Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (aka cleaning out the cupboard)

As I was sorting and re-organizing the cupboards and the freezers the past few days, I’ve come across several ingredients I rarely use: leftovers from some Tasty.com experiment or a houseguest. Luckily, I’m able to use most of them in some delicious Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

The two main ingredients I wanted to use up are whole wheat flour and steel cut oats. Neither are part of my regular pantry, but I appreciate the earthy, nutty flavor they bring to anything cooked with them. And my budget this week was a little too short for anything sweet in grocery shopping. Yep, you interpreted that correctly. No ingredients were purchased to make these cookies happen!

Betty Crocker's Cookbook and Oatmeal Raisin CookiesFor such a classic cookie, I always start with my Mom’s use-worn Betty Crocker cookbook, where butter is always listed as “shortening.” But I made a few adjustments to let me use up as much of these random ingredients as possible.

Wet Ingredients

  • 1.5 sticks (3/4 cup) of softened butter (vegan: 3/4 cup coconut oil, peanut butter or other soft or liquid vegetable fat)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 regular sugar
  • 2 eggs (vegan and gluten free: 2 egg blend of The Vegg or other vegan baking substitute)
  • 1/2 cup water (don’t skip this because the oats need it)

Dry Ingredients

  • 1.75 cups whole wheat flour (gluten free: use same amount of GF all purpose flour)
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t baking soda (omit for a flatter, chewier cookie)
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground cloves
  • 1 t salt

Add Ins

  • 2 cups steel cut oats (or rolled oats)
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit: raisins, craisins, cherries, apricot, prunes
  • 1 cup chopped nuts: pecans, almonds, walnuts (nut-free: try toasted hemp seeds or sesame seeds in place of nuts)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Blend the wet ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend well. Add your chosen add-ins and mix well.

IMG_1825Drop by teaspoon-fuls onto a silpat or a greased cookie sheet; for this step, I use one of my few Pampered Chef tools: a teaspoon ice cream (or cookie) scoop. It really helps to make quick and not-messy work of this step.

IMG_1826When I use all three of my baking sheets at once, I can get nearly all of the dough in at the same time. I had about 1 dozen left for the second round. That’s another great strategy for making cookie baking easier and faster. Works when you’re doing cut out and decorate cookies too!

Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. Be sure to preheat all the way before putting your cookies in.

Transfer to a cooling rack immediately. These will cool to eat quickly!

Makes 5-6 dozen.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Cheddar Potato Soup

IMG_1755Sure. It’s just regular Potato Soup with cheddar cheese added, but I just learned that my younger cousins never learned our Nannie’s Potato Soup recipe. I did because it’s my mom’s “sick soup.”

Ingredients

  • 2-4 cups of chicken stock (or veggie if you’re looking for a veg version)
  • 3-4 cups of cubed potatoes – any kind or mixed, but our favorite are Yukon gold potatoes – cube them about the size of a standard set of dice
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1T pepper
  • 1t salt (you can always add more, but start small)
  • 1t nutmeg
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or unsweetened, unflavored almond or soy milk for a veg version)
  • 2 cups of your favorite cheddar cheese – any cheddar, muenster, manchego are all good choices!

IMG_1753This is one of my favorite soups to do in the crock pot, mainly because my chicken and veggie stock are made ahead and frozen, and I can’t ever remember to thaw them out. Using the crock pot, I can put all but the heavy cream and cheese in at once and set it on Low for 6-8 hours. It takes a little more than an hour for the frozen stock to thaw and cover the potatoes and onions and cook.

Add the cream and cheddar and let cook for about 30 more minutes. Viola – you’re ready to serve!

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, gluten free, nut free, soy free

The Greek Dinner that Made My Family Sing Opa!

16864914_10155064092529116_1123159716396037580_nMy mom likes your run-of-the-mill shaved meat gyro, and we often get our annual Greek Festival lamb dinner for Mother’s Day each year, but for the most part, my family of four doesn’t really do Greek flavors. So when they asked to have the “Greek Turkey Burgers” I’d labeled for the freezer – for me to have as one-offs – I said sure; it was tame enough even for them.

