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.

While Meatless Monday’s take on the dish included tofu, I chose to use lentils (shocker) and more mushrooms instead as less expensive, less processed, and tried and true whole food ingredients that go over well in our house. I also swapped chopped onion for pearl onions as I don’t keep pearl onions on hand. Because I included lentils, I was also able to cut the corn starch in half as the lentils helped to thicken the wonderful broth for this dish. We were very pleased with the results of this little Frenchified experiment, and with yet another dip down into cold weather outside, our Veggies Au Vin with rice was warming and deeply satisfying.

Veggies Au Vin (GF,DF) - adapted from Tofu Au Vin on Meatless Mondays

  • Olive oil for pansIMG_0306
  • 1 1/2 c onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 c red wine *
  • 3 c water or veggie broth
  • 2 T Braggs or soy sauce
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 c lentils (I used brown, but would use French next time)
  • 18 oz mushrooms, rough cut
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 1/2 c water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 c chopped parsley

Warm olive oil in large saucepan. Add onions and a sprinkle of salt and cook for about 5 minutes (stirring occasionally) on medium-low or until onions have become somewhat translucent. Add garlic and carrots and cook for another minute or two. Add bay leaves, wine and broth or water, soy and vinegar and bring to a boil. Add lentils, lower heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

While lentils cook, warm olive oil in a skillet. Add mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt. Saute mushrooms until they are brown (let them sit still a bit to get good browning). A secret to browning mushrooms is not to put too many in the pan at once, “crowding the pan.” Mushrooms release liquid as they cook; if you put them all in at once and they let all that water out, you’ll end up boiling them instead of browning them – this is not a disaster, but I like mine browned. :-) As mushrooms brown, set them aside in a bowl.

When lentils are tender, mix corn starch with water and add to lentil broth. Stir occasionally and cook for a few minutes until broth thickens. Add mushrooms to broth. Serve with your preferred grain. Add generous sprinkle of fresh parsley. Enjoy! Super delish French dish.

IMG_0301 IMG_0302 IMG_0308

* When cooking with wine, it is important to consult with the wine purchaser in your house. I chose what I thought was a yummy but inexpensive bottle for our dinner. Turns out our feast last night was a bit more extravagant than I had intended. The original recipe indicates that you could substitute broth with a little red wine vinegar for the wine in this recipe. I’m sure this would create a tasty dish, but am dubious about it evoking the same flavor profile. Bon Appétit!

Fruit Glorious Fruit!

Was that the name of the musical or just one of the songs?  I don’t remember ;-)

At any rate we are coming up on yet another wonderful holiday which has been transformed from a celebration of renewal, life and goodness into yet another opportunity to stuff candy in all colors of the rainbow and all textures imaginable into our gullets.  Okay, that’s a little harsh, we will stuff other things into our gullets as well…. personally I’m hoping for some asparagus.

But can our children truly appreciate the deeper meanings of the day and the time with friends and family while glazed over with sugar inside and out?  Well maybe they can, but I certainly can’t and it makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it!  Whew.  Caught my breath, clearly it’s time to stop ranting and share something meaningful here.

Like fruit!  Fruit is meaningful and wonderful and full of life and juice (usually).  It grows on trees, bushes, canes, vines… and in baskets!  You’ve seen fruit baskets right?  Incredible how the different varieties can grow from the same basket.  And baskets fit in perfectly with Easter!  So am I suggesting that you give your children fruit baskets for Easter?  Ha!  Even I am not that much of a nave fool.  I am however going to suggest that you make a fruit dessert.  Why not?  And if you really wanted to, you could substitute some of the candy for interesting or exotic fruits in the basket and I wouldn’t tell a soul.

I found all manner of suggestions – all of which are fast and easy – with presenting fruit in a fancy dessert-like way.  I decided to find a way to make a dairy free fruit dip / cream that could be used with any fruit to make it fancier.  That recipe follows and then the list.  In addition, Little Sis has some creamy, dairy free fruit zipper-upper in her nectarine pie.  Check that one out as well!

