Monthly Archives: October 2011

Menu Plan October 31-November 4

When I started really planning out menus each week, I would carry around a folded-up piece of paper in my purse. This piece of paper would have the menu scribbled on the back, plus any additional notes for other things that I was hoping to make. On the front, I would write out my grocery list. I had a different area for different categories on the sheet – at the top left, I’d list all of the produce I wanted to buy. At the top right of the page, I’d list meats and seafood. Canned and pantry items would go in the bottom left, household cleaning items, hygiene items, and paper goods to the bottom right. Anything that wasn’t a weekly purchase or was out of the ordinary for me to buy – such as batteries, dog food, or a filter for the vacuum cleaner – would go at the very bottom, a bit separate from the other items, so I’d be sure to notice it. I would add to that list throughout the week, pulling it out and jotting down things I needed as I would think of them. It wasn’t pretty – that piece of paper would be pretty worn and crumpled by the weekend, sometimes with items crossed out because I’d changed my mind, but it was a system, and it worked.

Even when we got an iPad, and I knew of various grocery/shopping apps, I still hung onto my old paper-in-the-purse routine. My husband encouraged me to look into the apps, certain that I’d find one I liked. I even downloaded one or two. But I couldn’t cozy up to any that I found – they didn’t allow me to organize things the way I wanted to, and besides, I didn’t carry the iPad everywhere with me. What if I wanted to add something to the list on a day when I wasn’t carrying the iPad around? It just didn’t seem like a solution to me.

Then, I finally joined the rest of the world and got a smart phone – an iPhone. Yes, I am typically somewhat slow to adopt new technologies, and was carrying around my old “pseudo-smart” phone (a phone that had a full keyboard and claimed to have a browser, but you couldn’t actually use it for anything.) for a long while. But when I got my iPhone, I finally took the plunge and got rid of my paper grocery list.

Now, my grocery list is on my phone! I love it. This app isn’t anything special, but it allows me to customize categories, which I appreciate, and it even has an option to mail the grocery list to someone else, just in case I need to send my husband out to the store.

However, the big part holding me back from converting from paper to electronic grocery lists was the fact that I was also writing out my menu on the back of that piece of paper. Well, now, there’s an app for that too! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) I have a meal planner app that helps me out with that.

This app actually has a lot more features than I utilize – you can even put in recipes and throw them into your meals, and can inventory your pantry, create a grocery list, and so on. I prefer my other grocery list app, so I only use this for meal planning. It works for me. I use it week in and week out, and I love it – I’m actually better about adding things to the grocery list than I was before, because I carry my phone a lot more than I do my purse. It’s also easier to “check off” items in the store  – no pen needed.

Not that I’m trying to promote the iPhone or any particular app – I’m just appreciative of technology and how I’ve finally made it work for me. Let’s hear it for bringing grocery shopping and menu planning into the 21st century! Woot! Woot!

Okay, maybe that was too much. Let’s move on.

The menu this week is simple, with only one semi-complicated item on the plan (Kung Pao chicken is hardly complicated, truthfully, but it’s the most difficult thing to make this week). I’m happy to keep it a bit simpler – after all, the holidays are nearing, and I’m sure my kitchen will be all too busy for the next two months. I have to take my breaks whenever I can.

Monday

Breakfast: green creamsicle smoothie (kale and spinach, orange, vanilla protein powder, and a bit of non-dairy milk)

Lunch: a smorgasborg of leftovers – a bit of hard salami, Bubbie’s pickles, a bit of chicken, curried kohlrabi greens, kohlrabi slaw

Dinner: baked Scotch eggs with a garden salad

Tuesday

Breakfast: paleo biscuits and sausage gravy

Lunch: garden salad with chicken

Dinner: leftovers (it’s soccer night!)

Wednesday

Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, steamed kale

Lunch: tuna salad with parsley and lemon, tomatoes, celery and carrot sticks, olives and pickles

Dinner: slow-cooker beef tongue tacos and guacamole (yes, my love of offal continues! Got a grass-fed beef tongue from a local rancher.)

Thursday

Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, apple

Lunch: leftover beef tongue tacos, lettuce-wrap style

Dinner: Kung Pao Chicken (from The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen – I met Laura B Russell, the author, at the GFAF Expo and am excited to review her book!), green beans with gluten-free tamari sauce

Friday

Breakfast: green smoothie with mango

Lunch: leftover Kung Pao Chicken and green beans

Dinner: leftovers or chili from freezer (soccer night again!)

