Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goat-Cheese Holiday Cheese Ball

So the last few days of 2009 are before us, and 2010 is about to begin. A new year, a new month, and new beginnings. A great time to celebrate! I wanted to post this recipe before tomorrow in case you were looking for some last minute ideas to serve as party pleasers. I am not a huge dairy consumer, and when I do eat dairy I usually make sure that it is raw goat dairy or raw dairy to get the most enzymes and nutrients from it. This cheese ball idea was inspired from a cheese ball that my grandma used to make every Christmas at her house. She would make hers out of cheddar and who knows what else. I was trying to make a more healthy version of that with the main ingredient being goat cheese. So, here we go...

Goat Cheese Ball Ingredients:
6-8 ounces of goat cheese chevre (smooth cream cheese)
4 ounces of goat cheese feta cheese (crumbly)
4 ounces of shredded goat cheddar cheese (shredded)

Mix all the cheese parts with:
1 TB of minced onion, or garlic works too
1 TB of dried Italian herb blend
1/2 ts of ground pepper and sea salt

Roll in:
1 cup of crushed pecans making a pecan meal

Mix the cheese with all the spices in a large bowl and then form a ball in your hands. Roll the ball in a pecan meal powder with small pecan pieces. Cover the whole cheese ball in the nuts and then set on a plate. Spread out an arrangement of gluten-free crackers. Some of my favorite crackers that are store bought... Let sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving to harden and to let the flavors meld together.

My favorite gluten-free cracker to serve with cheese:


and other favorites include other nut and rice blend cracker varieties are good too. Just make sure they are certified gluten-free.

Another favorite topping to a cracker, a little cheese, and then a dollup of some hot red pepper jelly.


I love this sweet and hot jelly on top the cool and creamy cheese with a little crunchy cracker. It is almost a delicacy. A special treat for sure! Try it, I gurentee you will love it! You can find the jelly at many specialty cheese, wine and deli stores. Or at least something similar to it. Ask around and see what you can find. Also, the crackers and cheese ingredients can be found at most health food stores, or maybe even your local market. See what you can find and don't be afraid to ask around and try something special for the holiday if you can handle the goat cheese. I love the treat and enjoy every bite on a special occasion.

I hope you have a blessed and happy new year's and many many new joys to you in the new year! The next time I post it will be a brand new year! I am hoping to post some of my new year resolutions and goals for 2010. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Year Scottish Shortbread (gluten-free style)

Christmas has come and gone, and the new year resolutions are beckoning at the door. I love this time of year because it is a wonderful time to gather with friends and family to celebrate another year, but also a time set apart to start some new practices or habits. And of course to try and let go of some bad habits that continue to crowd our current lives. I love thinking of what I want to accomplish in the coming year. Or to make a list of some of the new places I want to visit. Or projects to get my hands dirty in. Or just some fun relaxing weekends to plan with just me and my husband. It is a time to set apart and remember the last year and think of what is ahead. Thinking about another year...over some traditional Scottish shortbread cookies. This recipe was a simple revised version of the basic flour, sugar and butter recipe for shortbread cookies. I used coconut oil and gluten free flours to do the job and it turned out awesome. Very simple, but very good. The "traditional" aspect to the shortbread cookie is that it is the simple cookie that was actually started as a biscuit to warm the cold spirits that come this time of year. The fat and flour was meant to warm your bones and keep you sustained till spring. I hope you try this great recipe and enjoy some moments to warm your spirits and carry you through to the new year. Many blessings to you in 2010.

Scottish Shortbread Recipe
1/2 cup of sorghum flour
1/4 cup of brown rice flour
1/4 cup of white rice flour
1 TB of buckwheat flour
1 TB of tapioca flour
1/4 cup of sucanat (you could try to use agave nectar to sweeten as well)
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 TB of agave nectar
1 TB of non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)

Mix all the ingredients together well and press flat to the bottom in an 8x8, or 9x9 tin baking sheet pan. Press firmly and cut into 9 larger square pieces or 12 smaller square pieces with a pizza cutter or a dough knife before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for a few hours before moving to allow less crumbling. You can double or triple this recipe to put in a larger baking sheet pan (9x13 or 12x18). It's the easiest cookie recipe I know of, and vegan, and pretty yummy as well. Enjoy and many blessings to you in the new year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hazelnut Currant Cookies

If you are the crunchy cookie lover, then this recipe is for you. They are crispy, crunchy and have the kind of snap that you would expect out of some of the 'old world' cookie varieties. Like old Dutch, Spanish, Italian, varieties of cookies that they are famous for. Most of these varieties have nuts as a base. Most commonly almonds. And not that I wouldn't love using almonds in another treat, but these are made with the unique and delicate hazelnut. I think my most favorite hazelnut treat would be Nutella, or chocolate hazelnut butter, but when you add them in cookies and cakes they are fabulous as well. So, have I got your attention yet?

You may be thinking, could I really handle another cookie recipe? Or you may be suspiciously asking if I am eating all of these cookies on my own. Haha, well, to answer the questions that I'm sure you are not asking, but I ask them because I'm just dying to justify all my baking...

It's Christmas time and cookies are one of the most important details to not be missed :)

So my friends, here is another gluten-free dairy-free cookie recipe to inspire you to do some holiday baking to be enjoyed by all. Oh, and I forgot to say that yes, I am enjoying all of the cookies this season, and yet sharing them may be just as wonderful!

