Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

October 31st has arrived again. Seems to come a little faster each year. Halloween is a fun time in our house. Looks like we are going to have two vampires this year - a popular costume from what I can tell. Which reminds me, I still need to sew the capes.

Our school is participating in a great program this year. I had heard a little about it last year from a sister who lives in a different state. If the kids bring in their candy from trick or treating, they get their name in a raffle and the candy gets sent to the troops overseas. Ingenious for all kids to limit how much candy they eat but especially helpful to those kids with diet concerns. They can still have fun collecting and then give a lot of it away to the troops.

Have a fun day even if you are too old for trick or treating. Put a pumpkin face on a sandwich or a pancake and remember what it was like to be a kid.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Apple Raisin Stew with Spiced Dumplings

Every time I make homemade applesauce in my house, I can never seem to make enough. And then, last week when I was making dumplings, I thought...hmmm, what if I made a sweet spiced dumpling to go with my homemade applesauce. So, I'm combining the two for a fantastic warm finish to a meal. The jury is out in our house on which dried fruit to use -- cherries or raisins. The girls voted for cherries and the boys liked the raisins. You'll have to decide for yourself.

Raisin Apple Stew with Spiced Dumplings           print recipe

Apple stew
6 medium apples (3 soft, 3 firm)
1 1/4 c. water
1/2 t. lemon juice
2 T. agave or 3 T. sugar
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. raisins
     (or dried cherries, chopped)
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. water

Spiced Dumplings
1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. tapioca starch flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. zanthan gum
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. allspice
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. ginger
1/8 t. salt
1/3 c. non-dairy milk
1 T.  canola oil

Wash, core, peel (if desired), and chop apples into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Combine all apple stew ingredients, except for the cornstarch and water, in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer while covered for 20- 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix together cornstarch and water in a small cup. Set aside. Towards the end of the above cooking time, make dumplings. In a small bowl, mix all dry ingredients together well. Make a well in the middle and add milk and oil. Stir together until just blended.

When the apples are cooked down enough to make a sauce, stir in cornstarch mixture stirring sauce thoroughly. Drop dumpling batter by tablespoonfuls in hot sauce. Cover and simmer on low/medium heat for 20 min.without lifting cover. Remove cover. Allow time for dessert to cool before eating.

Notes:  We chose not to peel the apples. The peels do separate from the apples. I used 3 Macintosh apples and 3 Granny Smith apples for a nice combination of flavors and textures. If you do not need gluten-free foods, use your favorite dumpling recipe and add the brown sugar and spices. 

Serves:  6

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Fun with Meringue Cookies

The sweet, light crunch of meringue cookies brings back fond memories...different flavors and colors, mini chocolate chips, making them with my mother. We always made them in small drops of dough from a teaspoon.

My daughter loves meringue cookies, so this year we decided to make them in shapes, but skip the food coloring (there is already plenty of that used around Halloween) and use dark chocolate to decorate the cookies.

Although the cookie is mostly sugar, at least the egg whites offer a "little" protein. The cookie is dependent on the sugar for its structure, but I cut down on the sugar just a tablespoon or so. The cookies are light and low in calories if you keep them small.

Basic Meringue Cookies               print recipe

3 large egg whites
3/8 t. cream of tarter
scant 3/4 c. sugar
1/4 t. gluten-free vanilla or peppermint, if desired
1/4 c. of dairy-free chocolate chips
1/8 teaspoon of shortening

Beat egg whites on low to medium in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time beating on high until stiff peaks form and dough is glossy. Beat in flavoring in flavoring, if desired.

Drop by tablespoons full onto parchment lined cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Use an extra spoon to get the dough off of the first spoon. **To make shapes, fill a sturdy zip top quart bag and cut at least a 1/2 inch corner. Pipe shapes onto the parchment paper. We had tons of fun doing this! The egg whites felt strange and squishy in the bag. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 1/2 hours on middle rack. Rotate pan 1/2 turn after 45 minutes. Turn off oven, open the door a little and let cookies cool with the oven. Remove after 2-3 hours or until dried out. Peel off of paper, but leave on paper if you want to decorate them.

Melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave at 50% power in 30 minute increments until melted. Stir each time. Add shortening. Spoon chocolate into small zip top plastic bag and snip one corner to the desired size. Decorate cookies as desired. Store covered at room temperature after chocolate hardens.

