Pleasing Picky Pants…Oven Baked Carrot Fries

I have an unwritten policy as regards dinner planning in my house. It’s important to remind you all that I am the mother of one VERY picky eater. When I say picky I don’t just mean that she makes faces when she eats or that she really loves the foods that all children love most.  When I say picky I mean my daughter has about 5 foods in the world that she enjoys, the rest is either nearly tolerable or yucky. We spend a LOT of time in nearly tolerable. When I plan a few days worth of meals I attempt to ensure that at least every few days I make something that Ms. Picky Pants might actually almost enjoy (even if it’s not one of the top 5). If I know the main dish isn’t anywhere near the top 5, I try to make up for it with sides she might like to ensure some level of dinner time tranquility. Which brings us to tonight.

Having backed myself into a grocery corner by running out of time yesterday, I was committed to having my beloved nutshroom burgers. I should mention that Mr. Little Sis and I both love these. My son is not enthusiastic, but is accepting. My daughter USED to love these burgers. That’s the other thing I should tell you about the top 5 foods Ms. Picky Pants enjoys. They rotate out on a daily basis. I’m not making this up. In response to “I thought you liked this dish sweetie,” my daughter will say “I DID like it before, but I DON’T like it today.” Yes, she is going to be the death of me. You can, perhaps, now also see why I don’t accommodate her preferences more than I do. I’d have to actually know what her preferences are on that day to even consider accommodating her. I digress.

 photo IMG_0670.jpgIn order to make the nutshroom burger dinner a pleasant experience I had decided to make oven fries. Many problems can be solved with my oven fries. When the time came to get started this evening, I realized that I had failed to procure the needed spuds. My own garden spuds are not quite ready for fry size, so I decided to do some creative improvising. Internet search engine to the rescue. Carrot fries coming up, thanks to William Sonoma.

In the end, these were not as fry-like as I would have liked, but if I had cooked them longer, they might have been. Regardless of the non-fry nature, these carrots were delicious. And we had a 75% approval rating, which in our house means it was a winner. And who knows, next time I make them, maybe everyone will like them. I only changed the recipe a little… I swear.

Oven Baked Carrot Fries

    •  photo IMG_0684.jpg1 1/2 pounds carrots (10 medium)
    • 2 T olive oil
    • 1/2 t sugar (I used coconut)
    • 1/2 t salt
    • Pinch of paprika

Preheat oven to 425.

Wash and peel carrots (I will not peel next time – why bother?). Cut into fry sized lengths. I cut them in half crosswise and then into vaguely fry sized pieces. I now acknowledge that the size of my fries may have been part of the non-fry result. Moving forward…

Place the cut carrots in large bowl with olive oil and seasoning. Place on large baking sheet (I used a jelly roll panand I DO love my jelly roll pans for just about everything – and no, I’ve not made a jelly roll, in fact don’t really know what a jelly roll is…) lined with tin foil. Spread out carrot fries as much as possible. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the carrots reach the right tenderness (or they seem like fries you lucky devil). Serve with world famous nutshroom burgers and a salad, or whatever you need to serve to make your picky pants okay with carrot fries. :-)
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GF Pancake Mix – Making Time for Pancakes

What if some fine morning when you have time to make pancakes you used 3 or 4 bowls?  1 bowl for the pancakes to make that day and the other 2 or 3 bowls to add all of the dry ingredients for another morning’s pancakes?  Might make it easier to get those cakes going on a busier morning…..

I’m still thinking about saving time, so when I saw this post from our good friend Annie at Unrefined Vegan, I decided I had to give it a GF go.  Please feel check out her version which is chock full of interesting grains and flours as well as the idea that you can flavor up a batch of pancakes or waffles once you start with the basic recipe.   Gluten free or Gluten full – pancakes are a lovely way to start the day and we’re going to see if I can whip up a batch of pancakes tomorrow morning before school if I have the head start of pre-mixing all of the dry ingredients.

First I added the following ingredients to 3 different bowls:

1 cup oats
1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix)
1/2 cup other GF flour like buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, millet – whatever!
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt

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I actually performed this part of the experiment in the afternoon, so I used one large measuring cup/bowl so that I could just add the wet ingredients in the morning.

