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.

 
 
Have you ever started a recipe only to discover that it called for "pumpkin pie spice"?  And there was no such thing in your cupboard?  

You can make your own very easily.  Mix a big batch and fill a jar, or just use the ratios below to put directly in your recipe.  For instance, if your recipe calls for 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, use double the amounts below.  No need to stir them together first, either, just drop them in.  If you have cinnamon but not all three of the others, you can leave one of them out and still be fine.  (Just don't leave out the cinnamon!)


Pumpkin Pie Spice Makes 1 teaspoon. 

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Mix ingredients well. 

Bigger batch, for filling a spice jar:  
Makes 1/4 c (4 Tbsp or 12 tsp.)
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves


 
 
Picture
My no-butter spread still tastes like butter plus is made with healthy fats. The spread is in the container; dairy butter is on the left for comparison.
I am so excited!

But first- if you've noticed a shift towards gluten-free and dairy-free recipes lately, good noticing!  I. Love. Dairy.  I even milked a cow every day as a teenager so I had the fresh great stuff.  But sometimes people have health problems with certain foods.  So far we've discovered that two of my children get stomach aches when they drink milk.  One of my daughters has excema on her arms that just has not cleared up.  It usually comes and goes, especially in the winter, but she's had it for two months straight.  So I've taken all dairy and wheat items out of her diet to see if those common allergens could be a reason for it.  I'm still cooking normally for everyone else, but have necessarily been experimenting with this other way of cooking.  And here's the latest and greatest:

Butter.  Sort of.  It tastes like it, anyway.  And spreads beautifully.  It even cooks like butter.  I've creamed it with sugar and made a cake, made brownies, melted it on muffins, spread on toast, made honeybutter, and made dairy-free cream of broccoli soup with it.  Yum.

The idea was sparked by reading a label on a small tub of honey butter.  Turns out there was no butter in it at all, but tasted as though it did.  Reading through the list- hydrogenated soybean oil, honey, citric acid, soy lecithin, artificial colors and flavors- it occurred to me that if THEY could make something taste and spread like butter, then maybe I could, too.  So I started researching what the flavor components were in butter and what other foods contain them too.  It was fun to read about- ketones, diacetyl, acetoin, reactions between aldehyde and niacin.  (But, dang it, how come if I was setting a good example of work, study, and loving to learn, I had to remind my daughter every 20 minutes to get back to her schoolwork?!)

Anyway, I found some foods that naturally have some of the same flavor components as butter, and used one that covered the bases.  It's the ingredient that makes ALL the difference in flavor here.  Liquid aminos.  Or just use soy sauce, which is about the same thing.  If you prefer to avoid soy completely, nutritional yeast flakes will give a similar flavor.  Vinegar also works, in the same tiny amount.  The cornstarch, coconut flour, or xantham gum thicken the water so it will better stay mixed with the oils.

This is spreadable when used straight from the fridge.  It’s fantastic on toast, muffins, and waffles.   It has about the same fat-to-water ratio as dairy butter (80:20).  You can cook with it just like real butter, too.  It can be creamed with sugar for cakes and cookies.  Use it cold from the fridge to do this, and don’t beat it longer than about 45 seconds or it begins to melt a little.  This spread can be mixed with an equal amount of honey to make honey butter.

If you’d like a firmer consistency, like sticks of butter, increase coconut oil to ¾ cup and reduce liquid oil to ¼ cup.

Turmeric and paprika give it a nice color without  affecting the flavor.  Turmeric adds bright yellow so a little goes a long way, and paprika lends a warm pinkish orange.  Both will deepen after a day. Combine a pinch of each (just under 1/16 tsp) for the best color.  If you make this using olive oil, the buttery spread has a greenish hint to it which paprika helps eliminate.

Dairy-free Buttery Spread

2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp.  cornstarch OR coconut flour OR 1/4 tsp. xantham gum
1/8 tsp. liquid aminos or soy sauce or vinegar OR scant ½ tsp. nutritional yeast
½ tsp. salt
A pinch each turmeric and paprika, optional (for color)
½ c. coconut oil, softened just til creamy and stirrable
½ c. olive oil or other liquid oil like canola

In a glass 1-cup measuring cup, stir together water and coconut flour.  Microwave until it boils, stir until smooth.  (You’ll need 3 T water if boiling this in a pan on the stove.) Mix in the liquid aminos, salt, turmeric and paprika.  Set aside to cool. 

After it’s cooled to nearly room temperature, mix in the coconut oil, then whisk in olive oil until smooth.  Put mixture in the fridge to chill.  Stir after it starts to thicken, about 15-30 minutes. 

Store covered in the refrigerator.  Makes just over 1 cup. (9 ½ oz, or 3 T. more than 2 sticks of butter)

If you want a firmer consistency to form “sticks” of butter, after it’s just started thickening in the fridge and you’ve stirred it, pack it into whatever molds you have.  I use mini loaf pans, filling them on a scale so each stick weighs 4 ounces.  Put in the freezer to solidify. After they’re hard, pop them out of the molds and store in ziptop bags or wrapped in plastic.  Label and keep in the freezer for longer storage, or keep in the fridge for shorter-term use.

