Monday, August 30, 2010

Stuffed corn muffins-revisited

I made these muffins a few weeks back. They were really simple but I knew I wanted to make a couple of adjustments.  I'd used coconut oil, didn't like it, gave an unusual taste.  Tonight I revisited the stuffed muffin.  Back to school is looming on the horizon here and frankly, I need to go grocery shopping so this is creative cooking week! 

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup flour *

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk **

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted***

* I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten free all purpose flour

** I subbed in vanilla Rice milk, I only had vanilla on hand, you could not tell I used flavored milk.

*** I melted Earth Balance this time, much happier with the result.

Sift and mix the dry ingredients.

Add the milk and melted butter. After I mixed the wet into the dry ingredients I added my precooked sausage, frozen corn about 1-2 cups cooked, rinsed black beans and gave it a stir.

Pour into greased muffin tins (I used muffin papers) and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

The result was a muffin that reminded all of us of tamales, very moist, very dense and very filling.  I will be making and freezing a batch of these before the back to school rush takes over my brain.  To round out the meal I made a very simple salad (I told you I need to go grocery shopping!) and dressed it with a lime tomatillo dressing. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A little something sweet

I was in the mood for dessert.  Paulo is always in the mood for dessert, me, I could usually go with a little sweet treat after dinner.  Tonight I wanted something a little more special.

Slice three pears and then drizzle them with honey and sprinkle cinnamon on top.  Put into a hot oven, 350 F, for about 20 minutes until nice and soft-and your house smells wonderful!  Place in a bowl, add a couple of scoops of ice cream, coconut milk in this place, drizzle the whole delicious mess with some of the pan drippings and enjoy!

Pesto quinoa salad

Quinoa, cooked and cooled
Grape tomatoes, halved
Cucumber, halved, seeds removed and finely diced
1/4-1/2 red onion, finely diced

Combine in a bowl.

2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine the first three in a blender, add the oil with the motor running.  Add more oil if needed, you want the pesto to be a little on the thin side.

Add the pesto to the quinoa salad and toss well to coat.  Season with sea salt to taste.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mixed salad with warm bacon dressing and bacon waffles

Tonight I wanted salad, my teenager complains (somewhat jokingly) that we eat salad too much, but Momma loves salad and since Momma does all the cooking Momma cooks what she loves best!

My husband does not cook.  There are times when I would love to have one of those kitchen friendly hubbies that can come home and whip up dinner while I'm out running errands or at the gym after dinner.  I do not have one of those.  I resigned myself to this fact long ago.  Don't get me wrong, he loves food, and-if it came down to it-he would learn to provide for himself if the only other option was starvation, but he does not enjoy being in the kitchen.  Lucky for him, I do! 

In an effort not to create a mini Me of my husband I have always encouraged my six year old to join me in the process of cooking, I like to think that someday my future daughter in law will thank me.  Fortunately he enjoys it.  We pretend we are Collette and Remy and I speak to him with an outrageous French accent, he loves it, we laugh, we chop, we laugh some more.  Tonight was no exception:
My Sous Chef

Lest you think he does not enjoy his task this is, as Paulo would say, his "normal" face.  If you ask him what's wrong?  He'll tell you, quite exasperated, this is my normal face!  He was in charge tonight of shredding veggies for our big salad. 

To a bowl add whatever salad veggies peek your fancy.  Tonight we had spinach and red leaf lettuce tossed with shredded red cabbage, shredded carrot, chunks of heirloom tomatoes and a few cherry tomatoes tossed in for good measure, for a little extra sweet crunch I added diced yellow apple to the mix.

The dressing is very simple:
Bacon, finely diced, and cooked until crispy.  Remove from the pan and set on paper towel to drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the grease.
Add 3-4 tablespoons of finely diced onion, I used white, red would be good, the original recipe called for shallots which I did not have on hand.
When the onions are soft and translucent, remove from the heat and add 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard and 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, whisk well to combine, season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm until you're ready to toss your salad.

Now, bacon waffles?  Yes, bacon waffles!  I was inspired by my latest Rachel Ray magazine, there is a special section about a back to school party that was put together for a gluten free kid.  In the mag she used the bacon waffles as sandwich bread, I loved that idea!  Prepare whatever waffle mix you are fond of, add the reserved cooked bacon to the mix and 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, mix well.  Heat your waffle iron and cook as usual.