Hazelnut Currant Cookies Recipe
3/4 cup of buckwheat flour
3/4 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1 cup of ground hazelnuts, either in a food processor or coffee bean grinder
(or almonds if you have those available)
1 ts of baking powder
1/2 ts of sea salt
1 cup of sucanat (dehydrated unrefined cane juice powder)
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
2 ts. of ground ginger
1/2 ts. of ground cloves
1/4 cup of agave nectar
1/2 cup of coconut oil + 1 TB of organic palm oil shortening, or just more coconut oil
1 TB of vanilla
juice from one lemon
1 farm fresh egg
1/2 cup of organic dried currants
1/2 cup of shredded coconut flakes

Mix all of the dry ingredients together first, then add the oil, egg, lemon juice, vanilla and agave. Mix well with a spatula. Add the shredded coconut and currants last. Let the batter sit for 20-30 minutes before baking to let the ingredients soak up the moisture and let the flavors meld together. Then use a teaspoon to spoon out little balls onto a parchment papered baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. Then pull from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes before moving. They are a bit crispier in texture like I said, but you would still want to let them cool just a bit before moving.

They are a great addition to your platter of Christmas cookies. If you do not have currants but some variety of raisin, those would work well too. I even made a few without the coconut and currants and they turned out great too, especially if you are looking for a plain-jane variety.

So, I have been sharing many of my gluten-free inspired Christmas cookie what are some of your favorite Christmas cookies from growing up...

Much love and holiday cheer to you!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lemon Tea Cookies

Here is another cookie recipe to add to your Christmas cookie baking list. You may be wondering why in the world is there another cookie recipe!? Well, it's no secret to my neighbors that I have been baking lots of cookies over the last week. I have been experimenting really. In hopes to find some favorites (and variety) to share over the Christmas holiday. Bringing a plate of assorted Christmas cookies to family and friend gatherings is a great gesture and the best part is that 'you can eat them too'...

I always keep all the refined sugars out, and try to find ways to use sweeteners as less as possible! Gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free baking can be a science, but once you discover you can enjoy treats without compromising your health it will become more fun. I promise!

Some people ask where I get my gluten-free flours and how to use them. The best (and cheapest) way to supply your pantry with gluten-free flours is by visiting your local health food store as see what kind of gluten-free grains and flours they carry in bulk. My local health store carries every gluten-free grain and flour already bagged up for your convenience. And the the GF fours are safe from cross-contamination, which is a guarantee you must watch out for. If there are flours they do not carry I look for GF flours from Bob's Red Mill products. They have a great selection and reasonably priced as well. Once you switch over to gluten-free baking you will want to get all of the white/wheat flour out of your kitchen, and get new containers or tins to keep all of the gluten-free flour varieties organized. Some people like to use the already blended GF flour mixes, but I have found better results personally with using more whole grain flours like buckwheat, sorghum, and brown rice. And I prefer the health benefits that come with using whole grains instead of white flour substitutes.
I do use the GF flour mixes occasionally, but using buckwheat flour and sorghum flour with a mix of another gluten free flour (rice or tapioca) has produced great GF results. Other gluten-free and grain-free flours like coconut and almond flours are always a tad bit more expensive, yet when used in moderation add great flavor, protein and variety. Another way to purchase gluten-free flours and products is online stores or I prefer buying from my local health grocer, but if I ever needed a large amount of a certain flour I would definitely consider buying from an online source where I could maybe buy more for less. I do actually enjoy buying the GF flours in smaller amounts though because they are freshest when used only months after milling.

Now, to lemons, and making cookies....

I was dreaming up this tart and sweet little cookie for some time now...And, I had a large bundle of lemons, so I landing on making a kind of lemon shortbread cookie of sorts. You could use another citrus fruit if you wanted. I bet orange and grapefruit would be nice too. Making something like a lemon cookie could be a challenge for gluten-free baking because the texture is a delicate balance between using the right blend of flours and having the right amount of tart and sweet. These turned out pretty good, so I will share...

Lemon Tea Cookies Recipe
1/2 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1/2 cup of white rice flour
1/2 cup + 3 TB of tapioca flour
1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 small lemon's juiced)
lemon zest from one washed lemon
2 farm fresh egg yokes
1/2 cup of sucanat
1/4 cup of agave nectar
1/2 cup of Spectrum's organic palm oil shortening
1 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of sea salt
Mix all the dry ingredients, and then fold in the shortening and egg yokes. It needs to be mixed thoroughly to blend all of the flour parts. It is actually a very sticky cookie batter, so you will want to spoon out with a small teaspoon on a parchment papered cookie sheet. The batter will spread out so it doe snot need to be a perfect circle cookie. I topped the cookies with just a dash of more lemon zest and then baked in a 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes. You will want to let these cool more than 5 minutes before you moved from the pan. Let cool and then enjoy these crispy cookies with some tea and company.

Let me know what you think of these tart little treats, and have a happy holiday weekend!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spicy Molasses Cookies (gluten and dairy free)