Mine is sweet orange sunflower dip

1 cup raw sunflower seeds soaked for at least 6 hours in 2 cups of water
zest from 1/2 – 1 orange.  Zest is a little tart, so if you are wary, start with 1/2 and add more if you want
juice from 1 orange (was a bit less than 1/4 cup if you have juice in the frig)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Place all ingredients in food processor and run it for a few minutes until well combined.  Scrape down the sides a few times to catch the errant seeds.

Serve with fruit.  My 13 year old enjoyed this and didn’t do his usual, can I have some dessert after eating it, so it did the trick!

 

20140414_181551

 

20140414_181719

 

So here is a list of fancy sounding, delicious looking and easy fruit desserts that you might serve up on Easter, or on any day!  I am intrigued by the idea of just broiling some fruit (like pineapple or mango) and it’s ready to go.  You might put a little ice cream with it, but you might not, and if you did, at least there would be more fruit and less dessert on the plate, right?

Saucy & Sweet Grilled Pineapple:

Citrus Salad with Lemongrass Syrup

Easy Glazed Banana

Tropical Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Sauce

Mixed Berry Salad with Mint

Citrus Infused Strawberries

Cocoa-Nut Bananas

Broiled Mango

Chocolate & Banana

Carmelized Bananas

Almond Cream with Strawberries

Enjoy and have a rejuvenating and wonderful celebration of the return of spring and the power of goodness and love.

 

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.

IMG_0285 IMG_0289 IMG_0293

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)

P1010606
Bake for approx. 40 – 50 min

 

Let cool for a bit and then enjoy!

P1010610

 

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.

 

Think Outside the Oil – lower fat salad dressings

What could be healthier than salad right?  All those crisp raw veggies!  Sunshine in a bowl.  Sunshine with some potato salad and macaroni salad drenched in mayo and shredded cheese and fat & chemical laden salad dressing…. ooops!  What happened to my nice healthy salad?  It’s still in there….. waiting to be rescued from the oil spill that is luckily not endangering any wildlife in your kitchen!

Easy enough to avoid the potato salad and macaroni salad and cheese, but what about the dressing?  Truly the solution to the chemical soup that passes for salad dressing in the grocery store is to make your own.  It can be very simple! (and there are links to a few we’ve already published below).  Little Sis likes avocado and a sprinkling of rice vinegar.  Mix around a little and the avocado flavorfully moisten all those nice crisp veggies.  The secret lies in the avocado which is full of healthy oily creaminess.

So try some easy homemade salad dressings that satisfy you and your salad without the oil spill.

Anything that can maintain a little thick and creamy can be used with some vinegar, and/or salt, and/or a little sweet and some oil if you like, to make salad dressing.  Today I made a dressing with leftover cooked sweet potato.  Sounds crazy I know, but cooked sweet potato (without the skin) is creamy and thick.

Balsamic Sweet Potato Dressing
1/2 cup sweet potato
1/4 tsp marjoram
2 – 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Bragg’s liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
1 Tbsp oil
3 – 5 Tbsp water
1 tsp maple syrup

Combine all in blender or smoosh / stir / blend by hand.  This was a small batch because I wanted to try it first, so it is a little messy in the blender since there is so little of it, but if you like it, make a larger batch next time.   Try the smaller amount of ingredients first and then taste and add.  The water is there to thin, so add bit by bit to your desired dressing thickness, so again, start low and add as you see fit.

sweet potato dressing

Nice and thick.

I am going to try this again with no oil.  Why not?

Sorry, my picture of this dressing on the salad did not turn out and I had already eaten it.  I was hungry.

I am trying to adapt to my new ‘smart’ phone which is smarter than me.  I no longer look like a Luddite, but looks can be deceiving!

