I have the HARDEST time finding bouillon that doesn't contain MSG.  Here's a solution:  no MSG, no fillers, no preservatives.  Only what you choose to put in it.

This recipe was adapted from Traci's Transformational Health Principles by Traci J. Sellers

Vegetable Broth Powder     (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup Nutritional Yeast (to make your own, see here)
1/4 cup RealSalt (or Himalayan salt; something with those trace minerals)
1 Tbsp. onion powder (see how to make your own, here)
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. marjoram or oregano, optional
1 tsp. dried lemon peel, optional
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. ground thyme 

 Put everything except parsley in a blender or food processor, in the order given.  Blend until
 powdered.  Add parsley, pulse just enough to chop it a little bit (you're aiming for small bits).  Store in an airtight container indefinitely.  

To use, add a heaping 1/2 tsp. per cup of water, or 1 Tbsp. of powder  for every quart of water.

 
 
We discovered roasting vegetables about three years ago.  Now when I buy broccoli or cauliflower, they are almost always served roasted.  Even my kids who  "don't prefer"  (the PC term at our table) broccoli, like it roasted. 

 Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken    - serves 6-8
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups cooked chicken 

Preheat oven to 475, adjust the oven rack to the lowest position about 20 minutes.  Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, then sprinkle with salt.  Roast about 20 minutes, stirring once about after about 15 minutes.  Cauliflower is done when parts of it turn a deep golden brown.  Stir in the chicken .

 We ate this with rice and chicken gravy (see below) on the side; conveniently enough, it also takes about the same amount of time to cook.  If you start the rice first, then cut up the cauliflower, the rice should be done about the same time if you're using regular white rice and cooking on a stove top.

Since I didn't have any leftover chicken,  I put 1 lb of chicken in my pressure cooker along with two medium-small onions (or use one med-large) and about 1/2 tsp. salt.  My pressure cooker does not lose water when it cooks, so I didn't add any.  (If your pressure cooker does, please add water!  Probably 1/2 cup, as the chicken and onions release moisture as they cook.)  It was done after 15 minutes of high pressure. 

Clear Chicken Gravy
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup juices from cooking the chicken and onion

(microwave instructions)  
In a  1-cup glass measuring cup, stir together the water and cornstarch until smooth.  Stir in a little of the cooking juices, then stir in enough that you have 1 cup total.  Microwave for 1 minute; stir.  If it hasn't thickened yet, microwave another minute and stir again.  Add salt if needed.  (Mine didn't need it.)

 
 
photo: Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever run across a recipe calling for nutritional yeast and you didn't have any?  Maybe didn't even have access to some?  Or maybe you attempted to make a batch of bread and the yeast wasn't working anymore?

Too bad I didn't know, a month ago, what I'm about to tell you.  I threw away an entire pound package of baking yeast (Saccharoymyces cerevisiaebecause it wasn't raising my dough.  Sad.

First of all, what IS nutritional yeast?  It's deactivated yeast, frequently the strain used is   Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  Totally dead yeast.  Usually it is cultured in something sweet for a few days, then heated to deactivate it.  It adds a nutty, savory, almost meat-y depth of flavor to recipes. (The term is 'umami'). It also contains B vitamins and is a complete protein. 

I've been studying a new (to me) breadmaking book  (more on that later!), and in it,  the author, Peter Reinhart, gives instructions for making your own nutritional yeast:

 Put 1/4 c. active dry yeast in a hot skillet.  Toast over med-hi heat until it turns a medium shade of brown. 

That's it.

Now, was my dysfunctional pound of yeast ready to be used as nutritional yeast without toasting?  No.  It was only  partly dead.  Or maybe 'mostly dead', to quote a favorite movie.  But it needs to be totally dead  before you consume it.   Besides that, toasting brings out flavor.