Today, I post my most favorite cookie recipe. I know I say that today, right. It's pretty plain. But I'm addicted, and there is just not anything you can say to change my mind. I love molasses cookies. These cookies I have been making since last Christmas. I found a good traditional recipe to convert into a gluten-free one and have found it to be faithfully good every time. They are a bit hearty because I do use some buckwheat flour, and not too sweet, and even just a tad spicy. I love the rich deep flavor and how I could sneak one for a snack and not have to worry about a "sugar" buzz or bad calories. These little babies are 'just right' in every single way. I bet if Mary Poppins was going to make a perfect cookie, she would come up with this one. It is that good. Well, at least I think so :)
Some interesting health facts about molasses: It is a by product of sugar cane. It is the leftover syrup that is extracted in the sugar making process is the molasses. I like to use blackstrap molasses which is the most potent form of molasses, and contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. Molasses has 20% of your daily value of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. So, it is sometimes used as a supplement to those who have a hard time digesting nutrients. Another important fact of info is to look specifically for "unsulphured" molasses. In the sugar making process, sulfur dioxide is added to preserve the sugar, and so most molasses is made with this sulfur preservative. To avoid the preservative potency, look for unsulphured molasses which is made with mature sugar cane, instead of the young version of the sugar cane. Basically, you gain more health benefits when you by the 'unsulfured' 'blackstrap' variety. Although, these cookies can be made with any molasses. I like to have a little healthy vitamins though if I am going to be consuming more than one cookie :) I'm just saying...
Spicy Chewy Molasses Cookies
1 cup of sucanat (unrefined dehydrated cane juice powder)
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1/2 cup of white rice flour
1 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1/3 cup of buckwheat flour
2 ts. of baking soda
2 ts. of ground ginger
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
1/2 ts. of ground cloves
1/2 ts. of ground cardamon
1/4 ts. of ground black pepper
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/3 cup of blackstrap molasses
1-2 TB of local raw honey
1/2 cup of baking oil (grapeseed, light olive or coconut)
1 large fresh farm egg (or an egg substitute for 1 egg).

Optional: candied ginger pieces added (1/2 cup or so).

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the rest of the wet ingredients. Use a fork to mix thoroughly, and then a spatula to keep it all together. Roll out little teaspoon sized balls on a parchment papered cookie sheet. An optional step is to roll the cookie dough in white sugar before putting on the cookie sheet. This just adds more sugar, so I personally avoid this step, but it would add a nice touch if sugar were not a problem. I like to use my large pan (12x18) and I can get about 20 cookies on there. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes. These can be pulled from the oven and set to cool on the pan for the first few minutes Then transfer to a cooling rack or paper. This recipe makes about 3 dozen to 40 cookies. Enjoy with loved ones to add holiday cheer, or save some for Santa, or share in a cookie exchange. They are good in almost every occasion. Enjoy friends!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Coconut Almond Cookies (gluten and dairy free)

When you suddenly think about how you can't make Christmas cookies anymore after you find out that you have a gluten allergy it could be devastating. It could be. That is until you discover, that you can in fact actually make a large assortment of Christmas cookies based from all of your old, gluten-filled cookie recipes. Some of my favorite Christmas cookies include molasses cookies, snowball cookies, thumbprint cookies, and so many more. And it is my intention to find good gluten-free substitutes for all of my cookie favorites. So, I have been baking lately.... cookies. Some to share, but some to always try for myself. It is a beautiful thing during the holiday season to make that assortment of your favorite holiday treats and pass them off to friends and family. I just love it. So, my friends, the next few posts are some of the Christmas cookies that I have been coming up with lately to suffice the missing void of cookie baking from when I was a kid at home. Spending those long snowy days before Christmas... filling the kitchen with steamy sweet smells from the oven. It is a delite to take part in cookie making tradition, and I hope you find some Christmas joy in the tradition this year (whether you are gluten-free or not).

But for you my gluten-free friend, this recipe is for you. It is a perfect sweet, crunchy, chewy goodness that we all love in a cookie.
Chocolate Coconut Almond Shortbread Cookies
1/2 cup of natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
2/3 cup of sucanat (unrefined dehydrated sugar cane juice)
3/4 cup of ground almonds (in coffee grinder or food processor)
1/3 cup of brown rice flour
1/3 cup of white rice flour
1/3 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup of unrefined coconut oil
1 ts. of pure vanilla
2 large farm fresh eggs (or egg replacement for 2 eggs).
2 TB of agave nectar
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 cup of allergen free chocolate chips (added last)

handful of whole almonds to press on top the cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all of the dry ingredients above in a large mixing bowl. Then add the coconut oil, eggs, vanilla and agave nectar. Mix well and then lastly add the allergen free dark chocolate chips. Mix well until you can pat down with your hand and have a soft, but not overly wet or sticky batter. Then roll about a large teaspoon sized ball with the batter. I can fit about 20 balls on my large 11x14 cookie sheet.
Then press a whole, raw almond into the center and then there you have it. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12-14 minutes. Make sure not to burn, and pull from the oven and let cool at least 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack or paper.
This recipe should make about 40 cookies, or at least about 3 dozen. They are a little crispy with the blend of flour, nuts and coconut. They are a perfect treat with a warm cup of tea or cocoa. Or even a cold glass of coconut milk. Maybe even Santa may want make sure not to eat all of them in one sitting.

Much love and holiday cheer to you!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coconut Cashew Cream Fruit Dip (vegan)

Are you looking for a simple and great recipe to share with friends or as a party appetizer? Let's face it, being gluten-free, vegan or "healthy" during the holidays can be tough. It is always a time to justify cheating. But for some of us... we can't cheat. It's just not worth it. It's just not an option. So, what do we do? Well, we can bring our own favorite party pleaser that we can enjoy as well. This recipe I tried out a few days ago and loved it's results. It was fun, colorful and actually quite tasty.

My idea for this recipe was based off an old family favorite fruit dip that was made out of traditional "cool whip" and some fruit yogurt. It was always sweet, fluffy and creamy. I wanted to try and re-create something like that to dip a fruit kabob in, hoping to have the same affect. Without the use of dairy (or fake dairy for that matter), I was left to experiment with coconut milk and cashews. This recipe is actually quite simple and I am sure you will add it to family favorites after trying it only once. Enjoy and Merry Christmas to all!