Bacon, it's what's for dinner!
Now, I do not normally cook with so much pig, but tonight, I made an exception.  The salad dressing was great, just the right amount of sweet and savory, the bacon waffles were a big heat with all my boys-who all happen to love bacon.  I think if I can get the waffles crispy enough I will use them as a sandwich alternative for Paulo when he's back in school and still gluten free.

And, just for good measure, because I simply could not believe how pretty the loaf turned out:

I love, love, LOVE the honey oat bread from Ginger Lemon Girl!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Banana mango muffins

Yesterday was baking day.  Inspired by Shannon, the bento Mom I decided to bake some muffins that I could freeze and have for the boys' lunches which I will soon be packing.  I went with a recipe I found on Ellen's blog for Banana Mango Muffins.  I only needed a few small adjustments, mainly because I didn't have the specific ingredients she wrote into the recipe.  The result was a delicious, moist muffin that my entire household of boys gobbled up.  Truth be told, I should have made a double batch!
Mini muffin
I used some of the batter to bake these adorable mini muffins.  Those are the ones currently resting in my freezer to be used in lunch boxes in two weeks.  They perfectly bite sized and totally nummy!

Big brother muffin
I also went the traditional muffin route.  They turned out perfect!  I'm so happy to find this recipe.  I will be using the base recipe time and time again I think and altering what fruits I add.  I can see apple and cinnamon muffins.  Cranberry walnut muffins.  Peanut butter and banana muffins.  The variations are endless! 

I did make a few minor modifications, I did not have coconut sugar, so I used regular old white sugar.  I also have not invested in the egg replacer powder so I used 1/4 cup of silken tofu.  Not having vanilla stevia I used 1 teaspoon of agave and I did use the melted coconut oil, it was one of the options listed as an alternative to grapeseed oil.  I omitted the walnuts because we are a nutfree school and I wanted to be able to use these in Paulo's lunch.  If I were making them for weekend munching only though I would totally add in the nuts! Even without the walnuts though the muffins are very satisfying.  Just sweet enough, but not too sweet, and you get a lot of fresh fruit flavor in each bite.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Revisiting the cake

Pretty cake!

Yesterday was my second attempt at a gluten free, vegan, lemon cake.  The first attempt was not exactly what I was hoping for.  It wasn't terrible, certainly wasn't doorstop material, but I wasn't totally in love with it.

I wondered what I could do differently to produce a fluffier version of the cake.  I decided to try borrowing a stand mixer-I really need to buy one of those-and altering how the ingredients are blended together.  The original recipe called for the sugar to be mixed with dry ingredients and the vegan butter to be melted with the non dairy milk.  This was my biggest change.  I know when baking with my usual ingredients I cream the butter and sugar together, so that's what I did.  I creamed those two things together then alternated adding in the flour mixture and the milk.  I also did some reading on Karina's blog and found that she recommends allowing the batter to warm up a bit, letting it rest, before popping it into the oven.  This is particularly important because some of the flours and the xanthum gum  called for in the recipe I keep in the freezer.  I also decided to add some fresh berries between the layers, everything goes better with fresh raspberries! 

Oooey, gooey goodness

My only  complaint was that the crust got a tad over done, which my sister in law Andrea thinks is due to my dark pans, I've heard that can happen.  The cake itself came out much better.  I will try again another day and use different pans to see if it does indeed make a difference.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventures in gluten free baking-the bread edition

First off, huge thanks to Carrie Forbes at Ginger Lemon Girl.  She has a vast collection of gluten free recipes, I've only scratched the surface on what to use to feed my son.

Anyone who's gone gluten free knows the bread is...well, expensive!  I was shocked when I went to buy my first loaf of rice bread for my child, the loaf was small.  It was really, really small, and cost me over $5.00!  I knew then and there that I was far too cheap to be buying GF bread every week!  So I started googling recipes.  I've baked bread before, it's somewhat intimidating because of all the kneading.  Bonus of GF baking?  Less kneading!  I found this recipe on Carrie's site and decided that since it had two of Paulo's favorite things, honey and oatmeal, it was a perfect first choice.  I made it last weekend.  It was really, really tasty.  The only modification I needed to make was a sub for the eggs.  Since Paulo is also egg free right now I did a little research here and found out that 1/4 cup of silken tofu can sub for one egg.  The honey oat recipe calls for two eggs so I used 1/2 cup of the silken tofu in it's place.  Karina, on Gluten Free Goddess also recommends adding a little extra leavening, i.e. 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder, if you go the tofu route. 

