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Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

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healthy living

a bit on spiritual eating… and one spicy and spectacular sausage and lentil stew.

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ok… I know what you’re thinking… sausage and lentil stew?  how good could it be?  TRUST me… it is beyond good. Tis amazing.  absolutely bursting with flavor in every bite, super duper healthy and full of vitamin rich ingredients!  best of all… very easy to prepare, so that most anyone can whip this up on a weeknight, no problemo.   this freezes wonderfully in small 16oz containers… making for stellar lunches at any given time, or a quick little dinner for a willing friend.   I love feeding others.  it’s my thing.  I love to hear what they say about the dish… how much they enjoyed it… and it makes me smile knowing I was able to nourish another, physically… but possibly mentally as well.  allow me to spill on that a bit.  people are busy.  we all have jobs, maybe kids, pets, homes, bills, cars,  the list goes on.  when you make time to see and connect with friends and family in your life… you’re saying something.  you’re letting that person know that they are important.  they are a priority.  their presence in your life, hopefully, brings you comfort and joy.  it’s why you make time, right?  do me a favor.  think back to the last noteworthy home cooked meal you may have had with say, your mom… or your sibling… or a significant other… that food, more than likely, was prepared with love.   when you cook with love and compassion and your soul is happy… all of that shows up in your dish.  ie: the people who eat it can feel that shit.  it is a mindful practice… where the cook is thinking fondly on those who will consume their dish… and they long to nourish that person inside and out… it becomes almost a spiritual culinary experience.  taste goes beyond flavor.  it involves all of the senses… sight, smells, sounds, touch and texture… the company for the meal…  your head space as you nosh… right??  all of it plays a role in your food experience.  are you sad? are you content? are you rushed? are you relaxed??  all of these affect the taste.   I love this… and it’s why I love feeding others.  it is also… why I love foods that require one utensil.  soups, stews, shallow bowls full of rice or pasta swimming in deliciously flavorful sauces.  things that can be eaten with one spoon, or one fork.  things that can be carried to a favorite chair or couch or beside a fire… and enjoyed with both hands… one holding the vessel, and the other doing the work to bring food to mouth.  easy.  comforting. simple, but memorable.  these are the types of foods I enjoy sharing with others.   experiment with your dining experiences, and notice the way food tastes differently in various settings.  I can be by a bonfire on a crisp cool night with a few friends and a few beers… and the hot dog I roast over the flame can taste better than a fancy steak almost every damn time.  it’s the setting.  the vibe.  pizza on a rooftop patio with Edison lights strung about vs. inside the sterile pizza shop in a tomato red booth with fluorescent lighting.  food on vacation vs. food after a stressful work meeting…  we know the answer to that.  don’t even get me started on music…. haaha!   food is love.  feel the love yo.  anyway…. enjoy this stew.

 

WHAT YOU NEED:

a little  over a pound of bulk (loose) hot sausage

cup of dried lentils (cooked according to package directions)

half of a butternut squash, peeled and diced (or buy it pre packaged and already prepped)

two large carrots (peeled and diced)

two large stalks of celery (leaves included: diced)

three cloves of garlic, chopped or minced

one large onion, diced

one bell pepper (red, yellow or orange)

one 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

one 14oz can chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1 heaped tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

pinch of turmeric

Prepare all vegetables.  Wash, peel, chop and set aside in a large bowl.  You will be adding them all at once, so don’t worry about keeping them separate.  This way, once your stew gets rolling and you brown your sausage, you’ll be ready to add them.  if you’ve never prepped a BN squash, lop off the top and bottom with a sharp, sturdy knife and stand it on it’s bottom.  Carefully cut it straight down the middle top to bottom.  Spoon out seeds and discard.  with a vegetable peeler, carefully peel off the outer layer of skin.  you are now ready to chop it up into bite sized chunks.  you could also buy pre peeled and chopped “ready to cook” if you are feeling lazy.

cook lentils as per package. drain and set aside.

add a generous swirl of olive oil in your favorite dutch oven.  turn on your flame and begin to brown you sausage, careful not to burn.  break it up with your spatula and stir frequently.  once you are sure it is browned and cooked through, remove it onto a place with a slotted spoon, keeping juice and grease in the dutch oven.  you will be cooking your veggies in this grease. set aside.  add your vegetables and cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  add a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of chicken broth and all of your spices.  stir together to combine. bring up to a boil.  add your sausage back in and stir to combine.  turn heat down to medium low and cover it, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. uncover, stir, and check your carrots and celery for doneness. cook few mins longer if necessary.  once these are cooked to your liking, cut the heat and add in the cooked lentils. stir once more and serve it up! I like to add a large handful of chopped fresh parsley.  fine without though. Enjoy! you will enjoy this stew for days… I’ve even been known to eat it for a late breakfast.   for the most part… pretty easy… and very very comforting…  the way life SHOULD be, if we’re doing it right.

peace and love.  spags.

