Friday, March 31, 2017

Mexican Chopped Salad

This has to be one of the easiest recipes ever and I know it's going to be in our menu rotation a lot this spring and summer. Its so fast and easy and it's been my very favorite meal we've had lately. In fact Chris liked it so much he asked me to blog it so we'd remember to make it again.

Last night we wanted some sort of salad for dinner and had some leftover grilled chicken and some perfect avocados to use. This was the result. If I was making this for just me, I would skip the chicken because my serving was great without it. This was a huge main dish salad for two, but could easily be a side salad for more to share.

Here's how easy it is:

Mexican Chopped Salad

1 Chicken breast half, grilled and chopped
2 Avocados, chopped
1 to 2 cups Cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup Red Onion, chopped
1 large bunch Cilantro, finely chopped
1 large Jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
Juice of half a Lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix to blend gently so the the avocado mixes with the lemon juice but doesn't get to mashed.

Serve as is or on a bed of mixed baby greens as we did.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Black Bean Tacos

For a good, long while I have been on kitchen auto-pilot making mostly the same things. The time has now come to work on my menus.

I'm currently researching the best diet for me as I start treatment for breast cancer and while I have just started the process I know that increasing the most nutritious veggies, herbs and spices is as important important as drastically cutting sugar. Cutting sugar has been easier than I expected so I'm focusing on getting the good stuff in.

There are so many different theories are out there - Vegan, Keto, Mediterranean, etc. - all been recommended by various people and sources. I can see pluses and minuses to most so am taking my time and learning what will be right for my situation with my necessary restrictions like gluten free, dye free, etc. So while I continue to research I'm making lots of old favorites (especially Sri Lankan recipes with all the turmeric, ginger and spice) and some new vegan dishes.

Vegetables are a favorite, so it's not a burden to try and reconfigure my diet but it can be a challenge to make them a main course when you love spicy flavors and strive to use only whole foods rather than processed items.

The guys are not changing their diets but are getting exposed to lots of new veggie dishes in the process. So far they are just adding them to their usual meals and it's working out fine for everyone. Joe, especially, has surprised me with embracing arugula and watercress in his salads and trying some different roasted veggies. So in many ways this is a win win for us.

This is one dish I experimented with on our last Taco Tuesday and we liked it so much I made it all over again on Friday - doubling the recipe for leftovers. It's super fast and easy and very satisfying.

I've tried this combination in a crispy taco shell, without tortillas in a bowl and wrapped in in collard leaves. Every version was delicious and I've got another two pounds of butternut squash to saute tonight.

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Black Bean Tacos

Saute in a medium sized saute pan:

1 tablespoon Coconut Oil
1 large Onion, minced
4 large cloves Garlic, minced

In another small saucepan heat:

2 cups Black Beans (approximately, either homemade or canned)

When the onions and garlic are softened, add:

1 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne (this will be spicy - just a dash if you don't love it hot)
1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 pound Butternut Squash, cut into cubes

Continue to saute until squash is cooked through - about 15 minutes or so. I mashed a bit with the back of a spoon as I stirred.

Just before you are ready to serve, toss in:

2 cups packed and rinsed Baby Spinach which will wilt and heat through in a minute.

Serve in taco shells, as nachos, in bowls or rolled in a large steamed kale leaf and top the squash and spinach with black beans, and guacamole and any favorite salsa you like.

We love to add a mixture of cilantro (one whole large bunch), onion (one medium to large) and jalepeno (at least one large) all minced together and liberally spooned on top. I make up this mixture at least once a week and use it to top almost all Mexican and Asian foods I make. It will keep a couple of days in the fridge.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Almond Flour Scoop Biscuits

In my attempt to greatly increase beneficial veggies, herbs and spices and lower the sugar and carbs in my diet, I am revisiting some favorite old recipes and sites. One of my very favorite sites is Elana's Pantry. Elana has beautiful, simple to follow recipes using some of my favorite ingredients like almond flour and coconut flour. She has been such a great inspiration and made our gluten free living so much sweeter - especially her gluten free cupcakes!

These days I find that my veggie meals fill me up initially, but my tummy starts to rumble well before my next meal. Adding a little more low carb protein helps balance things out for me. Elana's biscuit recipe is relatively low carb and easy to make, but with my energy levels waning these last few weeks between surgery and the flu I found a way to make them even easier and lowered the carbs further.

While I loved the flavor of coconut oil in Elana's recipe, the coconut oil I have on hand is very strong. I love it at breakfast but it kind of clashes with some meals.

Switching out to an avocado oil gave the finished biscuits a really mild flavor and the same nice texture. Cutting the sweetener out completely still left a delicious biscuit. Adding all the ingredients to the same bowl and scooping each biscuit with a baking scoop (ice cream scoop) cut washing and prep time in almost half. The scoop makes a drop biscuit much more uniformly. Baking them in a 9x13 glass pan that I can store in the fridge meant one less pan to wash, too.  I'm not sure if necessity is the mother of invention or exhaustion is. Either way, it's a win.