Menu: Greek Turkey sliders with homemade tzatziki sauce, Greek lemon roasted potatoes, garlic refrigerator pickled cucumbers.

Start with the pickles because you need to make them at least a day ahead; a week is better. And they have so many more uses than just as part of this dinner, so don’t worry about them hanging around too long.

  • 2 thinly sliced hothouse cucumbers with peel on
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup room temparature water
  • 3-4 whole peeled and crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 t each salt and pepper

It’s hard to give measurements because it really depends on the size container you use. I re-use glass jars from things like spaghetti jars and jelly jars. The measurements above work for the spaghetti jar size. Pack all of that in the jar. If the liquid doesn’t quite fill the jar to the top, add more apple cider vinegar instead of water; it won’t be too much. Cap tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. Great as a stand-alone side, as an addition to a salad, chopped up as relish for egg or tuna salad, and as a burger or sandwich condiment.

It’s also best to make the tzatziki a day ahead to give the flavors time to settle together.

  • 1 16 oz container of plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt of your choice
  • 1/2 hothouse cucumber, seeded and grated
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 t each, salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and stir well. Usually, you can return the entire mixture to the original yogurt container for storage in the refrigerator.

On the day of dinner, set out any ingredients to thaw in the morning. Here’s what you’ll need to for cooking:

For the Greek lemon roasted potatoes:

  • 4-6 medium potatoes (yukon gold or russet work best)
  • 1/2 preferred cooking oil
  • 1/4 lemon juice (approx. 2 lemons juiced)
  • 2 T lemon pepper seasoning (we use Mrs. Dash for sodium control)
  • 1 t each, salt and pepper

For the Greek Turkey Burgers

  • 1 lb ground turkey (your choice to use turkey breast or blended turkey meat)
  • 1 package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and with liquid squeezed out
  • 1 package of feta cheese (we like the tomato and basil seasoned kind)
  • 1 T lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 t each, salt and pepper

Start with the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350°F (for 90 minute potatoes) or 450°F (for 30 minute potatoes). Clean and chop into large 1.5 inch chunks if you’ve got at least 90 minutes or small .5 inch dices for a 30 minute dinner. Add in oil, lemon juice, and seasonings and mix well with your hands. Pour in a single layer in a foil liked baking sheet. Time for 60 minutes (for 90 minute potatoes) or 10 minutes (for 30 minute potatoes).

In the same bowl, combine turkey, spinach, feta, lemon pepper seasoning, salt and pepper. Divide mixture into 4-8 patties: 4 to fit standard hamburger buns or 8 to fit standard slider buns). Place on foil lined baking sheet and sprinkle a bit more lemon pepper seasoning on each patty. Add to oven when the first potato timer goes off. If you started on 350°F, increase oven temp to 450°F and time for 20 minutes. If you started on 450°F, time for 20 minutes more.

On a baking sheet, open hamburger or slider buns with the cut side facing up. Once the potatoes and burgers are finished, turn the oven to broil at 500°F and toast buns for approximately 2 minutes. Do not leave unattended and do not try to get something else done, or you’ll burn the buns – not a pleasant taste.

 

Assemble burgers by spooning tzatziki on both sides of the bun. And more tzatziki in a small bowl or dolloped on the plate makes a great dipping sauce for the potatoes.

My plate in the photo above shows some pickled asparagus because my family ate up the pickled cucumbers so quickly that I didn’t get any for my photo. Next time, sigh 🙂

Posted in Being Healthy, Children, Cooking

BuzzFeed Recipe Trial: 4-ingredient Chicken Bake

On January 29, 2016, I shared BuzzFeed recipe video below on my Facebook feed with a note to use the kale from my local CSA share to make this for Sunday dinner. And I did. And paired it with simple salt-and-pepper thin spaghetti noodles.

