plus, you can use the extra dough to make pop-tarts for dessert. How is THAT not awesome??



Chicken Puffs
(leftovers make GREAT lunches)

1 batch of whole wheat dough (Or crescent dough in a tube)
2 c cooked chicken
1 8oz pkg of cream cheese
2 tsp of your favorite seasoning, like Mrs. Dash, Italian Seasoning, etc. (optional)

In a small bowl, mash the chicken, cream cheese, and seasonings together.

Ready to mash.
Scoop the filling into the dough. Sometimes I use a muffin scoop, just to help me gauge consistency. It will make 8-12 puffs, depending on the size of your puff balls.
You don't have to roll the dough, just squish it with your hand.
Bake at 350*F for 20-25 minutes. Let cool. They will be HOT! Serve with gravy or enjoy it plain. Freeze and reheat for a fast dinner and delicious lunch.

COOK FROM FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Place filled (but uncooked) chicken puffs on a lined cookie sheet.

2. Place puffs in freezer until frozen solid. I usually wait a day.

3. Remove puffs off of tray and place into ziplock bags. I like to put as much as we need for a meal in 1 bag.

4. On Dinner Day, remove bag/appropriate number of puffs from freezer.

5. Place on a baking sheet and stick in oven. I like to stick it in the oven as it preheats. OR you can just put it in a 350*F warm oven. 

6. Bake 350*F for 18-25 minutes, or until warmed through. Enjoy!

Recipe: Chicken, Thyme, and Rice Casserole

I came across this recipe in blogger Kitchen Stewardship's "Better Than A Box" ebook. Oh my goodness. Full credit belongs to KitchenStewardship.com! It was not only an INSTANT family hit, it is super easy to make for a crowd! While the original recipe calls for using green beans, we preferred the more colorful look of Trader Joe's organic vegetable medley (corn, carrots, peas, and green beans). And at $1.69 for a 1-lb bag, it's a great budget blessing!

Don't skimp on the butter. The flavor really comes from the caramelized onions and butter! I assembled this dish the day before and then pulled it out to bake and serve for company. Absolutely delicious.



Chicken, Thyme, and Rice Casserole
(makes one 9x13 pan)

1 stick of butter (~1/2 c)
2 onions, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried thyme (original recipe calls for 3/4 tsp)

3-4 c cooked rice
1 bag frozen vegetable medley (or 1 lb of your favorite frozen veggie)
2 c cooked chicken

1c shredded cheddar cheese, optional (any kind will work, really)

Instructions:
Melt the butter and caramelize the onions, ~10 minutes.

Add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper -- sautéing until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

In a 9x13 pan, combine the rice, frozen veggies, and cooked chicken. Add in the onion/butter mix, tossing well. If you are feeling frisky, sprinkle with additional thyme on top.

Bake 350*F for 20 minutes, until heated through. Sprinkle cheese and bake 5 minutes longer (total of 25 minutes). Cooking straight from the fridge? Add an additional 10 minutes of cooking time (total 35 minutes).

While the cheese is optional, it makes a delicious addition.

Be sure to check out Better than A Box and all of KitchenStewardship's ebooks. I'm not an affiliate and receive no money for this recommendation. I simply know a good cookbook when I see it! Her recipe for caramelized onion dip rivals the grocery store dip for Super Bowl Sunday. Just sayin'.

(recipe shared with permission)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Recipe: Chicken Divan

This delicious recipe was passed along by my dear friend at Woodhaven Homestead. It's a deliciously creamy dish that has a hint of dijon and onion. I tweaked the recipe a bit and included my own secret ingredient for a white sauce -- beans! Yes, that's right. No one will ever know!! Serve over rice or pasta for a delightful one-pot meal.

Did I mention this freezes GREAT? Simply make a double-batch and freeze for later! To save space, I make a double batch of sauce and freeze JUST the sauce in a gallon bag -- this way I don't have to put a 9x13 pan in my freezer. When it's time to cook, I'll thaw the sauce and then make the dish.


