Quinoa Blondie Bars

gluten free / dairy free / refined sugar free / vegan option

So, last week was my daughter’s last day of K4. It was an emotional week for everyone. I’m talking tears everyday, this is the worst thing to happen to her EVER kind of emotional. And I honestly wasn’t much better…..Amira has been blessed for the last two years to attend the Schlitz Audubon Nature School outside of Milwaukee. It is a truly unique program where they spend the majority of their day out in nature learning about our world and the skills they will need to become active members of our society. To put it in perspective, they spend more time outside in the 9 month preschool program than they will cumulatively until they graduate highschool. This program has taught her to respect all that nature offers and to see what a small but integral part she plays in our world. They learned multiple languages through song, learned how to identify plants and animals and learned all the basics of a preschool program through the lens of nature. Needless to say, she was beyond sad to be done, as was I. So, like any good southern born girl does when she is sad I baked up a storm! And these quinoa blondie bars were one of my faves. The recipe below is based off a traditional blondie bar recipe I picked up years ago. Each time I made them (4 times to be exact) I made an adjustment to make them a healthier dessert option. Whether it was changing the sugar or eliminating the butter and eggs they turned out moist, gooey and delicious!!  And since vegan is the most earth friendly way to eat, they are a perfect way to end our nature school adventure! Enjoy!! NOM NOM

Ingredients

2 large eggs or flax seed eggs if making vegan

3/4 cup almond butter, room temperature

1/4 cup butter or butter alternative, softened

3/4 cup of coconut palm sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup quinoa flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup of dark chocolate chips, I use Enjoy Life Vegan Chocolate Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper or foil. The paper should overhang a bit on opposite ends. Coat with butter or cooking spray.
  2. Whisk quinoa flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat butter and almond butter in a stand mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs, coconut sugar and vanilla.
  4. Mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it, 20-25 minutes.  Cool completely before removing from pan. Once it is cool lift the parchment out and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Should be approximately 16 bars.

 

 

 

Coconut Basil Curry Chicken

gluten free / dairy free / vegetarian option / grain free option

 

In my house, Mondays are slow cooker days. They are one of the busier days for our family and it’s also one of my non-blogging days which means I’m not preparing delicious meals all day. Side note…they are not always delicious, but rest assured ONLY the delicious ones make it here!!! I also find that Mondays seem to be the day when all hell breaks loose. So I FINALLY figured out that when we are transitioning back into our routines after the weekend and trying to find our groove again that it is SOOOOO nice not having to scramble to put dinner on the table. I mean…I don’t know about you, but I would much rather sit down with my cocktail of choice (that is a MUST in this scenario), play with my kids and enjoy the fact that some machine just did 98% of my job AND that dinner will actually be served on time.

I found this recipe via The Food Charlatan. She is a new favorite of mine and I find that I can convert almost all of her recipes to be gluten-free with ease!!! I made a few minor changes to the recipe but all in all it is pretty much the same. I swapped out the bone in skin on chicken thighs for boneless and skinless. Mainly because it was less fat but as a happy by product it also eliminated a bit of work towards the end of the recipe. I also messed a little with the spice ratio but again nothing major. I just needed to make it a bit more kid friendly in regards to spice level.  I believe this recipe originated from Better Homes and Garden.

Slow Cooker Meal

Basil Coconut Curry Chicken

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 4-5 hours on high, 6-8 on low

Ingredients

2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs; if you are vegan/vegetarian sub Crispy Tofu
salt and pepper to season chicken
1 TBS oil
2 (13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk; I use one light and one full fat coconut milk
2 TBS dried basil leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 TBS sweet curry powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 large red onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped; if you want less spicy for kids start with 1
1 TBS gluten free cornstarch
1 TBS cold water
1- 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced; depending on your level of love for ginger
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Salt and pepper each side of the thigh. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and add the oil.
  2. Once the oil is hot, add 3-4 chicken thighs. Make sure not to over crowd them in the pan. Leave a little space inbetween each thigh. Cook for about 2 minutes, until nicely browned. Then flip the chicken over to brown the other side for about 1-2 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate. Repeat the process with remaining chicken.
  3. In the crock pot combine coconut milk, basil, salt, pepper, sweet curry, and chili powder. Whisk to combine.
  4. Add the chopped red onions, garlic, and jalapenos. Add the browned chicken and stir to combine.
  5. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours. Once it is done you can shred the chicken thighs in the slow cooker with two forks. Go ahead and add the ginger.
  6.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water. Add this to the crock pot and stir.
  7. Return the lid and cook for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the cilantro.
  8. Serve with rice or Cauliflower Rice.

