Living without gluten, casein, soy, eggs and peanuts. Living with ASD and ADHD. Life is good!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pear Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Nut Topping

Happy  Christmas!  It is cold and rainy in our neck of the woods.  We've had thunderstorms since midnight.  It's a perfect moring for coffee cake and hot chocolate for breakfast.  This coffee cake has the DH stamp of approval - he exlaimed "oh man, this is good coffee cake!" at the first bite, and now there is none left.  I'll have to make more for Boxing Day!

Pear Coffee  Cake

1 1/2 cups GF flour blend (such as Coffeecake and Muffin Blend)
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup coconut oil or canola oil
1/2 cup dairy free, soy free milk (we use flax)
2 small or 1 large bartlett pear, peeled, cored and diced

Cinnamon Nut Topping

2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecan or walnut)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease bottom and sides of one 8x8 inch baking dish with palm shortening or margarine, set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour through the salt.  Make a well in the center and set aside.

 In a medium bowl, stir together the applesauce through the milk.  Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.  Fold in the pears.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped nuts.  Sprinkle evenly over the coffee cake.  Place in the oven and bake 30 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 45 - 60 minutes before cutting into squares.  Serve warm.

Coffee Cake and Muffin Blend

Millet flour tastes lovely in coffee cakes and quick breads.  Alone, it tends to be crumbly.   Add buckwheat flour, and this blend  makes a moist coffee cake with a perfect crumb.

1 1/2 cups millet flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup potato starch

Sift all ingredients until well-blended.  Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cinnamon Skillet Apples

This recipe for skillet apples is one of my favorite recipes to make.  These apples are fast, easy and fun to make with kids.  Serve them for dessert by topping them with ice cream (we like So Delicious Vanilla Bean) or Soyatoo Rice Whip.  OR serve them for breakfast by topping them with granola (we like Homemade Buckwheat Granola) and/or yogurt (So Delicious Vanilla Yogurt or homemade coconut milk yogurt).

4 large Granny Smith apples, or other apple suitable for cooking
3 tbsp. coconut oil or Earth Balance dairy-free, soy-free margarine
1/2 cup apple juice
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. arrowroot starch
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Peel, core and slice apples into wedges (12 wedges per apple).  Toss apples with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning, then set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, arrowroot and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Melt coconut oil or margarine in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the apples and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 5 - 10 minutes.  Add the apple juice and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook apples until tender - another 5 - 10 minutes.  Add the brown sugar mixture and cook uncovered, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened, about 1 - 3 minutes.

Place apples into individual serving dishes, spooning sauce over top.  Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream for dessert, or with granola for breakfast!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pinto Bean Chili

Today is damp and cloudy.  Tomorrow will be cold and windy.  Weather like this is perfect for chili.  This pinto bean chili is my new favorite - it's very thick since Anna won't eat anything brothy.  You can thin it with more broth or even salsa if desired, or serve it with cornbread or on top of a baked potato.  I like mine dressed simply with plenty of chopped fresh tomato and avocado.

1 pound dried pinto beans, cooked
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth (Imagine or homemade)
1 6oz can Rotel Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp. lime juice 
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. ground chipotle
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
toppings of your choice as desired - chopped onion, tomato, avocado, cilantro, etc.

Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 mintues.  Add the garlic and cook a minute more.  Add the vegetable broth, Rotel and lime juice.  Mash 3 cups of the beans, add to the pot and stir to combine.  Add the remaining beans.

In a small bowl, stir together the chili powder through the cayenne pepper.  Stir the spice mixture into the bean mixture.  Heat to a simmer, then simmer until thick.  Adjust seasonings as desired.  This is a thick, hearty chili.  You can add more vegetable broth to thin it if you like.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Romeo's Bruschetta Topping

It got cold here!  Last weekend it was 80 degrees, and this morning we woke up to snow.  My blood must be thinning because I'm starting to complain about 40 degree weather.  DH flaunts his "I grew up in northern Vermont" style by running around in this weather in shorts...out of spite, I think.  But I bundle up, and the girls more than me (hats and scarves and the's not that cold).  All our old wool sweaters and socks still lie in storage, unused year after year.  I just can't bring myself to get rid of them.  We bought our house here, in West Nile Virus central, but I'll be darned if I let go of my last grips on home...all our fine wool sweaters.  I still run out of the house every morning with a wet head, too.  My mom used to get so upset when I did that.  Sorry, Mom, I have not outgrown that one.  It's still interesting to have your wet hair freeze, and then shake your head to listen to the hair icicles tinkle like Christmas.

When DH was in grad school, we lived in a small city where we could walk to everything we needed.  It was fabulous.  He walked to school, I walked to work, we walked for blocks just for fun, looking at all the old houses that surrounded the university.  We could walk to a little Italian market only 6 blocks away that had beautiful produce and the best deli in town.  I was addicted to their spinach bread, or whatever it was in Italian they called it...garlicky, olive oily spinach baked in a bread wrap...I lived for that stuff when I was pregnant with Anna.  I was also a slave to their bruschetta...thick slices of Italian bread untoasted, topped with a juicy tomato garlicky mixture. The juices from the topping would soak into the bread - nothing we had tasted before then was  so divine.  We got a blizzard one year, the snow was coming down too fast to take the car out even 6 blocks and we needed some stuff like bread and milk and something for dinner.  So I strapped on my boots and heavy winter coat, grabbed my backpack, and hiked to the Italian store in 6 inch snow.  By the time I got home, the snow was knee-deep.  The spinach bread and bruschetta were worth it.

I miss Romeo's spinach bread - I'll have to recreate that someday.  I no longer have to miss Romeo's bruschetta...I have recreated that. The original had chunks of mozzerella cheese in it, but chunks of Daiya Jack would work just as well. This is good served over slices of French Bread (gluten free, of course!) over top of pasta, in salad, on crackers, or plain by the spoonful.   I served this to friends this weekend with toasted french bread and it went so fast I never got pictures!