 

What exciting things are you planning to make this week?

 This post is linked to Gluten-Free Menu Swap at Celiac Family.

Daring Bakers: A Grain-Free Tribute to Povitica

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat! Jenni explained in our challenge that Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-sa) is traditional Eastern European dessert bread that is traditionally served during the holiday season. It is also known as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi, Strudia, just to name a few. Basically, the dough is rolled so thin that it’s see-through, and filled with a nut paste, rolled up, and baked so there are lovely layers of nut filling and sweet bread all over. It’s gorgeous. Just look at it.

I am enamored by the work and beauty that goes into this baked treat. But how to make it grain-free and dairy-free? I have been staying away from grains for a while now, and I didn’t want to work on a bread that I wouldn’t eat. (Guess I’m kinda selfish that way!) So obviously, I’d have to take the spirit of the challenge, and adapt to my own needs. I imagined what this bread would taste like (having never indulged in it before), and thought about creating a nut paste of my own and incorporating it into a grain-free bread. I’d noticed that Elana over at Elana’s Pantry recently posted a paleo bread recipe that I’ve been dying to try. However, I knew this bread would be a quick bread – a batter that definitely wouldn’t be kneaded or rolled. I’d have to swirl my nut paste into the bread, which obviously wouldn’t be an exact replication of a true povitica, but I hoped it’d be a good approximation.

Whether it was indeed an approximation to the original, flavor-wise, I won’t know. However, this was a tasty, not-too-sweet bread that held together well (a definite plus for gluten-free/grain-free bread!), with a subtle flavor of chocolate and cinnamon in the swirl. It also had the bonus of filling the house with a delicious aroma (even my husband commented about how good it smelled). I’d love to continue to work on various flavors of “swirls” in the bread – I used to be a fan of cinnamon raisin bread back in my gluten-eating days, and it’d be lovely to enjoy a slice of it again as a treat. A big thanks to Elana for working on a paleo-friendly bread that’s sandwich-worthy and delicious – it definitely helped make this challenge a possibility in my kitchen!

Grain-Free, Dairy-Free “Povitica” (a.k.a. pecan-swirl bread)

1 recipe paleo bread

1 cup raw pecans

5-6 pitted dates

1 T honey

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1 t cocoa powder

1 T coconut oil

3 T coconut milk

1/8 t Vanilla Creme liquid stevia

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small loaf pan and set aside. Prepare the Paleo Bread batter as directed in the recipe, and scrape out of the food processor into a bowl. Place the pecans in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until they resemble a coarse meal. Add dates, honey, cinnamon, cocoa powder, coconut oil, coconut milk, and stevia. Process until everything comes together into a paste, stopping and scraping down the sides as necessary.

Scoop half of the Paleo Bread batter into the loaf pan. Spoon out half of the nut paste and place spoonfuls all over on top of the batter. Scoop remaining Paleo Bread batter over and spread out. Spoon out remaining nut paste and place evenly over the top of the batter. Using a butter knife, swirl batter around, making a zig-zag motion, from one end of the pan to the other. If needed, smooth out the batter on the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, and remove from pan and place on wire rack to finish cooling.

 

A Gluten-Free Holiday and a Menu Plan for October 24-28

The holidays are just around the corner once again, and once again, we are sharing Gluten-Free Holiday recipes and ideas every Thursday throughout November and December.

After all, everyone wants to enjoy the holidays and share with family and friends and not have to worry about whether a recipe will turn out when making it gluten-free. What I love the most about this event, however, is that it’s not just the 6 bloggers hosting that will be providing recipes – it’s all of you as well! There are so many innovative ways to go about celebrating the holiday season, and I love seeing what everyone creates to share with family and friends.

What you’ll love the most? The giveaways! Yes, we will be giving away prizes each week of this event as well.

Check out the schedule over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free, and start brainstorming some great recipes to share!