Coconut Cashew Cream Fruit Dip
1 cup of raw, unsalted or oiled, whole cashew or cashew pieces
1 TB of pure water 
1 TB of coconut milk beverage
1 TB of agave nectar
1 (3/4 cup) of a plain SoDelicious Coconut Milk yogurt
1 ts of cardamon (spice)
dash of nutmeg or cinnamon on top for display or could be mixed in the cream as well

Put all the ingredients in a food processor, or smaller blender. Blend the cashews and liquids first for a minute or so on high speed. You made need to add just a touch more liquid if it is not blending well. It could need a little more water to whip it to become creamier. Then add the yogurt last and blend again for a few seconds. Add the spices last, you can either mix in, or sprinkle on top. The spices add a great flavor to both the cashews and the coconut. Pour in a bowl to serve with fruit kabobs, or it could be drizzled or dolloped over a fruit bowl dessert. 

My favorite fruit to go with this dip is tropical fruit, papaya, pineapple and banana. Those are just some of my favorites, but it would be good with most any fruit. 
Now you have a party treat to bring. Because we both know that sometimes at a party table there are only a few options of something safe to eat. And this sweet treat could be one of them. It is colorful and the tropical fruits are in season in other parts of the world, so in the winter months you can get them cheaper (and they taste better too).  Hope you enjoy making this one, and I think once you make it and try it you will last as one of your go-to recipes for a simple vegan treat. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vegan Cashew Butter Gingersnap Cookies (grain, gluten, and dairy free)

And... the snow keeps coming. West Michigan has been on a blizzard warning for the last few hours and it is supposed to last through the night until tomorrow morning. Honestly, I'm kinda excited. I like the snow really. I guess it's a good thing I live here in GR then. It's beautiful, and if you think about it, in like 4 months we will have sun again. OK, that sounds depressing, but really it is kinda nice. The Christmas lights and candles are lit, the kettle is hot for tea, and some warm cookies from the oven. This is my idea of a relaxing evening. Especially when you can hear the 40 per hour winds blowing outside. All I can think about is getting cozy and staying warm. I think baking some cookies will have to be apart of that plan. Something healthy of course. :)

I made these cookies yesterday to share with a friend that was in need of a gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and egg-free cookie. Here it is. Pretty simple, and pretty tasty.

Vegan Cashew Butter Ginger Snaps Recipe:

1 1/2 cup of raw cashew butter

1/3 sucanat (unrefined dehydrated cane juice)

1 1/2 ts of baking powder

1/4 cup agave nectar

4 TB of ground flax seed (flax meal)

1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce

1 ts. of pure vanilla

1 1/2 ts. of ground cinnamon

1 1/2 ts. of ground ginger

1/2 ts. of sea salt

1/2 ts. of ground cloves

1/8 cup of black strap molasses

Mix all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. The batter is sticky, so you may way to use a spoon for dishing out large teaspoon sized balls onto a parchment papered cookie sheet. Mix in some allergen-free dark chocolate chips if you desire or sprinkle some extra cinnamon on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. Pull from the oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes before moving.

I love simple cookies that are tasty and even a healthy snack. There is no guilt or hard feelings over having a few of these in one sitting. I can tell you I already had a few :) Yummy!

Stay warm tonight friends. I will be staying close to home with a warm cup of hot cocoa. My favorite dairy-free hot cocoa is 1 cup of a non-dairy beverage (coconut or almond are my favorite), then add 1 heaping TB of baking cocoa powder, 1 TB of agave, and 1 ts. of coconut oil. Put all the ingredients in a small sauce pan on the stove and whip up with a wisk to blend in the cocoa powder. Add a dash of cinnamon if you like, or have a cinnamon stick soak in your cup after cooking. Keep it on medium heat until it starts to boil just a bit. You will have to make sure not to burn your tongue on this one because it gets really hot, really fast. But after pouring it into your favorite mug and snuggling up and waiting for it to be drinkable... it is absolutely divine. I recommend it to all on a night like tonight.

Much love to you friends!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pumpkin Tandoori Chicken

Here's a meal to spice up your life and your pallet. I am no expert in Indian cooking, but this traditionally Indian dish I can handle. It's easy and can be used for great leftovers. The name "tandoori" comes from a traditional Indian dish that actually is named for the kind of oven that it is baked in. The "tandoor" oven is a clay oven shaped like a bell and is set in the ground and heated by wood or charcoal. They traditionally reach up to around 900 degree heat. These type of ovens cook the meat quickly so to have a crispy outside and juicy, tender middle. True tandoori ovens are usually only found in authentic Indian kitchens, yet the "tandoori" chicken is reproduced in many modern kitchens just because of the similar flavors and high heat idea. It is a great way for some one to experiment with some new spices and it is so simple that it will not create a lot of prep time or worry.  

I love to try new things with chicken. Think about how boring life would be if we made chicken the same way every time. It is one of those meats to get easily bored with just because. It can become too common and too easy. So this is a recipe to give you a chance to step outside the traditional baked chicken meal. I added the pumpkin to use some fresh pumpkin puree up, but it is not a must have ingredient in the recipe. You can make this chicken without it if you must. Just add some extra lemon juice or oil to make sure you have enough moisture to soak up all the spices you use. Spice up your life this week. Make life interesting. I hope you enjoy! 
Pumpkin Tandoori Chicken Recipe:
1 1/2 pound of fresh (grass-fed is best) chicken breast cut into thinner strips or pieces
3/4 cup of coconut yogurt, or strained cow or goat yogurt
4 TB. of fresh or canned pumpkin puree
1 TB or juice of half of fresh lemon
1 TB of olive oil
1 TB of chili powder
1 ts of cardamon, cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon and garlic powder.
1/2 ts. of nutmeg, ginger, cayenne pepper, sea salt and black pepper if you desire more pepper
handful of fresh sage, and thyme

First, cut the raw chicken breasts into 2 strips or 3 depending on how big the cut of meat is. Then in a mixing bowl pour in the yogurt and all the other ingredients, whip up to mix in completely. Add the chicken and coat it completely in the yogurt/spice mixture. You can soak and marinate this mix for up to overnight, but you could just soak it for 30 minutes at least. 