Bruschetta Topping

several fresh, ripe tomatoes
1/4 of one medium onion, chopped fine
2 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil or more to taste
1 large clove minced garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the tops off the tomatoes and squeeze out the seeds. Dice tomatoes, which should equal about 3 cups, and throw them in a bowl along with the onion, basil and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until juicy. Taste, adjust seasonings and serve.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fresh Berry Pancakes

It has been quiet here for the past month.  More like normal.  Anna wigged out for a good two months after the start of school, and then she calmed down and life is back to the way it used to be.  I took some good advice and to try to get a handle on Anna's meltdown triggers, I started using a point chart.  Anna got one point each for a good morning, a good afternoon and good homework time (meaning no bad attitude, no yelling, no tantrums).  If she got a certain number of points, she got library time.  More points meant library plus computer time.  A perfect week meant library time, computer time, and a sleepover.  Anna was very motivated by earning a sleepover - it's always better to work for a reward than to have priviledges taken away as punishment.  We only had to go through the point chart twice before she calmed down.  Once or twice we broke it out again on a bad day but never got through another full week as she seemed to get a grip on her own without it.  Hallelujah.

Anna's teachers mentioned that her freak-outs seemed to be triggered by anxiety, plus the probable transition that always happens at the beginning of a school year.  They noticed she was extremely anxious about the Big Crunch (the opposite of the Big Bang), talking about it to anyone who would listen.  That's what she gets for reading scientific material way above her age level.  Yes, I have an Aspie for a daughter (yes, I am aware of what the new DSM will say and yes, I will continue to use the term Asperger's to describe Anna).  Her teachers must have told her things to calm her down (because clearly your mom telling you the Big Crunch is millions of years in the future after we've all been dead and gone for eons is not enough).  Her anxiety calmed down and she got through the new school year transition period.  I wonder if the transitions will take longer and be more pronounced in the preteen years.  I'm not really looking forward to our Christmas Break transition.

But for now, life is good.  And when I'm happy, I make pancakes.

Fresh Berry Pancakes

1 1/4 cups Bulk Pancake and Waffle Mix
1 cup apple juice
2 tbsp. canola oil or melted coconut oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 pint washed fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, etc.)*

Place the pancake mix in a large bowl.  Combine the apple juice, oil and applesauce.  Pour the wet mixture all at once into the dry mixture and stir well to combine.  Fold in the berries.  Pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a hot greased griddle.  Cook over medium-low heart until bubbles form on the surface, the tops seem dry, and the edges are golden brown.  Flip and cook another couple of minutes until the other sides are golden brown.  Serve hot with maple syrup and fresh fruit.

*No fresh berries?  Try 1 cup chopped apple or pear instead.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gluten Free & Vegan - Pumpkin Pie!


Happy Thanksgiving!  I ended up making pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas!  It's only taken me oh... two years of egg-free baking to get up to this, as I had very strong opinions about what My Mom's Pumpkin Pie should taste like.  There could be no tofu, as we are soy-free.  I didn't want to use flours like buckwheat or millet or even flax to thicken it - I wanted to to be as silky smooth and as close to the original as possible.  I considered gelatin or agar powder, but then I ran across two recipes using arrowroot powder (check out Oh She Glows for vegan pumpkin pie and Good Good Things for vegan pumpkin pudding).  And I thought arrowroot might work well.  So I reworked my mom's recipe (again).  And it came out really good - not gritty, not runny, and without a floury mouthfeel.  It tastes just like my mom's pie.  Happy day!  Happy Thanksgiving!

(My pumpkin pies are always dark because I use molasses.  It just does not taste like pumpkin pie to me without the molasses in it.  If you don't like a dark pie, substitute maple syrup instead.)

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (one 15oz. can solid packed pumpkin)
1/2 cup brown sugar
*1 cup coconut cream (taken from 1 can full-fat coconut milk)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. molasses
3 tbsp. arrowroot starch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 Gluten Free, Vegan Pie Crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   While the oven is heating, make your pie crust.  Line a pie plate with the pie pastry and flute edges as desired.  Set aside.

To a food processor or blender add the pumpkin, brown sugar, coconut cream, maple syrup, molasses, arrowroot, cinnamon, ginger, salt and allspice.  Process until smooth and completely blended.

Pour the pie filling into the prepared pie plate and smooth out the top.  Place the pie in the oven and bake about 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the edges of the pie appear set.  The center of the pie will not be set, it will jiggle a little bit.  Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate until the pie is firm, several hours to overnight.  Bring back to room temperature before serving (or serve cold if you like).

*Make sure you only get the coconut cream from the can, the thick stuff.  You can refrigerate the can of coconut milk overnight if needed.  Save the leftover liquid in the can for baking.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gluten Free & Vegan - Pecan Pie!

Here it is - my second pecan pie ever, and my first gluten free and vegan one!  I have got to run out the door to get to work, but I wanted to post this quickly before Thanksgiving.  I have never before liked pecan pie, it was always much too cloyingly sweet for me.  This pecan pie is sweet, but not overpoweringly sweet.  It is really, really good.  This pie was a team effort - the girls picked pecans from our yard, DH cracked them open, and I made the pie.  The original recipe can be found here at Go Dairy Free, I only made a few small adjustments.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brown rice syrup or agave nectar
3/4 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp. Earth Balance dairy-free, soy-free margarine or coconut oil
3/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Gluten Free, Vegan Pie Crust 
pinch salt
2 cups broken pecans
about 100 whole pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   In a small saucepan, heat the brown sugar, rice syrup and maple syrup to a simmer.  Simmer a few minutes, until the brown sugar has dissolved.  Turn off the heat and add the margarine, stir to melt.  Then add the applesauce and vanilla and stir to combine.  Set aside to cool.

While the applesauce mixture is cooling, make your pie crust.  Line a pie plate with pastry crust and flute edges as desired.  Fill the pie shell with the broken pecans.  Pour the applesauce mixture over the pecans.  Place the whole pecans in a circular pattern on top of the pecan filling.

Place the pie in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown (the mixture will be hot and bubbly).  Let sit overnight.  Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

White Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes

We are gearing up for Thanksgiving in our house.  By gearing up I mean, I'm working longer hours at the store because 'tis the season, I have not gone grocery shopping or thought too terribly much about Thanksgiving dinner, and I keep fantasizing about making a gluten free and vegan pumpkin pie that does not rely on a lot of flour of any type to thicken it.  I doubt the pumpkin pie will happen until Christmas, but I am hopeful that gluten free and vegan pecan pie will happen for Thanksgiving (wish me luck, I hope to post my success before the holiday).  I have the next two days off, which will give me a chance to play!

