Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black Beans and Rice

I decided
last week I needed to learn how to cook seasoned beans.  I cook plain beans all the time to use
in other dishes but I've never made my very own seasoned beans.  Beans and rice is a great fall back
when you run out of dinner ideas and it should be something everyone knows how
to make- including me.  It is a
simple meal but so full of flavor. 
This may not be a traditional interpretation but it is freakin
delicious!  This came out so good I
can't wait for leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I served my tasty black beans with organic short grain brown rice.  I rarely cook white rice anymore since brown is so much better for you.  There are plenty of types of brown rice to choose from to suit your tastes.  In most recipes I prefer the gooey-ness of the short grain rice.
I used organic black beans for this recipe but you could definitely substitute another bean if you've got it in your pantry.  Beans naturally contain indigestible sugars that can cause gas.  Cooking them with a little dried seaweed helps break down these sugars.  Since I don't drain off the cooking water in this recipe it is especially important.

Seasoned Black Beans

1 cup black beans, soaked over night
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar, or to taste
sea weed
Olive oil
Brown rice, cook according to type
 Avocado, sliced

Place half your onion into a large pot with a little olive oil and sauté for 3-4 minutes. 
Add the chopped garlic and bay leaf and sauté for another couple of minutes.
Add beans plus enough water to cover plus 1 inch.  Throw in a little piece of seaweed if you've got it.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for an hour or so.  
While they're cooking you can chop the rest of your veggies.  Sauté half of your leftover onions, carrots, celery and green pepper for a few minutes and then add the minced garlic and turn off the heat.  Season with salt to taste.  You'll add this to the beans once their cooked.

With your remaining time you may want to get out the play dough...

Experiment with the effects of gravity...

But don't eat it!!!  (don't worry, I stopped that...mostly)

Ok, check your beans!  If they are cooked thru, go ahead and add in your sautéed veggies and half of the cilantro and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add your vinegar and salt to taste. 

I added some spinach to the bottom of the bowl and topped with the remaining onion, cilantro, and some avocado on the side. 

So good!

I served the kids rice and beans separately (since Aidric doesn't like to combine his foods) and steamed up some snap peas to make sure they get their greens.

Dinner was a hit...

Multiple helpings were eaten...

And everyone's plates were cleaned :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chicken & Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

I saw this recipe on pinterest and knew I needed to make it dairy free.  I love zucchini so why not stuff it and make it the center of the meal?  To make this a main dish I added some chicken and quinoa.  I also added some veggies and changed the spices a little. I omitted the cheese that was called for in the original recipe- and we didn't miss it at all.

I cooked up a giant pot of quinoa last night to use throughout the week.  This is the biggest time saver!  I planned my menu this week with lots of quinoa- we’re eating it for breakfast and in two different dinner dishes.  Aidric will also have it with leftovers for lunch.  The only down side to quinoa is that it turns into a huge mess when fed to kids.  We had to pull out the vacuum since tiny quinoa bits got tracked across our kitchen.  Luckily I had lots of help cleaning up…

If you’d like to make this recipe dairy free as I did you will need some dairy free cream cheese.  You can buy soy-based cream cheese at the store if you don’t want to make your own.  Since Aidric is allergic to soy I use this recipe (with some minor changes) for cashew based cream cheese.  We use it on bagels and in recipes that call for cheese.  It is a great dairy alternative that can add some creaminess to your dishes.

Chicken & Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

3 small zucchinis
1/2 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup tomato, diced
1/2 cup spinach, diced
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup cilantro, diced plus more for topping
1/4 cup dairy free cream cheese (see recipe below)
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400.
Slice your zucchini long ways and scoop out the centers.  Be careful not to tear them so your filling will stay in.

Dice up the zucchini chucks and combine in bowl with the chicken, tomato, spinach, quinoa, cilantro, mustard powder, thyme, salt and pepper.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan and cook onions until browned.
Add the cooked onions to the bowl and mix well.

