Monday, December 19, 2011

Gluten free Pumpkin Cornmeal Muffins

I borrowed this from the gluten free goddess blog. Great way to use up some leftover canned pumpkin, and cornmeal! I added 1/2 cup of gluten free, dairy free chocolate chips. But only because the probability of E trying anything increases substantially with the inclusion of chocolate chips.

3 large organic free-range eggs

1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup organic pumpkin puree
3/4 cup organic light brown sugar
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (I used a combination of 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp cardamom)
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornmeal
1 cup Pamela's Ultimate Baking Mix or other gluten-free pancake and baking mix (I used Pamela's Vanilla Cake Mix and it worked great)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs till frothy, and add the oil; whisk to combine. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk well. Add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and Pumpkin Pie Spice and whisk to combine.

In a separate mixing bowl whisk together the cornmeal, Pamela's Ultimate Baking Mix, baking powder, and sea salt.

Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients into the wet; and stir by hand just enough to make a smooth batter. Drop the batter by spoonfuls into the twelve muffin cups.

Bake on a center rack in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or so, until the muffins are firm to the touch and golden. Check with a wooden pick, if necessary; if it emerges clean, the muffins are done. 

Place the muffin pan on a wire to cool a bit- maybe five minutes- then remove the muffins from the tin and place them on the wire rack to continue cooling.

Serve warm.

Store leftover muffins (wrapped and bagged) in the freezer. Thaw and reheat by toasting or grilling.

Makes twelve muffins.

Read more:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cherry Cheesecake Cookies 

(from Cook's Country)
Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies
To make graham cracker crumbs, process 8 whole graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground. (Or you can buy a box of graham cracker crumbs and use 1 cup.)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (no one said these were healthy)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (see note)
  • 3 (20-ounce) cans cherry pie filling, drained
  • 1. MAKE DOUGH Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese, butter, and sugar until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Refrigerate dough until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  • 2. HEAT OVEN Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place graham cracker crumbs in shallow dish.
  • 3. ASSEMBLE COOKIES Roll dough into 1½-inch balls, then roll in crumbs. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using tablespoon measure, make indentation in center of each ball. Place 3 cherries in each dimple. Bake until golden around edges, 12 to 14 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool 5 minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. (Cookies can be stored in airtight container for 2 days.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

I am not a cookie monster

I have no recipe for this post, but I do have a moment that was affirming, feedback that my efforts are actually filtering through those curious and growing brains.
Yesterday I took my kids to a little cookie decorating party at work. While most other kids present hoovered cookies to their heart's content, mine actually partook of the vegetable and fruit platter first, and then ate only one cookie!!!!!
One other mother praised E for being so healthy and not being a cookie monster. To which E replied, "I am not cookie monster. I don't have blue fur." Ah, the lovely literal mind on that girl. She made her momma proud.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gluten free Cake Pops

Apparently cake pops have been the rage for a while now. Our first encounter with them was at Starbucks. The bright pink ones with the sprinkles had the girls in a frenzy. I bought them each one and got my coffee and off we went. In the coming month that was all they wanted every time they saw a Sbux - talk about early brand recognition, ugh. They even went with the "We can have cake pops and you can get your special coffee." Convincing - until I tried a nibble of said cake pop. Blech is my usual reaction to most of the goodies at Starbucks. I like their coffee, but their baked goods in my opinion are barely edible.They contain the tang of highly refined and processed. Such a reaction usually leads to me finding a way to make it at home. A search on cake pops led to all kinds of posts, but the main one being from Bakerella. She has all kinds of neat designs. I bought her book for a reference and that book got stolen by my 4 year old. It became her lovey for 3 nights.
That aside, I had trouble with the original recipe for cake pops. A store bought cake mix made and the cake crumbled up with a can of store bought frosting. No wonder they had a sickly sweet taste. I wanted to do just a cake ball that could then be covered with the candy coating. That would have enough sugar on its own without needing to mix frosting in. Enter the Bake-Pop pan. The commercial showed up on Sprout one day. We all got mesmerized - the girls for the cake pops pictures, and me over the pan, enough that I bought one.

