Recipe Friday: Ha! This Really Works! Keeping Strawberries Fresh

I bought two cartons of fresh strawberries, and wondered how to keep them fresh for the longest time. Every time I buy strawberries, they’re already moldy or soft in just about the next day or two. So I went on the Internet and found this site, where Taste of Home tried out several methods: https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/how-to-store-strawberries/ .

I tried out their winner, which was to store them, unwashed, in tightly sealed mason jars, in the ‘fridge. I moved them straight from the store’s carton into my jars, tightened the lids, and put them in my crisper. That was on a Wednesday morning. The pictures you see are from this afternoon, Friday – a week and two days later!

They turned out fresh. One strawberry was slightly softened in one spot, but that was all the deterioration I had. After I washed them, I popped one in my mouth to make sure the taste and texture were still fresh, and everything was great.

I love it when something works! 😁

Recipe Friday: Instant Pot Beef Barley Soup

Soups are so flexible because you can throw almost anything in: left-overs, the bottom of that old jar of herbs or spices, the tail ends of veggies, etc. I had some left-over potatoes and gravy from our pot roast, and threw that in. If you have been saving ends  of onions, celery, and carrots, you can throw them in, too: be sure clean them first, and fish them back out before you serve.

This soup can easily be made on the stovetop. Allow it to simmer for about 2 ½ hours total.

This would be good with a can of diced tomatoes in it; but my husband doesn’t like tomatoes.

I make my own bone broth and use that for the broth. Read more about the health benefits of bone broth here and here.

I like to cook my meat and veggies separately because the veggies get mushy if you cook them for as long as you need to cook the meat. But if you don’t mind the mushiness, you can throw everything in at the same time and pressure cook for 30 minutes total. Still use the natural pressure release for at least 10 minutes, though, so your meat doesn’t toughen up.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb beef stew pieces
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 2 Tbs minced garlic
  • ½ cup red cooking wine
  • 2 cups coffee
  • 3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbs tamari (soy sauce that’s really soy)
  • ¼  tsp liquid smoke (if that’s to your fancy)
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 cup sliced or chopped mushrooms
  • 4 cups beef bone broth
  • 1 tsp thyme or basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2/3 cup instant barley
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Directions:

Turn the Instant Pot to sauté.  Heat the oil, then brown the stew meat (salt and pepper the meat). Remove the stew meat to a bowl. (If desired/needed, cut the meat into bite-size pieces.)

Add the chopped onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook until browned (add salt and pepper as desired). Remove to a separate bowl.

Add the wine to the pot and scrape the fond up.

Add the browned meat back into the pot.

Pour in the coffee, Worcestershire sauce, tamari, and liquid smoke.

Tighten the lid and cook at pressure for 15 minutes. Natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then quick release the rest of the pressure.

Cancel, and turn to sauté.

Take off the lid. Add in the veggies (onion, celery, and carrots), mushrooms, garlic, tomato paste, bone broth, thyme, bay leaf, and barley. Stir well.

Cancel, and turn to meat/stew pressure for 5 minutes.

Cancel and natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then quick release the rest of the pressure.

Remove the lid, and take out the bay leaf.

Turn to sauté. Stir in the peas and cook until the soup is hot.

Taste test and add salt, pepper, more broth, or whatever else you like (like the left-over potatoes and gravy).

Serve with a salad and some crusty bread.

Recipe Friday: Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

As usual, I don’t measure stuff when I’m cooking. I put this all together, and then wrote down the amounts I thought might be accurate. Use whatever you have on hand.

There was an issue, when it was done and served, of clarified butter puddling on the bottom.

I considered cutting the butter amount in half for the recipe; but we liked the taste (and texture) of the dish so much that I’m keeping it as-is. The butter melded into the creaminess of the sauce and potatoes eventually, as it cooled.

I used red potatoes, which hold their shape and texture well with longer cooking times.

My husband and I both had seconds of this dish, we liked it so well. I recommend against seconds, though; it’s pretty filling.

One more note: After we finished eating, I kept having flashes of nutmeg, almost in my mouth. So I think maybe a dash of nutmeg in this dish might be good.

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 90 min

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 2 extra large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 8-10 oz fully cooked ham, cut to bite-size pieces (this was four, thick, maybe 3”x4” slabs of ham)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 T flour
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Put the sliced potatoes, onions, and ham into a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter and cream cheese, whisking together. (It’s a little clumpy.)

Whisk in the milk and heat to simmering.

Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. If it gets too thick, add more milk.

Whisk in the Parmesan cheese. Pour the cheese mixture over the ingredients in the bowl (potatoes, onion, and ham); stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9×11” (or similar) baking dish. Cover with foil.

Bake at 375° for 70 minutes. Uncover, turn the oven to 325°, and continue to bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot, with a vegetable and/or salad.