What’s cooking at the Tasty Eats At Home household this week? I have yet another menu plan. Fall flavors are creeping into my menu more and more each week. This time of year, I get a little winter squash crazy. I buy up butternuts, pumpkins, kabochas, acorn squashes, and just about anything else I can find. It’s like I’m a squirrel trying to store nuts for the winter – only I hoard winter squash. I love it – it’s rich in flavor and naturally sweet, and so versatile. I thrive on finding innovative ways to use it. For example, check out this breakfast porridge made from acorn squash. I made some last week and it was a dream, and a wonderful change of pace from my usual breakfast routine. (And no, it wasn’t on the menu plan, but I took the opportunity to use up leftover acorn squash from dinner one night!) It replaces oatmeal as a filling, warm breakfast. Next on my winter squash list? A version of these pumpkin chocolate chip bars. Yum.

Monday

Breakfast: acorn squash breakfast porridge with a few pecans on top

Lunch: leftover pulled pork with coffee-molasses BBQ sauce (made Sunday night), fresh black-eyed peas, sauteed patty-pan squash, steamed kale

Dinner: (working late, so dinner must be quick!) sirloin steak, baked sweet potato, steamed broccoli

Tuesday

Breakfast: leftover pulled pork, avocado and tomato slices

Lunch: meatballs (threw leftovers from last week in the freezer), broccoli

Dinner: out or leftovers - I have two soccer games

Wednesday

Breakfast: smoothie with spinach, avocado, chocolate protein powder, handful of nuts

Lunch: chili (from freezer) or tuna salad with cucumbers

Dinner: pumpkin spice chicken cacciatore, steamed cauliflower, asparagus with lemon zest (sans parmesan)

Thursday

Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, cucumber salad or sauteed spinach

Lunch: leftover chicken cacciatore, cauliflower, asparagus

Dinner: roasted chicken with sambhar masala (from Kurry King – this is our FAVORITE spice blend), tomato salad, roasted acorn squash

Friday

Breakfast: smoothie with spinach, mango, coconut milk, and protein powder, handful of nuts

Lunch: leftover roasted chicken, tomato salad, squash

Dinner: Buffalo chicken wings, carrots, celery, and dairy-free ranch dressing (working on this recipe!)

 This post is linked to Gluten-Free Menu Swap at Celiac Family.

“Cooky Sue”

Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and love from my family.

Of course, family is supposed to love you. That’s kind of the deal, right? That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Our family is no exception, and we express our care for one another in a multitude of ways.

But even still, there are times when I am caught off guard by tokens of affection, even by people who have spent my entire life giving it.

I suppose I’m not the most gracious of recipients when it comes to gifts, compliments, or other generosities. Sometimes it’s just that I’ve allowed life to carry me through way too fast, and I only realize after the fact that I didn’t properly thank the giver. At times I have a bad habit of waving off a genuine, heartfelt compliment, as if I don’t deserve the gift given to me. (A bad habit, to be sure.) Still other times, I’m caught off guard, almost shocked by the gift, and I don’t know what to say. 

But deep in my chest, my heart is warmed. As I soak it all in, I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say to express my joy.

I’ve always had a fondness for cooking, but in my early adult years, I didn’t have much skill to go along with it. Over time, I started to try to teach myself. I bought books and learned a few fundamentals. Then, in late 2007, I began truly focusing my interest. By mid-2008, I started this blog. At that same time, my parents took notice – and they encouraged it. There were gifts of knives, bowls, books, a chef’s jacket, and a slew of handy cooking utensils. As time went on, they continued to encourage. (So did my loving husband, who is my consultant, confidant, critic, and a daily source of inspiration and motivation, and has helped this blog grow from a little baby blog into something much more sophisticated and beautiful. He continues to give more than I can imagine.) They would willingly indulge in any creations that came from my kitchen, and would boast to friends and family about my latest activities, almost to the point of my embarrassment. But that’s the job of any loving parent.

Still, when “Cooky Sue” arrived, I was unprepared for her. “Cooky Sue” is a carving, given to me by my Dad. You see, Dad started carving as a hobby a few years ago. He enjoys it a great deal, and he has considerable talent, winning several awards at various competitions all over the state. He has always been an artist, and has always enjoyed woodworking in various forms, but I think that carving is an area where his skills and creativity meet and flourish. He has excellent attention to detail and incredible patience – two things I lack – and his ability to “see” his art as he works, to envision a final piece, is something that will always amaze me.