HUGE hit! Takes maybe 5 minutes to layer in the casserole dish (line with aluminum foil to make clean up faster and easier too), and it turned out to be a GREAT way to HIDE VEGGIES from my guys because what they saw looked like pizza on top of chicken. They just thought it was all chicken-y cheesiness and AWESOME.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FBuzzFeedVideo%2Fvideos%2F1826534510820756%2F&show_text=0&width=560

I’ve made this several times since that first weekend dinner with the following variations:

  • frozen chicken with fresh toppings – little bit juicier in the bottom of the pan, but otherwise no difference; the breasts were small and thin, and took 45 minutes
  • cubed chicken breast and everything layered more like a casserole for more servings, and baked directly over cooked penne pasta in the casserole dish; same temp and time as original recipe
  • “Mexican” style using canned chopped chilis and pepper jack cheese, still using the sliced tomatoes
Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking

Soy and Teriyaki Sauce Alternative – soy free, corn free, gluten free

I’ve got a growing group of friends who have straight up food allergies to corn, gluten, soy – and, Lord help me, all three! And that makes safe store-bought sauces that most think of as a single ingredient not nearly impossible but actually impossible.

Hibachi-at-home: steak, scallops, veggies (zucchini, carrot, onion, peas), rice.
Hibachi-at-home: steak, scallops, veggies (zucchini, carrot, onion, peas), rice – using this homemade soy sauce turned into teriyaki sauce.

Here’s my alternative to soy sauce when cooking for them – and now myself since I can control the sodium level so much more!

  • 1/4 cup strong beef or mushroom broth (use homemade or Pacific brand)
  • 1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar (make your own with this recipe)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 T molasses – be sure to get organic and check the label for corn syrup or corn-derived additives – I get mine raw from a local farm
  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic – I recommend using a garlic press
  • 1/2-inch of fresh, finely minced ginger – I recommend using a cheese grater
  • 1/4 t finely ground pepper
  • kosher or sea salt – add in 1/4 t amounts until you achieve the soy sauce saltiness you like

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Did you know that Teriyaki Sauce is nothing more than a sweeter soy sauce? Add 1/2 to 3/4 cups of this soy-free soy sauce to a sauce pan with 1/2 cup corn-free brown sugar, combine well and simmer for 20 minutes.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Comforting Beef Stroganoff Casserole

Recently, I found myself craving something beefy and comforting, so I put out a call for ideas on Facebook. Boy, did my girlies come through for me. Beef Stroganoff. It has a rich history as a classic Russian dish. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s got its own website! But essentially, this dish is beef cooked in a creamy mushroom sauce.

Having spent a delicious month in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1993, I know that, at least at that time, most Russians didn’t have regular access to good cuts of beef, and I learned that both of my Russian families made their beef stroganoff about the same way: cooking down wild, handpicked mushrooms and onions, adding some beef in to brown, deglazing with some water (making a bit of broth), and cooking this for several hours on low, then adding in some sour cream at the end to thicken up the sauce.

Sounds like the perfect crock pot recipe to me, but I wanted something a little more compact since I’d be at work all day and wanted my family to be able to put dinner together themselves. So I settled on a casserole that achieves the same purpose and delivers 4 healthy servings an no leftovers to junk up the fridge.

Ingredients (in order of preparation)

  • 1/2 bag of egg noodles, cooked and drained (for gluten free and corn free, use Lehman’s Gluten Free Homestyle Egg Noodles)
  • 2 large green peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz sliced portabella mushrooms, chopped (alternatives: white button or baby bella)
  • 1 lb beef, chicken, or pork (cubed beef is traditional; ground is a great, less expensive alternative)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (for gluten free and corn free, use Pacific GF cream of mushroom soup or my homemade recipe)
  • 1 cup sour cream (or milk if you’re out of sour cream)
  • 1/4 t kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 t ground pepper

You can see I’ve gone with a little help from the pantry rather than a totally-from-scratch recipe.

So I start with cooking the noodles. When they are drained, pour them into a casserole dish, lightly sprayed with cooking spray if you’re worried about sticking, which is not usually a problem.

Next I move on to the veggies…on medium heat and with 1 t of your favorite cooking oil, sweat the water out of the mushrooms and then add the peppers and onions for a quick saute; I’ve stopped cooking veggies in oil. I do these separate because I want to make sure they keep their crunch. If I put them in with the meat and sauce, they would cook down and have no texture left to liven up the casserole when it’s heated. Before they start getting brown, dump them in with the noodles and give it all a quick stir.

