Easy Dinner: Brats with Peppers and Onions (Toaster Oven Friendly)

Easy meal:Brats with Peppers and Onions (that can be made in a toaster oven!). Flavored with basil and garlic. Yum!

This easy dinner recipe gives you juicy brats with lightly browned onions and peppers that are lovely served in a bun or over rice. The brats (or sausage and hot dogs of your choice) get lightly browned and stay juicy, while the peppers and onions add a lot of flavor, color, and nutrition to the dish. I especially like it served with sauerkraut on the side.

When the weather is hot I throw this into our toaster oven, so it doesn’t heat up our house, and uses little electricity too. It does give out some heat (although not half as much as a regular oven), so we also cook this in our laundry room to prevent our kitchen and living space from getting any warmer. (Just make sure you keep it away from kids as the toaster oven gets very hot).

A Word on Equipment:

We choose to buy an inexpensive toaster oven that doesn’t have nonstick in it. You can read about it here. We are still very happy with it! (Here is a direct Amazon link: Waring Pro Digital Convection Oven).

If you are making a rice bowl, you can also use an Instant Pot or clay rice cooker – this is also a great way to prevent your kitchen from getting too hot on a warm day.

Are Sausage/Hot Dogs Good for You?

Finally, there have been some studies linking eating hot dogs to higher rates of certain childhood cancers, as well as possible cancer causing effects on adults. (This article has a good overview of some of them.) While there could be other explanations for some of the results (that is, people who ate more processed meats also could be more likely to be eating an unbalanced diet), the statistics are still compelling. For that reason, we try to avoid or limit sausage and processed meats that contain nitrates and are heavily processed. The brats pictured above are from a local grocery store that grinds their own meat and stuffs their sausage themselves. It’s no different from eating ground meat, so I feel they are a good choice.

Feeding your family vitamin C containing fruits and vegetables (including lacto-fermented sauerkraut) could also help prevent toxic components of processed or grilled meats from affecting your health. I find it fascinating how previously unknown benefits to well-balanced diets are still being discovered! As always, we choose not to worry too much about every single discovery but buy the best quality we can afford and serve well-balanced meals. I was also amused to learn that marinades with herbs and garlic (like this recipe) help prevent carcinogens from forming when cooking meat at high heat. Sometimes what tastes best also is better for you!

Easy meal:Brats with Peppers and Onions (that can be made in a toaster oven!). Flavored with basil and garlic. Yum!

Brats with Peppers and Onions

PDF for Printing

Serves 5

  • 5 brats (or sausage/hot dog of choice)
  • 2 bell peppers (red and yellow are nice), seeded, stemmed, and thinly sliced
  • 1 onion (sweet or yellow), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Unrefined Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2 tablespoons of fat (melted) or oil of your choice, heat safe.

1:Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400F.

2. Place all of the ingredients on a sheet pan, drizzle oil or melted fat over everything, and then toss to coat vegetables and meat evenly.

3: Place in oven or toaster oven and roast until the vegetables are soft and the sausage is completely cooked through (about 20 minutes – but it depends on the thickness of the sausage. A toaster oven will cook them faster). Ground meat products such as sausage should reach the temperature of 160F internally. I also like to see a little bit of browning on the sausage and vegetables.

4:Serve as desired, and enjoy!

 

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Lemon Mint Tea (Using a Whole Lemon)

A refreshing, anti-inflammatory tea - served hot or cold! -- The Nourishing Gourmet

This easy tea combines the gentle flavor of mint with the bright, fresh flavors of lemon. I drink a quart of this almost every day as it makes me feel more energized and keeps me hydrated. It’s also soothing to drink when sick. Add honey for sweetness or when you have a sore throat. Pour over ice to make a refreshing iced tea!

This definitely has a big lemon punch to it, so if you don’t enjoy flavors on the sour side, don’t steep as long.

I created this method of making tea when I was brainstorming ways to include lemon peel in my diet on a more regular basis. I’ve been working on adding more anti-inflammatory foods into my diet, and lemon peel caught my eye.

Extracts from lemon peel have been studied in a wide variety of applications. It’s been associated with having an anti-cancer effect. 1, 2, It has possible uses for helping with heartburn and cholesterol caused gallstones. 3 Orange peel extracts could help with inflammation as much as ibuprofen. 4 Low Doses of Citrus peel extracts (CPE) “most likely can be used for the treatment of the T cell-mediated liver injury as in autoimmune hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis, and chronic viral hepatitis.” 5.

Note that many of these studies were done with animals, and are still in beginning stages of research. But so far there is a lot of exciting research showing many potential benefits. My tea is not going to be the same as the strong extracts used in the above studies, but I figure it can’t hurt!

All to say, citrus peels not only add a big oomph of flavor, but they could be helping our health. This recipe is just one easy way to first of all not waste the most flavorful part of the lemon –the peel. But it also is a gentle way to include some of the benefits of citrus peel in your diet.