 
 
Between helping a sick 7-year-old catch up on homework, driving the carpool today, running kids to appointments, and half of them needing to be at their church youth activities an hour later, I needed an easy and quick dinner tonight.  I had a batch of bread dough rising, so I heated the oven to 450 F, took a loaf's worth of dough, rolled it out to fit a greased cookie sheet, and baked it for ten minutes.  While it cooked, I pulled out shredded cheese, opened a can of olives and one of pineapple, and stirred together some red sauce: 1/3 c. tomato powder, 2/3 c. hot water, and 1/4 tsp. salt (or use one 8-oz can of tomato sauce), then spices to taste: a few good shakes of oregano, basil, black pepper, onion powder, a pinch of fennel... whatever you have and smells good with it. 
Spread the sauce on the hot pizza crust, sprinkle on the toppings, then put under the broiler for two minutes, until bubbling.  If you want a few more mixing/cooking details, see this other post.

Since I'd only used part of the can of pineapple and also had some coconut milk in the fridge, I made Pina Colada:   

1 (20 oz.) can of pineapple (or almost a can, in this case)
1/2 cup coconut milk (or use 2-3 Tbsp. shredded coconut and 1/3 c. water)
Half a tray of ice cubes or one handful
1 Tbsp. mild molasses
1 drop lime essential oil or 1/4 tsp. lime zest (optional but adds just the right touch)

Combine in a blender; turn on high until smooth.  Add a little sugar or honey if it's not sweet enough.

I didn't use any more sugar; the lime boosted the flavor enough that the drink didn't really need anything else.

To the pizza and drink, add a salad or other vegetable, and there's supper!

 
 
My husband loves roast.  Tender, flavorful roast, cooked along with tender, sweet quartered onions and  carrots.  He remembers having this every week for Sunday dinner. 

He doesn't get it so often now, with the budget cuts of meat costing $3/lb!

Sometimes what I do make doesn't quite measure up to his fond memories, but this one did.  He raved about it for days.

This makes enough spice mixture  for a 2 ½ -3 lb. roast.  You can make a much bigger batch and save the extra it for future meals. You can vary the spices according to what you have and what sounds good.  This one is good on not only beef, but also chicken, fish, and pork.

Meat Rub- using essential oils
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 drop (or 4 tiny drops) garlic oil 
1 drop (4-5 tiny drops) oregano oil
1 drop (3-4 tiny drops) rosemary oil
2 tiny drops fennel oil (OK without but fantastic with)

I rubbed this on the top, then seared the roast only on the bottom.  To sear, put 1-2 Tbsp. oil in the bottom of a large pan, heat to almost smoking, and then add the roast.  Cook 2-4 minutes, until the bottom is well browned.  Add potatoes, peeled and quartered onions and carrots and sprinkle them generously with salt, 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt per pound of vegetables.  Add about 1 cup of water.

Cover and simmer (or bake at 350 F) for 3-4 hours, or until roast is tender, checking periodically to make sure the water hasn't all boiled away.

Meat Rub- using dried herbs
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder 
1 tsp. powdered oregano OR 2 tsp. dried oregano leaves 

Put the rosemary and fennel in a small non-plastic bowl and grind them using the bottom of a glass spice jar or similar. (If you have a mortar and pestle, use them!)  Add the salt, paprika, garlic powder, and oregano.  Stir to combine, then rub the whole mixture over the roast.




 
 
Picture
Would you like some super-easy guacamole to put on top of your cheap homemade burritos?  Here's a recipe you can make with your eyes closed!

Don't skip using the citrus juice or vinegar; the acidity prevents the avocado from turning brown (oxidation).

Simplest Guacamole

1 avocado
1 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice, 
       OR 1 Tbsp. vinegar and 1 drop lime or lemon essential oil
Salt to taste
chili powder to taste (optional)

Mash the avocado with the juice.  Sprinkle with salt.

You can jazz this up many ways: other flavor options are to stir in chopped or pureed tomato or onion, a little salsa, mixed in diced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, or some sour cream. 

This can also be made into an easy salad dressing: increase juice to 2 Tbsp and stir in 3 Tbsp. olive oil.  To make it even creamier- and lighter-, puree this along with a medium-sized cucumber. A big handful of cilantro added before blending provides a nice flavor boost.  If the dressing is too thick, add more lime/lemon juice and oil.

 
 
Have you ever needed the juice of half a lemon, or just a couple teaspoons of it, only to 1) not have a lemon, or 2) not want to mess with it?

I have.  Lots. 

Besides that, sometimes lemons are cheap, and sometimes they're pricey, so I stock up only when they're cheap.  To take advantage of good prices and a free hour in the day, I make frozen lemon juice.  Or lime juice.  Or grapefruit.  Whatever.  I usually do this when I have 3-12 of whichever fruit I'm using.
Picture
If you want to use or save the zest, start by washing and drying the fruit.  Take the zest off with a microplane, a zester, or a vegetable peeler, and set it aside on a plate.  To see one way of storing it for later, see Homemade Orange Flavoring.  

