Veggies Au Vin

Many years ago Mr. Little Sis and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a few cooking classes at an excellent cooking school. Our culinary skills improved, our foodie horizons expanded and evolved, and we both were forced to admit our undying affection for French cuisine. Play a little Edith Piaf and we both begin drooling and placing our napkins in our laps… okay it’s not that bad, but you get the drift.

Many of the classic dishes that we learned to make during our cooking school days are not exactly on the menu in this food era of ours, but they need not be cast aside. There are ways to apply those fantastic flavor profiles, scratch that culinary itch. Mr Little Sis’s most frequent Frenchie cravings involve chocolate croissants (I’m not even going to think about it), French bread (he’s done that one), and coq au vin (chicken and wine). While tripping around the internets looking for culinary inspiration for dinner, I came across this recipe which gave me hope that we could approach this classic in our own meatless way. Continue reading

Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala (GF,V)

IMG_0283Things have been a little rough here at the Northern office of the pantry. I’m now 4 weeks out of foot surgery and while things are decidedly better, I am still somewhat limited in my activities and as the day wears on I get pretty uncomfortable from swelling and aches associated with walking on this ridiculous contraption. As a result, my desire to stand and cook for extended periods of time is pretty limited.

While I was sitting on my fanny for the initial two weeks after surgery, I did have the opportunity to come across a feature in Vegetarian Times on “30 Minute Skillet Suppers.” Yes, please. So last night I gave one of these a go, and in my usual fashion I made some modifications to make it just right for my family (yogurt out, cashews in; serrano chile out – red pepper and chile powder in; fresh ginger out – powdered in).  This experiment was wildly successful, and it really did only take 30 minutes. The cashews balanced the spice and I love the texture they added. The greater adjustability with powdered chili allowed me to knock it down for the kids and adjust on the plate for Mr. Little Sis. My sore feet and legs were spared extra standing and our little tribe got to enjoy some fabulous Indian flavors for a very reasonable price, right there on a weeknight in our kitchen.

Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala (GF,V) – inspired by Vegetarian Times’ Chickpea Tikka Masala

  • olive oil for panIMG_0297
  • 1 c finely chopped onion
  • 1.5 T garam masala
  • 1.5 T tomato paste
  • 1.5 t powdered ginger (or 3 t fresh grated – I was out)
  • 1/2 red or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 c cooked chckpeas
  • 3 small cans diced tomatoes
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch chipotle or other chile powder to taste
  • 1 c raw cashews
  • chopped cilantro

Warm oil in large skillet (I used cast iron – the pan should be relatively deep). Add onions and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté  onions for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat, until onions are translucent. Add tomato paste and spices (other than paprika and chile). Cook for another minute or so – until the spices become fragrant. Add peppers and sauté about another minute. Add chickpeas and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, add cashews and remaining spices. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. We served ours with leftover rice and chopped cilantro as a garnish.  Absolutely delish and deeply satisfying.

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For more quick dinners, as well as some thoughts on convenience food, check out Big Sis’ post ReCon Convenience, Step 7 in our Baby Steps Series.

Digging Indian flavors? Give these dishes a try: Mulligatawny Soup, Pakistani Lentil Kima, and Cashew Carrot Curry.

Almost Spring Dried Fruit Cake (GF)

Soon you will have lots more fruit to choose from and you will not be interested in dried fruit (although mixed with nuts, seeds and low sugar cereal it is always a good snack)….. but perhaps you have quite a bit in your pantry and are hankering for a fruity baked  good while you wait for the new fruit to come in.  Well you can hanker less now.  You know, like a little less hankering a lot more baking?

My family LOVES this recipe which I shamelessly lifted and only slightly adapted from our good friend at Wuppenif….. She lives in a much colder clime and has a longer wait for summer fruit than we do.  It might cheer her up to know that we are all enjoying her delicious cake ;-)  You will enjoy her blog which includes GF cooking and baking with a woodstove and enjoying the great outdoors in Canada.