I've been using Blue Diamond Almond Flour since our Costco started carrying it. I know that isn't a brand Elana used to recommend but it has worked very well for me. I've also made the recipe vegan because of all I am reading about flax meal again. Still great texture but I'll include the egg/flax information so you can decide what works best for you.

The biggest issue I have with nut flour baking is the calorie content. It is high, but one biscuit is satisfying and makes a big mug of miso soup a meal. It rounds out a smoothie or a salad and holds me over. I just have to resist the temptation to eat several.

Almond Flour Scoop Biscuits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl stir together:

1/2 cup Avocado Oil
4 Flax Eggs (4 Tablespoons Golden Flax Meal plus 6 ounces water OR 4 large eggs for non-vegan biscuits)
1 teaspoon Salt - Sea Salt or Himalayan pink are my favorites
1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Once well combined, add:

5 cups Almond Flour

Mix well and don't worry about over mixing like traditional flour. These will still be moist and tender. Once fully mixed take your handy scoop and scoop out 12 to 14 nice round biscuits onto a baking sheet or right into a 13x9 baking pan. After scooping I usually give the round biscuits a little push with the back of the scoop to flatten slightly as in the photo above. Both pans have worked perfectly and whether you leave them round or flatten they bake pretty much the same.

Either pan, bake at 350 degrees approximately 15 - 20 minutes - a bit longer in the baking pan and a bit shorter on the baking sheet. They'll be a light golden when done as in the photo on the right. Be sure to let them cool about twenty minutes or they might be crumbly as in my photo at the top. I store mine a few days in the fridge and bake about once a week. If I want a warm biscuit I just pop it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes.


*Or 4 Large Eggs for Non-Vegan Biscuits

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Spicy Asian Onion Mushroom Soup!

Happy 2016!

2015 was such a blur here and I really got out of the habit of posting recipes and even experimenting in the kitchen as much as I enjoy. As I look to 2016, it is time to start being proactive with our menus and having fun in the kitchen again.

I don't make New Years resolutions, but I do want to eat a little healthier this year by increasing our vegetables and by lowering my beloved carbs. Nothing too crazy or austere, but I'm hoping to add new flavors and recipes to make this challenge one that sticks.

This simple and delicious gluten free and vegan recipe is now on the rotation. It actually started as French Onion Soup and morphed into an Asian-inspired light, but satisfying meal. This is the kind of soup that will no doubt continue to evolve depending on what's on hand and what sounds good. So be creative and make it your own. A bit of rice noodles or one half cup of dry rice can be added towards the end to make a heartier soup. Add more onions if you like and vary the type of mushroom you enjoy. Thinly sliced Napa cabbage, bean sprouts or any veggie you like can be added. A big spoonful of kimchee on top is also amazing.

The Sriracha, Miso and Soy Sauce can be adjusted to taste. You may want to start out with less heat and use half the Sriracha. Its easy to add more later. Fresh garlic, turmeric and ginger are a favorite combination but you can use dry spices, too. We like lots of different stocks and broths in our soups from homemade to purchased, but I really love Pacific's Organic Mushroom Broth. Simple ingredients and a really nice, deep flavor makes a wonderful base for the soup.

Asian Onion Mushroom Soup

In a large pan over medium heat saute:

A splash of Olive Oil
1 pound Sliced Mushrooms
3 large Red Onions

As they soften add:

Garlic - at least one clove minced, but more is great 
Turmeric - I use fresh and approximately 1 teaspoon, minced
Ginger - I use fresh and approximately 1 tablespoon

As everything is completely cooked and barely starting to brown, add

2 quarts broth (if I am out of homemade I use Pacific's Organic Mushroom Broth)
2 tablespoon Miso Paste (I love Miso Master Organic Red Miso)
Sriracha - to your taste, I use at least a teaspoon for a very spicy soup
Gluten Free Soy Sauce - about a tablespoon

Continue to simmer covered thirty minutes or so, but the flavors will continue to improve if you can wait.

When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with a large spoonful of this mix:

1 bunch Cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Mint, chopped
1 Jalapeno, minced
1/2 Onion, minced 

The fresh herbs and crunchy jalapenos and onions work so well together with the warm, aromatic soup. We love it and I hope you do, too.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gluten Free Easily's Paleo Power Balls and Gus!

The summer of 2015 will be remembered by me as the summer of Gus.

Chris and I innocently went out for dog food one afternoon in May and were completely taken by a pup with big brown eyes sitting outside of the pet store with his rescue group. We adopted him on the spot. He was about twelve weeks old and the sweetest, most snugly little pup you've ever seen. Our Elle wasn't sure about him at first but grew to adore him.

The first weeks were full of potty training and crate training. He woke up crazy early and needed so much attention all day long or he would chew everything in sight. I barely function before 7:00 yet there wasn't much choice in waking up and hitting the ground running.

Gus still is sweet and snugly, but at eight months he's 55 pounds of solid muscle. He's sleeping in until at least 7:00 but is still bouncy from the moment he gets up and still has endless energy. He's loving and smart and the most handsome boy. He is still absolutely and completely exhausting.

We walk together well over five miles every day. Every day. I'm so thankful for the beautiful park with endless trails we wander through but it really does get to be a lot.

