YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Homemade Ketchup

My dad has a very hard time with the fact that high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS) is the first ingredient in most national brands of of ketchup. He is on a mission to get people to eat less HFCS without compromising their love for ketchup. Recently, he asked if I would post an entry about this. Absolutely. Here you go, Dad!

You can avoid HFCS by buying the costly organic ketchups, which are made with sugar instead. But it doesn’t seem practical to recommend them with so many budgets being strained nowadays. And commercial products  usually have a lot more sugar than when you make it yourself. So I’ve decided to share a couple of recipes so you can make your own ketchup instead. I hope that doesn’t make you groan. It does not take more time to eat healthy, but it does take more planning. Here’s your chance to see it in action by trying one (or both) of these two delicious recipes:

The first, called “Excellent Homemade Ketchup,” can be found at Hillbilly Housewife. The website says this recipe contains 60 cents worth of ingredients. That should work! Mix one 6-oz. can of tomato paste with 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons vinegar, ¼ teaspoon dry mustard, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 pinch cloves, 1 pinch allspice, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper,and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Transfer to a container and let cool. Cover tightly, refrigerate, and use within three weeks. 

The second recipe comes from Kiss My Spatula. It uses whole tomatoes and a slightly different selection of spices, plus a little more time and attention. Wrap 1 bay leaf, 1 stick cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon celery seed, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon whole allspice in a cheesecloth bundle. A cheesecloth bundle is just what it sounds like–fold up the spices in a square of cheesecloth, and then knot or tie it up with string. Place the bundle in a 4-quart saucepan with 2 pounds roughly chopped tomatoes, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, ½ cup vinegar, 5 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 medium chopped onion, 1 smashed garlic clove, and 1 chopped anaheim chile. Cook on medium-high for 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion and chile are very soft. Then remove the spice bundle and purée the sauce in a blender until smooth. Strain the sauce through a mesh strainer and return to the saucepan. Stir occasionally over medium heat until thickened, about 30 minutes. Add more salt, sugar, or vinegar to taste. Transfer to a container and let cool. Cover tightly, refrigerate, and use within 3 weeks. 

My dad also recommends trying mustard or vinegar on your french fries instead of ketchup. I agree wholeheartedly. Golden mustard on french fries is truly delicious, but I will just remind you to keep your portion size reasonable.

By the way, jars full of these ketchup recipes, wrapped with a bit of fabric and tied with a ribbon, will make a delicious and appreciated gift for hosts and friends. Remember to attach a reminder to refrigerate the ketchup and use it within 3 weeks.

Also, as long as you are buying cheesecloth and spices, here is another idea for a homemade gift: To make sachets of spices for mulling wine or cider, fill squares of cheesecloth with a 1/2-inch cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 2 cardamom pods, 4 black peppercorns and 1/4 teaspoon of whole cloves. Tie each sachet with twine and place in a clear jar or decorative box. Drop each sachet into 1-2 quarts of warming cider or red wine at least 1/2 hour before serving.  Hearty appetite!


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: After-Thanksgiving Turkey Soup

No introduction is really necessary for this recipe. Just pop on over to the supermarket for some scallions and a little knob of ginger if you need, and make this soup with your leftovers. There’s a good chance you already have all the other ingredients. It’ll take all afternoon to cook, but only 10 minutes to throw together. The biggest time investment is looking through the bones for bits of meat. But don’t feel the need to go crazy looking for every last piece. Feel free to stop when you feel like it. It’ll be enough, and it’ll be worth it.

One leftover turkey carcass, either whole or in broken-up parts
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 small knob fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, halved (but not peeled)
1 tsp. Kosher salt

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch slices
½ cup scallions, sliced thinly
1 small sweet potato, in ½-inch cubes
1-2 cups leftover turkey meat, in ½-inch cubes