I transferred the contents of the other 2 bowls to jars for storage:

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Come morning I added:
2 eggs (flax eggs if you prefer)
2 Tbsp apple sauce
1 Tbsp oil (I used avocado)
1 cup milk (I used almond)
Add more milk a little at a time to reach desired consistency

Let the batter sit for 10 minutes

Cook on pre-heated skillet or griddle.

Toss on a few nuts or dried fruit or coconut to spice things up a bit and enjoy some hot and hearty pancakes on a school morning.

pancakes4 Now admittedly, I chose to do this on a Friday when my son buys lunch so there is a little less going on in the kitchen on those days and it did still take me 20 minutes to cook all of the pancakes, but I started turning the pancakes out to those at the table (with whom I could still talk) and it was a nice change to have pancakes on a school morning.  We’ll do it again now that there are 2 jars of pre-mixed pancake mix waiting for me!

This might also make a nice gift.,.. along with a little fancy jam or maple syrup.

We have lots of other pancake recipes because we LOVE pancakes and you might especially be interested in trying Little Sis’ maple cashew butter, or our other ideas for pancake toppers that are lower in sugar.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes (GF,DF)

 photo IMG_0567.jpgIt would seem that I am not the only gardener overrun by zucchini this year, and I’m with most of the gardeners who responded to my last post; I’m delighted to have this problem of what to do with all of my zucchini. A few years ago a pal of mine posted a recipe on her Facebook page during the height of zucchini season. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe and by the ingredient list which includes Maryland’s favorite spice mix, Old Bay Seasoning.

And so I began my usual process of fiddling, seeing how far I could move within the recipe while achieving the desired results. Over time I’ve adapted my friend’s lovely summer recipe and it is a zucchini staple in our house. While I won’t say that these actually taste like crab cakes (because my mother and many other Marylanders would be appalled by that idea), the flavor of these babies SUGGESTS crab cakes and they are just darned tasty crab facsimile aside. If Old Bay is not available in your area (I nearly passed out when I couldn’t buy it in California years ago), look for spice mixes intended for steamed spiced crabs, but be sure they don’t include super large chunks of spice as many shrimp boil spice mixes do OR try a homemade version like this one.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes serves 4

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  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 c garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 T sunflower cheese (you could use mayo)
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T Bragg’s Amino Acids (or soy sauce)
  • 1-2 T Old Bay

The key to working with zucchini is to remember that it is FULL of water. In order to get browning in a pan, zucchini needs to be lightened of some its moisture load. To do this put your grated zucchini in a strainer with a sprinkle of salt stirred in. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes. I use that time to gather and measure the rest of the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Use a utensil to press zucchini to extract even more water. When you think you’ve pushed out all the water you can, wrap the zucchini in a clean dish towel and squeeze out as much as you can. Your zucchini will look a little less appealing after all this, but trust me, it’s well worth the momentary aesthetic sacrifice.

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Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to incorporate. Mixture should be wet, but able to hold a patty shape. If they are too wet to hold form, add a little more flour. Form into  patties of whatever size you like. I made 8 “cakes” with my mixture. Heat oil in pan to medium and add the cakes. Allow them to brown on the bottom (this will mean leaving them alone for a couple of minutes, although as you can see I overshot for a couple). Flip and brown on the other side. Remove from heat. Serve with a big fresh garden salad. Happy summer!

The Zucchini “Problem” and My Vegetti

 photo IMG_0567.jpgThose of you who’ve grown zucchini know that if the plant works, you go very quickly from wondering if you’ll ever get any zucchini to stuffing zukes in neighbor’s mailboxes when they’re not looking to offload some of your surplus. For the past several years my zucchini have been decidedly in the NOT WORKING category, so I’ve not had to force squash on the cul-de-sac, but this year (largely I think because I got ahead of the bugs early), we have zucchini.

While I like zucchini, I admit that even I am not a fan of the traditional sautéed squash, so I’ve become a zucchini seeker. How else can we use this prolific nutritious gift without having it be, well, yucky? Big Sis and I have shared a few zucchini secrets in the past, but I found a new, and perfectly lovely solution, right there in the “As Seen on TV” display. If you just laughed, then you should admit that you’ve been tempted to look yourself. I just couldn’t stop myself when I saw a little gadget that claimed that it would spiral cut my vegetables for $10 and would fit in a drawer, the Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Cutter. I snatched that little sucker up.

