Why You Should Use Coconut Milk

I recently gave up dairy and discovered coconut milk as my go-to alternative. I’ve been surprised how versatile this ingredient is. This is one of my favorite alternatives because I don’t feel I’m compromising taste or texture in any of my recipes and unlike coconut oil, it does not taste like coconut.

I use it in my coffee in the morning. Not only does it have less calories than milk or cream, it is only has 50 calories per 1/3 cup serving. If you’re wondering if your coffee is going to taste like coconut, let me assure you that it doesn’t. I use Native Forest coconut milk which is organic and their cans are BPA free. I also use So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk in cartons. The great thing about either of these is that you can store them in your pantry until you’re ready to use them.

In a recent hotel stay, I had gone to the store to buy Lite Coconut Milk for my morning coffee. I had stopped by the hotel restaurant to get an iced coffee. They happen to add dairy to their coffees, so I gave the girl my coconut milk as a replacement. All I can say is you’ve got to try it. She added vanilla and caramel sugar-free syrup (At home I use a mixture of 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 part water and 1 part honey as a simple syrup) to the bottom of the cup, then ice, 1/3 cup of the coconut milk, and about 1/4 cup of very strong coffee. It was just as creamy and delicious as if she used cream. I’m actually surprised that it hasn’t caught on yet at restaurants. I see soy or almond milk, but not coconut milk.

You can use coconut milk to make yogurt, Greek yogurt and use them in your smoothies. NOTE: I use 2 probiotics instead of yogurt starter.

I’ve used coconut milk in my curries, soups and potatoes. You can even make ice cream in your ice cream maker with it. Just add pulverized bananas to sweeten it up (no sugar required) and a little vanilla. Pretty much anywhere you use milk or cream you can add coconut milk.

These are the three versions of coconut milk:

  • Coconut Milk – Use as a creamer or milk replacement
  • Lite Coconut Milk – Less heavier than regular coconut milk, but just as creamy.
  • Coconut Cream – A thicker version of coconut milk. Use as a cream replacement or use to make whipped cream (just store in the frig until ready to use).

I hope you give it a try. Drop me a line and let me know how you like it.

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The Many Genres of Food

Just like music has many genres, so does food. Vegetarian, paleo, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and low-carb just to name a few.

I read one girl say she was a Selectarian, where she enjoyed multiple eating disciplines based on her own needs and desires. I guess you could say that’s how I’d describe what we teach. We give you the options and let you decide.

In the quest to eat healthy, opening up your taste buds to different eating genres can open up a whole new world.

One size does not fit all.

A Food Journey

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Had I known what I know today, I would’ve changed my eating habits long ago. When we are young, we don’t look at the long-term affects it will have on us later in life.

About 18 years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. At the time, I was seeing a rheumatologist, who wrote out how many anti-inflammatory drugs I could take in one day. All I could picture was how my liver would look like when I was 50.

It wasn’t the only thing that ailed me. I had severe migraine headaches, chronic bladder and yeast infections that seemed to go in a vicious circle, I’ve had to have cataract surgery at age 48, and I’ve recently developed thyroid problems.

You don’t have to be an alcoholic or drug addict to have addictive behavior. Little did I know, the symptoms my body was broadcasting was a sign of my years of chronic sugar intake.

It took me years to figure out what had contributed to all this. At first, I looked to my doctors to answer my questions, but they answered me with pain killers and antibiotics (so much so that I cannot take them today). I wanted them to tell me how to get healthy naturally. However, I learned that kind of practice is not a part of conventional medicine.

I took an oral antibiotic called nystatin for 5 years! After my new doctor wouldn’t renew my prescription, my body went through a month of withdrawls. My body had become dependent on it.

After reading and researching my issues, I decided to eliminate processed alcohol, dairy, processed foods, sugar and wheat from my diet. It’s not so easy to wake up one day and decide this. It takes years to change habits. We are influenced by many things when we eat: media, culture, peers and family. It takes a lot of strength.

When starting a healthy lifestyle, you need to start by revamping your pantry and frig. I looked at labels and threw out processed foods. There are things that have made their way back into the house (through my husband), but I don’t use them and no longer have a palate for them. I kept quality vinegars, coconut palm sugar, coconut amino acids (a soy sauce alternative), coconut & olive oil and coconut milk. I do use some honey, nuts and grains (non-wheat), but I limit my intake of them.

Life is better when you make healthy changes. When eliminating sugar, I felt clean, had no sign of yeast or bladder infections, my aches and pains disappeared and my thoughts were clearer. As I started to eliminate wheat, I felt less irritation in my intestines. My drink of choice has become water and is the one thing that makes me feel the cleanest. When I eliminated alcohol, I didn’t have to wake up feeling sick after consuming only one drink the night before. I only use alcohol in cooking as most of it burns off in the cooking process (and the quality of it does matter). After giving up dairy, my migraines have disappeared.

Growing your own food makes a difference. When moving to our farm over a year and a half ago, our goal was to become sustainable. So far, we’ve put in a greenhouse and large garden. This is the most important way we’ve been able to impact our health.

