Cooking up Natural Skin Care

Cooking up Natural Skin Care

You are likely wondering what I have been cooking lately. Well in the last year or so I promise I have been cooking! When I got pregnant with my daughter life started getting very busy, very fast, and my blogging took a hit. I am looking forward to finding the time again to share what I eat and encourage others to live healthfully.

During my pregnancy I felt very strongly about taking the best care of my body, both inside and out. I started to develop my own skin care products so I could benefit from all natural ingredients without any unwanted chemicals. I started with what I like to call the Original Oil, a simple blend of coconut oil, jajoba oil, and vitamin E.  Perfect ingredients for healthy and glowing skin in perfect proportions.  Since then I discovered the magical benefit of sweet almond oil and developed my all time favorite product, Almond Original Oil.  This can be used anywhere and everywhere; absorbs deep into your skin to fight wrinkles, aging, and dryness.

I started sharing my products and ideas with friends and got wonderful encouragement to branch out and start selling. I recently took the plunge and opened an etsy shop where I have all of my favorite items available for sale. Check out my shop and enjoy softer, brighter, healthier skin!

 

Maddy Grace Skin Care on ETSY

 

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Healthy Date Nut Cookies

Healthy Date Nut Cookies

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I got this recipe from my sister when we were visiting a few months ago.  I believe she found the recipe on http://www.damndelicious.com.  She kept raving about how wonderful and easy these little cookies are to make, and she boasted that her 3 year old and 18 month old love them as well.  They are dairy free, gluten free, everything free so I was suspicious that they would be lumpy, dry, and tasteless.  They ended up being totally delicious and a true guilt free substitute for sugary, buttery, flour filled treats.  I have been playing around with mine adding various dried fruits, oatmeal, and seeds to make more of a granola bar as well, which is fabulous.  The recipe makes 8-12 cookies depending on size, so I usually double them as they get eaten very quickly.

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Ingredients:

-1 cups of pitted Medjool dates (11-12)
-1 1/2 cups of raw walnut halves
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax or chia seeds mixed with 3 Tbsp of water)
-Optional additions:
-1/3-1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips
-1/4 cup dried cranberries, cherries, or blueberries
-1/3 cup of old fashioned oats

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F and prepare baking sheet by lining with wax paper.
2. Use food processor with “S” blade to process dates and walnuts until crumbled and mixed.

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3. Add salt, baking soda, vanilla, and flax egg using the pulse feature to not over process (I like the cookies a little chunky, but if you want a smoother consistency feel free to pulse longer).
4. Stir in any optional ingredients that are desired.

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5. Wet your hands and flatten out cookies to place on lined baking sheet (they won’t expand so they can be placed pretty close).

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Plain followed by Chocolate and Cherry .

6. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until slightly golden brown, allow to cool on pan before transferring to a wire rack.

Serve warm or store in the fridge for up to a week.

Enjoy!

Red Wine Braised Oxtail

Red Wine Braised Oxtail

2014-12-14 19.01.41 On a cold winter day, braised meat makes an ideal comfort food to warm your home and your belly.  I got turned on to oxtail several years ago after making an oxtail ragu with friends.  Recently I started buying this cut of beef again, and after a few tries I think I have perfected the recipe.  Oxtail is the relatively inexpensive tail of cattle skinned and cut into short lengths.  The meat has a large bony center with a gelatin rich core, excellent for making stock.  When cooked low and slow the meat will fall off the bone while the gelatin and fat will melt to make an amazingly flavorful and hearty meal.

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You will want to start this dish early in the afternoon to give it adequate time to develop flavor.  Braising is a simple but long process that yields delicious results with cheap cuts of meat.  One thing to keep in mind when braising any cut of meat is to use a wine that you enjoy drinking on its own, since the wine is such an integral part of the dish.  While at the market I was enticed by an even cheaper cut of beef along with the oxtail, the beef shank with bone, which I used in the dish with the oxtail.  I bought it because it basically looked like a larger piece of oxtail.  The friendly butcher at the Paulina Meat Market assured me it would braise beautifully.  He was right, I will definitely be buying and braising this cut again.

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Oxtail (left) and Shank with bone (right)

Previous times braising oxtail I did not bother to make a sauce out of the remaining juices, I just ladled the thin juices on top.  I found several recipes that recommend making a simple roux to thicken the liquid into a sauce, so I thought I’d give it a try.  It took an extra 5 minutes to make the sauce, but it was well worth the effort.  The sauce brought the dish to a whole new level, and if I do say so myself was better than anything I’ve eaten out in a while.

