Monthly Archives: April 2011

Daring Cooks: Edible Containers (Nori Bowls)

This month for the Daring Cooks challenge, the sky was the limit.  Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers. She provided lovely ideas and recipes (a pumpkin bowl filled with creamy shrimp, or a fried noodle bowl), but we could also use our creativity and come up with our own idea, as long as our containers were edible and had suitable content for it.

For me, this was exciting. Rather than having to modify a challenge recipe to fit my dietary needs, I could come up with something completely from scratch! How exciting! But then I started brainstorming, and couldn’t come up with much. I had a few ideas – dips inside of avocado halves, a twist on deviled eggs, or some sort of roll-up thing…but nothing ground-breaking. So I enlisted my sister to help. (She is the artist in our family) I sent her a text message, asking her to think of some sort of edible container, and that the sky was the limit. She sent a message back: what about making nori sheets into some sort of paper mache thing?

Wow. I was inspired. Immediately, I dismissed my other ideas and focused on this one. I wasn’t sure how I’d get it to work, but I knew I had to. It sounded like fun. I had a few days before I would have time to actually make the bowls, so I instead spent time working out the issue in my head. What I loved about this challenge is that unlike some others, I actually didn’t do any research. This was all going to be playing around and going with my gut.

It wouldn’t exactly be paper mache, I thought. Paper mache involves some paste-like substance, and when I think of edible paste, I think of corn starch and water. That didn’t sound appetizing in the least. But I needed something sticky. Brown rice syrup. I purchased some to make Amy’s Slow Cooker Ketchup, and I loved the thick, neutral, not-too-sweet stuff. (Side note: there’s still time to enter into my giveaway for a copy of her cookbook! Check it out here!) I knew I was going to use it – it seemed like the perfect solution. I also knew I’d have to use some sort of mold in order to make and keep a bowl shape until it dried. I already planned on using my dehydrator to speed up that drying process, but as for the minute details? Those would have to wait until I was in the throes of making the bowls.

As it turns out, all that advance mental preparation helped. Making these bowls was a snap. Okay, well, not exactly a snap, as a snap implies speed (at least, in my mind it does) and they did take a while to dry, but they were easy to put together. Just a little brushing of my sticky brown rice and tamari solution, some time in my “molds”, and some time in the dehydrator, and I had a cute little bowl, perfect for filling.

Filling with what? Well, honestly, I did not spend much time brainstorming about that part. But as I surveyed my pantry and refrigerator, I quickly realized that I had the ingredients for a version of jap chae, and those flavors would go perfectly with the nori. I whipped it together (which really is a snap – jap chae only takes a few minutes to make), and I had a perfectly delicious, vegan meal in a cute nori bowl.

This was an exciting challenge, and my hat goes off to Renata.

Nori Bowls

2 nori sheets per bowl

Olive oil

2 T brown rice syrup

1 T gluten-free soy sauce

small bowls

1 recipe Jap Chae

Using kitchen shears, cut slits into the nori sheet, making sure you make them only about halfway to the center of the sheet, leaving room for the bottom of the bowl. (I cut the first one with slits as shown here, but then realized I should cut only 4 slits, one on each corner, for the second sheet. Sorry, no pic on that one, but you get the idea.)

Cut the second sheet of nori with slits and lay over the first sheet, offsetting the slits slightly so that the whole area is covered with nori. Lightly brush the bowl with oil on the outside, and place the nori sheets on top.

In a small, separate bowl, whisk together the brown rice syrup and soy sauce. Brush mixture along the cut edges, and press together firmly, against the bowl, until all of the nori is “sealed” with the syrup mixture. Brush oil on the inside of your second molding bowl, and place on top of your nori. Press together.

Using your kitchen shears, cut around the edges of your mold to remove excess nori. Repeat with additional nori sheets and bowls as desired. Let the molds sit for about an hour.

Remove the interior molding bowl, and place in dehydrator, right side up. Allow to dehydrate for an additional hour at about 130 degrees. Once the nori starts to feel less “wet”, carefully remove the second molding bowl and place the nori bowl back into the dehydrator. Continue to dehydrate for another hour or two, or until the nori is hard and no longer the least bit tacky to the touch. Trim the edges with kitchen shears as needed to clean up the look of your bowl.

