Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Creamy Herb Nut "Cheese" Dip (vegan)

Well, Christmas has come and gone as fast as it always does, and the new year is just around the corner. This was our first Christmas with a baby, and it was more fun than I thought it would be. And, he doesn't even care about presents or treats yet! Maybe that is because he is only 2 months old, but it was fun to celebrate the holiday with him and our families. A new baby brings so much joy to life and family. It is fun to experience it and be a part of something bigger than yourself. I am so thankful for family and love this Christmas.

I didn't do a bunch of cooking this holiday, but I did do a lot of cookie baking. I made 5 batches of my favorite GF/DF cookies and they went with us to every gathering we attended. It was a fun treat, and it was something I knew I could eat whenever dessert time was in full swing.
I shared one of my new favorite recipes in my last post. I think I made that recipe 3 times in a week to share with friends. It is my new found favorite, and I know I will be making those all year now. My husband has been enjoying the cookies, but then asked me last night to never make cookies again because he can't stop eating them. I told him I would for him of course, but let's be honest... I could never really stop baking and inventing new cookies, haha :)

Now, my thoughts come to the New Year holiday. I love to celebrate a new year, but really I feel we are more like celebrating the old year and then looking hopefully ahead to the new year to be full of life as the last. I know many of my friends and family have had a rough year this past one, and are looking to have a fresh start and a breath of fresh air. I couldn't agree more than a "new year" is a time to feel like to start something new, or let something go. This past year for me has been one of many changes, and I am looking forward to the next to see what another year of loving life may bring.
And, of course, we need a good dairy-free, gluten-free recipe to celebrate! How about some nut cheese dip to enjoy those GF crackers and veggies with. I know dairy-free "cheese" never sounds that interesting, and to be honest I would love to indulge in some goat cheese right now, but I am making the sacrifice to be strictly dairy-free while nursing my newborn, and so I must create and indulge in a savory nut cheese instead. And, it is not that bad. It is deceivingly good. So I will share the little creation I made to spice up your dairy-free life...

Creamy Herb Nut "Cheese" Dip Recipe
1 cup of soaked raw cashews for 6-8 hours (soak the raw cashews in water for 6-8 hours in a glass bowl or container, just cover the nuts in water and then after the soaking time, rinse 2-3 times under clean water, then they are ready to use).
1 ts. of apple cider vinegar
juice from one lemon ( 2 TB of juice)
1 ts. of sea salt
1-2 ts. of Italian herb spice blend
1 ts. of minced garlic, or onion works too

Optional: Roll finished cheese in pecans or fresh herbs

Put all the above ingredients in a food processor (or high powdered blender) and blend on high for a few minutes until the nut cheese is creamy. Put in the fridge to get cold and firmer, and then pull from the fridge and roll in pecan pieces before you serve. You can roll into a ball-like form and put on a plate to serve up with the crackers or veggies. Or, if you want to just keep it in a bowl as a dip that works too. Be creative and enjoy the ability to do what you want with this creation. My favorite crackers are, "Mary's Gone Crackers" in any of her varieties. They are crunchy and perfect for dipping.

Here are a few more New Year's appetizer ideas for you this season:

And I am sure I will be making some more cookies, or a finger-food dessert as well. I hope you have a blessed end of 2010, and that you look forward to the new year in hope for a better year than the last!

Much love to you, friends!



Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cranberry Oat Gingerbread Cookies (vegan)

Cookies are my favorite thing to bake around Christmas, so many kinds of cookies. I love to make some 10 varieties and then try one of each. I know, that's indulgent, but still... it's only Christmas once a year, right?! Well, let's just say maybe only one cookie a day then. But if you are gonna eat a cookie, it better be good, and why not good for you too. Santa needs fiber as well, it's not just for us healthy kids. Although, I bet Santa has to work on that belly to impress the kids *wink*. But because we all know that Santa would appreciate a some fiber around the holiday feasting, that is why I came up with this whole grain, vegan cookie to satisfy the craving!

You gotta love how at Christmas time the magical beauty of gift giving, Santa Clause, and sitting close to home with loved ones warms the soul. It is a magical time of being thankful for every single gift in your life. It is a quiet and peaceful time to reflect upon the year and the love you have shared. It is more than just one day to gather and unwrap all the gifts you just scurried to buy and wrap. It is about the greatest gift of all... God sending His son, to this earth, to say, "I am with you!" You are not alone, God is with you and on your side. Which is the greatest gift and love of all! That is the love and peace that fill my heart this season and I am so excited to share this love with my family and friends. And in the meantime... share some goodness in the form of a healthy cookie recipe to make and enjoy this season.

Not to mention, these cookies smell and look beautiful too. A perfect blend of spices and red cranberries to cheer you up on any day. Good food just looks good, doesn't it?! I think so, and my favorite part is that eating whole grain vegan cookies just make you feel good too. No guilty sugar highs and lows, and no regrets to try and fix. Just a lovely cookie to enjoy!

Cranberry Oat Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
1 cup of buckwheat flour 
3 TB of flaxseed meal 
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 1/2 ts. of pumpkin pie spice blend
1 ts. of pure vanilla
3 TB of So Delicious coconut milk beverage or other milk product
2 TB of unsweetened applesauce (or 2 more TB's of coconut milk beverage)
1 TB of maple syrup
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

Mix all of the dry ingredients first together in a large mixing bowl. Then add the wet ingredients and mix well, the dry and wet will have to sit together for a minute to let all the ingredients soak into each other and blend well. It is a pretty sticky batter and that is ok. Lastly, add the dried cranberries and mix well. Use a TB to spoon out the cookie dough onto a parchment papered pan. Bake 12 to a pan, in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Pull from the oven and do not touch.... let 5-10 minutes go by before you moved from the pan, so that the cookies can dry and sit so to avoid crumbling. These will be perfectly chewy and crispy then. Then, move from the pan and start again, this recipe makes about 24 cookies. A tip before you put them in the oven would be to press them down just slightly on the pan so that they spread better, but really, these vegan cookies are so yummy without the eggs that you won't even notice.