“Cooky Sue” is one of his best pieces. And he made it for me. It’s hard to express how “big” of a deal that is. Whenever someone spends hours upon hours creating something, ensuring every detail is carefully tended to, just for me, it’s hard to respond appropriately to such a gift. It’s a beautiful carving – and it is displayed proudly in my living room. There are no words that can express how I feel about it though. I’m honored, and I’m a little taken aback at the same time.

So I wanted to spend a moment to slow down and share my appreciation for my loved ones – my parents, my husband, my kids, my family and friends. Life goes by too fast, and I don’t feel I always give my best in return. Sometimes, you just have to surrender and accept that the best people in your life love you, and some are going to do their darndest to express it. And I’m incredibly thankful for that.

Menu Plan for October 17-21 and Maple Sweet Potato Puree

Is it Monday again already? The weekend flew by, as they usually do. I actually am together enough this Monday morning to share a menu plan with you!

A little caveat – while I do create a menu every weekend and plan my grocery shopping around it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m married to that plan. Things come up (both good and bad) that prevent me from preparing dinner on a certain night. Sometimes, I’m just plain too tired to attack a complicated meal. (This is why I often incorporate easy meals into the menu, so I can rely on those meals when I know I’m not going to have the energy to tackle a new recipe or a dish that takes a lot of steps.) I’m fine with not sticking to my plan 100%. What my menu plan does accomplish for me, however, is peace of mind. Peace of mind knowing that I don’t have to wonder what to make for dinner, peace of mind knowing I’ve (usually) purchased the required grocery items to make said dinner, and peace of mind knowing we are getting a healthy, balanced meal most of the time. I suppose it’s my way of establishing some sense of control over what can otherwise become an overwhelming, chaotic event that for a lot of people, results in grabbing take-out or processed foods.

Monday

Breakfast: salmon and baby carrots

Lunch: leftover cabbage from dinner last night, a Tanka bar, almond butter (As I was writing this, I realized that the leftover chicken I’d packed for today is really too old to be safe to eat – it’s from last Tuesday. Whoops. Major fail on my part. Good thing I have some snacks in my desk for emergencies, or I’d be only eating cabbage for lunch!)

Dinner: lamb chops, acorn squash, garden salad

Tuesday

Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, apple

Lunch: salmon and steamed kale

Dinner: out or leftovers – I have two soccer games

Wednesday

Breakfast: green smoothie with kabocha, spinach, protein powder, and pumpkin pie spices

Lunch: chili (there is some stashed in the freezer!)

Dinner: crustless chicken “pot pie”, sauteed okra

Thursday

Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, possibly cauliflower rice pudding, if I get time to make it

Lunch: leftover chicken “pot pie” and okra

Dinner: steak, sweet potato puree (see below!), broccoli

Friday

Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, apple with almond butter

Lunch: sardines with celery, leftover broccoli

Dinner: meatballs with spaghetti squash (GF pasta for the kids and hubby)

 And now, on to the maple sweet potato puree.

Sweet potato puree is one of my favorite “go-to” side dishes. It’s easy, and my husband and I love it. We’re both huge sweet potato fans, and this is a great way to enjoy them. With a little drizzle of maple syrup, they are sure to make a meal seem special. The best part? I cook them in the microwave!

I’m honestly not much of a microwave “cooker”. I use the microwave to reheat foods and to heat water for herbal tea. During the fall, I also use it to easily “roast” pumpkins and spaghetti squash (that’s a topic for another post!), but honestly, that’s about it. Except when it comes to sweet potato puree. Microwaving the sweet potatoes speeds up the whole process, and since I am pureeing the flesh anyway, it doesn’t deter from the flavor one bit. (In fact, it results in a creamier puree than if I was to boil cubes of sweet potato, since there isn’t additional water in it.) Now that I’ve started making this using the microwave, I don’t think I’ll go back to the slower, more dirty-dish-making method.

Maple Sweet Potato Puree

5 medium-sized sweet potatoes

2 T maple syrup

Salt and pepper to taste

Using a fork, poke holes in each of the sweet potatoes 4-5 times. Place the sweet potatoes in the microwave on top of a plate or paper towels. Microwave for about 12 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft when squeezed. (Squeeze carefully – don’t burn yourself!) Remove and set aside for a few minutes, until they are cool enough to handle.