It is now ready to fill! Prepare your jap chae according to recipe (or make another filling for your bowl) and serve. You’ll find that after a while, when the filling has had a chance to sit in the bowl, it will soften a bit, and you might be able to fold the sides and eat your jap chae-filled nori bowl rolled up, burrito style.

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Filed under Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Vegetarian

Braised Lamb Shank with Swiss Chard

Have you entered into the drawing yet for a chance to win a copy of Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free by Amy Green? If not, check out the details here. The giveaway is open until midnight April 23, 2011.

Last weekend, we finally were able to pick up our long-awaited lamb from Good Earth Organic Farm. This is our third lamb we’ve ordered from Good Earth. It’s completely grass-fed and organically-raised, and lived its life less than an hour away from my home. Good Earth Organic Farm has practiced organic, sustainable farming for more than 2o years, long before the resurgence in local/organic/sustainable food began. That is to say, they know a few things.

Over the past few years, we’ve been slowly moving towards eating more organic, local, and sustainable foods in our home. At first, it was about taste. I could get fresher foods by visiting the farmers market and buying in season, and fresher foods meant tastier foods. Then, as I grew to know the farmers, I preferred to spend my money locally when I could to support local businesses and these local farmers. But I also learned about the work they did and the reasons behind it. Many of these farmers strive to provide healthy, organically-raised produce and animals for their families and their community, not because they make more money (they certainly don’t), not because they gain fame or recognition (most are very modest, down-to-earth folks, many more comfortable out on the farm than in a crowd of people), but because they strongly believe this is the right thing to do – for the Earth, for the health of their family and community, and to know that their animals (if they raise them) were ethically treated. For them, these values were strong enough that they chose to devote their lives to upholding them.

Until recently, while I wholeheartedly supported these farmers and the whole notion of eating locally, organically, and sustainably, my actions didn’t always echo that support. Why? To be honest? Convenience and price. Sure, when the farmer’s market was open, I’d shop there first, but often I wouldn’t buy meat (too expensive) and then, I would visit our local supermarket to pick up whatever was on sale that week to round out our meals. This often meant that at least half of our produce was conventionally grown. Our meat? All conventionally grown (with the exception of the lambs from Good Earth Organic Farm), although I would buy from a grocery that labeled their meats with things like “naturally raised”. (Which, mind you, doesn’t mean much, as that term is not regulated.)  I would pick up eggs from Jacob’s Reward Farm a good amount of the time, but even this past winter, I slacked on that, as my new job and new commute made it so that I no longer drove right by the farm each day. Again, that convenience factor played heavily into my choices.

I’m not saying what I already practiced was bad. I honestly think I was doing a pretty good job of providing healthy foods for our family – almost every meal consumed in our home is made from unprocessed ingredients. We rarely eat out. Unhealthy snacks and treats are kept to a minimum, and vegetables are emphasized and are forever present at each meal. There are no sugary sodas in our home. But I knew that I could do more to help keep our family healthy. Even more so, I needed to open my eyes and become fully conscious of what I was choosing for us to eat. And when I did, those choices became more apparent – I didn’t want us to eat pesticides. Or chemicals. Or hormones. Or animals that were constantly sick and stressed (for lack of a stronger term) because they were raised in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). Nor did I want to endorse such practices.

Instead, I wanted to treat our bodies with respect and intention, and treat our food the same way. I  find that when we choose good food – food that is in season and is raised sustainably – I treat it better. I want to respect the ingredients. They are wholesome, and a lot of honest work went into them. It also connects me with the Earth to eat this way, and I find that there is a deep appreciation for what we put on our plates when we are conscious of what we are eating. As a cook in the kitchen, I am inspired by all of this. I was explaining this to my husband the other day as I was packaging leftovers of a fantastic kohlrabi and apple slaw I’d made using local, organic kohlrabi (also raised by Good Earth Organic Farm!), organic apples, and parsley from my garden. (recipe coming soon!) I feel as though when I buy grocery store conventional ingredients, I just throw something together carelessly. It gets us by, but it doesn’t taste nearly as good, and many times, it’s an uninspired dish. But when I’m presented with the best of the best, I treat it that way – and from my kitchen sometimes comes some pretty darn tasty dishes, if I do say so myself. He echoed my thoughts, saying he noticed that when I took the time to obtain quality food, the quality and creativity of the dishes I created also was greater. (I do have to say, it made me beam to know that he can also see that difference!) That inspiration, brought on by a sense of awareness for our food, the seasons, and the freshness of it all, is definitely an additional motivating factor driving me to not fall into the “convenience-over-quality” or “price-over-quality” trap.

