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Archive for the category “Gluten Free”

Banana Bites (and holiday food tips)

Alright people, it’s the season of desserts and snacks. As such, you really probably won’t be eating many meals. Seriously, I don’t think anyone eats one full meal between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and if you try, it’s foiled by dips, charcuterie (I love this word), and four types of cheese cake that you try to ‘plan for’ as you eat. So, instead of fighting this, let’s work with it, shall we? Here are my holiday food solutions:

  • Bring it: If you’re going to a party, bring something with fresh fruit/vegetables or healthy nuts etc involved that you can much on without feeling too terrible about yourself
  • (Dis)Own it: Unless at the threat of physical violence, do not bring home food from events. On the flip side, if you’re hosting, demand your guests take home leftovers (I fully endorse this double standard). The only time this should be reversed is with wine. Seriously, keep the wine you gain from hosting – that’s the best way to get through the post-party cleanup. 
  • Try it: Plan to try everything. Don’t load up your plate with one thing thinking that you’ll get full of that healthy option and not be tempted by other treats. You will be, so just try to keep it all balanced. And try a few new things that look weird to you – you can always leave them on your plate and no one will really know.
  • Move it: No, I don’t mean exercise (though clearly this IS a good idea, this is not my point here) I mean, step away from the food table. Everyone loves to hang out in the kitchen right next to the food. It’s inevitable. But when I stand next to the island covered in finger foods chatting away I can easily down 1/2 a plate of sausage and cheese (crackers be damned, I go right for the bad for me delicious parts) and really this is no good for anyone. So move towards the sink area, or even towards the drinks. It’s much easier to continuously eat bite sized snacks than to end up with 5 drinks going.

Alright, now that we’re done with that… a 10 minute (max) yummy desserty snack you can make at home when you have a little craving or to take with you to a party. Quick banana bites (none of that pesky freezing thing) I threw these together last night when I wanted dessert I didn’t really need and they were very satisfying.

What you need:

  • 2 bananas (I just did one last night and bagged up the toppings so I can make another easily tonight if I want… sneaky)
  • peanut butter
  • chocolate chips
  • shaved coconut
  • some type of nut (I used raw almonds but really any kind are good)

Step 1: Slice the Banana

This sounds more violent than I intended but it kind of made me chuckle, so we’ll keep it. You need to first slice the banana in half length wise.

mmm nanners

Then cut each of these halves into 3 or 4 bite sized pieces (depending on the size of the banana). The original recipe I saw for something similar had you cut little troughs in the banana pieces here. I tried it on one half last night… it’s not very easy, especially if you have greener bananas. That being said, if you want to endeavor to cut little troughs lengthwise in your banana peices for your toppings to set into, by all means, get out a mini melon baller or grapefruit spoon (yes, I tried both of these things) and go nuts.

Step 2: Smear Peanut Butter

Pretty easy really. Just take a knife and put a dollop of peanut butter right on the banana bit (if you’ve carved out a little crevice, put it in there)

See? No need to be neat about it. Why bother? Just get it on there.

Step 3: Chop up Chocolate, Coconut & Nuts

Get out your trusty food processor if you have one. If not, you can crush the nuts in a plastic bag (think about like muddling fruit or something – use a tenderizing mallet or a rolling pin to crush). But if you have one, get that out. Toss in 1 to 2 tablespoons of nuts, 2 tablespoons each of coconut and chocolate chips. Pulse until the mix is fine, but not so fine you can’t recognize any of the ingredients.

There is no artistic way to photograph stuff in a food processor…. trust me, I really tried

Step 4: Sprinkle

Yup, that’s it. Just sprinkle the chopped up toppings right onto the peanut butter’d bananas. Press the toppings in a little so they stick, and then plate. You can freeze these if you like your bananas cold/frozen, but I just keep them room temp. You can layer them in a tupperware with wax paper and take them to parties too. Always delicious, not too guilty, snack or dessert.

*Alternate strategy is to melt the chocolate chips & peanut butter together in the microwave, just put the nuts and coconut in the food processor and then blend those together. It doesn’t look as pretty but it sticks to the banana pretty well and gives a bit more chocolate flavor since it’s melted throughout the topping. This does create a slightly more sticky fingers eating adventure however. Your call. Both are delicious obviously.