The last part is just as quick. We had some venison stew meat already cut up, so I tossed that into a pan with a little olive oil. When it gets just barely cooked through, dump in the cream of mushroom soup and sour cream, stir, and simmer for maybe 10 minutes, mostly to make sure the sauce comes together. Then dump this in with the noodles, peppers and onions, stir, and viola! Beef Stroganoff Casserole.

Now, certainly, you can pop this in the oven to finish and serve it up in about half an hour.

But I needed this as a make-ahead. And here are the instructions I’ll leave for the family to follow tomorrow:

To have dinner ready to eat by 6:30 pm, start at 5:45 pm

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Take the casserole out of the fridge and stir slowly and carefully
  • Cover the casserole with aluminum foil
  • Put the casserole in the oven for 30 minutes
  • Take the foil cover off and put in for another 15 minutes

As I’ve got Harris Teeter brown and serve rolls to go with mine, I’ll add the rolls during the final cook since they take 12-15 minutes. My folks will also be cooking up some sauteed squash and onion to go with this casserole.

For 8 nutritional servings or for 6 fuller servings, double the noodle, beef, and soup quantities; I also fully double the veggies, but that can be too much for many. Do not double the sour cream; there’s no need.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking

Basic Granola (technique and recipe)

My mom is diabetic. And even though her dad was diabetic her whole life, and she was raised essentially on a diabetic diet (as it existed in the 60s and 70s), she’s got very diabetic-unfriendly eating habits.

img_11401But one good choice she craves and sticks to is granola. The oats are a great carb choice for diabetics, a slow digesting carbohydrate whether eaten cooked or raw. She loves oatmeal during the winter months, but really needs to have the sweet bite to it. She loves yogurt, but really needs to have a sweet bite to it. She really (psychologically) needs the sweet or she feels like she’s deprived.

But she won’t buy granola from the store because it’s saturated in various sugars: brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, and more.

Thus is born our experiment, beginning with what I consider Basic Granola.

And like so many “recipes,” this is a system, not a by-the-numbers or it’s wrong kind of food.

So here’s my system – which tracks pretty closely with the vast majority of granola “recipes”:

  1. 1.5 cups oats
  2. 1 cup nuts – mix as many as you like into the blend, but only 1 cup total
  3. 1 cup dried fruit – mix as many as you like into the blend, but only 1 cup total

Yep, it’s that simple.

Now, for the recipe people, here’s exactly what’s in my Basic Granola pictured here:

  • 1.5 cups rolled oats (Publix brand, no need to go fancy)
  • 1T dried ground cinnamon (Publix brand)
  • 1t dried ground nutmeg (Publix brand)
  • 1t salt (Morton’s)
  • 1 cup water

Mix these five items together in a bowl, cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Prep your nuts; I used what I already had in the cupboard:

  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds (Publix organic unsalted from the produce section)
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds (Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts)
  • 1.3 cup slivered almonds (Mariana from the Publix produce section)

Prep your binding; because my granola places emphasis on being diabetic friendly, I have limited sugar to a functional role and eliminated all granular sweeteners – natural or artificial:

  • 1/3 cup honey (from a local farm near me)
  • 1/4 cup oil or melted butter (Pompeiian Grapeseed Oil)

When you’re ready to bake, mix the nuts and the binding into the softened oat mixture. Spray or grease a medium or large cookie sheet with at least a little lip, spread the mixture in a thin layer in the sheet. Bake at 250° for 1 hour and 15 minutes; increase heat to 300° for 20-40 minutes more. The longer time is especially useful in high-humidity climates or times of year.

As your mixture sits to cool, it will harden into the crunchy texture most people are looking for, so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t harden while still in the oven. It won’t, and you’ll risk overcooking or burning your granola.

Serving Ideas: the standard serving is 1/4 cup

  • cooked oatmeal topper (tip: prepare half of an oatmeal serving and add 1/2 cup granola to finish out the meal)
  • yogurt mix-in
  • ice cream topper
  • fruit pie topping (instead of crust)
  • blend into smoothie for an oatmeal smoothie
  • sweet potato casserole topping
  • roasted root veggies topping

My mom is really happy with this batch and can’t wait for my Christmas blend using pistachios and dried cherries.