Recipe Friday: Kathy’s Instant Pot Chicken & Dumplings

This is a comforting, stick-to-your-ribs dinner. It’s also time-consuming, so pick a day when you really feel like cooking, and want to bless your family. You’ll want to plan ahead and make sure you have all the ingredients at-the-ready before you begin. Plan 3 to 3 ½ hours from start to finish.

This serves 3 with generous portions.

I started with frozen chicken breasts, bone-in. Because they were bone-in, I didn’t want to try to separate the meat from the bone until after they were cooked. If you have boneless chicken breasts, you can skip the first step, and just put in the raw, cut-up meat. Similarly, if you’re using left-over chicken, skip the first step.

Because my bone broth is concentrated, I used water and wine to supplement the amount of liquid. For extra nutrition, whisk a big scoop of collagen powder into the liquid.

The peas are optional. In our house, the peas only go into my bowl. 😉

Here is the complete list of ingredients. They are listed again later, separately, to show where in the recipe to add them.

Into the Instant Pot insert, put:

  • 3 large frozen, bone-in chicken breasts
  • 2 cups chicken bone broth

Close the lid, set to Seal, and cook 10 min at pressure. Allow 10 min natural pressure release, then release pressure and open the lid. Push Cancel.

Remove the chicken to a plate and allow to cool.

Pour out the liquid into a 2-cup measuring cup.

While the chicken is cooling, set the Instant Pot to Sauté and start in on the next set of ingredients:  

  • 4 T Butter
  • 2 T Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut to bite-size chunks
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut to bite-size chunks
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp thyme or rosemary (or both)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Add the butter and olive oil; allow butter to melt.

Add the onion and celery, and sauté only 3-4 minutes.

Add the carrots, potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, thyme/rosemary, salt, and pepper. Stir.

Separate the cooled chicken from the bones. Cut the chicken into strips or bite-size pieces. Add the chicken to the Instant Pot.

Add back all but ½ cup of the cooking liquid (keep that ½ cup broth in that cup; you’ll use it for the dumplings). Stir.

NOTE: If you don’t have at least 1 ½ cups of liquid in the pot, add water until you do.

Cook 15 minutes at pressure. Allow 10 minutes natural pressure release, then release the rest of the pressure and carefully open the lid. Push Cancel.

Next ingredient set:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 Tbs softened cream cheese OR ½ cup heavy cream

Stir in the ½ cup water, ½ cup white wine, and 2 Tbs cream cheese (or heavy cream).

Set the Instant Pot to Sauté.

While the cream cheese is melting, mix the dumplings (This made 6 medium-size dumplings.):

  • ½ cup broth from cooked chicken mixture
  • (If your broth isn’t very salty, you’ll want to add a bit of salt to the dough.)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ Tbs butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten

In that 2-cup measuring cup with the ½ cup broth left in it: mix the dumpling dough together.

Stir the chicken mixture, making sure the cream cheese is blended in.

Drop dumpling dough by spoonfuls onto the top of the chicken mixture. DO NOT mix the dumplings into the liquid; leave them on top.

Replace the Instant Pot lid, but do not tighten or seal it. Cook, on Sauté, for 15-20 minutes. On my Pot, the Sauté function gets the mixture to a rolling boil. I let it boil for 8 minutes, then turned it off to cook the rest of the time, still with the lid on. (Alternately, you can seal the lid and cook at pressure for 10 minutes.)

Open the lid and check the thickness of the liquid. If you like, you can thicken with 2 Tbs flour:

GRAVY (optional):

  • 2 Tbs flour, mixed as a slurry with water or broth

First carefully remove the dumplings to a bowl or plate and keep warm.

Stir the flour slurry into the chicken mixture and allow to boil for at least two minutes.

If you like, add the frozen peas at this point, mix in and allow to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Replace the dumplings on top of the chicken mixture, or serve them from the separate plate/bowl.

This is the pot after 2 servings were taken out.

Natural Pain Relievers

Sayer Ji is a medical / nutritional researcher. He is passionate about his subject, and has established a research database.

This morning’s article deals with the health effects of over-the-counter pain relievers, and suggests five natural alternatives. As always, he backs his information with research.

This short article is worth the read:

https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/6-natural-ibuprofen-alternatives-backed-clinical-research3

Wardee’s 28-Day Challenge

Wardee Harmon is offering a 28-day challenge to start cooking healthy meals your family will love. The cost is $99.

From her email:

… we can help you eat healthy without going crazy. 😉

Seriously, though, all it takes is 30 minutes a day for 28 days in Jan (and weekends are off)… and I promise to help you get healthier and feel great. 🙂

I love pretty much everything Wardee offers, and I’d like to spread the good word.