I've used it three times since getting it 2 weeks ago. The first attempt was Turkey Cake Pops, using store bought cake mix and Wilton Candy Melts for the coating:
This was more challenging than I thought it would be and my next attempt was a simpler dip in chocolate and sprinkles. My third try was for these cute little baby faces for a baby shower. The best part of these ones is that they were gluten free (not dairy free, still trying to work on that). They turned out tastier than the wheat containing ones.

Here is the recipe I used:

- Mix, until smooth, one (21 oz) package of Pamela's Classic Vanilla Cake Mix with 1 box of Kraft Instant Sugar Free and Fat Free Cheesecake Flavor Jello Pudding, 4 eggs, 1/3 cup oil, and 1/3 cup of milk (I used So Delicious Coconut Milk). If the mixture is still grainy, add water or milk a tablespoon at a time until it smooths out. The batter needs to be fairly thick to get a dense consistency cake.
- I then put it in the Bake Pop pan and baked at 350 for 25 minutes. The cake balls are put in the fridge to cool. This make them a little easier to work with when dipping in the coating.
- Melt 1 block (20 oz) of almond bark in the microwave in 30 second increments and stir. When it is all melted and smooth, add 1 tablespoon of Crisco, nuke it for another 30 seconds and stir until combined. This thins the coating out and helps avoid big lumps. If you look at the photo, the back row of pops which have the big lumps at the back were done in almond bark without Crisco. Adding the shortening really helped with a smoother texture.
- Dip a lollipop stick in the coating, insert into cake ball about halfway. Then dip the cake ball and use a rubber spatula or spoon to help cover the whole ball in coating and to help lift the ball out so it doesn't slip off the stick.
- Let the excess coating drip off, then place the pop in a styrofoam (or floral) block to dry thoroughly. The almond bark dries much faster than melted chocolate or Wilton candy melts. Once dry, they can be decorated. Sprinkles should be added when the coating is still wet. I glued on the pacifiers etc by dipping a toothpick in the melted coating and dabbing it on the pop before affixing the little candy to it.

* Although Wilton Candy melts do not have ingredients with gluten, the melts are manufactured in a facility that processes other products with wheat.
* Loghouse Almond bark and MOST flavors of Kraft Instant Jello Pudding are gluten free, but contain dairy or dairy derivatives. Kraft Instant jello pudding also contains corn.

Friday, October 21, 2011

No Knead recipe for Challah

No-Knead Challah
from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets) (I buy bulk instant yeast on Amazon. Store in fridge and it lasts forever)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (the recipe calls for 1 1/2 tbsp, but the taste is too salty)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (or neutral-tasting vegetable oil such as canola), plus more for greasing the cookie sheet
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter (or oil) with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (no airtight) food container.
2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1-pound portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. Then allow the usual rest and rise time.
5. On baking day, butter or grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper, or a silicone mat. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
6. Divide the ball into thirds, using a dough scraper or knife. Roll the balls between your hands (or on a board), stretching, to form each into a long, thin rope. If the dough resists shaping, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Braid the ropes, starting from the center and working to one end. Turn the loaf over, rotate it, and braid from the center out to the remaining end. This produces a loaf with a more uniform thickness than when braided from end to end.
7. Allow the bread to rest and rise on the prepared cookie sheet for 1 hour and 20 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
8. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. If you're not using a stone in the oven, 5 minutes is adequate. Brush the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with the seeds.
9. Bake near the center of the oven for about 25 minutes. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time. The challah is done when golden brown, and the braids near the center of the loaf offer resistance to pressure. Due to the fat in the dough, challah will not form a hard, crackling crust.
10. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

Almond Pumpkin Muffins

Strange things happen in the wee hours of a dark Autumn morning.

