Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Creole Catfish Court-Bouillon

This is a story of compromise. My fiance loves catfish. I have made catfish 20 different ways and have never liked it. I can tolerate it, but I'd not be sad if I never had to eat it again.

Being the awesome person that I am, I decided to make him catfish tonight. To try to find a recipe where it actually tastes good, I asked the wonderful people on Cast Iron Cooking for suggestions.

Catfish Court-Bouillon was mentioned several times, so I gave it and decided to make it tonight for dinner.

For a hater of catfish, this dish was actually really good. I think it would be better with the addition of other types of seafood as well, especially some shrimp. While I didn't include them in the recipe, tossing in a few cleaned shrimp would be a good addition to this recipe as well.

Creole Catfish Court-Bouillon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tbsp. minced garlic
8 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine
5 cup fish stock or water
2 cup diced tomatoes (or 1 can)
1 tbsp. sguar
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 tsp. cajun seasoning
black pepper to taste
4 cat fish fillets, cleaned

In a large Dutch oven over medium, stir together butter and flour, cooking until browned and resembling melted milk chocolate.

Add in remaining ingredients, except catfish. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Add catfish. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until catfish is cooked.

Serve over rice.

Friday, January 9, 2015

TGIF! Let's Celebrate!

Already onto the second Friday of 2015! I am 9 days into my resolution of eating better quality food, as chemical free as possible with the American dietary standards. I am excited to be moving in the late spring/early summer to a beautiful spot, with few people and lots of land. I'm looking forward to gardening, canning, and freezing up a storm. I'm starting to research the best options for pressure canners for my late summer kitchen adventures!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce

Cauliflower is one of those poor vegetables that often gets neglected. You rarely see it on restaurant menus. There are limited recipes for this vegetable.

More than likely you grew up eating it steamed, smothered in Velveeta style cheese.

While I do love it just sliced thin and roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper; this is a delicious new take on how to prepare a cauliflower. And it looks beautiful setting on your table.

Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce
modified from Joy the Baker

For the Cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, cleaned
2 tbsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. smoked paprika

For the cheese sauce:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. spicy brown mustard
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

Place cauliflower, salt, oil, lemon juice, butter, red pepper flakes, peppercorns, and bay leaf into a large pot or dutch oven. Fill with water until cauliflower is submerged. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. If you like a fairly firm texture, simmer until just beginning to soften. If you like your cauliflower fairly soft, simmer until easily pierced with a fork. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a 10 inch oven safe skillet, combine butter and flour for the sauce. Cook over medium-low heat until the roux is lightly browned. Stir in milk, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, cheese, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat. Place cauliflower in center of skillet, drizzle with olive oil or melted butter, sprinkle with smoked paprika and additional red pepper flakes if desired.

Place under low broiler for 3-5 minutes until cauliflower is beginning to brown.

Cut into wedges and serve!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Homemade Funnel Cakes

What is it about fair food that brings even the most nutrition conscience people to their knees?

Don't judge. I ate a funnel cake for breakfast. I put blueberries on it though. So it was good for me.

I started 2015 with 1 simple resolution, to make a move towards eating better food. While a funnel cake is far from a healthy choice, I made it with all organic, farm fresh ingredients. So it still keeps me on track for my resolution.

Funnel Cakes
Makes 4
modified from Paula Deen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
oil for frying

Heat oil either in a deep fryer or a cast iron skillet. Make sure that oil is at least 2 inches deep. Heat to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add wet ingredients. Stir, starting from the center working outwards until well combined.

(I highly recommend getting a squeeze bottle to use for this.) Pour batter into a funnel or into a squeeze bottle.

Squeeze into hot oil, starting in the center and spiraling outward. Once it begins to float, using tongs, to push it back down so that it is submerged in the oil. If you cannot submerge it, you'll have to flip it over.

It will only take 2-3 minutes to cook each funnel cake. Remove when nicely browned.

Serve with fruit compote, powdered sugar, or your choice of topping.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Healthy Eating: Tea, the Good, the Bad, the Disgusting

For my New Year's resolution, I vowed to cut out all highly processed and chemical-filled foods. I have done a lot of research and one of the first places I plan to start cutting out the chemicals in my food is with my tea.

Tea is a staple in my world. I drink anywhere from 2 to 5 cups a day. I never gave it a second thought until reading an article on 100 Days of Real Food. Which lead me to Food Babe. Which lead me to an article on The Atlantic. Which sent me off to do some real research.