Get your food processor ready with the metal “S” blade. As soon as you can handle the sweet potatoes, cut open the skin and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Place the flesh in the food processor. Drizzle syrup over, and turn on the food processor. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. The sweet potato puree should still be hot enough to serve, but if it’s not, you can place it in a small saucepan and heat it over low heat on the stovetop.

If desired, drizzle additional maple syrup over each serving. We don’t usually do this, but it sure makes the photo look more drool-worthy! Serves 4.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

Review: The Pure Kitchen by Hallie Klecker

It was almost a year ago when I was first in touch with Hallie Klecker, the author of the beautiful blog Daily Bites and The Pure Kitchen to start testing recipes for her book. I was excited to test them – Hallie’s blog was full of delicious, easy-to-make, wholesome recipes. Long ago I’d fallen in love with her carrot cake bites, and I knew only tasty things could come from this book!

But it’s most exciting to see the final product. This is Hallie’s first book, and it couldn’t be more wonderful. In addition to 100 gluten-free, dairy-free recipes, she guides the reader on how to transition to a more wholesome, pure way of living that can result in relief of a lot of nagging health issues and pave the way for a healthier life – without a lot of clutter, confusion, and junk. She suggests planning, and gives ideas of healthy pantry staples and kitchen utensils to use. While it might sound like a lot, the entire process is extremely approachable. Hallie has a wonderful way of making everything seem simpler and easier.

That approachability doesn’t stop with her recipes. Many gluten-free and dairy-free recipes list tons of ingredients. I’ve been guilty of this – I have a very well-stocked pantry and so for me, it’s nothing to grab just one more spice or ingredient to make my dish “perfect”. This sometimes results in a really long list of ingredients! In The Pure Kitchen, however, Hallie has a perfect balance of flavor and restraint. She carefully selects her ingredients, never including more than necessary, and the end result is a delicious, clean, pure dish.

Case in point: Dark Chocolate Brownie Balls. These are simple, and require no cooking. They only require a handful of ingredients, and in much less time than it would take you to make brownies (even those old brownies from a box!), you could have healthier, delicious brownie balls like these. They aren’t overly sweet, are full of dark chocolate goodness, and really satisfy that brownie craving in a small bite.

 If chocolate’s not your thing, then she has another no-bake treat that is just as simple to make: Peanut Butter Freezer Treats. These little balls include peanut butter, applesauce, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips (which you can exclude if you’d like), and raisins, rolled and frozen. She describes them as a cross between peanut butter ice cream, chocolate fudge, caramel candies, and date balls. After trying them, I can totally agree. You can keep these babies out of sight, and grab one out of the freezer for a sweet treat that satisfies without a ton of sugar or empty calories.

Hallie does more than just dessert, however. She has a lovely slow cooker recipe, perfect for a weeknight. I made her Slow Cooker Indian Chicken, throwing everything into the crock for my slow cooker the night before, sticking it in the refrigerator, so I would only have to pull it out and turn it on before I left for work that morning. It smelled delicious when I walked in the door that evening, and within 15-20 minutes, dinner was ready. I call that a success. I did opt to make mine with a cauliflower “rice” instead of quinoa, but I can imagine quinoa would do an excellent job of soaking up the sauce, which was a definite highlight of this dish.

Regardless of whether you are new to gluten and dairy-free eating or have been cooking this way for years, The Pure Kitchen is definitely a resource to have at your disposal. I know I’ll return to this book time and time again.

Slow Cooker Indian Chicken with Quinoa, reprinted with permission from Hallie Klecker, The Pure Kitchen

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms, quartered (I left mine whole so I could fish them out more easily – I’m the only mushroom-lover in the house)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (About 1 1/4 pounds)

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup canned coconut milk (full fat)

2 teaspoons arrowroot starch

1/3 cup raisins or dried currants (I used raisins)

1 1/4 cups quinoa

2 1/2 cups water

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Place the bell pepper, carrots, onion, and mushrooms in the bottom of a large slow cooker. Rub the chicken thighs with the curry powder, garlic powder, and salt. Arrange on top of the vegetables. Pour the broth over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and arrowroot starch to combine. Stir the mixture into the chicken and vegetables along with the currants. Use 2 forks to shred up the chicken thighs in the bottom of the slow cooker. Cover and continue to cook on low for 30 minutes or on high for 15 minutes.

