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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Banana Cinnamon Rolls

Banana Cinnamon Rolls - unfussy, easy, lovely, tasty Cinnamon Rolls.  What more can I say?  I love this recipe. It is no big deal to whip these up on a weekend (or on a holiday), I think it takes all of 30 minutes from start to finish.  I've used banana and pumpkin puree in this recipe, but I like the banana the best.  Happy Holidays, y'all!

Banana Cinnamon Rolls

1 1/2 cups GF flour blend (I used this one)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 mashed banana
4 tbsp. coconut milk

3 tbsp. melted coconut oil
1/3 cup sugar mixed with 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lay a piece of parchement paper onto a baking sheet, set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour through the baking powder.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the mashed banana and coconut milk.  Add to the dry mixture and stir until well blended.  The dough should not be super sticky - if it is too wet, add a tablespoon of flour.  If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of milk.

Lay a piece of parchment paper on the counter and dust with flour.  Scrape the dough onto the parchment paper.  Sprinkle the dough with flour and flatten with your hands into a rectangle about 1/3 inch thick.  Spread melted coconut oil on top of the dough.  Top the dough evenly with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Starting at a long end, sprinkle some flour at the edge of the dough where it meets the parchment paper and begin to lift the paper to roll the dough into a log (a spatula works well for this).  Keep laying flour at the edge of the dough where it meets the parchment paper to encourage the dough to release without sticking to the paper too much. 

Slice the log with a floured knife into equally sized round 1inch pieces, about 8 of them.

Place each round onto the prepared baking sheet.

 Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until baked through, lightly browned on the top and golden brown on the bottom.


Remove from oven and cool.  If desired, drizzle with a glaze made out of powdered sugar and milk before serving.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Savory Potato Scones

(Potato Scones without eggs)

It's finally winter break!  I'm so excited for a chance to relax a little bit and enjoy my family and for a chance to bake!  Today's offering is two versions of Potato Scones - one with eggs (for those who can do eggs) and one without eggs (for those who cannot do eggs).  These scones are a sort of cross between potato pancakes and farl.  This recipe is a great way to quickly use a few potatoes that are starting to sprout eyes.  I like these scones topped simply with margarine and served with a soup or a salad to round out a light meal. The version with eggs is a little lighter than the one without eggs, but my taste-testers (the girls) liked both versions equally well.

Ingredients for Potato Scones with Eggs

1 cup GF flour blend (I used this one)
1 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 cups mashed russet potatoes (mashed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. dried parsley
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic or onion powder, if desired 

                                                         (Potato Scones with eggs)

Ingredients for Potato Scones without Eggs

1 cup GF flour blend (I used this one)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 cups mashed russet potatoes (mashed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper)2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1/2 cup plain coconut milk (or try leftover gravy if available)
2 tbsp. flax meal
1/4 cup shredded Daiya cheese, if desired
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic or onion powder, if desired

Directions for Cooking
Preheat a griddle (preferably cast iron) over medium-low heat.  In a small bowl sift together the flour and the baking powder, set aside.  

In a large bowl stir together the remaining ingredients (mashed potatoes through garlic powder).  Stir in the flower mixture to form a sticky dough.

Divide the dough in half. Turn out one portion onto a piece of floured wax paper. Sprinkle a little flour over top of the dough and then flatten with your hands into a circle 1/2 inch thick. With a knife dipped in flour, cut the dough circle into 4 wedges.  Drizzle a little olive oil onto the preheated griddle, then transfer the scones with a spatula to the griddle.   Repeat with the remaining dough.


Cook scones about 5 - 7 minutes or until deep golden brown. Turn and brown the other side, adding more oil to the skillet as necessary.  Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly.  Serve scones warm. Store leftovers in plastic wrap and reheat for a few minutes on the griddle before serving.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Homemade Burritos

I am tired.

Let me say it again.  I. Am. Tired.  And this is so, so sad, but the last thing I want to do is cook anything on a school night.  I make a pot of soup on the weekends that will get us through half the week, and the other half is improvised with whatever is leftover in the fridge.  Last night I made chicken salad lettuce wraps topped with guacamole and served Beanitos and red pepper strips on the side.  I am SO lucky my girls thought that was the best dinner ever.  They are pretty agreeable to most things...even sardines on toast (served when mommy is totally frazzled).

After making enchiladas that were a big hit (a more involved weekend meal), I started to crave burritos.  I'm talking the frozen, throw in the microwave, stick to the roof of your mouth kind I remember from childhood...mostly white flour tortilla with a weensy bit of filling inside.  Looking back now I think, how gross was that?  Nasty glutenous processed comfort food at its worst, filled with trans fats and mystery meat and who knows what else...blech.  But now I wanted  They had to be easy to throw together and easy to reheat on a school night.  Enter Rudi's GF tortillas (happily also egg free!) and Pacific Refried Beans.

