Category Archives: No Dairy

Late Spring Couscous with Spinach, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds

So the school year is wrapping up  and I am firmly planting my head in the sand related to how I am going to a) keep everyone entertained all summer, b) get my paid work done and deliver a large project at the end of August, c) maintain some sanity amidst the fighting siblings and wet bathing suits and towels on the floor, d) have a house that doesn’t look like it needs an intervention, e) keep the plants thriving outside given that hoses are quite possibly the most annoying thing to use ever, and f) do grocery shopping with an entourage who likes to find every possible piece of crap and put it in my cart.

And this all with cocktail time not starting until 5:00 PM?  Can’t we push that up a little?

Oh, but I kid.  I complain a good game, but I am actually looking forward to summer.  Just the idea of relaxing mornings where we aren’t rushing around to get out the door … or the idea of making a pot of coffee and actually being able to drink a few leisurely cups… and not having to think about getting homework done every night… or throwing dinner together at a seriously uncivilized time just to get to soccer practice.  We are all ready for a little vacation.

This dinner was put together on one of those rushed evenings where we were hurrying to get to an end of the school year concert, but I think it would also be a great aprés swimming dinner when you have to divide your energy between hanging up that wet stuff, making a meal, and unpacking the pool bag. To non-parents I know this sounds like a pathetically small task — but you are wrong. Unpacking the pool bag is a terrible task filled with wet stuff, soggy snacks, water bottles, leaky sunscreen, loose change, hats, visors, goggles, Spiderman diving toys, wallets, cell phones, floaties, allergy medicine, and reading material that rarely gets read.

Ahh.  Summer.

Late Spring Couscous with Spinach, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 4-6

2-3 cups of spinach, stemmed and chopped
1 small zucchini, trimmed and diced
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1-2 large green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
4-5 sprigs of oregano (remove leaves from stem and chop)

Dressing:
2/3 cup canola or olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper

1.  In a large sauté pan, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil with chopped (1 clove) garlic.  Sauté spinach until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to a bowl.

2.  In same pan, heat a bit more oil and sauté diced zucchini until lightly browned and softened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to a bowl.

3.  In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Add cous cous, stir, and cover pan.  Immediately remove from heat and let stand for about five minutes.  Stir to fluff the cous cous and allow to cool a bit.

4.  Whisk together dressing ingredients.

5.  In a large bowl, combine cooked spinach and zucchini, cooked cous cous, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped green onions, and chopped oregano.  Re-whisk dressing and pour about 2/3 of it over cous cous mixture, tossing well to combine all ingredients.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Salad can be served at room temperature or chilled.  Reserve remaining dressing and add to the salad before serving if necessary (if the cous cous sits in the fridge for a while it will soak up the dressing and may need more.)

Minted Strawberry Ice Cream with Coconut Milk

So, the summer time bounty is upon us.  The rhubarb has already piled up in my refrigerator and my CSA box contained one zucchini — obviously a sign (omen?) of the many squashes to come.  In the next week, I will surely be making both Honey Strawberry Freezer Jam and Rhubarb Applesauce in an attempt to save some of the overflow for winter.  If you were to identify the hard part about eating locally and seasonally, it is the sheer amount of produce that you get in a short period of time.  It has to be both eaten and dealt with.  And I say “dealt with” seriously … because you will not use it up by eating alone.  I read this great article the other day and there are a lot of tips for using up CSA produce — many that I would reiterate.  But here are a few more things that I have found to be helpful.

Your sheet pan is your best friend.  When anything — strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, peppers, etc. — comes in too quickly and you have too much to use up, wash it and make a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan (leaving berries whole and cutting others up into chunks).  Stick it in the freezer and freeze until it is solid.  I have forgotten about trays and left them in there for days without issue.  Remove the frozen items from the sheet pan and transfer into containers or freezer bags.  I aim to have a few huge bags of every type of berry by the end of the summer.  We use them all year long for smoothies, yogurt, ice cream, and other desserts. And the great thing about the single layer technique is that they don’t stick together, so you can store them in big containers and still pull out just what you need when you need it.  You’d be amazed at how wonderful a batch of strawberry ice cream tastes in February.

If your sheet pan is your best friend, your freezer is your lover.  I tried to do a few summers without a deep freeze and it was difficult.  Investing $200 in a small chest freezer was a fantastic decision.  Aside from the produce that you can keep on hand, if you buy your meats through local farms, they are almost always frozen and you can keep a nice stockpile in the freezer.

