Banana Biscuits – GF / DF

Look at all the lovely letters at the end of our recipes indicating what it is and what it ain’t.  Well these biscuits should be GF / DF / not CB, because they are not like cardboard.  They actually had a little fluff going on, and were really quite delightful.  I do love a biscuit, so one that is low on fat and can be eaten by y GF/DF family and friends is great except that it means less for me.  Ah well.  The problem with good food is that other people want to eat up all those potential leftovers, huh?

One key to a good biscuit is a hard fat that gets distributed without melting too fast or weighing things down with liquid.  No butter allowed over here at my house, so coconut oil placed in the freezer before use served the hard fat need.  Banana offered some moisture / replaced some of the fat, and good ol’ Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix removed the wheat from the equation as well.

We ate these with a little orange marmalade and found that to be quite a treat for a weekend breakfast :-)

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Banana Biscuits (I will definitely double this recipe next time, but if you want to stick your toes in first, try this amount which yields 4 large biscuits)

1 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 – 1/2 cup mashed banana (after mashing.  It was a medium large banana)
1/3 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond)
3 Tbsp hard coconut oil (Stick it in the frig the night before – or in the freezer if you forget)

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix the dry ingredients and zest together.
In a separate bowl (or large glass measuring cup), mash the banana and then mix in the milk.
Cut the coconut oil into pieces and mix in with a pastry cutter or a large fork if you don’t have a pastry cutter.

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Add the mixed banana and milk and stir to combine but don’t over-mix or mash.
Spread out on a cutting board or counter to a thickness of about an inch.

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Use a glass to cut biscuits.
Place on a cookie sheet
Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes or until browning just a touch on top

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Eat warm.

My son ate his with peanut butter….. makes sense, don’t you think?

 

Grilled dessert… with or without chocolate

Grilled vegetables are not new to me, and like roasted vegetables, I never tire of them.  Whatever you have in the garden or the vegetable bin will probably be great coated with a little oil or marinade and then skewered, ka-bob’ed, wrapped in foil, laid right on the grate or tossed in a fancy grilling box to sizzle over the coals for 15 – 30 minutes depending on how big you cut it and how tough it is.  I particularly like to include colored peppers for their sweetness and red onion because it infuses everything with a lovely flavor.  Zucchini, mushrooms, yellow squash, green beans, whole cherry or grape tomatoes – it’s all good!  Corn is good on the grill also and Little Sis has a no-fuss method here.

The eye-opener for us this summer is grilled pineapple.  After the veggies are done, we just lay rings of pineapple (I’ve used fresh, not tried canned) right on the grate and let them sit until warm or seared – whatever you like!  I do brush the slices very lightly with oil first – I used avocado, but coconut would be awesome as well – both of these are safe high heat oils.  Let them cook about 5 minutes a side, but keep an eye because it all depends on how hot and how close the coals.

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The flavor is amazing!!!  Sweet, juicy and a perfect summer dessert.  The first time we did this the fire was hotter and we got the lovely brown char lines on the pineapple.  Last night the fire was cooler, so no lines, but it was still awesome.  Our guests really enjoyed it.  One of our brilliant guests spied the dark chocolate that the children had rejected for use in s’mores and wondered if the pineapple would be even better with chocolate on top.  Well, very few things suffer from the addition of chocolate, so…. we tried it.

Melt some squares of chocolate – estimate how much you’ll need for the amount of pineapple in question.  We did not have much pineapple left, so I did probably 2 ounces.  Adding a little coconut oil makes it drizzlier, I added very little- probably 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon.

Melt slowly in the microwave (15 – 20 seconds a few times, then less, stirring between), or in a double boiler.

Cut your pineapple into chunks and either drizzle the chocolate over, or let people dip.  Luckily the kids didn’t see what we were doing right away.  Let them have s’mores – I’ll take chocolate drizzled pineapple any day of the week!  Mixed in with friends, kids setting off  bottle rockets, and top it all off with reading beside the fire after the guests were gone and the evening was very sweet all around!

20140705_202014-001Have you got any fruit on the grill this summer?

 

Quick and Easy Tacos – no spice packet required!

There is a rack in the grocery store that is supposed to make life a lot easier.  Rows of shiny packets full of spice combos or spice / thickener combos that can turn a few ingredients into a spectacular meal, right?  I used to use the taco seasoning mixes to whip up some tacos because everybody loves tacos, but as I started to make more things for myself it struck me that I could probably do this more authentically and without the added ingredients that I probably wouldn’t really want!