So gearing up for Thanksiving in our house means eating light several days preceding...not that our Thanksgiving dinner will be rich, on the contrary we plan to keep it simple, but it just seems like the thing to, I'm too busy working to make a fuss about meals at home right now.  This soup is nice and simple, and very satisfying too.  The original recipe can be found in Claire's Corner Copia cookbook. It's garlicky and very slightly sweet. Serve with a salad and Tomato Rosemary Muffins to make a quick, light meal.

3 cups cooked white beans (cannellini or great northern)
1 bay leaf
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat chicken stock or vegetable broth over medium heat.  Add 1 1/2 cups of the white beans and mash them.  Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of white beans, the bay leave, and the sweet potato.  Bring just to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer.

While the beans are simmering, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and the garlic.  Cook until the onion is soft and the mixture is fragrant.  Scrape the onion mixture into the white bean mixture.  Add the parsley through the pepper.  Continue simmering until the sweet potato is soft and fully cooked, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Remove the bay leaf, adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve.  Serves 4.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kitchen Sink Bean Soup

This year finds me talking to high schoolers about the importance of living within a budget, and making meals in a snap from everyday items found in the pantry.  This weekend found me in a time crunch (okay, every day finds me in a time crunch, but that is besides the point), without the wherewithall or desire to run to the store to get some supplies for dinner.  In my bare kitchen were frozen chicken bones, frozen onion skins, a bag of dried black beans, a big onion, some leftover mashed potatoes and some salsa.  So I made some soup.  I'm sure my high schoolers will not be impressed by this at all, but I thought this soup was nifty, thrifty and tasty.  Sometimes you need to make do with what you have, and sometimes you realize that what you have is actually quite a lot (such as odds and ends turning into a big pot of soup)! 

1 pound dried black beans or other beans of your choice (pinto, Great Northern, etc.)
6 cups chicken broth* or vegetable stock
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup salsa
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 - 2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 1/2 cups or so leftover mashed potatoes

Cook the dried beans according to the package directions (or cook them in a crock pot), set aside. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft. Add the broth, salsa, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder and lime juice. Add roughly half of the cooked beans to the pot. Mash the remaining beans, then add them to the pot along with the mashed potatoes. Stir, then bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer about 30 minutes or until the soup is thick. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot. 

*I freeze chicken bones and onion skins, along with carrot and celery tops, so that I can pull them out later and make stock as needed (overnight in the crock pot is the easiest way to do it!).

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Here is a good recipe to use up vegetables that are just past their prime. If you don't have as much as you need at one time to make vegetable stock, throw them into the freezer until you have all the ingredients you need. This is a great way to cut down on waste and make something healthy at the same time. You don't have to have all the vegetables listed below- use whatever you have on hand and make substitutions as needed.

8 cups water
2 large chopped onions or 2 large cleaned leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 cup chopped carrot
3 chopped celery stalks, leaves included
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup potato peels
1 cup tomato skins, if desired
1 cup fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot or dutch oven heat 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add the onions or leeks and the carrots. Cook until onions begin to brown. Add the water and the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Strain stock and discard solids, squeezing as much liquid out of them as possible. Season broth to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 6 cups.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Double Chocolate Cranberry Pancakes


I am not working this weekend, the first weekend off I've had in many months.  It is lovely to wake up slowly and not have to run out the door in a panic to punch in and work on my feet all day.  I made a leisurely pancake breakfast for the girls, lighting a candle on the table and glowing warm inside with their smiles.  Now they are outside raking the leaves for fun.  It has been a perfect morning.  Oh, and the pancakes are good too!

3/4 cup GF flour blend (I used this one)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (not dutch)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 very ripe banana
2 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 cup dairy-free, soy-free milk of your choice
3 tbsp. dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life)
3 tbsp. dried cranberries

Heat a skillet over low heat, I like using a cast iron griddle (low heat so the chocolate won't burn).  While the skillet is heating, whisk together the flour through the salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mash the banana very well.  Add the maple syrup through the milk and stir to combine.  Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.  Add the chocolate chips and cranberries and stir.

Drizzle oil into your skillet or griddle.  Pour 1/4 cupfuls of the batter onto the hot surface and cook until the tops look dry and  the edges are firm.  Flip and cook another few minutes on the other side.  Remove to a plate and serve hot with your choice of condiments (we like fresh fruit and maple syrup).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Carrot Soup

I came across this soup at a holiday party some 15 years ago.  I had never had carrot soup in my life and screwed up my face at the thought, but I had to make the choice between carrot soup or chicken and prunes, or risk offending the host.  I chose the soup (to this day, I still can't bear the thought of chicken and prunes) and was mighty surprised at how much I liked it.  I begged the recipe off  the hostess and have made it religiously every year since then. It's so fast and easy to make, and so economical, and whenever I make it everybody is surprised that it's so good.  I like to make it thick so that it's silky and lovely like a bisque, but you can make it a little thinner by adding more stock. Served with biscuits or rolls, this becomes a perfect light meal for a busy autumn day.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and cut into eights
5 cups vegetable stock, or more as desired
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
 2 1/2 tsp. dill
salt to taste
coconut cream to garnish, if desired

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a medium pot.  Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft - do not let the onions brown.  Add the sweet potatoes and enough stock to just cover the vegetables.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the carrots and sweet potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.  

With a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the pot to a blender or food processor and puree until silky smooth, adding some of the vegetable broth as needed.  Pour the pureed vegetables back into the pot and add enough broth to give the soup the consistency you desire.  Add the pepper, lemon juice, dill and salt to taste.  Heat the soup to just simmering, then turn off the heat and serve hot.  You can swirl a little coconut cream into each bowl of soup if desired.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fried Cauliflower with Garlic Dip

There is a Mediterranean bistro close to where we live that serves the most excellent cauliflower.  For the longest time I could not figure out how they did it, and then a friend told me they fried it.  I couldn't believe it!  My favorite dish was evil in disguise.  I shunned it for years, thinking of all those fat calories and how they would likely end up on my hips.  But then I decided to make it, because every once in awhile fried food really hits the spot.  And this dish is really yummy, definitely worth splurging for!  When I make it, I also serve butternut fries and french fries...because why not?  The twice a year I make this can't hurt too much, right?