Ways to use nutritional yeast:
  • as a topping on popcorn
  • sprinkle on top of things in place of cheese
  • mix into mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs in place of cheese
  • add to soups or white sauces to improve flavor (the flavor acts similar to adding bouillon or broth)
  • use in this recipe for dairy-free buttery spread
  • sprinkle on top of homemade crackers or breadsticks before baking
  • make your own vegetable broth recipe, on this post.  Tastes like chicken.  :)


 
 
Most salads like this use so much dressing that there's a pool of it at the bottom of the bowl.  And the dressing is about all you taste.  
Not this one.  There's enough oil in the salad to help you unlock those fat-soluble vitamins; both cabbage and cashews are very high in Vitamin K.  And you can actually taste the cabbage, in a way that accents only its best features.  

If you have any left over, even though the noodles will not stay crunchy by the next day, the cabbage does.

Cabbage Ramen Salad        Serves 4-6.  Or two who really, really like it.

1 tsp. olive oil
1 package Ramen noodles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey or sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ginger OR 1 1/2 tsp. chopped crystallized ginger OR 1 drop ginger essential oil
1 small cabbage, shredded, OR a 14-16 oz package coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
2 green onions, chopped
1 c. cooked turkey or chicken, diced
1/2 c. cashews, optional

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a large skillet on high heat.  Break the Ramen noodles into small pieces and add to the hot oil.  (You won't need the flavor packet for this recipe.)  Stir dry noodles constantly for about 2 minutes, until some of the noodles start turning a toasty brown.  Remove from heat and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil, vinegar, honey/sugar, salt, pepper, and ginger. Stir well to combine.  Add the cabbage or coleslaw mix, green onions, turkey/chicken, and cashews.  Stir thoroughly, until no puddle of dressing remains on the bowl's bottom.  Serve right away for the crunchiest noodles.  

 
 
Curry is becoming known as a  bit of a superfood.  The spice blend's famous color is from one of its ingredients, turmeric.  Turmeric is now known to reduce inflammation- brain, systemic, and joints.  Here's a great way to use up some leftovers in a flavorful, healthy way!
Curry has an affinity for sweet, so it mixes perfectly with sweet potatoes or yams.

When I was in college, I lived in the cheapest off-campus apartment around.  There were several foreign students in the complex, and one day we had a potluck dinner together.  
One of the first foods on the table was an amazingly yellow... something.  So I asked what it was.  "Curry," she responded, "It's a food from Korea.". 
Further down the table was another bowl of yellow food.  I asked about it.  "Chicken Curry," she explained, "The Jamaicans invented it."  
Another friend walked up with a now-familiar color.  I asked. 
"Curry.  It's from Africa."

It was good.  All three were.  Good enough I could see why everybody claimed it was from their own native country.

Since my roommate was the Jamaican, that's whose recipe I got, though I had to watch her make it and estimate the amounts at the time.  This recipe is based on hers, though she used bone-in chicken thighs, less onion but added a couple green onions,  potatoes instead of sweet potatoes, and serve it not only over rice, but also with thick, chewy 'Jamaican Dumplings'.  The recipe is flexible.

Curry.  From America.

Sweet Potato Curry with Turkey- makes about 6 cups

2 Tbsp. oil
1-2 Tbsp. curry
2 medium onions, sliced into rings
1 c. cooked turkey, cubed (can use chicken instead)
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed*
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste
water

*I used raw sweet potatoes, but feel free to use cooked ones- you can even get away with using leftover Thanksgiving baked sweet potatoes as long as they're not too saccharine; reduce cooking time accordingly.

Heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering-hot.  Add the curry powder- amount depends on how strong you like it.  (I like it strong.)  Stir, and let it heat for about a minute to 'bloom' the flavor.  It's done when it starts to smell delicious and a little toasty. DON'T burn it.  (Nasty, bitter flavor!...)  Reduce heat to medium, add onion; cook until they are tender, stirring occasionally.  
Stir in turkey, then add sweet potatoes, salt, and pepper.  Add water until the food is nearly covered.  Put a lid on the pan and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until just tender.  Remove lid, increase heat and gently boil until liquid is reduced by about half.  

Serve hot by itself or over rice.

