Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cauliflower & Chicken Sausage Casserole

 
 
 
I made this casserole dish for dinner for my family a few weeks ago and it was a big hit. I love how healthy this dish is. Most casseroles contain pasta or rice as the main ingredient along with some sort of meat while veggies are drenched in cream or some sort of rich sauce and added as an afterthought. Not this one. This dish is healthy and extremely delicious. My hubby claimed it to be the best casserole dish I've ever made!
 
 
Ingredients
1 medium head of cauliflower, about 2 pounds
1 tsp fine table salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pound of uncooked herbed chicken sausage OR spicy Italian sausage, removed from casings (I used chicken apple sausage, yum!)
1 medium onion, about 1/2 pound, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 stems fresh thyme, leaves only
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Cut the cauliflower head in quarters. Slice away the leaves and stem, and with an angled cut cut away the core from each quarter of the cauliflower head. Chop cauliflower roughly into bite-sized florets, each about 1-inch across.

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the salt. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for 2 minutes. Drain into a colander set in the sink. Run cold water over the florets to stop the cooking process and shake the colander to drain any excess water. Return the cauliflower to the cooking pot and set aside.

Place a 10-inch saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then, when the pan is quite hot, add the sausage. Use a spoon to break up the meat. Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through and beginning to get crispy. If using chicken sausage there should not be a great deal of fat in the pan, but if using Italian sausage, drain all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of fat.

Turn the heat to medium-low and add the onion, garlic, and thyme to the pan with the sausage. Saute for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Scrape up any brown bits as you saute. Crush the tomatoes, and add them to the sausage. Stir thoroughly, then add the reserved tomato sauce and cook for about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and taste the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the sauce with the cauliflower in the cooking pot. Spread the cauliflower and sausage mix in the prepared baking dish and distribute evenly. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the cauliflower. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Are We Politically Ill?

 
I know I've been absent from my blog for the last few weeks. I've had a lot going on. However, my 21 month old son woke me at 3:30 this morning and after he fell back to sleep I laid in bed thinking about this presidential election, how people vote and why we will never see the changes that most of us so desperately want to see take place. Since my brain wouldn't stop running over the words that were desperate to get out, I gave in and got up to write this article. Obviously, this article wont change the outcome of what has already taken place. But if by me writing this article inspires even only a few citizens for the next presidential campaign, then at least I know I'm helping to shape the changes needed for America and it's citizens.
 
After having several political conversations with people of different religions, backgrounds and political views, the one thing we all have in common is the changes that we all want for this country. When I ask people if they think that we as a country are "politically ill", without emphasizing the meaning behind the question, most agree that we are. So, at this point my next question would be... "Who did you vote for this presidential election and why?" I ask this because prior to election day most of the responses I received in regards to whom would be voted for were that they didn't like "either" candidate and that they would basically be voting for the "lesser of two evils" because one of them is going to win anyway, or that they would not be voting for a president at all because they didn't like "either" of the "two" candidates. If we want to see significant changes made for the better of our country, our families, our livelihood and much more, we as citizens need to take some responsibility and change the way we vote. 
 
One of the topics I hear fellow citizens complain about is that the large corporations are running this country. If most people are aware of this and don't like it, then why are we always voting for the presidential candidates that are supported by the large corporations? I'll tell you why... it's simply because we see these candidates in debate on TV. There were a total of "seven" candidates this presidential election. Most people don't want to invest the time it takes to educate themselves on all candidates involved. We all lead very busy lives and find the televised debates "convenient" when making a decision. What is a debate anyway? It's simply a strategic technique of persuasion, and as we can see... we as citizens fall for it. Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney lead this presidential campaign because their campaigns were supported by large corporations, therefore giving them the resources needed for televised debates and calling attention to the media, only to leave the remaining candidates in the "dark".
 
It is time that we as citizens start taking responsibility for the unforeseen changes. In the words of John F. Kennedy - "Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain." Thus meaning, if you have the freedom to choose but don't learn about your choices then the result of your choice may be nothing more than a negative outcome and if you learn about your choices and don't exercise your freedom to choose then you remain useless as a citizen of this country and to the outcome of the choice as a whole. We as citizens need to stop voting for a candidate just because we "think" they are going to win and we "think" they are the lesser of the two evils. Just about everyone I know thinks this way and that is why our country remains in peril. If we start taking the time to educate ourselves about all candidates involved and vote according to what we feel deep down inside our hearts is right for our country, it is then that we may start to see positive changes take place.
 