Wuppenif made this cake for Christmas, so you know it is special – and both of us make it GF.  I’m sure you could substitute whole wheat flour though if you are not so inclined….. or declined!

icing?  Who needs icing - moist and sweet with fruit, you don't need icing on this one.

icing? Who needs icing – moist and sweet with fruit, you don’t need icing on this one.

Dried Fruit Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used raisins, cherries, and cranberries – use whatever you have / works for your tribe!)
75 ml brandy (I used red wine)
Juice from one orange
Zest from one orange
25 ml lemon juice
Splash hot water (use your own judgement; the idea is to provide enough liquid for the fruit to swell nicely)
1 cup Bob’s red mill GF baking mix
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour/meal (mine is from making almond milk – may be a little different, could also use coconut flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp guar or xanthan gum
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp salt
7/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup nuts (she used slivered almonds, I used pecans in small bits)
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil (she used butter), melted
3 Tbsp molasses
1/4 cup water (I used almond)

Method

Preliminaries – preheat oven to 350 F
Assemble and soak the dried fruit in a bowl with the wine, zest, juice and water; allow to soak for a minimum of an hour, but the longer the better (I only managed about 45 minutes and it was fine)
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl
Melt coconut oil / butter, mix with molasses and water or milk
Combine wet and dry mixtures and add in fruit and nuts for a final stir
Pour into greased cake tin (I prefer a bundt pan)

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Bake for approx. 40 – 50 min

 

Let cool for a bit and then enjoy!

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Wuppenif has prettier pictures as well….. so you might want to check them out.  Personally, I’m going to go make the real thing and gaze only briefly at it before eating :-)

May thoughts of spring and summer warm your thoughts while tasty leftovers of the winter season warm your belly.

 

Real Green Food for St. Patrick or Every Day

I love my twins’ teacher. I really do. She’s smart, organized, thoughtful, compassionate, and inspiring. She has been super helpful with out big transition to first grade. In addition to all her other fine qualities, my favorite first grade teacher LOVES holidays. She loves all of them. She knows all the traditions, all the stories, all the everything about every holiday anyone might celebrate EVER.

My daughter knows more about St. Patrick’s day than Tommy O’Shaunassy in County Cork. Somehow in sharing these stories about St. Patrick’s Day, my daughter received the impression that EVERYONE experiences all the possible traditions and myths all day long. I know I sound like a killjoy, but frankly St. Patrick’s Day has had pretty limited implications for me in the past – a few jigs and reels, a green shirt, perhaps a green beer. I had no idea I would be expected to produce big green messes and pretend a leprechaun made them. If I’m forced to make a mess intentionally, I WILL be building a leprechaun trap and it will work – I don’t need help with messes in my house, thank you. I also had no idea of the variety of food to which green food coloring could be applied in celebration of good old St. Pat.

In order to satisfy my daughter’s rapidly increasing expectations where St. Patrick’s Day was concerned I confess that I did a little reel around Pinterest and I had a revelation. Here’s the thing to remember about St. Patrick’s Day – leprechaun aside, a great deal of the focus is on green food.  Guess what I try to get my VERY picky daughter to eat every other freaking day of the year? You guessed it, green food.  I had already decided not to apply green food coloring to anything (see yuckies about food coloring here), it was just a short step to decide to simply make green food – perhaps not the dishes we eat regularly – it need only seem unusual and green to be passable as a special St. Patrick’s Day meal. And a healthy day of eating ensued.

St. Patrick’s Smoothie (or We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Shamrock Shake)

  • 2 c fresh pineappleIMG_0274
  • 4 medium frozen bananas
  • 4 c spinach or other deep greens
  • 1/2 rolled oats
  • 1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 large avocado
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup

If you have a power blender, load it up and let her rip as you usually do. If you have a standard blender, I would start with the milk and frozen bananas and add the other elements when possible. The result? Super creamy, super green, fantastic and delicious way to start a happy St. Paddy’s Day. And not a pinch in sight.

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While I’d hoped to pack lunch for the kids today, it snowed here in the Mid-Atlantic last night and so we had yet another Monday at home. Our lunch at home consisted of some Japanese style noodles. Know what goes great on top of Japanese noodles? Green things: dried seaweed, peas, and cucumbers. Yep, she did it. Ms. Picky Pants gladly took all those bits in celebration of St. Pat.