For everyone’s benefit, I won’t continue with the metaphors.  But suffice it to say that canning jars are also important.   I still don’t do much canning.  I know. I know.  I need to do that and just haven’t.  So, obviously if you are canning, you are ten steps ahead of me and don’t really need to read this article, now do you?  But I do make jams and freezer jams are still my favorite.  I just like the uncooked taste of fruit freezer jams.  So, another CSA tip is to make a lot of jam.  We just used up our last jar of strawberry jam from last summer.  I never, ever have to buy it at the store.

Another big helper is your food processor.  Even if you don’t feel like making pesto, you can take tons of basil or spinach (or beet greens), wash them, throw them in the processor with a bit of olive oil or water and puree it down to the size of a microchip.  I then put little dollops onto my old friend the sheet pan, freeze it, and then throw it in ziploc bags for almost anything (great in soups or pasta).  Your kids will think they are cookies, so you can either warn them — or not.  The spinach puree is also great in Spinach-Laced Brownies. The other big thing I use the food processor for is shredding zucchini and yellow squash.  There is no doubt you will be up to your eyeballs in them and I shred up a whole bunch and freeze that in smallish containers.  It’s is great to throw in soups or pasta to up the vegetable count or you can use it all year long in things like Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

I will definitely reiterate the idea of eating things raw.  Whenever I get radishes or kohlrabi, or even turnips for that matter, I always slice up a plate to have on the bar while I’m cooking dinner.  Sprinkle with a little coarse salt and everyone will snack on them and they will disappear before you know it.

As for greens, I generally don’t wash all my lettuces when I first walk in the door.  I find that to be annoying and I don’t think they really last much longer than when stored in bags and washed as needed. The greens I get through my farm share are generally so fresh that they definitely will last all week.  And maybe it’s my husband’s Italian roots, but we have salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette every night, so using up lettuce is never a problem.   With greens that are good cooked (spinach, chard, etc.), I usually just rinse them and saute them with tons of garlic and olive oil.  My kids love them like this, but they are also great thrown in pasta or soups too.

There are always a few stinkers that nobody wants.  In my family, only my son and I eat beets.  I love them shredded raw with an orange vinaigrette for a quick lunch, but even non-beet lovers may like them roasted.  As for Curly Endive, I’m still trying to work out something for that.  Not a big fan.  My go to recipe for a languishing pile of turnips is Homemade Chicken Stock, which is tremendous to keep on hand in the freezer.

And winding our way back to the purpose of this post, you can never go wrong to invest in an ice cream maker.  I make every type of fruit ice cream that exists and am rarely disappointed.  It’s great for overripe fruit that needs to be used up.  Here’s a new recipe for Minted Strawberry Ice Cream with Coconut Milk.  It’s completely dairy free and not overly sweetened.  It is definitely getting added to my go-to list.  Good luck with your summer produce!

On update:  I just thought of one other tip that seems like a no-brainer.  Save your relatively clean produce bags and bread bags from the grocery store.  Instant free and reused storage!

Minted Strawberry Ice Cream with Coconut Milk

Makes about 2 quarts

2 cans coconut milk (15 ounces each, I used regular, but you could use light or one of each)
4-6 sprigs of mint
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
Pinch of salt
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 T sugar
2 T chopped fresh mint
Juice of 1/2 lime

1.  Bring coconut milk to a simmer in a medium, heavy saucepan and add mint sprigs.  Remove from heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes.  Remove mint sprigs and discard.  Bring coconut milk back to a simmer.

2.  Whisk together egg yolks and honey with pinch of salt until well combined.

3.  Add 1/4 cup of hot coconut milk to egg mixture and quickly whisk it in to temper the egg yolks (which prevents curdling).  Whisk in an additional 1/4 cup of coconut milk and repeat two or three times until egg mixture is hot.  Add egg mixture back to remaining hot coconut milk in saucepan and whisk or stir constantly over medium low heat until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Do not boil!  Remove from heat and immediately pour into a bowl or dish.

4.  Add vanilla extract to custard mixture.  Chill in an ice bath until cooled down.  (To do that: use a much larger bowl or dish and fill with ice water.  Set smaller bowl with coconut milk custard in the ice bath being careful not to get any water into the custard.  Here’s a picture for reference.)  Store cooled custard in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or until you are ready to make the ice cream.