You can make your taco base with any number of things: chicken, fish, beans, lentils, or even quinoa!  From there it is another opportunity to offer a little variety of toppings that include crispy fresh offerings of the season or form your garden.

I prepare chicken about once a week, and that is the route I took here.  I really think you could use this on any of the above.  I provide the amount of chicken I used to give you an idea of how to adapt the spices to the amount of whatever you use.

Quick & Easy Tacos
a little oil in the pan (I used avocado because of the high smoke point)
2 tsp cumin seed
1 onion
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (well worth the spice investment – really adds great, smoky flavor)
1/2 tsp salt
1.75 lb chicken meat, cut into bite sized pieces (or sub beans, fish or quinoa)
optional tabasco or cayenne
optional oats for thickening (start low, 1/8 cup whole oats)

 

Toppings of your choice: lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, salsa, red onion, avocado, cheese of whatever variety your tribe eats, etc.

Taco shells – we used Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot & Blue Taco Shells, which are indeed hot, and indeed blue – so I did not use a lot of heat in the sauce, you can add tobasco or cayenne if you like!

Heat the oil in a large saute pan
Add the cumin seed and let heat a bit
Add the onion until almost translucent
Add the other spices for a couple of minutes
Add your chicken or whatever else you are using
When it is almost cooked through, decide if you want some thickening.
Add oats if you do and stir until thicker

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Pile filling into warm taco shells
Put your toppings on…

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and crunch into a big, tasty mess ;-)

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What is your favorite base for tacos?

Half Raw Veggies, Full On Taste

You know I love stir-fry.  Who doesn’t?  Quick, easy, adaptable, and even most kids will eat it – even though you can hide all manner of vegetables in there ;-).

It was fully my intention on a recent evening to make a Raw Pad Thai c/o Julie Daniluk (Meals That Heal Inflammation).  It’s really delicious but I got started late and forgot scallions, and, well…. in true Sis sister fashion I sort of made something different with what I had.   Usually these forays into the land of scrappy / adapty cooking are good enough, but this was truly amazing… if I do say so myself.   Oh wait!  Mr. Bigg Sis and Very Amusing and Not Yet Snide 13 year old boy also thought it was amazing.  Having just eaten some leftover for lunch, I thought I’d share it with you!

So what’s with the half raw?  Well, I like the idea of using raw zucchini for the noodles in the Julie Daniluk recipe, but I didn’t feel like doing the prep work.  In addition I had some broccoli stems to get rid of and my favorite way to do that is to cut off the too tough parts, shred it in the food processor and add it to stir fry.  The sauce is what rules here.  It is easier than the original and puts the garlic in with the stir fried veggies.  I’m not a huge fan of raw garlic.

Half-Raw Stir Fry

Cook rice of your liking – I used black rice for this

Stir Fry:
1/2 – 1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
broccoli stems or florets (or both) if using stems, shred in food processor
3 – 4 carrots (I shred mine in processor – so easy!!)
1 very small head red cabbage (or half of a larger) also shredded
4 small zucchini (also shredded)
A handful of pineapple chunks if you have it and like it!

Heat oil and garlic until garlic becomes fragrant.
Add broccoli and carrots and stir fry for about 4 minutes
Turn off heat and add zucchini and red cabbage (and optional pineapple).

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Sauce: (adapted from Julie Daniluk’s Raw Pad Thai
6 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Braggs or soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
Juice of 1 lime
2-3 tsp grated ginger

Mix all together.  It will be thick.  If you prefer a thinner sauce you can water it down with a little water.

Serve rice with veggies and let each person daub some sauce on top.

Some might like a plate (with some roasted green beans on the side):

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And some might like a bowl (with roasted green beans on the side):

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And one can eat as is, or mix in one’s preferred amount of sauce.

20140619_180528  Because of the raw zucchini and red cabbage it will not keep for a long time as a leftover.  I just had some 2 days after the fact and the zucchini was decidedly less cheerful, although still tasty.

If you are interested in more raw veggie dishes, check out Little Sis’ amazing raw, dairy free, gluten free Italian offerings

Sweet Potato Chili w/ Greens

My garden is not very extensive this year due to other commitments, but ahhh the pleasures of hearty greens!  Swiss chard in particular is easy to start – easy to grow and it keeps on coming back!  Especially when the rain and sun alternate so regularly as they have been doing here in Middle Tennessee.  This was the only plant that I managed to start indoors and then transfer to the ground this year, so it makes me smile every time I look at it.  (I’m pretty easy to please, no?)

