Taking the First Steps

Once upon a time, my husband and I ate a lot of take-out.  We both work.  Our house isn’t air-conditioned.  So you can imagine a hot day in June (or September), when we both got home from work, not wanting to turn on the oven or even light a grill.  It is so easy to pick up a phone and call someone else to deliver a meal to our door.  The thing is, if you can motivate yourself, there are some meals that are easy meals — easy to make, easy to eat and easy to clean up after!

Ask yourself this question, “Why do I eat so many pre-made and fast foods?”

Many times the answer to that question is something along the lines of either not having time to cook, or not knowing how to cook.

When budget time rolled around, we noticed how much we were spending on take-out food.  And then we considered how much food we were wasting each week because while we shopped with intention to cook, we didn’t cook.  So we paid double for this laziness. And we came to this conclusion: we ate a lot of fast food because we didn’t feel like cooking.

How did we overcome this?  Slowly.

One positive change we made was by “double cooking” on the weekend.  On Saturday and Sunday, we would make extra dinner and put it in the fridge.  That way, at least two days during the week, we would be able to have a homemade meal with no muss or fuss.

But Natalie, I don’t cook at all.  So maybe that is where you begin.  By cooking one meal a week at home.  And start simple, based upon the equipment you have and your kitchen skills.  If you are a novice, don’t begin with some technically complicated that requires special tools.

Here’s an easy do-it-yourself meal:

1 2 lb. pkg boneless chicken thighs

1 pepper

1 medium onion

1 clove of garlic

Olive oil to sautee

Salt and pepper
1/2 C red wine (optional)

How to handle the food:

Work with the vegetables first to reduce the chance of cross-contamination.

(WHAT IS THAT? Cross-contamination refers to germs and bacteria that may be on uncooked meat that could be transferred to the vegetables via the cutting board).
1. Cut the top and bottom off of the pepper. Remove the seeds and core. Cut the “tube” that is left in half, and then cut it into 1/8″ strips.
2. Cut the onion in half. Cut the “stem” and “roots” off. Remove the yellow papery skin. Slice both halves in 1/8″ slices.
3. Slice the clove of garlic.
4. Put the vegetables aside and wipe the cutting board.
5. Cut the chicken thighs in bite-sized pieces, put them in a bowl, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the chicken to mix in the seasoning.
6. WASH YOUR HANDS!
7. In a medium skillet, heat up the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
8. Add the onion. Stir about every minute or so, for about 5 minutes, until the onions change from white to transparent.
9. If you are using the wine, add it now, and stir until all of the liquid has evaporated.
10. Push the onions to the outside of the pan and put the chicken in the middle. Let it cook for a few minutes before stirring it around. I usually flip it over and then separate it.
11. When the chicken is cooked (10 minutes or so — they are small pieces), add the peppers. Stir everything together. You can add a little more wine here and scrape up all the yummy caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan.
12. Put it on a plate and enjoy.

No. It isn’t as easy as calling for take-out. Yes, there will be dishes to clean up. But it puts you in control of the food you eat. Is this my best recipe? No. Not even close. But it is one of the easier ones.

So be bold! Be daring! Cook it yourself!

What is Probiotic Preservation?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProbiotic preservation, also known as Lacto-fermentation, is probably one of the oldest forms of preservation. All of the research I have done has led me to believe that Probiotic preservation precedes even oral history. As soon as someone figured out that the cabbage that got splashed with seawater tasted good for a long time after most cabbage was a moldy mess, Probiotic preservation was practiced! No matter which corner of the world you choose, if you look into the culinary history, you find a form of fermentation. Besides preserving the food, the process of Probiotic preservation changes the chemical structure of the food so that it is actually more nutritious. It delivers more vitamins to the body and an abundance of good flora to the intestines.

My own interest in Probiotic preservation was sparked by what to do with the whey I had left from straining yogurt, and was then furthered by Sally Fallon and Sandor Ellix Katz. I did extensive research on the web and I want to encourage you to try fermenting your own vegetables. I was not really much of a sauerkraut fan before I started making my own kraut. If you worry that you won’t like the flavor of lacto-fermented foods, start by eating them “young, “ when they have just finished the initial fermentation. The foods are less sour.

Probiotic preservation requires the use of salt. I recommend Celtic Sea Salt, because it dissolves readily and does not make the brine cloudy. If you want to cut back on the salt, you can use whey as an inoculant to get the fermentation process started. Where does one get whey? Well, while you can get it form many sources on the web, I do not recommend that. It is VERY easy to make your own whey as a by-product of making homemade Greek style yogurt.