Sunday, December 23, 2012

Are you ready for some Christmas?

Have you missed me? I’ve been working a lot of overtime at work. I feel like I’m in meetings at least half the time at work so I have to find the time to get my regular work done in those few blocks of time without meetings! Thankfully I got all my shopping done the week I was off after Thanksgiving.

My most exciting meal in the past couple weeks was rouladen – rolls of roast beef stuffed with mustard, onions and pickles. I would like to make it with roasted peppers instead of pickles sometime…or maybe with some horseradish. It was pretty good though. I’ve also used the crockpot a lot the past couple weeks – turkey breast with pomegranate molasses glaze, curried butternut squash with spinach and today chicken & rice soup. 

I’ve also been working on some new desserts. My current favorite – cooling right now on the stove – is Upside-Down Pumpkin Pie. It’s gluten free and vegan of course. 

Upside-Down Pumpkin Pie 

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
¾ cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup gf flour
½ cup dairy-free sour cream, such as Tofutti
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups gluten-free pancake mix, such as Bob’s Red Mill
½ cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup coconut oil (melted)

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, combine filling ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are combined and smooth. Pour mixture into a 9x9 dish.

In another bowl, combine pancake mix, pecans and brown sugar. Mix well. Slowly pour in coconut oil and stir. Mixture should be crumbly. Sprinkle crumb mixture over top of pumpkin.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Allow dessert to cool before serving. This would be great with your favorite vanilla dairy-free ice cream or whipped coconut cream.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Staycation is over

I had all week off last week…you’d think that would mean I would have time to blog more often. You’d be wrong. 

I did spend some extra time in the kitchen, but I also got Christmas shopping done, got caught up on laundry and dishes, and spent a lot of time at the gym. 

The one new meal I’m proud of that will make another appearance in the future is my Thai chicken & rice soup. I made it in the crockpot on Wednesday and even my picky eater was happy to eat it. 

Thai Chicken & Rice Soup
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
1 sweet red bell pepper, diced
½ onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 can coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp thai red curry paste
1 cup white rice
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 bunch broccoli

Place chicken, broth, bell pepper, onion and garlic in crockpot. 
Cover and cook on high for about 2 hours (if chicken is frozen, add another hour). 
Add coconut milk and red curry paste and stir well. Add 1 Tbsp initially. 
Cover and cook another hour. 
Cut broccoli florets into pieces that are the size you want for soup. 
Add broccoli, cilantro and mushrooms into crockpot. Replace cover. Cook for about 30 minutes. 
While the broccoli cooks, steam the rice in water using your favorite rice steaming method. I have a NordicWare microwave steamer I like. 
When rice is ready, stir into crockpot. 
Taste soup. Add salt or more red curry paste if you would like. 
Serve hot. 
Yields about 6 servings.

Dining out Review: P.F. Chang's

My favorite restaurants tend to be locally-owned, but sometimes I like chain restaurants as well. I've found that some restaurants are good about offering allergen information. Some you have to ask for it…sometimes the serving team is prepared; other times, the servers don’t seem to have any idea what’s going on. 

My best experience so far at a chain restaurant has been P.F. Chang’s. I went last week with family and first of all, the gluten-free dishes are all listed in a special area of the menu, but not a separate menu, so you don’t have to ask for anything special. However, I did let my server know when we were seated. 

As soon as I told him I was gluten-free, he told me what on the table I could eat and what I couldn’t. He brought me GF sauces right away and at the end of the meal, he also pointed out the GF dessert options without me having to mention it again. I was impressed with the attentiveness and would happily recommend P. F. Chang’s as a gluten-free option. 

I am curious if Pei Wei, the “faster” restaurant option owned by the same company, does the same in their locations.Let me know if you have any input on this - I haven't tried the Pei Wei in our area yet.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I am thankful for...

My boringly normal family. No holiday drama to report. Everything went swimmingly - I had no food breakdowns and there was only one big exciting thing to happen - my cousin and his wife announced they are having another baby (That's great news!). The weather was gorgeous. As soon as lunch was eaten we spent the afternoon outside playing Frisbee, soccer and cornhole.

Food-wise, I contributed several dishes I was proud of.