The muffin monster

On this particular morning, my 4 year old stumbled in to my room before 6 am for the fourth day in a row. The only problem was she was not willing to lay down and snuggle as usual. She was UP. And she wanted muffins. “Mommy, you haven’t made me muffins in a long time!” Ugh. She was right, but I had a good reason: “Mommy, has a broken arm and it’s hard for me to make goodies right now.” She didn’t buy it. “Momma, you can writed with your broken arm. It’s fixed now, so you can make me muffins.”

She had seen me write the day before. Not that it was easy. Still I found this recipe on Health, Home & Happiness. These muffins were super easy to make, delicious and filling and make for a great weekday breakfast food if you're running late (or lazy). And both my kids gobbled them up! Make them ahead of time and refrigerate.

Almond Flour Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 12

1/4 cup soft butter, ghee, or coconut oil
6 eggs
1 inch ginger root, peeled and grated finely if not using a food processor (FYI, you do not need to peel ginger. I just grate with the skin on. The final product is not affected.)
3 tablespoons coconut flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups almond flour
1-1/2 cups cooked pumpkin or squash (or 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (optional)
1/4 to 1/3 cup honey (I subbed maple syrup)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a food processor or stand mixer, combine butter, eggs, ginger, coconut flour and salt. Blend well, making sure the coconut flour is well mixed in.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Line muffin pan with liners if desired and dot liners with coconut oil or grease muffin pan with coconut oil (Um, why grease if you're using a liner? I skipped this). Fill nearly full with batter and bake for 18-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Boule, challah, NUTELLA BREAD PUDDING….one hand conquers them all

I will warn this is a long post. My previous post is dated August 30. Well, the next day I had a lovely accident tripping over this stupid concrete tire stop next to my car and broke my right arm. You can see from the photo above that it was in an odd place. I was getting something from the passenger side and tripped backward when I stepped back to close the door. Since that time I've had one useful hand. 

Somewhere I read that October was Unprocessed Foods month, or some weird derivative of that title. That sounded appealing yet impossible to me at the time. Appealing because I know that my version of whatever processed crap food always tastes better. Impossible because in September I had surgery on my right broken wrist/arm. Just imagine...I had a plate and screws in there like some kind of bionic woman, but I was far from that.  Consequently, in September, we ate a lot of ready-made and take-out food. There wasn’t much choice: I was either on Rx pain meds, in pain,or limited to my left hand (not a leftie), and mouth for appendages. And after a while, my mouth decided it didn’t want to help out much cause I was making it go places it heavily objected to. OK, that sounds rude, but I mean places like a child’s shoe laces when helping to tie them. 
High moisture dough

It was thankfully not all bad for you stuff. With the help of several friends and neighbors, we had a lot of delivered meals too. One even ame grocery shopping with me and spent the day in my kitchen cooking me yummies for the upcoming week. Thank you Heather! (She makes this amazing corn soup.) She is the one who turned me onto Artisan Breads in 5 minute a day. The concept of the book is making a big batch of high moisture dough (that you don’t knead), then refrigerating it and taking a piece of it to bake as you need it.  I wasn’t convinced. Artisan quality from something that simple, from no kneading? R-i-i-ght. 
Two days later I was convinced. Heather made this pizza crust from the book and it was good. I got my copy, and skipped to the first recipe – the so-called Master Recipe. (And who doesn’t skip most of intro section of a cookbook anyway?) It was similar to a French boule. I mixed it after dinner, let it rise for 2 hours as directed, and stuck it in the fridge. The next evening I grabbed my “grapefruit sized” piece and baked it. It turned out ok. Nice texture, BUT it was way too salty. I baked the rest of it into a gigantic loaf figuring I’d use it forseasoned breadcrumbs, but the kids and hubby ate it so it was a promising starting point. I did a little research and figured it would be okay to experiment with the salt level a little. The only reason I was willing to try this again, willing to squash the little inner skeptic was because I could mix the dough with my one hand. Even the shaping was simple using one hand – and lots of flour.  My second go round, I cu tthe salt back by ½ tablespoon. Again, it was simple to mix and shape. Although the recipe says it makes four 1-pound loaves, I made three slightly larger ones. I left them on my corn-mealed pizza peel to come to room temperature about 40 minutes. (I do have to say that the 5 minute claim is a little misleading because it does not include waiting time). I stuck all three in the oven at one time. Nowhere did it say I couldn’t do this, but looking back I would probably stick with one at a time. It was tough trying to slide three loaves onto the baking stone. About an hour later, I couldn’t resist. I had to cut into the warm bread even though it says not to. Whatever; that's why I made three loaves. One could be sacrificed to satisfy my longing to see if the saltiness level was right. Four slices and four tasters later, the consensus was that it was very tasty bread. And not over-saltyThis small success led me to look at what else I could do. It went off the radar for a bit as I got into physical therapy and catching up on missed work. 