And let me tell you what. It works. It actually does what it apparently says it does on TV. With little effort and about a minute of turning I had enough spiral zucchini noodles for 2 adult dinner sized portions – from one zucchini. Nice.
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 photo IMG_0499.jpgBeing fans of Mediterranean food, we naturally concluded that we could put tomato sauce right on those bad boys and call it dinner, but we were feeling a little zesty, so we went in another direction, sort of a deconstructed zucchini chili mac.I simply prepared the fixins that I would normally serve for us to make burritos and instead of wrapping everything up in a tortilla, we served it on top of zucchini noodles. And it was delish. My vote on the Vegetti? A resounding yes, and I can’t wait to make some zucchini noodles for Pasta Sunday. Next time I post I’ll have another fab zucchini suggestion straight from the heart of Maryland. Hope you’re all having a lovely summer!

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?

 

Cold Comfort in a Hearty Salad

The heat is on! Summer is finally really here and so far it’s been lovely. Only brutally hot for a couple of days at a time, lots of play, and good friends all around. While I wouldn’t go so far to categorize my summer as all play and no work, I have been really making the most of time and effort saving cooking strategies to maximize fun time. Let’s face it, when it’s 95 degrees outside and everyone’s been playing as hard as they can for hours, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven.

Big Sis and I have many times highlighted the importance of cooking extra when we cook in order to create leftovers or to create ingredients that can be used in a later meal. I especially like to do this in the summer. Whenever I cook grains in particular, I try to make twice what I would normally make so that I have some in the fridge for later, and colder dishes.

All of this is leading up to a lovely recipe mash I put together last night, with leftover quinoa playing a secondary, but much appreciated role. The inspiration came from a great dish I made with a great friend last week. She shared a cookbook with me that she had found and after we finished drooling over the pictures (Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Storiessuch great pictures), we skimmed for a dinner and came across a quinoa and bean salad that looked like just the ticket. We made it, and it was great, and we had the summer joy of eating it cold for several lunches and dinners.

 photo IMG_0478.jpgUpon my return home, I remembered my big bag of sprouted beans, and a recipe on that bag. It was similar to the quinoa salad, and so I decided to use it as a loose guideline to recreate the quinoa and bean dish. This recipe results in a generous amount, good for a summer cookout or for several days of lunching and munching from the fridge.

Sprouted Bean and Quinoa Salad

  •  photo IMG_0488.jpg2 cups dry beans (any beans would work here, the sprouted bag I have has a nice variety of sizes which contributes to texture for the dish)
  • 1 c cucumber, chopped
  • 1/3 c chopped scallions
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 c chopped tomatoes (I like cherry or grape for cold salads)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 c cooked quinoa or other grain
  • 3/4-1 t cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • hot sauce if desired

Cook your beans according to the bag or standard bean cooking procedures. As usual, I highly recommend lentils for quick cooking time. Rinse with cold water to cool off. Add to large bowl with the other ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Yup, that’s it. Delish.

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Oh, and what’s that cool thing that squeezes the lemons (even the strangely large ones) without getting seeds in the food? Yeah, that’s a very cool and sturdy tool very cool and sturdy tool given to me by one of my absolute favorite people in the world. You can have one too, if you don’t like lemon seeds in your salad.

Green Beans, Raspberries and Almonds Oh My!

 photo IMG_0459.jpgSummer is here FOR REAL. Know how I know? It’s not the lack of school. It’s not the calendar. It’s not the heat. It’s not the clothes and toys strewn around the house with wild abandon. It’s the garden. My garden has told me that summer is well and truly here by giving me a glorious bounty of green beans and raspberries.

We planted a small grouping of raspberry canes three years ago. I now have a raspberry thicket that in the last two days has yielded 8 cups of deliciously sweet and fabulous raspberries. And that’s after the Japanese Beetles take a share. I must have found one of those magic spots in gardening, because frankly I’ve not done anything special for these raspberry canes. They are so vigorous that they are taming the mint that somehow got in the ground over there (what kind of idiot would plant mint in the ground… ahem… yeah…).

 photo IMG_0465.jpgMy favorite summer meal game is to look at the produce I have and find a way to put it together and enjoy it. So a few days ago I was staring at a big bowl of green beans and a big bowl of raspberries. Why not? I’ve done beans with oranges, why not berries? Why not indeed?

