Monday, November 5, 2018

Blondies have more fun.

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So just a couple of months into the school year I'm hearing the lunchbox blues being sung. Cue harmonica music: I hate my snacks, I'm so tired of xyz all the time, I'm still hungry (I send about 4 snacks a day because the teachers make it seem like they're scaling Everest, not learning times tables).  So I need to shake things up a bit. Here are some fun items (mostly from Costco), that can keep things interesting: mini peppers dipped in individual guacamole, individual apple slices (they actually work out about the same as a whole apple and you don't get complaints), nori sheets, deli rolled around cucumber spears, dried mango slices.

Image result for mini peppers


But of course the best surprise is a home baked goodie. I've been trying to find a blondie recipe that was easy, didn't use weird ingredients and had a great taste and texture. When you are baking gluten free and vegan that can be a tall order. But with a little tinkering of a non-gf and non-vegan recipe, I came up with something I love. It is soft and chewy and just everything I want in a blondie.

Post below with your lunch box ideas.  Sharing is caring ;)

If nuts are not allowed in your diet or your school, you can substitute an equal amount of oat flour for the almond flour (you may old fashioned oats you process finely in the food processor).


Chippy Girl Blondies

1 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (like Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons ground golden flax meal stirred into ¼ cup water (let sit for 10 minutes)
1 ½ cups gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum 
1 cup almond flour (can sub 1 cup oat flour or 1 cup GF flour blend)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1-9- or 10-ounce pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper, set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat margarine at medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy and well combined. Add vanilla, applesauce and flax mixture, beat until well combined.

Stir in remaining ingredients, except chocolate chips and stir on medium speed until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if desired.  Spread evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 24 bars.
Store covered at room temperature.


Yield: 24 bars




Tuesday, October 23, 2018

GFAF Expo

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My family, myself and the other Gluten Free and Allergen Free eating fans had a great time last week at the Gluten Free and Allergen Free Expo in Secaucus.  The GFAF Expo (#GFAFEXPO) occurs in numerous cities around the country throughout the year to highlight products and services that are helpful to live the Gluten Free and Allergen Free lifestyle.
Image result for PASCHA dark chocolate bar

 
Besides "old friends" like Enjoy Life foods, which puts on a magical walk through the allergen free "forest" picking up safe snacks along the way, we met new friends like Go Veggie, which gave us some wonderful kosher and dairy free Better for You Parmesan Sprinkle. As well, I tasted probably one of the best dairy free chocolates, Pascha. Their products, which include bars and chips, are nut, diary, soy, gluten, wheat (and more) free! One problem I find with high cacao chocolate is the chalky aftertaste. Pascha had an extremely clean finish and a silky mouthfeel. Rule breaker cookies produce chickpea flour based, vegan cookies. A new safe snack is always welcome!

 
 

Besides food, there are products like Nima, a portable device to test the actual gluten free status of foods. This year they brought a map that shows "safe" restaurants in NYC where the Nima confirmed the GF food ordered is indeed GF. I was happy to see the By The Way Bakery on the list, a great GF bakeshop I visited recently. And, it's always a delight to see Carol Kicinski and check out what's new at Simply Gluten Free.
Image result for nima

If you're interested in the visiting the GFAF Expo near you, check out their website for updates on early bird pricing.  Be sure to check out Rosie's review of the Expo on youtube.
Go Veggie Vegan Grated Parmesan Style Topping Soy-Free 4oz

I used the Go Veggie Parmesan Sprinkle to make a tempting side dish with my absolute favorite spaghetti squash. It's quick and easy and sure to please!

Everybody's Favorite Spaghetti Squash


1 medium spaghetti squash
water
2-4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves crushed garlic (you can sub garlic powder to taste)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Go Veggie Parmesan Sprinkles, more to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375F degrees.

Split spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds by scraping the center with a soup spoon. Place in a rectangular baking pan, and pour about 1 inch of water around squash.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Poke a fork in the squash, it is done when the fork is easily inserted into the flesh.  Allow to cool enough to handle.

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Using a fork, scrape flesh of squash into baking pan. Separate flesh into strands (this should happen naturally if you are using a fork).  Sprinkle with remaining ingredients and toss to coat.

Return to oven for a few minutes to warm through. For an extra cheesy experience, sprinkle a generous amount of the Parmesan Sprinkles on top of the casserole and broil for 5 minutes, or until browned.

Serves: 8






Thursday, September 13, 2018

Tzimmes under pressure

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Image result for carrots sweet potato


As Seen on TV Power Pressure Cooker XLSo I've been trying to replicate my grandmother's a''h and mother's tzimmes since I've had my own household.  I could never get the softness of the carrots right or the thickness of the sauce. I have tried it different ways, baking, simmering, with orange juice, with crushed pineapple and nothing worked. Since I have a love affair with my electric pressure cooker, I decided to give that a try. And the saying, try, try again paid off as I met with success! And, in minimal time.


So over the years I've learned a few things, baby carrots, for some reason, don't work, don't put too much liquid in the pot and there's no shame in using a little cornstarch for the thick glisteny texture you desire.