Arguments can be made that 100 Days of Real Food and Food Babe simply read as promotional for certain types of tea. One thing lacking is real sources being sited for their articles. So I did a lot of research. Most of it through Google Scholar (links to REAL scientific studies).

Here is what it boils down to...

Teas are touted around the world as being good for you. You read countless articles about how tea is rich in anti-oxidants and may contain cancer-fighting properties. Tea can provide a magnitude of benefits....stress relief, a pick-me-up for an energy boost, calming to help you sleep. But what is really in your cup?

You can search online and find countless studies about what is really in the tea we drink. It is all fairly simple though.

The Tea Bag
I've found that most tea bags contain things I have no interest in putting in boiling water. (I am in no way saying that these are safe/unsafe, just that I personally will avoid using them.)

Many tea bags contain epichlorohydrin. The EPA states "Epichlorhydrin is used for making glycerine and as a monomer/building block for making plastics and other polymers, some of which are used as coagulant aids in water treatment. It is also used in the paper and drug industries as an insect fumigant." The CDC lists it as a "potential carcinogen" as well as "reproductive effects" and that it targets the "eyes, skin, respiratory system, kidneys, liver, reproductive system." Read more about the uses of epichlorohydrin.

Most brands use what I call a "traditional tea bag." These bags made from wood, that sounds safe enough, right? Unfortunately, it is highly processed and bleached, then chemically treated to neutralize the bleach. 

Another popular tea bag, marketed towards the health/eco conscience is listed as "corn-based" or "biodegradable." A better alternative to chemical laced, plastic, or bleached; however I am anti-GMO, so these bags are a no-go for me as well.  

The final type of tea bag that is common among popular US brands of tea is the mesh pyramid, that brags about the design being ideal for steeping the best cup of tea. I am not going to argue the shape of the tea bag being ideal. I am however going to argue that these "mesh teabags" are made of plastic material. 

Tea Leaves
Like most produce, tea is treated with a vast majority of pesticides to prevent bugs from ruining the crops. Unlike the produce you buy, you cannot wash your tea after purchasing it at the store.

Here is an article about Celestial Seasonings Tea. The study found that 91% VIOLATED US standards for pesticides. The FDA already allows a certain percentage of pesticides, insects/pests, and other less-than-desirable things to slip into our food supply. So not only are their teas full of legally allowed pesticides, they have gone and exceeded that limit. They've also had two prior warnings from the FDA. For me this brand is a definite to avoid.

CBC News in Canada has tested top brands of tea. Their study shows just how many chemicals are in the top brands, many of which we drink here in the USA.

Other Ingredients
Natural Flavors-sounds good right? WRONG. This is one of those tricky things that makes something sound better than it is. Natural Flavors imply anything in natural that can be broken down to taste like what you want. That means the flavor could come from a rock that has been chemically treated. If you have to add "natural flavoring" to something and can't come out and list what it is, you probably want to avoid it.
Artificial Flavors-artificial...enough said.
Soy Lecithin-soy based products. It mostly comes from soy bean oil that is chemically extracted. Again, not something I want in my tea.

What to Look For
Tea Bags: organic bag, non-GMO
Tea: organic, non-GMO

My personal recommendation is to buy a good quality stainless steel tea infuser and buy any brand of organic tea. If you buy tea already in a tea bag, just cut it open and pour the contents of the teabag into the tea ball and steep your tea that way. I prefer a mesh tea infuser just because it helps keep even the finest pieces of tea secure. Or if you're a Keurig lover, just use a mesh reusable filter.

Numi Teas-with prices varying from 27¢ to 89¢ per tea bag, it can become costly if you are an avid tea drinker. However Numi Teas are organic and have a non-GMO, organic tea bag.

Traditional Medicinals Tea- a more cost effiecent brand, averaging between 20¢ and 30¢ per tea bag. However there is a limited variety of flavors to choose from. I have found that Traditional Medicinals tends to brew a very flavorful, almost exceedingly strong cup of tea for my taste.

Rishi Tea - another quality brand, with greatly varying prices based on what type of tea you buy. However Rishi Tea is loose leaf tea, so a tea infuser is required. Or if you prefer, they also manufacture their own tea bags that you can fill yourself.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Years!

Here we are, welcoming 2015! Can you believe another year has passed by so quickly?