For the Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, rinsed and chopped into bite-sized florets
canola oil for frying
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a slow boil.  Add the cauliflower and cook until only just fork-tender.  Drain immediately.  Allow to air-dry completely.  Or if you don't want to boil the cauliflower, you can steam it until just fork-tender.

When the cauliflower is dry, heat the oil for frying (about 360 degrees).  Fry the florets in batches until they turn golden brown, this will only take a couple of minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Toss with salt and pepper and serve hot with garlic dip.

For the Garlic Dip
1/2 cup mayonnaise, or 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup coconut milk yogurt
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced (or more if desired)

Combine all ingredients, adjusting the lemon juice, salt and garlic to taste.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nutmeg Cookies (Gluten Free & Vegan)

A cold front came through yesterday, bringing with it welcome rain.  It rained all day and all night, a steady, gentle rain.  A little wind here and there would tuft the leaves of the trees, revealing a few yellow spots...the leaves are starting to turn.  It was a perfect, beautiful day.  I had to work all day yesterday, but if I had been at home I would have liked to sit staring out the window at the rain and the leaves.

Tonight I was thumbing through a cookbook I have not picked up in a long time...The New England Table by Lora Brady.  I took one look at her Nutmeg Cookies (pp. 81 - 83) and knew I had to adapt them and make them to welcome fall.  These cookies will make your kitchen smell fabulous and better yet, they taste just like autumn. 

Nutmeg Cookies

2 1/4 cups GF flour blend (I use this one)
1 tbsp. flax meal
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup brown rice syrup or molasses
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Sift together the flour through the nutmeg, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil through the brown sugar until it is smooth and thick and looks like caramel.  Add the flour mixture and stir until well-blended.

In a shallow bowl stir together the 1/3 cup sugar and the 1 tsp. nutmeg, making sure there are no nutmeg clumps.  Drop the cookie dough by heaping teaspoons into the sugar/nutmeg mixture, gently rolling to coat, then place on the prepared baking sheet 3 inches apart.

Bake about 12 minutes, until the cookies are crinkled and lightly browned around the edges.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake (Gluten Free & Vegan)

The other day I picked up the newest version of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.  My other one is at least 10 years old and I seem to have somehow misplaced it.  Also, the newer book was on clearance and I am a total sucker for cookbooks.  I collect them.  I have so many I don't have space for them, but I can't help thumbing through racks of cookbooks in the stores.  At the store where I work I have to avert my eyes and not even glance down book aisle at all or I will surely find a cookbook at a good price to drool over.

Anyway, so there I was in Target, innocently walking down the aisle minding my own business when I noticed an endcap full of canning products.  My canner is old and rusty so I was lured over by a new canner which while underneath a clearance banner, was not on clearance.  Disappointed, I thought a new canner can wait.  However, canning lids and cookbooks were on clearance.  I picked up the Ball Blue Book and rifled through pages of old favorites (Blueberry Lime Jam, Maple Walnut Sauce, Apple Cider Jelly) and noticed new preserving recipes not included in my old book (how to make your own jerky and fruit leathers, how to make rubs and dehydrated foods).  There were also new recipes such as Savory Pocket Pie and Peach-Walnut Shortcake - recipes that looked easy to make for my girls.  I had to have this book! 

Now allow me to go a little tangential.  You could argue that I can find all sorts of recipes for free online, but I can hardly keep a thought in my head for 10 minutes without forgetting it and there's no chance I'd remember to look up Savory Pocket Pie.  And even if I do remember to search for and print recipes online, loose papers always get lost.  Books, on the other hand, are beautiful.  There is a certain satisfaction in feeling the pages turn in my hand, of dogearing pages that pique my interest, of underlining whatever my heart desires, of scribbling notes in the margins.  Good old dogeared books are like cherished friends, re-read and thought over and passed down like treasures.  They have weight, they have color, they have smell (old books smell really great!), they hold a little of the personality of their owners.  They are a sensory experience.  When I had time (before I had children), I used to love looking for old books at garage sales, antique stores and library book sales.  I feel so strongly about books that I don't think I would ever use an e-reader.

Now back to shortcake.  That recipe for Peach-Walnut Shortcake was the clincher for buying that cookbook.  It was old-fashioned (not the angel food cake shells the grocery stores sell), something I remembered my mom making, something I had not made for the girls before, and I thought I could convert it in a snap.  I bought the book.  I made the girls shortcake for dessert.  Looking at their faces, you'd think they'd just got a glimpse of heaven.  Either the shortcake was that good or I need to make dessert more often.

No whipped cream?  Spoon a little strawberry juice over the top, it's divine!

Strawberry Shortcake

2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or 1/4 tsp. cardamom

2 1/2 cups GF flour blend (I used this one)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup dairy-free, soy-free milk alternative (I used coconut milk)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon or cardamom.  Pour over the strawberries and toss well.  Set aside.

In a large bowl,  sift together the flour through the salt.   Cut in the margarine with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles small meal.  Stir in the milk until the mixture holds together.  You may need to add a little more milk, add one tablespoon at a time.  The dough should not be too dry, but not wet and sticky either.  If you touch it, it should not stick all over your hands.  

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface.  Knead a few times.  Pat the dough into a rectangle 1/2 inch thick, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your hands.  Cut the dough into circles using a biscuit cutter or cut the dough into 3 inch squares with a knife.   Place the shortcake onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake about 15 minutes or until the bottoms and edges are golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  To serve, split in half.  Spoon strawberries over the bottom half and place top half of the shortcake over the strawberries.  Spoon a few more strawberries over the top.  Drizzle some of the strawberry juice that has collected in the bowl of strawberries over the shortcake.  Top with whipped cream if desired, and serve.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ina's Clam Alfredo Sauce (Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free))

I check my Reader in Blogger every day, hungering for new ideas and inspirations.  One of the blogs I follow is Ina's at Gluten Free Delightfully Delicious.  She makes every day, accessible, totally fabulous looking fresh food that I drool over on a regular basis.  I checked my Reader yesterday and what to my wondering eyes should appear was Ina's version of a Clam Alfredo Sauce.  You guys - I have not had Alfredo Sauce in years.  And I've had a can of clams sitting on my counter for a week.  And I just bought penne.  I love it when the stars align like that.  Ina uses an SCD whipping cream and dairy, which I cannot do being dairy-free.  But her recipe looked like it would adapt very well to being dairy free.