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Fall/Winter Sweet Potato, Kale & Quinoa

Once upon a time I bought kale to be healthy. Then I realized I found kale scary. So, I decided to pair it with delicious spicy sausage & cook it with beer to make it less scary. And this was a success, especially considering it only takes like 20 minutes to make.

What you need:

  • 1 or 2 sweet potatoes
  • Dark or pumpkin beer (I used a leftover post-halloween pumpkin beer, but I bet a gingerbread ale, any old porter or really any wintery ale would do)
  • Kale (mmm vitamin A and fiber)
  • Spicy (chicken, vegan, whatever ) sausage
  • Garlic & Onions (always)
  • Soy sauce, cayenne, nutmeg (all optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Quinoa
  • 3 tea bags (optional, but I did Orange Pekoe quinoa with this and it was tasty)

 

Step 1: Chop stuffs

Chop up your sausage into bite size pieces. After washing your knife& cutting board (gotta be careful about cross contamination!), dice ½ an onion, chop your (peeled) sweet potato into 1” chunks, and cut your washed kale into strips.

If you’ve made any type of greens before (like the lovely rainbow chard, or collards etc.) it’s pretty much the same deal. Except with kale the stem doesn’t continue through the leaf as much, so just snap off the stemy ends and slice up the leafy parts. An FYI, you will need a lot of greens for each serving (remember they cook down A LOT) so don’t be shy about the kale.

Step 2: Make quinoa

Here is where I followed a similar method to the ginger tea soba noodles and put on the water for the quinoa (follow instructions on the box, I always use to much water and mess it up so here is one place I condone measuring). Steep 3 tea bags in the hot (it doesn’t need to be fully boiling) water for 3 to 5 minutes before putting in the quinoa. Then cook quinoa as directed (I sound like an Rx commercial).

Step 3: Potatoes and Beer

Add in your sweet potato chunks to the pan with a touch of olive oil. Then immediately poor into the pan about 1/3 of a bottle (my math tells me this would be 4 ounces which is about ½ a cup).

Cover with a lid, stirring the potatoes around every couple minutes. If the beer evaporates completely from the pan but your potatoes aren’t softened yet (which is the sign they’re done), add a bit more, remember we’re being creative here!

The idea is that the flavors from the beer cook into the potatoes as it cooks down. When the potatoes are nearly tender enough that you’d like to eat one (about 7 or 8 minutes depending on the size of your potato chunks), move to the next step.

Step 4: Sauté sausage, onions & garlic

Throw the chopped up sausage, onions and a teaspoon (1 clove is enough) of minced garlic with another  dash of olive oil. Cook on medium heat until the onions soften. Most times the sausage is precooked so that matters a lot less. If yours isn’t, make sure that gets cooked all the way through. If it’s precooked this part really takes like 3 minutes.

Step 5: Kale

Now, on top of all the potatoes, sautéed onions and sausage, start to throw in the kale. You may need to do this in stages to get it all in the pan, and if it starts to stick at all, sprinkle just one more dash of olive oil in (it’s good for you, quit fretting about it).

When your kale is all wilted, you’re good to go. Remove from heat, and scrape the bottom as you toss everything around. You want that good flavor from the seared sausage and beer cooked sweet potatoes.

Step 6: Get it together

By now hopefully your quinoa is all cooked, so scoop that on a plate/in a bowl. Spoon on top some potato, sausage, kale, onion mixture. Here you can add a sprinkle of soy sauce if you want to add some salty Asian kick to the deal or a dash of cayenne or splash of nutmeg. It’s all optional.

Enjoy your healthy meal & hearty meal! This was a great dinner and great left over lunch, especially for the effort which is super low. For some reason I didn’t take a picture of it all together (SORRY!) but you get the idea. Try it, you really might like it. I know I was surprised it turned out so yummy.

Pumpkin Seeds (3 Ways)

Ok, so I know Halloween was like 2 weeks ago. But between a hurricane, travel and other distractions we didn’t even carve our pumpkins until the day of anyway so there was no way to get up the pumpkin seed making ‘in time’ to be super useful to you. LUCKILY, pumpkins are still in season and perhaps you have some pumpkin pies or soups coming up in your recipe book yet that you can use fresh (instead of canned… though it’s pretty good too) pumpkin for and get some seeds. Alternatively, you can buy raw pumpkin seeds (called ‘pepitas’ for some reason) a lot of places, including Trader Joes.