5.  Meanwhile, combine sliced strawberries, chopped mint, and lime juice.  Let sit for at least 15-20 minutes, or until juices form.

6.  Combine strawberry mixture with custard mixture.  Pour into ice cream maker and churn for about 20-25 minutes, or according to manufacturer’s directions.  Remove from ice cream maker and store in freezer.  Allow it to soften a bit before serving.

Quinoa Sunbutter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Pumpkin Seeds

A few months ago, I decided to go off gluten.  While I haven’t been entirely faithful, I am still attempting to avoid it.  And like almost everything else, I am very bad at “all or nothing” eating.  I’m trying to eat less meat, but I don’t think I could ever be a vegetarian because beans have nothing on a seared medallion of filet mignon. I’m trying to eat less dairy, but how the hell is one supposed to give up heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella? And I’m trying to eliminate sugar, but you can’t make caramel without it, so there goes that. And alcohol?  Oh yes, one can give up alcohol and live many more years. But as the old joke goes:  you don’t actually live longer, it just feels like it.

I guess I’m not cut out for strict regimens of anything.  I start feeling sorry for myself.

So I have a pantry and refrigerator full of supplies based on my abandoned “regimens du jour.”  Here’s the brown rice flour.  There’s the coconut milk.  Back there (in the way back) is the goat’s milk yogurt.

Oh, and there’s the quinoa flour!  Aside from being a kick-ass Scrabble word, what might one do with quinoa flour?  I did some reading and found out that it can generally be substituted 1:1 for normal wheat flour in baking (except if you are making a yeast-leavened product, because it has no gluten).  It intrigued me so I decided to figure out a cookie recipe that would utilize all quinoa flour and be very allergy friendly (especially for kids).

As usual, I cut back on the sugar tremendously, so this recipe is not overly sweet.  It is another one of those cookie recipes that is more health food than dessert.  But you could easily add more sugar if you wanted to.  And the end result is pretty darn good — and a great allergy-friendly treat because it contains no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, and no nuts.  It does have eggs, but I bet you could substitute each egg with 2 T water, 1 T oil, and 2 t baking powder (that’s the “egg” combo I used in baking when my daughter was allergic to eggs).  If anyone with egg allergies tries this, let me know how it turns out.  Also, I used cocoa nibs to keep the sugar down even more, but feel free to substitute with chocolate chips if you like.

One VERY interesting side note, however:  I stored these cookies in our cookie jar and when I got some out for the kids today, the interiors of the cookies were green!  I have seen pumpkin seeds create a green tinge in certain things, but this was really green.  I am wondering if it was a reaction with the quinoa or the cocoa nibs.  Green food coloring without the chemicals, perhaps!  The ones stored in the freezer were fine, so if you don’t want greenish cookies, try that.  The kids thought the green color was pretty funky, however.   Any food scientists out there who could explain this one to me?

Quinoa Sunbutter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Pumpkin Seeds

Makes 18-24 cookies

1 cup sunbutter (I used crunchy — and any other nut/soy nut butter would work)
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup quinoa flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (or other nuts/seeds)
1/3 cup cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix sunbutter with honey in a large bowl.  Whisk in eggs and vanilla extract.

2.  Combine salt, baking soda, and quinoa flour.  Stir into sunbutter mixture until just combined.

3.  Stir pumpkin seeds and cocoa nibs into dough.

4.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Flatten slightly with a fork if you like.  Bake for 7-8 minutes until just done.

Asian Pork and Sweet Corn Hash

Why is it that every stage of parenthood just seems to get harder?  Once they sleep through the night, they begin to move and roll and fall off things.  Once they don’t need to eat every two hours, they start protesting solid foods and stop eating altogether.  Once they can dress themselves, they start talking back.  Once you get used to one baby, you go and have another one and wonder how you ever thought one child was hard.  There is a constant game of “one-upmanship” going on — and somewhere in their cute little faces they are saying, “You fool, I’m going to make you realize how easy you had it back then.”

And so it goes with older children and activities.  You thought your time demands were rough with babies?  Just wait until they have school, and homework, and soccer, and t-ball, and dance, and piano lessons.  I can hear you now, “I am not going to be that parent.  I am going to let each child have one activity at a time and we will not cater to their every extra-curricular desire.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Ha. Ha. Ha.       Ha.

