Saturday, March 31, 2012

Easter Traditions

Easter is just a week away. It's time to start planning food. Hot cross buns are a fun tradition. I don't have a gluten and dairy-free recipe yet, but plan to work on one this weekend.

And maybe some bright colored cookies. One of the challenges I wanted to work on was using various foods for natural food color. So, for the cookies, I'm going to try the following colors:

purple: blackberry with blueberry juice
pink: raspberry juice
orange: carrot juice
yellow: stale turmeric

This will be fun to try. I'll have to see how much I need. It could change the texture of the cookie. Beets and avocado also sound like interesting options for another time. What natural food colors have you made?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quinoa Ideas

So much has been said about the health benefits of quinoa, a complete protein. I enjoy eating it just cooked with a little salt and pepper. But if you are really interested in the small seed, you may be looking for other ideas.

I have eaten quinoa flakes as a cooked cereal. It does have a somewhat bitter flavor, but with a little maple syrup, cooking it with fruit juice or adding a little fruit sauce, I enjoy it. It is a much softer texture than oatmeal. The flakes can also be used in cookies. You can use quinoa flour by adding it to pancakes, cookies, etc. Again, it has a different flavor, so my family enjoys it in small amounts.

We enjoy cooked quinoa seeds the most. I have made a pilaf with it, served it like rice, and added it to soup. I have heard it's good in chili, but have not experimented with that yet. For breakfast, I like to eating it with a scrambled egg. I fry an egg, breaking the yolk and scrambling it. When it is still a little soft, I add a 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa and desired seasonings, and finish cooking the egg while warming the quinoa. It's sort of like a stir fry, heavy on the egg. You could add veggies like zucchini, pepper and onion.

Quinoa also makes a great cold salad. I posted one of my favorites a few weeks ago - Meditteranean Quinoa Salad. It's a beautiful colorful salad that works great for parties and potluck.

If you haven't eaten quinoa yet, give it a try.

What other ways do you use quinoa?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cookies for Breakfast

While cookies for breakfast doesn't sound quite right, imagine a cookie with lots of rolled oats, nuts and dried fruit and enough egg,sugar, oil and flour to stick it all together. Made into 3 - 4 inch rounds, these cookies have great flavor and are slightly chewy. With all of the oats, nuts and dried fruit in them, there are sort of like granola and could reasonably be eaten for breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe by Cal Schroeck from with a high ratio of oats to flour. I was also impressed that the recipe used oil instead of a solid fat.

Breakfast Cookies

1 1/2 c. rolled oats (gluten-free if needed)
1/3 c. brown rice flour
2 T. potato or tapioca starch
1/3 t. zanthan gum
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. salt
1/4 - 1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1 large egg
3/4 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 c. chopped dried cranberries
     (or any dried fruit)
2 T. mini chocolate chips (dairy-free if needed)

Combine oats, flours, zanthan gum, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk oil, egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients. Add nuts, dried fruit and chips and mix until everything is sticky. Dough will "sort of" stick together. Divide dough into 12 parts. Spoon each part, about golf ball size, onto a greased cookie sheet and press dough into cookie shape about 1/2 inch thick. Cookies will grow little during baking and will seem like they will not stay together, but they will. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 - 12 minutes or until edges start to brown. Don't over bake. Wait 2 - 3 minutes and remove to rack to cool.

If you start having trouble shaping your cookies because the dough is sticking to your hands, try washing your hands so they are not sticky. We like our cookies with just 1/4 c. brown sugar, but to some people that may not be very sweet. If desired, shape your cookies into bars.

Whether you sneak one at breakfast or eat one for snack, these cookies are delicious and nutritious.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thicker Yogurt

We enjoyed the fruit smoothies so much last week I just had to try to make yogurt again. I wanted to get a thicker yogurt that I could serve in a dish with fruit. Success! What did I do different?

  1. I was careful to sterilize all utensils and items that would touch the cooled coconut milk.
  2. I used one can of regular (full fat) coconut milk and the rest was a milk beverage from a carton to make 5 cups.
  3. I made sure to mix the gelatin, honey and starter in well at the appropriate times.
  4. I used 2 packages of unflavored gelatin instead of one.
  5. I was careful to lower the temperature of the coconut milk to 95 - 100 degrees F before adding the yogurt starter.
  6. I still used the purchased vanilla coconut yogurt as a starter, but I used more - about a 1/4 c for 5 c. of coconut milk. I have not found a yogurt starter at a local store yet.
  7. I make sure that I had a sterilized container to mix a small amount of the coconut milk with the starter before adding it to the rest of the milk.
  8. I still ran the machine for about 10 hours.
It's delicious in shakes or just in a dish with a little cooled berry sauce (also delicious on pancakes) or other sweetener as desired. See below for the recipe.

Triple Berry Sauce

3/4 c. water
3 c. frozen raspberries,
      blueberries and
      blackberries (divided)
4 T. sugar or 3 T. agave
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. water

Mix cornstarch and 2 T. water until well blended and set aside. Bring 3/4 c. water and 1 c. fruit to boiling. Stir in sweetener. Add cornstarch mixture slowly to boiling fruit stirring constantly. Remove thickened sauce from burner and add the rest of the frozen fruit stirring into sauce. Let sauce sit to thaw fruit. Heat on low if a warmer sauce is desired.