I'm not even going to post a real recipe for these burritos.  Basically, do what you want.  Throw in some cooked diced sweet potato into the refried beans, or some ground meat, or broccoli, or whatever you like.  Stir it together in a bowl.  Season to taste.  Scoop some filling onto one side of a tortilla and top with Daiya.  Roll up as in the pictures below.  Cook over low heat in a skillet brushed with a little olive oil until golden brown on the bottom, then flip and cook on the other side.  Covering the skillet helps the cheese melt inside.  Serve with salsa and guacamole and a veggie on the side.  You can make these and freeze them for when you are having a really, really bad day and just feel like you want to sling skillets across the kitchen instead of cook with them.  Don't do that.  Head for the freezer and sling some burritos into the skillet instead.

Ahh, burritos.  I feel better already.  I don't even have to warm up the tortillas before rolling!

In fact, I feel slightly giddy over the way these tortillas don't split and crack open as I stuff and roll them.  Rudis, you make me so happy, because if I had to make my own tortillas on a school night, I'd be really cranky.

So pretty, no?  Not a split in sight.

I'm feeling better and better.  I've spent like, 3 minutes on dinner at this point.

Look at those burrittos, nestled so snug in my frying pan.  Very soon, I will eat you, little burritos, 
and you will be so tasty!  (Good grief, I'm tired.)

Salsa-free, for Anna who still cannot deal with anything saucy.

Megan and I like to dump salsa on ours.  She likes to smother her sauteed cabbage 
in salsa too.  To each her own.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fried Sage

One summer when we traveled back home, we stayed at a B&B that served fried potatoes with fried sage for breakfast.  I'd never had anything like fried sage before - freshly plucked out of the garden and fried in a little olive oil until just crisp.  It was delicious.  It's taken several years to actually make fried sage myself.  I'm glad I did - it's as good as I remember it, and the girls inhaled it.  Anna likes to eat hers straight up, but I like to crumble mine on top of other food, such as roasted vegetables.  I like to think that sage's antiviral properties help fight cold sores, which have plagued me even after raising the white flag of surrender and taking daily medication to fight flare-ups.  Dirty rotten flare-ups do still happen, especially when I'm under stress, which is a constant lately.  So I figure dabbing sage tincture on my lips and eating sage in whatever manner I can, even fried, has to be doing some good.  One has to hope, anyway.

Frying sage is super easy.  Grab several fresh organic sage leaves.  I grabbed mine from my garden, so I didn't bother washing them because I knew where they came from...I just waved them around a bit to dislodge whatever dust or pollen there was on them.  I figured any bug spit would be rendered inert by the frying, and in any case, little protein never hurt anyone.  If you want to wash your sage, be sure to pat the leaves dry before frying, or the water will spit and splatter in the hot oil and you'll be running for cover while the sage burns.

Heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow frying pan over medium-low heat.  Add sage leaves in a single layer and cook several seconds.  They will be stiff and will turn a lovely dark green color - do not let them brown. Flip and cook another several seconds, then remove to a paper towel to drain.  Sprinkle with salt immediately if desired, and let cool.  They will be crispy and delicious!.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Enchiladas with Rice and Beans

The start of school is just one week away.  I can't believe the summer has already come and gone, but I am looking forward to this school year.  Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I just love a challenge.  Someday that instinct might kill me, bur for now it's a thrill.  With any transition there are some hiccups, and Anna is hiccuping a lot lately.  She is going into middle school, and I can see the great hulking anxiety about it hovering over her shoulders, sinking its talons deep into her psyche.  I do my best to be a great snowplow, hunkering down and plowing through deep snow and storm, trying to grab her hand to come with me.  Just walk, sweetie, put one foot in front of the other, and it will be fine.  We will get there.  But she and I are different, and she looks at the storm and freaks out.  It happens every year.  Some transitions are better than others, and this one I think will be hard.  Her anxiety becomes my anxiety.  Her fear becomes my fear.  It is that way with parents, I think.  I try to be strong-headed about it, but I'm not sure that's what she needs.  So I have been filled with a nervous energy lately. What's good for nervous energy?  Cooking for people you love.  I've made these enchiladas three times in a short span of time. They are a little involved but the result makes people smile, and that is good therapy.  I should call these my stress enchiladas. I'm going to make them again this weekend.  That should tell you something about my stress levels.