And you thought it was under your control.  Here’s the deal:  even if each child does one thing, you have to do them all.  Get it?  And in our house, we definitely don’t over commit, but once you get multiple schools and multiple activities, it adds up to some sort of clusterfuck matrix of driving and practices and games and crying over homework and going to plays/parties/cultural celebrations and making quiches (don’t ask about that one) and writing checks and buying snacks (because you can’t have an activity without a damn snack).

It is the reason my right eye keeps twitching.  Plain and simple, we are on overload.

Hence the reason you need quick and easy dinners in your arsenal.  And I call it an “arsenal” very purposefully.  (An aside and a funny thing:  In the food blog world, there is constant conversation about the danger of people like Sandra Lee or those who are proponents of things called “30 minute meals.”  The danger, in the words of some, is that people aren’t really learning to cook and appreciate real food.  The opposing viewpoint is that any cooking is better than none.  Now, you know I am the biggest proponent of cooking real food — but these conversations fail to recognize the point that most of us in this stage of life don’t have a choice related to how much time we spend on food preparation.  On many nights, I’d love to linger over a glass of wine while making Boeuf Bourguignon.  But shit, it’s soccer night.  Get it?)

So, I guess what I’m hoping is that on the nights you can cook, you do.  And on the nights you cannot, you try to do something like this rather than ordering a pizza.  Be smart when you cook and make sure there are leftovers.  Because you can do an infinite amount of things with a little leftover meat, some veggies, and some eggs.  This recipe (when prepared with leftovers) can be done in 15 or 20 minutes and is much more healthy and delicious than some frozen chicken nuggets.

And next up?  Teenage Angst.  Fantastic.

Asian Pork and Sweet Corn Hash

Serves 4-6

1/2 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large leek (white part only), cleaned and chopped
2-3 leftover baked potatoes (2-3 cups), cut into small cubes
1/2 of a cooked pork tenderloin (about 1/2 lb. of protein: can be chicken, beef, or beans too), chopped
1 cup of frozen corn (or fresh if you have it)
4-6 eggs
2 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper
2 T soy sauce
1 T water
Chopped fresh herbs, such as chives or parsley

1.  Heat 1-2 T of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or saute pan.  Saute garlic and onions for 2-3 minutes.  Add leeks and saute for 1-2 minutes more.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

2.  Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil and add potato cubes and cook for about 5 minutes (stirring frequently so they don’t stick), or until they begin to brown slightly.

3.  Add 1 T of water and 2 T of soy sauce and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add pork or protein and corn.  Stir to combine.  Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until heated through.

4.  Meanwhile, fry eggs to desired doneness (we like ours over-light and nice and runny).  To serve, place hash on plate.  Top with fried eggs and sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.

Black Beluga Lentil Salad with Ham and Kale

I have been MIA in the Cuizoo world lately.  Sorry about that.  It’s the strangest thing with this stage of life and motherhood (or maybe parenting older children in general) . . . I feel like I never have a minute to rest, yet I never have anything to show for it.  I’m not closing big deals.  I’m not renovating a house.  I’m not planting a garden.  I’m not traveling.

The things that occupy my days are the same old things.  People ask me what’s new and I struggle.  The driving to and from school and activities? The laundry that needs to be put away again? The twenty minute crying benders over the wrong pair of socks or the lack of cookies? The cooking? The grocery shopping? The loading and emptying of the dishwasher? The cleaning up of toys and clothes from the floor? The piles of junk that stack up in the exact same places?

I spend my days in constant do loops and nothing is ever done.

And because of it, I end up mostly frustrated and bored out of my mind.  Is that honest enough for you?

The spring weather helps.  Activities and schedules are changing a bit.  I have gone back to work ten hours per week.  I’m thinking about heirloom tomatoes and swimming pools.  These are good things.  But, damn if I still don’t feel absolutely unproductive and unrewarded.

And it’s the ultimate “it’s not you, it’s me” thing.  The love I have for my kids and husband is beyond anything I have ever known.  I am so truly fortunate in that and I thank the Baby Jesus for them every day.  My rewards come climb in bed with me early in the morning and write me notes telling me how much they love me.  I know that is enough for now and forever.

But what is it about motherhood that makes you feel like you are in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” silently crying out, simply hoping that the act might break up the monotony and frustration?