Pour the chicken and sauce into a 9x13 baking glass pan (Pyrex pan). Chop some fresh sage and thyme leaves and sprinkle over the chicken before baking. If you do not have the fresh herbs, just sprinkle a touch of dry sage or thyme over the chicken.

Bake the chicken in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Cut into the meat to see it is cooked all the way through and there is no pink spots. It shouldn't be too dry at this point. Let cool just a few minutes before serving. A lot of the moisture has been baking into the chicken, but there should be still a little sauce on the side to enjoy with the meal.
I served this dish with some roasted tahini cauliflower to have a grain-free meal, and yet enough warmth and nutrients to feel completely satisfied and full. It was a very quick meal that way easily prepared and cleaned up. It could be served with a side of Basmati rice or another vegetable or salad. It is what you make of it. 

Another benefit...I used this dish for another meal the next day. I had half of the chicken left over, so I chopped the breasts into bite-sized pieces and cooked 1 cup of Basmati rice beforehand. Then I mixed the cooked rice and remaining chicken pieces with the little bit of the leftover pumpkin yogurt sauce (about 2 TB or so) in a large frying pan wok. I added an extra TB of olive oil and coconut milk beverage and it was a creamy chicken and rice risotto dish within minutes. So if you are eating for one or two you can turn this chicken dish into a few healthy meals quite easily. This is an example of how to stretch the meals you have and be resourceful with your budget and time.  
I hope you have a great week and find ways to be creative and nourished always. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pumpkin Cranberry Scones (gluten and dairy free)

The first major snow came yesterday morning. I woke up to almost 8 inches on the car and it was still coming down. It was a gorgeous winter wonderland. Perfect weather for baking and staying bundled up at home (after the shoveling is done of course). Michiganders have been waiting for this snow to come, whether they like it or not. It seems like we get snow starting in November, and this year it held off till December. So, today you could imagine the mixed emotions of the love-hate relationship with snow. I have to say, it is beautiful. I truly enjoy the events of all the seasons, so I find joy in loving the snow and also having a great excuse to bake. 

I still had some leftover fresh pureed pumpkin and also some left over cranberry relish, so it was time to use that up in a sweet treat. These scones are for the left behind, those that have limited ways to having a sweet treats and for those that have to walk past the dessert line at a holiday party. I know you. I get it. This recipe is for you. It's time to start up the oven, light a few candles, turn up the holiday music and dive in to a bowl of flour and spices.  

Pumpkin Cranberry Scones:
1 1/4 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 cup of millet flour (or a brown rice flour would work too)
1/2 cup of sucanat (unrefined sugar cane juice)
1 TB of baking powder
1 1/2 ts. of cinnamon
1/2 ts. of ground ginger, cloves, and nutmeg
1/2 ts. of sea salt

Mix up all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and then fold in the wet ingredients below one at a time.

Wet Ingredients:
3/4 cup of fresh or canned pumpkin
6 TB of Spectrum organic palm oil shortening
2 TB of agave nectar (or use less sucanat above and use 1/4 cup agave only)
1/4 cup of coconut milk beverage (or non-dairy milk)
1 TB of apple cider vinegar

The cranberry relish can be optional. If you do not have any left over cranberry sauce or relish. Just make the pumpkin scones. Add some chocolate chips if you want, or drizzle a little glaze over them if you desire. I like to keep it simple today and enjoy the flavors. I do think the cranberries add the perfect blend of sweet and tart though....

Parchment paper on a baking sheet is the best way to bake these. Scoop out 12, 1/3 cup sized spoonfuls and bake at 425 degrees for 2o minutes.  Bake until the bottoms are golden brown and then let them cool for just a few minutes before moving from the pan.  
They are best from the oven with a cup of tea, if you want to keep a few for the next few days I recommend letting them cool and dry out just a  bit. Because the pumpkin keeps them very moist you will want to make sure you enjoy them quickly or freeze them individually in plastic wrap or container. 

Then... it's time to make some homemade hot chocolate or a cup of tea. Serve up a scone and continue your work on the Christmas lists, gifts, and prep. Wait. No stop, and enjoy the scone by the window of the delicate falling snow. Take a moment for yourself. Breath and enjoy!

Stay warm and cozy today! Much love to you!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cornbread and Herb Stuffing

How do you survive a holiday dinner without some good ol' fashioned stuffing? I don't recommend trying some gluten-free bread leftovers, or some faux bread crumbs or packaged mix. I have the recipe for you to try. It is to die for, and to be honest you could make a huge batch and no one would need to know that it is gluten-free friendly. That is until they would see you devouring it and going back for seconds.

I made this in hopes to enjoying some stuffing with my turkey dinner this year, and let me tell you I was definitely not disappointed. It was so flavorful and moist and crunchy in all the right places. I am not going to go on and on anymore, I am just saying that you need to try and make this recipe next holiday. Heck, you might as well make it tomorrow and try it out with a nice relaxing weekend dinner. It is that good. The trick is really in the use of fresh herbs. They make it so savory and fresh. If you can not get your hands on fresh herbs, then try to use dried varieties. Yet I would recommend the fresh, they really are the secret ingredient.