Ingredients:

-4-5 pounds of oxtail (I used 2 lbs of oxtail and 1 large shank of beef with bone)
-6 Tbsp butter, divided into 2 Tbsp pads
-2 large onions, diced
-3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced
-5 carrots, peeled and sliced
-2 stalks of celery, sliced
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
-Salt and pepper
-Garlic powder
-2 sprigs of rosemary
-3 bay leaves
-3 Tbsp tomato paste
-1 bottle of red wine
-4 cups of chicken or beef stock
-2Tbsp flour

Directions:

1. Season meat on both sides liberally with salt, pepper, and powdered garlic.

2. In a large dutch oven on medium heat melt 2 Tbsp of butter and brown meat on all sides.  Brown in batches to avoid over crowding the pan.

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3. Remove meat when browned and set aside.  Add onions to dutch oven and season with salt, up to 2 tsp of black pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Cook on medium/low heat with 2 additional Tbsp of butter until lightly browned.

4. Add garlic, carrots, and celery and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes before adding tomato paste.

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5. Add wine, broth, rosemary sprigs, and bay leaves returning heat to medium, simmer until liquid is reduced to nearly half.

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6. Preheat oven to 325F.  Return meat to dutch oven with juices, bring to a simmer.  Cover with oven proof lid or cover tightly with foil.  Cook in oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

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7. Carefully remove bay leaves and rosemary sprigs.  The rosemary will break off from the stem, which is fine.  Remove 2/3 of the liquid from dutch oven and spoon into a small pan to make a sauce.

8. To make sauce: soften remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and mix with 2 Tbsp of flour to make a roux, stir into hot liquid to thicken into a sauce over medium heat for a few minutes to desired consistency.

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9. Serve over a bed of creamy mashed potatoes.

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Enjoy!

Butterscotch Peanut Butter Fudge

Butterscotch Peanut Butter Fudge

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The holiday season is full of sweet treats, cookies, cakes, candies, and of course, fudge.  A small piece goes a long way when it comes to fudge, and this butterscotch version is no exception.  Butter is in the title, twice, so you know it’s good. The other great thing about fudge is that it is incredibly easy to make.  This is a recipe that my mother has been making for as long as I can remember.  I pressed chopped walnuts on top, but you can make them nut free, or mix the nuts into the fudge if you like.  I promise you will not be disappointed as this creamy fudge melts in your mouth.  I made this over the stove top, but you can zap the ingredients in the microwave for an even faster process if you .

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Ingredients:

1-12oz bag of butterscotch chips
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1-14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts

Directions:

1. Pour chips into a glass bowl and place over a pot of boiling water to melt the chips.  This will allow the ingredients to melt without risking being burnt in the bottom of a pain that is on direct heat.

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2. When chips are melted and thick, add the rest of the ingredients (except walnuts if planning to press into the top) and mix well until smooth and melted.  The mixture will be very thick, do not overheat.

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3. Pour into a 8×8 or 6×8 glass or metal dish.  If adding walnuts to the top, pour on top and press down into fudge to secure.

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4. Place in refrigerator for at least 12 hours to cool and set before cutting.  Keep in refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

Bison Stuffed Acorn Squash

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As a kid my mom used to stuff squash with meatballs and bake them to make a complete meal in one self contained dish.  She was really onto something.  I have been making these little numbers for years, using my mom’s meatball recipe.  You can use any squash of your choosing, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, etc.  I decided to mix the meatball recipe up a bit when I found some good looking ground bison at the grocery store.  To enhance the fall flavor of the squash the bison was perfect.  I used rounded out the meatball with leeks and fennel.  The result was delicious!  I used 2 pounds of meat and was able to stuff 2 full acorn squash (4 halves) and 2 green peppers.  I don’t like to use bread crumbs in my meatballs, so these are paleo friendly.

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Ingredients:

-2 Acorn squash, halved and seeded.
-2 Green bell peppers, stem and core removed
-1 lb sausage (I used a spicy sausage)
-1 lb ground bison meat (you can use ground beef or turkey if bison isn’t your thing)
-1/2 tsp ground black pepper, heaping
-1/2 tsp celery salt
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1 tsp dried thyme, heaping
-1 tsp dried sage, heaping
-1/4 tsp red pepper flake
-1 leek quartered and sliced
-1/2 fennel bulb, diced

Directions:

1. Wash and prepare the squash and green peppers.

2. Mix together the meatballs by adding sausage, bison, seasonings, leeks, and fennel.

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3. Stuff meat mixture into center of squash and green peppers, arrange on a baking sheet.

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4. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour (more or less, until meatball is cooked through).  Half way through cooking time I brushed some of the drippings around the top of squash to prevent drying.  You can also rub with oil or butter.

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With this dish I eat the skin of the squash as it gets soft with baking.  If you want you can serve with a small salad for a very healthy and delicious dinner!  A thick piece of toasted bread with goat cheese is also nice with this dish.