Then we were invited to a pumpkin carving potluck. I decided to make Nutella bread pudding in my crockpot. I made the recipe out of Slow Cooker Revolution, one of my favorite cookbooks - the main ingredient is challah bread. Artisan in 5 had a recipe for challah, and I had all the ingredients. Awesome, I could brag that I made almost everything from scratch. Now I will forewarn – the recipe does notfollow the traditional challah. It has butter in it, and it uses the whole egg, not just the yolk (I’m not sure of exact tradition, but I have read some recipes that claim only yolks should be used). It turned out great. I had to stop myself at one nibble. The recipe for the challah is here.

The thought of the following recipe is what gave me willpower. It is a delicious and VERY INDULGENT dessert. 

NUTELLA BREAD PUDDING (from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolutioncookbook)
Serves 8 to10                                   CookingTime: about 4 hours on Low

• Vegetable oil spray
•1 (14-ounce) loaf challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (12 cups) (If you cannot find challah, firm,high-quality sandwich bread may be substituted.)
• 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardhelli 60% cacao)
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 2 cups whole milk
•9 large egg yolks
•1 cup Nutella
•3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulatedsugar
•4 teaspoons vanilla extract
•3/4 teaspoon salt
•2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1. Line slow cooker with aluminum foil collar, then line with foil sling and coat with vegetable oil spray. (I don’t always do this, but it does mean that the back portion of my pudding gets a little dry because it has a hot spot. The foil collar is supposed to help even out any hot spots). 
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Spread bread over rimmed baking sheet and bake, shaking pan occasionally, until dry and crisp, about 40 minutes. Let bread cool slightly, then transfer to very large bowl.

3. Mix chocolate chips into dried bread; transfer to prepared slow cooker. 
4.Whisk cream, milk, egg yolks, Nutella, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt together in bowl, then pour mixture evenly over bread. Press gently on bread to submerge.

5. Mix remaining tablespoon granulated sugar with brown sugar then sprinkle over top of casserole. Cover and cook until center is set, about 4 hours on low. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Egg Yolks are in!

Some of you with autistic or ADHD children (or any children with gastrointestinal issues) may recognize this book:

I’m in the midst of reading it. Some of it is a repetition (in my opinion) of earlier books connecting the inability to digest certain proteins and fats with the resulting mental symptoms that occur with autism and ADHD. I’ve read before about leaky gut syndrome, incomplete peptide breakdown, heroin-type addiction. We did the GFCF diet for almost 3 years and saw some improvement in my daughter’s abilities, her mental awareness, and her own slight intestinal problem. We added those back in slowly and saw no reaction or degradation of progress. But I also saw no further progress. I toyed with the idea of going back on the diet and while searching through some other blogs and websites, came across this book. I even tried the intro diet. I lasted 4 days. It was a little too rigid. I get that you have to simplify what you eat to heal. And maybe if I was in need of healing, I could have stuck to the six phases.