Ain't it purty?

Ain’t it purty?

 

One of my favorite things to do with hearty greens (chard, kale, collards, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens – I’m sure I forgot one!) is toss handfuls into soups, stews and chilis.  They are much less offensive to the non-greens appreciators in the crowd that way but still bring a bang of nutrition and some color to any dish.  They also make dinner feel fresh when what you’ve really done is open the pantry door and said, “Hmmmm – I’m not very prepared, what can I throw in a pot and call dinner tonight?”

 

You guessed it.  I was doing just that recently and am about to share the results.  As always, Little Sis and I encourage you to see our recipes as food for thought as well as body in that substitutions are encouraged, welcomed and will probably make it taste better as well ;-)  It takes a village to make a really good meal!

So I give you Sweet Potato Chili w/ Greens Continue reading

Easy Refrigerator Dills

Alas the beach, and the FABULOUS cake Little Sis made for my birthday, are in the past… back to the grind of work and school (for me) and needing healthy snacks and sides.  I come from pickle people and pickles are a lovely and potentially healthy side or snack, but….. Yes, you know what’s coming next.  You just can’t find healthy pickles very easily.

Little Sis threw up her hands last year over the amount of sugar in processed sweet pickles and after asking you, our wonderful readers, for help and input, she offered up this very fine recipe that replaces those store bought pickles with something very tasty but much healthier.

We enjoy her pickles very much.  In fact I keep a large jar in the frig in which I started the pickles by following her recipe and to which I add another cucumber, another Tbsp of sugar and apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt 3 or 4 times before following the recipe again.

But what about dill pickles?  They cost a bloody fortune!  So I’ve adapted Little Sis’ approach to dill pickles and although my son thought the results a little too garlicky – the beauty part is that I can change it next time!  In fact I’ve added another cucumber to the jar method without adding any more flavor and this has toned it down more to his liking.

Heck this is so easy, one could have several varieties going at the same time!

This is very much like the original recipe but with less sugar as well as the addition of garlic, dill and pepper flakes.

Easy Refrigerator Dills

1 large English cucumber or 2 medium cucumbers
2 c water
1 small clove garlic, minced or mashed (I used a fairly large clove and it was a bit strong – so use less for less garlic flavor)
1/2 c apple cider
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard
1/2 – 1 tsp dill
pinch pepper flakes

Heat water, garlic, sugar, salt, and apple cider vinegar to almost boiling, or until sugar and salt are dissolved
Let cool to room temperature
Slice cucumber(s) and place in glass bowl or jar with a cover
When liquid is cooler, add the spices, stir and pour over cucumbers.

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Store in the refrigerator and give a couple of hours for flavor to develop.
Keep a sweet and a dill jar going in the frig – makes a great side dish, snack for school or work or on a hot day.  Nothing like a cool pickle on a hot day!

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Make note if you think one taste is too strong and reduce or increase for the next batch!

Although cucumbers are not summer-time cheap yet, I still find this less expensive than pickles….. and with less processing, less sugar and less other ingredients.  A whole lot easier to swallow!!

 

Varia-Pasta-Deliciousness

I really don’t mean to rub it in, but the truth is that I am at the beach.

Not only am I at the beach, but I am at the beach with Little Sis and her family and Carni-Mom.  What could be better than that?  Not much my friends.  And I certainly hope you have some time this season with loved ones in a special place.

As presented in posts around this time for the last several years, during our sojourn on the lovely shore of North Carolina, we take turns cooking large healthy meals for each other and skip the fast food / restaurant scene.  Lots of fun, lots of time together and everybody feels great and ready to hit the beach the next morning.  But of course, it isn’t always easy cooking for a discerning crowd that includes some vegans, some who do not do dairy, some who do not do gluten, several picky children and at least one who would really rather be eating meat (you may have guessed that this last individual is ‘Carni-Mom’).

So in Little Sis fashion, I decided to deconstruct a meal and present theparts so that everyone could find something that pleased their palate and their dietary approach to life.

Pasta offers many such opportunities!  And who doesn’t like pasta?
Oh – that’s right.  Mr. Bigg Sis, my dear husband, does not eat gluten.  Well there is always rice or quinoa pasta but honestly I am not a big fan of gluten free pasta…. but spaghetti squash makes an awesome (and vegetable based) alternative! Continue reading

Gentle Gardening Arsenal

Me: “I think I’ll go out and pick strawberries in my own backyard!  How heavenly….. tra-la-la-la-la…”

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Bugs, mice, and birds, “Mmmm, I just love me some free, organic strawberries – I hate all those nasty chemicals they use around the corner!  Think I’ll pitch my tent and invite the extended family!”  Actually, because I have a little of this and a little of that planted in close proximity, I do not get hoardes of pests, but enough to diminish my return, so….