And because I love cookies so much at Christmastime, I made a variety last December that I will be making again for sure...

And, these probably won't make it till Christmas Eve under the tree for Santa, sooooo... it's time for sharing with friends and family!

Hope you have a warm and cozy day!

Much love to you!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Munch Mix

It's that time of year... the mall parking lot is full to the last spot and the holiday commercials are flooding your mind. Whether or not you have finished your Christmas shopping yet, you may be looking for some creative extra gift giving ideas for friends, neighbors and teachers. There is something about homemade gifts that share more than a gift... they share uniqueness and creative love. I love receiving jams, cookies, and granola. So special to get some tasty treats to try around the holidays or serve at a holiday party. That is how this "munch mix" came into creation. It is super easy and could even be made in a last minute whim for a party "chex" mix kinda treat. I know they make certain chex mix cereals gluten-free so it is possible to probably make the traditional chex mix gluten-free if you wanted. But, this mix is slightly inspired by those delicious sugar and cinnamon roasted almonds that you can find at the mall, or maybe the county fair.
The great thing about this mix is that it is very easy to make, the ingredients are pretty simple and inexpensive, and you can make a big bowl for a party or wrap it all up in cute holiday bags as gifts. It is very simple and fun! A good idea for kids to get involved in gifts for friends and teachers... not to mention a yummy snack later to enjoy. Here is the recipe I used to make this creation...
Holiday Munch Mix Recipe
4 cups of gluten-free Nature's Path Whole O's cereal or other GF cereal of choice
2 cups of almonds (or pecans)
2 cups of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil
1 TB of pure vanilla
1 ts. of sea salt
2 ts. of ground cinnamon

other optional additions: 1 cup dried coconut, or sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pour onto a parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Then pull from the oven, do not touch, it will be very hot and sticky. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, or you can let cool for hours on the counter. When it is cool then mix it again with a spoon and toss in a bowl, or get ready to bag for gifts. I had some cute see-through cellophane bags to package it, then tied it with a ribbon and then had a few cute holiday stickers and also a sticker saying it was a creation from my kitchen. This mix can go a long way in entertaining this holiday season!

I have been trying to get creative in gift giving this year and have been searching other's ideas in making cute, frugal and even nutritious holiday gifts. So... this is just one of them that is an easy, fun addition. Here is another idea to wrap up in a tin or baggy: Cinnamon Vanilla Nuts from the Nourishing Gourmet, or Cookie Mix in a Jar from Elana's Pantry.

I hope you enjoy and have a great weekend!

Much love!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Banana Nut Bread (gluten-free and vegan)

I made this lovely loaf of banana bread yesterday to use up some really ripe bananas that got abandoned in the craziness of the Thanksgiving holiday. Those 4 "ripe" but almost rotten bananas thought they were going to waste away or see the trash before they got eaten, but no.

Not to worry. Make some fresh banana bread and enjoy it's sweetness.

That is the great thing about banana bread. You have to use those overly ripe bananas that you wouldn't eat otherwise, and they are extra sweet when baked so you hardly have to use any sugar or sweetener. Besides, tasting wonderful, why not make enough to snack and then eat for breakfast. You have to love waking up in the morning and having that healthy loaf of yummy bread looking at you. It makes a cup of hot tea and a slow morning by the window welcome.

I love banana bread. A childhood favorite and an adulthood pleasure.

But, now let's make it interesting with a gluten-free blend of flour that adds flavor and perfect texture. And, let's make it vegan. Save the eggs and dairy, and enjoy the simplicity of a good loaf of pure banana goodness. This bread is simple, sweet and perfect holiday recovery bread. Perfect with the crunch of walnuts and almonds, and perfect for the gluten-free vegan.
Every bite is full of chewy sweetness. So yummy, you may not want to share. But, it's almost Christmas, so you better start thinking up some holiday cheer and love. Maybe make 2 loaves and share one with your neighbor. What a perfect holiday gift for a loved one! Banana bread sharing is one of the best wrapped treats there is. Bake with love, wrap with care and share it with a friend (and don't forget to attach the recipe). Oh dear, I think I may need to make another batch... to have more to share... :)Banana Nut Bread Recipe
1/4 cup of flax meal (ground flax seeds)
1/4 cup of gluten-free oats
1/2 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1 cup of almond meal (flour works too, or grind up almonds)
1/2 cup of walnut pieces
2 ts. of baking powder
2 ts. of baking soda
1 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of xanthan gum
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
2/3 cup of sucanat
1 ts. of pure vanilla
1 cup of So Delicious coconut milk beverage or other non-dairy milk
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil
4 ripe, mashed bananas

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, then add the wet, and finally the bananas and nuts. Add optional other ingredients like dried fruit, or chocolate chips for extra lovin'.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
This recipe makes 2 small loaves in bread loaf pans, or make one big cake in a 9x13 pan, or you could make 12 cupcake muffins as well.

Store at room temperature up to 3 days for best taste.
This bread will knock your socks off, and you will save this recipe to make again and again. I can almost promise you that. It is so moist and so naturally sweet, that you will be loving every bite more than the last.

Enjoy friends, have a happy day..... tomorrow is December already, and rumor has it that the first snow is going to come on such a day.

Much love to you!