This link gives more information, and sign-up opportunity: https://lp.traditionalcookingschool.com/lp/challenge-traditional-cooking-28day/

Recipe Friday: Chicken (or Turkey) Vegetable Soup with Rice

We got dat bad bug in our house. Not having much energy to speak of, I opted for easy and nutritious meals.

One day I threw a chicken into the oven for a couple of hours (easy enough), boiled some potatoes, and served with heated-up veggies.

A couple of days later, I chopped up one of the left-over breasts and added some back and thigh meat, and made this easy soup. Sadly, I had lost my taste and smell some days earlier, but my husband told me it was delicious, and I believe him.

Be sure to use real bone broth, (not just chicken broth) to get the gut-healing properties.

This made enough to fill my 3-qt saucepan.

Chicken (or Turkey) Vegetable Soup with Rice

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil or butter

3 stalks celery, with leaves, diced

1 medium-large onion, diced

4 medium-large carrots, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 shakes dried tarragon

4 shakes dried basil

2 shakes dried rosemary

2 cups diced chicken or turkey

1-2 cups cooked brown rice

4 cups chicken or turkey bone broth

Salt (use a healthy Celtic sea salt, or Himalayan salt) and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the oil or butter. Sauté the celery, onion, and carrots until the onions are translucent. In the last 2 – 3 minutes of sautéing, stir in the garlic, tarragon, basil, and rosemary.

Add the diced chicken, rice, and the bone broth. Stir.

Do a taste test before adding the salt, since bone broth contains varying amounts of salt, depending on who made it. Add pepper to taste.

Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes – 1 hour. (I let it simmer in the oven, covered, at 325°. That way I didn’t have to stir, and it wouldn’t scorch.)

Serve hot.

Recipe Friday: Barb’s Oatmeal Cottage Cheese Banana Pancakes

My sister, Barb, is visiting with us for a whole week. 😁 I inherited several tubsful of photos and albums from my parents when they moved. My plan has always been to sort through them, scan all the pictures and put them on thumb drives, then bring those and all the pictures to the next family reunion to distribute. They’ve sat, collecting dust for several years.

Barb has been such a blessing! Together, we’ve been sorting and organizing and scanning. (The photo is from mid-progress in our project.) There’s been a considerable amount of sleuthing involved, as we try to figure who is who in many unlabeled pictures. [Note to those who have photos: LABEL while you can, so future generations don’t have to guess.] It’s been interesting to look through photos from the early 1900’s. One album, that my grandmother created, is 100 years old, given to her for Christmas by her father in 1921.

Thank you, Barb! I could never have done this without you!

One day Barb made pancakes for dinner. (I love breakfast for dinner, don’t you?) These were not only delicious, but free of gluten and sugar! The recipe makes a small batch (3-4 pancakes, depending on size), but it doubles (or triples, I suppose) well.

The original recipe is from https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/oatmeal-cottage-cheese-banana-pancakes-high-in-protein-gluten-free/ . I added “Barb’s” to the title because she is the one who made them.

The only substitution when Barb made them was rice milk for the almond. We used quick oats, but they were still organic and gluten-free.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 medium banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 large egg whites (or 1 egg)
  • 1/4 cup fat free (or low-fat) cottage cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Optional add-ins:

  • Fresh berries, chocolate chips, peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth, about 30 seconds.
  2. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with butter or cooking spray and heat over medium low heat. Drop batter by 1/4 cup onto skillet. Add desired toppings such as chocolate chips or blueberries. Cook until bubbles appear on top. Flip cakes and cook until golden brown on underside. 

Wipe skillet clean and repeat with more cooking spray and remaining batter. Makes 3-4 pancakes.

Free Herbal Webinar Opportunity

I have personally learned so much from Rosalee and John, and continue to subscribe to their newsletter. In their latest offering, they outline herbs and how they interact with the viruses that run amuck during the cold and flu season. Here is information from their registration page at https://explore.learningherbs.com/secrets-of-antiviral-herbs/  :

LearningHerbs presents a FREE webinar

The Secrets of Antiviral Herbs

7 Powerful Remedies, 6 Misunderstood Herbs & The 5 Stages of Winter Wellness

Presented by Rosalee de la Forêt and hosted by John Gallagher of LearningHerbs

  • Understanding viruses and how antiviral herbs really work
  • How to know if an herb is actually antiviral or not (Also, which information to trust)
  • The 5 Stages of Winter Wellness (This is the key to knowing which herb to use and when to use it)
  • Herbs for upper respiratory infections
  • Is it still safe to use elderberry?
  • Going beyond antiviral herbs to eliminate the Cycle of Sickness (So you and your family can get healthy and stay healthy)

During the webinar, we’ll give you this Key to Winter Wellness chart, along with recipe cards for 7 of Rosalee’s favorite cold & flu season remedies.