Dinner was a little trickier… we had a green salad because we often do and everyone enjoys it.  I figured why stop doing something that works.  The trick was to make the rest of the meal different enough. I had cauliflower I really wanted to use, but the only way that’s green is in spirit, and I knew that wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to make cauliflower steaks – but what to sever them with that would be green enough? Time to get clever.

Savory Green Quinoa

  • 2 c quinoa
  • about 4 c water, divided
  • 2 c spinach or other deep greens
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Shake of nutritional yeast (opt)

Combine 2 c water and greens in blender and blitz the mess out of it. Add enough water to get 4 c liquid. Move the 4 c to a large saucepan. Add salt and bring to boil. While water is warming, rinse quinoa at least twice. When water boils, add quinoa, lower heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Add a shake of nutritional yeast if desired. Delish.

Having found a strategy that I can really get down with, I admit to having warmed to St. Patrick’s Day this year. I remind myself as I check the calendar for the next holiday my daughter will be excited about that which stories we tell, which traditions we follow, and what that looks like in our house is up to us. Green food doesn’t have to mean green cotton candy or even green beer, it can mean a day of eating the healthiest real foods we can find and enjoying them as we celebrate with family. Okay Easter, I’m ready now.

Mi So Hongry

As a salute to the end of our long winter confinement, we seem to have contracted the latest public incubation system virus – and this time it’s a stomach thing. Oh mercy. Mr. Little Sis was the first to fall, then my little boy, then yesterday while checking out at Costco I succumbed. I imagine it is a matter of days (hours) before my daughter gets knocked out as well. Cooking for a family of four can be a challenge. Cooking for people who feel awful is an entirely different puzzle. While the one poor soul who’s suffering really doesn’t want anything – or just wants to test the waters, the others who aren’t yet affected are starving and ready for dinner.

IMG_0252My solution to this was to devise a soup that would allow each person to cater to their level of hunger/food readiness. But what to use for broth? And then I saw it. The miso paste container sitting there so innocently in the fridge. I’d bought it to make this delis cashew based cheddar and for whatever reason, didn’t even consider making soup with it even though miso soup is one of those rare birds that gets 100% positive response at my table.

A quick perusal of the internet and some cookbooks and I was off to the races. The beauty of this idea is that it’s totally variable, kind of like a soup version of our Varia-Bowl.

Miso BrothIMG_0255

  • 2-3 t miso paste per cup of water (I used 2 for a mild flavor)
  • However many cups of water you need to make enough soup.

That’s it. You boil the water and then add the miso paste. Yes, it’s that simple. No the paste won’t dissolve completely.  If you’ve eaten miso soup in a restaurant, you’ve seen the same thing – thicker broth on the bottom, thinner broth on the top.

While you’re waiting for your water to boil, assemble your add-ins. If you want noodles, you should obviously start them first as well.

Our Add-InsIMG_0260

  • cooked rice noodles
  • thinly sliced mushrooms
  • shaved carrots
  • chopped cilantro
  • spinach
  • tofu

Others That Would Be Great

  • seaweed, of just about any kind
  • basil
  • lemon juice
  • red pepper
  • rice
  • spring onion

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You really could put lots of things in there, and the fun of it for us was building that bowl of soup right at the table.  I dished up broth for everyone and then we each constructed our own miso bowl, perfectly suited and seasoned for our health level and taste preferences. Delish!

GF Blender Banana Bread

My husband is a banana bread fiend.  I used to roll out 2 loaves every 10 days or so.

Eat one, freeze one.  Thaw one, eat one.  Empty bag, eat none.

It went kinda like that.  In addition, having a loaf of banana bread in the freezer is a marvelous thing for unexpected gatherings, gifts or condolences.  At any rate – I had about the easiest recipe in the world straight from the Vita Mix recipe book.  Mix up the wet and banana in the blender – mix the dry in a bowl and about an hour later your house is filled with wonderful smells and folks hanging around in the kitchen.  Alas – those were our gluten-full days!  The banana bread went the way of so many things we used to eat.