For more ideas and instructions for coconut milk yogurt check:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quick and Easy Fun Dessert

When Chas needed to make a dessert for Boy Scouts, he wanted something simple yet super yummy (they were being judged). He picked peanut butter and chocolate since it is a favorite combination for many including him. We came up with a simple layered bar, even using a box mix for the bottom although you could use your favorite cookie recipe. The end result was delicious even though he didn't win.

Easy Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

One box of your favorite
     gluten-free cookie mix
     (or a favorite recipe)
1 c. creamy peanut butter
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T. dairy-free margarine
1/4 c. crushed gluten-free cereal
6 oz. dairy-free chocolate
3 fluid oz. coconut milk, full fat
chopped peanuts

Prepare your favorite gluten-free cookie mix or recipe according to directions. Any cookie that goes well with peanut butter and chocolate and is appropriate for a bar should work. He used Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix.  You can use dairy-free margarine. Spread in a 9 x 13 in. pan (lightly grease bottom). Ours was just a thin layer of dough, just the thickness of the chips. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees F or until lightly browned and a little soft in the middle yet (it will depend upon the thickness and type of your cookie). Don't over bake or cookie will be dry. Let cool.

Mix peanut butter, sugar, margarine and cereal. Spread over cooled cookie. Increase ingredients proportionately if you prefer a thicker layer.

Blend coconut milk before using if it has separated. Melt chocolate and coconut milk together in the microwave at 50 % power, stirring every 30 seconds. Cool to room temperature. Stir well and pour evenly over peanut butter. Sprinkle with nuts, if preferred. Let set and cut into squares. Store in refrigerator  for 1 - 2 days or freeze.

The topping is like a peanut butter cup, so it's like eating candy. It's a great one to take to a pot luck where you'll be "sharing" with a lot of other people. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Want Yogurt

Growing up on a dairy farm, we consumed plenty of milk, cheese and yogurt (and ice cream). Not being able to tolerate dairy well now has been a challenge. We found milk beverages we liked and started making homemade ice cream, but we went without yogurt. Yogurt was always a main ingredient in our fruit smoothies. We made them without, but I missed it.

Since we really enjoyed coconut milk ice cream, I started looking for information on how to make coconut milk yogurt. Coconut milk yogurt in our local store is very expensive. In my teens, I used to make homemade yogurt with regular milk and plain yogurt for starter, and I still had the yogurt maker. So, I decided to give it a try. I remembered a little from when I used to make yogurt, but I searched for more information to refresh my memory and to learn how to make it with coconut milk. This particular site had loads of info on it: and is great to get started with. It gives a suggestion on how to make yogurt without a yogurt maker.
So, I got started. From my previous yogurt making days, I remembered heating the "milk" to about 180 degrees F and lowering it to 95 - 100 degrees F when adding the starter as mentioned in the recipe listed above. Sterilizing everything was necessary and I used my yogurt maker. I added a T. of honey for sweetener along with a packet of unflavored gelatin to my 5 cups of "milk". I did not have the probiotics mentioned, so I bought a 6 oz. vanilla coconut milk yogurt (they didn't have plain) and used it as a starter like I used to with dairy yogurt. This is generally not recommended and I am still searching for a dairy-free probiotic starter in my local stores. I chose to run the machine for about 10 hours and then put the yogurts in the refrigerator overnight.

I tried a yogurt in the morning. It was very runny and a lot of watery liquid separated out of it as you can see in the picture. It tasted good, but I threw it away thinking it didn't work at all and no one would eat it. I hestitated to throw away the rest of them and put them back in the refrigerator. Then I decided to make a fruit smoothie using the whole jar of "yogurt", a handful of frozen strawberries and a banana. Delicious! I did not throw anymore away.

Since I used a coconut milk beverage the first batch, I am going to try adding regular coconut milk and more gelatin, and be a little more careful with the temperature (it got a little low) and see what happens before I write a recipe. Meanwhile, I think I'm on to something that we are really going to like.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Still Crazy For Quinoa

Quinoa is one of my favorite grains, and being a complete protein, it's considered a super food by some. Shortly after being introduced to quinoa for the first time and loving it, I decided to try to make a salad with it. Mediterranean food is on my favorites list, so I headed in that direction. This easy salad has a simple dressing and is easily altered for personal preferences. See below for suggestions. It tastes delicious the next day, so it's great for a make ahead potluck or lunch.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

2 c. water or vegetable broth
1 c. rinsed uncooked quinoa
1/3 c. chopped red onion
1 medium yellow pepper, chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 c. chopped kalamata olives
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 t. dried crushed basil or
     1 T. chopped fresh basil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions using water with 1/4 t. salt or broth and quinoa. Scoop into a bowl and gently mix in onion, pepper, tomato, olives, parsley, basil and garlic. In a separate cup, combine lemon juice, oil and vinegar. Pour over salad and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving to blend flavors. Serve on mixed greens if desired.

  1. Add chopped cooked chicken to the salad.
  2. Add 1/2 c. cooked asparagus cut in 1 inch pieces.
  3. If you eat dairy, add 1/4 - 1/2 c. feta cheese or use appropriate alternative.
  4. Cucumber is a nice addition to this recipe also. I add it at the end and just to the part of the salad that will be eaten since it doesn't keep as well as the rest of the salad.