Anyway, all that aside, I made 3 types of seeds this year:

  • Mexican cocoa (aka spicy chocolate)
  • Traditional (which for us is salty, slightly garlicy, paprika’d deliciousness)
  • Rosemary apple (totally because we had these items… but they turned out pretty damn good)

So first a few things about pumpkin seed making:

  1. They burn easily, so using slightly lower heat for longer helps prevent you from doing this. I like to go with 300 degrees Fahrenheit. I leave them in for 10 minutes, and then test them every 2 after that. It can take awhile, especially if they’re super fresh (right out of the pumpkin) or for things like cocoa that hold moisture rather than salt that wicks out moisture. You want to get the seeds to a point where they are crunchy, not chewy.
  2. You can either leave some pumpkin goop residue on the seeds to get flavors to stick OR wash and dry your seeds to get the goop off and then toss them in a teeny bit of egg white before adding spices etc. Either way is fine. This year I went with egg white, previously I’ve gone with goop. I don’t think it makes one bit of difference.
  3. Seeds don’t keep super long. Even in plastic bags they tend to get a little chewy after a day or so. You can re-roast them for a few minutes at 300 to recrisp them.

Ok, now to the flavors!!! First, the seeds came out of these two awesome pumpkins (kitty didn’t help, she’s just looking fierce here)

The first, and my favorite:

Mexican Cocoa

What you need:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Cayenne pepper (the ground powdery kind)
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar (the really fine stuff if you have it)
  • Salt

In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/3 tsp of cayenne, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon (or more, if you’re pro-cinnamon), 1 tablespoon of sugar and  1/3 tsp of salt. Stir these together.Then toss 1 cup of seeds (either with the pumpkin goop intact or tossed in 1 tablespoon of whisked egg whites) into the mix.

Here comes the fun part. Grease a cookie sheet. Now try to spread these out in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Most likely you’ll end up coated in fudgy goo while doing this (the egg white and the sugar and the cocoa make a delicious enemy). If you’re feeling like a risk taker, lick your fingers when you’re done though, it’s yummy!

At 325 these will take around 20 minutes, but start testing after 15 or so just in case. Mine took a good bit longer b/c I put in too much egg white… it’s a delicate thing. But it’s worth it – these were AMAZING. As a note, they will probably need to be re-crisped after 24 hours or so in a baggy, but at 300 degrees for a few minutes they re-crisp pretty well.


Traditional (Salty)

What you need:

  • Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Ok, so same idea here. 1 1/2 tablespoons of paprika, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt (if you don’t want them garlicy, but just salty, just use no garlic salt and 1/4 teaspoon of salt) and 1/4 tsp (a dash or two really) of black pepper. These are really salty, so if you’re not keen on that, cut back the salty items and up the paprika or pepper. Just a preference.
Toss a cup of seeds (with goop or egg whites) in this mixture and spread in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. This should be easier than with the chocolate ones, no worries.

Check these after 12 minutes. They cook up fast with all the salt, and are yummy fresh out of the oven! And they stay crispy crunchy longer than the other 2 flavors, so great for taking to work the next day or giving as a gift (within a few days)


Rosemary Apple

Ok, the invented flavor. What you need:

  • 1/2 an apple (any type, I used gala I think) diced into small pieces
  • Fresh rosemary (the leaves off one good sprig) chopped to the smallest bits you can muster
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt

You know the drill. Mix the spices (fresh rosemary chopped, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon of salt) and the apples in a bowl. Then drop in the seeds. These actually probably need less egg white to them because of the moisture from the apple bits. I didn’t reduce the egg white and they took quite awhile, but really were tasty.

Put them on a greased baking sheet and toss them in. At 325 these take at least 20 minutes if not more. Depends on how juicy the apple was, really. Also, there will be some sticky browned apple juice on the pan this time, not much you can do about that. But these taste pretty yummy and look super festive and holiday-ish. Could be a great appetizer for Thanksgiving or Christmas for sure.

As a note, they will probably need to be re-crisped after a day in a ziplock, but at 300 degrees for a few minutes they re-crisp well.

Let me know what flavors of pumpkin seeds you made this year. Any plans to make more? I think I may buy some raw pepitas tonight to make up for a snack. Hmmm… which to make… ENJOY!

