Creamy Walnut Pesto (DF, GF)

One great thing about the first frost of the season for a gardener – it makes it easier to decide what you will be eating for the next few days!  Our first frost came a little early and a little hard this year for Middle Tennessee.  Usually we flirt ever so gently with 32 degrees 10 – 15 times before it really dips down, so unfortunately despite the frost warnings I did not cut the swiss chard (which made it all the way through last year’s very mild winter), but I did retrieve a few straggling tomatoes, a mess of green peppers that will never turn yellow or red, a big bunch of parsley and some basil.  All this cutting diminished supper prep time so it had to be something fast.

Both of my boys love pesto, and it can be fast, so the basil was chosen to be the first thing to complete it’s early demise.  And it did go out with a bang! Continue reading

Nutshroom Neatballs (GF,DF): Endless Possibilities

I’ve shared with you my serious leaning toward the burger as a warm, satisfying handheld meal.  My experiments in veggie burgering are many and I’ve enjoyed every one; however, there are only so many warm satisfying handheld meals one can consume in a single week (this is what I’ve inferred from my crew, mind you, not my own opinion).  Far be it from me, however, to simply leave the flavors of my beloved veggie burgers behind.  What better way to get the flavor I’m looking for and make it LOOK like I was inventing a whole new meal just for my little one’s picky little palate than to make veggie burger neatballs?  How awesome am I? And neatballs? Small, yummy, cute, warm.  What picky pantser could possibly resist?

IMG_0223This meal has some of my favorite qualities. Delicious, easy to make, easy to double or triple for freezing, perfect leftovers, and super flexible. Being a competent and happy cook often has more to do with re-imaging something you already know how to do than with learning how to make something new every night – who has time for that? So, we make do. And sometimes that making do, that little twist, that sneaky trick, turns out to be quite delightful, like Nutshroom Neatballs. Continue reading

Wait! don’t EAT that Halloween Candy…

Not when there are so many other things you could do with it.  Seriously.

Lately I’ve been pondering the merits of meat, vegetable oil, different oils when heated and even dried fruit.  I could point you to all sorts of conflicting opinions, ideas and even science on the merits or demerits of those foods, but no one would argue that while candy might make a child smile, it’s not good for that sweet little tyke’s body.  Of course, there is always the all things in moderation argument…. but since when do we do things in moderation anymore?  Some houses give out actual little baggies of candy that it would have taken me a whole block to collect when I was a kid…. in the snow…. uphill both ways 😉

So my poor son faces every Halloween knowing there will be a time limit after which the remaining candy gets thrown out.  He does not over indulge except for the first night so we always end up throwing quite a bit away.  However, the presence and consumption of candy resets the bar for what constitutes a treat, or dessert.  I hate when the bar gets reset.  It takes a lot longer to get that bar inched upwards than it does to knock the sucker right off of it’s holder!

This year we may participate in our local dentist’s Candy Buy Back.  The sign says they are buying Halloween candy on November 1st and 2nd.  I don’t know if they are sending the candy to the troops or not, but “Operation Gratitude of the CA Army National Guard” accepts candy donations from dentists collected in buy backs and sends it overseas to the troops.  It’s a twist on a nutrition minded Robin Hood – take the candy from the most physically vulnerable and send it to grown ups instead 😉  A nice program all around, don’t you think, especially for the men and women overseas who are away from family and tradition.

So what else can you do with the Halloween candy besides sell it?  Well, you can build stuff out of it using lots of glue so no one will be tempted to eat it.  You’ve heard of gingerbread houses?  Make a Halloween House or tower or igloo or yurt by gluing the Halloween candy together (wrappers will probably stick better!)

How about a read the label contest?  If you can’t pronounce something on the label then you don’t get to eat it?  Okay, okay -that one is mean.  Plus the ‘fun size’ little bits that come in big bags are probably not individually labelled.  Although it wouldn’t hurt to look up some ingredients on-line.  Most companies have their ingredient lists at websites and from there you can check to see what ingredients are found on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s lists of food to avoid and cut back on.  You will of course find lots of varieties of sugar and also probably some caramel color and food color which are outlawed in Europe because of evidence of bad effects on health.