To my dad’s family gathering I took:
                Cranberry rice pilaf
                Lemon-garlic green beans
                White chocolate blondies

For Scott’s family gathering at our house I contributed:
                Steamed broccoli (boring, but a good standby)
                Baked zucchini with butternut squash sauce
                Summer sausage, hummus and crackers
                GF brownies

Everything turned out great. For the cranberry rice pilaf, I made baked brown rice adding a finely diced carrot, finely diced celery, and about ½ finely diced onion. I also threw in a little (about a tsp each) cumin and coriander and a bay leaf. Once the rice was baked, I added chopped craisins and walnuts. This was my sub for stuffing. I love stuffing, but I didn’t have the time to look for a GF recipe for stuffing so I just went with something I knew I liked. 

Lemon-garlic green beans are so very easy. I buy the steamer bags of green beans in the produce area of the grocery store. I steam those in the microwave. In a small bowl I mix together 1-2 Tbsp olive oil (I used garlic infused, but the other option is using regular olive oil and adding 2 minced garlic cloves), tsp of Dijon mustard and about a Tbsp of Mrs. Dash Lemon-Pepper seasoning. I add a little salt as well (I like Himalayan or Real Salt, but sea salt works well also). Toss green beans with the “dressing.” I like them room temperature. 

The blondies were from Chocolate-Covered Katie’s blog. I don’t remember who directed me to her blog, but she’s been a lifesaver in terms of vegan and gluten-free homemade desserts. 

For the baked zucchini, I used my food processor (Thank you Scott for the awesome Christmas gift last year), to slice several zucchinis into coins. Put a little olive oil on the bottom of a glass casserole dish, then layered the zucchini with a jar of butternut squash pasta sauce I got at Aldi. This sauce is seriously AH-MAZ-ING. I really need to hit the Aldi this week and see if they have more of this sauce. Anyway, I layer the sauce and zucchini, cover it with aluminum foil and bake it at 400 for about 35 minutes. Scott very lovingly stated “it looks absolutely disgusting, but tastes amazing.” I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not! 

Lastly for the brownies, I used a Hodgson Mill gluten-freebrownie mix, used about 1 cup pumpkin and about ¼ cup melted coconut oil and a tiny bit of coconut milk plus some chocolate chips to make the batter, then baked them according to the directions on the box. They turned out great – fudgy and they got better after they’d sat for a couple days!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

24 hours all to myself!

I somehow ended up with two entire nights and a day all to myself. Annyka is spending the weekend with my sister and Scott went to a computer show a few hours away for the weekend. Last night I "celebrated" by swimming a mile after work then making falafel for myself - I'm pretty sure I'm the only one in this house that likes falafel. Fine by me!

This morning I headed to a kickboxing class at the new YMCA downtown Indianapolis and hit the grocery store for my first Thanksgiving shopping trip. I'll have to go again later this week since I want to make sure I have fresh ingredients for my vegetable dishes.

Here's how my Thanksgiving contributions shake out:

#1  Tomorrow at my mom's sister's:
  • Spinach Salad
  • Chocolate Pie
#2 Thursday lunch at my dad's sister's:
  • Lemon-garlic green beans
  • Cranberry rice pilaf
  • Mashed butternut squash
#3 Thursday dinner at our house with Scott's sisters:
  • Vegetable - eek! Still haven't figured out what it will be
  •  Vegan Brownies and fruit salad
Today I made the chocolate pie and mixed up the dressing for the spinach salad.

Chocolate Pie
8 oz container vegan cream cheese alternative - Tofutti or Trader Joes are the two varieties I know of, but I'm sure there are others.
10 oz dark chocolate chips or chunks
2 Tbsp coffee liqueur
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp honey
1 pie crust of your choice - I used a vegan, gluten-free prepared crust I got from Green BEAN Delivery.

Melt chocolate chips with liqueur using a double boiler or microwave, stir frequently with a rubber spatula. Using a hand mixer or food processor, mix melted chocolate with cream cheese, vanilla and honey. Beat until smooth and well blended. Taste mixture to make sure it is sweet enough for your liking. Add more honey if you prefer. Spread chocolate mixture into pie crust with spatula. Garnish with red raspberries or strawberries and/or chopped nuts. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

This will be very rich, but very yummy. If you wish to have a whipped topping with it, whipped coconut cream is wonderful. Oh She Glows describes that process well.