I am convinced that healthy foods prevent sickness. Cooking from scratch and using quality ingredients has been instrumental in helping me feel healthy again. It has motivated me to share and influence others in positive ways through cooking. I want people to know there are health impacts to eating unhealthy foods. We do have a choice when it comes to vegetables with pesticides, meats with antibiotic/hormone and chemically processed foods. There are better alternatives.

The Alternative Cooking Lifestyle

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After introducing myself and my business, people often ask me, What is alternative cooking? Our motto, “Cook Healthy – Live Well” says a lot about who we are. We are all about cooking from scratch, finding healthy alternatives to less healthy ingredients (such as processed foods) so we can live without sickness.

Cooking alternatively may not always be the less caloric approach, but it can be. Take organic butter for instance, it is high in fat but contains no hormones, antibiotics or chemicals. We would much rather use organic butter than margarine even if it is higher in calories. Margarine is not natural and highly processed. Another approach would be to replace butter with a good fat like avocado oil. (To understand this concept, read, Chemicals in your Food Can Make You Fat – by CBS News.)

We see alternative cooking as a lifestyle with many options. It’s about as broad as an individual’s tastes and needs. We like to make people aware of their options so they can make better choices. Most recipes can be altered to be healthier. We show people how that’s possible. I’m finding, people are trying recipes or pairings they might never have thought to try.

Knowing where your food comes from is important. You will not know that from buying food from a box store. We encourage supporting local farmers and businesses to boost our economy. This may not be anything new to our locals, but there are a lot of transplants here who want to know what’s available.

Our home kitchen is used for most of our workshops. This brings everything to such a personal level. The social aspect is something people crave. People who cook together are so happy. One girl told me, “We need more things like this. It’s nice to have something local that we don’t have to drive far to go to.”

Cooking is so diverse in cultures and practices. It’s nice to be in an environment where you can share your own views. Everyone brings their own perspectives to our workshops. We can learn so much by talking to one another.

Our business is striving to make a difference. By showing people their options, they will be equipped to make better choices so they can live healthier lives.

Cooking Outside the Recipe Box

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Unlike the recipe boxes we had when I was growing up, I have an electronic recipe notebook I’ve created in a program called One Note. It’s a nice little journaling software that allows you to create notebooks with tabs and pages within tabs. You can keep your recipes in real time.

If you have Microsoft Office, then you probably have One Note. It’s good for a variety of different things. However, this is where I store all my recipes now. It’s a nice replacement to the binder of unorganized recipes I used to have. I’ve added my entire recipe collection to this journal. As I find new ones on the web, I copy and paste them along with their photos. It shows where you got the recipe when you paste; At the bottom of the paste, the url comes with it. I find this handy when I like the author and would like to return to their site for more recipes. As I use the recipes in my notebook, I edit the recipes and make notes. Sometimes, I even replace the photos with my own just to personalize it.

One of the great things about recipe journaling is that you can pass your notebook onto family members like your kids. My kids have a copy of my notebook with all the recipes they grew up with. It’s my legacy to them.

Let Your Tastebuds be Your Guide

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If you love to cook like I do, you may find yourself doing a little adlibbing when it comes to following a recipe. Reading between the lines is often necessary in cooking. If you’re like my daughter, that may be a scary thought. What if it doesn’t turn out right? Know that it if doesn’t, that’s ok. That’s how we learn. After you do it awhile, you’ll become attuned to the ingredients that work best together.

I’ve often said, “Let your taste buds be your guide.” The next time you’re at your favorite restaurant, ask yourself, What ingredients do I taste in this dish? Notice the ingredient combinations and how they compliment each other. I once visited a restaurant 3 times just to figure out the ingredients in a mushroom salad I was in love with. I even talked to the server to see if I got the ingredients right. She was nice enough to let me in on how they made it.

Don’t be afraid to omit, add or substitute. Make sure you taste along the way. If you add, add a little (you can always add more). If you omit, make sure the dish can hold it’s own if an ingredient is taken away. If you substitute, make sure the new ingredient compliments the dish or would taste just as good, if not better with the new ingredient.

Base recipes can help you build a great dish. Thankfully, with the web, it’s easy to find those kinds of things. For instance, if I have asparagus on hand, I’ll look up recipes for asparagus. I may not even follow the recipe. I’m just looking for a base recipe so I can use the ingredients I’ve got in my pantry or frig.

A recipe can have multi-purposes. I love taking a recipe that was meant for one thing and using it for something else. For instance, I’ve got a recipe for tequila chicken that was meant to top a salad. I use it 4 different ways: in a crock pot with salsa, grilled, on pasta or in tacos. I have another recipe for Oriental dressing that was originally designed to dress a pasta dish. It’s one of my kid’s favorite recipes. I use it as a Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing. Use your imagination.

Our business is based on substituting less healthy ingredients for healthier ones. There’s a great article on cooking with Greek yogurt you gotta check out. It’s a nice example of a substitute reference.