Notes:  Our oven was a little too hot, so our cookies got a little brown. I prefer them to stay pale. Keeping the oven at 200 degrees should prevent the cookies from browning. Keep in mind if your cookies are bigger, they will take longer to dry out.

Remember that egg whites handle the best when you separate them when they are cold and whip them when they are at room temperature. Save the yolks for something else. Also, high humidity can make it harder to whip the egg whites well.

We made bats, bones, skeleton heads and spider webs. Kate was not sure what the middle cookie in the above picture was. We all guessed....a brain, a leaf, vomit (it is almost Halloween!). What does it look like to you?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Potato Cauliflower Soup

     It's another cold and rainy fall day here. A nice bowl of hot soup sounds good about now. One of my favorite recipes is a vegetable soup that is very satisfying and comforting especially on dreary days. You can choose to use chicken broth, vegetable broth or just water. And vegetables are naturally gluten and dairy-free. No need to check those labels! Just simple, basic food.

Potato Cauliflower Soup          print recipe

1/2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 c. gluten-free broth
2 c. water
3/4 - 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 t. tarragon or thyme
salt and pepper to taste

     Heat olive oil in medium sauce pan. Saute onion, garlic and celery for about 5 minutes on medium heat until translucent, stirring frequently. Add water and broth, cauliflower, potatoes, and desired herbs. Bring to boiling and simmer 45-60 minutes until vegetables are nice and tender.

     I use a potato masher to mash vegetables into small pieces or a hand blender to puree the soup. I enjoy it both ways. Be cautious as the soup is very hot. Use salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes I will add 1/2 c. of dairy-free, unsweetened milk to give it a little creaminess. Milk can be used also.

     Enjoy a bowl of hot, homemade soup today!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Simple and Easy Gluten-Free Dumplings

     Now that the cool weather is back, soup sounds soooooo good. And there's something very simple you can add to your favorite soup to make it extra delicious, even more of a comfort food - dumplings! I took my favorite dumpling recipe and converted it to gluten- free.

Simple Gluten-Free Dumplings          print recipe
3/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. potato starch flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. zanthan gum
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. non-dairy milk
1 1/2 T. olive oil

     Mix all dry ingredients together well in a small bowl. Make an indentation in the flour mixture and pour milk and olive oil in it. Mix together until the lumps are gone. Dough will be wet. Let dough set for a few minutes until it thickens and will hold a shape.
     Drop by spoonfuls into a hot liquid such as soup or stew. Cover and simmer on low/medium for 12-15 minutes for small dumplings and 20 minutes for large dumplings. Recipe will make about 54 small or about 18 large ones.

     Make dumplings small if you like them "gummy". Make them large and add 1/2 t. baking powder if you like them fluffier.
     If you want to add some flavor to the dumplings, try adding 1/2 t. of dried Italian herbs or 1 t. finely chopped fresh parsley along with 1/8 t. of onion powder and 1/4 t. garlic powder to the dry ingredients.
Or use your imagination and add other herbs and have fun.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday's Challenge

     We've had some beautiful days here, but the cold weather is on its way. The thought of making hot soup and warm baked goods always seems more enticing as the weather cools.

     But besides making the food I need for my family, it's fun to make something special for someone. I challenge you this week to make a surprise - a surprise treat for an unsuspecting recipient! Something fun...a favorite recipe for the family, a funny face on a pancake for a child (I love food art), a treat for a friend or neighbor...the list is endless. Be creative and have fun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Energy Bars

     I'm always looking for ideas for quick healthy snacks especially for after school. If there are diet restrictions, it's even harder to come up with a variety that the kids and my husband will eat.
     A friend of mine mentioned finding an energy bar that her husband really enjoyed, so I checked it out. The recipe has a lot of flexibility to make it to your own tastes and my son really enjoys them (and he's always hungry).
     The recipe for Homemade Cliff Bars was from Enlightened Cooking. Yum! I had never tried Cliff bars, but my family loves a variety of snack bars. It's awesome to be able to make them myself and change up the ingredients to make them the way my family likes them. It is a very flexible recipe with lots of healthy ingredients. Just make sure you keep the ratio of dry to wet ingredients and replace ingredients with similar ones or the bars may be too sticky or dry.
     Jeanette's Healthy Living noted trying the recipe with quinoa flakes instead of quick-cooking oats. I had not tried quinoa flakes yet, but I like the nutrition in that seed. We tried it and it worked great.
     We chose dried cherries, peanut butter and toasted almonds for this recipe. I really like using rice syrup since it is lower in sugars than honey, but honey has its benefits, too.