Stuff your zucchinis with the mixture and place in a lightly oiled pan.  
(You know it's good when a little hand is un-stuffing the zucchini before you can get it in the oven)

Bake for 20 minutes or until browned on top.

Dairy free, soy free Cream Cheese

1 1/2 Cup raw cashews
1 tsp. tahini
2 Tbsp. coconut oil, solid or liquid form
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp. lemon juice
2 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
3 Tbsp. SO Delicious coconut milk, original
1 Tbsp. olive or grape seed oil
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4-1/2 C water

Soak cashews overnight.  Drain and rinse.
Add all ingredients to blender except water.
Begin blending and add water as needed to get a smooth mixture.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before using.   This will allow it to cool and firm up.

These turned out delicious and I will definitely make them again.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lentil Fritter Pitas with Slaw

Red lentils are tricky little suckers.  I have yet to make a pot of them that have been cooked correctly.  I always get some that are too mushy.  Luckily for me it doesn't matter in this recipe. 
Despite my inability to cook them correctly, I love to use lentils.  They cook up quickly and you can use them in so many recipes.  I really appreciate that you don't have to soak lentils like many beans (i.e. no planning required).  Lentils are high in protein, iron, B vitamins, and fiber.  This makes them an excellent addition to any vegetarian meal.

I've made this recipe several times and every time I eat way too much.  The combination of earthy lentils, tangy slaw, and creamy sauce keep me coming back for more!  

Unfortunately my kids don't agree.  

It's quite clear how Aidric felt about his dinner.

And Kota dumped her pita out and only ate the bread...

But I'll keep trying, someday they'll eat it! Right?? 

You can find the original recipe here from Real Simple.  Read below for the changes I made.

- I made my own lentils in about 15 minutes.  Not only are they much cheaper than canned lentils but they are safer too.  I try not to use canned beans and veggies since many cans have a BPA lining that can leach into your food.  Even organic canned foods can have BPA linings- yuck!  You can read a recent article here.  If you are going to buy canned lentils look for a brand that is BPA free. I used one cup of dry red lentils and it worked out great as a substitution for the two cans that are called for in the recipe.  

- I added two extra cloves of garlic  to the lentil mix.  I love garlic so the more the merrier. 

-I made the lentil fritters gluten free by substituting gluten free bread crumbs.  Store bought gluten free bread crumbs are usually just a mix or corn meal and rice flour.  I've used them in recipes before and they dont work well.  I like to make my own bread crumbs from some gluten free bread.  Tonight i used udi's whole grain gluten free bread.  I used one slice plus both of the end pieces- because no one wants to eat those anyway.  I popped them in the toaster straight from the freezer and toasted until they were really crispy.  I let them cool for a few minutes and them popped them in the bullet.  You could use a blender or food processor or blender for this but the bullet is perfect for this amount.  By shear luck I ended up with exactly 1/2 a cup.  You can make the whole recipe gluten free by using gluten free pitas or making your own.

-I recommend cooking these little guys over medium heat instead of the medium high recommend in the recipe.  I found that they began to stick to the pan and burn at that temperature.

- make extra slaw!  The acidy slaw is a great counterpoint to the lentils.  I even like to put more slaw than lentil into my pita.  I recommend doubling the recipe.

- The same goes for the sauce- double the recipe!  I also like add some grated cucumber or lemon zest to the sauce to give it a little more flavor.  You can also make it dairy free by using soy or coconut Greek yogurt.  I chose to make the sauce with regular yogurt since I knew the kids weren't going to eat it.

If you're looking for a really good vegetarian recipe try this for dinner tonight!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

These delicious scones came from Elana’s Pantry.  If you aren’t familiar with Elana she is a master with almond flour and simple gluten free baking.  I’ve made many recipes from her website and book (courtesy of the public library) and they always turn out great.  If you have ever done any gluten free baking you know that this is not easy to do.  Baking without gluten can be tricky and the results are often mixed.  But almond flour is different.  It doesn’t require a lot of crazy ingredients to “work” in the recipes like other flours do.  Elana’s recipes are simple and taste great- so they are a winner in my book.