The first step is to whip up a batch of the gluten-free cornbread recipe from scratch.

Corn Bread Stuffing Recipe:

Cornbread Recipe
1 1/2 cup corn meal
1 cup of corn flour
1/2 cup of sorghum flour
1 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
2 cups of coconut milk beverage (or almond milk)
***2 TB. of apple cider vinegar (mixed in separate for 10 minutes with the coconut milk/non-dairy milk) Let sit for 10 minutes to curdle and then add with the rest of the ingredients
3/4 cup of strained goat or cow yogurt, or a coconut/non-dairy yogurt works too
4 TB. of local honey
1 ts. of sea salt
3 TB. of olive oil
1/2 ts. of paprika
1/2 ts. of ground cumin
1/2 ts. of black pepper

Mix all of the flours and dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Mix the non-dairy milk and the apple cider vinegar in a separate bowl and set aside for ten minutes to curdle. Then add the milk/vinegar mixture, honey and oil to the dry ingredients and mix well. After mixing well, let sit for 5-10 minutes to let the soda and vinegar mix in well. It will start to fluff just a bit, stir again and then pour into a 9x13 greased with olive oil pan. Bake in the pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until it is golden brown on the top and there is not a gooey middle. After it is baked, pull from the oven and let it completely cool down. Cut the bread into 1 x 1 inch cubes and let sit out for a few hours to continue to dry a bit. It is fine to leave it over night covered as well. Then, after a while of cooling, fork out the cubes onto a cookie sheet and spread them out. Put them in a 275 degree oven for 1 hour so that they can dry out and become more like crunchy bread cubes. Make sure you do not burn them, so keep an eye on them.

Pull from the oven after an hour and let them cool down just a bit. Then you can start working on the rest of the fillings.

Savory Juices to the Stuffing

1 medium to large onion finely chopped
4-5 minced garlic cloves
3 large stalks of celery finely diced
1 cup of fresh chopped spinach
handful of fresh sage (1-2 TB)
handful of fresh diced parsley (1-2 TB)
leaves from a fresh thyme twig (1 TB or so)
2 cups of vegetable broth

Dice the onion and garlic and then saute in a large frying pan (big enough to hold 2 cups of broth and the herbs as well). After the onion and garlic get soft, add the diced celery and spinach. Cook for a few minutes and then add the broth and herbs. Stir and cook for about 5 more minutes to let the flavors cook together.

Put all of the dried cornbread cubes in a large Pyrex or Corningware dish (like 9x13 size). Then pour the herb, onion liquid over the bread and lightly toss with a large spoon or fork. Be careful not to break down the bread too much. Then Cover with a thick piece of foil or other cover and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour, but up to 4-6 hours in fine too. Then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and you have warm, delicious, homemade, gluten-free stuffing.

This recipe is my new found favorite side dish. The cornbread is perfectly crunchy and moist and the I felt like I was truly getting enjoy to enjoy the holiday meal. It has been quite a few year of eating gluten-free for me, and I was ready to not just have a piece of turkey and vegetables. The stuffing made it complete. I hope you make this recipe, because it does not disappoint. Even if you make it for a non-holiday meal, try it out as a hearty side dish and I bet you will be craving for it later. Just saying...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fresh Pumpkin Pie (gluten and dairy free)

The Thanksgiving holiday is over and Christmas cheer is in full blast. Parties, gifts, and special treats. This recipe I created this past week for Thanksgiving, but it can be made again and again this holiday season to enjoy the cheer and flavors. I understand. I get it. It's hard to sit by during the holidays and say "no" to so many desserts and comfort foods. My drive behind finding a wholesome and delicious recipe is out of my own selfish desire to indulge in the results. I love when I can make a favorite dessert without guilt and know that this dessert is not going to make me sick or manifest regrets in any way. It is a beautiful masterpieces of great flavors and holiday charm.

I created this recipe out of love for wanting to use my fresh pureed pumpkin. So many pumpkin pie recipes call for the canned pumpkin (no offense to "the can" intended). Yet, there is just something special about using fresh pumpkin in your baking and cooking. It is fresher, has so much flavor and can go a long way. Once you dive in and bake the pumpkin, I guarantee you won't go back to the can. And, not to mention you can get around 8 cups of blended pumpkin after just baking two medium pumpkins. It goes a long way, and it's fun to find ways to use and enjoy it. I think some pumpkin scones are in my near future!
The gluten-free crust is one that you do not need to put a ton of time into and can be made on an individual pie basis. It turns out crispy and flaky in it's own gluten-free way. It is the perfect amount of sweet and crispy to be paired with such a rich and cool pumpkin pie.
This pie can be made vegan if you omit the egg. I did you an egg on this one, but if you are trying to follow a vegan diet, then just forget the egg and the pie will turn out fine. The egg is really just added as a "binding" agent and to help the pie rise a little bit more. Without the egg it will just settle a little more and stick be thick and creamy.

Fresh Pumpkin Pie Recipe

1/2 cup of white rice flour (or I have used fresh ground buckwheat flour as well)
1 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
2 TB of apple cider vinegar
(may need 1 TB of pure water if the dough is too dry)
1/2 ts. of sea salt

Mix all of the crust ingredients in a mixing bowl and then roll into a ball. Place between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out so that you have about a 9-10 inch circle. Un-peel the parchment paper back and press the crust into a standard glass pie baking pan and then press into the sides. Design a crust edge and poke a fork into the bottom and sides for the crust to bake and breath comfortably. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Or until your crust is golden brown. Pull from the oven and let completely cool before adding the pumpkin mixture.

