Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Here we are, the end of another year.  It's been a very busy year too.  There have been a lot of changes in the ol' Rodriguez kitchen, the biggest being Paulo's wheat allergy diagnosis.  I've had to learn to bake and cook in a whole new way.  It has gone well though, I would say he's happier and I know he's healthier, so all of the work is 100% worth it.

I often find myself making food resolutions come the New Year.  In the past there has been to rid the kitchen of artificial dyes, there was also the year of no HFCS.  This year is no different I have my food goals which I will happily share with you!
  1. I want to learn to make an awesome pot of soup, feel free to forward me recipes that you love!
  2. I will experiment with one cake recipe a month until I find the one I, and Paulo, love the best.
  3. I will continue experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cuisine, trying at least one new recipe a month, while keeping my old favorites in the weekly rotation. 
  4. If I buy it, I eat it!  I despise throwing out food that went bad.  I feel so guilty!  To do this though will require renewed dedication to meal planning and also being more realistic in what I buy.  It doesn't matter if the kale is a great price if I can't finish the bunch(es) before it turns! 
I want to focus on planning ahead and making my life easier.  These last couple months in particular have been extremely hectic both personally and professionally, and I know that if I can save a few minutes in the kitchen every day I can find some of that downtime I'm desperately seeking. So, today I will cook up extra beans and freeze them.  Tomorrow I will cook up a pot of rice to prepare for the week.  I will return to the tradition of cleaning and prepping what veggies I can after I shop.  I will seek out simple, healthy, meals for my family.  I will cook once and eat twice and I will find ways to work my crock pot back into my weekly rotation!  I will find ways to simultaneously nurture my family and myself, that will be my greatest task for 2011.

Marinated Fiesta Chicken

Marinated fiesta chicken
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Mix the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the chicken, turning to coat.  Allow to marinate for at least one hour-longer is better-turning occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Heat a stainless steel, oven save pan, over medium heat and coat with olive oil.  Brown the chicken on both sides and then finish cooking in the oven for about 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Taco Seasoning

We love tacos, we eat them often.  Crunchy taco Friday is a family tradition.  What I did not love though was the premade taco seasoning mix.  For one, way too salty, I routinely used 1/3-1/2 depending on the amount of meat I was seasoning.  For another, why all the extra stuff?? 

Wheat, Flour, Salt, Dried Garlic, Maltodextrin, Chili Peppers, Spice, Dried Onions, Monosodium Glutamate, Paprika, Sugar, Contains less than 2% of Silicon Dioxide As An Anticaking Agent, Soybean Oil, Malic Acid.

Wheat?  Flour?  MSG?  Soybean oil??  Malic acid??  What is malic acid?  Oh, I see, it makes food taste more tart, more sour, but why is it in Taco Bell's premade seasoning? 

I know that there are others that don't have as much extra stuff.


But again, there is something on the naughty list for us, milk solids....why is that in there?? 

My third beef with premade taco mix, the price.  I mean really, the amount of spices that are in those cost pennies, but I'm paying how much for a little envelope of the mix?!  Yeah, I don't think so.

Krista's taco seasoning mix:
1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder, paprika, sea salt, oregano and cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix well in a small bowl and transfer to a ziploc bag.  EASY and much, much cheaper!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beef tenderloin in mushroom wine gravy

Oh I love you.  I admit, she's my chef crush.  I really love to watch her show, she cooks with gusto, and she's gorgeous.  A few weeks before Christmas I was watching Food Network with Paulo and saw her cook a stay at home fancy dinner for her husband and two friends which immediately made me think....CHRISTMAS!  You see, my family had decided we would spread Christmas out this year, we spent the Eve with my husbands family and we spent the 26th with mine leaving my little family completely free and clear on Christmas Day.  Rene and I talked about taking Paulo out to a fancy dinner downtown but by then I'd already been thinking about this beef recipe I saw and frankly didn't want to drop, easily, $100 on dinner out.  So we stayed in.  And I cooked this.  Oh yeah....I cooked that.....