This clam Alfredo Sauce knocks my socks off.  I cannot stop tasting it.  It's really good, very creamy and a little rich but not evil.  It's good over pasta, but I'm trying to be mindful of my carb intake, so next time I make it I'll use grated zucchini  or spaghetti squash.  I love the way this tastes and I love the fact that it's also very economical (I am very mindful of our budget now that we have a car payment, ugh).  I love this sauce.  Here is my version.  The measurements are all approximate as I didn't measure anything (it's a school night, you know), but I think it's a forgiving sauce and holds up well to "a pinch of this and a little of that", which only makes me love it more.

 Ooo la la, so fancy looking, but shhhh!  Don't tell anyone, it's very easy!

1 - 2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
a good glug of dry white wine - at least 1/4 cup
a splash of lemon juice - a good couple of teaspoons
coconut cream skimmed from 1 can of full-fat coconut milk
a dash of dried parsley
a pinch of dried thyme
a shake of black pepper
one 6oz can of chopped clams, with juice reserved
Daiya mozzarella cheese, about 1/3 cup
one 8oz box dried pasta, such as penne

Boil water for the penne, and prepare according to package instructions.

While the penne is cooking, heat the olive oil in in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, until it begins to soften.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the wine and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook a few minutes until the wine reduces by about half.  Add the lemon juice, cook for about a half a minute, then add the coconut cream.  Bring to a simmer, then stir in the parsley, thyme and pepper.  Add the reserved clam juice and heat to a simmer.  Add the clams and the Daiya and heat just until the Daiya is melted.  Turn off the heat and adjust the seasonings.  You probably won't need to add salt as the clam juice is already salty.  Serve hot over penne.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fresh Candied Jalapenos

The weather has turned evil again.  The triple-digit heat had broken, and we had enough rain over two weeks that I didn't have to water the lawn at all.  It is now hot and dry again with triple-digit heat and no rain in sight.  I am out watering the lawn tonight (grumble), trying not to freak out over the random lizards that are hiding in dark pockets everywhere and the bugs that are trying to seek asylum in our house.  About the only good thing about this dratted heat wave are the little red jalapenos growing in our garden - they make excellent "cowboy candy".   If my family were game enough, I'd make a cake and decorate it using candied jalapenos.  It'd be like decorating with sugared flowers, only better! 

These candied jalapenos pack a sweet heat punch that's hard to beat.  Can you believe it?  First okra and now candied jalapenos...I've gone practically native!

Candied Jalapenos

 about 1 pound jalapeno peppers
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. lime zest

Wash and stem the jalapenos, then slice them into 1/4" rounds (wear gloves!).  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine the water through the mustard seeds.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until syrupy, about 5 -10 minutes.  Add the jalapeno rounds and lime zest and simmer until just tender, 3 - 4 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Crock Pot Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

 (This dish looks like it took all day to cook, no?  But it didn't!  My crock pot strikes again!)

School has started for the year.  I'd say this begins my busy season, but I was pretty busy all summer long.  However, I was home more this summer and will be home less this school year.  So this year will see heavy use of my crock pot!

To start the school year I thought a fairly spiffy dinner would be in order.  I had made this Arroz Con Pollo dish a little while ago on the stove top and it turned out really, really good.  I wanted to do this in the crock pot too, so here's my take on it.  I love this dish with big stuffed green olives but left them out this time in deference to the girls.  They already whimper about little tomato bits in their food - why provoke them further with big green olives?  I really do recommend the olives, though, they add a nice touch.  I got something green into the girls in the end...sliced avocado on top of the rice and roasted broccoli on the side!

 (So easy, so lovely, cooked without intervention or supervision...a sight that makes this busy mom smile.)

Crock Pot Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups long grain brown rice
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I like salsa style!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. oregano
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 - 2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, bones in and skins on, fat trimmed, rinsed and patted dry
several whole green pimento stuffed olives, if desired

Heat the 3 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan or dutch oven over medium-low.  Add the rice, onion and garlic, stirring until the rice is browned and the onion is beginning to soften.  Scrape the rice mixture into a crock pot.  Set the pan aside.

In a bowl, combine the chicken stock through the oregano and stir to combine.  Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture, pour the rest over the rice in the crock pot and stir to combine.

Return the pan to the heat and add the 2 tbsp. of olive oil.  Brown the chicken pieces on all sides.  Place the chicken pieces, skin-side up, on top of the rice mixture in the crock pot.  Pour the 1/2 cup of reserved chicken stock mixture over the chicken.  Scatter several olives over all.  Cover and cook on low 6 - 8 hours or on high 3 - 4 hours, or until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a fork.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fried Okra (Gluten Free & Vegan)

I know.  I swore I would never eat okra, and here I am posting a recipe for fried okra.  But I am a practical person, and this weekend found freshly picked okra on the counter, staring at me.  Daring me.  DH went to a friend's community garden plot to help harvest veggies and came home with the long green pods.  They were fresh, organic and free.  So I swallowed my pride and cooked okra for dinner.  

Turns out, fried okra is pretty good as long as the coating is crunchy!  I was able to achieve a fabulously crispy coating with coconut milk and millet flour that a fried okra eating friend said was really yummy.  She and Anna liked theirs plain, Megan liked hers with ketchup, and DH and I liked ours with hot sauce.  To each their own!

Fried Okra
fresh okra, stems removed, chopped into bite-sized chunks
lite coconut milk
lemon juice
millet flour
cayenne pepper   
a few cups of canola oil

First, heat the oil in a fryer (oil level should be to the fryer's specifications) or a dutch oven over medium heat to 375 degrees.  Meanwhile, stir together the coconut milk (about 1/2 can) with a splash of lemon juice.  Working in batches, toss the okra in the coconut milk mixture and let it sit for a couple of minutes.  The coconut milk will get thick thanks to okra's thickening properties - no egg needed here!

In a separate dish, whisk together about two cups of millet flour with some salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and some cayenne pepper if desired (about 1/4 teaspoon).  Toss the coconut milk-soaked okra with the millet flour mixture, coating the okra well.  Fry the okra in batches in the hot oil until it looks crispy and golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Drain the okra on paper towels, sprinkle with a little salt if needed, and serve hot. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fresh Fig Jam

 Fresh fig jam on gluten free yummy!