Pumpkin Mixture:

2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cup of coconut milk beverage or hemp milk
1 ts. of pure vanilla (or add 12 drops of Nu Naturals pure vanilla stevia liquid)
1/3 cup of fresh buckwheat flour
3 TB of pure maple syrup
2 TB of baking oil (light olive oil or coconut oil)
2 TB of tapioca flour
2 ts. of baking powder
1 farm fresh egg or water-flax mixture (optional, because it can be cooked without an egg if you desire)
1 TB of pumpkin pie spice (or 1 ts. of each: ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg)

Mix all the above ingredients in a large mixing bowl until the mix is blended completely and lusciously smooth. Pour all of the mixture into the cooled pie crust and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. It will be baking above the crust in the oven and when you pull it form the oven. Wait about 10-15 minutes and the pie will settle and cool and shrink about 2-3 inches down. This photo below was taken right after it was pulled from the oven and as you can see it is a bit puffy still from being baked. Let pie cool and chill in the fridge to attain the desired pumpkin pie texture and taste.
This was the pie I served my gluten-free family and friends over Thanksgiving. It was enjoyed and devoured. I must say that I myself enjoy a piece for a leftover breakfast with a hot cup of tea. It is perfect. And totally ok if you are waking before the crack of dawn to reach all of the mall-sales. Why not? You are working over-time to keep up with all the holiday fun, so indulge for a moment and let yourself truly enjoy.

Much love and seasonal cheer to you today!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sweet Potato Cornbread

It's time to enjoy some fresh bread! An exciting and fun idea to the gluten-free friend. We do not eat bread very often, and if we do it had been specially prepared and it is kinda a science experiment all by itself. This bread recipe is not difficult, and yes it is not a loaf of sandwich bread or anything like that, but it is a great "bread" to serve with any soup or salad if you craving something beyond the gluten-free cracker. This recipe I made to go with a nice pot of soup I had bubbling a few days ago, my fresh pumpkin soup. This bread paired perfectly with it, but really this bread is so yummy and moist you could pair it with almost any soup or salad meal. 

You can really sink you teeth into this one, it is moist, crumbly and kinda sweet really. Well, yes those sweet potatoes will sweeten almost anything up, not to mention warming your insides. One of my favorite foods this time of year. And a potato that has less the carbs and starchy content so I feel like I am eating more of my vegetables. Sweet potatoes come from the ground, beneath the dirt because they are a root. These kind of vegetables have a way of rooting our beings as well. They come from the ground and have a way of "grounding" us this time of year when we start to settle into the warm rooms of our home. It is symbolic to where our hearts are. We find ourselves not in the flighty fully fresh and green produce of summer, but in the warm, grounding and settling sweet potato of early winter. 

This is where I find my heart this time of year...

Sweet Potato Corn Bread:
1 cup of organic cornmeal
1 cup of organic corn flour
1/2 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1 ts. of aluminum free baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/3 cup of olive oil, or other baking oil
1/3 cup of fresh local honey
1 cup of cooked, smashed sweet potato
2 farm fresh eggs
1 cup of non-dairy milk (almond or coconut milk beverage is best)
***1 TB of apple cider vinegar, add this TB to a separate bowl with the milk above and let sit for 10 minutes to curdle***
1/2 ts. of paprika
1/2 ts. of ground cumin
1 ts of pumpkin pie spice ( or 1/2 cinnamon/nutmeg will work too)
1/2 ts of ground black pepper
1 ts of sea salt

Mix all of the dry ingredients separately in a bowl, and then separately mix the milk and apple cider vinegar together to let sit for 10 minutes to help curdle. Then mix the dry and the wet together, and add the eggs, oil and honey. Lastly add the mashed sweet potato and mix all together to get a smooth and thick consistency. 

Grease up a 9x13 pan with a little olive oil, and then pour the batter in and let sit just a second before placing in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Bake until it is browning on the tops and the center is cooked all the way through. Make sure not to over cook because it will be dry, but if you undercook too it will be too wet and start to ferment after baking. 30 minutes should be enough baking time, but in my oven I had to go a few minutes over that to just make sure it was completely done. 

Serve warm from the oven, or when it is completely cool. Enjoy with some fresh pasture organic butter, ghee, or even a nut butter.
To be honest, it is quite alright without even any butter or ghee. It is so moist, and yummy you will want to lick your plate. It is a bit crumbly, if you want to try an avoid that more for some reason you could add a dash or so of some xanthan gum to bind it just bit. I actually like it just a bit crumbly so I can eat all the pieces...

Maybe this is a way to use up some leftover baked sweet potatoes if you have those around from the holiday. I love sweet potatoes and could eat them at every meal. Yes, I am serious. They are so filling and warming. What a great foods from the earth this time of year!

Have a great weekend and enjoy some good company with some good food.

Much love to you all!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fresh Pumpkin Soup

It's Thanksgiving Day, and the smells coming from the kitchen start before the sun rises. Yesterday was full of prep for the pies, the corn bread stuffing, sauces, and appetizers. I am not in charge of the turkey this year at all, so I just have to worry about some of the fixin's. To be honest, the bird kind of intimidates me a bit, so to not have a "shot" at it this year is ok with me. Maybe next year is what I am thinking... or maybe even later this winter...