Energy Bars                                                                               print recipe
Adapted from Enlightened Cooking

1 c. quinoa flakes or gluten-free quick-cooking oats
1 c. GF crisp rice cereal
1/4 c. ground flax seed, rice bran or a combination
1/2 c. chopped nuts or seeds or a combination
1/4 c. finely chopped dried fruit (fruit that is sticky works best)
1/2 c. nut butter, your choice
1/3 c. gluten-free rice syrup (no barley malt in it) or honey
1 t. gluten-free vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon, if desired

     Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt syrup and nut butter in a microwave safe bowl (45 - 60 sec.) or in a small pan on low heat on the stove top. Do not cook. Add vanilla.
     Pour nut butter over dry ingredients and mix really well. Pour into a lightly greased 8-inch square pan and press down firmly. Refrigerate until firm - about 1 hour.
     Cut into bars and wrap into individual servings, if desired. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
     Chocolate chips can be added in place of some of the nuts. The flavor combinations are limited only to your imagination. If you like a particular energy/snack bar, check the ingredients to see what flavors, nuts, fruits, spices, etc. that they use to get ideas.

     We tried melting 1/4 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave (30 sec. at a time on 50% power and stirring in between until melted) and adding it to the mixture right at the end. You can still use all of the other ingredients. They turned out great (see above picture). Remember to mix well.

     Have fun experimenting. What flavor combinations do you enjoy most?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Easy Homemade Gluten-Free Pancakes

My son loves pancakes for breakfast. Though there are mixes on the market, making your own is really easy. Besides being cheaper, you can change the flours and flavors from time to time. And they turn out light and fluffy just like wheat based pancakes.

Easy Homemade Gluten-Free Pancakes                print recipe

3/4 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. sorghum, buckwheat or quinoa flour
1/4 c. tapioca starch flour
2 T. brown sugar
2/3 t. zanthan gum
3 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon, if desired

2 eggs
1 c. non-dairy milk
1/2 c. water
2 T. olive oil
1 1/2 t. vanilla

Measure first eight ingredients and whisk together in a small bowl

Whisk eggs until creamy and blended in a separate bowl. Mix in milk, water, oil and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients until just blended. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat skillet on medium heat. Pour dough into desired size pancakes in greased skillet. Turn pancakes when they start to bubble on top. Fry until golden.

Be creative. Remember pancakes can be topped with many things besides syrup...melted jelly, nut butter/ bananas/honey, applesauce.... Have fun!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Simply Fun and Easy Shakes

Whether it's warm and sunny or chilly, shakes are fun to make and fun to eat. By putting in frozen fruit instead of ice cream, you can still have a thick satisfying shake with less calories and without the dairy. We particularly like the flavor of almond milk with ours, but any nondairy milk that you enjoy or juice will work. Banana really adds a creamy texture the kids enjoy. We use frozen fruit and skip the ice cubes used in some shakes to make it fruitier. We use a variety of fruits but this is one way the chefs from Gluten-Free Kitchen Fun like their shakes.

Fruit Smoothie          Print Recipe

1 medium banana
1c. frozen strawberries
1c. frozen blueberries
1 1/3 c. almond milk, nondairy milk or juice
1 t. gluten-free vanilla
1 T. honey or agave

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Serves two hungry children after school.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday's Challenge

     October has arrived. The trees are turning stunning shades of gold, orange and red. Even though fall is in the air, temperatures are expected to reach the 70's this week. I'm looking forward to it.
     One of the things I like to do is take an old recipe I love and change it to my current lifestyle. Removing foods from the diet or making recipes healthier doesn't mean you have to go without.
     Are you missing a food item that you used to really enjoy and can't or shouldn't have now? I challenge you this week to take a favorite recipe and use gluten free flour (don't forget the zanthan gum) or nondairy milk, or try it with less fat and sugar. Sometimes when you change a recipe it even turns out better than the original recipe.
     Have fun experimenting!

Note:  See "What Do You Eat?" for information on working with banana and pumpkin in sweet bread. Zanthan gum is probably not needed. (added 10/4/11)