A good friend showed my how to make enchiladas properly.  She told me to flash fry them in oil before filling and rolling.  Part of me balked because I could imagine the tortillas sucking up and retaining the oil, which is not the healthiest thing ever.  But I did it her way.  The tortillas rolled beautifully without breaking apart, they did not soak up the enchilada sauce and become soggy, and they stayed separated when I served them for dinner.  Fabulous!  Her way of making enchiladas turned out better than any other way I've tried to make them.  Now I'm a convert, flash frying those puppies with aplomb.  I like to serve enchiladas as a meal with rice and beans, like you'd get in a restaurant, so I've included recipes for all three in one post.  I've based my enchildada recipe on this one here (my friend makes them with shredded chicken, which is good too).  I like using Frontera enchilada sauce (chef crush!) but when it's not on sale, I make my own (based on the recipe I found here).

To make enchildadas, rice and beans as a meal, start the rice first.  While the rice cooks, assemble the enchiladas.  While the enchiladas bake, make the black beans.  Serve all with diced avocados, diced tomatoes and chopped cilantro.

Enchilada Sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp all purpose GF flour blend
1 -  2 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. tomato sauce
8 oz.chicken broth
2 tbsp. tomato puree

Combine the oil through the salt in a medium saucepan.  Heat on low until bubbly, cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth and tomato puree.  Simmer until slightly thickened.  Adjust salt and chili powder to taste.  This can be made a day ahead - store in the refrigerator.

Beef and Bean Filling
1 lb ground beef
1 small chopped onion
16oz prepared refried beans (such as Pacific Organic Refried Pinto Beans)
1 chopped tomato, if desired
salt, cumin and chili powder to taste

Brown the beef in a skillet over medium heat with the onion until the beef is cooked through and the onion is soft.  Drain the fat from the pan.  To the beef add the refried beans, tomato and seasonings to taste. This can be made a day ahead - store in the refrigerator.

Mexican Rice
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 small diced onion
1 cup long grain rice
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and garilc and cook until the garlic is translucent, stirring frequently.  Add the rice and cook, stirring, for two minutes.  Add the tomato sauce through the salt.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Fluff with a fork.  Garnish with tomato and parsley. (Inspiriation found here.)

Mexican Black Beans
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 tsp. cumin
3 cups cooked black beans
1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
1/2 tsp. salt
dash pepper
dash lime juice

Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic, jalapeno and cumin and cook 30 seconds.  Add the beans, chicken broth, salt and pepper, cook 5 minutes.  Mash the beans coarsley. Continue cooking until thick, about 10 minutes.  Stir in lime juice.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  (Original recipe here.)

one package corn tortillas
oil for frying
prepared beef and bean filling
prepared enchilada sauce
Daiya cheese shreds
toppings of your choice

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread some of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of one 13 x 9 inch baking dish.  Set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add a tortilla and cook for several seconds only.
Flip the tortilla and cook for another several seconds, until the tortillas are bubbly but not browned.  Remove to a paper towel to drain.


You do not want the tortillas to get crispy.  Cooking them in oil this way keeps them soft enough to roll without breaking, and it keeps the enchiladas from getting soggy when baking in the sauce.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

To assemble, place a few tablespoons of the prepared filling onto one end of a tortilla.  Roll the tortilla and place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.


Spread enchilada sauce over the tops of the enchiladasYou may not use all of the sauce - if you don't, freeze the rest for later.   


Scatter Daiya over the enchiladas - cheddar is great, though all I had for this picture is mozzarella.  Some enchiladas are naked because Anna does not care for the texture of melted cheese.

Bake enchiladas for about 20 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is melted.  If you left some enchiladas naked, it helps to spread a little more enchildada sauce over them before serving, so they don't look dry.  

Serve with the black beans and rice and your choice of toppings.

***If you have leftover filling, turn it into a dip for the next day.  Spread some enchilada sauce on the bottom of a small baking dish.  Spread the filling on top of the sauce.  Spead some more enchilada sauce on top of the filling and top with cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees until hot and the cheese is melted.  Scatter diced avocado over the top and serve with chips.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Churros - Gluten Free & Vegan

It has finally gotten hot here, and I am disinclined to turn on the oven to bake.  Whatever I can make on the stovetop or the counter is what I've been cooking lately.  Churros are a great dessert, although other parts of the world serve them for breakfast. (That is something I need to try...churros dipped in hot chocolate?  Yum!)  These little strips of fried dough are super easy to make and they make the kids smile.  It's so hard to resist the girls when they smile with a please and sparkly eyes.  What's a mom supposed to do?  Yes, I'll make churros.  I found the original recipe here.

1 cup water
2 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup All Purpose Rice flour blend
oil for frying (coconut oil is great, but canola works too)
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon

Heat oil for frying to 375 degrees.