My first attempt at baking my own GF bread

I will say mine looked more like bread than the rice flour bread I've been buying!  The loaf did not last long, it was delicious with a little vegan butter and jam. 

I had a dilemma though.  Tomorrow I'm hosting a billion people to celebrate my son's 15th birthday.  Yikes!  15!!  We're doing the usual American fare, grilled dogs and burgers.  I've looked at the GF buns at New Seasons, I was not impressed.  They looked bland.  They're made from tapioca flour, which I've heard mixed reviews about.  And they are insanely expensive.  Over $1 per bun!  Obviously I will need something to put my baby boy's burger on so I turned back to Carrie's recipe and turned it into buns.

Isn't it cute?  Sort of looks like a cookie.

I've seen some websites that recommend you use clean tuna cans to shape the buns, I can see why.  Gluten free dough is not easily molded, at least mine isn't.  If yours is, please tell me what you're doing differently!  I allowed the dough to rise and then grabbed handfuls of the sticky stuff and try to shape it as close to a bun-ish shape as possible.  Did I mention it's really sticky!  Then I baked them at 400 F. I realized this morning, literally my first thought upon waking, that I forgot to add the extra leavening.  I wanted them to be flat though, so I'm not too worried about it.  I do find it odd that my first thought was about my buns though.
The final product just waiting for a juicy burger!
I sliced one up this morning to see how the middle turned out.  When I made the loaf above I found the middle to be a little gummy.  I suspect it's my necessary use of tofu instead of eggs.  I will try baking it a little longer next time.  The buns however did not feel gummy at all.  They're moist, which I love, but not gummy.  I'm excited to see how they work as the burger holders they were meant to be.  I will also use these I think in Paulo's lunch box next month when he heads back to school, they're a perfect Paulo sandwich size.

There we have it, diving headlong into the world of gluten free bread baking.  Indulging my inner Betty Crocker.  I love homemade bread.  I have fond memories of the bread my mother would make when we were at school.  We'd come home to big fat slices, still warm, covered in butter.  Food is love, I hope my son feels that when he eats his burger tomorrow on my homemade bun!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cornmeal crusted tilapia

I wanted a nice crispy fish to fill my tortillas last night.  I love fish tacos, we all do.  This was a really simple way to get a crispy crust too.

Tilapia fillets, soaked in almond milk
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
pinch of salt

Heat oil of choice in a large pan.

Remove fillet from the almond milk, allow excess to drip off.  Coat in the flour and cornmeal combo.  Pan fry, about 4 minutes per side. 

Remove to a plate with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

I served these with refried, homemade black beans, warm corn tortillas with diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro and lemon wedges and an amazing raw kale salad...recipe to follow!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shredded Salad

We love salad.  It's an almost daily visitor to my dinner table.  But there's only so many ways you can combine greens, tomatoes and cucumber before you get, well, a little bored.  Last night I went for a shredded veggie salad with a homemade sweet dressing.

To the bowl add:
1/4-1/2 head of thinly sliced cabbage
1 zucchini, grated
2 carrots, grated
Edamame, cooked according to package directions

In the blender combine:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP dijon mustard
1/4 white onion, chopped

Blend on high, then add a pinch of sea salt and 1 TBSP poppy seed, pulse the blender a few times to mix those in.
Dressing recipe, slightly modified, from Green Smoothie Girl, Robyn Openshaw.

Toss the salad with the dressing and chill until ready to eat. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Adventures in gluten free baking-the pancake edition

Paulo is a pancake fiend.  Ever since he could eat solid foods he has had a love affair with pancakes the likes of which have not been seen by many.  He could easily put down an adult size portion of pancakes when we go out to breakfast.  Imagine his dismay when we discovered that pancakes-at least in the traditional sense-were off limits during  the elimination period. 

I set off to try to find an acceptable alternative to my usual whole wheat, buttermilk, pancakes.  I've tried four different recipes so far, one was so bad I poured out the batter, another was OK but a little on the bland side, plus flat, very, very flat.  The corn cakes were a flop too, they were like eating little rubber discs.  The final attempt was.................
                          Pancake Nirvana!