You can run some science experiments in the backyard if you have no pets.  Place some unwrapped candy outside and see if any creatures will eat it – and see what types of candy last the longest out there.  Some might make it til Spring.  Does that make you want to eat it?  Ever notice there are no expiration dates on candy?

You can do a ‘science experiment’ in the kitchen where you melt a variety of candy in one big pot just to watch the colors and textures swirl around before throwing it away.

You could also do your own buyback where you offer special activities, art supplies, or special time with Mom and/or Dad in exchange for coughing up the sweet goods.  And what about poisoning the neighborhood children?  Well…. this year I am giving away fake, plastic roaches, because who doesn’t need one or two of those?, as well as boxes of raisins, AND I will have one bowl of candy reserved for the older kids because I do not wish to spend November 1st picking toilet paper out of the trees.

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Last year it was plastic spiders and a good many of the older kids opted for spiders over candy…. after all they were getting that everywhere else!

And lastly, emphasize all of the other non-candy elements of the holiday.  Enjoy carving pumpkins, drinking special teas or a little hot cider, decorating your yard or house, making or planning costumes, walking around the neighborhood together and telling Halloween jokes…..

What did one casket say to the other?…………………..Is that you coffin?

Ba dum bum.         Now THAT’s a little scary 😉

Almond Joy Brownies (GF, DF…. OMG included)

I’ve been a baking slacker lately.  This only poses a real problem for my kids’ expectation for a “treat” in their lunches.  Mind you my lunchbox treats tend to be less sweet than anybody else’s, but it seems that it’s more important that there be something treat-like in there than that the treat in question be of any particular kind.  So up to now, I’ve been pretty good about doing just enough baking to keep them supplied with a steady stream of reasonably healthy “treats.”

A few weeks ago I started slipping ’em low sugar graham crackers – really pretty harmless and something they enjoy.  No problem.  After a while of that they requested something else – anything else (and who can blame them).  I found myself wandering through the prepared treats aisle reading packages of corn syrup laden white flour options as though I had never once baked in my own kitchen.  I practically forgot that I used to spend a few minutes just about every weekend assembling a treat that would satisfy both the kids and me.  I would bake for our customary Sunday dessert and then serve the rest throughout the week in small lunch sized portions. When I brought home cookies previously deemed pretty wholesome without even reading the label, ate one and felt a film in my mouth and had to stop because it was too sweet to enjoy, I knew I’d hit the proverbial bottom.  Which is great, because it led me to spending a little time today making my new favorite dessert, Almond Joy Brownies.

Almond Joy Brownies

The Brownie – adapted from Sarah at Gazing In’s Sweet Potato Fudgy Brownies

  • 1/4 c coconut oilIMG_0199
  • 2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao if you’re feeling spendy
  • 1 c gluten free rolled oats blitzed in food processor until flour like
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 c coconut sugar
  • 2/3 c sweet potato puree (baked sweet potato in food processor with enough water to create baby foodish consistency – add water SLOWLY so as not to overshoot)
  • 1 T ground flax meal + 3 T water (AKA flax egg)
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla

Preheat Oven to 350. Melt coconut oil and add cocoa, stirring to create smooth, silky chocolate that you should not eat. Combine oat flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Combine coconut sugar, sweet potato puree, flax egg and vanilla in medium or larger bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add chocolate.  Stir to combine.  Add dry ingredients (if you’re still holding a whisk, now is the time to switch to a spoon, unless you’re trying to create an “Oh no, I have so much brownie batter stuck in my whisk, however will I get it off…. slurp” kind of scenario.  Not that I’ve ever done that. Add a handful or so of your favorite chocolate chips.

Scoop into oiled square baking dish.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Look for typical brownie crackling on top and a slightly firm feel in the middle of the pan (that second test is only for those of us in the asbestos fingers crowd). You can try the toothpick test, but these are fudgy, and will not likely come out totally clean. So just look for not wet, mostly clean.  Remove and allow to cool in the pan.

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The Topping

  • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 16 whole raw almonds

Place coconut in food processor.  Turn on and let it run, run, run.  You’re going to let it go so long that the coconut is going to turn into a liquid.  You’ll want to stop it occasionally and scrape the sides of the bowl so all of the coconut gets transformed into superific coconut butter.  When the contents of the bowl are shiny, let it run a couple more minutes and then place in a container you can put a lid on so you can save the leftover and put it on your toast, in your oatmeal…. yes, the options are mind-boggling..