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Crunch Bowl with Salmon

gluten free / dairy free / vegan option

Food bowls….not necessarily a new invention but they are definately the cool kids of food presentation right now. For starters, practically any meal you make looks bigger and better when you put it in a bowl.

Notice how I said looks bigger???  When your meal in a bowl instead of on a plate you are likely to eat less because of the structure of the bowl, i.e. less surface across and higher sides. But in the same breath you feel just as satisfied with less  because your food is stacked and mounded giving the illusion of more food. And that makes your brain and belly happy!

Food bowls are also aesthetically more pleasing than looking at your food on a plate because the bowl allows you to layer your food which gives you the most appealing mouthful possible. This creates adventure for you mouth..aka a “party in your mouth” which is how my five-year old so adeptly describes eating cake.

I think Asian food also presents really well in a bowl because of its elemental structure. Most Asian food is served with either noodles or rice as a base and is then finished with sautéed vegetables and the protein of choice. This bowl is amazing both hot and cold, as I found out the other day when I had the leftovers for lunch. So next time you want to switch things up or you are looking for an easy way to eat less and still feel satisfied, try a bowl!! FYI….kids also love to help make their bowl and it can get them more engaged with the food you want them to eat!

Makes 2 bowls

Ingredients:

Bowl

1 cup quinoa

2 cups of chicken broth or water

3 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks

1 large red pepper; thinly sliced

1 package of edamame, thawed

1/2 of a small red cabbage; cored and thinly sliced

8 ounces of skin on  wild caught salmon filets or 1 pkg of extra firm tofu to make vegan

2 teaspoons of chopped dry roasted peanuts (optional)

 

Thai Suace for Salmon or *Tofu (see notes at end for prep)

1/2 cup of GF soy sauce or coconut aminos

4 cloves of garlic; minced

6 green onions, thinly sliced

1-2 teaspoons of Siracha Chili Sauce; I use Lee Kum Kee brand

2 TBS. of rice vinegar

3 teaspoons of fish sauce

2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil

Juice of 1 lime

Sesame Peanut Sauce

2 TBS. of natural creamy peanut butter

2 TBS. of rice vinegar

1/2 TBS. sesame oil

1 teaspoon of lemongrass seasoning; we get ours at Penzey’s

1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 Spice

Juice of 1 lime

  1. Combine all the ingredients for sauce in a bowl. Place the salmon in another bowl and pour marinade over the salmon. Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Periodically brush or baste salmon with the marinade. If you are using tofu, put the sauce in fridge until you need it in Step 6.
  2. Place quinoa and 2 cups of chicken broth or water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 mnutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  3. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your sesame peanut sauce and vegetables.
  4. Once salmon has marinated for at least 30 minutes, remove from the fridge. Put enough oil to cover the bottom of a medium skillet. Place skillet on medium high heat.
  5. Once oil is hot, remove the salmon from the marinade and reserve the marinade to use with vegetables. Place salmon skin side down and sear for 3-4 minutes or until cooked about halway up the filet. Flip salmon over, place pat of butter on filet and put in oven for  another 4 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cutting board or plate.
  6. Wipe out the skillet and put back on stove on medium heat. Put a swirl of oil in the pan and add vegeatbles to pan. Saute the vegetables for 2-3 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add in the reserved marinade and continue to saute until the vegetables are fork tender, another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Put quinoa in the bottom of your bowl, followed by the vegetables and place the salmon on top. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts (if using), and drizzle sesame peanut sauce on top.

Tofu Option:

If you are using tofu instead of salmon follow the recipe for Crispy Tofu. Note that to prep the tofu you need to let it sit overnight so plan accordingly! Follow steps 1-3 from above. Jump down to Step 6 and in addition to the vegetables add in the Crispy Tofu and the sauce you prepared in Step 1.

 

Spinach and Black Bean Casserole

gluten-free/vegetarian/dairy free option/kid friendly

Whew! What a whirlwind ending to April!!! We have been in Florida for the past week enjoying the sun and sand and having a long overdue family reunion with my dad’s side of the family. And we were super blessed to have 80 degree weather and cloudless skies the whole time we were there. The warm weather and lazy days on the beach got me thinking about dishes that are quick and easy to prepare and that highlight the yummy produce I still have frozen in my freezer that need to disappear to make room for all the new yummy produce that is coming our way over the next few months. And since Cinco de Mayo is in a couple of days I thought this recipe would be perfect!! Serve it with guacamole and margaritas and you are guaranteed to have a fantastic Cinco de Mayo gathering!