I have a friend who has two enormous fig trees.  She hates those trees, does not like figs and does not harvest the fruit.  When she told me she wanted to rip her fig trees out of the ground to make room for something else I nearly had a cow.  You want to do what?  Do you know how expensive fresh figs are in the stores, and you have them for free in your yard?  I will harvest your figs!  Don't rip down your trees!  

So I got my rear end over there with a big bucket and picked as many fresh figs as I possibly could, and then I got my rear end into the kitchen and made fig jam.  Do you know how expensive fig jam is in the stores, I asked my friend, and I just made scads for practically free?  She is still not convinced.  If she does choose to cut down her trees, I will take a cutting or two to plant in my yard.  Fig jam is wonderful stuff and this year, friends and family will be getting some for holiday gifts.

We enjoy fig jam on sandwiches, but you can make fig bars with it too!

For this recipe I mostly followed my tattered but trusty Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving, but I also took tips HERE on the preparation of fresh figs.  I also went HERE for a refresher on the rules of canning - if you have never canned before, I highly recommend you read that and get yourself a Ball Blue Book too.  This recipe here is also an excellent guide with pictures to making fig jam.  My Ball Blue Book specified using 6 cups of sugar, but I cut down on the sugar by two cups because 6 cups makes the jam just too sweet to my taste.  I think 4 cups of sugar makes it plenty sweet.  Maybe because of the decreased sugar, I had to add a little pectin** to my recipe.  In the end, my jam came out perfect - thick, smooth and beautiful.  Tasty, too!

Fresh Fig Jam

5 pounds fresh ripe* figs, stemmed and peeled
4 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
**1 tsp. Pomona's Universal Pectin plus 2 tbsp. sugar plus  1 tsp. included calcium water, if desired
1/4 cup lemon juice 

Prepare your jars and lids (I used 12 jars).  The jars need to be clean and sterilized and kept hot - the lids do not need to be sterilized, but they do need to be washed and to be kept hot.  I have a sanitize option on my dishwasher, so I just run the jars and lids in the dishwasher - I have to time this correctly so the jars are hot when I am ready for them.  Or you can wash your jars in the sink, then put them in a pot of water.  Bring the water to a boil, and boil the jars and lids for 10 minutes to sterilize them.  Keep them in hot water until you are ready to fill them with jam.  You can keep the lids in a smaller pot of hot water until ready to use.  If the jars are not hot when you put hot jam into them, they could break, and that is no fun.

In a large pot, combine the sugar, cinnamon and water.  Add the figs.  *You don't want figs that are so ripe they are mushy or bruised easily.  And it's okay to throw in some almost-ripe figs, as the slightly under-ripe ones have more natural pectin.  Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer.  Skim any foam off the top if necessary.  Cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until mixture thickens, about an hour.  You can mash the figs a bit to break them up into smaller bits if you wish.

Meanwhile, fill your canner with water and get the water hot.

If after an hour of cooking down the jam has gelled to your liking**, add the 1/4 cup lemon juice.  Return to a boil and boil for 1 minute, then turn off the heat.  

**To see if your jam has gelled, keep a spoon in the fridge.  Scoop a bit of the jam onto the cold spoon, and let the jam on it cool to room temperature.  If it is thick to your liking, that's that.  If not, then keep cooking to the gelling point.  I cooked my jam for an hour and a half and it still was not gelled enough for me, so I added some Pomona's pectin to help things along - not as much as suggested on the recipe sheet inside the pectin box, but that extra teaspoon of pectin turned out to be just perfect.  To add pectin to the jam, thoroughly mix it with the 2 tbsp. sugar and then whisk the sugar/pectin mixture and the calcium water vigorously into the hot jam.  Bring the jam to a boil and boil for 1 - 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Fill hot jars with hot jam, leaving 1/4 inch of head space between the jam and the rim of the jar.  Wipe the rim of the jar clean with a damp cloth or paper towel (debris on the rim will prevent the lid from sealing).  Adjust the two piece caps (not too tight) and place the jars on the basket that comes with the canner.  Lower the basket into the water.  The water should only cover the jars by 2 - 3 inches.  Bring the water to a boil, then cover the canner and boil for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and lift the jars out of the canner.  I put them on a towel on the counter to cool - the jars should not touch one another to allow for circulation.  Sometimes the jars seal in the canner and sometimes they will seal after you take them out of the canner - I love to hear the popping sound the lids make as they seal.  If after 12 hours you have any jars that do not seal (the bump in the center of the lid has not gone flat), store those jars in the fridge.  For all jars that seal, store in a cool dark place for up to a year.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bread for the Bread Machine

The other day it occurred to me that I have not made cinnamon raisin bread in years!  How could that have happened?!  There's almost nothing that smells better than baking cinnamon raisin bread (unless it's apple pie).  As hot as it is right now, it is almost time for school to start and that means that autumn is just around the corner.  My mind is beginning to fill with all things autumn, including the memory of the way this bread smells just out of the oven.  This past weekend memory and reality met in my kitchen and smiled.  This bread is heavenly. 

Cinnamon Raisin Bread (Gluten Free, Casein Free, Egg Free)

2 1/2 cups GF flour blend (I use Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Flour Blend)
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins

6 tbsp. warm gelatin egg substitute
1 cup warm rice milk or other non-dairy alternative
3 tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. rapid rise yeast

In a large bowl, sift together the flour through the cinnamon.  Toss the raisins into the flour mixture, coating the raisins completely and making sure they are separated and not in clumps.  Set aside.

Pour the gelatin egg substitute, warm water, oil, honey and vinegar into the bread machine pan. Pour the flour mixture over the water mixture, covering the water mixture completely. Add the yeast on top of the flour. Set the bread machine to the gluten-free setting, medium crust. Help the mixing with a spatula, if needed. Add a tablespoon of water if the mixture is too dry.  When the machine has stopped kneading, take out the kneading paddle and smooth the top of the loaf with your fingers. Replace the lid and let the bread machine do its thing.

