Real-food Hummus on the fly

Real food hummus lunch photo
Small servings of hummus can be made easily without a food processor.

Hummus is high on a healthy food scale. The main ingredient is beans, a vegetable source of protein that costs little. The additions are simple, whole ingredients without down-sides. To buy ready-made hummus is costly, and to make it, easy. Throw ingredients in a food processor — done. However, I usually take it one step down the simplicity scale by skipping the food processor for small quantities of hummus.

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No crackers? No problem!

No crackers? No problem!

Real food crackers photoCrackers have a short life span in my house. They disappear like potato chips, so I protect myself by rarely bringing crackers home. Crackers seem like healthy food, but if you check the nutrition information, you will find that most are loaded with salt and fat, plus come with a long list of additives. My general rule is that if I can’t pronounce an ingredient, I shouldn’t eat it. Crackers have plenty of tongue-twisting words in the ingredient list.They can also be pricey for the nutrition they deliver. You can easily make a much better cracker from tortillas.

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Real food Eggs Bendict (not necessarily authentic)

Easy recipe for eggs benedict photo
A version of Eggs Benedict anyone can make -- healthier, too.

Have you ever noticed that Eggs Benedict is expensive, even in restaurants that specialize in cheap, hearty breakfasts? And it’s not a dish that most people make at home. Hollandaise Sauce, the heavenly topping that turns poached eggs into Benedict, is a royal pain to make. It’s one of those sauces that involves plenty of stirring over a hot water bath, and has 17 different ways to fail. OK, there are probably fewer than 17 ways to mess up this sauce, but one recipe comes with its own “fix the sauce” page. See here — I am not joking. However, I have a “faux” Hollandaise sauce that is healthier and works every time. Even better, you make it in the microwave.

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Real food basics: Poached Eggs

Real food basics: Poached Eggs
Real food poached eggs on toast photo
Poached eggs on toast. As real as food gets.

Poached eggs are universally loved. Some would even call a perfect poached egg on toast comfort food. Poaching an egg free-floating in water is not hard, unless you hate your eggs wandering all over the pan, and don’t mind water on your toast. There are dedicated appliances for poaching eggs. I wish I had a dollar for each egg poacher bought around the world, and used only once. There are special little rubber tubs designed to poach eggs. Yet one more thing to clutter up your “what-the-heck-do-you-do-with-this drawer.” None are required for water-free, beautifully formed, poached eggs.

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Chicken stock the easy way

You can buy good chicken stock today. If you are willing to pony up some serious money, you can buy great chicken stock. However, I have never seen honest-to-goodness stock in a tetra pack. Homemade stock is thick, often solid when cold from the gelatin released from the bones.

My secret for making stock easily comes from being lazy. I hated making stock, but the only tough part was stripping the carcass. I no longer do that. I remember the last time — a turkey. I spent a long time with my fingers covered in juice and bits of meat, two bowls going — one for the meat, one for the bones. In the end, I had a very small pile of saturated meat. I decided on the spot it was not worth it.

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Keep fresh herbs fresh

Fresh herbs stored in water in the fridge
Fresh herbs stored in water can last for weeks in the fridge.Click the image to see the glass container.

Hands up if you have bought fresh herbs, used them once or twice, and had them turn brown, or even to mush before you get used to having this treat available. I thought so. It doesn’t have to be so.

Fresh herbs that have stalks, which is most if you are buying commercially, can be kept fresh for far longer if you store them upright in water in your fridge.

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Real food has stories

Real food has stories image
This is what we were dreaming of as we hacked through untouched brush twenty years before this picture was taken.

Roll the calendar back 25 years. It was a cold, spring day, and my young family (kids 3, 4 and 6)  had just bought a dream lot on a lake. We moved an older house onto the lot — the only way we could afford such a prize. The lot had never been touched. Our energy was fueled by youth and the naive view that if we just worked really hard, we could finish making an acre and a half beautiful in two years. As a side note, I sold that place 20 years after that day, and the yard was … well, nearly finished.

We were cold, tired, grumpy and starving.

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Creative license creates family favorite pitas

Pita with tomato, onion and cheese on a pita image
A few ingredients, and ten minutes puts this on your table.

This pita recipe was a staple through most of the time I raised my kids, and is a family favorite. Read the family story behind the dish. It takes around 5 minutes to cook and little time to put together. Use this idea as a launch for your own ideas, maybe even your own family tradition.

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Reducing the Grr! Factor: Garlic skin

What’s a Grr! Factor? When preparing a meal, something happens that is not bad enough to warrant a launch into your best expletives, but definitely reduces any pleasure you are having with your work … that’s the Grr! factor.

The first one up is garlic skin. When you cook real food, your hands are often wet, or sticky, and your work surface is cluttered. Introducing a garlic head into this scene can cause Grr! to occur. Garlic skin sticks to everything. It flakes, it flies. Trying to pick a garlic skin out of the chopped garlic with fingers that have garlic skin sticking to them … well, need I say more?

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Real food has seasons: Strawberries

Real food fresh organic strawberries
T'is the season ... for strawberries. These local organic strawberries were growing this morning.

We have become spoiled with having access to a complete selection of fruits and vegetables year round. I must qualify that, however. We have become spoiled with access, but very tolerant of low quality. If you have been paying attention to the quality and price of your produce, you may have noticed the inverse relationship between quality and price. When strawberries are cheap, they are excellent. When they cost the earth, they are usually disappointing. That’s because there is a strawberry season.

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