Cobb Salad (The Catch-All of Salads)

I love a good Cobb Salad… mostly because while I find lettuce boring, cobb salads are full of fun and interesting ingredients to fill your bites with flavor. And of course this fits OH so well with the idea of creative cooking because you can throw nearly anything into a cobb salad. For example, we didn’t have any bacon but we did have some left over ham (from a casserole I made last week), and some eggs that needed hard boiling before they went bad… easily incorporated. So this was my most recent take on the Cobb Salad (including a creamy lime dressing)…

What you need:

For Salad base:

  • some type of lettuce/green
  • tomatoes (optional)
  • cucumbers (optional)
  • corn (optional… frozen, canned, off the cobb)
  • chicken breast
  • hard boiled eggs 
  • onions
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • black beans (optional)
  • carrots (optional… we opted out due to plate space)
  • ham (or bacon… optional of course but delicious)
  • avocado (on everything please)

For Dressing (obviously you can use whatever dressing you like… this one’s lime southwestern):

  • 2 tbsp cream cheese/neufchatel (super fun to say and type!)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (I used low fat)
  • 1 lime (well more accurately juice of 1/4 to 1/2 a lime… but you can’t buy 1/2 a lime obviously)
  • cumin
  • cayenne or hot sauce
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 an avocado (mashed)

Step 1:

Caramelize those onions…. so slice them up thin and toss them in your cast iron with a little bit of olive oil and a pad of butter. If you’re keen on it, you can toss in a pinch of sugar to help this process, but I’m kind of meh about that. Caramelizing onions does take a bit of time, around 45 minutes, but it’s super worth it. My favorite simple explanation of how to do this is from Simply Recipes … I’d recommend checking that out if you’re unfamiliar with the process.

Also, if you don’t have hard boiled eggs, you can do this at the same time. It takes about 15 minutes to get the water boiling, then cook the eggs (10 minutes of cook time). Then cool the eggs in some ice water before the salad arranging ensues.

Step 2: 

Cooking the chicken is easy peasy. Salt and pepper each side if you wish, or not. Like squash, I actually pretty much dislike white meat chicken. BUT The Kitchn saved me from this distaste. So I follow the method they use here except I really just skip the flour stuff. It’s not necessary to do all that really, they stay moist and awesome without it. In short, you sear each side for a few minutes in olive oil, add a few tbsps of water or wine to the pan, and cover for 25ish minutes (depends on the thickness of your chicken)

Step 3: Heat up anything that’s frozen or unpleasantly cold. For me, that was frozen corn, and left over ham. For you that might be frozen peas, or black beans (if yours are cold and you’re opposed to such a thing) etc.  I shamelessly use the microwave for this.

Step 4: Ok, dressing time. Get a bowl or even a mug out first. Scoop in the cream cheese, and if it’s not softened, throw that in the microwave for about 15 seconds to do that. Then scoop in the sour cream (you can also use greek yogurt here). Now come the yummy parts… lime, cumin, cayenne! Squeeze in the juice from 1/4 or so of the lime at first. You can add more later, but it’s easy to over lime (at least in my opinion)

To that cut up about half of an avocado (put the other half on your salad!) and mash it up into the dressing. Seriously though, why are avocados so delicious and lovely? Anyway, pretty much your dressing is done. If it’s too thick, add a splash or two of olive oil and blend. If not spicy enough.. you know, add spices. Do what your taste buds tell you. I didn’t LOVE my dressing but it was a nice change of pace from the typical ranch.

Step 5: Chop the rest of your veggies and assemble salad! Just scoop all your tasty ingredients, caramelized onions and all, right on there, chop that egg and chicken and get them on top and eat! As you can see the BF and I enjoy different toppings (he flat out refuses to eat raw tomatoes much to my dismay, while I really dislike hard boiled egg yolks… ew chalky) but here they are all shiny and scrumptious! But here are both just in case you like pretty salad pictures as much as I do…

And if you’re like me and always make too much of everything – this can be made for lunch the next day at the same time which is a double win in my book. Enjoy! And let us know what your favorite salad toppings & dressings are (and how to make them if they’re fancy like candied walnuts or something).

Wild Rice Pilaf Stuffed Acorn Squash

Oh my – time flies when you get sick and don’t blog! Sorry for the delays!

I bought an acorn squash over a week ago and finally got to cooking it. I will admit – I’m not a huge squash fan. I find the texture a little weird, and the flavor mostly nonexistent. But it’s fall, and so squash cheaply abounds in all it’s takes-an-eternity-to-go-bad glory, which is enough for me to buy and cook it. USUALLY I’d roast an acorn squash open faced with lots of butter, brown sugar/maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. BUT dessert squash defeats a little bit of the point. So I tried something else to some success.