While the chicken finishes cooking, make the quinoa: bring the quinoa and water to boil in a medium pot over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook untilthe water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy, about 15 minutes.

Serve the chicken and vegetables over the quinoa. Garnish with the cilantro.

Green Beans with Smoky Pecans

Wow, it’s been a week since I’ve posted anything on this lil’ ol’ blog. It’s not because I don’t love you. I do. I think life just got in the way a bit. And that’s not always a bad thing.

This past weekend was busy, as always, and I spent a good deal of time in the kitchen…as always. When I wasn’t in the kitchen, I was spending time with the kids, and enjoying some time with my husband, celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary. However, when I was in the kitchen, the kitchen adventures were not blog-worthy. I made a chicken and sausage stew that was just mediocre. I scrambled eggs, sauteed zucchini, and fried some bacon for Sunday breakfast. I attempted a grain-free carrot cake, but wanted to make it in layers. I should have lined the pans (even though I greased them) with parchment, because they stuck, and came out in quite a few pieces. It was a promising start, however, because those crumbled bits did taste pretty good. Hopefully I’ll have a successful version soon, but until then…

Here are some green beans.

While that sounds like the consolation prize of the year, let me assure you – these are anything but consolation-prize green beans. They are definitely more than the sum of their parts. Something magical happens when smoked paprika enters the picture. It’s one of my favorite spices – a little bit adds a wonderful depth and interest to a dish without overwhelming. Paired with the fresh green beans, nutty pecans, and just a touch of oil, smoked paprika welcomes the cooler temperatures and heartier flavors of fall. It’s becoming a mainstream spice, and I’ve found it at just about any well-stocked grocery.

What I love most about this, however, is its simplicity. During the week, my days are pretty full. The alarm goes off before 5:00 AM, and I’m up. I squeeze in a quick workout, and I’m out the door to work by 6:30-6:45, so I can try to beat some of the traffic and get to the office in under an hour (my commute is over 30 miles each way). I get home around 5:45 PM, and by then, I’m beat. Most of the time, the creative juices just aren’t flowing, and I am ready to figure out the quickest way to get dinner on the table. This is where simplicity is king. Unfortunately, that often means my side dishes and vegetables are nearly afterthoughts – I simply steam fresh vegetables and season with salt and pepper. While I love steamed fresh veggies, especially broccoli and asparagus, adding an ingredient or two makes a big difference without actually adding a lot of effort. Such was the case with these green beans – opting to toss with coconut oil and these spiced pecans made the green beans seem special.

In fact, they seemed special enough to serve company, or even at a holiday dinner. In fact, I would love to serve these at Thanksgiving, come to think of it. I’ll have to keep that in mind as time draws nearer.

Until then, I urge you to make these green beans.

 

Green Beans with Smoky Pecans

¼ c chopped pecans

1/8 t smoked paprika

1 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed

1 t coconut oil

Salt to taste

 

Heat a small skillet to medium heat. Add pecans and toast, tossing/stirring regularly, for a few minutes. (Make sure you don’t walk away – the nuts can burn quickly!) Remove and toss with the smoked paprika and set aside.

Set up a medium saucepan with a steamer insert. Steam green beans until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from steamer. Toss hot green beans with coconut oil. Season to taste with salt and toss in pecans.

Serves 4.

Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger: Lexie’s Kitchen

gluten, dairy, and egg-free fried green tomatoes

Sea at Book of Yum is our most gracious hostess for Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger again this month. I immediately knew I wanted to adopt Lexie’s Kitchen. Why? Well, other than the fact that Alexa is a super-cool mom dedicated to healing her son through a diet, she also is an innovative genius in the kitchen.

Example A: she made nacho cheese-stuffed jalapenos without dairy. Yep. I actually made these prior to adopting Alexa, and I didn’t take a photo, unfortunately. The nacho cheese was the best dairy-free cheese I’ve had to date. I MUST make it again. And the jalapeno poppers? Spicy (I must have had some HOT peppers), but amazing. If you make them, don’t skip the bacon. It definitely takes those little bites of fire to a whole ‘nuther level.