  1. Place turkey carcass in a large pot filled with water to approximately 2 inches above the carcass. [If there are attached bits of turkey on the carcass, you can use them (see below) in a later step, but the best flavor comes from the bones themselves, so it will be fine whether or not it’s been stripped clean.] Cover the pot, place in a 225F oven, and leave to cook 4-6 hours. Add ginger, garlic, salt, black pepper, and onion, and leave to cook for 2 hours more. Placing a clean soup pot underneath, strain the contents of the pot through a colander lined with cheese cloth.
  2. Pick through the colander to pull out the pieces of meat. Slice into bite-sized pieces, and return to the stock. If you want more turkey in the soup, look through the refrigerator to find a good-sized leftover thigh or two and use that. Discard remaining turkey bones and cartilage.
  3. Add sweet potato and carrots to the soup. Place pot on the stove, bring to a slow boil, and cook 30-45 minutes until vegetables are soft. Add scallions and cook 5 minutes more.
  4. Divide among 4 bowls, and serve with a large plate containing your choice of things like cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, and/or chili paste. If you don’t have any of these, don’t worry about it. The soup is remarkably flavorful with or without them.

Bon appetit!

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Hugs (Lentils) and Kisses (Carrots)

Bring a platterful of this amazingly delicious recipe to the table, full to the brim with tiny round hugs (lentils), and cross-hatched X’s (carrots), and share the love all around. Everyone will be so glad you did. You can serve it warm, or at room temperature. It’s great either way. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Red Lentils & Sweet Potatoes

I’m on a kick here. I think it might be the spinach. Or maybe the garam masala. It might be the orange vegetables and their phytonutrients. This recipe is slightly simpler than the chickpea-spinach curry one I posted a few weeks ago, but it’s also out of this world. The leftovers are so fantastic that you may decide to eat them for breakfast AND lunch, both.

1 small-medium sweet potato, peeled
1 small-medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (use 1/2 tsp. if they aren’t super fresh)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup red lentils
4 cups fresh spinach
a pinch of salt Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Spinach & Chickpea Curry

Let this list of spices inspire you! Sure, you can reach for the curry powder in the spice cabinet, but wait! Don’t! You are not going to believe the difference between THAT and THIS. It’s diamonds vs. paste. Top shelf vs. moonshine. Everything you’ve ever wanted vs. anything you’ve ever settled for. You will be so grateful, and your tastebuds will, too. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Fennel Vegetable Soup

The folks where I work are always coming up with the most sublimely delicious recipes. This is one. If you’ve never eaten fennel, you are in for a delicious treat. Raw, it’s crunchy and sweet, a bit like celery with a faint whiff of licorice. Cooked it’s a different vegetable altogether. A great addition to any vegetable soup recipe, it is a total team player, happily absorbing other flavors from the pot at the same time as it shares its own. Fennel comes in bulbs, and the easiest way to cut it up, no matter how you intend to use it, is to slice it in half from top to bottom, and then to slice the half-bulb into thin blades, all of equal length and width, as you work around the bulb. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Stogie’s Belize Hot! Sauce

When I was a kid my parents had friends, Ted & Frieda, who grew hot peppers on their farm in Muncie, Indiana. When we stopped in Muncie for a visit, on our way across the country to the Twin Cities, Ted laid out an array of peppers on the kitchen counter. I tried every one. They were spectacular, and I was hooked. Forever after, he called me “Hot Pepper.” I’ve never met a hot sauce I didn’t like. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Coconut Curry Lentils

Here’s what I love most about this recipe from Julia Turshen, a genius in the kitchen and author of a very fine cookbook, Small Victories. Julia says dried spices are just “sleeping in the cupboard,” and that a hit of hot oil is just what they need to get them to “wake up.” In her curried lentils, the spices (cumin seed, coriander, and turmeric) are roused from slumber for 10 minutes, which is a pretty long time in comparison to other recipes. That’s why she adds them right at the beginning, along with minced garlic, shallot, and ginger. Not to worry, though. This dish comes together in 30 minutes, which gives them enough time to blend with the aromatics (garlic, shallot and ginger) and make the lentils taste earthy and “deeply curried.” Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Black Bean Salad with Quinoa

You can’t go wrong with this one-pot meal. Eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Take it to a picnic, a potluck, a brunch, or your own kitchen table. For folks with dietary restrictions, it’s the perfect dish to bring to a celebration or gathering when you’re not sure there’ll be anything there you can eat. Make a big batch on Sunday, and see how long it takes to disappear from your refrigerator. Continue reading