Over the summer when it was so hot and sticky here in North Carolina and sleep was fleeting, I saw a recipe from Shirley Braden of Gluten Free Easily.

Shirley's Paleo Power Balls for One became my go to pick me up. I knew I had all the ingredients on hand (only four healthy ingredients) and knew they would go together quickly.  I found it much more convenient to double or triple the recipe so I could keep a few in the fridge. If I was out of almond butter I subbed peanut butter - sometimes a little sweeter, sometimes less. I love the flexibility.

Many a morning I grabbed one on my way out the door and it kept me going for the entire four mile morning walk.

If by some chance you aren't familiar with Shirley and Gluten Free Easily, please click on the link above and then look around her site - especially if you are new to living gluten free. Her focus is on real foods, not processed or packaged, making her site one I can easily recommend. Shirley's many, many recipes range from familiar family favorites to paleo and vegan - like this one. I love that she features other bloggers' recipes and sites so graciously. I can always tell when she has shared one of my links - I see the "Shirley Bump" in the traffic. =D Shirley is an absolutely lovely woman inside and out and an amazing resource to the gluten free community.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Bee's Knees Gnocchi!

Kecia Johndrow is someone I "met" online several years ago through the Feingold Association. Four years ago she opened her own gluten free bakery, Bee's Knees Bakeshop in Cedar Park, near Austin, Texas. Not only does she make beautiful baked goods like cakes, pies, brownies and cake balls; she also serves breakfast and lunch.

Now Kecia has written her first e-cookbook, Gluten Free is the Bee's Knees, A Bee's Knee's Cookbook.  A mutual friend let me know about the e-book and I bought it immediately.

The variety of recipes is great. Soups, appetizers, sides, dips, casseroles, breakfast items, entrees from Mexican to Cajun to Italian, desserts and more are included. Kecia has included answers to some frequently asked questions and shopping tips, making this a great resource for anyone newly gluten free.

She graciously has allowed me to share one of her entrees here for a little sneak peek. I had a hard time choosing because everything sounded really good.

Ultimately, I chose Gnocchi because it's one of my favorite comfort foods.  Kecia recommends topping them with a marinara sauce for a GFCF meal.  Since we do some dairy I chose to serve them drizzled with Laura's Garlic Herb Dip and a sprinkle of Asagio cheese.

I am certain mine are not as pretty as Kecia's but oh my goodness, they were delicious! I used brown rice flour and made them a little larger than Kecia recommended so they took a couple minutes longer to cook. Chris and I absolutely loved them and went through nearly half a batch between the two of us.

Here's Kecia's recipe, straight from her book:

Try it, I think you'll enjoy!

Happily shared on Gluten Free Wednesdays thanks to Linda at The Gluten Free Homemaker.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cilantro Hummus!

Traditional hummus is one of my favorite things all year round. Whether I make or purchase it, there is almost always a container of it in the fridge. Hummus makes a great vegetarian protein snack with crackers (I especially love it with my flax crackers) or veggie sticks, and is an awesome spread on sandwiches. A favorite breakfast is simply a half a toasted gluten free bagel spread with hummus.

We love it plain or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sumac or paprika. Chopped olives are my personal favorite, or addiction if I'm honest, these days.

My cilantro hummus is a spring and summer favorite.  It's creamy and cool and has a fresh pop of flavor. It takes just minutes to make and can be adjusted to your tastes easily.

Made as shown below it's very mild, at least with the jalapeños I use. If you like more heat, just add another jalapeño or switch to a pepper with more kick. Habanero is my favorite. The more cilantro, the better, as far as I'm concerned. I use a large bunch - about a cup and a half of washed leaves and stems. Cilantro has many health benefits so I'm always adding it to something I'm making.

This hummus is a great way to get your raw veggies in. Above I used daikon radish. I love the look of the perfect circles and crispy bite of the radish with the creamy hummus. Our veggie selection to the right wasn't the most exotic or beautifully sliced today but they were still delicious.

Cilantro Hummus is great as a spread on a veggie burger like my Chipotle Lime and Black Bean Burgers. My favorite crackers for this hummus are my Spicy Pepita and Almond Crackers which I like for a quick lunch. This combination also makes a nice appetizer with a lighter meal.

To really amp up the color and kick, spoon a little of Gabby's Green Sauce on top.

Cilantro Hummus

3 cups Garbanzo Beans
1 large bunch Cilantro, or enough to equal about a cup and a half leaves and stems
1 large Jalapeño, seeded
1 medium clove Garlic
1/4 cup Lime Juice
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Salt, to taste

While all ingredients can be put into a food processor at one time and blended, I like to use my Vitamix for an even creamier hummus.  If you use a Vitamix you will need to use the tamp to keep things mixing and moving to blend quickly. Just add all ingredients to the Vitamix at once and blend until smooth and creamy for about two minutes.

The flavor will improve as it chills so plan on letting it sit in the fridge an hour or two prior to serving.


Happily shared on Gluten Free Wednesdays thanks to Linda the Gluten Free Homemaker!