Since I'm taking such a decadent dessert, I'm also taking a much healthier salad as well.

Spinach Salad
  • Baby Spinach
  • Sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Craisins
  • Crispy bacon, crumbled
  • Walnuts, chopped
Orange-walnut dressing
4 Tbsp walnut oil - which I finally found at TJ Maxx after looking for it for since June!
 4 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced garlice
dash salt

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Good cookin'

I had another busy week...and guess what, next week will be as well...and the week after that! THEN, THEN, I'm taking a whole week off. With no plans!! But until then...

This week starts out with a Veterans Day program at my daughter's school and a visit from a team from corporate with whom I work directly. Then training several new employees, working on setting 2013 goals and whatever else comes up. The week after will be Thanksgiving so it's a short week of work - sounds exciting except that I know I'll be trying to jam five days of work (plus vacation prep) into three days. In addition, we're hosting a Thanksgiving dinner so we'll have to clean the house that week as well.

I'm so ready to done with going to the chiropractor twice a week - at least that would free up a couple hours.

Anyway, I did do some good cooking this week, I just hadn't had time to post it. This past week included chipotle potato salad, chicken enchilada tacos and cranberry-orange roasted chicken.

Chipotle Potato Salad
8 medium red potatoes
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/2 bell pepper, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 Tbsp vegenaise (or mayonnaise)
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
1-2 Tbsp adobo sauce, plus 1 chipotle pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
salt to taste

Bring pot of water to boil. Quarter red potatoes. Boil potatoes in water about 15-20 minutes. You'll want potatoes to still be firm so they don't lose their shape.

Combine vegenaise, mustard, 1 Tbsp adobo sauce, pepper and garlic powder in food processor to pureed pepper. Taste dressing mixture. Add additional adobo if desired.

Once potatoes are done, rinse with cool water and place in a large bowl. Toss will onion, bell pepper and celery. Stir in dressing and mix well. For best taste, place in fridge for about 4 hours before serving. This is a great side dish to grilled chicken with black beans on the side.

Chicken Enchilada Tacos
1 lb chicken breasts, thawed
1/2 can mild enchilada sauce
1/2 small onion
1 4-oz can green chiles
corn tortillas
shredded lettuce
shredded cheese, if desired

Place first four ingredients in crockpot. Cook on high about 2-3 hours, until chicken is fully cooked and easily shredded. Remove chicken from crockpot and place in bowl. Shred chicken - you can do this by using two forks or a mixer.

Warm corn tortillas in microwave or oven. Assemble tacos with lettuce, chicken mixture and other ingredients such as cheese, sour cream, avocado, pico de gallo, etc.

Cranberry-Orange Roasted Chicken
1 whole chicken, thawed
1 can cranberry sauce
1 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp onion powder

Place chicken in crockpot (remove giblets first). In a small bowl, whisk together cranberry sauce, orange juice, salt, pepper and onion powder. Pour over chicken. Cook on high about 3-4 hours.

I took some of this chicken and made chicken salad for my lunch - mixed it with celery, onion, walnuts, craisins, mustard and vegenaise. I love chicken salad.

Tomorrow I'm doing a test run of the dishes I plan to take to Thanksgiving - a rice pilaf and lemon-garlic green beans. I may even attempt a vegan pumpkin pie. Updates tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Eek, it's been a while

Almost a week since I last posted. Last week with Halloween plus my normal stuff, my week got away from me. It's almost become a rarity to get home before 7 pm on school nights and since I've been getting up at 5:15 to work out in the morning before work, every day seems so long.

Last week I don't think we had anything exciting for dinner. Twice we ate out - Wednesday BW3 and Friday we had Mexican. The others days were mostly leftovers. At BW3 I asked the waitress for the allergen information/gluten free menu. She didn't know if it existed. Now, here's the thing. I've looked at BW3's allergen info online so I know it exists, but I don't have it memorized (imagine that). Thankfully the manager did have a print out of the info I had see online so I got the naked tenders and buffalo chips with one of the dry seasonings on them. It was tolerable.

I've been eating crappy the last few weeks - I've been lazy and had things like candy, caramel corn and ranch dressing. My body is paying for it. It must stop. And right away. I think I'm going to have to write out a menu to follow between now and Thanksgiving.