But I wasn’t and so I didn’t. What I have liked about the book though is that some of the suggestions for adding nutrients and fortification to food can be done easily. What each food contributes in terms of nutrients and how they connect to the body and brain processes is explained very well. Adding an egg yolk to soup broth for example: egg yolks are easy to digest, full of nutrients including choline which is involved in the development of cognitive processes. And thanks to me trying this out, and reaching my “I’m done” point, I began eating a bunch of hard boiled egg yolks.

E spied me and asked what I was eating. She asked if she could sniff it. Then she asked if she could try one. She balked a little at the texture, but she gobbled down two. That was 2 weeks ago. She has since had a hard-boiled egg yolk every day for breakfast. And since it contains vitamin A, E, D, K, essential fatty acids, choline, and a host of other wonderful things, I am thrilled she is getting some seriously unprocessed nutrition. Maybe soon we can kick those gummy vitamin supplements to the curb.

Friday, September 9, 2011

More soup for you!!

All of a sudden, E wants soup. I can't figure where this latest desire stemmed from - TV or kids at her summer camp. Specifically she wanted chicken noodle. And initially I didn't leap on buying a can of soup. Sometimes I like to wait and see if she'll continue her interest. Then fate stepped in - I broke my right arm and my amazing friends & family stepped in with dinners. One brought .....tada.....cans of chicken noodle soup and tomato soup. And while shopping for school supplies, E glommed onto a lunchbox set because of the soup container bedazzled with Barbie, and declared she wanted soup for lunches this year.
That evening, I tried the chicken noodle:

It didn't go over well. Her sister gobbled it up, but E herself was not so keen. And she visibly got a little upset that she didn't like it and would not be taking it to school. That was a first. I've never seen her emotionally react to food that way. Either she likes it or doesn't. She used to throw tantrums but those would be over once the new food was removed. For some reason, she seemed emotionally invested in needing soup at lunch. Maybe it's a touch of 2nd grade sophistication, since she no longer wanted her sandwich cut either. Consolingly, I suggested that we could try other soups and those could still go in her lunchbox. She seemed intent on chicken noodle - as so often happens when a child has autism, the focus on one thing can be hard to break out of. Then came the first day of school and in a semi-panic she insisted she have soup, any soup. I explained I was out of chicken noodle but I had tomato:
Thankfully she went for it, AND she ate it. (Or someone did!) And she declared lunch with soup her favorite moment of her day. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

All Season Peach Squares (or Apricot or Cherry)

My peach squares got eaten before I took a pic so this was
borrowed from the Cook's Country website. My apricot squares
were also eaten before I got a photo. These things are GOOD.

All Season Peach Squares

Makes 24
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 3/4 cups sliced almonds

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon

  •   Table salt

  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen peaches, partially thawed

  • 1/2 cup peach preserves

  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Peaches thawing

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 13 by 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing excess to overhang pan edges. Spray pan with cooking spray. Process flour, 11/4 cups almonds, granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in food processor until combined, about 5 seconds. Add butter and pulse mixture until it resembles coarse meal (some pea-sized pieces of butter will remain), about twenty 1-second pulses.
2. Transfer 1/2 cup flour mixture to small bowl and set aside. Press remaining flour mixture firmly and evenly into bottom of prepared baking pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toss remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar with reserved flour mixture. Set aside.

Pressed in crust
3. While crust is baking, remove blade from food processor and wipe out work bowl. Pulse peaches and preserves in food processor until mixture has 1/4-inch chunks, about five 1-second pulses (if larger chunks remain, scrape down sides and pulse 2 more times). Cook peach mixture in large nonstick skillet over high heat until thickened and jam-like, about 10 minutes. Off heat, add pinch salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Pour mixture over hot crust.
4. Using fingers, pinch reserved flour mixture to create dime-sized clumps and sprinkle over peaches.

5. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup almonds over top and bake until almonds are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Using foil overhang, lift from pan and cut into 24 squares. Squares are best served on day they are baked because the crust can become soggy with time. (See below for reheating instructions.)
TO REHEAT: Place leftover squares side by side (with no spaces in between the squares) on a baking sheet and heat in a 350-degree oven until the bottoms are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool back to room temperature before eating.

    The cherry version! 

    A Better Biscuit

    Last week I was chatting with the director at my daughters' day care, KDA, about joining them for a local parade and the conversation worked it's way around to food (Doesn't it always?). Specifically about how they were making changes - healthy good ones - to the menu at the center. In particular though, she was struggling to find a healthy and whole grain biscuit that fit in the budget and that the kids would love the taste of. Well, come to think of it me too. I LOVE biscuits, but they pack a punch to the tune of 300+ calories and 15+ grams fat. I didn't actually know this until I started looking at recipes. Almost made me want to take back all those plates of biscuits & gravy I ate in college. The search was on for a whole wheat biscuit that tastes good. The problem with that is it's like a spinach smoothie. I've never tasted one I liked. I decided then to go for a middle of the road approach: find a recipe that still had a little of that good tasting but maybe not so good for you stuff - yep, butter.
    I found a recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook for Whole Wheat Biscuits that seemed to strike a good balance by subbing light cream cheese for some of the butter. And I can't say I loved it. It lacked flavor and although they were more tender than other recipes, it still tasted slightly cardboard-like. Testing that on another's taste buds, I asked E to try it and she told me "Mom, this is something for you to like but not me." Wow, talk about blunt. She hardly gets straight to the point that way. Back to square one. Instead I flipped the page forward and saw Sweet Potato Biscuits. Intriguing. It had part whole wheat, part all purpose flour, sweet potato that is cooked and pureed, AND fewer calories and fat than the whole wheat biscuits on the previous page.
    I whipped up a batch on Saturday before the parade, and served them for breakfast. They were a hit. H ate two! Without any jam or honey added! Several other kids tasted them at the parade later that day and loved them. We found our better biscuit. If only there were a tasty no calorie gravy........
    SWEET POTATO BISCUITS Makes 14 to 16 biscuits

    To chill the butter pieces, place on a plate and freeze until solid, about 10 to 15 minutes. A fresh sweet potato is preferred in this recipe (by the cookbook authors), but I substituted diced frozen sweet potatoes. The plus on that, is it's already peeled and cut. This is the kind I get: 

    • 1 (12‑ounce) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2‑inch pieces, about 2 cups
    • 1 1/2 cups (71/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup (23/4 ounces) whole-wheat flour
    • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • Pinch ground allspice
    • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2‑inch pieces and chilled, plus 1 tablespoon, melted (for brushing)
    • 3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled
    1. Microwave the sweet potato in a covered bowl on high power, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes; set aside to cool.
    2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
    3. Pulse the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and allspice together in a food processor to combine, about 3 pulses. Scatter the 4 tablespoons chilled butter evenly over the top and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 pulses.
    4. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and wipe out the food processor. Pulse the cooled sweet potato and buttermilk in the food processor until smooth, 10 to 15 pulses.
    Smooth puree
    5. Stir the sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy, 8 to 10 times. Pat the dough into a 9‑inch circle, about 3/4 inch thick.
    Shaggy dough prior to kneading
    I'm a nerd - I measured 
    6. Using a floured 21/4‑inch biscuit cutter, stamp out 14 biscuits, gently patting the dough scraps back into a uniform 3/4‑inch piece as needed. Pat the small piece of remaining dough into 2 more biscuits with your hands. Arrange the biscuits, upside down, on the prepared baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart.
    Those perfectly round ones were done by sous chef H. I'm jealous.
    7. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the 1 tablespoon melted butter and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