As I laid in bed earlier this morning thinking about writing this article, I pondered whether I should share whom I voted for. I'm usually very private about my political and religious beliefs as I don't believe my person or anyone should be judged based upon such beliefs. And I am by no means judging anyone for whom they voted for but only for the "reasons" they voted for any particular candidate. After careful consideration I felt it to be necessary for me to share whom I voted for and why I voted for them, otherwise one may think that by me not sharing such information that I am not backing up anything I have previously stated in this article. Please keep in mind that if you voted for any candidate that I did not vote for and you voted for that candidate after careful consideration of all candidates involved then give yourself a pat on the back for exercising your freedom to choose accordingly.
 
As some of you may have guessed, I proudly voted for Jill Stein. Did I think she would win? No. But that's not what matters. What matters is that I voted for whom I felt was the best candidate to give our country and our fellow citizens the kind of care it so desperately needs. She foresaw solving issues right down to the very roots causing those issues. Something I haven't seen any of the other candidates address, whether on TV or in writing. For example one of the issues that I am very passionate about is the chemicals that are "legally" being used on and in our foods as well as the leniency of chemicals being used in our house-cleaning products. As most of you may not know a lot of diseases and disorders that are on the rise, especially in our children, are chemically induced, thus creating higher health care costs. (If you don't know a whole lot about this topic, keep following my blog as I will be writing about these issues in the near future). She wanted to ban the use of pesticides and go back to when growing "organic" produce was the norm and to crack down on harmful ingredients being used in our foods, especially GMO's. She also saw that by wiping away existing federal student loans and creating lower tuition costs for college students that we would see more success and a higher return for the citizens and the government in the long run. She also wanted to end the use of foreign oil and start using our own resources to lower fuel costs and create more jobs. In addition, she wanted to support the growth of the green/wellness industry to help protect our environment and again, to create more jobs. When I think about what this country needs to turn around and grow with prosperity, I felt she had it right on the money.... I haven't listed all that was involved in her plans, but the issues I listed are some that I am passionate about. Regardless if you agree or disagree with whom I voted for, the point is simply that... I voted with passion.
 
In closing, one evil does not justify another and good candidates seldom receive the support they need to become viable. We as citizens can change this, it all starts with us. If we don't stand for what is "right" and take the necessary hits, how can we demand it of our politicians? Politicians won't change if they know we'll vote for them anyway. The problem of bad choices is thereby perpetuated, and the nation continues to deteriorate until the day we choose to change the way we vote.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What is Gluten?


Gluten, derived from the Latin term 'gluten', denoting 'glue', is a compound comprising of a prolamin protein known as gliadin and a glutelin protein known as glutenin that is conjoined with starch in the endosperm (the nutritive substance in the seeds of flowering plants) of an assortment of grains and plants belonging to the grass species. Gliadin is a substance that is water-soluble, while glutenin is a substance that is not water-soluble. Together these substances constitute approximately eighty percent of the protein that is present in a wheat seed. Being insoluble in water, wheat seeds can be purified by washing away the starch.

The seeds of most flowering plants have endosperms that are storehouses of proteins used to nourish embryonic plants during germination. Furthermore, "true gluten" is only found in certain members of the grass family, such as wheat. Occasionally, the proteins accumulated in corn and rice are also referred to as gluten. However, the glutenous proteins that are present in corn and rice differ from the glutenous proteins present in wheat, as they do not contain gliadin and therefore are not defined as "true gluten".

"True Gluten" is present in a wide variety of foods. It is known for the elasticity it gives to dough and the chewy texture it delivers in baked goods. Gluten is used as a worldwide source of protein that is most commonly found in foods prepared directly from sources containing it such as wheat, barley and rye. It is also used as an additive to foods for various purposes. Gluten may also be found in cosmetics and dermatological preparations.

Jambalaya

Here is a tasty primal dish. This Jambalaya is tangy and spicy and chock full of fresh meats and veggies! Perfect for a low carb, gluten free, sugar free and/or paleo diet.