Of course, this little rambling of mine isn’t to insinuate how elite we’ve become, or to sound political or extremist. Far from it. I understand that in a real world, not everyone can afford to spend extra on groceries. Especially in an economy that has certainly seen more prosperous times, there are many without work and they are surviving on what little they can manage to scrape together. I get that. But we as a nation spend less of our income on food than just about every other country in the world. In addition, many of us somehow find the money to spend on iPhones, cable television, satellite radio, restaurant food, and many other things we never even “needed” 5 or 10 years ago. We also spend more and more on medical costs. Perhaps instead, we could use some of that money to contribute to our health in the form of quality food? For a good many of us, it’s not about if we can afford it, it’s about the priority we place on our health.

Of course, this is about my choices and beliefs and that of my family. I will leave you to do research and make your own decisions if and when you are ready to do so, and I promise I will try not to preach. If you are curious about reading more, however, you might check out Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Joel Salatin (which I’m hoping to read soon) or for a more in-the-kitchen view, Hugh Fearing-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Cookbook (which I am reading right now). There’s a lot more out there, but I have enjoyed these because they aren’t preachy or propaganda-like.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Back to this lamb. When we picked up the lamb, and I started to load it into our deep freezer, I was getting excited. Chops, and roasts, and more chops…my mouth was watering as I started to imagine all of the delectable dinners to come, and my mind filled with ideas. Then my hands grabbed the package of shanks. This is what we’re eating first,  I thought. I could imagine the tender, fall-off-the-bone meat now, bathed in a flavorful sauce, rich but not overly so, letting the lamb flavor shine through. This recipe does a good job of that – imparting a slight sweetness to the meat, due to the cinnamon and prunes, but enough savory notes to balance it all out. Mashed potatoes pair nicely, as does polenta. What’s better – I recently acquired a pressure cooker, which I used for this recipe. Right now, I’m still enamored with the speed in which food turns from raw to delicious with this thing. The pressure cooker made an otherwise all-day affair – these lamb shanks – something I could cook on a weeknight without too much work beyond my normal efforts. The pressure cooker only set me back about $20 – it’s not fancy – but if you don’t have one, simply simmer these in a dutch oven at a low temperature for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is falling off of the bone. One additional note – I used green garlic in this recipe. Green garlic is simply immature garlic that is similar to green onions. Its flavor is more subtle than regular garlic. If you can’t find this, simply substitute 6 cloves garlic and 6 stems green onions. Also, if you can’t find swiss chard, feel free to substitute another type of greens, such as spinach, collards, or kale.

Braised Lamb Shank with Swiss Chard, adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/2 t ground cinnamon, divided

1 t ground cardamom, divided

4 3/4 lb lamb shanks

2 T olive oil

6 stalks green garlic, green and white parts chopped

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes in juice

1 1/2 c beef broth

1/4 c prunes

1 T tomato paste

1/4 t saffron threads, crumbled

Large pinch ground cloves

1 T olive oil

1 large bunch swiss chard, chopped

1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley

Combine half of the cinnamon, half of the cardamom, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Pat lamb shanks dry and season with spice mixture. Heat oil in a large pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add lamb shanks and brown all over, cooking for about 2 minutes each side. Remove and set on a plate.