Make sure you keep your recipes in a recipe journal. You’ll be able to make notes and save photos alongside your favorite recipes. Read my article, Cooking Outside the Recipe Box for tips on creating a recipe journal.

I do not save the recipes I don’t absolutely love. When you have this regimen, you always end up with dishes that will thrill most of your family and friends. Cooking good food makes everyone happy!

People Inspire

Wherever I go, whomever I meet, people inspire me to do great things personally and in my business. You see, I follow the theory that people are placed in your life at the exact time you need them. They are meant to inspire you and vice versa. From the shop owner to the server at a restaurant, if you open up a conversation, you’ll find it can unite both your worlds. There really is common ground.

In talking with people, I find that they really do want to eat healthy, know what’s in their food and buy local to support their community. They are also experiencing real issues: food intolerance, celiac disease, diabetes, etc. That’s the kinds of things that are driving me to develop classes that are healthy for almost anyone.

I’ve made connections with some really great local business owners who are providing healthy local products. Just by picking up the phone, going to a business, or emailing them, I am bridging that gap for my customers. It’s really encouraging to be amongst people who have the same healthy goals. I want to share these kinds of resources with my customers.

In my workshops, I’ve had some interesting conversations with my customers. I like to get to know their levels of awareness. It gives me the opportunity to let them in on what they might not be aware of. This is the kind of value I like providing.

After moving from California to Tennessee over a year ago, I decided early on that I would not be a wallflower. I’ve joined a few groups and have met people who are supporting me in unique ways. If there’s anything I’ve learned, you cannot replace the need for human networking. That will never go out of style.

Our Classes Get Mentioned in the Local Newspaper

Adventures in Alternative Cooking was mentioned in two articles of the Lawrence County Advocate’s December 15 edition. See the articles under the Lifestyles section entitled, “Don’t Forget Loretto When Making your Holiday Shopping, Eating and Drinking Choices” and “Cooking with Quaffs”.

See our Fireside Chili recipe on Emily Kennedy’s blog.

Thinking Outside the Recipe

Thinking outside the recipe…That definitely describes what I do. Maybe it’s a learned thing (or maybe it’s the rebel in me). I change recipes to suit my own personal needs and tastes. I truly like making a recipe my own. After I tell my sister-in-law I changed the recipe, she says, “Of course you changed it!” In the past 10 years, changing the way I cook has been paying off health-wise. It has given me mental clarity and energy. It’s too good not to share. That’s why I started this business.

I’ve read lately that with the state of our economy, more and more people want to know how to cook at home so they can save money. There’s a misnomer that healthy food is expensive. Healthy food doesn’t have to break the bank, so don’t let that deter you from learning to cook healthy. We can help you understand your resources and options.

Maybe some of my participants don’t come to class to learn how to cook healthy. Hopefully, by sampling great tasting healthy foods, they’ll be inspired to go home and make it. Perhaps, they’ll think about the choices they make. I don’t know how many times, I’ve heard people say, “So, you’re teaching people how to cook healthy. You mean food with no taste?” I answer emphatically, “No! Healthy food should taste great!” I’ve vowed to never save a recipe that doesn’t absolutely thrill me.

I’m not predictable, so I don’t want our events or workshops to be either. We’re going to change up the curriculum and scenery as often as we can to give you something new to look forward to in 2014. We’ll do some classes inside and some outside. Some workshops, you’ll be doing the work, other classes you’ll get demonstrations and sample the results. For Valentine’s Day, we’re going to offer a dinner for all you foodies out there. We’ll be taking some interesting local trips to visit a CSA and a farm where their cattle is grass fed; all so you can make better choices right in your own backyard. We’ll even have a few workshops with music for all you music lovers. Stay posted to our Events and Workshops page for all our future offerings.

Ideas for Future Workshops

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I’ve been having some great conversations. Some of you have said that you need to get out more, others want to learn more skills in the kitchen, some said they want to eat healthier, some just like the social aspect of these workshops, and others just LOVE to cook. I hear you! That’s why I started this school. These are your workshops, so tell me more of what you’d like experience; That’s what makes this a boutique cooking school. (Look at it like fantasy football.) Below are ideas some of you had mentioned. Next to each item, I’ve expanded on what we could do.

sauces – reduction sauces, mixes (like taco and spaghetti), and salad dressings
5 ingredients or less (for the busy person) – I’ll show you 5 meals you can make fast
meat dishes – a lesson on braising (one of the easiest and best tasting ways to cook)
gluten-free dishes – pizza, bread sticks, biscuits

I also had some ideas:

– field trips (to local farms, CSAs or farm stands). I visited a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year and it was an amazing experience. These are farmers who grow produce for 25-50 families.
– having a guest speaker come here
– children’s cooking workshop
– cheese making (mozzarella, ricotta, and butter)
– salads
– all about herbs
– handmade chocolate (for Valentine’s of course!)

Leave us a comment if you have any more ideas. I’d love to hear from you!