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, 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, nut free, soy free

Pantry Magic: Chicken Enchiladas

img_1458The request: chicken enchiladas.

The problem: no one shopped for enchiladas this week.

The pantry, fridge, and freezer produce the following:

  • frozen chicken breasts and thighs
  • frozen turkey stock from Thanksgiving
  • bag of Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • half a wheel of Mexican fresco crumbly cheese
  • an absurd number of cans of chopped chiles
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 1 can of enchilada sauce
  • 1 can of Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 baggie of leftover soft tortilla boats and crunchy corn taco shells

And with this, I made the requested chicken enchiladas!

NOTE: while this particular collection of ingredients includes gluten and corn elements, it’s super easy to make this both corn and gluten free with homemade or Pacific stock and Harris Teeter Naturals refried beans or Natural Value organic refried beans. So far there are no flour tortillas that are both gluten free and corn free, and many contain soy. This is a great time to try your hand at making your own GF/CF flour tortillas with one of the many flour-based or cauliflower tortilla recipes available online; it’s a simple and quick process! I get around the tortilla issue by baking a small dish of the filling and eating over rice; it’s a great way to use up leftover rice from a previous meal or even takeout.

Boil the chicken for 15 minutes if boneless or a good 30 minutes if bone-in. While it’s boiling, get out a casserole baking dish and lay out the soft taco boats and the crunch taco shells so that you get the most in that you can. I was going for 8 taco boats and 6 taco shells. Since the chicken is still boiling, smear a spoonful or so of refried beans in the bottom of each boat and shell; add/repeat until you’ve used the whole can.

Should be close to time to drain and cool and shred the chicken.

Saute 1 chopped onion and 1-2 cans of green chopped chiles, no oil necessary. Yes, you can use fresh chiles, but this is about using what’s in the pantry and not having to go to the store to make dinner.

Whisk 1/4 cup all purpose flour (gluten free all purpose flour works too) with 1/4 cup of your favorite cooking oil or melted butter in a bowl and add the blend to the sauce pan on top of the onions and chiles on medium until the mixture bubbles briskly. Add 1 cup turkey stock (or chicken or vegetable stock from a can or box) and 1/2 cup of milk (unsweetened, not vanilla almond milk or soy milk will work, but not rice milk). This will make a “white sauce” or loose turkey gravy. Add about a cup of cheese and stir until completely blended; I’m using the crumbly fresco cheese.

Mix the shredded chicken into the pot.

Spoon the mixture into each boat and shell until you’ve used it all. If you’ve got some leftover, pour it into a small baking dish to serve over rice or dip with chips.

img_1459Top each boat with one or both of the enchilada sauces. I prefer the green, but we only had a small can of red enchilada sauce.

Sprinkle up to 2 cups of shredded cheese on top.

Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes to get the enchilada filling good and bubbly and all of the cheese topping lovely and melty.

Sometimes it really is that simple. Ugly, but incredibly yummy!

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

Faux-sagna: Lasagna with help from Cheese Ravioli

img_1455I’m not anti lasagna noodle – whether the traditional cooked kind or the no-cook kind. But when I can combine two steps in the mixing and layering into just one, it makes assembling a lasagna so much easier.

And when you add using the delicious Celentano frozen gluten free cheese raviolis, you’ll have a wonderful, luscious lasagna to enjoy.

Today’s faux-sagna is vegetarian, makes 4 servings, and will be my lunch for this week:

  • 1 bag of Celentano frozen gluten free cheese ravioli
  • 1 jar of organic marinara (I’m using Publix Greenwise Roasted Garlic marinara)
  • 3 cups of chopped vegetables that you like (I’m using onion, tri peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini)
  • 1T preferred cooking oil (I use Pompeian Grapeseed Oil)
  • 2-4 cups shredded mozzarella (I’m using Publix shredded part-skim, low moisture mozzarella)

Boil your ravioli according to package instructions; drain and let hang out in the colander – it won’t hurt a thing.

Onions, tri peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic.
Onions, tri peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic.

In the same pot you boiled the ravioli, heat 1 T cooking oil on medium and drop in all of the veg at once. Lightly salt and pepper your veg and cook for 15-20 minutes until onions are translucent, peppers and mushrooms are darker in color, and zucchini slices are soft and fold easily. Remove from heat and prepare to layer.

My layering protocol is (from bottom to top of an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish):

  • Layer 1 of Raviolisauce
  • ravioli (12 pieces)
  • veg
  • cheese
  • sauce (use a spoon to tamp down the lumps and smooth out the surface for beginning the next layer)
  • ravioli (9 pieces)
  • veg
  • One full set of layerscheese
  • sauce
  • cheese

Before topping with that last layer of cheese, use a spoon to tamp down the lumps and smooth out the sauce, making sure the sauce goes all the way to the edges. That’s key for ensuring the pasta doesn’t dry out when you bake it.

TIP: make sure you get all of the sauce out of the jar by adding 1/4 cup of red wine or balsamic vinegar. Cap the jar and shake well. Pour the sauce and liquid right on top of the lasagna.

Remember, as long as you get it all in the pan and you’ve got a layer of ravioli stabilizing it at the bottom, your layering game can’t be wrong.

Full to the top and ready to bake!If I’m planning to eat the first serving the same day I make it, I’ll pop it into the oven to melt the cheese and blend the flavors at 350°F for 20 minutes. Otherwise, it goes in the fridge until I’m ready, when I’ll cook it at 350°F for 30 minutes – it takes a little longer when it comes straight from the fridge. After the initial cooking, I’ll heat individual servings on a plate in the microwave for 2 minutes, check, and then perhaps 1 minute more, depending on the microwave strength.

Why this isn’t corn free:

  • the Celentano gluten free pasta uses blends/ingredients that contain corn starch, the BIG BAD dextrose (aka corn syrup), and white vinegar
  • all pre-grated cheeses contain corn starch, which is used to keep the shreds separated