Add green garlic, reduce heat to medium-low, and saute for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice, broth, prunes, tomato paste, and remaining cinnamon and cardamom. Add saffron and cloves. Increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Return lamb shanks to pressure cooker. Put lid on cooker and follow pressure cooker instructions on bringing to a medium temperature. Allow to cook at medium for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, while lamb is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chard and saute for a minute. Add a splash of water and cover briefly, for about 2 minutes. Remove lid, stir, and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the pressure cooker from heat and allow pressure to come down (again, according to your pressure cooker instructions). Remove lid, and remove lamb shanks from sauce and set aside. Using a hand blender, puree the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Return lamb shanks to sauce – it should still be quite hot, but if it isn’t, return to a burner on low for a few minutes to reheat.

Serve lamb shanks on top of mashed potatoes, if desired, with sauce poured over and swiss chard alongside. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4.

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Filed under Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Lamb, Main Dishes

Review and Giveaway: Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free by Amy Green

This giveaway has ended, and the winners have been announced here. Thank you all for reading!

In case you haven’t heard, my good friend Amy over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free has written her first book, Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free: 180 easy and Delicious Recipes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less, and it’s just been released! I couldn’t wait until my copy arrived in the mail, and when it did, I plopped myself down on the couch and read the whole thing, cover to cover. I’m so proud of Amy’s accomplishments. This book is gorgeous, with amazing recipes for everything from buckwheat crepes to cauliflower soup to multiple brownie recipes, all free of gluten and refined sugar. As I am trying to cut refined sugar out of my diet, Amy has become a valuable resource. This book couldn’t have arrived at a better time. It was only a matter of deciding which recipes to try first, so I could share with you just how awesome this book is.

Of all of the tantalizing recipes, it might seem odd that the first thing I made was her Slow Cooker Ketchup (also available on her blog). I haven’t actually eaten ketchup in a long time. When you don’t eat french fries, burgers, or hot dogs on a regular basis, there’s just not that many ketchup opportunities left. I’ve also found that store-bought ketchup, which typically is full of high-fructose corn syrup or sugar, is intensely sweet – something I’ve lost a taste for. Amy’s ketchup, however, is more than just sweet – there are layers of spices, some tang, and a lovely full flavor. I used some of it later in the week for some chipotle sloppy joes (on a slice of gluten-free bread) and oven fries, and felt like a kid again. It was so, so good.

But I wouldn’t do a review of a cookbook purely based on ketchup. That just wouldn’t be right. After all, I’ve sampled Amy’s baking before, and I know what she’s capable of. Her baked goods are phenomenal. When I came across her Fig and Date Bars, I paused. She said they tasted like fig newtons. Fig Newtons? Oh yes, these were so about to happen in my kitchen. I couldn’t wait.

Did they deliver? I would definitely say so. I loved the sticky, sweet but not-too-sweet fig and date filling, and the crumbly topping was just perfect. I brought them to the office, and all day, people would venture back into the kitchen to sneak another one. Our company President even enjoyed some and shared them with his granddaughters (who were visiting that day), and remarked how good they were. (He didn’t know they were gluten and sugar-free until afterwards!) If they pass the test of the gluten and sugar eaters of the world with flying colors, I say that’s definitely a win.

Just look at them. How could you resist?

Do these recipes have you interested? I hope so, because I have FOUR opportunities for you to win a copy of Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free! Want to know how you can enter to win? Scroll down to the bottom of this post and find out! The giveaway will end at midnight CDT on Saturday, April 23, 2011. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully so you can be entered as many times as possible!

Fig and Date Bars, reprinted with permission from Amy Green, excerpted from Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free

1/2 c pitted Medjool dates

1/2 c dried black Mission figs, stemmed and cut in half

1/2 c walnuts

1 c sorghum flour

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t baking soda

1/4 t xanthan gum (I used guar gum)

pinch of kosher salt

1/4 c cold butter, diced (I used ghee (also called clarified butter), which is lactose and casein-free)

2 T honey or agave nectar

1 t freshly grated orange zest

1 T freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly mist an 8 X 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl, cover the dates and figs with hot water. Set aside. Or, cover the dates and dried figs with water and microwave for 1 minute.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, chop the walnuts until they are in small pieces but not mealy. Add the sorghum flour, cinnamon, baking soda, xanthan gum, and kosher salt. Process for 30 seconds or until the mixture is combined and the walnuts are a little finer. Sprinkle the butter evenly across the walnut mixture and drizzle in the honey or agave. Pulse until a dough forms. Turn the dough out into a large bowl.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the dates and figs to the food processor, reserving the soaking liquid; there’s no need to wash the processor bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid, the orange zest, and orange juice. Let process for several minutes, until smooth.