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Healthy Hippie Stew

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SWEET MAGNOLIA  it has been almost two years since i have blogged.  this makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. cry because i love love love writing and blogging and collecting thoughts in print… and smile because this just shows that my life, this beautiful life, is consuming me and filling me right the hell up so that blogging has slipped my mind entirely!  that being said, my new years resolution was to blog more, so giddy up on that.  also, i plan to buy a go pro with some of our income tax money- so i will likely be sneaking in a few cooking videos on here. i know for a fact i have said such things in the past and never followed through, but i think i’m feeling it this time.   i have shut down both of my ETSY shops, just not feeling it anymore, and the fees- albeit small, do add up when you have lots of listings.  the nice thing is, they leave the shop intact, so that when you want to come back- all is as you left it.  sooooo, yeah- recent events:  March in Pittsburgh means more snow just when you become sick of snow.  it also means 60’s one day and 25 degrees the next.  it’s bananas.  i looked out the window this morning and the roads were clear.  i heard my dog barking like a loon an hour later, and the roads were covered and a car had wrecked and flipped over across the street!  i’m telling you, Pittsburgh weather is bananas.  we just got back from an amazing ten day tropical vacation on a small island forty minutes off the coast of Belize.  it was called Caye Caulker… and it was amazing.  i booked our little cottage on Airbnb and then secured some flights.  the exchange rate was fantastic, 2 to 1!  i highly recommend visiting that island if you are looking for something off the beaten path and free of huge resorts, huge hotels and large shopping malls- etc.  this place is tiny.  you can bike one end to the other in under fifteen mins, but it lacks nothing.  there are bars, restaurants, little markets, a bank, two cemeteries- but no hospitals- lol.   it is super authentic Caribbean, with a hippie vibe and lots of smiling happy faces.  which brings me to my dish i created.  HIPPIE STEW.  when in caye caulker, we ate a lot of what they called- “stew chicken” which was traditionally served with red beans and rice as well as coleslaw.  it was beyond delicious, yet so simple.  it inspired me to create a dish that i could enjoy eating for many days, and even freeze portions for quick lunches.  i wanted to be able to make it in under an hour- and have this large return for my time.  i succeeded!  this is also quite inexpensive to make- and actually gives you a whole extra chicken breast to create another meal with!  i made my husband a tomato based sauce with capers and sauteed onions and spices and added the chicken and served it to him in a bowl over linguine! (he loves pasta!)  i was happy with my healthy hippie stew and he was happy with his pasta!  win-win.

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:

one package of bone in, skin on split chicken breasts (two breasts in pack- usually around five bucks total- maybe less)

1 cup of lentils (green or red- whatever)

1/2 cup white rice (not minute rice people… real rice)

1/3 cup orzo pasta (or pastini if that’s all you have)

1 tsp of curry powder

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of pepper

1 large onion diced

1 large carrot diced (2 if smaller)

2 celery stalks diced

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 small zucchini diced

large handful of fresh bagged spinach (chopped)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

few squirts of hot sauce

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

fill a large dutch oven halfway full with water. mine is a 6 quart pot.  adjust accordingly.

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bring water to a boil and add your TWO skin on/bone in chicken breasts.  turn heat to medium and let these go for about a half hour uncovered.  prep all of your vegetables at this time.  slice/ dice your heart out.  put them into nice little organized cereal bowls so you’re ready to add to stew at given time.

this recipe is crazy versatile.  if you don’t like zucchini, don’t add it.  wanna use kale in place of spinach? DO IT!  hate chick peas?  Add black beans! celery turn your stomach? double up on carrots! you feelin’ me?

OK so after about a half hour, remove cooked chicken to a large plate and set aside to let it cool down.  turn heat up to high again and add the ONIONS, LENTILS, RICE AND ORZO.  cook these over high heat,  stirring occasionally for about five or six minutes.   Then add the carrots, celery, spices/herbs/salt/pepper/hot sauce,  and chick peas.  return to boil.   once this comes back to a boil, turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and let cook for 15 mins.  stir it once during cooking.  water should be starting to be absorbed by the grains a bit.

while it is cooking, take and prepare your chicken.  you are only using ONE of the breasts here folks.  we used TWO in order to properly flavor the broth- but all of that chicken would be waaay too much in this, so do as i said and utilize it for another meal.  ((shred for chicken salad, use it for chicken and waffles, make the kids chicken quesadillas with cheese,  whatever you can dream up.))   OK- slice or chop or shred or however you choose to create bite sized pieces of chicken to add back into the stew.  set it aside and be ready.

uncover the pot after the 15 mins and add in your zucchini, chopped spinach and prepared chicken.  stir well and cover again.  let cook a few mins more over medium heat and then turn off heat, leaving lid intact.   at this point i like to tidy up the kitchen and get ready to enjoy some hippie stew!  ladle yourself a small portion, allow to cool a bit and then taste.  tweak accordingly with salt/pepper or maybe some hot sauce.  take a picture and attach this blog post!!  let me know how it turned out.  i love to hear from people who have cooked from my blog.  food is love.  enjoy!!

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“life is either a daring adventure… or nothing at all.”  ~helen keller

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Allow your soul to rest,  stop and be amazed by the sea.   

Don’t listen to what i say… go and SEE !!

embrace the pace yo.  spags.