In a small saucepan, combine water, 2 1/2 tbsp. sugar, salt and coconut oil.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then remove.  Stir the flour into the hot water, then beat with a whisk until the mixture forms a smooth and sticky ball.  Put the batter into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Pipe strips of dough into the hot oil a few at a time.  Fry about 2 minutes or until golden; drain on paper towels.  Roll hot churros in cinnamon sugar.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Skillet Bread - Gluten Free & Vegan

I have a headache.  It's one of those dull, viselike aches that tighten and turn into a migraine if I don't take care of it.  Sometimes this happens with stress, but mostly it happens when weather is coming.  I can always tell if we are going to get weather, because the day before it arrives I'll get one of these headaches.  The weather service says we'll get weather tomorrow...I could have told them that.  I can feel it. 

When I'm not feeling good, chicken soup and biscuits really hit the spot.  (For something vegan, make vegetable soup with homemade vegetable broth.)  I make chicken soup with homemade stock every time, it's really the only way to do it.  It's easy, healthy and thrifty.  To make homemade stock, roast some chicken (whole or parts, bone-in) for dinner one night.  Save the bones, knuckles, skin and drippings - everything you don't eat.  Throw it all in the freezer for when you want to make stock, then take it and throw it all into a crock pot with some onion skins.  Add carrots, celery and parsley if available.  Cook on low in the crock pot for at least 12 hours.  Cool and strain, then store in the fridge.  When cold, the stock will gel up, like jello - that's how you know you have a stock with all the good stuff in it.

When ready to make soup, I chop an onion, a few carrots and a couple of celery stalks.  I cook them in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over low heat until they start to sweat, then I throw in some salt, thyme and pepper and cook until the onion is translucent.  If we are sick, I throw in a couple of cloves of minced garlic too.  Sometimes I'll add petite diced tomatoes and a cup of V8 (throw in some basil if you use tomatoes).  Then I add 6 - 8 cups of stock and bring just to a boil.  I add 1/2 cup of red lentils which help thicken the soup.  Sometimes I'll add 1 cup of pasta, that helps thicken the soup too.  Simmer about 20 minutes until the lentils fall apart and/or the pasta is tender.  I cook chopped chicken thighs separately before throwing them in the soup, but leftover cooked cubed or shredded chicken works well too.  That's it - fabulous every time.

The recipe that follows is for Skillet Bread.  It's actually one big biscuit.  This cooks on the stovetop while you are making soup.  I love these biscuits for their serious no-fuss quality.  I've made them several times now.  We've tried them cooked with olive oil, margarine and coconut oil, but coconut oil is our favorite.  Depending on what GF flour blend you use, they can even be flaky (best flaky results so far involve 1 3/4 cups of all purpose rice flour and 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour Blend).  It's fun to experiment with using different flours to change the taste and texture of the biscuits.  It's even more fun that this recipe is so easy and versatile.  I adapted the original recipe from Deep South Dish here.

Skillet Bread (GF & Vegan)
2 cups all purpose GF flour blend
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 cup Enjoy Life Soy-Free Margarine
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp. coconut oil, divided

Heat one 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.  While the skillet is heating, sift together the flour through the xanthan gum.  Cut in the 1/4 cup margarine with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles fine meal.  Add the coconut milk and stir until a semi-stiff dough forms.  Cut the dry bits into the dough if needed with a fork or the side of a mixing spoon.  Your dough should feel good - not sticky and not dry.  You should be able to play with it without it sticking to your hands.

Dump the dough onto a piece of wax paper that is as big as your skillet.  Knead the dough a couple of times into a ball, then pat flat into a circle about the diameter of your skillet, about 1/2 inch high.  Smooth out the raggedy edges.

Melt 1 tbsp. coconut oil in the skillet and swirl to cover the bottom of the skillet.  Carefully pick up the wax paper and transfer the dough to the skillet, flipping the dough into the skillet and peeling the wax paper off the top.  

Cover the skillet and cook about 10 minutes, or until the top looks dry and the bottom, when lifted carefully with a spatula, looks nice and browned on the bottom.  Carefully flip the bread over.  Leave it uncovered.  Spread the remaining 2 tbsp. coconut oil over the top of the skillet bread.  


Cook another several minutes until the bottom is browned.  Transfer the skillet bread from the skillet to a cutting board and let cool for several minutes, until warm (not hot).  Cut into wedges with a serrated knife and serve warm.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy Tails to You

Meet Cookie, the newest member of our family.

When I say member of the family, I mean that Cookie will be a part of my classroom this coming year.  Because DH hates anything cute and furry.  (He really needs to be bald, with a long goatee, and at least one tattoo, and big clunky Docs, to be claiming intolerance of cute furry animals. Well, two out of four isn't bad.  But I digress.)

I believe that pets are good for kids.  They can teach lots of things - love, tolerance, patience, responsibility.  When met with DH's resistance, I started to think outside of the box.  (What box?)  If a small furry rodent would be a good experience for my kids, well it would be a good experience for my "other" kids.  Middle schoolers love small pets.  Usually small pets are found in second and third grade classrooms, maybe fourth grade.  But middle school?  Everyone expects them to be all grown up, when deep down inside all they want is some cute furry animal to talk to.  Problem solved.