While the food processor is running, use wet hands to firmly press two-thirds of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Once the date and fig mixture is smooth, spread it evenly across the dough. Break the remaining dough into marble-size pieces, sprinkle them across the fig and date paste, and lightly press in.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through, until the top becomes lightly golden brown. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and store in the refrigerator. These also freeze well.

Makes 16 2X2 inch bars.

Now, for the giveaway!

In order to be entered into the giveaway, simply leave a comment at the end of this post. Your name will be entered once into a drawing for a chance to win one of four cookbooks.

If you want more chances to win, then listen up!

For a second chance to win, follow Ulysses Press on Twitter and leave a separate comment here telling me you did so.

For a third chance to win, friend Ulysses Press on Facebook and leave a separate comment here telling me you did so.

For a fourth chance to win, like Ulysses Press’s new Health and Fitness fan page and leave a separate comment here telling me you did so.

(An added bonus for you, when you follow/like Ulysses Press – they often host giveaways and other fun stuff!)

For a fifth chance to win, like Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free on Facebook and leave a separate comment here telling me you did so.

For additional chances to win, Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter, post about it on Facebook or your blog, and leave me comments telling me you did those things.

And remember – the giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday, April 23, 2011.

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Filed under Baked goods, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Vegetarian

Kids in the Kitchen: Fried Turkey

Fried turkey? In April? Yes, that’s what I thought too. But after talking Brandan out of many other (more expensive and difficult to source) ideas (Rattlesnake? Eel? Yes, there is no doubt, the boy has an imagination. If it is an animal, then he’s wondered if it could be food.), this one was doable. In my mind, there’s a seasonality to frying a turkey (and if we’re being honest here…and why wouldn’t we be…I prefer a well-roasted turkey to a fried one). That’s generally the consensus in this country, as evidenced by the lack of abundance of turkeys in the stores. With a little luck and scrounging around, I managed to find one that was in the 18-pound range. Larger than I had hoped for, but it would do.

Here’s the rub: turkey is cheap. Even in April, the turkey I purchased was 88 cents a pound. (It was a conventional turkey – I would have loved to obtain a free-range, local turkey, but again…they’re seasonal.) Frying a turkey, however, not so much. Buying enough peanut oil to fry a turkey raises the price. Mind you, nowhere near the price obtaining eel in the Dallas area, much less the price of rattlesnake (Which can be free if you hunt your own, but since I wasn’t equipped to do that, I’d have to fork over $80+ a pound online. Not happening.) However, the thrill and experience Brandan would get from dropping a gigantic bird into a deep pot of oil was well worth the price. In addition, my preference for roasted bird is outnumbered by the rest of the family, who loves the fried stuff. This would be a delicious treat for the family.  (And with luck, I could make use of the leftover meat for some enchiladas – another family favorite.)

So we got started. While many recipes for fried turkey call for brining, injecting all sorts of concoctions, and/or rubbing the bird down with a spice mixture (and trust me, they sell a lot of preservative-laden, most-likely-gluten-filled products out there to help accomplish these tasks), we opted for simple. I brought out a jar of my favorite BBQ spice rub mix (minus the sugar), and we rubbed down the turkey with the seasoning. Other than that, no further preparation was needed. Once the oil was hot, we dropped the turkey, and waited. And checked the temperature of the oil, waiting for it to come up. And waited. It wasn’t coming up. It was windy that day (we’ve had day after day this spring of very high winds), and so I was afraid that the wind was keeping the flame low. We tried to block the wind to no avail. The oil was still reading around 200 degrees F. Finally, my husband suggests to check the temperature of the turkey. (It wasn’t nearly time to start checking yet, but I agreed that we should try.) That’s when we discovered the oil thermometer was inadvertently stuck, just slightly, into the bird, thus preventing an accurate oil reading. Whoops. We remedied the situation, discovered that the oil registered an accurate 350 degrees F (that’s more like it!). Thankfully, the oil wasn’t higher than 350 degrees, as we could have entered into dangerous territory! Before we knew it, the turkey was ready to remove and allow to rest.