Green Beans with Raspberries and Almonds

  • olive oil for the pan
  • green beans – as fresh as possible, so much yummier fresh
  • salt to taste
  • raspberries
  • almonds
  • balsamic vinegar

Yes, that’s it. No I don’t have quantities. I feel confident saying that your own preferences can rule the day on this one. Warm the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the green beans to the pan. The key is to sauté the beans until they are just al dente. They will get a little deeper green and sweat a little. Add a sprinkle of salt. When beans are very nearly to the tenderness you prefer (yes, you have to taste them to determine this), add the raspberries and almonds. Give them some gentle stirs. Splash in some balsamic vinegar and stir gently to distribute. The raspberries are delicate and will disintegrate if you over-bother them. When warm, remove from heat and serve. Eat as soon as possible and with great summery gusto. Delish!
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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

Avocado Bisque with Garden Peas & Dill (DF)

 photo IMG_0421.jpgThe peas are ready! The peas are ready! Oh how I do love garden peas – the real deal, the kind you have to shell. I didn’t much care for them as a child (one for each year of life with a liberal swallow of milk so as not to choke), but have grown to like peas, but this is one area where frozen is really not the same as fresh. If you don’t care for peas, see if you can find the real McCoy at a farmer’s market and give them a go – raw, straight from the shell. Oh mercy. Spring is glorious.

I have found that my family enjoys garden peas most when they are left alone. Yesterday’s harvest may have yielded enough to cook and serve as a side, but I knew they wouldn’t like them as well, so I just rinsed those puppies and threw them in a bowl – shell and eat at will. But what else to serve? A ravenous 7 year old cannot live on garden peas alone, even if his mother would…

An old standby of mine that was ripe for an update: Avocado Bisque. I first encountered this recipe in the cookbook that came with my VitaMix, the cookbook that my sister previewed for me and annotated. Avocado Bisque earned a Bigg Sis rating of “Great,” and it is. I made a few adaptations to remove the moo and the chick and we enjoyed a lovely and light dinner of Avocado Bisque (with garden peas and dill), whole wheat bread (as evidenced by the crumb that snuck into my soup picture), and a fabulous green salad with garden lettuce. Continue reading

Another Birthday Cake For Bigg Sis (GF,V and lots o’ chocolate)

The week before our annual trip to the beach with Bigg Sis and Carni-Mom, I was ambling through Costco (no, not really ambling, more like scrambling) to pick up a few items for the trip. I cut
through the book lane, with my hands half covering my eyes, but I still managed to see Angela Liddon‘s beautiful cookbook sitting there on the table. What’s a girl to do? I bought two, because I always feel better about indulging myself if I also indulge someone else. What better gift for a fabulous sister than a beautiful whole food plant based cookbook?

 photo IMG_0384.jpgNeedless to say Bigg Sis was delighted with her present, as I suspect any plant strong eater would be – this is a lovely and well put together cookbook. This wonderful book also solved my annual quandary of what to make for dessert for my wonderful sister’s birthday.

Bigg Sis, being kind and generous, insisted that we not make a fuss and that I not sacrifice any playtime for birthday desserts – bah. As luck would have it the whole troop wanted to take an excursion that involved over 500 stairs. While ye olde foot is well along in recovery, 500 stairs sounded a bit much, so I begged  photo IMG_0400.jpgoff and spent a delightful morning listening to the ocean (rather than the happy din of children at play), reading, and in a short time creating Ms. Liddon’s most amazing chocolate torte for Bigg Sis’ birthday.

I only made one modification to Ms. Liddon’s stellar recipe – and that was to leave out the espresso. While I’m quite sure it would only have deepened the fabulous flavor, little people with espresso in the evening does not for a pleasant vacation make, in my humble and occasionally extremely tired opinion.

This recipe calls for hazelnuts, oats, coconut oil, salt, maple syrup  and oat flour for the crust. I just brought oats and made my own oat flour in a food processor (Bigg Sis and I both have this one). And then added the other ingredients to make a heavenly dough for the crust in the same machine.

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Baked that puppy until it was browning at the edges and then put it on a rack to cool… okay, so beach house living forced an improvisation here…

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While the crust was cooling, I blended up the soaked cashews, melted dark chocolate, coconut oil, cocoa powder, maple syrup and salt to make some delightful chocolateness.

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Scooped the chocolate in, spread it around, chilled and voila, a little gluten free dairy free birthday magic at the beach. Thank you Angela Liddon for an easy and elegant dessert. Thank you Bigg Sis for being so incredibly awesome.

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