I decided to make this recipe since I haven’t had a scone in ages and I wanted to see how the almond flour texture would work for a scone.  It was also another attempt at something different for breakfast.  I’m happy to report that they turned out awesome and were a hit with the kids.  I made them on Sunday morning and they were gone by the end of the day.  My kids aren’t too patient waiting for breakfast so I love that these only took about 10 minutes to prep and then 10 minutes to bake.  The kids hadn’t even finished their green smoothies by the time these were done baking.  Score! 

I didn’t change very much in this recipe.  I did omit the white chocolate chips from the scones.  We don’t eat white chocolate and these are a lot healthier without the chips.  I also recommend leaving your scones in until they start to brown.  The 10 minutes called for in the recipe left mine just a little under cooked.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

2 cups almond flour*
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp orange zest (about one large orange)
1 egg
2 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 375o
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl and mix until completely combined.  Stir in zest and cranberries and mix again.
In a separate bowl whisk eggs and honey.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix.  I used a wooden spoon for this and it worked well.
Once you have dough formed knead a couple of times to make sure everything is well mixed.
Divide the dough into two balls and flatten into a circle like pizza dough.  You want the circle to be ½ to ¾ inch thick.
Once you’ve got your circles, use a pizza cutter to slice into 6 pie wedges.
Bake for 10-12 minutes and cool before serving.

*Bob's Red Mill Almond flour does not always work in Elana's recipes.  The grind is not fine enough and it doesn't absorb moisture correctly from my experience.  I order my flour online in bulk.

I served these to the kids with fresh organic blueberries and some organic cucumber slices.

My dough ball.

The flattened “pizzas”

All cut up and ready for the oven.

The finished product!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Coriander Spiced Salmon

Today we worked up some appetites with a lot of pedaling...

a little flower picking...

some sprinting....

and some dare devil antics.

Luckily I planned to make one of our favorite meals for dinner!

Somehow I didn't know about the magical combination of salmon and coriander until last year.  I tried this recipe from Publix and was hooked.  Salmon is an excellent fish to incorporate in your diet.  It is    high in omega 3s and lower in mercury than many larger fish.   You can check out more information on mercury levels in your fish here.  When purchasing salmon you want to look for wild caught and sustainably harvested fish.  They are higher in nutrients, lower in contaminates, and better for the environment.
This recipe is great for many reasons.  Beyond the health benefits it is simple and quick to prepare and my kids gobble it down.  Aidric will eat an entire fillet on his own! Whenever I make this his rice goes untouched- which is normally one of his favorites.
I've simplified this recipe- omitting some ingredients and changing recipes.  Below I give you the coriander spice mix per salmon fillet so you can adjust the recipe for however many fillets you are making.  I've found this amount to work really well to coat a fillet with very little leftovers.  I hate when I mix up spices and have leftovers that are contaminated and go to waste.  I served my salmon over a bed of spinach (as usual) with artichokes.  I tossed the spinach with olive oil, lemon, and salt & pepper.  I also made some brown rice and tossed in green onions and some herbamare.

Coriander spiced salmon

Salmon fillets- 1 per person

Spice mix- per salmon fillet
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Olive oil

Drizzle a few drops of olive oil on your salmon fillets and rub the oil in.  This will help the spices stick.  Sprinkle coriander mix on fillets and then rub in gently to completely cover.  Repeat this process for each side of the salmon.
You’ll need a skillet big enough for your fillets.  Heat it over medium heat.  Mine is non-stick so I don’t even bother with any oil.  Salmon has enough fat that it doesn’t need it and won’t stick to your pan.  Make sure your pan is completely heated before cooking the fish.  You want to cook the fillets for about 3 minutes per side.  This time will very with the thickness of your fillets so make sure you keep an eye on the fish.  You’ll want to take the fish out when the center is still a little underdone because the fish will keep cooking.