 

Homey Honey Mustard Dressing
1/2 c plain yogurt of your favorite type (I had some actual dairy and used it because Mr. Bigg Sis doesn’t like honey mustard)
1 Tbsp & 2 tsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp & 2 tsp dijon mustard (or try a different mustard!)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional but a nice tang – stronger flavor)
pinch of salt

P1010428

Mix all ingredients together.  Pour it on your salad ;-)

Other homemade salad dressing ideas…..
A few from me
A
nother from Little Sis
One from our buddy Annie at An Unrefined Vegan

Tasty Dairy-Free Pasta Toppers

Some of you are excited at the thought of a replacement for these things and some of you are probably wondering “What’s the problem with dairy?”  In our case, due to some intestinal problems, our MD thought that my husband should avoid all inflammatory foods, i.e. foods that cause inflammation, which include dairy.  For many people, myself included, dairy is difficult to digest leading to bloating, gas and pain.  And on top of that, dairy is very fattening.  In addition, some people are trying to reduce their animal fat intake because there are experts who say this is better for your heart and cancer prevention.  (Of course there are MANY opinions on health and wellness in regards to diet…. just some food for thought as you make choices for you and your family).

I suppose one could purchase vegan cheese products from the grocery store, but frankly they are expensive and I don’t like their ingredient lists much better than the ingredient lists of other processed cheeses and foods.  So Little Sis and I blend, borrow, steal and amend the ideas of others with our own to try and reclaim the wonderful taste and texture of added parmesan, mozzarella or ricotta.

I am very pleased with these 2 additions to the DF arsenal.  My son has never liked parmesan on his pasta (clearly there was a switch in the hospital, but other than this we like him and didn’t complain to the authorities), but my husband whose GI troubles led us to do away with the dastardly dairy, and I both always LOVED a little pasta with our parmesan.

So I offer you my version of DF parmesan (which is high in iron because of the presence of sesame seeds) and a ricotta-ish substance that can be used plain or with tomato sauce.  This one is an adaptation of Little Sis’ creamy orzo ‘nofredo’ sauce.  This deliciousness has the advantage of using pureed cauliflower, no really – it’s fabulous – and the more veggies, the better!

Moo-less, Flavor-full Parmesan sprinkles
-adapted from Angela Liddon’s vegan parmesan cheez

1/2 c sunflower seeds
3/4 c sesame seeds (I used raw rather than toasted)
1/4 c nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in blender
Blend until powdery – don’t go too long or the sunflower seeds will start to turn into sunflower butter!
Place on top of pasta….. or other things as well!  I think the sunflower seeds give it a heartier flavor and the ratio of the other ingredients in mine is a little different from Ms. Liddon’s – but check that out as well!  You might prefer it.

P1010634

 

 

P1010618

 

Teat-free Ricotta.   Okay, that’s gross – Zippy Dairy Free Ricotta
- adapted from Little Sis’ Nofredo Orzo with Chickpeas and Kale

1 c walnuts
2 T olive oil
2 T nutritional yeast flakes (opt.)
1 – 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (I accidentally put in 2 rather than 1 and I really liked the zip – try one and see what you think)
1/4 c water
1 t salt
1.5  cup roasted cauliflower pieces
fresh ground pepper

Place all in the food processor and process.
This comes out thicker than the nofredo sauce and is more like a ricotta or cottage cheese.    If you want to make it thinner – add some water or non-dairy, unsweetened milk.

We mixed of this some plain with pasta but then I added a dollop to my pasta with a tomato sauce. …. LAAAAAA Sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you!  It really knocked my socks off.  I think this begs to be put into some kind of layered lasagna type thing.  It was very tasty.

P1010632

 

 

Veggie-licious Snacks

It all comes to down to space right?  Although some stomachs are bigger than othesr, and I’m talking on the inside, not the outside… there is a limited amount of space in a stomach for food.   The more of that space you fill with vegetables, the less space there is for more objectionable, less nutritious items.  This is not to say that only vegetables are healthy, but you pretty much can’t do better.  And you KNOW it is much easier to fill in the holes for carbohydrates and protein, I doubt you’ll go too low in either category if you eat more vegetables.