The recipe is fairly simple to follow, which I always appreciate.  My grocer was low on beef by the time I made it in, they didn't have filet mignon steaks so I opted for two 1/2 pound cuts of beef tenderloin.  Frankly, I'm not even sure what the difference is between those. 

For the steaks you will need:
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 (8-ounce) steaks 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat it to 400 degrees F. Spray a small baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes for medium-rare doneness, I went about 12 minutes. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board. (very important, let the steaks rest!)

For the gravy:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large or 4 small shallots, minced
  • 2 cups (about 5 ounces) assorted mushrooms,  coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine, I used the Cab we were drinking 
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used brown rice to keep it gluten free)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance to keep it dairy free)
In the same skillet used for the steak, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beef broth and rosemary.  Whisk in the flour until smooth., I actually saved some of the beef broth to premix the flour into and then poured it into the pan to prevent lumps.  Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until half of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cut the steak across the grain (what does that mean anyway?!) and serve with the gravy. 

Now, I no longer eat much meat, but this was really, really good.  The gravy was awesome, salty-but not too much-and flavorful.  The meat was really tender.  I highly recommend it for a fancy dinner at home!

Peppermint cake

This is the first cake recipe I ever attempted after Paulo's diagnosis, I've long since lost the internet link where I found it.  I've made it three times now and I do think that it gets better, and easier, each time.  Gluten free cake is definitely different.  For Christmas dessert I opted for a thin layer cake with crushed peppermint candies between the layers and on top.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sweet white sorghum flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup melted Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup non dairy milk
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 and prepare two round cake pans by greasing and lightly flouring them, set aside.

Mix together the dry ingredients and stir well, with a whisk, to combine. 

Combine non dairy milk and melted earth balance and stir into the dry ingredients.  Add vinegar, one tablespoon at a time, stirring well in between.

Pour half the batter into each pan and smooth out. 

Bake in the center of the oven for 25-27 minutes.  Remove and cool on a wire rack, place a plate on top of the pan, invert and remove from the plate to finish cooling. 

  • 1 cup vegan margarine, cold
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tablespoons non dairy milk
Cream the margarine and peppermint extract until smooth, add in the confectioner's sugar, slowly, mixing well.  Add in the milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. 

Recipe credit for the frosting goes to Allyson at Manifest Vegan.

Gluten free cake baking is not my strong point, it intimidates me, although to be honest cake baking of any kind intimidates me!  I've had some really, really good gluten full cakes-not baked by me mind you. I think 2011 will be the year of the cake!  I want to learn one awesome gluten free cake this year.  Don't get me wrong, I like this cake, I wouldn't share it with you if I didn't, but it just isn't the same.  I know that someone, somewhere, has perfected the process to create a gluten free cake that has the same texture and consistency as its gluten full cousin, I just need the recipe.  If you have the recipe, post it up in the comments or email it to me.  In the meantime I will begin my own search and my own baking experiments, stay tuned.... 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lemon vanilla scones

  • 1 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, solid
  • 6 tablespoons vanilla coconut yogurt
  • coarse sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Whisk together your dry ingredients, add the zest and mix well to evenly distribute.

Cut in the solid coconut oil with a form or pastry cutter until there are no solid pieces bigger than a pea.

Add the yogurt and stir until dough comes together.

Scoop with an ice cream scooper onto the lined sheet, flatten if desired, and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for 12 minutes, serve hot.

Gluten free Gingies

So serious in his decorating
Paulo loves gingerbread cookies, particularly those cut into "gingies". We baked and he decorated gingerbread man cookies last year for all his teachers so I knew we'd need to find a gluten free version for this year. Enter Karina and her wonderful site, Gluten Free Goddess. She posted a recipe a couple of weeks ago for gluten free gingersnap star cookies. With one minor alternation I followed her recipe to the letter. I did not use the nut flour that her recipe called for, there are nut allergies at Paulo's school and I didn't want to risk any exposure, I subbed in millet flour in it's place. 