Or is that just me?  And beyond, what do you do when you have a leftover ham bone?

Black Beluga Lentil Salad with Ham and Kale

Serve 8-10

3/4 lb. dried Black Beluga Lentils
1 ham bone/ham hock
1 small bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped
1 large leek (or 2 small), trimmed, well washed, and white part thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 1/2 cups of cooked ham or prosciutto, chopped
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 T dijon mustard
Juice and zest of one lemon
Chopped fresh herbs, if desired (thyme or chives would be nice)

1.  Place lentils and ham bone in a large pot and cover with plenty of water.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes until lentils are tender.  Strain and remove ham bone.  Place lentils in a large bowl.

2.  In a sauté pan, cook chopped kale in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until wilted.  Add 2-3 T of water, reduce heat, cover, and cook about five minutes longer until tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove and place in large bowl with lentils.

3.  In the same pan, sauté chopped leeks for 2-3 minutes in a bit of olive oil until just wilted.  Remove and place in bowl with lentils.

4.  Mix the dressing by combining olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic, dijon mustard, juice/zest of lemon, and about 1 t of salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Add chopped carrots, celery, and ham to lentils, leeks, and kale.  Toss with dressing and season to taste with additional salt and pepper and chopped fresh herbs if desired.  Can serve slightly warm or make ahead and chill.

Cocoa Butter Chocolate Chunk Brownie Cookies

Recently, my brother in law who works for a chocolate company (unnamed, of course — that’s how we do it here) asked me if I would ever have any interest in getting my hands on cocoa butter or chocolate liquor. Thinking that maybe I could give myself a massage and get drunk on chocolate, I said yes of course.  I really have never known cocoa butter to be anything more than a remedy for pregnant belly stretch marks — but I thought it might be interesting to fool around with it.

So I commenced with The Google and found out that it was used pretty infrequently in mainstream cooking and baking. Cocoa butter was used to make chocolate and sometimes in truffles or the like, but I rarely saw it used in anything else.  I’m guessing the main reason is that it is hard to find and more expensive — but given the interest in plant-based, vegan fats, it seems like it might catch on.  It is a bit harder at room temperature than coconut oil, but it softens up or melts quite nicely.  And, of course, it imparts a wonderful essence of chocolate — which is great when you want a non-animal fat and aren’t in the mood for essence of coconut in all of your baked goods.

Beyond, it seems purely luxurious, doesn’t it?  The idea of pure cocoa butter in a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert seems, well, pretty awesome.  And then if you stuff that cookie full of melted dark chocolate, cocoa nibs, dark chocolate chunks, and white chocolate chunks?  Well, send me to my room and draw the blinds.  These cookies will not disappoint.  And while I tried to stay sane (I used a bit of whole wheat flour), I didn’t cut back on the sugar because I knew I would lose the amazing brownie chewiness if I did.  Feel free to experiment with less — but this is the one time (OK, maybe one of four or five times) of the year that you need to eat a cookie the way it was meant to be eaten.

Commence with the drooling.  And if you want a source for food grade cocoa butter (and don’t have a brother in law), try here.  The cocoa nibs are generally available in a chocolate store, a good grocery store, or gourmet store.  I should add that if you can’t find cocoa butter, I am sure regular butter would be a perfectly delicious substitute.  It just wouldn’t be cocoa butter.  And on Valentine’s Day, how fun would that be?

Cocoa Butter Chocolate Chunk Brownie Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet dark chocolate, chopped
6 T cocoa butter (regular butter or coconut oil would work also), softened
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 t instant espresso powder
2 t vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a double boiler, melt together 8 ounces of chopped dark chocolate and cocoa butter until completely smooth.  Set aside to cool slightly.

2.  In a bowl, sift and mix together white whole wheat flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl with a mixer, mix together espresso powder, vanilla, and eggs until just combined.  Add white and brown sugar and mix for about two minutes until the mixture is very thick and ribbony.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in melted chocolate mixture.  Add in flour mixture and fold until just combined.

4.  Stir in cocoa nibs and chocolate chunks.  After a minute of two, the mixture will stiffen up considerably and will seem almost like the texture of fudge.

5.  Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto parchment lined baking sheets.  I would not put more than six cookies on one sheet because they spread.  Bake for 15-16 minutes until just done on top with a crackly crust.  If you use more than one cookie sheet at a time, I would recommend switching the sheets midway through the baking time.

