Corn Dog Muffins

gluten free – refined sugar free – dairy free option – vegan option

As you know, I am a sweet lover from head to toe. But something I love even more, are foods that satisfy both my sweet and savory cravings in the same bite. A few of my personal favorites for sweet/savory combinations include the ever popular chicken and waffles. I was stoked to discover this combo in Chicago 7 years ago when a restaurant opened up around the corner from our house in Bronzeville. Another favorite is popcorn and chocolate. This combo has been a staple in my life since I was a child. I can vividly remember, sitting on the couch with my mom on Friday night, eating popcorn and M&M’S while watching Falcon Crest or Moonlighting. And finally, the standard kid favorite….corn dogs. I mean…nothing beats meat on a stick. So, cover said meat in a sweet cake-like batter, and you had me at hello.

These little corn dog muffin gems came about a few months ago, and were a result of my boredom in making my daughter’s lunches for school. I know I don’t like to eat the same thing everyday so why would my kid?? From there, it was a quick search on Pinterest,  a visit to the blog hip2save.com where I found these corn dog muffins, and a few tweaks to the recipe to make them gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free. To keep them warm until lunch, follow my simple instructions below. Enjoy! nom nom

1/2 cup melted butter or butter substitute
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
2 eggs or Flax eggs
1 cup  non-dairy buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup fine or medium grind cornmeal
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 all-beef or vegan hot dogs, sliced into 1″ pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and coat a mini muffin tin with non-stick spray
  2.  In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed.
  3. Add eggs one at a time. Allow egg to be fully incorporated before adding second.
  4. Decrease speed to low and add the buttermilk.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, cornmeal, flour and salt. Whisk to combine. Add into wet ingredients in two batches, mixing on low-speed.
  6.  Place 1 Tablespoon of batter into each mini muffin cup. I use a mini ice cream scoop but a regular tablespoon will do the trick!
  7. Place one hot dog bite into the middle of each muffin cup.
  8. Bake for 8-12 until cornbread is golden brown. Cool in mini muffin tin for 5 minutes before serving. Makes approximately 3 dozen.

**To keep muffins warm for school lunch**

  1. Heat a kettle of water to boiling. Put boiling water in soup thermos, replace lid and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat the corn dogs in microwave for approximately 45 seconds. Dump out the water from thermos, dry the inside completely, put corn dogs inside and put the lid on. Put the ketchup on the side and you are good to go!

Coconut Fried Chicken Nuggets

gluten free ~ dairy free ~ grain free

Kids. They are the most wonderful beings and at the same time can make you want to run for the hills and hide. The last scenario being most appropriate (at least in my house) during the dreaded “dinner hour.” It can be unbelievably tricky to make a dinner that both hits the kids criteria; i.e. dairy, carbs or ideally both followed by a plate of cookies AND that doesn’t make the adults eating feel like they just time warped back to their childhood.

I won’t lie, I LOVE chicken tenders but am not always a fan of the excessive amount of breading that is used on the frozen variety and I always prefer to make things from scratch if I can. This recipe is from the amazing Jamie Oliver and was first introduced by him as an alternative to the “pink slime” chicken nuggets that were being served at McDonald’s. These are super simple to whip up and are the perfect topper for a big green (ADULT) salad and will make any carb crazy, chicken tender loving child very happy. Enjoy!!! nom nom

 

3-4 organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

2 free range eggs

1 cup of almond meal/flour. Or use coconut flour if there are allergies

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion dried

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

8 TBS coconut oil

  1.  Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside
  2. Mix in a large bag all of the ingredients except for the chicken and egg and set aside.
  3. Now beat the egg and mix it with the chicken.
  4. Add the chicken and egg mixture to the plastic bag and shake until the chicken is completely covered.  Make sure to hold on to the top so it doesn’t open up.
  5.  Heat a large skillet on medium high heat.  Add 2 tbsp coconut oil and add chicken in.
  6. Continuously stir until the chicken starts to brown.  As it cooks, the coconut oil will be soaked up by the chicken so add another 2 tbsp when the pan starts to get dry.  **Add more oil if needed, but be careful you don’t add so much oil the nuggets get soggy, and vice versa; not too little where they can’t fry up nicely.
  7. Allow to cool and serve with your kids (or your) favorite dipping sauce or as a protein with a big salad. 

 

 

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.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Pasta Fagioli and Grown up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

 

gluten free / vegetarian / dairy free option 

This meal represents to a tee both sides of my foodie mind. One the right side you have the very healthy, super easy vegetarian (with a meat option) pasta fagioli. And on my left side yo u have a decadent, gooey adult grilled cheese (which can also be made kid friendly with ease). This is a great mid week meal since the soup is done in the slow cooker and the grilled cheeses are super quick. I love these types of soup in early spring because they are still warm and hearty for the cold nights but at the same time is a light broth based soup perfect for those warmer days. The grilled cheese came about as a bit of a bribe… or better yet as a reward for my kids to eat the soup. And I can personally attest that this system worked like a charm since my five year old daugher ate it all, and even gave me a hug and said it was “a very good meal.” Score.