For Brandan, the resting was the hardest part. The aroma was incredible, and the skin was so crackly. The bird looked good. However, we managed to restrain ourselves (minus one or two small pieces of the edges of the skin) until it was carving time. That’s when the boys in our house are suddenly immensely interested in what’s going on in the kitchen, and start hovering around the carver (that’s me!), waiting to swipe a morsel from the plate. I’ve learned to work swiftly.

How was our turkey? Well, in spite of my previous opinions about turkeys in April, it was quite good. The breast meat was unbelievably moist and flavorful – the best part of the bird, we agreed. Brandan enjoyed a wing and a leg. There wasn’t much conversation from him at the table – he was too immersed in his meal. Everyone eating that evening was more than pleased. Some of the dark meat was a bit dry, as the turkey was in the oil legs-down, so they most likely got more heat exposure than the breast. In spite of that, it was still quite tasty. While I do hold true to my opinion about roast turkey over fried, I will have to say – this was a good bird! And yes, we made enchiladas the next day with leftovers, so it was double the pleasure.

Lesson learned? Next time, I will be sure to not stick the oil thermometer into whatever I am frying!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Fried Turkey

1 whole raw turkey, 16-18 lbs (make sure it isn’t basted with butter or any gluten seasonings – check the label or contact the company) (a smaller bird can be used, and even preferable, as the legs might be less prone to overcooking)

Barbeque spice rub mix (omit the sugar) – I used about 1/2 cup for our large bird, but you can use less for a smaller one

About 3 gallons of peanut oil or other high-heat frying oil

A turkey fryer and propane burner

Before starting, place your still-wrapped turkey inside your fryer pot. Fill with enough water to just cover the turkey. Remove the turkey, and look at how much water remains in the pot. This is how much oil you will need to use. (You don’t want to measure too much and risk a hot oil overflow disaster!) Pour out water and dry the pot well.

Pat the turkey dry and rub seasoning all over bird, including inside the cavity. If you have a wire holder with which to lower the turkey in the oil, place the turkey on it now.

Pour required amount of oil into your pot (I used a little less than 3 gallons). (Do this outside, away from an overhead cover. You might opt to place a large board or cardboard underneath to catch splatters.) Place the pot on the burner and light the burner. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Make sure you don’t leave the oil unattended.

Once oil is at temperature, carefully lower your turkey into the oil. Bring the oil back up to temperature (325 – 350 degrees is optimal). Your turkey should take about 3 minutes per pound to cook (my turkey took roughly an hour). Start checking the turkey’s temperature about 2/3 of the way through by inserting an instant-read thermometer deep  into the breast. Once it reads 170 degrees, remove the turkey and set it in a roasting pan to rest, covered with foil. Rest for about 30 minutes and then carve.

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Filed under Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes

Moroccan-Inspired Vegan Quinoa Skillet

I tend fall into a rut where I prepare meals in a somewhat traditional style (a protein, plus a veggie or two, maybe a starch such as rice or potato, or a salad), especially during the week. It’s simple, I don’t have to think or follow a recipe, it pleases those picky eaters that don’t always like a bunch of different vegetables mixed together, and I can easily customize each plate to some degree – meaning I can take my double-helping of whatever veggies are on the menu and everyone is happy. But when I am feeling more creative, I love to combine flavors and mix things. When time is no obstacle, this often results in complex dishes like menudo, curries, cassoulet, or stews. These generally not only take time, but also create more dishes than I’d like to tackle on a weeknight. So what’s an inspired girl to do to incorporate a lot of flavor without a lot of time or dishes?