Monday, November 22, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Can you believe it is Thanksgiving week already?! It so great to start a Monday knowing it will be a short work week, and a week to enjoy food, family and friends. I have been spending the morning making the final grocery lists and baking off some fresh pumpkin (some tips here to roast your own fresh pumpkin) and roasting it's seeds. It smells so good in my kitchen! Fresh pumpkin isn't the greatest smell when you cut into it and spoon out all of the seeds, but then after you have it baking in the oven for a while, it starts smelling that 'pumpkin-pie-kinda' smell. It's comforting on a a rainy cold fall day like today.

So, the menu is in process and the last minute ideas are swirling. I am picking up my locally raised turkey tonight, and reading up on all the best secrets to roast the perfect bird. My family and I do not eat meat very often, but when we do, we like to make it fresh, local, and without all the processed junk in it. It will be a treat and an adventure to make this meal and I am thoroughly looking forward to each part...

But for today, how about some pumpkin muffins to get ready for the holiday week. Something special to enjoy the season before it gets too busy in a few days. Also, this recipe would be a delite for any Thanksgiving meal, or day-after breakfast when you either sit home all warm and cuddled up with Christmas music, or if you are one of those running out the door at 4am to get the craziest sale door buster. So, my gluten-free friends, please enjoy the creating a meal process and make something special this holiday season to 'WOW' your taste buds and celebrate all the good things that God has blessed us with. Many blessings to you, and I hope and pray that you find true thankfulness and gratefulness in your life this year.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins Recipe
1/3 cup of buckwheat flour
1/3 cup of brown rice flour
1/3 cup of white rice flour
1 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1/4 cup of tapioca flour
OR, if you have a favorite gluten-free flour mix you like to use, then just substitute the 5 above flours for 2 1/4 cup of your favorite gluten-free flour blend.

1 cup of sucanat (or other dried sweetener like palm, beet or coconut sugar)
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of cinnamon
1/2 ts. of ginger
1/2 ts. of cloves
1/2 ts. of nutmeg

1 TB of apple cider vinegar

*Set aside the coconut milk and the TB of apple cider vinegar in a a separate bowl and let sit for 10 minutes to create a 'buttermilk' like substance and then add to the rest of the mixing bowl with the other wet ingredients.

1 ts. of pure vanilla
2 farm fresh eggs
1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
1 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (fresh or can)
3 TB of molasses

Optional additional ingredients:
1/3 cup of toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for a topping
1/3 cup of dried cranberries, or raisins added to the muffin mix
1/2 cup of chocolate chips for mixing or for topping

Mix all the dry ingredients together first, and then add the wet ingredients to the same bowl, mix well and make sure all of the oil, eggs and pumpkin puree get thoroughly mixed into the batter. Pour into 12 large muffin liners in the tin, and bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. If you want to turn this batter into a cake or bread, that is totally possible, just adjust baking times.

Some of the dishes I am making this week for Thanksgiving!

I am also making my first, locally raised, free-range, hormone and chemical free turkey- So I will post my pictures and directions for that recipe soon!

I also plan on trying a cranberry pie tart that looks just as yummy as it sounds.

I hope you have a blessed and restful Thanksgiving with those you love!

Much love to you friends.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quinoa Protein Bread (vegan)

Good morning, sunshine! It has been a pretty sunny November here in Michigan, which of course is never a complaint for it's residents. Some say it is sunny days like these that help us survive the long winter that is ahead of us, and each day of sunshine is a gift knowing that it may be our last for weeks or even months. As the weather has been changing, it is easy to see the changes that take place in our bodies as well. It seems like with winter knocking at the door, our bodies want to hibernate a bit and start to crave the warm, hearty and even fattening foods. Foods that will insulate our skin against the cold and sickness. There is something very natural about living with, and eating with the seasons. The more you start to eat what is in season, the more you are aware of your body and what it needs in different times of the year.
The warm winter squashes, hearty whole grains and even warming stews full of meat and veggies are more than comfort during the cold months. They keep your immunities up while the sun refuses to shine. Yet, filling up on food over the holidays and snow days may make you feel regretful next spring when you want to fit into your tiny swimsuit, so you have to eat for health over the winter season, and not for pure comfort. What does this mean?

Well, this means that over the holidays, don't let yourself eat 3 pieces of pie just because. Even though our body's may "crave" more warming comfort foods in the cold we can be more aware of it and fill up on hearty whole foods that will sustain us and nurture us for the long haul. Let yourself enjoy special treats, but stay the healthy course of eating a balanced diet of vegetables, whole grains and protein. This means you have to eat quality, over quantity. Eating healthy fats, grains and protein that will fill you up and sustain you longer than empty calories (from the holiday party table). So, that is why this bread came into existence for me. I have been needing more protein in my diet as of late (new nursing momma here), and this bread hits just the spot when I am looking for a good breakfast or snack. It just feels right to eat a hearty bread with a bowl of warming soup or stew. Unfortunately, the smoothie and raw lettuce wrap seem a bit cold for a Michigan resident this time of year.
This bread is full of whole grains with cooked quinoa and whole grain flours. It will not make your blood sugar jump, or have you needing even more than a slice can offer. It is the perfect snack for this nursing momma that has barely time enough to feed herself but still needs nourishment more than ever. And it was a nice 15 minute break while baby slept to have some "me" time in the kitchen. Oh how I love to bake...