I googled vegan pancakes and found this recipe.  It was really simple, required ingredients that I already have on hand and only minor gluten free adjustments. 

1 ripe banana, mashed
2 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
vanilla extract, to taste (optional)

Mix together the mashed banana and water.  Add the dry ingredients and mix, leaving lumps in the batter.  Cook and enjoy.

The recipe above states it could be used for either pancakes or waffles.  I had greater success on pancakes.  I don't have any cooking spray to use on the waffle iron, I just use olive oil brushed on the plates, and with the banana in the mix they would not release well.  I modified the above slightly, I actually used 1/2 water and 1/2 almond milk.  I also used Bob's Red Mill multi purpose GF flour in place of the whole wheat flour.  These were a huge hit!  Both my boys ate seconds...and thirds....I'm really happy to find a pancake recipe that tastes and feels the same as before.  They're light, fluffy and completely satisfying.  We will definitely be seeing these again...and again....and again in our kitchen!

Spicy raw carrot soup

Natalia Rose's book, Detox for Women, has some amazing raw soup recipes.  One of them is a carrot soup that is flavored with curry powder.  While I enjoyed that one I wanted one with a little more heat

It's been really hot here in the Northwest (FINALLY!) and last night I wanted a spicy, cold soup to go with dinner.  My family is new to the whole cold soup thing, but they seemed to enjoy it.

Spicy raw carrot soup
20 ounces freshly juiced carrot
1" ginger, processed through the juicer
1 avocado
1/2 serrano chile-seeds removed if you wish
2 cloves garlic

Add all of the above to a high power blender and blend until smooth.  Chill or serve immediately.  This made enough for three small portions last night and quite a bit of leftovers for my lunch today.   It is light, tasty and has just enough spice to make things interesting. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The cake, an evaluation

I won't lie, it was heavy.  The layers were very thick, very dense.  I enjoyed the flavor but I missed the fluff of a gluten filled cake.  Paulo loved it.  He swears he didn't notice that it was heavy.  My husband was brave enough to agree with me when I said it was too dense. 

Now, the flavor was pretty good, I didn't notice anything odd about the sorghum flour, I've heard some reports that it can be a little bitter.  I loved the frosting and the lemon curd filling, those turned out perfect. 

I will try again, next weekend.  I will try something different though, I will borrow my mother in law's stand mixer and I will alter how I combine the ingredients to try to get more fluff in my batter.  I also think this cake may be best consumed the day it's baked, so I plan to bake it Saturday morning because I am throwing a birthday party for my oldest son.  There will be an alternative, gluten, egg and dairy filled cake there for the guests but, as last night, I want to be sure that there is something there that Paulo can eat.  Plus, I really want to take another crack at this cake baking!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Adventures in gluten free baking-the cake edition

We're celebrating my oldest son's 15th birthday tonight with family.  We needed a dessert that my youngest could eat, the little guy is the one on the elimination diet.  I decided to throw on my apron and give it a whirl. 

I will admit, baking is intimidating to me.  I'm a dash of this, pinch of that kind of cook.  I like to modify recipes and adjust as I go, I don't really measure much.  Baking?  Baking is chemistry.  Things must be measured and done just the right way or your finished product is not what you intended.  Honestly I'm not sure how my finished product will be.  We won't eat it until tonight.  The recipe is titled "Simple White Cake", it's a sorghum and tapioca flour base.  It wasn't too complicated but I did think that the batter was rather sticky when I put it in the pan.  It was very thick.  Not at all like the batter from the Betty Crocker box o'cake I'm used to!  Paulo took a nibble off it when it was done, he declared "mmmmm!"  I'm worried about the texture, will it be light and fluffy or like a brick?  It didn't fluff up while it was baking the way I expected it to.  Not sure if I did something wrong or if that is just inherent in allergen free baking.  More research will be required.

Now the vegan frosting and lemon curd filling?  Those I could eat with a spoon right now, for breakfast, and be satisfied.  The lemon curd is just the right combination of sweet and tangy and the perfect texture.  It's a simple recipes of fresh lemon juice, water, sugar, cornstarch, unflavored almond milk, vegan margarine and lemon zest.  I picked up Meyer's Lemons from New Seasons, I have heard great things about them but never tried them, they are very fragrant and juicy.  I think this was the easiest portion of last night's experiment.