This dish was originally made as enchiladas using flour tortillas but once I became gluten-free this dish morphed into what you see today. At first I attempted to make the enchiladas using corn tortillas but more often than not they would crack and break creating more of a messy casserole than enchiladas. So instead of fighting it I went along for the ride and switched things up! I also realized that by making it a casserole and not enchiladas I shaved about 10 minutes off my prep time, which is always a good thing in my book! But if you are jonesing for enchiladas or are using flour tortillas I made some substitution notes at the end of the recipe. Enjoy!! nom nom

 

1 15.5oz can of black beans; rinsed

4 oz can of green chilies

10 oz package of frozen spinach; thawed, squeeze out excess liquid

1 cup of frozen corn; omit if doing 30 day and replace with peppers or pinto beans

1/2 tsp. cumin

2 cups of sharp shredded cheddar cheese or non dairy shredded cheese

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 16oz salsa

1 package of small corn tortillas

  1. In a medium bowl mash half the beans. Add the spinach, green chilies, corn, cumin, 1 cup of cheese, remaining beans and salt and pepper. Mix to combine
  2. Spread 1/2-1 jar of salsa in bottom of casserole dish. I use an oval casserole dish but a 13×9 pan would work as well.
  3. Place a single layer of tortillas down, tearing if necessary to cover any gaps. Spread approximately 1 cup of black bean mixture evenly across tortillas, then 1/2-3/4 cup of salsa, and 1/2 cup of cheese. Repeat this process again.
  4. Bake at 425 for approximately 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly

Substitution Notes: If you make these as enchiladas using either flour or corn follow steps 1 and 2 as written above then lay the tortillas flat on the counter and divide the mixture evenly among the tortillas. Roll and place seam side down in a 13×9 pan. Finish recipe as written above.

 

 

Nana P’s Hungarian Stuffed Peppers

This past weekend I was lucky enough (thank you grandparents) to get a kid free weekend to go and visit my family in Indianapolis. P and Michael are my second set of parents and have been in my life since I was 19 (and rather wild). P was my mentor and one of the best choreographers I worked with during my professional dance career, they are Nana P and Nano M to my kids and I have been lucky enough to be able to call their son my little brother since he was 8 years old. I took the wild sibling title seriously and would take him for pizza and ice cream anytime I watched him and introduced him to the world of hip hop and rap music. I’m sure P was mentally cringing and cursing me as her nine year old son told her all about Tupac and Biggie, but she never said a word!
Like any child preparing to come home for a visit I was mentally preparing a list of favorite foods I would want to have. Michael always makes me his white pizza and his ridiculously good margaritas. I mean so good you don’t even realize you are drinking tequila until you end up dancing the rumba solo in the other room. Both recipes he declares will go to his grave with him. Which is extremely annoying since I covet both. And P has a rotating list of recipes I love such as her carbonara, freshly baked bread and roasted chicken. This time we decided to make her Hungarian stuffed peppers.
This recipe comes from a late 1800’s Hungarian cookbook that was passed down to P through her family. She has made slight alterations to the recipe over the years but the core remains the same. The original recipe was an equal combination of ground pork and ground beef. It was also made with white/brown rice. P switched the meat to ground turkey and since I have a love/hate relationship with white meat I typically use ground beef. We also recently discovered that cauliflower rice worked really well with this recipe to make it grain free. While my kids don’t love the actual pepper, they do like the inside mixture so my hubby or I usually act as garbage disposal and finish their peppers for them. This is a great, quick weeknight meal for the whole family! Enjoy!! nom nom
gluten free/dairy free/grain free
Ingredients
1 pkg ground beef, turkey or a combination of pork and ground beef; which is what the original recipe calls for  (16-20oz)
4 lg or 5 med green peppers
2 1/2 c riced cauliflower (see side note below for prep)
2 eggs
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp basil
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2-3/4 tsp grated blk pepper
diced tops of green peppers
1 1/2 jars (36 oz) of homemade or jarred marinara sauce; Trader Joe’s organic tomato basil marinara sauce is a good choice.
Cauliflower Rice
Ingredients
1 head of cauliflower
  1. Remove stem and leaves from cauliflower. Cut into 4 even sections or smaller sections if using a blender. Place cauliflower in food processor or blender and pulse until cauliflower is the size of rice. For the recipe above, you will use the cauliflower rice raw. If you want to use it in place of cooked rice, just place rice in steamer basket and cook for 5-6 minutes until tender.
  1. Wash, cut off the tops and hull the green peppers – place in baking dish
  2. Beat eggs w/spices, add raw riced cauliflower, diced green pepper tops and ground meat of choice.
  3. Fill the green peppers with the mixture and pour the marinara sauce over top.
  4. Bake uncovered at 350 for 80-90 minutes. I recommend pulling ou tthe peppers 3-4 times through the cooking process to spoon sauce over the tops. I also make a cut in the top of the peppers with my spoon and push some of the sauce into the mixture. This keeps the mixture from bedrycoming dry as it bakes.