(BTW, Valentines pictured are courtesy of my daughter who was busy at work assembling them during our snow day today.)

Gluten-Free Chewy Granola Bars

So, I guess I could really title these as gluten-free, wheat-free, nut-free, egg-free, and potentially dairy-free chewy granola bars.  But that seemed a little long.  I could also add that they are quite low in sugar and could potentially be made with no added sugar at all.

Can you tell I have made some New Years resolutions?

If I could advertise that these granola bars were alcohol-free too, trust me, I’d do it.  Because it’s been that kind of a holiday.  Which is to say that it was a great holiday.  One filled with at least twelve pounds of butter (and I’m not exaggerating), two Christmas celebrations which I hosted — first for my wonderful 20 person strong family and then my husband’s much smaller crew, my daughter’s Christmas birthday celebration, a New Years Eve party, lots of little dinner parties in between, and more filled recycling bins than I would ever confess to.

I seriously should have given the recycling crew a Christmas present.  They go around our little circle and spend about 30 seconds at each house taking their two milk containers, nicely bundled newspapers, and a few cans of Diet Coke.  They get to my house and they need to call in freaking reinforcements from neighboring counties. As much as it’s cool that my three year old gets to have his own, feature-length recycling truck show, I start self-flagellating just a tad.   Which is to say I berate myself without hauling out the ropes and switches.

So, yes, I have made some resolutions.  Getting back to normal eating and drinking habits is at the top of the list.  But, I’ve also made the decision to eliminate gluten from my diet for a bit.  There are a variety of reasons, but I have a hunch it is causing me issues — so I am going to get rid of it for at least a month and see how I feel.  I did this once before and I only lasted about four days — and when I lapsed (I baked chocolate chip cookies for the kids and sampled one), I felt lousy, got a headache, and wanted to take a nap.  Back in the old days of low carb diets, I always wondered why they made me feel so fantastic (full of energy, less stressed, more rested, with far fewer upset stomachs).  Maybe the lack of gluten was the reason.  So I am going to do a little experiment and see what happens.

I created these granola bars to have around for a quick breakfast or snack that the kids would enjoy.  You could easily remove the butter and substitute with all coconut oil (or dairy-free margarine) if you wanted them to be dairy-free.  And if you want to cut all the added sugar out, you could eliminate the honey and use only agave nectar.   Feel free to subsitute nuts/seeds/fruit/etc.

And I am going to consider it a little moral victory that there is no booze in this recipe.  Much unlike everything else I have made or consumed in the last month.  (BTW, Recycling Dudes, I owe you big time.)

Gluten-Free Chewy Granola Bars

Makes about 24 (a 9×13 pan)

2 cups old fashioned oats (make sure they are gluten-free if you are watching)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3/4 t sea salt
1/2 cup sunbutter (or other nut butter or soy butter)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 T butter (replace with either coconut oil or dairy free margarine to make dairy free)
3 T coconut oil
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan. Mix together oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, coconut, and salt.  Spread onto a sheet pan and bake for 14-15 minutes (stirring every five minutes or so) until the mixture is just golden.

2.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine sunbutter, honey, agave nectar, butter, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.  Whisk together until everything is fully melted, combined, and just beginning to bubble a bit. (about 3 minutes).  Remove from heat and stir in dried cherries.  Set aside.

3.  When oat mixture is golden, remove from oven and pour it into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in warm sunbutter mixture and thoroughly combine.  Pour into greased pan and pat down completely.  Let cool and cut into bars.

Almost Vegan Whole Grain Apple Dumplings

So, last week we were fortunate enough to be among the Pennsylvania residents who received the earliest October snowfall on record.  And not only did we end up with about 5 inches of snow (a day or so after our first frost of the season), we had major trees down and power outages because of the weight of the snow on the tree leaves.

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Luckily, we were only without power for about eight hours (many were without for three days or more).  By the evening, all we had to do was enjoy the fireplace and some impromptu company for a snow day dinner.  Did I forget to mention that school was even cancelled?  Nothing like recording your first snow day in mid October.