INGREDIENTS
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut in 1/4-inch half-moons
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 zucchinis, diced
  • 2 tbsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken broth or chicken stock
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cooked, cooled, and chopped
  • 1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp
  • 2 tbsp lime juice, or to taste
  • 2 tsp salt, or to taste

DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and andouille sausage and cook and stir until the onion starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Mix in crushed tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchinis, Cajun seasoning, hot sauce and chicken broth; bring mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook uncovered until the liquid cooks off and the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes. Stir in chicken, shrimp, lime juice and salt and simmer until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

FOOTNOTES

This dish is not recommended for children as it is a bit spicy. You can reduce the heat by minimizing the amount of bell peppers, eliminating the hot sauce and opting for a sweet flavored sausage. However, the lime juice and salt harmonizes with the spiciness of the dish.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Yes on Prop 37 - California


Watch this video to be more informed as to why GMO's have potentially been linked to autism and other diseases. We have a right to know what is in our food and to prevent sickness in our children.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ratatouille



Ratatouille has been my sons favorite movie since he was about six months old. Cute movie but I alwasy assumed that this french stew wouldn't be very tantalizing. I stumbled across this recipe while searching Paleo Diet recipes. I made one batch yesterday and we loved it soooo much that I made a second batch to store in the freezer.

This recipe is so good and so easy! This comforting Provencal dish makes for a great entree on a cold night, a tasty side dish, or as a meal for lunch with some cottage cheese. The leftovers just keep getting better! See footnote for oven and slow-cooker instructions.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 - 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 zucchini, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 yellow squash, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 eggplan,t scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 pinch oregano
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp tomato paste (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Note: The recipe calls for 1 tsp of tomato paste. However, when I made this I accidentally misread the recipe and put in a whole 6 oz can. We thought it turned out delicious. It was a bit on the thick side, regardless, it was still highly rated in our home. Next time I will try it with just one tsp of tomato paste.

DIRECTIONS
  1. Pour diced tomatoes into a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat; add zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and onion; stir once. Sprinkle salt over vegetables. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer until the vegetables start to cook down, 10 to 12 minutes; stir in rest of seasonings.
  2. Cook uncovered over medium heat until the sauce has reduced and vegetables are tender, 30 minutes - 1 hour, stirring often. (Or if preferred, cover pan and cook over low heat 2 to 3 hours.) Stir in tomato paste and adjust seasonings. Drizzle with olive oil just before serving.
FOOTNOTES

 Alternate cooking methods: Layer the tomatoes and all the vegetables and seasonings in a deep baking dish or Dutch oven. Cover and bake at 275 degrees F (135 degrees C) for about 3 hours. Towards the end, stir in tomato paste and adjust seasoning, then uncover and return to the oven until liquid reduces as much as desired.
Do the same thing, but in a slow cooker, either on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 (or all day). Again, add the tomato paste and uncover to reduce the liquid.

Gluten Free Recipes


If you've read my "My Journey to Wellness" in the About section of my blog then you know that I am on a restricted diet due to my thyroid disease. Since I have been on my restricted diet I am amazed at how great I feel. However, it hasn't exactly been easy coming up with meals due to my restrictions.

Most gluten-free recipes call for some sort of white starch or soy to make up for the lack thereof. But since I cant have those either I have since turned to the Paleo diet for inspiration that I can bring to my kitchen and my love for cooking. I'm not following the Paleo diet religously, but I do find it easier to locate recipes that contain a list of ingredients that I can have and don't have to substitute anything for.

Since I have been on this restricted diet, I have tried a few recipes here and there and not only have I been pleasantly surprised by the taste but my husband and my two year old son have taken to our new diet pretty well too. I have to note that my husband is the pickiest eater I know... you know... the "meat and potatoes" type. In the past I could never get him to eat vegetables other than the usual boring broccoli with butter, but we have since found some recipes that have been pleasing to his palate.

I am going to try to devote a daily recipe blog entry for you all as we continue to discover family pleasing dishes. Bon appetit!


RECIPES
Ratatouille
Jambalaya
Cauliflower & Chicken Sausage Casserole