How to be relatively organic and still get a good yield on all your time and labor?

I now have 5 substances that I use regularly to reduce pests and sickness in my garden.   And they are!….

#1) DIY Insecticidal Soap
The newest addition for loyal readers who are familiar with some of my others is DIY insecticidal soap.  You CAN purchase insecticidal soap but you can also add 2 Tablespoons of liquid Dr. Bronner’s castile or peppermint soap to a quart of warm water and spray that on your garden.  Further instructions – like making sure to get the underside of the leaves, can be found here.

The DIY version is much cheaper without nasty ingredients.  Insecticidal soap can also be used indoors and will not kill ladybugs.

#2) Urine.  You heard it folks, urine.  I (or some other member of my family) pee into a 1/2 gallon pitcher, then I add a little ammonia, a little dish soap and fill it with water.  This gets poured around the perimeter of a garden bed which is being invaded by mammalian type creatures, like rabbits and moles.  It must be renewed after a rain, but is helpful.  For moles, I find it even more helpful to use urine in the pitcher and then just add water to half full, find mounds left by the buggers, stick a trowel in, pull back to reveal the hole and pour it right in there.  Especially if the mound or hole is near the garden.  The rain revealed this particular tunnel beneath my garden

Rotten worm eater!

Rotten worm eater!

 

#3) Garlic Pepper Spray.  This is easy to make and is very helpful eliminating insects and dissuading other nibblers.  Click here to read a prior post with instructions to make this spray of water, garlic and pepper with the caveat that I am no longer going to use a coffee filter to strain, but a nut milk bag and then a coffee filter if necessary.

#4) Neem Oil.  This I buy.  It is awesome.  It is used as an insecticide and I have been told it is helpful with some diseases as well.  Apparently it is used for many medicinal purposes as well, which I thought was interesting, and you can read about that here.  But otherwise, I just mix according to package directions and spray.  I buy the concentrate and mix myself – much cheaper!

#5) baking soda and milk to prevent mildew diseases.  Here is the recipe I use:

1/2 cup milk
4.5 cups water
1/4 tsp baking soda

This is to be sprayed on the leaves in the morning before the sun is directly striking the leaves.  I have found it very helpful with mildew diseases.

There is my arsenal….. along with some netting to keep the birds out of the strawberries

You can just make out the netting in the foreground.

You can just make out the netting in the foreground.

I find that these methods work if I am diligent and also if I fertilize well with compost (fast and easy cold composting tutorial here) and sometimes I use Plant Tone – an organic fertilizer or a fish & seaweed fertilizer.  Happy, healthy toxin-free plants and soil help make happy, healthy toxin-free (or less toxin-full) people!

What gentle methods do you use in your garden?

 

Cool Stir Fry Salad

Cool salad / Cold salad, I’ll take either one, I’m just getting over the hot food thang right now.  We are not necessarily ready for popsicles for dinner (only the finest for my brood, huh?) although temps here in Middle Tennessee have already come close to 90 several times, but cool is working for me.  Plus, coordinating hot food over the space -time continuum can be difficult.

I bet nobody has ever said that before.  At any rate, when recently faced with a potluck that required a 30 minute drive and a 1.5 hour activity prior to eating, I thought I’d contribute a cool stir fry.  Why not?  I can be cool when I try.

This approach also gave me the opportunity to empty my vegetable bin of little bits of this and that.  Feel free to substitute the little bits of this and that you have to use up for the bits I mention here.  Substitution is the mother of creation, or necessity, or something like that.  Clearly my space time continuum is still a bit confused today, but if you do some subbing you get to say, ‘Voila!’  There it is, your own personal twist on a stir fry salad.  That IS cool!

Cool Stir Fry Salad

2. 5 cups dry rice, cooked to package directions, or your usual way! (I like brown basmati)
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2-3 cloves garlic
Beet greens and stems from 3 large beets
3 carrots, sliced into coins
2 cups broccoli florets
3 – 5 Tbsp Bragg’s liquid amino acids (or soy sauce) – I used 4
.5 – 1.5 Tbsp sesame oil  - I used 1
1 cup roasted almonds (or raw)

Prepare rice according to package directions
When done, set aside to cool.  For added flavor cook rice in broth, bouillon or a mix of broth and water

Place cabbage in a large bowl and add rice vinegar and 1 tsp sesame oil.
Stir and leave to sit.