Notes on ingredients and supplies:

  • I make my tea in this French Press . I leave the lid off while it steeps, so there is no plastic and heat interaction. You could easily do this in a small pot, but I like the convenience of using my French Press.
  • Use whatever favorite mint tea brand you like! We recently planted to several types of peppermint in pots on our porch so that we have fresh available to use in recipes like this. But you can also use bulk peppermint tea,
  • Buy the best lemons you can. I buy organic lemons. Conventional peels may (will) have pesticide residue or waxes. I believe that organic lemons can have some waxes too, but use beeswax based ones. Best case scenario would be getting lemons completely untreated!

A refreshing, anti-inflammatory tea - served hot or cold! -- The Nourishing Gourmet

Lemon Mint Tea (Using the Whole Lemon)

PDF for Printing 

  • 1 lemon, organic, washed well and thinly sliced
  • 2 bags of peppermint tea, loose tea equivalent, or several sprigs of fresh

Place thinly sliced lemon and peppermint in French Press. Heat purified water to boiling point. Pour over lemon and peppermint tea filling to the band on the French Press. Let steep for 15-30 minutes – the longer you leave it, the stronger it will become.

Drink plain, with honey, and reheated, if desired. I enjoy mine not super hot, so it’s usually perfect after steeping about 20 minutes.

Research Sources:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11142088
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7948106
3. 3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18072821
4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213453014000056
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4121996/

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Easiest Gluten Free Cake from a Muffin Mix

This super easy and frugal gluten free cake got rave reviews! -- The Nourishing Gourmet

One of the things that made me first love being in the kitchen was baking. I love baking! Warm bread from the oven, juicy pies, sweet cakes, healthy muffins, pizza, bagels ¬– I love it all. I especially loved making baked good for my family and friends. I still have my love of baking, but I don’t always have the time or energy now to spend as much time baking as I’d like. In fact, as we have been in survival mode as I go through treatment for a chronic health issue, I’ve hardly been baking at all.

For us this last year, if we were in the kitchen it was making the most basic of basic things while we tried to figure out my health issues (things like super easy skillet dinners). Dinner was a priority. Making cookies weren’t.

However, when there was a special occasion (such as a birthday), I really needed to make sure I made something special for the girls. To them, it’s not a birthday unless we have cake. A couple of years ago they were horrified that I didn’t have a cake on my birthday. It was like having Christmas without a Christmas tree to them!

So while this addition to my series, The Low Energy Guide to Healthy Cooking, isn’t exactly centered on a healthy main dish, I think it’s important for those of us who need a relatively healthy option for gluten-free cake making for our family.

My youngest has a birthday coming up, and we had two fall birthdays, all during a time of ill health for me. I’ve never found baking to be tiring until recently when I’ve found most kitchen tasks to be tiresome and have had to keep things as simple as possible.

As I was scrambling to make the all important birthday cake, I figured out a method that kept sugar content lower and made things super easy and fast for me. Win-win!

My New “Secret” GF Cake Trick

You all know that I am a make-it-by-scratch all the time type person. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and with the girl’s birthdays coming up, I knew that having a homemade cake for them was really important to them. I was feeling extreme fatigue at that time, though, so I knew my usual soaked gluten-free cakes were not going to be an option. I also knew that all of the gluten-free cake mixes were extremely sweet – something we didn’t enjoy.

In a moment of inspiration, I found a gluten-free muffin mix that was more lightly sweetened and had good (not perfect, but good) ingredients in it. When I compared it to some of the gluten-free cake mixes, the muffin mix was only about half of the sugar content per serving!

We made it into a lemon cake for my ten-year-old’s birthday by simply adding lemon zest to the mix with homemade lemon frosting once it was baked. For my six-year-old, we added vanilla and sprinkles for a fun cake that she adored.

It wasn’t too sweet, they were super easy to make (even for me with my fatigue), and my girls felt loved and happy with their cakes. When I served this cake to guests at their birthday party, I was gratified to see that everyone liked the cake, and even a hard-to-please family member complimented me on the cake. Great news for a gluten-free cake made out of a muffin mix! With a frosting, the sweetness it just right for a birthday cake.

For their joint, Pokemon party, we did the same trick and made it into a Pokemon ball cake.