Cookies for Santa, how could he resist such a face??

The recipe was very simple and straightforward.  We've now made three batches of the dough and have used a variety of shapes to cut them, plus on the last batch I used a small glass to cut them into little circles.  I have one more roll of dough to use up and I think I will freeze it and then slice it thin to get them as crispy as possible.  These will stay in the holiday rotation for sure!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Vegan chocolate fudge

Paulo loves fudge.  He loves to stir the pot.  He loves to lick the spoon.  And he loves to eat piece after piece after piece of fudge.  But the fudge doesn't love him back.  At least not the traditional fudge that I've made every year for the past few seasons that was loaded with butter, condensed milk and marshmallow fluff-did you know there's egg in fluff?  I didn't...until my son was diagnosed with food allergies.  I've learned a lot about the food we eat since my little man was diagnosed last July.  I knew that come December Paulo would want to start baking so I figured I needed to be armed with a few new recipes to try.  He was a bit skeptical, he really loved my fudge, but was willing to try out a new way.

It turns out this recipe was even easier than my old one and, thankfully, just as tasty!

The fudge recipe listed here has quite a few variations.  You can make it with coconut, with peppermint and they even have one shown with crystallized ginger.  I opted for plain, chocolate fudge.

1 Cup Dairy-Free, Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I used extra dark chocolate chips)

3-1/2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 Cup Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
2 Tablespoons Dairy-Free Margarine (see below for soy-free option)
1/2 Cup Regular Coconut Milk
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Prepare an 8x8 pan, I line mine with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the chips, sugar and cocoa powder.  Heat the margarine and the coconut milk in a sauce pan over medium heat until the margarine melts and bubbles just begin to break the surface.  Pour the heated milk mixture into the sugar combo, let sit for a few minutes, and stir vigorously to melt the chocolate chips.  Keep stirring until a smooth mixture forms and then add in the vanilla extract.  Pour the fudge into the prepared pan and refrigerate until firm.  Cut into little squares (or big ones!) and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's for Lunch Wednesday

Wednesday again?!  Really?  Geesh the days are blurring together.  But since it is Wednesday I will share what Mr. P's been chowing down on this week.  It's been an...interesting week.  I didn't have time to bake bread last weekend so his lunch are getting a little unorthodox!

This went along with an unpictured quesadilla made from corn tortillas and daiya cheddar cheese.  In the big spot we have some Marthas gone Crackers in cracked pepper, 1/2 an apple, snap pea crisps (he didn't like those by the way, guess I'll have to force myself to eat the rest, oh darn!) and off on the side we have some cucumber candy canes with carrot stars and a few cherry tomatoes.  Other than the snap pea crisps he ate everything.  I think this proves the theory that if it's cute-candy cane cucumbers-it will get eaten!

Here's the "mom's out of bread" lunch!  Toasted waffles that he can reheat in class.  One peeled Mandarin orange.  Baby carrots and sugar peas and a soy lemon yogurt parfait made with GF cereal and organic raspberries. 

For more lunch inspiration visit the What's for Lunch in our House blog.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Creamy pumpkin soup with scallops

I saw a recipe in my Women's Health magazine for a pumpkin soup with scallops and knew I had to try it.  It looked really easy, perfect for a week night soup, and very hearty.  I adapted their recipe a touch though to suit our tastebuds.

  • one can of pumpkin puree
  • 4 fingerling potatoes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 sea scallops
  • salt and pepper
  • toasted almondsthinly sliced onion (optional)
Combine the pumpkin through the coconut milk in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Stir well to combine and melt the butter.  Season with the salt and cayenne pepper when warm.  Continue to cook until the potatoes are warm.