Tonight, the rest of the family will have frozen mini pizzas. That will allow me to hog on the roasted brussel sprouts I plan to make. I love these things. How could I have thought I didn't like brussel sprouts? I feel so awful for wrongly judging the cute little cabbagey things. I will also have some spaghetti squash (which I made last week) with it. No meat tonight.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 lb brussel sprounts
1 tbsp olive oil*
1 tbsp white wine
ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove any brown or yellow leaves. Cut each sprout in half. Toss in a bowl with olive oil and wine. Spread on a pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper over sprouts. Bake for about 35-40 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Leftovers for Lunch

Thursday night I put a turkey breast in the crockpot with some lemon slices. Friday night we had it for dinner - sliced up with cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes and steamed zucchini with mushrooms on the side. But we still had turkey remaining.

Some of that turkey went into turkey salad - some veganaise, diced onions, mustard, craisins and walnuts - to eat with crackers. Yesterday was Make a Difference Day and along with Gannett employees across the nation, I did my part. We were cleaning up a park and lunch was served, but without knowing WHAT would be served, I had to come prepared with my turkey salad, crunchmaster crackers and an apple. They had hot dogs and potato chips, but I was glad for the food I brought as well.

After the turkey salad, we still had about 2 thick slices of turkey left. So for lunch today we had turkey tacos.

Leftover Turkey Tacos
Cooked turkey breast, diced - I had about a 1 or 1 1/2 cups
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup whole kernel corn
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup refried beans
corn tortillas
shredded cheese (optional)
guacamole, salsa,  sour cream for garnish

Warm olive oil over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add bell pepper, onion and zucchini. Saute for about 3-5 minutes. Add turkey, corn and salsa. Cook another 3 or so minutes until everything is warm. Add cilantro and mix well. Turn heat down to low until you are ready to serve.

Warm refried beans. Warm tortillas in oven or in microwave. Layer beans, turkey & vegetable mixture and other toppings in the tortillas. Eat.

I also made some baked brown rice this morning. I made it with onions, fines herbs and mushrooms. I think I'm going to use the baked brown rice recipe to come up with a rice pilaf that will go well with the Thanksgiving meal. Since I will be missing out on stuffing this year, I would like to have an alternative.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Crockpot meals for a lazy weekend

It’s been a crockpot weekend. We didn’t have too much planned this weekend – Annyka’s last soccer game some grocery getting and picking up my sister at the airport. My sister, lives in Montana most of the year. She works in Yellowstone National Park, but in the fall she gets about a month and half off and she usually comes home to Indiana for that time. Annyka has been excited to her Aunt Leigh Ann for a while and I like her being home as well even if I don’t see her that much (because she stays at my parents while she's home). 

Annyka and I decided to hit the Aldi and see how much of our groceries we could get there. I stocked up for about a month on our staple canned goods (tomatoes, beans and a few veggies), snacks, cereal, lunches for Annyka and a few other fun items too – like garlic and pepper infused olive oil. In a couple weeks, I’m going to do a vegan challenge, but in the meantime I have a few meatier meals planned so I bought a roast and a turkey breast. 

Yesterday I made “refried” beans (a misnomer since they are friend even once, let alone refried) in the crockpot. And today – Italian beef. I was happy to find a good 3-lb roast and mild peppers at Aldi. This morning I put the roast in the oven and this evening I’ll probably broil some polenta to go with it. 

Italian Beef
2 Tbsp Italian seasonings*
1 Tbsp white sugar*
1 Tbsp salt (add more to taste) *
1 Tbsp onion powder*
1 tsp black pepper*
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz mild peppers
6 oz sweet roasted red peppers
1 small onion, diced

Place onions in the slow cooker. Place roast on top of onions, fat side up. Pour peppers, with the liquid over roast. Sprinkle seasonings over the roast. Pour a little water – about a cup, over the roast. Place lid on slow cooker. Cook on low about 6-8 hours. Turn off slow cooker and let roast sit for about 30 minutes before slicing or shredding. Makes great sandwiches on good Italian bread…which I will not be doing! This is a great meal to make for a crowd. 

*The original recipe I used to use called for a packet of dry Italian dressing mix, however, many of them have undesirable ingredients so I had to figure out what combination of seasonings worked instead. You can always use a packet of dressing if you prefer.