We bought Cookie early last week.  She was cute and small, with ears that lay flat and wavy against her head.  The cat is enthralled and at the same time repulsed.  In a week, Cookie has grown to twice her "original" size, and her ears now stick straight up from her head.  Hello, cute!  We are trying to handle her as much as she will tolerate, to get her used it before going to school.  She loves to take a spin in her ball, which the cat hates.  The hamster knows this and will make a beeline for the cat at every opportunity.

Cookie is a bit of a diva.  I will need to help her to acclimate to many voices and lots of action..  After all, she will be a working hamster, one whose primary purpose will be to teach.  Last year we had a class alien, and we explored his "otherness"  and origins.  This year we will have a class hamster, whose happy Habitrail home looks a little alien itself.  We will be doing creative and descriptive writing about the hamster in class.  She is tri-colored, which will help.  We'll draw pictures of her too, to aid us in our writing. What is not to love?  I mean - cute whiskers, sticky-up ears, a butt that waggles when she runs in her wheel?  So awesome.  I'm really excited about our hamster.

I wish I could say the cat is also excited about our hamster.  And DH.  But I work with what I have.  Middle school, here we come.

Monday, June 9, 2014

To Every Thing There Is a Season

School has been out for a week.  Today starts week two of summer vacation.  I was busy all last week at school moving my classroom around, cleaning and painting.  I kept adding to my long list of things to do at home after I got all my things to do at school crossed off.  This weekend I was poised to be busy tackling my home chores and I totally didn't.  I slept in and read books in bed instead.  I fluffed off my chores in a big way and guess what?  I didn't care.  This past year has been one long marathon, and I'm tired.  I'm going to take a break, thank you very much.  I just want to be.  I want to be with my children.  I want to enjoy their company.  Am I going to spend this summer running around like a nut zipping from one activity to the next?  Nope, nope, nope.  I am going to relax, and breathe.  At least for a little while, anyway.  I am already thinking about lesson plans and activities for next school year, which is not as far away as it looks.  I have been thinking about next school year for at least a month already.  In fact, I feel like I have so much to do to get prepared that it's making me feel nauseated.  For now, however, I'm putting all that on a shelf, and I will just be.

Besides having an intense desire to read voraciously, I want to be in the kitchen.  Yesterday I turned some old, dry carrots into carrot bread.  This morning I was trying to make spicy pickled apricots but the apricots disintegrated after simmering for a couple of minutes, and I ended up with spicy apricot infused vinegar instead, which was kind of fun in the end.  A friend gave us a few pounds of very ripe peaches, which I turned into peach chutney.  I made no bake cookies for the kids.  I am about to make sandwich bread, after weeks of sending the girls to school with dosas for lunch.  I am happy to be slowing down enough to get reaquainted with my kitchen again.  There was just not enough time, energy or interest to do much in the kitchen this past year, which you can see reflected in the lack of blog posts.  At first I felt neglectful of this body of recipes I've built for the past 6 years.  But a lot of things have changed in 6 years, and I'm ready to let go of some things and ready to embrace others.  It's okay.  My girls are older, at a different stage in life, and so am I.  I'm not as angsty about autism, or adhd, or food allergies and intolerances.  As an old boss used to say, it is what it is.  I feel myself mellowing in a lot of ways.  I had another boss long ago, who I admired immensely.  He was smart and kind and full of a fire I could identify with.  Over the years as he got older, the fire cooled and he mellowed out.  Back then it upset me, I thought he was going soft.  Now as I'm getting older, I can see it happening to me, and I recognize its value. 

When I started this blog, there were not a whole lot of people baking without gluten and casein.  Now there are legion.  As I shift my focus to other things, it just does not seem that important to try to keep up anymore.  In a way it's sad.  In another way, it's liberating.  I'm doing something new and creative and that's invigorating.  I'll probably pop back in from time to time with little updates or recipes I can't keep to myself.  But I expect mostly to be quiet.  I expect I'll be in a different way, and I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Prune Cake with Crumb Topping

Since moving to Tornado Alley, I have kept emergency supplies in one of the central closets of the house.  I go through them every spring, rotating nonperishables and batteries to keep them fresh.  Friends laugh at me, but it makes me feel better to be prepared for the "just in case".  Last week I did the annual rotation and came upon a tub of prunes.  I don't know what I was thinking, throwing prunes in with the emergency supplies.  Goodness knows the girls would not touch them even in case of  emergency.  So what do do with an excess of prunes?  Make prune cake, of course.  I modified Pioneer Woman's recipe here to be gluten free and vegan.  I topped it with a crumb topping and served it as coffeecake for breakfast.  It was delicious, so I promptly made some more.  We had prune cake for breakfast for two weeks in a row, and the girls are none the wiser.  In fact, they asked for more.  I've considered telling them exactly what it is but...I have concluded that what they don't know, they can't freak out over.  The subversive in me just loves being a mom.