The frosting too is very simple, and full of lemon flavor.  Earth Balance butter, powdered sugar, lemon zest, juice and lemon extract, blended together until fluffy.  Paulo licked the beater, I admit it, so did I! 

The true test though will be tonight when I assemble, frost and consume the experiment! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Creamy lemon dill tuna salad

Lemon dill sauce:
2/3 cup Veganaise
1 lemon, juiced
Fresh dill
Sea salt

Whisk together and adjust herbs and seasonings as needed.

Pasta salad:
Noodles of choice, cooked according to directions
Cucumber, split lengthwise, quartered and diced
Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Artichoke hearts, one jar, cut the larger pieces if desired
Tuna, two cans, drained well

Combine the above and toss with the lemon dill dressing.

Last night I wanted something light, and satisfying.  This definitely fit the bill.  It is based loosely on a Shrimp Cucumber salad that I love at a fabulous local restaurant called Noodles.  Not wanting to thaw any shrimp though I opted for tuna.  I wasn't sure how well it would go over with the little dude, but he loved it, and we agreed that this would be on the lunch rotation as well when he goes back to school next month.  It seems he too is bored to tears of sandwiches!  We rounded out last night's feast with fresh honeydew melon, sliced kiwi and carrot sticks.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gluten free energy bars

I've already declared my love for Larabars here.  But, between you and me, they're spendy!  They're totally worth every penny but they could easily add up to a good chunk of change by the end of the month.  I wanted to try making something myself.

I have made protein bars before, very simple recipe, however it required egg whites which are on the no fly list at our house.  After we got the orders for the elimination diet I set off googling recipes-my goodness there are a lot of people that can't eat gluten!  Luckily they've done a lot of research work for me and my son gets to benefit from their endeavors. 

I found this recipe on a couple of weeks ago and decided that last Sunday's Betty Crocker day was the perfect time to give it a whirl.

It's fairly simple, the only thing I needed to actually buy for the recipe was the gluten free brown rice cereal, everything else I had in my pantry or refrigerator.

3/4 cup nut butter (almond or cashew or peanut or sunflower butter)
3/4 cup sweetener (honey or GF brown rice syrup or good quality Agave nectar)
1 1/2 cups roasted raw nuts and/or seeds
1 cup unsulfured dried fruit
4 cups GF brown rice crispie cereal
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place nuts and/or roasted seeds and dried fruit in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse several times, just until the mixture is coarsely ground. (This part was more difficult than it seems!  I had to use the Vitamix and even then the almonds just would not chop much!  I think next time, if I am using nuts, I will presmash them to break them up a bit before I put them in the chopper.)

In a large saucepan melt the nut butter with liquid sweetener over medium low heat.  Stir and watch carefully to prevent scorching.  When the mixture is smooth and bubbling, cook for about one minute.  Remove from heat.  Add salt and vanilla and stir to combine.  Use a large spatula to stir in nuts, dried fruit and cereal.  Stir until all ingredients are coated with nut butter mixture.

Scrape mixture on to the prepared baking sheet.  Use a spatula to evenly spread the mixture on the pan.  Place a large piece of waxed paper over the mixture and use a rolling pin to smooth the top of the mixture.  Cover with the waxed paper and refrigerate for about two hours before cutting the energy bars into whatever sized you prefer.

Wrap bars in waxed paper and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

I like them, perhaps a little too much if you know what I mean!  They're very sweet though, I think next time I will reduce the amount of raw honey I use.  I don't think it'll mess up the mixture too much.  I had some  difficulty getting the wax paper to lift off.  I might try parchment paper-or better quality wax paper-on my next batch.  I wrapped each individually in plastic wrap and then bagged them in a gallon size freezer bag, ate one last night for dessert and it was just as good as the first day I made them.  I also wrapped and stored some in the freezer, hopefully they will defrost well. 

When I make these after Paulo goes back to school I will stick with 100% sunflower butter and just use seeds and fruits.  We are a nut free school.  This time I used a combination of sun and almond butter plus the almonds, peanuts and cashews-definitely not classroom friendly!  

Making my own takes time but I appreciate knowing 100% what ingredients are going into our bodies.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Raw blueberry tartlets

This recipe comes courtesy of Self magazine from way back in April 2006.