One reason we all love the slow cooker is because we can just “throw” it together, walk away, and 8 hours later we have a kitchen that smells like we’ve been cooking all day. Now, I don’t mean to be a negative nancy here but even though its a “throw and go” style of cooking  you still have to do whatever prep work comes with it. And if your mornings are anything like ours that prep work can sometimes be more than we can handle. So here are a few quick tips on how I make it as easy as possible. First, prep the night before by chopping your onion, garlic and cabbage/kale and put them into containers or baggies and store in the fridge. Also, set out your canned goods and your slow cooker. If you are adding meat to the dish, you can also go ahead and saute that the night before and refrigerate once it is cool. In terms of the grilled cheeses, you could also go ahead and carmalize your onions. That way in the morning, your prep time has been cut in half!! Now I know there are a few of you thinking “This lady is nuts…. I’m fried at the end of the day and the last thing I want to do is cook…again.” But hear me out….I wait until my kids are asleep, put on whatever music I feel in the mood for, perhaps I make a cocktail or crack open a cidre, and for the next 20 minutes I just jam, sip and chop. Before you know it, the prep work is done and your morning just got a whole lot easier!! Enjoy!! nom nom

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

2 tsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp Italian seasoning

3/4-1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black poepper

4  1/2 cups vegetable broth,

1/2 small green cabbage or 1 bunch of kale; stems removed, finely chopped (4 cups) For kids: the cabbage will be much softer aka”mushier” than the kale which typically makes it a better option. The kale adds a great heartiness to the soup and gives it more a rustic italian feel.

4 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1-2 medium zucchini, diced

1 (15-ounce) can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup small GF pasta of your choice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Additional salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 lb of ground beef or 1/2 lb if you want to keep half of it vegetarian (see note below)

Optional toppings: Fresh parsley, shredded Parmesan cheese, or for a kick red pepper chili flakes

Note: In order for my kids to eat this soup I have to do two things. One, let them pick the noodle shape and two, add ground beef to the soup. I enjoy it both ways but since I am limiting the amount of meat I eat I choose to eat this vegetarian and save my meaty mains for something else.

  1. Drizzle the olive oil into a large saute pan set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring once or twice, for 1 minute. Splash in about 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour into slow cooker. NOTE: If you are pressed for time, you can leave the onions and garlic raw. But if you can, saute them! It definately enhances the flavor.
  2. To the slow cooker, add remaining vegetable broth, cabbage/kale, carrots, zuchinni, beans, and tomatoes. (If you’re adding 1 pound ground beef to the entire batch, you can cook and drain the ground beef and add it now.) Cook for 8 hours on low.
  3. About 20 minutes before the you are ready to serve soup bring a pot of water to boil. Add a drizzle of olive oil and your cup of GF pasta. Cook it according to package directions. Drain and set side. If you’re adding ground beef to half, set a large saucepan over medium heat, add the 1/2 pound ground beef, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, and no pink remains. Drain any excess fat. Transfer a little less than half the soup to the pan with the ground beef and let simmer, covered, until soup is heated through.
  4. Stir in red wine vinegar (divide between separate pots if doing the half-meaty version) and taste. Add additional salt and pepper if desired.
  5. Place the pasta in your bowl and ladle the soup over it. Note: GF pasta loves to suck up all the liquid in soups. So we just make the noodles seperate and add them to the soup before serving. This way we don’t use a ton of extra stock trying to add liquids back in!
  6. Serve topped with chopped parsley and with Parmesan cheese if desired.

 

Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Carmelized Red Onions

Serving: 1 sandwich

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

*to make these dairy free just sub in your preferred non-dairy cheese slices

2 slices of GF bread; we usually use Trader Joe’s GF bread but Rudi’s Sandwich bread is good too!

1-2 tsp butter or butter spread

1 oz of soft plain goat cheese

1-2 oz Drunken goat cheese; you can get this type of cheese at most stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods

2 TBS carmelized red onions (see note below)

handful of spinach and arugula salad blend. If you cant find that either one by itself would work.

  1. Thinly slice one small red onion and set aside. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat and add 1 1/2 TBS olive oil to pan. Once the oil is hot add red onion slices and cook until soft; appx 10 minutes. Once soft add 1-2 TBS balsamic vinegar and simmer until balsamic vinegar is reduced to a glaze on the onions; an additional  10-15 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat and coat with a non stick spray or a light olive oil rub on the skillet. Butter one side of each piece of bread and lay butter side down on plate or cutting board to build your sandwich.
  3. Place the greens down first, followed by the cheese, and finish with the carmelized red onions on top.
  4. Place top piece of bread on sandwich and place in the hot skillet. Cook until bread is a golden brown, press down lightly on sandwich with the back of your spatula before flipping. This ensures the sandwich will stay together when you flip it. Cook until other side is golden brown. Remove from pan and slice sandwich diaganolly.

Variations: Proscuitto or Serrano ham give this sandwich the ultimate gourmet touch. 2 slices per sandwich.

Kid Version: If your kids are willing to try things, have them try the sandwich as is. The onions are sweeter because of the balsamic reduction and the greens are nicely masked by the cheese. If you have picky eaters, which I understand as I have one…. just take off the onions and greens. The goat cheese’s used are both mild so kids typically love this sandwich.