Dry the scallops with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper.  Heat a saute pan or a cast iron skillet with olive oil and cook scallops until done, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Serve the soup topped with scallops, toasted almonds and onions if desired. 

This recipe would adapt well to a curry style soup...alas I'm married to a man that does not like curry spices.  So, if you try it that way, come back and tell me how it turned out!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Basil quinoa and red beans

I love basil.  Seriously I could eat it plain off the plant.  I love the smell too, I often stick my nose in the leaves and inhale....bliss.  I wanted some sort of pesto vehicle last night so I made this basil vinaigrette quinoa with red beans and vegetables.  You will need:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked
  • 1 cup red beans, rinsed, boiled, rinsed again and then simmered on the stove until tender (you can also use your crock pot but for some reason I wanted to torture myself with the stove top method yesterday.)
  • 1 cup frozen corn, cooked according to directions and allowed to cool
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced, raw
  • cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • basil, lots and lots of basil
When the beans are close to being done add balsamic vinegar and sea salt to taste.  I added about 1 tablespoon-eyeballing it-and a pinch or two of salt.  Not too much though because you will use salt in the vinaigrette.

Combine the cooked quinoa and red beans in a large serving dish.  Add in the vegetables and mix well. 

In a blender combine the oil through the basil and salt to taste and blend well until combined.

Pour the vinaigrette onto the quinoa and beans and toss well to coat.  Serve warm.  Refrigerate the left overs and enjoy as a cold lunch the next I'm doing, right now.  I love basil....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Orange noodles

This is based loosely on the recipe I found on Manifest Vegan for Orange sesame vermicelli.  I saw loosely because when it came time to make it I discovered that I did not actually have the sesame oil or rice wine vinegar called for in the recipe.  Plus when I pulled out my bottle of toasted sesame seeds I was surprised to find that they 2008.  Bummer.  I suspect that when I make it again and actually can follow the recipe I will like it even more.  In the meanwhile, this ended up pretty tasty, even had high marks from my carnivore husband, so I'm sharing the modified version.  (Click the link above for the original version and be prepared to be wowed by her fabulous photography as well!)

Orange rice noodles
Thin rice noodles, cooked according to directions
1 tsp gluten free tamari
zest of one orange
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (I used 1 1/2 oranges to get 1/2 cup juice but I was juicing by hand, I'm sure if I'd have hauled out my Breville I would have used less fresh fruit)
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
3 tsp agave syrup
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 carrots, julienned
1/2 package tempeh, thinly sliced
2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp agave syrup
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp water
dry roasted peanuts
Combine 1 tsp tamari, orange zest, orange juice, grated ginger, 3 tsp agave syrup, cloves, 2 tsp olive oil and 1 tbsp vinegar. Add to julienned carrots and tempeh in pan and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid is absorbed, the tempeh is warmed through and the carrots are cooked.

In separate small bowl, mix together 1-2 tbsp tamari, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp agave syrup, 1/2 tbsp vinegar and 1 tbsp water.  Coat cooked rice noodles with this mixture.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Put the noodles into a large serving dish, top with the cooked carrots and tempeh and sprinkle dry roasted peanuts on top.  Serve warm.
I served this with sauteed portabella mushrooms and steamed bok choy dressed with a little lemon and umeboshi vinegar.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's for lunch-Paulo

Little P has in his lunch today a tofutti cream cheese and orange marmalade jelly sandwich on Momma made gluten free honey oat bread.  A checkerboard apple, carrots and cucumbers cut into cute flowery shapes and some Kettle chips.  I also included a dish of vanilla rice yogurt and gluten free cereal for his morning snack.

I invested recently in some cute bento supplies.  I got an assortment of stainless steel cutters as well as some new silicone dishes.  I also bought an adorable two tier dish that I used this week for fruits and veggies. 