2 cups fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest, plus extra julienned for garnish
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons brown sugar
Canola oil cooking spray
2/3 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup (packed) pitted dates

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.  Coat a mixing bowl with cooking spray.  Pulse almonds in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Empty into prepared bowl.  Pulse dates with 1 teaspoon water in food processor until well chopped (they will be a little clumpy).  Mixwith almonds to form a paste.  Divide mixture evenly into 4 golf ball sized rounds.  Place each ball between 2 pieces of wax paper and press to form a 4" crust.  Turn up edges if desired.  Refrigerate 2 hours.  Use a spatula to move crusts to serving plates; fill each with 1/2 cup berries and drizzle each with some left over juices from bowl.  Top with julienned orange zest.

My alternations:
I don't use cooking spray, so I just put a little olive oil in the bowl.  The recipe calls for dates but I accidentally bought figs, worked just as well.  While I like a little zest, Paulo is not crazy about it so I went light with that part. 

It was actually a very simple dessert to make, definitely takes time and preplanning though.  The crust needs to sit and chill for a few hours but once they're set you can move them with ease to the plate.  You could easily use this base recipe and modify it with whatever fruit was in season at the time.  I'm not sure if the brown sugar and vanilla extract would disqualify this as a true "raw" food-my hunch is yes, but I don't know enough about the raw food movement to be sure.  Honestly though if the berries are sweet enough you wouldn't need either. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stuffed corn muffins

Welcome to the first installment of allergen free baking!  I indulged my inner Betty Crocker today and tried out a couple of gluten free/egg free/dairy free recipes.  One of my favorite food blogs is What's for Lunch in Our House.  I've talked about her before, she's super creative, packs awesome bento lunches for her munchkins, I get a lot of inspiration from her site.  One of her bento lunches for her little dude included a taco muffin.  Ever since I've been determined to find an eggless corn muffin recipe I could use for Paulo.  I found one this morning on  I already had some cooked breakfast sausage and chorizo sausage set aside.  After this morning's not so successful corn pancake endeavor I started baking.

The recipe is very simple.
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour *
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk **
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted***
* I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten free all purpose flour
** I subbed in original Rice milk
*** I used coconut oil which I warmed and melted, I'm not totally sure I'll do that the next time.  I might just stick with a good olive oil, or melt the Earth Balance spread.

Sift and mix the dry ingredients.

Add the milk and shortening.  After I mixed the wet into the dry ingredients I added my precooked sausage and gave it a stir.

Pour into greased muffin tins (I used muffin papers) and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

The result:
A very tasty, meaty muffin!  The muffin has breakfast and lunch possibilities.  Paulo loved it.  Had one for lunch today with diced tomato and avocado on the side.  He's already excited about the idea of me putting these in his lunch box instead of the same old, same old sandwich.  There is a lot of possibilities for variations, I could use ham or GF hot dogs, I could add frozen corn before baking or I could do a tex mex muffin and add black beans with the meat for extra fiber. 

I'm happy to find a recipe that will fill his tummy during school and keep me from losing my mind from the boredom of making sandwiches day in and day out!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Plan B

I always have a plan A for dinner.  I plan my breakfast and dinner meals for a week to two weeks in advance.  During the school year I will also plan lunches.  For me, it's a sanity saver.  Do I stick to it to the letter?  No, sometimes life gets in the way.  Sometimes I get to a Thursday for instance and realize, I'm out of avocado, there goes fish tacos!  Or there's no more spaghetti sauce in the freezer, bye bye spaghetti and meat sauce, and that's when Plan B comes into play.  We all know a well stocked fridge and pantry saves us money in the long run, it also saves our health by eliminating the temptation of the drive thru.  Being flexible and creative also means you don't actually feel compelled to stop at the store to buy the missing ingredient because, at least in my case, it takes discipline that I simply do not have to only buy an avocado at the grocery store!  Inevitably I walk out with three bags of stuff that looked like it was a good price!  Then I've wasted both my time and my money.

Last night's dinner was an example of Plan B:
Quinoa spaghetti noodles with spicy ginger peanut sauce

Pasta, cooked according to package directions, add in fresh broccoli and frozen edamame about 1/2 way through. Drain, reserving a ladle full of the water from the pot, return the pasta and veggies to the pot and set aside.  (It took longer last night to get the water to boil than it did to cook this meal!)

The sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or more if you like it hot, Paulo declared that the sauce was not spicy enough so next time, more sauce!)
1" of ginger grated

Mix those three things together.

To a bowl add:
1 cup of natural peanut butter
The spicy ginger sauce
The reserved water

Whisk well to blend.  Add sauce to the noodles and veggies and toss well to coat.  I rounded out the meal with quinoa flour dusted tilapia fillets that I pan fried to get a little crispy coating to them.  The noodles themselves are hearty enough to be a main dish for a meatless night, you could easily serve with a side salad with an Asian style dressing and be done.  It was quick and easy and totally not what I had planned for dinner last night. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cute containers

Back to school is fast approaching, which means, in this house, back to packing a daily lunch-or two.  My youngest goes to a Charter School, there is no cafeteria.  My high schooler, well, let's just say he'd prefer to bring his lunch from home.  The impending return of lunch packing makes me wake in a cold sweat at 3 am with visions of boring turkey sandwiches or sunbutter and jelly dancing before my eyes....mocking me....I can only pack so many carrot sticks before I myself start to go insane, I can only imagine how my children feel!

So I'm trying to psyche myself up for the coming school year.  To that end, there is a blog that I visit daily, the link is to the right.  It's all about these adorable bento lunches this creative Mom packs for her two little kids.  They are stinking cute!  Sandwiches cut into bears.  Hard boiled eggs with faces.  They are really cute.  I'm not that cute, or creative, and when I visit her site I feel slightly less competent in the kitchen but I go for inspiration and I have received tons.  If you haven't yet, check it out, it's called What's for Lunch in our house, again the links on the right side of this blog. 

I found this little cutie pie in the dollar bin at Target and immediately thought of the bento lunch Mom.  It has definite bento lunch potential.  I have been packing a daily snack for Paulo this week because he's in a morning soccer camp.  This was yesterday's snack.  Nothing too elaborate, just some fresh fruit.  But what's in the middle??

It has a great covered middle container molded in for whatever ooey gooey thing you want to add to the lunch.  In this case it is soy blueberry yogurt for dipping his fruit in.  The day before the dish was filled with just apple slices and I used the center for nut butter to dip in.  The possibilities are endless.  It's not a huge container but it could easily hold some smaller veggies, like cucumber slices or snow peas.  Then you could use the center for a ranch dip.  If Paulo weren't on a no dairy diet I would add cheese cubes and apples with nut butter in the middle.  You could do chunks of meat and cheese with a sauce in the middle. 

I wasn't sure I would like it so I only bought one, but I will definitely be stopping back by Target's dollar aisle and getting a couple more.  The middle lid stays put, no leaking, the top lid snaps on firmly-but not so firmly that Paulo can't get it off.  And, best of all, it was $1.  That way when, I mean if, it gets lost or damaged I'm not going to stress about it. 

In the meantime, I need to build up my supply of lunch containers for both boys-somehow I doubt my oldest wants to take any part of his lunch to school in a purple container-and start compiling non sandwich ideas for lunch.  This Momma can only build so many sandwiches before she starts to feel.....a little nutty.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shredded chicken tacos with spicy coleslaw

Last night I needed a quick and easy dinner, one I could get on the table in about 30 minutes.  Sometimes I like to linger at the stove, but last night, last night Wipe Out was on and I wanted to get done with dinner so I could watch, and laugh, with my little boy!

Start a pot of salted water with chicken breasts to boil.  When it's done, transfer the meat to a bowl and shred it with two forks.  Add garlic powder, cumin and black pepper to the meat and moisten with a ladle full of the water from the pot.  Set aside.

For the cole slaw, shred 1/4 of a red cabbage.  Add to that marinated, jalapeno peppers, I used about 7 of them, finely diced.  A spoonful of Veganaise, a squirt of lemon and sea salt to taste and it's done.

Heat the corn tortillas.  Top the shredded chicken with the coleslaw, serve with a side of refried black beans and jicama, cucumber and tomato salad.  Light, refreshing, and, most important, quick from the stove to the table!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Italian pasta

Last night was another exciting adventure in cooking with Quinoa pasta.  I opted for the Ancient Harvest Linguine style pasta and needed a quick and easy sauce to complement that.  With my son on a no dairy diet it's been a challenge.  He's not crazy about marinara sauce, he preferred his noodles with butter and cheese, but he's been good about branching off to the Veganaise based sauces I've made.