    Yummy goodness!
    Per Biscuit: Cal 110; Fat 3.5g; Sat Fat 2.5g; Chol 10mg; Carb 18g; Protein 2g; Fiber 1g; Sodium 310mg

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Chocolate does conquer all

    I've been working on a granola bar recipe for a while. The problem though is that E has not really liked any of the ones we've tried. Until now. The key is chocolate chips. More than I'd like to be in there. But at least she's eating them and they're way better than what you would find in a box. I adapted this recipe from No Whine with Dinner. As long as you stick with the rolled oats and dried fruit in the base, I think you can pretty much substitute any healthy no sugar cereal, any nut or seed, and any syrup style sweetener. 

    Makes a great morning snack to take to work too.

    Grab-and-Go Granola Bars
    Makes 12 Bars

    *1 cup quick cooking or old fashioned oats
    *1½ cups dried fruit (choose one or more of the following: raisins, cherries, apricots, cranberries prunes)
    *1 cup spoon-size shredded wheat cereal (I used Alpen Cereal, No Sugar Added)
    *1 cup walnuts (I've also subbed pumpkin seeds)
    *1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    *1/2 teaspoon salt
    *2 large eggs
    *1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup or agave nectar)
    *1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    *1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used regular size and about 1/2 cup)

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking
    spray and set aside.
    2. Place the oats, shredded wheat, walnuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food
    processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped (the fruit should be the size of a dried pea or
    3. Whisk together the eggs, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add the oat mixture
    and chocolate chips and stir to combine.
    4. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan, and flatten gently with the back of a spoon or rubber
    5. Bake about 18 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. Let cool completely in pan before
    slicing into twelve 2 x 2½- inch bars.

    I store mine in the fridge since it helps firm up the bars a little. 
    TIP: These bars freeze really well. So, if you have leftovers, wrap individual portions in plastic baggies or
    aluminum foil and freeze.
    Nutrition Information per Serving: 200 calories, 9g fat (1.5g saturated, 0.9g omega-3), 115mg sodium, 30g
    carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 4g protein

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Baja Fresh versus Taco Hell

    Last week at E's summer camp, her teacher excitedly told me she ate a bean burrito (Taco Bell style) at lunch. I was excited too. Lately, E has really hit a stride with trying new things, not just food, but activities, life, pushing herself just that little bit extra. It has been a pleasure to see her do it. And even if she doesn't like the new food, it has not stopped her effort to try a new one the next time she is offered. So today on my way home from work, I decided to get some Baja Fresh for dinner. I got two bean and cheese burritos and a cheese quesadilla for us to share. The portions are quite large and the price is just right. 
    Hard to see, but this baby had real beans, not some canned mush 
    Well, I was promptly informed that the burrito was not a proper bean & cheese burrito. The beans were not mushed up. I argued that beans should not be mushy. It didn't matter. I got sulky silence and watched her fill up on tortilla chips and strawberries (from home). And so while I was excited that she ate a bean burrito, I was also disappointed that the junk burrito won out. Then I looked up the nutrition stats. Maybe E was onto something. A Taco Bell bean burrito weighs in at 198 g per serving, and a whole Baja burrito weighs in at a whopping 392 g. If you standardize the nutrition numbers to the same size, you get similar numbers, but a whole lot more calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol in the Baja Fresh one. 

    Table comparing nutrition of Taco Bell & Baja Fresh Beans & Cheese Burritos
    So they're both junky. And I will be making a homemade bean burrito soon and seeing how that goes down.

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Star fruit

    It's one of those weeks where life is very busy so this post will be short and sweet. Sweet like the star fruit, also known as carambola. A fruit that was in abundance where I grew up, and one that I knew would be liked, I scooped up a couple at my local whole foods store.