Quinoa Protein Bread Recipe
3/4 cup of almond flour (or ground whole almonds in your coffee grinder/food processor)
3/4 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1 cup of cooked quinoa
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of xanthan gum (optional for texture)
1/3 cup of flaxmeal (ground flax seeds in coffee grinder)
1/4 cup of maple syrup or agave nectar
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of SoDelicious coconut milk beverage (or other non-dairy milk)
2/3 cup of pure water
1 TB of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

Mix all of the dry ingredients and quinoa in a large mixing bowl together, then add all the wet in the same bowl and then mix well together. Let sit together for a few minutes to let the moisture be absorbed by the dry ingredients and to let the xanthan gum and flaxmeal to gel. Then oil a bread pan or tin and put the whole mix in the bread pan. Pat the top and dust with some rice flour if you desire. Then put in a pre-heated oven of 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Check the baking bread at 50 minutes to see if the bread is cooked all the way through with a pick to the middle of the bread, if not, bake another 10 minutes. Let cool at least 10-15 minutes before plopping from the bread tin to a plate or rack to cool down. Also, wait that same amount of time before you cut into the loaf so that the bread stays together better. Then.... eat and enjoy!
Use some of the leftover cooked quinoa in your fridge for this hearty bread. Nourish yourself and stay warm this season. I hope you have a fantastic day and enjoy it's gifts for all it's worth!

Much love to you!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Donut Cake (vegan)

This time of year I sometimes get the feeling that eating gluten-free is harder than it seems. Like when Fall rolls around and you wish you could go to the local orchard and have that fresh cider and warm donut while enjoying the orchard beauty. Or with the holidays, you get that nostalgic love for something special to wake up to on Christmas morning. Gluten-free eating is an adventure for sure. Living gluten-free was one of the best, healthiest choices I ever made in my life and I never regret it. Yet, that doesn't mean that it isn't hard or seemingly impossible some days. I think you know what I mean.

The holidays.

The beautiful, sacred, family-filled space that can be the best of times and the worst of times. I hope and pray for your sake that you have family and friends in your life that will support you and love on you when it comes to the 'food' scene at your holiday table. Because we are a culture that surrounds ourselves with comfort and traditions of the holiday season it is hard to sometimes change what you have been doing since the beginning of time (or at least hard to change your aunt, mother-in-law or grandma's mind).

My best suggestion is that you try not to change everything all in one meal with your family and friends. Really, it isn't worth having to pull teeth for people to understand your dietary restrictions. If they are willing and want to understand and change, then that is another thing. But from my experience (and with talking with many others with similar diet restrictions), it is always harder than easier it seems. So, with that in mind, my best move to have a joyful holiday when it comes to food, bring a dish that you know you can eat. That means, you bring the spinach salad, quinoa stirfry, or green beans. If you want to make sure to have a dessert that you can eat, then you make the gluten-free cake, the fresh pie or the healthy cookies. Don't require everyone to change just for you. Just introduce a little more of the healthier food choices by bringing a dish to pass. That's how I survive the holidays. It is kinda fun to experiment making a dish, and then when you have others try it at the dinner you would be surprised how people find it more inviting to hear more about how you eat or what you eat.

Also, another thing I tell people about bringing food to a gathering. "Don't take it personal!" That is if you brought a special healthier version of pumpkin pie, maybe you made it from scratch, or it is raw, or whatever, and it is delicious in your opinion! Yet, you can't get your dad to try it because he is just too used to the norm. Well then, don't take it personally! Just remember not every one is at the same place you are at with loving fresh foods or wanting to eat healthy. So introduce and share what you can and when you can, but don't expect it to blow their minds as much as it might yours! :) Just another point of advice from my own experience. I love to share my food with people, but sometimes it is just more exciting for me to have a gluten-free cookie than them. But that is ok. I will leave a few dishes I have made over the holidays at the end of this post so that if you are looking for a dish to share you have a few to try out.

But let's get back to my original reason for thinking about holiday eating... this recipe.

There is an orchard I used to go to in college that was a walk away from my dorm building. I would go with my friends for a cup of cider and a yummy warm donut. There is something about this time of year that would make a gluten-free person ache for a donut more than usual. So, what do you do... you make a treat of your own to enjoy and then still go to the orchard to stock up on apples for winter.

Gluten-free flours can be a bit hard to start using and seem like a new language for beginners. Yet, just start somewhere... like buying a GF flour mix and finding a recipe to try out. This recipe is a good one for that too. The flours can be found at any health store, and may even be found in your regular grocery store now since they are starting to stock GF options at more and more stores.
This is a slice of the gooey, cinnamon, apple cake bread. It really does taste like a donut to me. I can't keep my fingers away from stealing a piece. I hope you try this one out... it is really yummy and you will make it again and again... like maybe on Christmas morning, or just for a fun breakfast treat.

Apple Cinnamon Donut Bread Recipe

1 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/2 cup of hard extra virgin coconut oil

1 cup of finely diced apple slices

1 cup of sucanat, or powdered sweetener like beet, date, palm or coconut sugar
2 TB of cinnamon
1/2 cup of melted Earth Balance (soy free option) or melted coconut oil

Mix the flour, dry ingredients, and hard coconut oil together in a large mixing bowl first. Then you will have a crumbly flour mix, that is when you add the cup of coconut milk and mix more with a spatula or spoon. This will turn into a sticky batter that will kinda resemble a biscuit mix batter. Then dice the apple and toss that into the batter as well. Then mix together the melted oil or earth balance spread with the sucanat and cinnamon. This will turn into a syrup or gooey mix. Then take the batter and roll chunks of it, or like donut holes and place them in the bottom of a funnel cake or bundt pan. Roll lots of the chunks of batter and then pour the gooey filling over top the batter, you may need to mix the batter a bit with the filling in the pan so that the batter gets coated with the filling all over. You layer the donut-hole pieces of batter that are coated in the filling on top of each other in the pan. You could make this kinda like a monkey bread recipe if that is easier, but ultimately you are just tossing the batter and the filling together in the pan so that they can all bake up together nicely. It will taste good no matter what it looks like.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. This bread or cake, will serve up to 8 people.

Eat warm from the oven with some fresh apple cider and soak up the rich yumminess!!!