 

my journey into fermentation…

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so yeah… Kombucha tea.  it’s happening.  it’s been happening for months.  i am in the thick of it.  i’ve shared one SCOBY already, and i’m ready to gift my second upon completion of this batch.  i have ARRIVED, i suppose you could declare, as far as the Kombucha brewing crowd is concerned.  what IS Kombucha you ask???  it is a fermented tea, helped along by something called a SCOBY.  which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  it begins as a batch of plain and simple tea… with a cup of sugar added… brewed under near sterile technique… but that, my friend, is the boring part.  the real magic happens when the SCOBY is added to the jar with a cup or two of the starter liquid, and it is left unattended in a dark and lonely space for 7-10 days or so.  when you bring that lovely and hard working jar out into the light of your kitchen, and you note the bubbles around the scoby- and you remove your paper towel and rubber band…. VOILA! you see that your scoby has grown, seemingly doubled… from living and breathing and working with your sugar and caffeine in the tea.  it is ‘foodie science’ at it’s finest people.   set aside the probiotics and other health benefits you are about to experience, although these are huge… i am addicted to the TASTE of this stuff.  it has the most lovely balance of sour and sweet, and it’s FIZZY!!  how did all of this happen from plain tea??  you feel like you are a part of a science class, and you just aced your class project.  if you are any part nerd, like i am, you are gonna dig this whole scene… trust me.   enter then more coolness… the ability to do a second ferment- adding some juice or dried fruits to your cleaned (boiled if glass) bottles, adding tea up to the neck, capping, and allowing them to sit out at room temp (in same dark space) for three more days.  this builds carbonation, naturally, and gives it the fizziness as well as allowing it to feed a bit on whatever fruit or juice you have added.  the first time i brewed, i added some dried cherries to one or two bottles, a few slices of dried mango to another, and some “just blueberry” juice to the others.  just make sure your juice is 100% juice without additives- and of a high quality.  when i started out doing this, i used cleaned and sanitzed small coke bottles so that i could squeeze them a couple of days into the second ferment… if they were stiff- i knew there was carbonation happening.  warning: do not neglect or forget about these bottles, they can explode. unlike soda, which does not continue to carbonate as it sits… these WILL.  they are living and working cultured drinks.  putting them in the fridge nearly stops the fermentation process, and they can be stored and enjoyed for up to a month.  the recommendation is to start out slowly in your Kombucha consumption.  4 oz. a day is a good rule of thumb.  also, drink PLENTY  of water after enjoying.  although kombucha has a sweet taste, keep in mind that it IS an acidic beverage, and consuming too much can wreak havoc on your system, throw off your acid/base balance and literally make you sick. as with everything in life, too much of even a good thing, is… well… too much.   after a week or so of adjusting and comforting your body to the presence of the Kombucha, you may find a morning and night routine to be appealing.  i find that when i consume a few ounces of this before bed at night- it aids greatly in digestion and does it’s best work while you sleep- at a time when you’re not adding anything else to your tummy.  just my two cents… but it works well i find.  you will read these things about kombucha as you leave my blog and do some homework:  it is low in calories and sugar, it may or may not contain trace amounts (1% or less) of alcohol as a by product of the short fermentation process.  it is full of probiotics and antioxidants, which our intestines love. It  can boost overall health, aid in anxiety and depression,  heart burn, arthritis, improve your skin and nails and the list goes on.  pretty amazing stuff actually.  no wonder it has been consumed for centuries in ancient China and touted “the elixir of life.”   enzymes boost metabolism.  this is a proven fact.  so you do the math.  although you may actually see a one or two pound weight GAIN when you start on this, it is simply due to it causing your gut to function WAY more efficiently.  for a short time, i know, TMI… i saw a decrease in output for a few days… maybe i wasn’t drinking enough water, who knows… but shortly there after, i was on the regularity train, and how!!   Kombucha tea costs anywhere from 2 – 7 dollars a bottle when you buy it at health food stores, no joke. it’s not cheap.  when you brew your own… we’re talking pennies a bottle when it’s all said and done.  if you don’t have filtered water (either on your tap or a Brita in the fridge) it is recommended to use distilled water.  i buy a gallon of it each time i brew. just to be safe. the last thing i want to do is mess up my scoby. lol.  i look at that thing as my mother ship to all future brews… well, because it IS!  i have decided to NOT advise you how to brew Kombucha on this blog… simply because it is a lot of typing, a lot of steps, and i would feel AWFUL if i missed an important step and it didn’t work out for you.  google it. you will have fun clicking from site to site- learning as you go. take notes. heck, start a little journal, jot down notes with each brew and then add notes about taste and whatever you encounter with your body as well.  again… there’s the nerd in me coming out.  i found some useful info on the wholeliving.com  site, as well as thekitchn.com .  there is kombucha eric- who is a high energy dude with oodles of good info for you surrounding kombucha.  he is one of the founders of kombucha brooklyn.  you can order scobys from them, starter kits, flip top bottles, etc.   but most sites you will visit will link you to places and hook ups for starter kits.  anyway, yeah… Kombucha… i’m loving it.  enjoy!!

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