Don’t throw away the seeds from the squash, you can season and bake these as well to eat alone or toss onto a salad.  I seasoned mine with salt, pepper, and garlic.

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Bake at 350 for 15 minutes (more or less for desired browning/crisp)

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Enjoy!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2014-09-23 20.10.04Sweet potatoes are a nutritious fall treat.  Rich in dietary fiber, vitamins A, B, and C it makes for a great side dish to any meal.  The starchy goodness is complimented by subtle sweetness that really takes off when highlighted the right way.  I got 3 pretty big sweet potatoes in our CSA this week that I knew I couldn’t eat all by myself, so I had to find a way to disguise them into something my husband would eat.  Roasting the potatoes is an easy way to cook them, and it brings out the natural sweetness in the vegetables.   I also learned that baking sweet potatoes increases the Vitamin C content, go figure.  To sweeten I debated between using my traditional go-to brown sugar or maple syrup.  I went the maple syrup route as I keep hearing it is the new “healthy sugar” of choice.

I am not a fan of going full-sweet when making dinner sides, so to keep the savory touch I roasted with leeks and put a few sprigs of thyme on top. Usually, I remove thyme from the stem and stir it into my dishes, but I so often see in recipes that the thyme is used whole to add flavor then removed.  Sometimes the small leaves become bitter while roasting, so I kept the stems attached and removed the sprigs just prior to eating.  I was surprised at how the flavor incorporated so well without actually remaining in the finished product.  To round out the flavors I mixed in a few dashes of ground ginger.  This side smelt like thanksgiving while roasting, maybe it will make an appearance on the thanksgiving table this year.

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Ingredients:

-2 Large Sweet Potatoes, washed and diced with skin on
-1 large leek, diced into 1/2-1″ pieces
-2 Tbsp of oil (I used grape seed oil, you can use whatever you prefer)
-salt and pepper to taste
-2-3 dashes of ground ginger
-2-3 Tbsp of high quality maple syrup
-3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions:

  1. Prepare potatoes and leeks and place into oven safe dish.  Drizzle with olive oilthen season with salt, pepper, and ground ginger.
  2. Mix well then place sprigs of thyme on top, drizzle with maple syrup and an additional dash of salt.
  3. Roast in the oven at 400F for 45 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender, stir once during roasting.
  4. Remove thyme sprigs after cooking.

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Enjoy!

Hot Giardiniera

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Giardiniera is a blend of vegetables that are pickled and can be eaten as an antipasto or used as a condiment.  This recipe is one I got from my mom years ago and have really grown to love.  It takes some prep work and you are a few days away from the finished product, but believe me it is well worth the efforts.  When you make a giardiniera using hot peppers like this recipe, it is also called “Chicago Giardiniera”, typically eaten on Italian beef sandwiches.  We eat it liberally on sandwiches, wraps, sausages, spaghetti squash, over eggs, or even on its own.

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I have experimented in the past with hot water canning this giardiniera to preserve it for months.  This is a little risky as I do not have a recipe for timing the cooking or canning of this recipe to kill of all the bacteria, so I do not feel comfortable sharing a method at this time.  I suggest keeping the giardiniera in the fridge and using it up in a few weeks to a month.  The vinegar is preserving to allow the vegetables to stay fresh in the fridge for quite a while.

The oil you use should be picked based on flavor, so pick a high quality.  Know that the oil will solidify slightly in the fridge, so let it sit out a few minutes before eating.  If you want to lighten up the recipe a little, I would suggest using a grape seed or avocado oil in place of olive oil.  The recipe makes a significant amount, 6-8 pints, based on how quickly you will consume it may be wise to plan to share or half the recipe below.

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Ingredients:

2 green bell peppers, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
8 fresh jalepenos, sliced
1-2 other hot peppers of choice
3 large celery stalks, sliced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups fresh cauliflower florets, diced small
1/2 cup salt
water to cover
2-3 cloves garlic, freshly minced
1 tbsp dried oregano, heaping
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
1-5oz jar green olives, sliced (if desired)
1 C white vinegar (pickling or white wine)
1 C olive oil (or avocado or grape seed oil work well also)

Directions:

  1. Place the prepared peppers, celery, carrots, onion, and cauliflower into a large bowl that is able to be sealed or covered.  Stir in salt and fill with cold water until vegetables are covered.  Cover bowl and place in fridge overnight.2014-09-07 17.07.16
  2. The next day, drain salty water and rinse vegetables well.
  3. In a bowl mix garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, black pepper and olives.  Pour in vinegar and oil, mix well to combine with vegetables. 2014-09-08 19.40.58
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days before use.

I typically package the giardiniera into pint or cup sized mason jars immediately after mixing, however you can return mixture to the original large bowl and seal in the fridge for 2 days before distributing into easier to manage jars or containers.

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Enjoy!