I hope you enjoy! Here are some more ideas for holiday treats and dishes to try out:

Much love to you today!



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Favorites

Hello Friends, It's been a busy few weeks. I have to announce the coming of my beautiful son, on October 6th, at 11:14pm. It was a long 30 hour labor and a busy few weeks adjusting and healing, but I thought I needed to put up a post to explain my absence. He is 2 1/2 weeks old and it seems like time has stopped and is revolving around his adorable face. Many of my closest friends have been delivering meals and food for my family and I couldn't be more grateful. So, I have taken a sabbatical from the kitchen for now, and even though it has been nice and obvious a must-do with a new baby, I am looking forward to cooking and baking again soon. Until then, I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes to make this time of year with the abundance of fall produce and spices.

Those are just some of my favorites, I hope to be using the bushels of squash I have in my kitchen soon. Stay posted :) Until then, enjoy the fall flavors, scents and weather. Much love to you!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Butternut Squash Gluten-Free Gnocchi

Welcome to October! And, welcome me to being past-due-date pregnant. Ah, yes! I am miserable in a good way. I am not sure how that happens really. I feel miserable and antsy, but so super excited that it really can't be more than a week more till we meet our baby. So, I have been trying to balance keeping busy and resting. Which is how this recipe was invented. On the couch. Yes. And hungry. Going to the kitchen and realizing that the beautiful winter squash on the counter needed to be broken into. Which is 5 minute meal, but totally worth it when it's ready.

Winter squash and pumpkins make fall another reason to love the season. You have to make the effort to enjoy their flavors fresh, but seriously, totally worth the trouble. I bake like 2-3 at a time and the kitchen (here are some basic instructions for any winter squash baking) will be warm on a 50 degree day and the smell is sweet and fall-like. Kinda like the nostalgic smells of apple cider and pumpkin pie this time of year. Join in the fun and become domestic: bake your own pumpkins and squash. Say goodbye to canned and frozen squash, who knows where and when that came from anyways. It took me a few October's to really catch on, but now I fill my kitchen and cool basement with a bushel of squash and let it last and enjoy it for a few months. Perfect hibernation food. This is my first effort to use some of the butternut squash I baked a few days ago, and it turned out perfect. So, here's to October and baby-waiting!
I made a basic gluten-free gnocchi recipe last winter with just Yukon potatoes and it turned out great. My Italian husband even said that they tasted like his great-grandmother's from the old country, which of course made me blush, but really they were pretty good and I was surprised myself. I haven't have authentic gnocchi in a long time so we made have been deceiving ourselves, but still a nice special dish to enjoy with some gluten-free class.
Butternut Squash Gluten-Free Gnocchi Recipe
2 1/2 cups of boiled, cooled and mashed yellow potato
2 1/2 cups of baked and mashed butternut or buttercup or even pumpkin
1 cup of white rice flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour or starch (potato flour/starch works too)
1 ts. sea salt
1 ts. of cracked black pepper
1 TB of fresh chopped thyme
1 TB of fresh chopped sage
1 handful of fresh chopped basil
6 egg yokes, separated from whites and whipped together

Mix all the above ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs last and make sure you get everything well whipped together. Add more rice flour if you need to make it stiffer or to roll out on your parchment-topped table. Cut the dough into 4 parts (seen below) and pull out each section and roll into 1 long or 2 shorter logs. This batter may be sticky depending on your potato and squash moisture levels. Just remember that it is ok if it is sticky because it will cook fine in the boiling water in a minute.
Once you roll out the logs with a little flour on your paper, then cut the logs into about 12 pieces and you will have little "pillows" or shapes that you will have ready to dump in a large pot of boiling water. Have the largest pot you own boiling with 3/4 full of water. Gently drop the "raw" gnocchi pillows into the boiling water. Make sure not to overload the pot with the gnocchi. Put in like 24 at the most. Then wait like 5 minutes and you will see them start to float to the top of the boiling water. This is when you will know that they are cooked and ready for fetching. Use a strainer-ladle to retrieve them from the pot of water and place them in a drying plate or bowl to dry off just a bit. Then they are ready for serving with your favorite marinara sauce. I shared an easy tomato sauce in my last gnocchi recipe, but you can serve it with a favorite canned or jarred version as well to make it easy.

This recipe will make up to 96 gnocchi, so you can eat half in a meal and then freeze the other half. They are very filling, so at the most you could probably eat 8-12, so this recipe could serve up to 8 people at one setting, but like I said, they are great for freezing. I have been busy making and freezing a few meals and this recipe will work perfectly for pulling from the freezer for a quick and easy dinner.

Serve with a fresh side of veggies or salad to get the most out of your meal. Also, some meatballs or side of meat may be a good option as well.

I hope you try these delightful fall gnocchis out and enjoy. I love finding ways to use the squash I bake and have on hand in the fridge or freezer. One large butternut squash could leave you with 4-6 cups of squash to use, so in meals, breads and pies I find my way around using as much of it as I can. It is a nutritious and filling way to get the best out of your food this time of year. I am looking forward to being creative with it and enjoying the flavors of fall in the meantime. If you are wondering the best place/deal to find it, check out your local farmer's market. I could buy a whole bushel's worth (like 9-10 squash variety) for like 6 dollars. So super cheap and healthy. Besides that, they are like an instant fall decoration on the counter in the kitchen.

I hope you enjoy and have a blessed weekend!

Much love to you!