I have been hesitant to just substitute GF baking mix for everything because it is very expensive and because it is mostly chickpea flour (which I don’t want to OD on), and has things like potato starch and tapioca starch in it which is basically sugar, so I’ve resisted.  However, the pile of browning bananas on my counter were begging me to turn them into something other than a smoothie, so I revisited the banana bread with the same method I used in my GF chocolate chip cookies: Mix about half the called for flour as GF baking mix, the other half as GF flours and still use the baking powder or soda in the original amount.  I’m liking this new approach, and my husband is LOVING his GF banana bread.

I promise I’ll get off the GF baking track soon, but it is so lovely to indulge in an old favorite that’s so much healthier than what I can buy at the store!  So I made this recipe gluten free and vegan.  Enjoy!

GF Blender Banana Bread
1 flax egg
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup milk – I used homemade almond milk
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (or sub 1/2 tsp lemon extract)
1 cup GF baking mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour (you could probably sub other GF flours for these 2)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix your flax egg if using (1 Tbsp freshly ground flax meal to 3 Tbsp cold water, stir and let sit)
While egg is setting…
Pre-heat oven to 350
Lightly grease a loaf pan (I used coconut oil)
Mix the last 6 ingredients in a bowl
Put the first 6 ingredients in the blender.
Blend the wet on low until chunks are gone

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Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated
Pour into loaf pan
Bake at 350 for 45 – 55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for a bit before slicing or it will crumble and smush.

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Looking pretty good.  I was delighted with the texture – despite the cracks on top it was quite moist.

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Delicious and banana-y, banany?
Have you successfully adapted an old favorite to a new way of eating?
Has anyone come up with healthy french fries yet?
Just kidding – we consider roasted potatoes fit that bill, but I’m open to other ideas ;-).

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookie (and it’s GF!!)

Oh my oh my how I love cookies.  I have been drooling over the chocolate chip cookies that Little Sis kindly gave to her neighbor (who kindly plowed her drive)…. but they have wheat flour and I can’t see torturing one member of the family by making chocolate chip cookies that he can’t eat.  So I decided to give a GF choc chip another try.  I also decided to indulge by in part using Bob’s Red Mill GF flour / baking mix.  It makes up for the use of potato starch with garbanzo bean flour, so it has fiber and protein in it, but, as the name suggests – no gluten.

These cookies were chewy and since they are a little sweeter than my usual home baked goods, I could use these to thank neighbors and friends as well.  I was dubious enough of the outcome that I did not take any pictures of the process… but I quickly just snapped a picture of the last 2 cookies.  A few have been frozen away for lunches, but don’t tell, because they might not all make it into my son’s lunchbox!  I try to freeze some of whatever treat gets made so that A) it can easily be stuffed into a lunch box over the next several weeks, and B) there isn’t a big pile of it sitting around asking to be eaten!!

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Okay, so one is a little broken – but I don’t cry over broken cookies…. they are just a hint from the universe to remember to share!

My Best GF chocolate chip cookies  - vegan as well!!
- adapted from I.S. at Yahoo Voices

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix
½ c almond meal (or dried and pulverized leftover almond milk mash – that’s what I use)
½ c brown rice flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp guar gum
½ c unrefined sugar
½ tsp salt
½ c pure maple syrup
½ Tbsp blackstrap molasses
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup organic neutral flavored oil
½ – 2/3 c non-dairy chocolate chips
½ c roughly chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix the dry except chips and nuts
In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chips & pecans, and stir until combined
Place ½ Tbsp scoops on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, rotating halfway through until browning just a tad on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack before removing from tray.
As Little Sis always says….. and she comes from a very bright family I hear – Eat that chocolate cookie while it is still warm!!