Make a one-skillet dish! I came across Heather at Gluten-Free Cat’s Moroccan Yukina Savoy and Red Quinoa Skillet, and it intrigued me. A quick, filling, protein-and-veggie-packed meal that could be made in a single skillet? This was not only doable, but it sounded delicious. Of course, I tweaked it a bit, adding some additional spices (Which I realize makes it not as simple, but I have an arsenal of spices in my kitchen, so I love to put them to use. If you’d like, you can just use cumin and paprika, or come up with your own spice combination.), substituting swiss chard from my garden for the yukina savoy, and substituting raisins for the apricots. I also used regular quinoa rather than the red, because I only had a teensy bit of red quinoa left in the pantry. What resulted was a comforting, fragrant, filling dish that not only satisfied my hunger for complex flavors, but was stress-free to put together. In addition, the leftovers made for an amazing lunch.

Unlike so many “one-dish” meals that either require other “starters” or “accompaniments” (such as a salad, bread, etc) to complete the meal, this dish truly does stand alone quite well. I did find that a fresh orange at the end of the meal served as a perfect dessert, however. Unfussy, yet completely satisfying.

Moroccan-Inspired Vegan Quinoa Skillet, inspired by Gluten-Free Cat

1 c quinoa

1 T each paprika and ground cumin

1/2 t each ground turmeric, cinnamon, ground ginger, cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper

1 t salt

2 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 c sliced carrots

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 c raisins

1 c cooked white beans (I used navy beans)

3 c vegetable stock

1 large bunch of swiss chard, chopped (about 3 cups)

1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

1/4 c sliced almonds

Place the quinoa in a bowl and cover with water. Set aside.

Mix together all of the spices in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a large, heavy skillet to medium heat (I used my cast iron skillet). Add onions, carrots, and garlic. Saute for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft, but carrots are still just beginning to soften. Add in the spices, lemon zest and juice, raisins, beans,  and stock. Drain the quinoa, add it to the skillet, and stir. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer, stirring once or twice, for 15 minutes. Add in swiss chard and stir, and cover again with the lid and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until chard is wilted. (If the quinoa is too dry, add a bit more stock or water.) Remove lid, stir well, and serve, garnished with parsley and sliced almonds.

Serves 4 generously.

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Filed under Beans, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Vegetarian

Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger: The Spunky Coconut

grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free cinnamon roll

This month, for Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger (a fantastic event, initiated by Sea at Book of Yum, where gluten-free bloggers “adopt” one another, cook one or more of their recipes, and share them with the world, in the interest of becoming more acquainted with one another and enjoying one another’s recipes), I adopted Kelly of The Spunky Coconut. The Spunky Coconut is a relatively “new to me” blog; one I’ve only been frequenting for the past few months. I discovered it around the same time I was given her latest book , Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts as a gift. I was immediately hooked – the recipes are nutrient-dense, simple, and delicious. I’ve made her vanilla bean cake and her coffee cake, both in the blog and in her book. I loved them so much, I purchased her first book as well – The Spunky Coconut Cookbook. I knew I wanted to adopt her, just as an excuse to try more recipes. So I did.

But what to make? There are so many choices! I did have a lot of raw nuts lying around, so I first opted to soak and dehydrate them, just so I’d have some yummy snacks (or potential nut butter beginnings!). Kelly outlines some easy instructions on how to do this.

All you really need is time (and a dehydrator – although I’ve also done this before on the lowest setting in my oven, in my pre-dehydrator days). Mine took around 24 hours to dry in the dehydrator at 115 degrees. The nuts were tasty and crunchy – perfect for snacking.

And then this morning, I turned my attention to cinnamon rolls. Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts has a lovely cinnamon roll recipe – and it’s completely dairy-free, grain-free, and refined sugar-free. The only change I made was that I added some raisins (about 1/4 cup) to the filling. They came out full of cinnamon-y flavor, but not overly sweet or sticky. They were a lovely “grown-up” breakfast treat, perfect with coffee.

These two recipes are just the tip of the iceberg of The Spunky Coconut. I encourage you to go. Visit. Browse around a bit. You might decide you want to try a vegan, raw-inspired caesar dressing for your salad. Or grain-free tortilla wraps (which are next on my list!). Or as it warms up outside, how about a chilled chia coffee drink? The recipes here are endlessly creative – I know they’ve opened up my mind to a lot of amazing possibilities in the kitchen!

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Filed under Baked goods, breakfast, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Vegetarian