So in just 20 minutes (plus time to bring it up to pressure) I B"H had perfect tzimmes to accompany my Rosh Hashana meal, and enough to freeze for Yom Kippur!

This is a wonderful accompaniment to any roasted meat or chicken entree. It keeps for a week in the refrigerator, and reheats well.


My Heritage Tzimmes

4 large carrots, peeled and cut in 2 inch pieces
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup prunes, pitted
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 large cinnamon stick (discard after cooking)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch cardamon
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon corn starch

Place all items in the pot of an electric pressure cooker in the order listed. 

Secure lid and set to rice/beans setting for 20 minutes.

When done cooking release pressure. 

Remove vegetables and fruit to a container. 

Whisk corn starch into remaining liquid with pressure cooker on keep warm setting. When liquid is glisteny and thickened, pour over tzimmes and stir gently.

Serve warm

Yield: 10-12 servings

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Image result for just mayo



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When Just Mayo first introduced it's eggless mayo, I was in love. Now that it has FLAVORED mayo I'm over the moon!  I've been trying their new Garlic flavor product on a host of barbecue favorites like coleslaw, burgers and corn. It has a smooth consistency, the earthy spice of garlic flavor and best of all no weird, indescribable taste as, unfortunately is not uncommon in ersatz food products.

Image result for GFAF

Below I have a new and easy coleslaw recipe using convenient bagged cabbage and Just Mayo. If you love new learning about new gluten and allergy products, and love tasting them even more, come on down to the GFAF Expo. It will be in the Tri-State area at the conveniently located Meadowlands Convention Center in Secaucus, New Jersey on  October 13th and 14th. Check out all the news about the event on social media with #GFAFExpo.

If you love bargains as much as new products, click this link to get 30% off tickets with code EARLYBIRD (until September 12th)!



Easy Creamy Vegan Coleslaw
Try this on top of a burger.

1 cup Just Mayo Garlic Flavor
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon agave nectar
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped dill
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1-14 ounce bag coleslaw blend

In a large mixing bowl whisk the first 6 ingredients until smooth. Add the coleslaw and stir to blend. 

Chill 1 hour before serving. 

Store tightly covered in refrigerator



Saturday, September 1, 2018

BBQ...you don't know jack (fruit)!



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If you're like me you love yourself a good pulled bbq sandwich. If you're also like me the summer heat can be oppressive and you don't care to stand over the stove or que tending to a good piece of brisket or roasting a chicken (I don't eat the "other" popular pulled meat). So my electric pressure cooker is my bestie in the summer when it comes to cooking tender meat, healthy soups and a host of other dishes without heating up my kitchen.



Recently I came across canned jack fruit in a local store. I've been wanting to try this fruit which is often used in recipes as a vegan meat substitute. It most definitely has the fibrous, yet tender texture of meat. And, like tofu it has a neutral flavor that will soak up any sauce with which it's cooked. The price tag also is a bonus, as it was about a third of the price of using meat in this dish.  A number of different recipes online called for cooking methods and sauces that were quite long. As I mentioned I want to get in and out of the kitchen in the summer. So I subbed a favorite bottled BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's) and a quicker cooking method (the electric pressure cooker). I did need to finish it in the oven to achieve that pulled meat texture, but only for 15 minutes.



Served on a gluten free Udi's baguette with a cool and crunchy slaw topping (I used bagged broccoli slaw with a quick vinaigrette) and I had a roadside favorite without the fuss, muss and heat making it would usually incur. Oh, and did I mention it was delicious?





Pulled-BBQ Jack Fruit Sandwiches
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove crushed
2-20 ounce cans Jack Fruit, drained
1/2-1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1-18 ounce bottle favorite gluten free barbecue sauce
1/4 cup water

Heat an electric pressure cooker with the lid off (I usually put it on the "chicken/beef" setting to saute) and heat the oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Saute until onions become translucent (about 5-6 minutes). Add the garlic and saute an additional minute.

Add the jack fruit, hot sauce, salt and pepper, barbecue sauce and water. Stir until well combined. 

Turn off pot and attach lid according to manufacturer directions.  Set pressure pot to cook for 20 minutes on the "chicken/beef" setting. When done release pressure valve.

Pre-heat oven to 400F degrees. Spread cooked jack fruit mixture on a large non-stick baking sheet. With two forks flake apart Jack Fruit until it looks like pulled brisket.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Serving suggestion: Spoon jack fruit onto crusty rolls or a baguette. Top with slaw of your choice and serve warm. 

Yield: 6 servings





Monday, February 5, 2018

Ode to Samoas...

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Make new friends, but keep the old, some are silver and the others gold.  That's how the famous Girl Scout song goes. It's been sung in a circle by myself and countless other girls over the years at Brownie and Girl Scout meetings. When I saw a Facebook friend post that once again it's Girl Scout Cookie season my mind wandered to my favorite varieties--Thin Mints and Samoas (recently renamed Caramel deLites). But for those of us who need to eat gluten, dairy or egg free, old favorites can be new enemies to our systems.  I was very happy to see that the Girl Scouts of America recognized this fact, and have added both gluten free and vegan choices to their repertoire. Leave it the Girl Scouts to remember the virtue of inclusiveness!