Optional:sprinkle with any of the following:
chopped peanuts
green peas
mandarin orange segments
shredded coconut
diced apple
dollop of sour cream or unsweetened yogurt
chopped hardboiled eggs
bits of dried fruit

 
 
This is actually an instrument.  Or a noise maker, depending on your perspective and the personality of the child holding it.  It's a variation of the Brazilian & African cuica, used in Samba music.  (See a video of an actual musician using a higher quality cuica on the YouTube video below. 

At any rate, this one can be made to make a clucking or 'gobble'y sound.  These are entertaining by themselves, or add it in to an impromptu marching-around-the-yard band!  You could have a whole flock of chickens or turkeys.

To make one, you'll need
A disposable plastic cup, googly eyes, paper/real feathers/paper or foam beak, an 18-20” length of cotton (not nylon) yarn, something to poke a hole with, a paperclip, dollar-bill sized piece of a paper towel, water.

Using a nail or whatever works, poke a hole in the top.  Thread the string through the hole, and tie the top end of the string onto a paperclip or washer, to keep it securely on the right side of the hole!    Decorate.

If you want to see someone make one and use it, see here.  

Have fun!
Picture
To make the sound, while holding the clucker still with one hand, get a square of folded-over wet paper towel and grab the string, making quick yanks down the string.
 
 
Picture
Broadleaf plantain in my garden.
Saturday was work-in-the-yard-before-the-storm-hits day.

The garden needed prepared for the winter: potatoes dug, the now-dry corn cobs pulled from their perches on the stalks, the final beets pulled, more chard and broccoli harvested, dry and tangled tomato vines yanked from the fence they'd been trained on, carrots prepared to stay through the winter.  Tilling would have been nice, but between the garden and what was going on in the house, there wasn't enough time to get to it.  As it was, I only got halfway through the garden list.  But my kids finally got the house clean -- the weekly deeper-cleaning--  along with a post hole dug and fence repaired with my husband.  With a lot of reminders. (The kids, that is...)

While stripping corn cobs from the stalks, I felt something sharp on the pad of my ring finger. When I looked, a large drop of blood pooled up immediately; I had sliced my finger on a corn husk.  I turned back to my work, but felt something wet running down the finger.  Looking again, I saw that it was bleeding quickly, leaving small spatters of blood on the ground.  Turns out that the cut was fairly deep. I ignored it for another few minutes, but the bleeding had not slowed.  Not wanting to stop my work lest the chickens -- who were in the garden too-- would get to the corn, I looked around, found some still-growing plaintain, and tore a leaf off.  The leaves are not only known for helping stop bleeding and helping heal, but have strong fibers running through them.  I wrapped the leaf around my wound, winding the trailing fiber around an extra couple times.  

It stayed on snugly while I worked, and the tightness was soothing.  When I pulled it off ten minutes later, the bleeding had stopped completely.  It didn't restart, either, when I finally -carefully- washed off the dried blood.  This stuff works!

My husband laughed when he heard the story, and said it was "so MacGyver-ish".

I took that as a high compliment.
 
 
The sauce in this filling is from my great-grandmother, who I hear was an excellent cook. She lived in the ‘Mormon’ colonies in Mexico, left in 1912 to avoid Pancho Villa and other warring factions, returned after the Revolution, and earned money through millinery (making hats) and sewing.  Her last few years were in Arizona, where she cooked and sewed at the LDS Mesa temple.   This recipe was her enchilada sauce, only she used 3 cups of water and 3 Tbsp. chili powder when using it over enchiladas, since more liquid is needed for those.  

These are gluten-free if you use cornstarch and not flour in the filling.  Using shredded meat instead of burger makes these a little more authentic, but ground meat is awfully convenient.  Unless you happen to have some leftover roast available to shred.

Individual Tamale Pies 
Makes 12 muffin-sized ones, or can be made into a 9" pie pan

Crust:
2 c. masa harina  (OR use 1 c. cornmeal and 1 c. flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. coconut oil or other fat (oil, butter, lard, etc)
about 3/4 to 1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all together to form a moderately thick dough.  Grease 12 muffin cups.  Shape a ball a little bigger than a ping pong ball (3 Tbsp. dough), then press dough in a muffin cup, making a layer about 1/4"- 3/8" thick.  Repeat until finished.  Set aside.  