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coconut Almond Granola Cereal

Having one of those days? Tired, overwhelmed... Looking for a pick me up snack, or maybe a bowl of cereal for comfort? I know that's how I feel. I used to love cereal as a kid. If my mom would let me, I probably would eat cereal all day. And not anything healthy either...more like marshmallow cereal, or fruity something with a bunch of dyes and sugar. Oh to be a kid and have no concept of how sugar affects your body! Now, I crave a good amount of protein and hearty whole grains when I am searching for a cereal pick-me-up. And I could buy a gluten-free box of whole grain cereal for over 5 dollars at the store, but then again, that seems like a luxury sort of buy. So, why not make something yummy to add to a 2-3 dollar box of gluten-free plain cereal to get an added boost of protein and flavor. Or, if you are like me...enjoy your homemade cereal like it has been made to fit into the 5 dollar box.

This may seem like a repetitive recipe, but it is something new that I have been enjoying all week. It is pretty similar to any granola recipe, but because of the liquid coconut oil and agave nectar the oats soak up the good moisture and then when they bake turn into a nice crunchy, not really chewy cereal that is perfect for pouring milk on. And the almonds add the perfect crunchy bite that will have you searching for them at the bottom of your bowl. Almonds are no marshmallow surprise in your cereal, but you are a grown-up... you better have an upgrade from the special charm of a marshmallow. It will hit the spot too! Leave you feeling nourished and full for hours. Almonds and coconut have that kind of affect on your appetite and metabolism. They fill you up where you need to be sustained. Some almond experts even say that if you eat 7 almonds (at a time, or a day) that will suppress your appetite as needed and so you eat less and loose more calories in the process. And don't get me started with coconut oil.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat oil. It has many healing properties for external and internal use. Many women especially could benefit from the good essential fats that may help regulate hormones and make the body's natural rhythms run more smooth. There's always all this hype about fat and how it is bad for you, but in reality we do need a certain percentage of healthy fats in our bodies for them to think, run smoothly and have energy. Coconut oil and fat is one of those non-dairy kind of fats that you can count on for health. Yes, it may seem scary to you to eat the dreaded saturated fats, but I would challenge you to dig deeper into the healing benefits of the beloved oil. It is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and has been shown to help people actually loose weight because of the medium-chain-fatty-acids found in it's make up. It has been found to be beneficial also to digestive healing and metabolism boosting, and overall a benefit to heart and immune health because of the high doses of anti-oxidants and microbial properties. If you want to read more about the oil, check out the highlighted sentences to lead your to some linked articles with more info.
So, with all of that said about healthy coconut oil and how adding more almonds to your diet is never a bad thing, I share this very easy and simple recipe with you to boost your love for a granola/cereal snack. So, friends, here we go:

Coconut Almond Granola Cereal Recipe
3 heaping cups of gluten-free rolled oats
2 cups of raw almonds (or pieces would work too)
2 cups of raw coconut flakes
1/2 cup of raw agave nectar
1/2 cup of extra virgin organic coconut oil
1 TB of pure vanilla
1 TB of ground cinnamon
1 ts. of sea salt

Mix all of these simple ingredients together well, and then pour out on a 11x14 baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until it turns golden brown, then pull form the oven and stir with a wooden spoon to unearth the bottoms of the cereal, then add back tot he oven for another 10-15 minutes. Make sure to watch closely to not burn or get too brown. Every oven is different with moisture levels, so just make sure to keep an eye on it. When it is a nicely tossed all over golden brown, pull from the oven and let cool for one hour before moving into a container. You could let this cool for hours and hours if you want to get it even crunchier, but after an hour or so it is cool enough to bag. Break it up with a spoon or utensil so that has a nice tossed texture and is easily added to other cereals, or can be a perfect bowl of cereal or topped over ice cream or yogurt. Note: The amounts of all the ingredients in this simple cereal could easily be adjusted to your liking. I kept all dried fruit out of it to make a sure cereal without added fruit moisture.

There, wasn't that the simplest recipe ever. It turns out so good, I promise. And a perfect addition to any snack of yogurt, ice cream or bowl of cereal. I hope you enjoy and keep it simple today. Remember eating healthy with a busy lifestyle means keeping it simple with real foods and just having a plan in place so that you are not running to the vending machine at 3pm for a coke and candy bar. Take care of that body of yours, it's worth it! You are worth it!

Much love to you today!



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Crusty Gluten-Free French Bread

This is the promised bread recipe I made with my Red Lentil Soup the other day. I was inspired by Shauna at the Gluten-Free Girl blog, and her crusty boule bread recipe. I made a few adjustments to some of the ingredients. It was really easy, just took a few hours to make because of the yeast rising process. I have not made a yeast bread in a very long time. It was actually quite fun and reminded me of making yeasted home grown pizza dough as a kid. Oh those were the days...

I think a good bread recipe like this is one to have up your gluten-free-sleeve. It sometimes seems impossible to find a good soup or salad bread from a store for the gluten-free. I have had no luck where I live at least, so I am led to experiment and make a loaf of my own. I was pleasantly surprised how this loaf turned out and decided that it wasn't all that bad to be gluten-free :) I know, I sometimes have to convince myself of that in certain food situations. I have been doing this diet for almost 4 years now and it seems very natural, until I find myself at a traditional Italian restaurant or pizza parlor and I am reminded of my restricted diet. If you are like me, you settle for making the gourmet gluten-free Italian meal at home or in some cases find a gluten-free restaurant that has a fabulous menu that you can splurge on only for special occasions. And that is why this bread is so important. You can make it for a very fair price and share it with any Italian meal, soup or stew and you will not be disappointed or wishing for the real thing. OK, I can't promise you won't be wishing for the real thing, but it is a darn good substitute. And, who doesn't like the smell of home baked bread in their kitchen?!
I sliced the pieces pretty thick here, but you can really probably get a good 20 pieces out of this loaf. I also wrapped up the loaf in some parchment and rosemary as it was cooling to add a little aroma and flavor to the crust. It turned out beautifully! I shared this loaf also with friends along with my red lentil soup and it was tasted and enjoyed (which made me feel even more normal).
Crusty French Recipe
1 1/3 cup of warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 packet of active dry yeast