 (This piece was made with a sorghum based all-purpose flour blend, although a rice based one would work well too.)

Prune Cake
1 cup prunes
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. cider vinegar plus enough dairy-free milk to equal 1/2 cup

1 1/2 cups GF flour blend
3 tbsp. flax meal
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. white sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup dairy free, soy free margarine
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease one glass 8x11 inch baking dish with grapeseed oil, set aside.  

Prepare the crumb topping.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, white sugar and cinnamon with a fork until well blended.  Cut in the margarine until the mixture clumps together in the size of peas.  Set aside.

Put the prunes in a small saucepan and cover them with water.  Bring to a boil and simmer about 8 minutes, or until they are soft and mashable.  Drain and mash with a fork.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and grapeseed oil until smooth.   Add the applesauce and vanilla and stir to combine.  Add the cider vinegar milk and stir.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour through the cinnamon.  Pour the flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir to blend well.  Add the prunes and stir to combine.  Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly into the pan.  Evenly scatter the crumb topping over the batter.  Place the baking dish in the oven and bake 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool before cutting into squares to serve.

(This piece is made with a multi-grain flour blend - this was my favorite.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Blackberry Apple Upside Down Cake

Spring break is here!  And it actually feels like spring!  I'm so exited about being able to take a breather that over the weekend I took a nap.  I never slow down enough to take a nap.  Thus recharged, I've been knocking things off my list, one by one.  Spring break usually finds me cleaning out and organizing the garage, which sounds really boring, but it's very cathartic for me to get a grip on the clutter.  I have also made time to bake, which is creative catharsis.  Today's selection is Blackberry Apple Upside Down cake.  I love upside down cakes, they are simple enough for a weekday after dinner treat, or even a special breakfast treat.  This recipe originally comes from Cooking Light, modified to be gluten free and vegan, of course!

Blackberry Apple Upside Down Cake

2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 pint fresh blackberries, rinsed and patted dry
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour Blend (sorghum or rice)
1 tbsp. flax meal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 inch round cake pan with parchment paper.  Spread 2 tbsp. coconut oil over the parchement paper and sprinkle with the brown sugar.  Top with blackberries and chopped apples, set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour through the cinnamon, set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and 2 tbsp. coconut oil.  Add the applesauce, lemon juice and lemon extract until well blended.  Add the coconut milk and stir to combine.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir well.  Pour the batter over the blackberry topping, spreading to cover completely.

Bake the cake 35 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comesout clean.  Cool cake in the pan 5 minutes.  Loosen the edges of the cake with a knife.  Place a plate upside down on top of the cake pan, then flip  and invert the cake onto the plate.  Lift off the cake pan and peel off the parchment paper from the top of the cake.  Let cool completely before slicing into wedges to serve.

Monday, March 3, 2014

White Bean Soup with Kabocha Squash

Another winter storm, another day off school.  And so it goes.  It was 80 degrees on Saturday before it dropped to below freezing yesterday morning.  First the skies started spitting sleet, and then we got squalls of alternating heavy sleet and hail that made a lot of noise bouncing around outside.  We even got treated to some thunder sleet/hail.  In all, we got enough accumulation to cover the grass outside.  Of course the roads are all one sheet of ice.  Since yesterday afternoon, we have not heard any traffic on the roads, save for regular intervals of emergency sirens as they respond to accidents.  It is very quiet and very cold, the temperature dipping down to 15 degrees last night - a 60 degree swing from Saturday.  Our weather lately has been crazy, warm enough for shorts on the weekends and cold enough for wool during the week.  It's a wonder we are not all sick.

Thankfully I got all our shopping and errands done on Saturday, so yesterday I was in the kitchen cooking and baking all day.  On a cold day when you have the time and nowhere to be, this bean and squash soup really hits the spot.  Kabocha squash takes some time to prepare, but it is so worth it.  Its texture is a cross between pumpkin and sweet potato and its flavor is sweeter than both.  It tastes fabulous roasted all by itself but it is also great in any number of dishes, including curries, pilafs and soups.  Besides roasted plain as "fries", this soup is my favorite way to feature kabocha squash.  Serve this soup with Tomato Rosemary Muffins or French Bread for a hearty meal.