Things you need:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • Cup of wild rice (actually I use a ‘brown rice medley’ from Trader Joe’s that I particularly like for it’s mixed texture… but really you could use any rice. I’d suggest a hearty rice though for sure)
  • Chicken broth (enough to make your rice, usually double the amount of dry rice you make, more or less)
  • Carrots, onions, celery (more = more flavor), any other veggies you wish (I threw in a few mushrooms too and some frozen peas for good measure because I love them)
  • Garlic, salt & black pepper, olive oil (always unless you’re making dessert)
  • Almond slivers (optional, but like in the other greens recipe, they worked well in the pilaf. Could sub pine nuts or sunflower seeds too)
  • Savory herbs of your choosing (thyme, rosemary, celery seed, oregano, parsley, tarragon… I used the first three, about a pinch each… could have used more)
  • Butter (of faux butter like Earth Balance)

As an aside, we also made some sauteed spinach (with bacon, worcestershire sauce and mustard) on the side… but that’ll be another blog sometime…

Ok, Step 1: Cook the wild rice. Wild rice is tough and resilient, so no worries about over cooking it really by cooking it in the broth on the stove top and then piling it in the acorn squash to roast up. If you’re nervous about mushy rice (clearly you have some anxiety issues, but that’s ok, we all have our things) you can cook it about 30 minutes and then pull it off of heat.

Step 2: Chop. Chop some more. Chop the onions and carrots and celery, and any fresh herbs (put any fresh herbs chopped to the side, away from the veggies which we’re gonna saute)

Step 3: While you have the knife and cutting board out, cut through that acorn squash too. Be careful – they’re hard vegetables and you don’t want to push so hard you slip and cut your fingers. A tip – cut a small slit in the squash with the tip of a knife and then use that slot to press into to cut all the way through. You can cut an acorn squash up and down along a ridge or right across the middle more horizontally… no matter.

When that’s all done, you gotta take out the inside. Like a pumpkin, the inside is a little mushy and weird and full of seed (you can roast these later if you wish like pumpkin seeds too). I use a grapefruit spoon for scraping out all the weird slippery strings and that works great.

Step 4: When your rice is about 10 minutes from being done cooking (either fully or to your desired partial cooking if you have that rice anxiety), turn your oven to 400 degrees, and turn a burner on medium with your trusty cast iron (or less trusty other pan if you must). In the pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, teaspoon (1 clove) minced garlic,  your chopped veggies and your almonds if they’re raw (like ours were… seriously, raw almonds… silly). Saute them until the onions start to get clear and then turn off the burner.

Step 5: Mix up that wild rice pilaf. Add the cooked rice, sauteed veggies, and herbs to a bowl and fold together. Taste test. If it needs more herbs, salt, pepper, a dash of worcestershire or soy sauce, some Mrs. Dash, a hug, whatever – add it. You know what tastes good in your mouth, own that. You want your pilaf to be scrumptious. When you’re at a loss for what it might need, I rely (guiltily I assure you) on chicken bouillon and add it teeny bit by teeny bit. A little salty (often MSG laden) powder goes a LONG WAY.

Step 6: Place your acorn squash halves on a baking dish (so you know, acorn squash are fat and hard to fit in normal pans… silly nature). Add a tablespoon or so of butter (or non-butter)  in each half as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper and maybe some dried herbs for good measure. I was running out of butter, so I used less butter and a little olive oil with the dried herbs and rubbed that into the squash. It didn’t make much a difference in flavor to do this though so it’s probably easier to just add all the unnecessary herbs to the pilaf and skip all that olive oil rub stuffs.  Pile rice pilaf on top of that, pressing in a bit so you can get a good portion in the squash.

Step 7: Cover lightly with foil, pop in the oven for about 45 minutes. Some other recipes have you make the acorn squash, then fill it with pilaf… either way. I like that they all cook together. Seems right to me.

Step 8: Remove from the oven, plate (we sprinkles some chia seeds on top for fun) and enjoy! TADA – fancy looking dinner with normal ingredients and SUPER good for you. I’d suggest drinking some wine with it to balance out all those vitamins… no need to be extreme.

Happy fall eating!

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