3 TB of honey
3 TB of olive oil
2 whipped eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
3/4 cup of sorghum flour
1 1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1 TB of xanthan gum
1 1/2 ts of sea salt

In a large glass measuring container or bowl, pour the warm water (use a water/meat thermometer to test the warm water at 110- 115 for perfect water temp for dissolving yeast). So you measure and test the water and then pour the yeast packet and mix with a spoon and let sit and dissolve for around 5 minutes. In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together will with a whisk. Then in a smaller bowl mix all the other wet ingredients minus the water and yeast and have that ready for mixing. After 5 minutes, dig a hole in your dry mixtures and pour in the water and yeast, then pour in the other wet ingredients and mix well with a spatula. Mix until all the parts are together but be careful to not over mix and make the batter tougher than it needs to be. Use tapioca flour if you need a little more flour on top to mix with your hands. Roll/spoon into a ball in the bowl and drip a little more olive oil around the base.

Then cover with a clean kitchen towel and let sit and rise for 2 hours in a warm place. A good warm place may be sitting on the stove top if you have the oven on, or wherever it is warmest in your kitchen. Let rise for 2 hours so that it is doubled in size. Then pull out of bowl, dust with more tapioca flour or oil and roll into ONE oblong loaf on a large baking sheet, dusted with flour if you prefer. Once you have a nice tight bread roll, then you can use a serrated knife and cut a design on the top. Then cover with the clean kitchen towel again and let rise for another 45 minutes on the stove.

After rising again, put in a preheated 425 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Bake until the crust is a golden brown and the loaf makes a hollow sons when you tap it with a knife. Pull from the oven and let rest and cool for at least 3 minutes before cutting into it. Serve fresh with some olive oil and herbs, or as your favorite dipping utensil.
Like I said, I made this to pair with a hearty lentil soup and even after sharing with friends had leftovers for the next two days. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the coming of fall in these cooler parts and I have to say... it feels nice to have a slice of dipping bread with soup. Almost surreal.

Hope you have a happy weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Much love to you!



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Italian Red Lentil Noodle Soup

It's soup season again. Happy first day of Autumn! I have been looking forward to fall for more than a few reasons.... cooler weather, squash, applesauce, and of course the birth of my baby (10 days till d-day now). But today, I'm just thinking about how a bowl of some yummy soup would really kick the season off right.

Well, maybe not today because we are having a heat wave for a day at 83 degrees, but last weekend when I made this soup for a group of close friends it was the perfect meal to share together to stay warm on a cool almost-fall night. There is something very comforting about a hearty bowl of soup with some fresh bread. Yes, I said bread. I really did make a crusty loaf of gluten-free bread to pair with this lovely soup... I will have to share that recipe next because it really turned out wonderfully.

Red lentils are one of my favorite forms of a "legume" because they are so easy to use. You can cook them for under 30 minutes from the dry form and you have them ready to eat. Which is perfect for busy people, but you are not compromising on nutrition goodness. If you are new to using legumes from the dry form, I would definitely recommend using the red lentil to start out. It is easy and has always turned out yummy in so many recipes. I have made red lentil tacos, and red lentil burgers, and now this is one of my favorite ways to use red lentils in soup. It makes a thick and almost creamy broth and of course you are getting a wonderful dose of protein and fiber without having to indulge in any dairy or meat. So a vegan's favorite for sure, but really, a great soup for all lovers of a hearty bowl of goodness.

Italian Red lentil Noodle Soup Recipe
2-3 TB of olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 large yellow onion finely chopped
1 heaping cup of finely chopped celery
2 cups of chopped carrot pieces
2 cups of chopped parsnips pieces
4 cups of vegetable broth
4 cups of pure water
1 1/2 cups of dried red lentils
1 14.5 ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juices
handful of each fresh herb: basil, thyme, sage
1/2 cup of brown rice pasta (broken up spaghetti noodles, or any size or shape you desire)
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1 cup of fresh chopped spinach or kale leaves

In a large pot, saute the onions, garlic, and celery with the olive oil for a few minutes until they are soft and almost translucent. Then add the carrots, parsnips, and the broth, and water. Bring up to a boil and then add the lentils, and roasted tomatoes. Once it cooks at a boil for 5-10 minutes, turn down to a medium heat and cook for another 20-30 minutes. You will notice the lentils breaking down and becoming a part of the broth. Then add the pasta in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking to cook the pasta, then add the fresh herbs, parsley and spinach to wilt in the last minutes. You will know the soup is ready for eating when the pasta is cooked and the herbs and spinach is well cooked and blended. Serve warm from the pot, or share with friends, or save for a few days to come. This soup also freezes very well if you want to save it for a future meal. If you want to add dairy and top the soup with some Parmesan cheese, or serve with crackers or bread to add more crunch.
I made this crusty gluten-free french type bread to pair with the hearty soup and it turned out better than I thought it would.... So start drooling now, and I will share the recipe in my next post. I hope you try this soup out soon and enjoy.

Have a beautiful first-day-of-fall! Much love to you!



Friday, September 17, 2010

Molasses Applesauce Tea Bread

Fall is in the air. At least here in Michigan. I have on my farmer's market grocery list: apples, squash and it must be fall. :) There is something about the scents, colors, and even cooler weather that makes this season a little bit magical. The leaves haven't really changed yet, but there are signs of the little pops of yellow and orange here and there. And, with anticipation we wait. Waiting to experience the changes. How is it the we dread and desire change at the same time, and then with the season we have no choice, it starts to change before our eyes... and then all of a sudden, it is here. Fall has arrived and we have the choice to embrace it and take part in the magic.

