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 Cooking, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Easy Baked Empanadas

IMG_1754Sometimes you can find empanada wraps in the grocery store, already cut into circles of the right size. And sometimes you have to make them yourself. That’s what I did today, using supportive guidance from MyColumbianRecipes.com. Pay particular attention to the filling suggestions…YUM!

Empanada dough is pastry dough, so if you have a basic cookbook with a non-sugar pie crust, you’ve already got an empanada dough recipe. Use it! What I found in this recipe post was a good feel for the actual assembly as well as some fantastic ideas for fillings for a future dinner! #ChickenBrieApricot

The dough is naturally soy and nut free, easily gluten free using any AP gluten free flour, and easily vegan using Crisco (in place of butter) and The Vegg baking mix in place of egg (yep, the egg wash too!).

Posted in Cooking, gluten free

Chicken Tetrazzini

IMG_1722The night-before dinner for the Cooper River Bridge Run (Charleston, SC) demands a classic power-pasta dinner, but my runner is pretty picky about his food. Luckily he loves Chicken Tetrazzini, and I am especially proud of how pretty tonight’s dish came out!

Here are the ingredients for tonight’s dish; some notes follow regarding dietary adjustments:

  • 1 package of thin spaghetti, broken in half and cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded (approximately 3 packed cups of shredded/cubed protein)
  • 3 cups of vegetables (my blend is fresh mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper, chopped)
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Optional toppings: shredded parmesan, garlic panko/bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl; pour into a greased casserole dish and sprinkle desired topping. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°, 50 minutes if you made it ahead and had it in the refrigerator.

Makes 8 generous servings or 12 potluck servings.

Semi-homemade versus Traditional: This is a common dish for some semi-homemade action, using a store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled or roasted chicken from a previous night’s dinner, some frozen veggies, and canned soup instead of the homemade garlic parmesan cream sauce of a truly traditional tetrazzini.

Spaghetti versus Shapes: You’re right; it doesn’t have to be spaghetti at all. We’ve been known to use penne, bowtie, and elbow – basically whatever box of pasta is in the pantry. I can also confirm that egg noodles and even rice (gluten free!) work exceptionally well too!

More than Usual Vegetables: You may also notice that my measurements feature as much as 3X the amount of vegetable that a traditional recipe calls for. When I make a casserole, I’m looking for a truly balanced meal without needing a special side; that always means doubling or tripling the vegetables!

Fresh versus Frozen Vegetables: I also use a combination of frozen and fresh: always fresh mushrooms because canned are gross, but take help from frozen peppers and onions. When I have them on hand, I also add fresh onion and peppers to add crunch.

Sneak in a Vegetarian Meal: this dish is super-easy to make vegan. 3 cups of seitan, tofu or a blend is easily hidden by the wonderful flavors of the vegetables and the cream soups or sauce.

There are canned vegan cream soups already available. If you’re feeling especially domestic, make your own vegan and gluten-free cream of mushroom soup with my recipe, which has the added benefit of being corn free; 2 cans is approximately 1 2/3 cups of homemade cream sauce or soup.

Use mozzarella/pizza shreds both mixed in and as a topping.

Gluten-Free and Delicious: It may seem impossible if you’re new to a gluten-free diet or not kitchen-friendly, but either a great store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or and great online store like Amazon Pantry can make it super easy with prepared gluten free pastas and canned soups. I would recommend first trying this dish with Manischewitz GF egg noodles and the Pacific brand of gluten free cream soups; I find that the GF egg noodles cook up nicer than many of the GF pastas and make the transition from traditional to GF pasta easier. Toast some GF panko or bread crumbs in olive oil and fresh garlic for a superb and safe topping (it’s what you see on top of mine in the photo :-)).

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

Make Your Own Apple Cider Vinegar

Yeah, I don’t care if you believe it melts fat or flushes toxins from your body, ACV is yummy. And for folks with a corn allergy, it’s the safest vinegar to have in the kitchen.

What? You didn’t know that white vinegar, acetic acid, and even citric acid are made with corn? So, yeah, sorry to bust your bubble. But, hey, what I’m about to show you will reduce your wasted dollars AND be safe for you to use.

You know those apple peels and cores your kids won’t eat? You’re about to stop throwing those away! I happened to be making stewed spiced apples today and knew I’d have about 10 apple cores – YAY!

It’s best to start your ACV adventures with a quart. That way you’ll be able to experiment with types of apple, amounts of sugar/honey, and overall strength of flavor. I like mine very strongly tart, so I use very little honey.

IMG_1712For a strong, dark-colored ACV in a quart jar,

  • apple peels and cores to fill the jar to the top – stuff it full!
  • 2-4 T honey or sugar
  • water to cover the apple

For a lighter-colored, fruitier ACV in a quart jar,

  • IMG_17143-4 medium apples, diced, with cores
  • 1-2 T honey or sugar (you can wait to see how sweet it will be to add this)
  • water to cover the apple

Now here’s the actual “recipe” – it’s in the timing!

  1. Cover the jar with paper towel or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber IMG_1715band. Store in a dark place (mine goes on the bottom shelf of my pantry) and add a note to your calendar to check it in 21 days.
  2. Strain out the apples and return the ACV to the jar; it won’t fill to the top this time, perhaps a little past halfway. Taste and add honey to sweeten or water to weaken if it’s too strong for you already. Recover with paper towel or cheesecloth and rubber band. Add a note to your calendar to check it in 4 weeks.
  3. IMG_1716At 4 weeks, taste. If you like it, start using it and switch to a sealed jar top or bottle with a cap/lid. If it’s not there yet, re-cover and add a note to your calendar to check again in a week. Continue this process until the ACV reaches your desired taste.

I’m at the point now where I deliberately ferment to different flavor levels and acidity for use in a variety of dressings, sauces, poaching, etc.

  • Dark and Strong for sauces like my soy-free, corn-free, gluten-free soy sauce
  • Sweet and fruity for dressings and vinaigrettes
  • Light-colored short ferment for poaching – to use instead of wine (which often has corn and sulfites) or store-bought broths (which also often have corn)

Tip: if you just want the dark ACV with the peels and cores, you can dice and freeze the apple meat for use in pies, cakes, and applesauce later.

Tip: when it’s not apple season, you can save and freeze the apple peels and cores until you’ve got enough to fill the jar.

 

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 Cooking, corn free, gluten free

Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

Keep the amazing flavor but take the work out of traditional Chicken Cordon Bleu with this easy layered bake:

If video does not load, click https://youtu.be/79zm7E5C58g for the full YouTube video recipe.

Here are a few ways to round out the meal and make it a little cleaner:

Start with a layer of lemon rice: cook up 2 cups (raw) of white or brown rice according to package instructions. Add the juice of 2 lemons (approx. 1/2 cup lemon juice if using jarred).

Make your sauce gluten free and corn free by using Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Flour and either homemade or corn-free vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

Simplify the toasted panko crumbs to just fresh garlic, salt and pepper. For corn free, use HT Trader’s panko (unseasoned) for a corn-free option. For gluten free, use GF panko crumbs from the GF section of your grocery store. To date, I have not found bread crumbs or panko that is both gluten free and corn free.