(Lumpy but beautiful bread chock full of raisins)

Immediately after the baking cycle has finished, run a soft spatula around the sides of the bread to loosen the loaf from the bread pan.  Turn the pan upside down and gently shake to turn the bread out of the bread pan and onto a wire rack to cool completely. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing. Store on the counter for up to two days. After two days, store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fresh Black Eyed Peas

It is hot, hot, hot!  The grass is dying, trees are losing their leaves like it's autumn, and the sun on my skin really hurts in only 15 minutes.  Nothing moves around outside past noon, even in the shade.  Our one-eyed yard squirrel, affectionately named "Chomper" by the girls, has been seen laying in a crook of one of our trees, languishing in the heat, not bothering to move away from us when we approach her, mouth wide open with a look that begs us to put her out of her misery.  Poor Chomper, I wonder how she gets water when it has not rained in weeks.  I hope she comes out tonight when I water the lawn to get a good, long drink.

About the only thing loving the heat and the relentless sun are our black eyed peas.  We got them started late, but they are one of the only things our garden is producing right now.  One of our friends who got them started much earlier has more black eyed peas than he knows what to do with, and we were recipients of so many black eyed peas that we ended up giving some of them away! 

 Shelling fresh black eyed peas on the porch, waiting in vain for a bit of rain

Surprisingly, the girls really like to shell beans.  They think it's fun to sit on the porch and chat together for an hour at a time, laughing at the way the more mature pods open up like zippers.  Sitting with them, shelling beans together, made me feel like we had been transported back in time.  I felt very old-fashioned, like the only thing we were missing were petticoats.  I marveled at the way the conversation seemed to flow effortlessly and how Anna did not get tired of cackling every time a black eyed pea jumped down her shirt.  Shelling beans seems to be good "therapy" - it inspires conversation and social interaction and it is a good tactile fine-motor activity as well.  Black eyed peas also happen to be tasty and good for your health, which makes them an all-purpose legume in our house.

I have never been a fan of dried black eyed peas or the way they turn mushy when you cook them.  However, I could be a slave to fresh black eyed peas!  Their taste is delicate and fresh and I love their texture - when they are cooked to just tender the skins pop in your mouth.  Shelling fresh black eyed peas is a lot of work, but it's so worth it!  So far, the recipe below (based on this recipe here) is my favorite way to cook fresh black eyed peas.  I make them with chicken broth and smoked sausage, but you could substitute vegetable broth instead and leave out the sausage for  a vegan version of this dish.

I like fresh black eyed peas served over sauteed greens, such as spinach or chard.

Fresh Black Eyed Peas

1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
about 1 pound fresh black eyed peas
chicken broth
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. hot sauce (I like Tabasco Chipotle)
smoked sausage, cut lengthwise into 2 inch chunks
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus more to garnish
salt and pepper to taste
2 large scallions, white and green parts sliced thinly

Place the onion, garlic and black eyed peas in a pot.  Pour in enough chicken broth to just barely cover the peas - you want this dish to be thick, not soupy.  Stir in the lime juice, hot sauce, cilantro and smoked sausage.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer about 45 minutes until the peas are tender, stirring often to prevent sticking.  Turn off the heat.  Adjust the salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.  Stir in the scallions and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.  Serve hot over rice or cornbread.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fudgey No Bake Cookies

 (Yes, I'm a dork.  I still like to make smiley faces out of food.  I'm sure my kids will hate that when they are older.)

It is hot...too hot to bake.  My new favorite summer cookie recipe (based on this recipe here) is super simple and kid-friendly.  They are rich and fudgey and I think they'd be sure to please just about anyone.

1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips
2 tbsp. almond butter
1 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats or quinoa flakes
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup almond milk
3/4 cup sugar

Place the chocolate chips, almond butter and oats in a medium bowl, set aside.  Place the coconut oil, almond milk and sugar in a medium pot over medium heat.  Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Boil hard for one minute (this dissolves the sugar completely so you get a creamy cookie, not a gritty cookie).  Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate chip mixture.  Stir until the chocolate is melted and the ingredients are well-combined.

Let this mixture sit for a minute while you put parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Then drop the batter by teaspoonfuls, shaping as needed, onto the cookie sheet.  The cooler the batter gets the harder it is to shape, so you need to work quickly.  Let the cookies cool on the counter (or put them into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to speed up the cooling process) before serving.  Makes about 20 cookies.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gluten Free Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

 Megan is back to eating rice (in moderation!) with thankfully no eczema flare-ups.  To celebrate, I made these chocolate rice crispy treats.  I love these things, and so do the kids!  

1/2 bag of marshmallows (I use about 11 large Elyon Marshmallows)
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 box Nature's Path Koala Crisp cereal
1 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Line one 8x8 inch baking dish with wax paper, set aside.

If using a microwave, place the marshmallows and coconut oil in a large glass bowl.  Microwave on high for one minute, or until the marshmallows puff up and start to melt.  Stir until melted and the oil is incorporated.  If doing this on the stove, put the marshmallows and coconut oil in a large pot.  Stir over low heat until the marshmallows melt and the oil is incorporated.

Pour the cereal into the marshmallow mixture and stir vigorously to coat.  Scrape the cereal mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Press the cereal mixture evenly into the dish with your hands.

Put the chocolate chips into a small glass bowl and microwave on high for 45 - 60 seconds or until the chocolate chips start to look soft.  Stir until completely melted.  Or, put the chocolate chips into a small saucepan.  Stir over low heat until the chips begin to soften, then turn off the heat and stir until completely melted.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal mixture in the baking dish and spread evenly over the surface.  Cool in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens, about 30 minutes, before cutting into squares to serve.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Garden Life and Fresh Vegetable Succotash

Our garden is not dead yet!  Last year everything died in July, but this year mostly everything is still alive and producing.  We are still gathering cucumbers, Swiss Chard, carrots, jalapenos and green and golden peppers.  We've gone through our garlic, beets, turnips, shallots, kale, mustard, lettuce, arugula and tomatoes, and we were able to harvest two zucchini and two butternut squash before the vine borers took the plants out.  Right now we are growing what looks like canteloupe (we can't remember which seeds we planted!), green beans, black eyed peas and amaranth.  DH planted the amaranth because apparently, you can eat the leaves like spinach.  I had no idea!  I'm looking forward to trying that.

(We've harvested lots of lemon cucumbers and green peppers this summer!)

The other night DH and I watched a PBS documentary about urban gardening.  It was all very exciting - hydroponic rooftop gardens, rooftop beehives, and urban farming in cities like Detroit.  And then I thought hey, we are urban farmers too!  Well maybe suburban farmers - although we live in a small city abutting a big city, we have a yard.  Lots of people have very small yards or no yards at all, but even then you can garden - check out these nifty ideas here!  We are getting small amounts of several vegetables from our garden and I've been throwing them together in medley dishes, when last night I surprised myself by making a fresh veggie succotash.