Filling:
2 cups cooked burger or shredded beef, pork, or chicken
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. butter, optional
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder or to taste
1 Tbsp. cornstarch OR 2 Tbsp. flour

 Mix together the meat, tomato sauce, butter, salt, sugar, and chili powder, and bring to a boil.  Stir the cornstarch or flour into 1-2 Tbsp. water,  to form a slurry.  Gradually mix the slurry into the boiling mixture, cook and stir until thickened, about a minute.  Taste it and add a little more salt if you like.

Spoon 1/4 cup of filling into each of the lined muffin cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is set and the filling just starts to bubble around the edges.  Let sit for a couple minutes, then remove them by placing an upside-down cookie sheet on top, then flipping the whole thing upside down (see slideshow below).  

Serve with plain or with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, or anything else that sounds good.



 
 
OK, OK, I know it's a whole three days after Easter, but this is still fun.  We don't have to totally forget about a holiday after we've passed it, right?  (The real reason this is delayed is that I spent the last week in a beautiful, very green place with no phone connection, no cell phone signal, and no Internet connection.  This was ready to publish, I just couldn't get to the button.)  

How about something fluffy and NOT sugary?  This is a fun craft for kids anytime and has some deeper Easter meaning. It's simple but will keep them occupied for a little while.  How about making a whole flock of sheep?  He shall feed his flock like a  shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 41:11)

You'll need only 
  • 1 sheet of newspaper
  • Tape
  • Cotton balls
  • 4 straws
  • Glue
  • White paper
  • Black marker

You can find the instructions at http://www.lds.org/friend/2013/03/easter-activities?lang=eng

What about some other animals?
 
 
They are the bane of some people's existence, the best friend of others.  Some people turn them into casseroles, but they often turn into soup at my house.

What are they?

Leftovers.

Yup, love 'em or hate 'em, we often have 'em sitting in the fridge or pantry.  That last half-cup of gravy, a lonely bowl of chili, a stack of day-old (OK, maybe several-day-old) corn tortillas...

They call out to be useful.  To be loved.  To be eaten.  Maybe disguised first.

Dinner tonight was Tortilla Soup, sort of a Mexican twist on chicken noodle soup.  So how does this tie into using leftovers?  Those dry tortillas got cut into strips, then toasted in the oven while the soup cooked.  The soup itself was made using water, some Mexican-type fat free salad dressing (like a watery lime-cilantro salsa, a great flavor base), a cup of leftover meatless chili (for fiber, heartiness, and deeper flavor), that aforementioned 1/2 cup of gravy (providing a little body and more chicken flavor), a package of frozen cooked turkey from just after last Christmas, and a can of corn (sweetness, saltiness from the 'juice', and a pleasant 'pop').  The tortilla strips were stirred in at the last minute because they disintegrate if you cook them much.  If I had any fresh cilantro or sour cream it would have gone on top as a garnish.  Cheese would be delicious there, too. 

Take a look in your fridge and see- what can you do to give those leftovers another shot at life?

Leftover Tortilla Soup  the way I made it.  Feel free to improvise; that's what this is!

10-12 corn tortillas, cut in 1/2" wide strips
1 quart water
1 (14 oz.) can whole kernel corn, WITH the juices
10-16 oz. salsa or similar
1 cup of chili or 1 (14 oz.) can of beans
2 cups cooked diced chicken or turkey

Spread tortilla strips on a baking sheet, put them in the oven about 8" under the broiler, just long enough to toast them a bit, about 2-8 minutes, depending.  (The idea is that if they're toasted, they might not disintegrate as quickly in the soup.  I might be wrong.  They at least have a better flavor when toasted.)

Combine the water, corn, salsa, beans/chili and chicken/turkey in a 3-quart or larger pan.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors.  Remove from heat and stir in tortilla strips.  Taste, then add salt and pepper if needed.  If it needs more flavor, a little lime juice, chopped cilantro, chicken bouillon, or chili powder would taste good.

Have fun!