If that doesn’t convince you, how about example B: the fried green tomatoes pictured above. These were perfectly timed, as I saw a bunch of green tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Until making Alexa’s recipe, I had not attempted to fry green tomatoes since I went gluten-free, and never without cornmeal. Trust me, you don’t miss the cornmeal in these babies. They’re crispy on the outside, and pleasantly juicy within.

But just those two appetizers weren’t enough, in my opinion. In keeping with the seasons, I opted to try a version of her sausage and seasonal vegetable stuffed squash. I found large pattypan squash at the farmers market, so I opted to use them rather than delicata squash. Unfortunately, I had to make a few more unplanned changes to my stuffing mixture – I went to use the rest of some italian sausage I had in the refrigerator, and it was bad. Into the garbage it went, and I opted instead to make my stuffing vegan. I bumped up the spices a bit to compensate.

These babies were flavorful just the same. Soon, however, I’ll have to grab some delicata squash and some fresh sausage and try Alexa’s version again.

I didn’t get a chance to make these st(raw)berry cheesecakes, but they’re also on my “to do” list. Because who doesn’t love mini healthy cheesecakes?

Her blog is helpful for other areas of life as well. For example, she teaches you how to make a natural deoderant that works (something I must try one day!). How cool is that?

A big thank you to Sea at Book of Yum for hosting Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger again this month. As always, I love spending time getting to know my fellow gluten-free bloggers a little more. In this case, reading and trying out recipes from Lexie’s Kitchen definitely showed me that there are so many delicious treats that can be made, even on a gluten and dairy-free diet!

Warm Eggplant and Summer Squash Salad

I love eggplant. This is a relatively new occurrence for me. I never hated it before, I just didn’t really “get” it. I love that they are these gorgeous purple orbs (okay, yes, eggplant comes in more colors than just purple, but my eye really focuses on the purple ones!). They beckon at the farmers market or in the grocery, saying “buy me! bring me home!”. But I would bring a large eggplant home, and over and over, I would end up with a flavorless, spongy, less-than-appetizing vegetable. Oh, sure, I’d try to grill it or saute it, but it never lived up to my expectations. I was nearly ready to give up on eggplant.

Then I discovered baba ganoush. Apparently, roasting eggplant turns it from spongy and flavorless to creamy, velvety, and delicious. I could seriously sit down to a bowl of baba ganoush and polish it off all by myself. It’s that good.

That baba ganoush launched an entirely new relationship with eggplant. I think my chief mistake prior to that point in time was that I was undercooking it. Since I learned how to make baba ganoush, I also have fallen in love with eggplant in dishes like moussaka and ratatouille. I’ve even since returned to the grill with eggplant, making this too-hot-to-turn-on-the-oven grilled ratatouille.

Now that it’s starting to get cooler and summer is coming to an end, I thought a warm salad would be a perfect way to enjoy the end of eggplant season. Since we are also nearing the end of the (over)abundance of summer squash, I thought it would be perfect to include it in the mix as well. Paired with some mint from my garden and a lovely tomato jam, this dish was a great way to say “farewell” to summer.

What, you don’t have tomato jam? Well, I’m sorry to say, I won’t share any of mine. It’s too delicious, and I’m going to be stingy. Stephanie over at Recipe Renovator was giving away some tomato jam a while back, as part of a huge blog event (hosted by Bloggers Without Borders) to raise money for Jennie, who unexpectedly lost her husband, and I bid on it. Well, I won, and not long after, a jar of delicious jam arrived at my doorstep. After I’d opened it and eaten a few spoonfuls, (it was good enough to eat by itself) I thought I ought to incorporate it into a meal. The jam really made this salad into something special. Stephanie does share her recipe here, so if you don’t have tomato jam, you can make your own! I haven’t tried it, but I bet that you could skip the canning part if you wish and simply freeze some of it. That is, if you don’t eat it all before then.

Warm Eggplant and Summer Squash Salad

1 large or 2 small purple eggplants, sliced about 1/2 inch thick

2 yellow summer squash, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1-2 T coconut oil, warmed enough for easy brushing

kosher salt

2-3 T tomato jam

1 T chopped fresh mint, plus a few additional mint leaves for garnish

ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler and line two baking sheets with foil. Spread out the eggplant and squash slices in a single layer on the foil. Brush with coconut oil and sprinkle with salt; flip and oil and salt the other sides. Place the baking sheets, one at a time, under the broiler for a minute or two, or until the vegetables are browned. Flip the vegetables and brown the other sides. (Be sure to stick around – walking away when something is under the broiler ensures that you burn it!) Remove the vegetables and place them in a large bowl. Add tomato jam and mint to the bowl and gently toss to coat the vegetables. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt, if needed. Serve warm or near room temperature.