For those of you who can't find a Girl Scout to place your yearly order, try my "Ode To Samoas" cake, which will give you a taste of the old favorite within the parameters of a gluten free and allergen free diet. The recipe below is given with both vegan and non-vegan options.



This Bundt cake is very versatile and can be served with  a dusting of confectioners sugar instead of the suggested topping below. I left caramel sauce as "optional", even though it's an integral part of the Samoa cookie, because non-dairy caramel sauce can be hard to find.

Ode To Samoas Bundt Cake
 
2 cups granulated sugar or raw cane sugar (such as Florida Crystals)
2 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs or 1-6 ounce container non-dairy yogurt (such as So Delicious vanilla or plain coconut milk yogurt)
1 cup non-dairy milk (i.e. rice, soy, almond or hemp)
1/2 cup canola or melted coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup hot coffee
 
Topping:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate bar)
2 teaspoons canola or coconut oil, or solid shortening
1/2 cup coconut flakes (toasted)*
1/4 cup caramel sauce (optional)
 
Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a classic non-stick Bundt pan (10-12 cup size) with non-stick cooking spray, set aside.
 
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together first 5 ingredients. Add eggs, milk,  oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the hot coffee and beat on low until blended. Pour into prepared baking pan. Smooth top with a spatula.
 
Bake in pre-heated oven, on middle rack for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
 
To assemble: 
Place chocolate and 2 teaspoons oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is melted. If it is not completely melted, return to microwave for 15 second increments, stirring after each one.
 
Place serving plate over cooled cake and flip over. Remove Bundt pan. With a teaspoon, drizzle melted chocolate all over cake. Sprinkle with coconut flakes. Allow chocolate to set, about 20 minutes. Drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.
 
Yield: 10-12 servings
 
*To toast coconut flakes: Spread out in a thin layer on a non-stick baking pan or parchment covered baking pan.  Bake at 350F degrees for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Watch carefully, as coconut can go from a lovely golden toast color to burnt in a few seconds. Cool before using. May be stored up to two weeks in an airtight container.
 
 


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Miraculous M'jeddrah

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So if you haven't heard of this delicious, and rather ubiquitous Middle Eastern dish, there are many ways to spell it: M'jeddrah, Mejadarah, Mujadrah. And the list goes on. The dish can be found from the Nile Delta to the Levant to the Gulf States. Subtle variations on the dish are found in Persian and Indian cuisines. It may seem exotic (read complicated), but it's not. Until now I've been doing my own version based on a few different recipes in a big stockpot on the stove. Then one busy day last week I decided to employ my electric pressure cooker (which I have a love affair with as described in previous posts).

I sautéed onions and bloomed my spices in the pressure cooker pot, then dumped in the remaining ingredients. I locked the lid, set the timer and hoped for the best.  After the 20 minutes cooking time, and waiting 10 minutes more for natural release (meaning don't flip the switch that lets steam escape...let it relax and escape naturally).



When I lifted the lid I was gifted with the aromatic smell of cumin and turmeric wafting towards me and the vision of PERFECT m'jeddrah before my eyes!  It's rare to hit upon the perfect outcome the on the first try, but Baruch Hashem, in this case I did! Below is my recipe for pressure pot m'jeddrah. There are variations on the spices, and you can play around with water amounts if you choose to use brown rice. It's a bit like stew in the sense that you can do your own riff on the recipe, and it will still come out good!



Remember that you have to factor in the time it takes to "come up to pressure" once you turn the pot on. In some cases it can be 30 minutes, and cooking time starts at that point. I find the fuller the pot and the more water the longer it takes to come up to pressure.  The beauty of the electric pressure cooker is that the you can press one button and walk away...no monitoring a pot coming to boil which you have to reduce to simmer, etc. 

Electric Pressure Cooker M'jeddrah
(Vegan/Gluten Free)

1 1/2 cups brown lentils (soaked in a bowl of cold water for 2 hours)
1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed (but if you don't it's o.k.)
1/4 cup olive oil (EVOO or regular)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch turmeric* (optional)
bay leaf (optional)
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
6 cups cold water

Turn on electric pressure cooker for sauté. I usually turn it on to the meat/chicken mode for this purpose. Add olive oil and heat to medium-high heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and begins to brown.

Add spices, except pepper, and stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add rice, lentils and pepper. Stir until well coated with oil and spices.

Add water and stir.  Secure lid on pressure cooker, and make sure safety valve is set to proper position for cooking.  Set cooker to 20 minutes on bean/rice mode. And walk away.

When the cooking is done, wait 10 minutes, or until steam dissipates on it's own to open lid. Serve or leave on keep warm setting for up to 2 hours.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

*Please not that turmeric can stain. I encourage my kids to change out of their white uniform shirts before we eat a dish containing a significant amount of turmeric. You can omit the turmeric in this recipe.