Pardon the poor quality picture, I'm in need of a new camera!
In this dish he has carrot and cucumber stars and olives on the bottom with some roasted red pepper sauce for a dip.  And on the top he has apple slices and pomegranate seeds with some marionberry coconut yogurt.  The dish, while adorable, turned out to not be very practical for him, they opened and spilled, his lunch box was a mess.  The cute container I bought for myself came with an elastic band to keep things closed, I think I will definitely be using some sort of band next time I give this to Paulo and I will omit the open dishes of dips.   I'm enjoying the cute factor, but really what matters is getting the cute into his belly right?  It's a work in progress! 
For more adorable lunch inspiration visit What's for Lunch Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Raw brussels sprout coleslaw

  • Brussels Sprouts, stem removed and thinly sliced
  • Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • Veganaise
  • Juice of one lemon
  • White wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
Combine the sprouts and apple in a bowl and set aside.  In a small bowl stir together the veganaise (or mayo) and the lemon, whisk well to combine.  The amount of the veganaise is variable depending on how creamy you like your coleslaw, I used about 2 tablespoons.  Coat the cut sprouts and apple with the veganaise and stir well to combine.  Add sea salt to taste and set aside.  Prior to serving, drizzle with vinegar and olive oil and retoss.

Creamy roasted red pepper sauce

I wanted a quick and easy sauce last night that would utilize the jar of roasted red peppers I had languishing in my pantry.  My boys both love red peppers, Rene is not a huge fan.  So, to try to lessen the red pepper-i-ness I also used tomato in the sauce. 

Into the blender add the following:
  • Block of tofu, firm
  • 1/2 jar of roasted red peppers
  • 1 cup tomato sauce, I used a bottled plain tomato, you could also use fresh if you want a chunkier sauce
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • Minced garlic, 1-2 teaspoons depending on preference
  • Balsamic vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons
  • Olive oil, 1 teaspoon
  • Sea salt to taste
Blend on high until combined, taste and adjust seasoning.  I added a bit more garlic and vinegar to mine. 

Cook the pasta according to directions and coat with the sauce, rewarm if needed.  Top with thinly sliced red onion and fresh basil.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday side dishes

I didn't take pictures of these two dishes, I was too busy eating them!  As a child I loathed Brussels sprouts.  As an adult I came to realize that I hated them so much because my Mother murdered them.  They ended up stinky mushy lumps that I was forced to eat.  A few years ago, out of love for my older sister, I tried them again.  I sauteed them with bacon-doesn't bacon make everything better?  This year, since I'm a pseudo vegetarian I wanted to minimize the flesh at the table to the bird and started looking for a sprout recipe that did not involve piggy.

Enter the wonderful chefs at The Whole Life Nutition Kitchen!  In all the hoopla leading up to Thanksgiving they were kind enough to post a recipe for sauteed Brussels spouts with shallots and cranberries.  It also included one of my all time favorite things, silvered almonds.  This was a really quick and easy dish, I prepped the sprouts, sliced the shallots and measured the almonds and cranberries before everyone arrived and then prepared the dish while the turkey was resting.  It was delicious, I will definitely be making it again and I may not wait until next Thanksgiving to do it!

The other new side dish I made last week was a roasted yam dish I found on the For the Love of Cooking blog.  This one also involves cranberries, very festive addition this time of year, and called for pecans.  I didn't have pecans on hand so I subbed in walnuts and almost poisoned my cousin, sorry Leslie, I didn't know you were allergic to walnuts!  A major plus on this dish was the do ahead factor, the yams were peeled and diced well in advance, the walnuts and cranberries measured out and ready to be poured on top of the yams when it was time.  I didn't have to monitor the dish much so I was able to relax and chat with family as they arrived and generally relax. 

My only complaint about the two dishes...I didn't make enough of them!  I will certainly remedy that error next year! 

That's the last installment of Thanksgiving at casa de Rodriguez.  We're on to holiday baking now as I experiment with making fudge diary free.  Wish me luck!