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The You Got Your Coconut On My Brownies Moment

So when the brownies have cooled a little (you don’t have to let them cool completely), spread the coconut butter on top in whatever amount makes sense to you.  I tried to show a little restraint because I wanted to chocolate flavor to prevail.  If your coconut butter has hardened, gently warm it a little to soften.  Place almonds on top – I did a one whole almond per brownie ratio, to get that crunch that I used to love in the Almond Joy, but I think chopped almonds would make for a nice effect as well.

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I don’t think I even need to tell you that these were great – what’s not to love? Super dark chocolate flavor, coconut creaminess and that wholesome crunchy almond.  Delish.  And now I’m ready for those lunch boxes for real.

Beef, Chicken, and Deli Salad Recalls

FSNBApparently I’ve missed a few recalls.  E Coli in organic ground beef details. Salmonella in Costco rotisserie chicken details. Ready to Eat chicken and ham deli products details. Check your fridge; check your freezer. Tell you friends.  Eat well, be well.

Spinach Chickpea Burgers w/Cumin Cashewnaise (GF,DF)

I CANNOT believe I’ve not shared these burgers with you. They are an absolute favorite of mine and they are Ms. Picky Pants’ favorite veggie burger.  If THAT isn’t a recommendation, I don’t know what is. I came across the recipe a few years ago in The Washington Post, and after quite a bit of experimentation, we’ve found the version of their version (ha) that appeals most to us.  If you’re a fan of Lynne Rosetto Kasper (of American Public Media’s The Splendid Table fame), you should know she has also claimed a version of these as HER personal favorite veggie burger.  If you’re not yet impressed I’ll go out and fine some more people who love them… okay, you’re right I won’t.  You should just give them a try.

If you’ve got a food processor, these babies are ingredients to table 35 minutes.  If you don’t serve on bread (or choose your bread wisely), they’re gluten free. They’re packed with nutrition between the chickpeas and the spinach and if you pantry stock, the only fresh ingredient you need is greens – and yes, you can sub out frozen there. These babies also keep and freeze beautifully.  I double the recipe (except when I forget, which I did tonight and I am oh so sad). The flavor is satisfying and while they are not remotely burger-y (you should try these Nutshroom Burgers if that’s what you’re after), they work beautifully with typical burger treatment and really satisfy that hot handheld entree craving. Enough with the sell – let’s get down to some quick and delicious dinner. Continue reading

Lentil, Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Soup (GF,V)

You know how we feel about lentils around here…  OR, if you’re new and you don’t, I’d like to send you here first before you then do a search on lentils and see how ridiculously fond we are of this little protein and fiber packed cheap meal makin’ legume.  Lately our weather has been driving my food cravings and after our recent spate of unseasonably warm weather (leading to Cold Sesame Noodle perfection), we’ve had a predictably unpredictable Mid-Atlantic weather shift to slightly cooler than average with rain – lots and lots of rain.  Not much better remedy for wet and damp days than soup.

And so we turn to our humble pantry staple, the lentil. This soup is great because it doesn’t require that much in terms of super fresh food, but packs a nutritious and flavorful punch.  I found it on Dr. Weil’s site after doing some basic searching for soups.  He apparently got it somewhere else.  I’ve done a little tinkering – out of necessity rather than critique. I’d encourage you to do the same.  Soup can be very forgiving and is a great place to use up veggies that are on the verge of being unusable. Continue reading

Easier Chocolate Almond Butter & a Winner!

Serendipity is an appropriate first word for this post.  Our contest involved suggesting seemingly odd pairings of food.  Sometimes those pairings re a matter of serendipity…. what is on hand,….. what accidentally was added or left out…. or a moment of inspiration.  The updated version of chocolate almond butter was also a result of serendipity.  That is being kind to myself.  It was actually a moment of doing way too many things at one time and therefore not paying attention.  So, let’s get organized, I will tell you the winner of 2 heavy, colored Food Network silicone spatulas at the end – and update our chocolate almond butter recipe at the beginning. Continue reading