Focusing on the seasonal foods this time of year will not leave you disappointed. The soups, stews, and pies you can make with the fall harvest are some of the best of the year. I made over a dozen quarts of applesauce last fall, and I would hope to do that again this year yet I still needed to use up some applesauce from last season, and that is how this tea bread evolved. I was craving from ginger-molasses cookies, and decided, why not make a "bread" and enjoy it with some hot tea. There is something about the flavors of fall that get to people. I have friends in the south parts of the country that are still in the 80's and 90's even in temperature, but they are headed to Starbucks to get a pumpkin spice latte just to feel like they are participating in the magic of fall. I couldn't agree more. Fall scents and flavors warm the soul, and so, that is why applesauce and molasses have taken hold of my heart.

So here is a little creation to get you more and more rooted in the season of fall. Enjoy it for all that it is worth, because as in how life keeps moving on, it will be snowing before you know it.
Molasses Applesauce Tea Bread Recipe
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1 cup of sorghum flour
1/2 cup of buckwheat flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1 cup of sucanat ( or other powdered sweetener)
1 1/2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of ground nutmeg, cloves, and allspice
1 1/2 ts. of ground cinnamon
1 ts. of xanthan gum

1 TB of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 TB of coconut milk beverage, or other non-dairy milk
1/2 cup of applesauce
1/3 cup of light olive oil
1/3 cup of black strap molasses
2 farm fresh local eggs

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then start to add the wet ingredients and mix well all together. Pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan, or in a funnel pan (what I used). This recipe is very simple, and will have your kitchen smelling like fall in no time at all. All those spices and apples will start to mix together and you will be ready to partake well before it is fully baked. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes depending on what pan and altitude you are at. Keep checking after 40 minutes to make sure you do not burn. Let it cool a few minutes before cutting, and then enjoy. This bread is very moist so you will find yourself wanting to eat it all in a few days. Gluten and dairy free will seem normal the more and more you find little ways to bake and create without the stress. Enjoy!

I hope you find inspiration and love as fall quickly approaches. Much love to you!



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Zucchini Bread (Take 2)

Call it nesting, call it being prepared, but the other day I spent the afternoon making 6 batches of homemade zucchini bread and muffins to freeze. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but really it was the perfect thing to be doing while waiting for my baby to come. Baking is one of my favorite things to do. Well, maybe I should say, making a mess in the kitchen is one of my favorite things to do :) But really, I thought what better way to take advantage of some extra time I have now and stock up some zucchini bread in the freezer.
I made a zucchini bread recipe last year about this time with the use of buckwheat flour, which is one of my favorite gluten-free flours with lots of helpful minerals, vitamins and whole grain benefits. This year I was thinking of creating something a little lighter in color and in oils. So, I went with sorghum flour as the main ingredient and added some applesauce to sweeten, moisten and make things stick together. I love both recipes, but this one really was exactly what I was looking for in a fresh bread this time of year. Not to mention that you can buy zucchini right now, like 3 for a dollar. Not just small, wimpy, zucchini, but the huge, as-big-as-your arm zucchini. I have not been able to grow any of my own yet, but I can buy 3 large ones for a dollars at the farmer's market and that kind of quantity could really make like 12 loaves of zucchini bread if you wanted. There is never any shame in buying from my local farmer. This time of year I am always overwhelmed with wanting to buy loads of tomatoes, zucchini, and cukes for a fair price. I try to make use of the beautiful bounty with preserving and baking of course... so on to my new favorite indulgence...zucchini bread.

Zucchini Bread/Muffin Recipe
1 1/2 cup of sorghum flour
1 cup of brown rice flour
1 cup of tapioca flour
1 1/2 cup of sucanat
1 TB. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
1 ts. of ground nutmeg

2 ts. of fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup of coconut oil, or light olive oil
2 farm fresh eggs
3 heaping cups of grated zucchini

optional additions: 1/3 cup of cacao powder, or 1/2 cup of allergen-free chocolate chips

Mix all the dry ingredients together first in a large mixing bowl, then add the wet ingredients and mix well. Lastly add the heaping 3 cups of grated zucchini. The way I grate zucchini is on a cheese grater over a plate and it usually takes about 1 large zucchini to get about 3 heaping cups. Use the juices and all the grated parts. Mix all together and it is ready for putting in pans.

Some baking options:
This recipe will make either 24 muffin cups, or 2 loaf pans. You could also use 2 8x8 pans for this recipe, or even 1 9x13 pan. It makes a beautiful cake, bread, and muffin, so use for what you desire most. The muffins should be baked at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, the bread loaves should be baked at around 35-40 minutes, and a cake in a 9x13 should be around 30-40 minutes. Just check on it and pull from the oven when it is a golden brown color and after tested with a pick comes out clean with nothing gooey. The best baking temp is at 350 degrees. After pulled from the oven, make sure you cool for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting into. And, let it be fully cooled before bagging up to freeze for best results.
Other option:
If you only want to make one loaf, then half this recipe and make just one loaf or 12 muffins.
Here is a little snack to get me through the rest of the afternoon. Which is my other reason and love for gotta make sure what you are making is worthy of eating and sharing of course. The texture and moisture is perfect, and it doesn't hurt to be getting your serving of vegetables in a treat as well. Yum...

Here is a little peek into my growing bounty of bread/cake/muffins that I am going to wrap up and freeze. So in a few months when I am looking for an easy baked good option or breakfast, then I will pull out one of my favorite treats from the's just that simple. I hope you try these out and enjoy... and once you find how easy it is you may be making extra loaves to freeze as well.

Much love to you today!