    Both kids went nuts over the shape, and since they're in season during the summer, the fruit was juicy and delicious. I recommend peeling the thickest part of the skin which is on the tips of the 5 ridges, then slice thinly and serve. I know a person who peels all the skin off, but it's time consuming, and you're missing out on some fiber. A ripe star fruit will be a golden almost translucent yellow, and the ribs will be slightly brown at peak ripeness (another reason to trim it). And if your kid happens to be in the "yellow-beige" foods only phase of their life, this might scrape under their radar. 

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Buckwheat pancake or lefse or tortilla thingies

    Lately I've been experimenting with doing oatmeal in the slow cooker. I'm also trying to clear out the pantry of some older grains and found a bag of kasha (also know as buckwheat). Buckwheat is actually not a type of wheat and is gluten free. And although I don't focus on gluten free as much as I used to, I still like to experiment if something looks good so I can pass it along if someone else is interested. I was looking at this bag of kasha and wondering what to do with it. I thought I'd give it a go in the slow cooker (2 cups uncooked kasha in 8 cups water; 6 hours on Low). Not so good. It had the consistency of over-boiled potatoes. I thought too bad it wasn't potatoes, I could make my husband's grandmother's recipe for lefse. LIGHTBULB! Why not try a gluten free kasha version of that? I pushed 3 cups of the kasha through the potato ricer, and wondered what sort of GF glour mix to do. And darn if I wasn't out of xanthan gum (which acts as a stabilizer, and gives some lift and fluffiness to gluten free baking). But I found King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Pancake Mix buried in the back of the pantry. It already has a mix of GF flours, xanthan gum, sugar, and salt added. Hmm. So here's where I went with it:

    3 cups kasha pushed through a ricer; add 2 cups GF pancake mix

    Combine until it looks like small crumbs. You might have to use your hands.
    Then add 1/3 cup milk and mix together until you get a dough consistency. Add a tablespoon
    milk at a time if it's too dry until you get the ball of dough. Use any kind of milk or dairy alternative here. I used milk on half, and So Delicious coconut milk on the other. There was no difference in taste or texture.

    Take about 1/2 cup size, roll into a ball. Cover a cutting board or smooth surface with plastic wrap.
    Place dough ball on top and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap.

    The plastic wrap makes rolling out a GF dough easy. Roll it as thin as possible without it cracking.
    Move to the side and repeat plastic wrap - dough - wrap - roll, until all the dough is rolled into pancakes.

    Place in fridge for about 15 minutes. Chilling will help it separate from the plastic wrap a  little easier and without as much chance of ripping. It is a delicate dough so every tip helps. Heat a skillet over medium heat, brush with a little butter or olive oil. Place pancake in skillet, cook for about 2 minutes, flip and cook for another minute or two.
    These were best served immediately. The next day they were a little cardboardy which is why I think refrigerating and then cooking when you want to eat them would work best. The kids liked theirs with a little brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on. E even asked for a second one. 

    I ate mine spread with some homemade apricot jam, and rolled.  :) 

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Chocolate Blackout Cake

    No story this week. Just a recipe for a fabulous chocolate cake because I needed a change from berries. :)

    Chocolate Blackout Cake (from Blue Ribbon Desserts cookbook)

    Give the pudding and the cake enough time to cool or you'll end up with runny pudding and gummy cake.
    Serves 10 to 12

    1 1/4cups granulated sugar 
    1/4cup cornstarch 
    1/2teaspoon table salt 
    2cups half-and-half 
    1cup whole milk 
    6ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
    2teaspoons vanilla extract 

    8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for greasing pans
    1 1/2cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting pans
    2teaspoons baking powder 
    1/2teaspoon baking soda 
    1/2teaspoon salt 
    3/4cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder 
    1cup brewed coffee (you can use decaf)
    1cup buttermilk 
    1cup packed light brown sugar 
    1cup granulated sugar 
    2large eggs 
    1teaspoon vanilla extract
    1. For the pudding: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.
    2. For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl.
    3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.
    4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.
    5. To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Maybe more, but that's how long it lasted here.)

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