Almonds can be roasted in a 375 oven for 10 minutes laid out flat if you want to roast them.

Chop and saute garlic,  ginger, beet stems and greens:  Start with garlic and saute for a few minutes, add ginger for another minute then the chopped stems for about 3 or 4 minutes and finally the greens to wilt.
Set aside to cool.

Chop the rest of the veggies and cook or leave raw as you prefer.  I just barely cooked my broccoli florets, but not necessary.

A fabulous trio of flavors for cold salads.

Mix everything but the Bragg’s and extra sesame oil in the large bowl with the cabbage and stir.

Add the Bragg’s (or soy sauce) a bit at a time, stir and taste.  Extra vinegar can be added at this point as well if you like

Serve at room temperature or chilled – we’ve enjoyed it either way

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Do you have hot dishes that you’ve converted to cool salads?

 

Cheddar Cheesy Cashew Ball / Spread

Springtime is a wonderful time to lay off the dairy.  I know, there are creamy sauces and ice cream and cheese and milk on your cereal, etc.  Well, I’ll tell ya – dairy makes ya snotty.  Not bratty (although it might do that to some people), snotty.  And who needs extra mucus in their life with all the pollen that’s gloriously drifting about allowing the abundance of flowers, trees and fruits that we love?  Not me.

Plus, Mr. Bigg Sis is not supposed to be eat dairy because it is inflammatory in nature, so we have discovered many other things to enjoy in it’s place but are always open to something that can go on a cracker, bread or sandwich that tastes or feels a bit like cheese.  This one comes from our good friend Somer at VedgedOut.com  She has an amazing array of tasty recipes if you would like to eat less animal products and she is the Queen of Vegan Cheese.  I changed this recipe just a little and my husband and I have been enjoying the results.  Little Sis has also made this (maybe following the recipe exactly – break for laughter here, Little Sis does not ever follow recipes exactly) and they enjoy it very much as well.

Follow the link for Somer’s original version:

Kick Ace Extra Sharp Raw Vegan Holiday Cheddar Cheese Ball

and here’s mine : Cheddar Cheese Spread:

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 4-6 hours
2 packed tablespoons dry pack sun dried tomatoes, snipped into small pieces with kitchen scissors then soaked along with the  water with the cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon dry sherry (optional – I used 1 Tbsp of Cabernet that I had on hand)
1 heaped tablespoon mellow white miso (I used 1.5 Tbsp of red rice miso – again what I had and I overscooped and just dumped it in anyway)
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon onion powder (I used a heaping tsp.)
1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (I used 1/2 tsp)
dash cayenne
1/2 cup organic unrefined coconut oil (I used 1/4 cup and will explain why below so you can decide what you’d like to do)

Rinse the soaked cashews and sun-dried tomatoes and drain well.
Process the cashews and the tomatoes in a food processor (Somer states you can also use high powered blender but I did not) to form a paste – scrape down sides to incorporate all
Add seasonings and pulse until combined
Add the coconut oil.  I chose to use half the coconut oil because it is the coconut oil that will make this firm up more to make a cheese ball, and I was looking for something that would also serve as a spread.  I was also concerned that it not taste too coconut-ty.
Process well until the mixture is completely smooth, scraping down to mix it all. This process can take up to 10 minutes in a food processor and a few minutes in a power blender.
I then split my cheese into 2 containers and refrigerated - make sure you cover it as it will darken if you don’t.

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It firmed up nicely – and it holds it’s shape pretty well if it is cool in the house.  It softens mightily if you take it out on the deck when it is 75 degrees outside!

I used half to make a cheese ball by forming a ball once it was firm (about 4-6 hours) and rolling it in chopped pecans and dried, powdered sage.

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The other half I just left alone to be more of a spread.

Somer’s original version uses slivered almonds which would also be delicious!

If you are interested in other non-dairy cheesy like items, check out these other posts!
Cheese Free Italian – AWESOME recipe Little Sis had at a restaurant and reproduced
Dairy Free Pasta Toppers
Spaghetti Squash with Sunflower Lemon Pesto
 Dilly Sunflower Cheese Spread
 Zucheesy Noodles with Crunchy Bits

If you’re having a snotty spring, try laying off the dairy – you might be amazed at what a difference you notice after a week.  And if you’re not snotty…. well excuuuse me.  Then you can give these a try anyhow ;-0 – Just because I said so (I told you I was snotty).