Ingredients to the sauce:

1/4 cup Veganaise
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
honey to taste

Add it all to the blender and let it rip! 

I made the sauce first, let that sit and then started the pasta, since I'm new to cooking quinoa pasta I set the timer.  The box warns you about over cooking it.  It also warns you that the water will turn yellow, it does, it's a little odd for this normally whole wheat pasta cooking Momma.  Once that was cooking I started the rest of the dish.  I diced 1/2 of a red onion and 5 good sized mushrooms.  Heated a large pan with olive oil and sauteed those.  When the veggies were nice and soft I added some cooked, shelled, shrimp.  You could easily omit the shrimp, increase the veggies, and keep this a vegetarian dish.  I didn't want the shrimp to be tough so I added them at the end just to warm them a bit.  I also tossed in the raw zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes.  Again, I didn't want them cooked, just warmed.  I prefer those two vegetables (yes I know tomatoes are technically a fruit) raw. 

When the pasta finished cooking, I drained and rinsed it.  Added it to the pan and tossed it with the veggie/shrimp compo and dressed it with my sauce.  The sauce is light, definitely garlicky, but in a good way.  Paulo's first words were "mmm!  It's spicy!"  He likes spicy food though.  This dish has countless ways you could vary it.  Asparagus would be great, so would marinated artichokes or steamed broccoli.  Omit the meat, add different meats, other sea foods would go well with the mild sauce, the choices are only limited by what foods you have in the refrigerator.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mommy's Little Helper

I do not like granola bars.  If they have to use the smallest font possible and take up 1/4 of the package to list the ingredients chances are good I do not want it in my body.  Have you looked at the ingredients?  It's an eye opening experience.  I mean really, how many different ways can they say "sugar" and still claim it's a healthy snack?  That said, sometimes Momma needs a little something to toss in the lunch box or fill that tummy before trudging through the grocery store with my six year old "helper".  So what do I turn to?

Seriously, I LOVE these things!  Love isn't strong enough of a word to properly express my emotions....If you haven't tried them, do.  They are all natural, vegan, gluten free, raw and most importantly delicious.  This little gem pictured above was my afternoon snack today.  It's called Apple Pie.  How many ingredients are there?   Six.  How many of them are unrecognizable as food?  Zero.  They are all food, real, unprocessed food.  They are:
  • Dates
  • Almonds
  • Unsweetened apples
  • Walnuts
  • Raisins
  • Cinnamon
These are all foods that occur in nature, not a lab, and that I consume on a regular basis and I'm happy to feed my children on an equally regular basis.

Let's compare now to a competitor's Apple Strudel flavored bar.  This bar contains over 38 ingredients.....3....8....not including the list that continues with the "might be here in less than 2%" category.  Seriously, 38?!  Dried diced apples are the 4th ingredient on the list after high maltose corn syrup.  I wasn't sure what high maltose corn syrup was so I googled it:
HMCS is also referred to as maltodextrin. It is considered to be less harmful then HFCS because the body is able to metabolize the maltose without straining the liver. However, it is relatively new to human consumption, so effects on the body are unclear. HMCS contains gluten, which should be avoided by those with celiac disease. HMCS is labeled as "other carbohydrates" on products because it is digested easier and causes fewer health concerns then standard carbohydrates. Maltodextrin is derived mainly from cornstarch, but can also come from rice or potato starch.

Glad I did look it up, or I might not have known that my son, following his elimination diet protocol, should not consume the above mentioned "granola bar" because HMCS contains gluten.  See, the Internet can still teach us new things! 

I understand that sometimes we need a quick snack not only for the kids but also for ourselves but the next time you're standing in the snack bar aisle-which is enormous and growing bigger every time I go to the grocery store-take a moment and flip those boxes over.  Is there anything on the ingredient list that you would not have in your pantry?  Then put it back.  If you wouldn't cook with it, if you wouldn't keep it in your house to add a pinch of this or that to your bread, soup or salad dressing, why consume it because it's in a cute cardboard box and claims to meet 35% of your daily fiber needs?  Put it back, buy the apple.  Better yet, try the Lara Bar the next time you need a go to quick fix snack-you will not regret it.