Chicken Noodle Soup

gluten free / dairy free / grain free option

Since we seem to be firmly back in the winter season (WTF…it’s April people!!!) I mournfully decided to continue on my journey with soups. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE soups but I am pretty ready to move on to warmer weather recipes. Unfortunately, the cold/flu season is still in full effect at my house (I am sniffling as I type) so soups are always a great way to fight a cold. As a kid, there was nothing better when I had a cold than my mom’s chicken noodle soup. It’s made from scratch with a rich and hearty stock but is still simple to throw together. Which is key when you have sick kiddos who want to snuggle. It also makes a big pot so you can freeze some for the next round of colds that hit your house. Enjoy!! nom nom

1 (3 ½-4 #) organic whole fryer chicken

8-10 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/2 tsp dried basil

1 TBS fresh parsley or ½ TBS dried parsley

¼ tsp celery salt

¼ tsp garlic powder

1 bay leaf

2 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup noodles; I prefer Tinkyada noodles; but if you don’t need GF noodles egg noodles are what the original recipe calls for. (see side note below on prep for GF noodles)

 

  1. Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Cook for 1 ½ hours on medium low-medium heat or until chicken is tender.
  2. Remove chicken and discard the bay leave. Allow chicken to cool, remove meat from bone, dice and set aside.
  3. Bring chicken broth to a boil, add carrots and onion. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes
  4. Add meat and noodles and simmer an additional 15 minutes

Side Note: If you are using GF noodles do not add them to the soup in step 4. Gluten free noodles tend drink up all the liquid in soups leaving you with little to no broth and they turn your soup into a thick stew (I learned this the hard way). If you do add the GF noodles in at Step 4 you will have to add chicken broth to your soup for subsequent servings but that will water down the flavor of the soup. So, just prepare your GF noodles seperately and add them to your individual serving of soup.

 

 

Slow Cooker Tomato Soup

gluten free / dairy free option / vegetarian option

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 4-6 hours

Another fantastic (easy) weeknight meal using the slow cooker. This soup is a favorite of both of my kids so don’t be afraid of the dry sherry and the cayenne in this recipe. But if spice is a big NO NO in your fam just do a dash of cayenne to start.  My daughter is a traditionalist and pairs this with a grilled cheese. My son who is not a fan of cheese usually has crackers or buttered toast as his accoutrement and my hubby and I either do a big salad or open faced sandwiches.  This soup would also go well with the Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches I made last week. Whatever path you take you are sure to love this soup and you will have plenty for lunches throughout the week. Enoy!! nom nom

2 TBS unsalted butter or vegan butter

3 (14oz) can diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved

1 onion, minced

1 TBS brown sugar, coconut palm sugar/sucanat are great unrefined options

1 TBS tomato paste

salt and pepper

2 TBS GF all purpose flour; rice flour will work as well

3 cups chicken broth; vegetable broth if vegetarian

2 bay leaves

2-3 ounces of goat cheese, 1/2 cup non-dairy creamer or blended silken tofu

1/2 TBS – 1 TBS dry sherry

pinch of cayenne

  1. Melt butter in skillet over medium high heat. Add tomatoes, onion, sugar, paste, 1/2 tsp salt and cook until tomatoes are dry and lightly browned 10-15 minutes.
  2. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly, whisk in one cup of broth, scraping up the browned bits; transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Stir in remaining broth, reserved tomato juice, and bay leaves into cooker. Cover and cook 4-6 hours on low. Note: Due to timing issues I have cooked this for 8 hours on low and it was perfectly fine!
  4. Turn slow cooker to Warm setting. Discard bay leaves. Puree soup with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender then back to the crockpot. Stir in dairy, dry sherry and cayenne pepper.