White Bean Soup with Kabocha Squash

1 pound dried white beans, soaked in cold water overnight
1 kabocha squash, 2 - 3 pounds
6 - 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tbsp. lemon juice, if desired

After soaking the dried beans overnight, drain and rinse.  Place in a large pot and cover with water by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, simmer 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse again.  Return to the pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, skimming foam from the top as needed.  Turn down heat to a simmer and cook about 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender.  Drain and set aside.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the squash.  The way I like to do it is to cut the squash into four pieces, leaving the middle part with the seeds intact, like you'd cut an apple around its core.  Then place each of the squash pieces flat side down and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Then slice out the seeds and gunk from each slice with a knife (peeling the inside) and then turn your knife to peeling  the skin off the outer part.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place each squash piece flat on a baking sheet.  Brush squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Turn squash pieces over and repeat.  Bake about 20 minutes or until the squash slices start to brown on the bottom.  Turn the slices over and continue baking until fork tender.  Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle.

While the squash is cooking, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium - low heat in a dutch oven.  Add the onion, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften.  Turn down the heat to low and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, a couple of minutes more.  Add 6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.

Puree about half the cooked beans with a cup or so of chicken or vegetable broth in a blender until smooth.  Add the pureed beans to the pot.  Add the remaining beans and enough broth to thicken the soup to your desired consistency.  Bring to a simmer.  Chop the cooked squash and add to the soup.  Simmer 10 minutes more.  Taste and adjust seasoning, adding lemon juice if desired.  Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf and stir in the parsley.  Serve hot. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Soft Sugar Cookies (Gluten Free & Vegan)

It's snowing again!  I can't believe it.  The girls have been busy building forts in the living room, enjoying their day off school, while I've kept busy cleaning, decluttering and working on school stuff from home.  Music keeps me focused, although DH and I differ on exactly what "focused" means.  For him it means concentrating on one thing at a time to the exclusion of other things.  For me it means juggling several different tasks at once, giving each a spurt of attention at a time, while listening to music and skimming the surface of the many swirling thoughts in my head.  This might look haphazard in action, but all the tasks eventually get done.  Music can also help me hyperfocus on stuff as well - I spent untold hours studying in high school and college with headphones on, music loud and on repeat, pencil and foot tapping.  Ah, hindsight is 20/20, but I'm glad for the clarity now.  The only way we can get Megan to focus on cleaning her room for more than two minutes is to slap headphones on her and pipe in some upbeat music.  You go, girl.  I know exactly how it is. 

So, it's cold and snowing outside. I'm done with my busy work and I've got The Naked and Famous set to repeat.  I'd rather turn on the oven and bake than turn up the thermostat, and it's about that time after hours spent feeling chilly.  Today's selction is (gluten free and vegan!) Soft Sugar Cookies.  My guidance for these cookies comes from this recipe here.  I love that I don't have to roll them out and that they stay soft and don't crumble in the least.  They keep well for several days in the cookie jar, if they last that long.  They are perfect plain or frosted.   For Valentine's Day, make the frosting pink with beet juice!

Soft Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup dairy free, soy free margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. orange or lemon extract

1 1/4 cups GF flour blend
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Sift together the flour through the salt, set aside.

Cream together the margarine, sugar, orange or lemon extract and Daiya cream cheese with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy .  Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon, then beat until combined.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Frost when cooled, if desired.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

*For frosting made with beet juice: beat together 3 tbsp. dairy free, soy free margarine and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.  Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and beat.  Add 1 tbsp. beet juice and beat until well blended.  Add another cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, thinning with beet juice until a nice thick frosting consistency is reached. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chili with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes

It's cold!  I finally broke out my wool sweaters and socks last month and have worn them several times already.  Our temps have been swinging from 80 degrees to 20 degrees, and this morning we woke up to 17 degrees and snow.  Snow!  Driving to school this morning was an adventure with the wheels spinning starting off in first gear, the car sliding across the roads and watching other people do the same.  It never used to bother me back home, but here they don't have the equipment to deal with the snow and ice, and nobody knows how to drive in the stuff.  It makes me anxious driving in these conditions, which quickly turn treacherous, with the girls in the car.  I gripped the steering wheel driving home after school, shifting into neutral over the many slick icy patches, hoping there was nobody too close in front, behind or beside.  I was thinking of dinner, and comfort food for cold weather, and decided on chili.  It's still hot on the stove now, waiting for DH to walk home from the train station.  The conditions of the roads bother him too and he has forbidden us to drive the mile to pick him up, insisting on walking instead.  So I wait anxiously to hear his key in the door and for us to all be home safe together.

My mom's chili is one of the meals I remember really liking growing up.  To this day I can't make chili without thinking of her, kind of like I can't help but think of my grandfather when I think of clam chowder.   Mom's chili always had potatoes in it so for me, a good hearty chili always includes potatoes. Now that I'm older, I'm finding my preference is for sweet potatoes. So I've modified my mom's chili recipe a bit, and I really like the result. Serve the chili topped with avocado slices and with cornbread or pan-fried polenta and a lime wedge on the side.