 (Fresh garlic from our garden turned out to have more bite than store-bought garlic!)

I have always hated traditional succotash.  Anytime it turned up on the table when I was growing up, I refused to eat it.  I remember it being some kind of corn and bean dish, like creamed corn and lima beans.  I hate lima beans.  They taste dry like sawdust in my mouth.  My mom used to make a lima bean soup and I hated that too.  The soup tasted dry and I could never wrap my head or my taste buds around dry soup.  And creamed corn from a can was almost as bad - too mushy.  It tasted sort of like corn but had none of the pleasing crunchy texture.  I could not handle the combination of mushy corn and sawdusty lima beans. Whenever succotash appeared at the table, it was all I could do to not gag. So it was a complete surprise when last night I made a veggie side dish, looked at it, and said "holy cow, I've just made succotash!".  It's funny how your roots rear up to blindside you when you've been happily munching on jalapenos and finding ways to incorporate hot sauce into all your favorite dishes.

This version of succotash is way better than what I grew up with - to start, the veggies were all fresh.  Apparently, succotash can consist of a variety of vegetables and a shell bean.  Instead of limas, I used fresh black eyed peas.  Instead of corn, I used summer squash.  The other vegetables are what I had laying around - incidentally, every ingredient save the salt and chili powder are from our garden and other friends' gardens.  I told DH last night that this turned out to be a friendship succotash, and we agreed that's the best kind of succotash there is.

Fresh Vegetable Succotash

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeds removed, and chopped
splash of white wine
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped into large pieces
1 small summer squash, quartered and sliced
1 cup fresh shelled small black-eyed peas, boiled a few minutes until tender*
chili powder to taste
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until just beginning to turn soft.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and wine, cook another two minutes.  Add the Swiss chard and cook, tossing, until beginning to soften.  Add the summer squash and black eyed peas, toss, then cover and cook another couple of minutes until the chard is tender.  Season to taste with chili powder and salt.  Serve hot.

*DH tells me that small fresh black-eyed peas don't have to be boiled at all, you can saute them until they are tender!  I'm going to try that with our next batch of black eyed peas.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fresh Pickled Jalapenos

We have two happy jalapeno plants in our garden.  Until it got hot, they produced like crazy...they've since slowed down, and now instead of staying green, the peppers are turning red.  Earlier in the season, they were fairly mild, but now with the hot weather, they have a good burn!

We were overwhelmed the other week with a big batch of jalapenos and I didn't know what to do with them.  I thought of the sad, limp and less-than-inspired little jar of jalapenos I had recently bought for some tacos and thought that I could do better than that.  So I did.  These yummy pickled jalapenos (original recipe here) have my jalapeno-loving friends asking for them for Christmas!  I don't think there's a much better affirmation of a food than that.

You can keep these fresh and store them in the fridge, and they will retain a nice crunch for a week or two before they start to soften.   You can also can them and put them away for later.  I made a big quart jar of them fresh and they didn't last long, so then I canned a few half pint jars and am hiding them until the holidays.  I think homemade pickled jalapenos go well with almost everything - my favorite way to enjoy them right now is with crackers and hummus and on pizza!

A word of caution on slicing jalapenos - you should wear rubber gloves.  I made the mistake of ignoring this advice and then suffered from jalapeno burns on my hands, which became quite painful.  It started as a tingle, then a warmness, and then my hands really hurt.  I washed my hands in vain - the oils from the peppers do not wash away with water.  Luckily, my mom was here and suggested home remedies for pepper burns.  A soak in orange juice helped a little bit, but a paste made of water and baking soda was more effective (cover hands thickly, then let paste dry - I did this twice).  Cutting hot peppers with my bare hands is a mistake I will only make once - I now have a stash of disposable rubber gloves at the ready in the kitchen!

Fresh Pickled Jalapenos

1 pound jalapenos, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
small bay leaves
several small cloves of crushed garlic
1 tbsp. peppercorns
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. sugar

Pack the jalapenos into one or more glass jars (I used one quart jar), layering with a few cloves of the garlic and 1 bay leaf in each jar (or 2 bay leaves in a quart jar).  Add the peppercorns to the jar(s). Heat the remaining ingredients in a saucepan over low heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and pour the liquid over the jalapenos.  Let sit until the liquid has cooled to room temperature and then store in the fridge. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Quinoa Jam Bars

Recently as I was perusing the gluten-free grocery aisle, I happened upon a bag of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour.  I was intrigued, but not enough to fork over $6 for a bag of it.  That seems expensive to me, but maybe I'm shopping in the wrong places.  I did, however, jot down the recipe for Raspberry Oatmeal Bars on the back of the bag.  And then instead of buying the expensive oats, I bought a box of quinoa flakes that were on sale, and went home to make some Quinoa Jam Bars based on Bob's recipe.  They turned out so good I've since made several batches of it, and the girls have yet to get bored with them.  Any jam or preserve will work here, but I'm partial to strawberry.  Very soon, I will try fig jam and with luck, will be reminded of Fig Newtons (I sure do miss those!).

1 1/2 cups GF flour blend (I used this one)*
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup palm shortening or Earth Balance Soy-Free Margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2/3 cup jam of your choice
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of one 8x8 inch baking pan with a little shortening or margarine.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour through the salt.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, sugar and vanilla extract until fluffy.  Add the flour mixture and blend well.  The mixture will look clumpy.  Reserve one generous cup of this mixture.  Press the rest evenly into the prepared baking dish with your hands.

Combine the jam and lemon juice.  Spread the jam mixture over top of the dough in the baking dish.  Take the reserved dough and rub between your fingers to evenly cover the jam.  Bake 20 - 25 minutes until light brown and firm.  Cool before cutting into squares to serve.

*I made these for a friend who can't do sorghum.  For the flour blend I substituted 1/4 cup millet flour, 1/4 cup quinoa flour, 1/4 cup tapioca flour, , 6 tbsp. potato starch and 6 tbsp. buckwheat flour.  I added 2 tbsp. or so of hemp milk to the batter because it was too dry.  These changes made the bars heartier and a little less sweet, which I liked.