Looking for some other Gluten Free treats?
Chickpea/Chocolate Cookies
Almond Joy Brownies
2 Ingredient Yum (Fudge)
Cranberry Apple Pecan Crunch
Nut Butter Bliss Balls
Sweet Potato Crust Apple Pie / Cobbler

12 Healthful Freezer Faves

I confess that I love staying connected to my friends and family with Facebook.  It’s true. Social media is also useful when we get to see how much better other people function in situations in which we are… perhaps… slightly less super functional. A moment to explain. When I was pregnant, my interest in food and … Continue reading

Sweet Potato Be-Crusted Quiche & Apple Pie – GF, DF

Why didn’t I think of this?  Do you ever say that?  I say it a lot, but I guess it means that at least I recognize genius when I see it.  In this case, Claire at Just Blither Blather thoughtfully shared her brilliance with the rest of us, and from her Collard Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust, I thought that what is good for the quiche is good for the pie, right?

Well, I hope so.  I’m typing this while sweet potato be-crusted quiche and apple pie are filling the house with wonderful aromas.  I did not follow Claire’s quiche recipe to the letter simply because I didn’t have all of the same ingredients, but hers looked and sounded so fabulous I didn’t want to wait.  I did however follow the crust instructions, and that is the beauty part of this whole experiment because I can think of lots of things to put in this crust!

So check out her recipe for the quiche as well as mine….

Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie

Crust:
3 cups shredded sweet potato
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix together ingredients and press into 9 – 10″ pie plate
Bake for 15 minutes

Filling:
4 apples, chopped into chunks
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Pour filling into crust
Cover loosely with aluminum foil
Bake at 375 for about 35 – 45 minutes.  Peek, smell and listen ;-)

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So I started with dessert – it’s a plan that some people swear by….. but don’t worry – there is a main dish as well.

Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche
Crust:
3 cups shredded sweet potato (I used the food processor)
A drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix sweet potato and a little olive oil and press into a 9 – 10″ pie plate
Bake for 15 minutes

Filling:
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
oil for saute
2 cups of vegetable of choice (I used shredded broccoli stem – yes I am that cheap- and some leeks)
salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
Splash of water
Saute the onions and garlic until translucent
Add the other veggies you are using and cook til a little tender
Add salt and pepper to taste
Claire used collards which sounds lovely, but I didn’t have any greens available, so I just went with the other veggies.  Use what you like or what yo know your family will eat!
Place veggies in crust after it comes out of the oven
Beat the eggs and splash of water together and pour over veggies
Bake at 375 for 35 – 45 minutes or until set.

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Now we have eaten both of these ‘pies’ and they were both delicious! The pie is (as seems to be the case with my gluten free pie attempts), more of an inverted cobbler, but it is a very tasty inverted cobbler!  The sweet potato gets a bit chewy and crispy along the edges but it can’t hold a wedge together.  We didn’t mind.  The quiche holds together nicely.  It was a delicious meal with extra veggies at the bottom!

Breakfast Ice Cream OR Creamy Smoothies For All

IMG_0214If you’ve been playing a long for a while, you know that here at the pantry we simply LOVE smoothies, especially those that allow us to hide some super nutritious deep greens from our children…. Yeah, it’s probably dirty pool, but you only have to really hide them a couple of times before they no longer care what’s in there and will eat it up regardless.

We’ve had many, many a smoothie over the last few years, but I have to IMG_0205confess that my recent favorites include a decadent ingredient: avocado. In our recent smoothies, I’ve been adding the flesh from 1/2 and avocado, and it gives the smoothie (or breakfast ice cream if you use a little less liquid and don’t blend QUITE so vigorously) a distinctly ice cream-y quality.  Who wouldn’t want ice cream for breakfast?

Our recent formula goes a bit like this…

IMG_0212Breakfast Ice Cream

  • 3-4 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 3 cups deep greens (or more if you can get away with it)
  • frozen berries to top of blender container
  • 1 soup spoon honey (opt – we use if the berries are tart, i.e. raspberries)
  • non-dairy milk (we used coconut) until blend ability (usually 1.5 cups for us) or some other liquid of your choosing

IMG_0219We have a power blender, which makes all of this very easy.  If you have a standard blender, I would recommend starting with the liquid and the non-frozen ingredients, and then add the frozen ingredients slowly.  This makes a lot of breakfast ice cream, which is awesome, because if you have leftovers you can freeze and pack in a lunch or serve with a grapefruit spoon to someone with a sore throat.  Breakfast ice cream.  THAT’s living.

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