2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cooked black beans
1 cup cooked pinto beans, if desired
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can tomato puree (8 oz.)
1 can tomato paste
1 1/2 - 2 cups water
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

4 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground smoked paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder 
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

juice of 1 lime
lime wedges, to serve

Heat a little olive oil in a large pot. Crumble the beef into the pot and stir to brown, draining fat as needed. Add the onion and cook until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans through the sweet potato and stir to combine.

Stir together the ground cumin through the black pepper. Add to the chili and stir well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer 45 minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is tender. Adjust seasonings again if desired. Turn off the heat, add the lime juice and stir. Serve hot with lime wedges, if desired.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sweet Potato Hash with Cilantro and Lime

Well, it's been awhile.  I can't believe I've let a month race by without posting any recipes.  Time just slips through my fingers like sand.  I blink, and a week has passed.  It seems like every time I look at the girls they look bigger, taller, stronger.  I find myself thinking of them as babies a lot lately, pulling down memories of their toothless grins and baby drool.  I wonder if my nostalgia is due to them growing like weeds, or the unpleasant thought that I'm teetering on the brink of forty.  It's probably both, but more the latter.  Teaching middle school students is not helping me feel any younger, either.   Today's writing exercise was to describe our class alien and his origins.  I was throwing out ideas to help prompt some creative thinking and to my horror, I almost said our alien likes to listen to rock and roll.  Rock and roll?  That sounds so 50's!  Then I thought, no wait, he listens to heavy metal!  Which brought up an image of big hair and skin tight pants from the 80's.  No, that wouldn't do either, as all of my dear students were not even born until 2 decades later.  So I blurted out that our class alien might be a nose-picking opera singer.  Because if your teacher can dream up a nose-picking alien, she can't be that old.  Right?

Sweet Potato Hash
I had this dish once at a restaurant some time ago and I recreated it based on memory.  It's one of my favorite fast dishes to throw together on weekends.  It's great with eggs or sausage...and it's great all by itself, too.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1/3 cup diced green or red pepper
1 shallot, diced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices cooked and chopped bacon, if desired

Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the potato, green pepper and shallot.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the potato is tender.  Turn off the heat and add the cilantro, scallions and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper and adjust lime juice to taste.  Add cooked and chopped bacon, if desired.  Toss well and serve hot.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Nori Wrapped Asian Marinated Salmon

For Christmas, DH and I received some Forbidden Rice - a black rice that retains a deep purple color throughout the grain even after being cooked.  The color made me think of seaweed, which set off a search for Asian staples in my pantry and chain of thoughts that ended up in this dinner - Nori Wrapped Asian Marinated Salmon, steamed broccoli, black rice, and Vegetable Summer Rolls with Peanut Free, Soy Free Dipping Sauce.  I also included UnSoy Ginger Dipping Sauce on the table as a replacement for soy sauce for those who were so inclined.  It was a fabulous dinner.  

Most recipes for Asian marinades I found had either soy sauce or hoisin in the ingredients, but I found one here that looked agreeable to modification.  I found good instructions for wrapping the salmon in nori sheets here.  The salmon was excellent - everyone loved it (even cold the next day!).  I did not get pictures that do the salmon justice, but next time I make this dish, I'll post prettier pictures.

Nori Wrapped Salmon hot out of the oven.

Nori Wrapped Asian Marinated Salmon

For the Marinade:
1/3 cup coconut aminos
2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. dried lemongrass or 1 stalk fresh lemongrass (see how-to here)
2 tbsp. mirin
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. maple syrup

Whisk together all ingredients until well blended.

To assemble the salmon:
1.25 - 1.50 pound pound salmon filet, bones removed
nori sheets

Remove the skin from the salmon and cut into equal portions (see how-to here).  Place the salmon in a large zip-lock bag, pour the marinade into the bag and seal, making sure salmon is thoroughly coated with marinade.  Marinate 4 - 6 hours, turning every 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.  Have your nori sheets and salmon portions ready to assemble.  Place a nori sheet on a cutting board or other flat surface.  Place a piece of salmon, skinned side up, onto a sheet of nori.  Fold long ends over the salmon one at a time, then tuck short sides under and flip salmon seam side down onto the prepared baking sheet.  There is no need to seal the nori with water, it will stick to the wet salmon and seal as the salmon bakes.  Repeat with remaining salmon portions.  Discard the marinade.

Bake salmon about 10 minutes until salmon is cooked through. Remove salmon from oven and let sit a couple of minutes before serving hot.

Nori Wrapped salmon cold the next day - and still delicious.