It’s a quick and easy dinner that everyone will love.  You might even want to make a little extra for lunch- or for Aidric J

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shrimp Stir Fry with Boy Choy

 I've been getting a lot of bok choy in our CSA share for the last couple of weeks. I like bok choy but I have to admit that I haven't really cooked with it prior to my CSA shares. It has been fun for me because I get to look up new recipes to use it in.   
I wanted to highlight the benefits of bok choy.  I did a little research and was surprised by how packed with nutrients this little veggie is- it really is a super food!  If you're not familiar with bok choy it is a Chinese cabbage that is very versatile.  It is full of vitamins and minerals and low in calories.  Specifically it is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K.  For more health information, you can read here.    
This week I used a recipe from one or my library books as inspiration.  I am so excited to be using the public library again.  I haven't had time to go in years but I have such fond memories of the library from when I was a kid.  My mom used to take my brother and I each week and we could pick out whatever we wanted and bring home a pile of books.   
Since I decided to quit my job and keep Aidric home I knew I needed to get a curent card and look into their programs.  So last week I got a new library card and checked out a pile of books and put more on hold- I might have gone a little overboard- just like old times :). I checked out 4 cook books on gluten free and vegan cooking along with some naturopathic medicine books.  I can't wait to take Aidric to his first story time next week.  In the meantime I've been busy tabbing all of the recipes to try. 
Tonight's inspiration came from vegetarian times Everything Vegan.  The dish I used as inspiration was udon noodles with bok choy.  It called for udon noodles, terriaki tofu, and soy sauce- I didn't have any of these, not to mention soy is off limits for Aidric.  I used the general flavors to come up with my own delicious stir fry.  I guess adding shrimp defeats the purpose of the vegan recipe but I needed some protein for the kids.  The end result was refreshing and full of flavor.   

Shrimp Stir Fry with Bok Choy 

2 tbsp olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
1 tbsp grated ginger 
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks 
6-8 mushrooms, quartered 
1 lb wild caught shrimp 
5 cups chopped bok choy 
2 tbsp coconut aminos 
2 tbsp lemon juice 
5-6 green onions, chopped 

 Heat olive oil in large skillet or wok over medium heat.  Sauté garlic and ginger for 1 minute.  Add carrots and cook another minute.  If skillet is too dry add acouple tablespoons or water.  Add shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes- until shrimp are mostly cooked.  Add mushrooms and bok choy and stir.  Cover skillet and cook until bok Choy wilts.  Add aminos and lemon juice and stir. Sprinkle the green onions and serve with brown rice!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gluten Free Vanilla Strawberry Granola

Breakfast is a tough meal in our house.  I am definitely in an egg rut with the kids.  Up until recently they ate breakfast at daycare and I only had to figure out breakfast on the weekends.  Since we pulled Aidric out of daycare I’ve been feeding both kids breakfast in the morning before I send Kota off to school.  I’m glad to be doing this since it is one more meal I can ensure meets MY nutritional standards.
So I have been on a quest for non-egg recipes.  There are definitely mixed opinions on the healthiness of eggs.  I still haven’t decided.  What I do know is if I only feed my kids eggs every day for breakfast, that is all they are going to want to eat.  So we need options without eggs- nutritious options.  Some things I don’t want in my breakfast: gluten, processed sugar or processed anything really.
I love this granola for so many reasons.  First, the majority of the ingredients are raw.  Eating raw means that none of the nutrients, vitamins, or enzymes are being cooked out of your food.  In other words, you’re getting the maximum benefits you can from the food you are eating.  As a parent of chronically sick kids, this is a big deal since they need all of the nutrients they can get. Second, this recipe is versatile.  It can be eaten alone as a snack, with some nut or rice milk as a cereal, or with some dairy free yogurt and berries in a parfait.  I also love that this is a simple recipe and you can customize it and mix up the flavors so that you don’t get bored.  I’ve made a couple of batches now and I plan to keep this in our breakfast rotation.

This recipe is adapted from Kelly at The Spunky Coconut.  She’s got another great flavor on her blog- Chai!  I've changed things up a bit, using honey to sweeten and adding some more nuts and chia.  You will need a dehydrator for this recipe.  If you don’t have one you could bake it on your oven’s lowest setting however ovens don’t go low enough for the granola to be considered raw.