Juice the fruit, then pour the juice into ice cube trays.  My trays take 1 cup to fill the whole thing, which means each of the 14 spots holds just under  1 Tbsp.   Yours may be different.   After they're frozen, pop them out and store in a ziptop bag.  Be sure to label it.

One medium lemon contains 2-3 tablespoons of juice, so 2-3 cubes will be the right amount.  One lime has about 1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. of juice, so 2 cubes is about right for a whole one. 

When I want some warm lemon water, I heat a cupful of water, then drop a lemon juice cube into it and stir to melt. 

These are also good to toss into a pan sauce, especially for chicken or fish.

And if you add one to a fruit smoothie, it perks up the flavor.

You'll find a ton of ways to use these!  -what are your favorites?

 
 
Have you ever made tartar sauce?  It's simple, delicious, and has only the ingredients YOU put in it!  (No questionable preservatives, etc.)
Picture
Homemade Tartar Sauce

½ c. mayonnaise
1 T. chopped pickles (or use pickle relish)
1 T. minced onion
1 T. lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

This is best if chilled at least 30 minutes, but still good if eaten right away.   Makes about 2/3 cup.



Now, how often do you really use all  of that tartar sauce?  You can stir it with a couple boiled and cubed potatoes, to make it into potato salad, or try this.....

Picture
Second-Day Tartar Sauce-      Ranch Dip!

To a half batch of tartar sauce (about 1/3 cup), add

1/4 tsp. dill weed
1/4 tsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. onion powder (recipe here)   
         or 
1 ½ tsp. minced chives
a dash of garlic powder, opt.

Voila!

There were NO leftovers this time.  :D

 
 
Picture
Did you add a little too much chili?  or maybe the lid fell off the salt shaker and now it's salty enough to kill a cat? 

When we're cooking from scratch, sometimes we get carried away with spices.  Are you stuck eating the whole batch because now your children refuse to touch it?  Or are you tempted to throw it out?

My sister-in-law asked my sisters and I what we would do.  Apparently her favorite way is to rinse the meat in a colander under running water, then return the meat to the skillet and add spices more cautiously.  Someone on Facebook said that was disgusting and would result in soggy meat. 
I'd be cautious about how much grease could go down the drain that way, potentially clogging it, but that's actually a good solution.  The meat won't be soggy if you reheat it to drive off an excess water.

Another solution is to mix something else in with it to dilute the spice:
-plain cooked oatmeal or cooked cracked wheat (a really cheap meat extender!)
-plain refried beans
-a can of drained beans (black, kidney, or pinto)
-a half can of tomato sauce (cook more if this is too soupy)

The whole point is- if the food didn't turn out the way you intended, instead of chucking it, come up with a way to fix it or repurpose it.  If that doesn't work, you're no worse off than before!
 
 
Picture
What are you going to have for dinner on Valentine's Day? 

How about broccoli?  No, really..

If you've never had roasted broccoli, you're in for a great surprise.  Some of my kids like regular cooked broccoli, and some don't, but ALL of them like it when roasted. 

The high heat, cooking it close to the bottom heat, along with a touch of sugar, help bring out the caramelized sweetness that otherwise is locked away, far from my tastebuds!
The photo shows the Cuban version, below.

Roasted Broccoli

1 ½ lbs. trimmed broccoli
2 Tbsp. oil
½ tsp. salt
1/8-1/4 tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. sugar (honey works as well)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees (no, not 375!), put the oven rack in the lowest spot.  Cut the broccoli into florets.  Save the stems; peel off the tough outer layer, and cut about ¼” thick.  Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sugar.  Toss to coat.  Spread on a cookie sheet and put it on the lowest rack.  Cook for 14-18 minutes, until some parts are deeply browned.

This basic recipe can be made a thousand different ways, using different vegetables, combinations, and/or spices.  Here are a few ideas, still using broccoli.

Cuban Broccoli:
Use 1 lb. broccoli and 2 onions, cut into 8 wedges each.
Into the oil, mix 2 drops lime essential oil, or 1 tsp. lime zest.  Use the same amount of salt, pepper, and sugar, but also add ½ tsp. cumin.  Roast the same as above; when done, toss with 1 Tbsp. lime juice. 

Italian Broccoli:
Before roasting, add ¼ c. pine nuts, 4 medium cloves garlic, sliced in half.  When roasted, sprinkle with ¼ c. Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil leaves, chopped.

Broccoli, Sausage, & Pasta
On that lowest rack, at 475, roast 4 oz. Italian sausage for 5-6 minutes, until sizzling.  Add 1 lb. broccoli, cut smaller, 4-6 cloves garlic, sliced, and 1 or 2 red bell peppers.  Toss and roast.  Meanwhile, bring 1 lb. pasta to a boil; cook til al dente, then drain.  Stir in the roasted mixture and serve immediately.