Tips for Success

This is the gluten free muffin mix we used.
Instead of using muffin tins, I just greased two cake pans. It took roughly the same amount of time to cook as the muffins on the package instructions. Since this will make thin layers, check for doneness a couple of minutes early. You can also make just one cake layer (just add more time to the cooking time).
I added lemon zest to both the cake and a simple frosting for the lemon cake (one lemon for each).
For the sprinkle cake, I added vanilla to the batter along with a generous amount of sprinkles. For the frosting, I used freeze dried raspberries and blended them into a powder in my blender. I added that to a simple butter frosting, and then lightly sprinkled with sprinkles.
For the Pokemon cake, I kept it a simple vanilla cake by adding 2 teaspoons of vanilla and then decorated with dark chocolate chips and red sprinkles on top of a plain butter frosting.
I was in survival mode, so I didn’t think of it in time, but you can order naturally dyed sprinkles! (Examples:This one or this one. )

Other ideas: Chocolate chip cake – add chocolate chips, Orange cake – use orange zest, Lemon Poppyseed: Zest of one lemon and 1 tablespoon of poppyseeds.

Two other bonuses? This is a very inexpensive cake to make. I thought about buying a cake from a gluten-free local bakery, but it would have been at least 6- 10 times the price. Plus, it’s so easy to put together even a beginner baker can easily make it (like one of your children!).

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5 Tips for Holiday Meal Planning with Low Energy

Low energy going into the holiday season? No worries! Here's how to simplify.

I love the holiday season. It’s been a favorite time of year for me since my childhood. But thinking of my childhood, it’s good to realize that our holiday traditions were simple, yet still magical for me.

Holiday meal planning doesn’t necessarily have to be stressful and overly difficult either. Elaborate and fancy meals are so much fun to plan, but when you don’t have the time or energy, it’s good to remember how simple holiday fun can be.

Because of health issues this year, we are picking and choosing where my energy goes, and this is true for holiday meals too. Here are four ways we are planning our holidays, with (and despite) low energy.

Simplify

I know this is obvious, but it’s so important! One quick example: Originally I had hoped to have gingerbread, hot cocoa, and popcorn for our tree trimming tradition. But we realized that, as nice, and even as doable as that was most years, it wasn’t always feasible for me. So our tradition now is something like this: Get a tree, put on our favorite Christmas music, and make homemade (and super easy) hot cocoa to sip on during the tree trimming.

Sometimes Joel and I make ours into mochas by adding a shot of stovetop espresso.

Pumpkin Spice Hot Cocoa -www.thenourishinggourmet.com

And you know what? As simple as the tradition is, it’s a fun tradition that we love that builds memories with a homemade and real food beverage.

Some years we may have the bandwidth for a Christmas cookie extravaganza, Christmas baking efforts, and loads of handmade Christmas gifts. It’s wonderful to have those years. But other years, things may be trimmed back, whether because of finances, low energy, ill health, or because there is a new baby in the house. And even though those trimmed back years may be more simple, there is no reason to think they will be any less memorable and wonderful.

For Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day meals, simplifying is important too. I’ll be honest. We love having our holiday meals be feasts! But we’ve also found that doing a more streamlined holiday meal can be satisfying. By carefully selecting favorite dishes that complement each other well, we’ve had lovely feasts that may not have made the table groan but were satisfying and perfect.

Buy

Pumpkin Pie Stuffed Apples (GF/DF) - The Nourishing Gourmet

This is a food website. Obviously, we talk about homemade food a lot here and I believe fully in the beauty of making your own food. But there are years when it’s a lot harder to make everything from scratch. There is nothing wrong with buying some of your holiday food pre-made. If you are lucky enough to live in a place like Portland, you could even buy your entire Thanksgiving meal (made with real food ingredients) to re-heat. While this will never be my first choice, and because of our food restrictions, likely never feasible, there is no reason to kill yourself for a holiday meal if you have other options available.

Other ideas: Buy premade pies or desserts, premade cranberry salad, or trimmed vegetables ready to cook.

Collaborate

Cranberry Goat Cheese Ball

Holiday meals are meant to be shared. While it can be a lot of fun to prepare the whole meal, on years where this is daunting, sharing the workload is helpful too! One year where I made the majority of the dishes, a friend showed up early to help me finish up all of the cooking, and it was so much fun! This year our Thanksgiving is shaping up well, and all of us only have a two or so dishes we are in charge of bringing.

Pre-make

Spiced-Cranberry-Orange-Sauce

When possible, pre-make what you can. Cranberry sauce, salad dressing, chopped vegetables, pie crust or pies, can all be made one to three days before the holiday. By doing just one simple task every day, you can spread out the work and have that homemade feast you love.

Enjoy

How to make mashed potatoes in a slow cooker (including dairy free options)

Finally, don’t forget, no matter how simple or how store-bought your meal ends up being, to truly enjoy the meal. The people you enjoy the food with are far more important than what is on the table. I love showing my love for them by the food I make, but I also know that laughing with them, enjoying my time with them, and showing them that I can relax with them is far more important than stressing over food. Holiday meals are meant to be joyous. If you have low-energy or are just having a crazy year, do what you can, and then sit back and enjoy the holiday. Put some music on, and maybe celebrate with a favorite holiday movie later. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But it should be full of joy.