Because I am a lazy, lazy woman, I refused to go out of the house to pick up any ingredients to make dessert.  And I quickly realized that I was completely out of butter.  This does not generally make for a very good dessert.  I improvised with coconut oil and pretended it was because I was trying to be healthier.  The rest of the ingredients were luckily sitting around — apples, apple cider, and some basic staples.  I call these dumplings “almost vegan” because I made them with honey and cow’s milk — which are clearly not vegan (although some vegans debate the use of honey).  However, you could easily substitute those ingredients with agave nectar or sugar for the honey and soy milk or your choice of milk substitute.

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And if you are in no mood to be healthy, you could reverse engineer them with butter.  Especially if you don’t have to put boots on to go get it.  I would say that the one thing you wouldn’t want to change is the freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg — you will not believe the difference.  I have a coffee grinder that I use exclusively for “sweet” spices and the end result is unlike anything you have ever tasted pre-ground.

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Almost Vegan Whole Grain Apple Dumplings

Serves 8-10

For the apple mixture:
4 apples (I used a softer baking apple, but any will do), peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
3 T coconut oil, melted
1 cinnamon stick (or 1 t pre-ground), freshly ground in a spice grinder
1 small piece of whole nutmeg (or 1 t pre-ground), freshly ground in a spice grinder
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

For the pastry:
4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
3/4 cup coconut oil, at room temperature or chilled (in a hardened state)
1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
1 cup milk (can easily substitute with soy milk, etc.)

For the sauce:
1 3/4 cups apple cider
1 cup honey or agave nectar

Plus additional milk for brushing tops of dumplings

1.  Make the apple mixture by combining the 1/2 cup of honey and 3 T of melted coconut oil.  Toss with chopped apples and combine with cinnamon, nutmeg, and breadcrumbs.  Set aside.

2.  Make the pastry by placing pastry flour, baking powder, and salt in a a food processor.  Pulse a few times.  Add in 3/4 cup of coconut oil and process until it looks like a fine meal, with no large lumps of coconut oil remaining.  Add in honey and milk and pulse until just combined.  Turn out onto a piece of parchment paper and knead a few times until it comes together as dough.  (It will feel a bit like cookie dough — it is somewhat fragile.)

3.  Make sauce by combining apple cider and 1 cup of honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let cook for about 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened.

4.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Flatten pastry dough into a square shape and gently roll out (leaving it on the parchment paper) into about a 12 inch by 12 inch square.  It should be about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut that square into 9 smaller squares (a 3×3 matrix).

5.  To assemble a dumpling:  take one pastry square, flatten it a bit more, and place about 1/3 cup of the apple mixture in the center of the square.  Bring each corner of the pastry square over top the apples to the center.  Place the dumpling into the palm of your hand to firm up any cracks on the bottom and seal the dough to the top of the apples.  Repeat with remaining dough and apples.

6.  Place dumplings into a greased baking pan (I used a 11×14 pyrex), leaving a little space between them.  Brush the tops of the dumplings with milk.  (Can refrigerate at this point until ready to bake and serve.)

7.  When ready to bake (you will want to serve them somewhat warm), pour apple cider sauce around the base of the dumplings.  Bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes until golden and the sauce is bubbly and nicely absorbed into the dumplings.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Allergy Friendly Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 cup dairy-free margarine or shortening (I use Earth Balance)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Plain Soy Milk (or rice milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Chocolate Chunks Made From One Scharffen Berger Semisweet Baking Bar (9.7 ounces)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add soy milk, cream well, then add vanilla.

Chop Semisweet Chocolate Baking Bar into small chunks the appropriate size for cookies. 

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, then fold in the chocolate chunks (or raisins).  Drop by teaspoons on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350°F degrees for about 10 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool on racks.

Allergy Friendly Chocolate Chunk Brownies

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup soy or canola-based margarine (With no whey, etc. I use Earth Balance.)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Scharffen Berger)
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chunks (chopped from a 9 oz. Scharffen Berger Semisweet Baking Bar — the only one that is dairy, egg, and nut free and not processed with any of it) — could use other add-ins based on your allergies or likes

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. In a saucepan combine the 1/3 cup of flour and water. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thick. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
2. In a small saucepan, melt margarine. When margarine has melted, add the cocoa and mix until smooth; set aside to cool. Beat the sugar and vanilla into the cooled flour mixture. Stir in the cocoa mixture until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, stir into the batter until just blended. Fold in chocolate chunks or other add-ins. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Cool and cut into bars.

I baked for 20 minutes on 350 convection. The result was a really fudgy, dense brownie.