Although the eat more veggies philosophy will serve anyone who wants to be healthier well, it becomes problematic in relation to ‘snacks’.  My son will come home from school inquiring about snack food and my list of fruits and vegetables / dips / bread with a healthy topping is followed by his question, “after that can I have a ‘snack?”  Snack has become synonymous with treat… which in his mind is something he’s not supposed to have often.  Ah – that old beast – Forbidden non-fruit, right?

Again, and we have discussed this previously in our Baby Steps series, I rely on Pre-Emptive Produce, i.e. – fill up on veggies first!  Requiring a healthy snack prior to a smaller helping of whatever you allow as a less than healthiest snack choice in your home still means more veggies and less crap.  It works for me as well.  An orange, an apple, a carrot dipped in almond butter, some leftover roasted sweet potato, all make me able to remember that I don’t need to eat some of the more tempting items in my pantry.  So with the seasons of more plentiful produce upon us…. I promise they really are upon us, if a little delayed this year… here are some suggestions for veggie-licious snacks beyond the carrot and celery stick.

Sweet & Spicy carrots:
Cut 2 large carrots into chunks, microwave for 60 – 90 second or to desired tenderness

Mix together 1 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ginger and a pinch of salt P1010627 Mix with carrots.
Make a double or triple batch and store in  the frig in little containers that can be grabbed – like a ‘snack’! P1010630 Pickly- cucumbers:
Slice 1 large or 2 med – small cucumbers into a glass container.
Add 1 Tbsp sugar & 1 Tbsp white vinegar
Cover with water
Add pepper if desired
Let sit for 4-5 hours – taste and add more vinegar / sugar / pepper if you like
Little Sis has some more complicated but delicious pickley cucumber goodness here.

Coleslaw cups
:
Coleslaw is very adaptable. Folks who don’t like (or don’t eat) mayo, can use alternate recipes and you can make it a little sweet without going crazy on the sugar!   Little Sis has a great cole slaw recipe here.

Roasted or baked potatoes
- this is a great alternative to chips. And if you can afford small, colored potatoes, then even better!  A mixture of potatoes and sweet potatoes is very nice and can be achieved in a 375 – 425 oven for 20 – 40 minutes depending on how small you cut the pieces.  But if you are making them for a snack it can go on while you are eating or doing something else right?  I just make extra when we have them for dinner – toss them in the frig and they are there to be easily heated up and scarfed down as a delicious snack!

Cauliflower crunch
:
Coat florets in olive oil then sprinkle paprika and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (turning once).  I usually roast things at 375.

Frozen Grapes & Kiwi:
As simple as it sounds.  Place grapes and bite-sized chunks of peeled kiwi on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer.  When hard, place in smaller containers and keep in the freezer.  Healthy, tasty frozen snack!

Crispy Asparagus:
dip asparagus in egg white and bread with either whole wheat panko, or Italian breadcrumbs and bake til crispy.  I would think this would work with green beans as well – and again 375 would be a good place to start – but watch them closely the first time!

Unusual fruits and veggies:
Novelty can be good or bad – depending on the person, but it is at least special or different.  Try serving fresh pineapple for dessert one night.  It goes on sale and can be a lot cheaper than ice cream (if you buy good or non-dairy ice cream in particular).  Sugar snap peas make a great snack that many kids like because they are sweet and crunchy.  Offer something different!

And of course there is the option of dipping various crispy fruits and veggies into:
hummus
salad dressing
nut butter
yogurt (yogurt mixed with a little cinnamon and sweetener, or onion soup mix – read the label!!!)
Nutty Lunch Dip

So change the snack paradigm in your house.  A snack is sustenance to carry you through to the next meal, or through a workout / physical trial.  It can also be a treat…. surely some of these will fill both bills for the snackers in your house.  And if they still have to have a little somethin’ somethin’ that is not at the top of your list of acceptable, they can have less of it on top of their healthy snack.

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.

IMG_0271 IMG_0269 IMG_0276

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

IMG_0247 IMG_0249 IMG_0256

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

P1010614

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.

P1010615

P1010616

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

P1010617

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 ;-).