(served over rice)

Chicken Divan 
(makes one 9x13 pan)

1 pkg frozen broccoli (other vegetables *can* be used, but broccoli is so yummy!)
2 c cooked chicken
3/4 of a stick of butter (~1/3 c.)
1/2 c flour
3 c milk
1/2 c cream
1 c grated parmesan
1-1/2 TB dijon mustard
2 TB dried minced onion
1/2 tsp worcester sauce
1 can white navy beans
salt + pepper, to taste

Combine broccoli and chicken in a 9x13 pan. No need to grease. Set aside.

Ready to bake!
In a sauce pot, melt the butter and stir in flour gradually. Once thickened, add milk.

Once smooth, add remaining ingredients and heat until cheese is melted.

Using an immersion stick blender, separate blender, or food processor, puree until creamy and beans are undetectable.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and broccoli.

Bake 350*F for 45 minutes

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

... And A Chicken In Every Pot.


Had I been alive when Herbert Hoover allegedly made his promise to “put a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot,” I’m pretty sure I would have cried tears of agony. Until this past year I was … wait for it … chicken about cooking a whole chicken.

Why? It’s not like I have to pluck off the feathers and break the necks! 

Simply put, we really only ate boneless skinless chicken breast growing up. All the awesome recipes I inherited from my mom were boneless skinless. All my Freezer Cooking meals used boneless skinless. 

I've talked all about how I got over my fear of chicken and why it's better to buy a whole chicken -- debunking 6 common myths about whole chickens.

So how did I get over my chicken-phobia?

After experimenting, I settled on my favorite mess-free way to cook a whole chicken (straight from the freezer and into a slow cooker), while making delicious broth at the same time. Then I freeze or pressure-can the cooked chicken meat in 2 cup increments so it is ready for quick meals. Likewise, I freeze or can the broth.

So what do I do with the leftover meat?? Based on my discussions about menu planning, these are the recipes currently gracing my kitchen. I find great success pairing cooked chicken with some sort of grain (like rice or pasta) and a few vegetables to make a one-dish meal. 

My goal is to get recipe links up and running soon. :-)

My Recipes

There's also a great blog post here with over 100+ different recipes to make with cooked chicken!


So go buy a whole chicken and happy cooking!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meal Planning -- and why you need less recipes than you think


Meal Planning.

I'd like to tell you that I'm pretty rocking at the meal-planning thing. That I do it all the time and always follow my plan.

But that would be a lie.

However, when I am SMART, I'll make meal-planning a priority.

Did you know there are 6 different meal planning styles? You can click over to my post on Kitchen Stewardship to read all about it.

But, of course, it's really hard to meal plan if you don't have recipes already picked out.

Meal Planning. Why You Need Less Recipes Than You Think :: bentkichten.blogspot.com

How Many Recipes Do You REALLY Need?

We’re currently in a phase where our eating styles are changing. (In a nutshell: we’re no longer buying store bought meats. Rather, we buy our 1/4 of a cow once a year and buy whole chickens from local farmers.) Essentially, this meant I had to take every recipe I had for chicken and throw it out the window because we are no longer buying boneless skinless chicken meat. PANIC!

Which means I have been on The Great Quest For Recipes. Weeks of scouring my recipe books, favorite blogs, and internet sites for ideas left me feeling swamped and overwhelmed… until I realized I really only needed four good recipes.

Yes, that’s right.

Four.

If we stick to our thematic plan, we eat chicken once a week. 
There are only four weeks in a month (give or take).
  • Which means if I have ONLY four recipes, our menu will only repeat itself once a month.
  • Which means we’ll only be eating that dish 12 times in a year.
  • Which means I’m less likely to get stuck in a food rut preparing the SAME thing.
  • Which means I don’t have to feel guilt passing over a recipe on Pinterest because I know I’ve already got four rockin’ chicken dishes.
  • Which means if I prepare 2x the amount of barbeque sauce for my BBQ Chicken Sandwich meal, I can freeze the extras and don’t have to cook next month -- and I KNOW I'll use it.
  • Which means I’m spending less time in kitchen and more time with my kids.