Vanilla Strawberry Granola

2 cups raw walnuts
2 cups sliced raw almonds
3 tbsp chia seed meal
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup shredded raw unsweetened coconut
½ cup almond flour
1 large apple, crushed in blender
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
16oz fresh strawberries, finely chopped

Soak your almonds and walnuts in filtered water for around 8 hours.  Rinse the nuts and strain.
In a small bowl, mix your chia seed meal*, cinnamon and salt. 
*To make chia meal, you can grind chia seeds in a coffee grinder or magic bullet (I use this).
Mix water and honey.
In a large bowl combine soaked nuts with the rest of ingredients and mix.  Add your small bowl of dry ingredients and mix again.

You will want 2-3 of the Paraflexx sheets to spread the mixture on.  I only had one so I cut some parchment paper to fit the dehydrator pan and it worked just fine.

Spread the mixture out on your dehydrator sheets until it is relatively even.  You want the mixture to dry at the same rate.  Also, make sure it is pretty thin (this is what the third sheet is for).  If your granola is too thick it will not dry quickly and your strawberries will start to go bad.

Dehydrate at 115 degrees for about 8 hours.  It might take longer depending on the thickness of the granola.  Keep checking it to see if it’s crispy.  Try not to eat too much every time you check on it.  I promise it is even better when it’s done!  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Green Curry

This dish is a great alternative to your winter eating rut.  If you’re looking for some fresh flavors instead of the same old winter casserole you should try this.  It is full of flavor and easily pulled together at the last minute. 
One of the best things about this dish is it is a great way to use up those spare veggies lingering in the corners of your produce drawer.  We all have them- the veggie that looked too good to pass up at the farmers market or the veggie you were going to use to make this amazing dinner that didn’t happen because your daughter’s ballet class ran long…
I’m a list maker and a planner so I like to come up with my meals for the week (or at least a couple of days at a time) and base my shopping list off of that.  But despite my best planning I still end of with some random veggies in my fridge.  So what’s a girl to do with some veggies that are in desperate need of attention? Make curry!  As long as you keep the staples on hand for this dish you can throw it together in a flash.
You can find the original recipe here at The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen.  This is one of my favorite blogs for recipes with whole foods.  I’ve tweaked the curry to suit our tastes: less spicy and less sweet.  If I add too much spice the kids won’t eat it- and that’s just a waste.

Green Curry


1 ½ c fresh cilantro (leaves and stems, no need to chop)
2 shallots, chopped (or onion if no shallots are on hand)
5-6 cloves garlic
1 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled
1 tsp lime zest (lemon is ok here too)
1 tsp sea salt or herbamare
¼ c water
1 can whole coconut milk (thai kitchen works best)
¼ jalapeno, seeded (or more if you like it hot)

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend on high.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Rice noodles
Cook according to package directions.

Curry Veggies

You will want about 4-5 cups of veggies.  Below is what I used for this particular batch but feel free to use whatever you’ve got laying around.  It will be equally delicious!

½ c onion, chopped
1 c broccoli
1 c carrots
1 c sugar snap peas
½ c red & yellow peppers
1 c mushrooms

Chop up all of your veggies and heat a large skillet to med-high.  Add your oil and sauté the onions for a few minutes until slightly soft.  Add the broccoli, carrots and peppers and sauté a couple more minutes until slightly tender.  Add the mushrooms last so they don’t get soggy and sauté only about 1 minute more.  Pour your curry sauce over your veggies and stir to combine.  You can cook longer if you prefer your veggies a little more “done” but I like to maintain some crispness.

I like to serve my curry on a nice bed of spinach.  You can even omit the rice noodles and go with only the spinach!  I’ve used cauliflower,  potato, celery, snow peas, and zucchini in this dish and all were great. 

One thing I would not recommend is putting your curry in your rice milk…

Aidric seemed to like the flavor.

But not the leftovers.  Thanks Aidric.