One of my favorite dishes for Thanksgiving, is actually a soup. Pumpkin soup so it is completely festive and flavorful. This soup is pre-dinner, and pre-dessert, but really I would be satisfied with just a big bowl of this delectable soup and call it good. It is perfectly pumpkin. Perfectly sweet and savory in it's own perfect way. This is the perfect holiday to serve such a perfect soup. 

I made a huge pot of it to share with the family meal and it was simple to make ahead and have simmering in the crock pot to have with appetizers and even with dinner. The hardest part to the soup is really just the prep time and blending on the fresh pumpkin. I baked 2 large pumpkins yesterday, and it made about 8 cups of pumpkin puree. Other than that step, this soup is a piece of cake, or maybe pie in this case.
To roast or bake a pumpkin, you have to cut it open, de-seed it, rinse, then put in the oven on 450 degrees for about 1 hour or until soft enough to slice through with a butter knife. I pull it out of the oven, and then it cool almost completely and then peal the skin off, and put all the soft pieces in the blender or food processor so that that you can puree it. Sometimes you need a few splashes of water to get it moving, but then after a while you will have about 4 cups of fresh pureed pumpkin per baked medium pumpkin. You don't even have to bake the "pie" pumpkin if you do not want to. All pumpkins can be roasted, the pie pumpkins have a little more flavor and thickness to them so that is why they are specifically used to pumpkin pies. 

Fresh Pumpkin Soup Recipe:
1 cup of diced yellow onion
4 minced garlic cloves
2 TB of olive oil
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of pure water
4 cups of fresh pumpkin puree
1 ts of pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
1/2 ts. of paprika
1/2 ts. of ground cumin
1 ts. of ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 ts. of sea salt
handful of mixed fresh herbs finely chopped (parsley, sage, thyme)
1 can of whole-fat coconut milk
In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes until soft. Then add the water, broth, pumpkin, and spices. Let that start to cook and boil, then turn the heat down just a bit and add the fresh herbs and coconut milk. Continuing stirring and watch it start to bubble and foam. Turn down the heat and let it stay warm to serve, or this is when you can transfer to the crock pot to stay warm for hours to serve before or with dinner. 

Then, the most important part is to serve with love. Also, I like to make a corn bread to go with this soup. Yesterday I made some sweet potato cornbread....recipe coming soon. Really though, this soup is so thick and full of flavor you will not feel like you are missing any nutrients or sides. Just enjoy!

This is one of the dishes I will be sharing with family this Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorites, so even if everyone is more concerned with all the other side dishes or whether or not the turkey is done... I don't really care because this soup is comfort and warmth in a bowl.

I hope you enjoy and have a blessed holiday with family and friends.  There is always so much to be thankful for, and to have a day to set aside and share love and gratefulness is such a blessed tradition. Enjoy!

Much love to you friends!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cranberry-Apple Sauce (refined sugar-free)

Can you believe it is Thanksgiving week already? Seems impossible, but it is true. This time of year can be one of the most wonderful times of the year for delicious and nutritious food. With so many plentiful fall veggies, mixing that with the savory flavors of thanksgiving it is just a wonderful time to indulge in good homemade creations.
I just recently found out that we can buy local cranberries in Michigan. There is a farm just south of Grand Rapids in Holland, Michigan area. They are a blueberry and other fruit farm, and they have just recently decided to try out producing cranberries. This is quite exciting! Here is a local newspaper article about the farm they come from. Most cranberries are produced on the east coast of the US, or in Wisconsin or Washington State, so to have some of our very own Michigan cranberries is a treat. They are not super expensive either, just about 2 dollars for 12 ounces. So, really, if you want to try and make your own refined sugar- free cranberry sauce and you hate it, it was only 2 dollars wasted :) Ok, but I know you will love it. It is a fun little experiment and the colors and smells are delicious.
Cranberry Sauce:4 cups of fresh, cleaned cranberries
2 cups of pure water
juice of one lemon or organic orange
1/2 cup of raw honey
1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
4 pealed and diced apples
2 ts. of ground cinnamon
*** You could easily half this recipe in half if you want to make less***
***You could substitute the lemon juice for either apple cider or orange juice***
***If you need to add more syrup/honey to sweeten more, do so for your own taste***
First of all, you will want to wash and pour the washed, whole cranberries into a large pot. Then pour in the water, syrup, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon. Let this start getting warm, which will produce a popping noise... almost like popcorn, except it's a louder pop. They will cook for about 10 minutes and you will start to produce some red cranberry juices and foam.
Keep stirring and allowing the juices and berries to mix and start to mush together. This is when you add in the diced and pealed apple pieces. Continue to cook for about 5-10 more minutes on a lower heat, just until the apples are soft enough to eat. The cranberries and apples will gel together without the use of gelatin and the sweet and tart flavor will be just perfect.
There is nothing real special about this recipe except that it shows you that you can make something like cranberry sauce on your own, and that you do not have to use table sugar or refined sweeteners. It can be done without adding anything unhealthy and it is just as yummy.
Cranberries are very healthy for you. Especially in the fall, they help cleanse your blood and make your kidneys and bladder stronger for the winter months of less fresh foods and vitamin D. They are full of antioxidants that can help build your immune system to stay well and strong.
Cranberry sauce could be a great side to your Thanksgiving dinner, or topped on top of some baked salmon, chicken, or turkey. Or, you could add it to the top of a piece of some pumpkin cheesecake, or to the tops of some pumpkin pancakes. Really you can get pretty creative with this sauce. It's a nice thing to have around this time of year.
I hope you find rest and joy this week, and are able to truly find thankfulness for life and all of it's gifts!
Much love to you!