Real Food Challenge, Week 3

Yes, I’m behind on my Real Food Challenge! The New Mexico trip has me behind on a lot of things 🙂 Here’s to catching up!

Week 3 started out with a discussion of SCOBYs – Symbiotic Colonies of Bacteria and Yeasts. I’m working on getting together the materials required to try and make some water kefir. Since I gave up drinking diet sodas, this sounds like a good replacement!

Next up: homemade yogurt. This is actually something I’ve done many times in the past, with great results. I love homemade yogurt! I make mesophilic yogurt (room temperature). I’m happy to report that my yogurt tasted even better now that I use organic milk and starter. As I shared last week, I have yet to find a good source of raw or vat-pasteurized milk, so that part of the equation will have to come at a later date.

Then came the part I’ve been waiting for: homemade cheese! I’ve been wanting to try this ever since I finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) by Barbara Kingsolver and family. The labneh recipe on Nourished Kitchen looks doable, and I will be buying the required items this week to try it out myself.

The article on beans really interests me, because I’ve never actually prepared beans aside from using a can opener on the top! A bean recipe is in my future, with properly soaked beans.

Finally, I made some homemade salad dressing to use up the last of the garlic I had in the house before my trip. This is something I plan to do more of, because I haven’t been able to find pre-made organic dressings that I like. The recipe for Day 21 of the Real Food Challenge was easy and tasty! 3/4 cup EVOO, 1/4 cup raw cider vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, and minced fresh herbs (though I had to use dried herbs, as I had nothing fresh on hand).

I also learned last week that I won a contest! I was so excited when Jenny from Nourished Kitchen emailed me, because just the day before I’d been looking at this e-course wishing I had the money to take it… but with my trip only days away, I was tapped out. I’m now participating in the GNOWFGLINS e-course on preparing healthy, traditional foods, thanks to Nourished Kitchen!

So, that was my Week #3! I’ll be catching up on Week 4 this weekend and next week!

Mac & Cheese with Stealth Ninja Squash

The very first time I flipped through the Deceptively Delicious cook book, I knew it was love at first sight. There was not one, but TWO recipes for mac and cheese! Oh, how I love me some cheese. Tonight, I cooked up a batch of Mac and Cheese with Stealth Ninja Butternut Squash. Let’s see how it went, shall we?

First, the ingredients (minus the ones I forgot in the fridge – the milk, the squash puree…):

Mac & Chz ingredients

Please forgive the Blackberry-quality pictures. They are pretty terrible, but my G9 and my 50D were both out of commission with charging batteries, and I figured this was better than whipping out the film beast and spending the evening in the garage darkroom!

Note the organic ingredients 🙂

Mac and cheese sauceI put the pasta on boil and started mixing up the cheesy goodness. I was a little short on cheddar cheese, so my combo was about 3 parts cheddar to 1 part mozzarella. I used low fat cream cheese, though fat free can also be used.

The cheese sauce smelled really good as I mixed it up. It was very thick.

Once the macaroni was done, I drained it and dumped it into the cheese pot.

Stirred it up, and omg who wants?

Mac and cheeseThe verdict: This mac and cheese was delicious and very filling. The sauce was super thick – like, stick-to-your-ribs thick. To get 4 servings out of this recipe as described, the servings seemed a bit small, but the density definitely made up for it. Very filling. I think it might be possible that the serving sizes indicated in the cook book are for kids.

One thing I did differently in this recipe was to add a bit of Nutritional Yeast Flakes. They’re yellow flakes that dissolve into just about anything with very little to no effect on flavor. They’re described as having a nutty, roasted taste, but I don’t really notice them in anything I’ve tried. They give a great nutrition boost, with some high quality protein, and a slew of vitamins (including big doses of the B’s). Why not?

Much like the quesadillas from this cook book, I cannot wait to eat these leftovers! Warm, gooey, cheesy goodness – and successfully stealthy vegetables! A big thumbs-up to Mac and Cheese with Stealth Ninja Butternut Squash.

[recipe-show recipe=mac-cheese-squash]

Grilled Cheese with Stealth Ninja Sweet Potatoes

Who doesn’t love a warm, gooey grilled cheese sandwich… the melty cheese oozing out after every bite… They’re easy to make, and with some Stealth Ninja vegetables, can even be a bit nutritious. Here’s my take on Jessica Seinfeld’s Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with sweet potato puree – from her Deceptively Delicious cook book.

I’ve got a wonderful old Toastmaster Snackster sandwich maker, which makes grilled cheese a snap – even easier than the old fashioned way. This recipe appeared to have real potential – I mean, how can you possibly screw up grilled cheese, right?

I tried out Rudi’s Organic bread, 7-grain with flax (delish!). Also featured: Organic Valley shredded cheddar (hoorah! No ridiculous chemicals or orange dyes!), and organic sweet potatoes.

The verdict: this sandwich wasn’t exactly the cheesy melty pillar of goodness that I’ve come to know as grilled cheese. The problem: there was either not enough cheese, or too much sweet potato puree. I suspected this would be the case, from the photos of the sandwiches in the cookbook.

The sandwich itself tasted delicious. It was plenty good. But the sweet potatoes weren’t exactly stealth – I could taste more potato than cheese. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, if the sandwich weren’t masquerading as grilled cheese. If you have kids that were to this point raised on “regular” grilled cheese, they’re going to know something’s amiss without some modifications.

So I tried it again with a little less sweet potato puree and a little more cheese. It came much closer to passing for grilled cheese.

Here’s the recipe with my modifications. I’ll definitely be making this one again, because – well, any grilled cheese is good grilled cheese.

[recipe-show recipe=grilled-cheese-sweet-potatoes]