Serves 2-4.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

Dallas Gluten and Allergen-Free Expo

So, it happened. The Dallas Gluten & Allergen Free Expo was last weekend. It was a blast, and I think it was quite successful. There were amazing speakers at the public forum, as well as awesome cooking and baking classes that were packed with attentive, eager students. The vendor fair was wall-to-wall people at one point Saturday afternoon.

There were over 70 vendors. Now, I wasn’t a very good blogger, and I didn’t get a lot of photos (too busy enjoying myself), but here’s a sampling of the festivities:

Rudi’s Bakery was making grilled cheese. Smelled AMAZING.
Local Oven – a local gluten-free bakery with delicious hamburger buns
Karen, founder of Lauren’s Gourmet gluten-free baking mixes

Woodchuck also is selling a pumpkin cider. They were out when I came to their booth, but I might have to find it and check it out. You know, for research purposes.

There were so many more vendors than just these few. Hail Merry was there, sharing nibbles of all sorts of goodies, including their delicious lemon and chocolate tarts. Treasured Earth Foods was my new favorite find, as they had delicious, healthier treats. The cafe mocha kikas were amazing. Against The Grain was handing out samples of their products. I tried their bagel, which was dairy-free. It was chewy and really good. I don’t really like bagels (I think it’s a mental thing – an association with the gluten-y version that used to give me such tummyaches – go figure), but this was tasty enough to change my mind.

There were also cookbook authors galore! Cybele Pascal, author of The Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook was there, as was Hallie Klecker, who is absolutely as sweet as can be.

Hallie’s book, The Pure Kitchen, was just released. I was delighted to test some of her recipes. She has a wonderful ability to throw a few wholesome, delicious ingredients together and make something amazing. Her recipes are all gluten and dairy-free as well.

Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free was there as well. She taught a baking class and was selling and signing books.

She was on local TV here in the Dallas area last week as well – twice! She shares links here.

Silvana Nardone was also there teaching a cooking class (she handed out gluten-free donuts!), as was Christy Morgan of The Blissful Chef. Also teaching was the awesome Carol Kicinski of Simply…Gluten-Free. I was in the very back of the class, so my photos leave something to be desired, but I loved her class. Carol has an addictive personality – fun, energetic, and carefree.

I also got the opportunity to listen to Iris of the Daily Dietribe talk about inflammation and diet. It was a great discussion, and she is even more beautiful in person than on the internet!

I also met Brittany of Real Sustenance, who taught a baking class as well (everyone raved about her cinnamon rolls – I didn’t get a chance to taste!). For some reason, I never got a photo of Brittany – again, bad blogger! There were many other amazing gluten-free bloggers and non-bloggers alike there as well. It was wonderful to be present with people that really “get” what being gluten-free means, and so wonderful to learn and share ideas with each other.

I was so honored to be a part of it. I felt my talk at the Public Forum (I talked about reducing cross-contamination in a shared, a.k.a. non-gluten-free kitchen) went well, and I hope that the discussion helped those that listened. I was most appreciative of the opportunity!

Here is a compilation of video and photos that another attendee captured – quite good, if I do say so myself.

But now, back to real life. Being away from the house all weekend meant that I didn’t do my usual grocery shopping, nor did I plan my meals in time for my now-usual Monday meal plans. I did head to the store last night after work, however, and picked up enough food to make grilled chicken thighs with a garden salad, slow-cooker indian chicken (from Hallie’s book), steak with sweet potatoes and broccoli, and tacos (taco salad for me). And I bought a bunch of winter squash, because it’s October and I become obsessed with winter squashes in the fall. Not sure if we’ll get to all of those meals, and breakfast and lunch will be a bit of a last minute throw-together, but we’ll figure it out. At least there is a lot of food in the house again, because this weekend, it was looking pretty sparse.

I hope to share with you many delicious recipes again soon – I have a warm eggplant and yellow squash salad in the works that uses the last of the summer produce in a lovely, welcome-to-fall way. Stay tuned…