Sunday, January 27, 2013

Homemade Protein Bars

It's raining, it's pouring.  But, boy am I glad to be able to see farther than a foot in front of me.  All that dreary fog we had for well over a week was getting the best of me.  I was going crazy with claustrophobia!  Plus I love my rainboots, and am looking forward to pairing them with some cute sweaters in the week to come.

In other exciting news, besides our fabulous weather, my brother is officially engaged!  He popped the question to his amazing girlfriend last weekend.  We celebrated with a delicious dinner and champagne toast at my mom's house last night.  I am so excited and honored to get to be a bridesmaid.  I can't wait for the big day.

Another source of excitement for me is my new training schedule.  My goal is to run one more half-marathon before training for a full (probably this summer).  So, I'm going to do the Run, Ladies, Run half in Friday Harbor in March.  This is going to be an awesome girl's weekend with my mom and dear friend Lynn, and hopefully an equally awesome run.  To start prepping, I have been on the lookout for some "better" nutritional sources.  I find I get so hungry as I am running.  I typically turn to Clif bars, but not only does that add up cost-wise, it does in sugar and junk ingredients, as well.  Not finding what I was really looking for, I decided to try making my own, and I will never go back!  Not only do these taste amazing, but they are packed full of good, pure, organic ingredients as well as protein and not a lot of sugar.  I made these with almond butter, which I do not serve to my kids simply because I'm too nervous to try.  But we keep it in the house as a protein source for my husband and me, since we don't do peanut butter.  I think sunbutter or any other nut butter would easily work in this recipe.  Will someone please try and let me know? :)

Homemade Protein Bars
1 1/2 cups gluten-free oats
1/3 cup coconut flakes
2/3 cup nut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 mashed banana
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  This is easiest if you use your hands.  Messy, but easy!

2.  Refrigerate for an hour or longer.

3.  Roll into balls (the size really depends on preference.  I rolled mine into 2-3" balls)

4.  Refrigerate or freeze

So here is the nutritional breakdown per ball, which will obviously vary depending on brands of ingredients used and size.  This list is based on the ingredients pictured above:

Fat - 5.5g
Carbs - 32g
Fiber - 8.5g
Protein - 10g
Sugar - 10g

Compared with Clif Chocolate Chip bar, who's main ingredient is brown rice syrup and includes over 30 other ingredients:

Fat - 7g
Carbs - 40g
Fiber - 4g
Protein - 10g
Sugar - 23g

Not bad, right?  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Golden Cupcakes

I have been trying to write this post for three days!  I can't believe how overwhelming life can be at times.  Tuesday was my husband's birthday, and it seems nothing went the way we planned, but such is life.  It wasn't terrible,  it just felt like we didn't really get a chance to celebrate.  But, we did have cupcakes!  

This recipe comes from The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal.  

Golden Cupcakes
2/3 cup rice milk + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Spectrum shortening
2/3 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Vanilla Frosting
1 cup Spectrum shortening
pinch of salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup rice milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350, line a muffin pan with liners.

2.  Combine the rice milk and cider vinegar.  Set aside.

3.  Whisk together the flour mix, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the shortening on medium speed for about 1 minute.  Add the agave nectar and vanilla and beat fro 2 more minutes.  

5.  Sift in the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the rice mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Fill the liners about 3/4 full (the original recipe says 1/2 full but I found them to be too small...a fine problem to have if you love to pile on the frosting though!).

6.  Bake for 16 minutes or until golden.

7.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.  

I loved these cupcakes, but I have one word of caution.  Do not store them in the fridge!  When these came out of the oven they were so moist and soft, but after sitting in the fridge for a night, they were hard and dry.  Fortunately I was able to soften them up by microwaving them for a few seconds.  Lesson learned!  

Monday, January 21, 2013

No-bake Cookies

They say bad things happen in threes, right?  Well, I'm not superstitious by any stretch of the imagination, but I do hope there is some truth to that old saying.  Last week it was the ER and stitches in Grace's head.  Then over the weekend, just minutes after the sitter showed up, the same kiddo started puking (thus inducing major panic among the parental units over possible concussion symptoms...she's ok, probably a virus she picked up in the ER).  And finally,( at least I hope!) today after mixing up cupcake batter for my husband's birthday tomorrow, I realized not only was my oven not hot, but the house smelled like gas.  After repeated tries to get it to light, and of course opening every door and window in my house, I came to accept that my oven's gone kapoot and I am stuck bake-less for the moment.  Well, not totally.  You see, it is a blessing for many reasons that my mom lives two blocks away.  Many reasons, many reasons!

It seems ironic that our baby-sitter would show up Saturday night with the ingredients and recipe for No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies, given the current state of my oven.  Too bad for my kiddos they never got to make them with the famed Miss Angela because we ended up staying in with our sickie and sent our sitter home.  After Grace was feeling better, we pulled out all our ingredients yesterday and gave these a shot.  And since they were a hit, and since I cannot currently bake, I suppose we may just have to make them again!

Miss Angela's No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal & Coconut Cookies
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup Spectrum shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups gluten-free oats
3/4 cup shredded coconut

1.  Bring the milk, shortening, sugar, and cocoa to a boil for two minutes.  

2.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla, oatmeal, and coconut.  Mix thoroughly.

3.  Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper and let dry.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Crockpot Saves the Day

Thursday was supposed to be a day of surprises.  I suppose you could say it really was...just not the kind I was anticipating.  My husband's birthday is coming up, so to surprise him, his longtime-friend flew up for a quick visit, and so did his mom.  Kevin had no idea.  Unfortunately, a boy's night out, as I had imagined it would be, didn't happen because we spent most of the late hours in the Emergency Room!  It turns out metal bleachers and pool water just don't mix well with a wiggly three-year-old who still struggles to find her balance at times.  A quick slip and a slice on the head, and we were off to the ER for stitches.  Grace was a trooper, and I am so proud of how brave she was.

I was so happy I had thought ahead that morning (though never could have foreseen this!) and had dinner simmering in the crockpot.  By the time we got home, we were starving.  And as anybody with food allergies knows, a quick drive-thru at any fast food joint just isn't an option.  Lucky for us, we came home to the heavenly scent of chili and cornbread.  Grace and I had also whipped up a French Yogurt Cake that afternoon (this time instead of vanilla extract we used lemon extract, and sprinkled the zest of one lemon on top). Oh happy day.

I love my crockpot, and I probably use it at least once a week.  Here are my three favorite recipes.  Nothing more simple and basic than these!

Crockpot Chili
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 32-oz can spaghetti sauce (I like the chunky versions because of the extra veggies)
1 can black beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons chili powder
dash of hot sauce
Sometimes I add frozen corn, diced zucchini, and/or diced onion

1.  Brown the meat and transfer to a crockpot (low 8 hours)

2.  Combine all the other ingredients in the crockpot.  Sit back and let the aroma take over your house.  Serve with cornbread (I use Bob's Red Mill mix)

Crockpot Chicken & Rice Soup

Leftover chicken pieces or 1 lb of chicken meat (breast, thigh, your choice.  It does not need to be cooked)
2 14.5-oz cans chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen sweet corn
1/2 cup chopped onion
3-5 carrots, chopped
5 baby potatoes, chopped
2 cups cooked rice
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 cloves crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Combine all ingredients except the rice in a crockpot set on low 8 hours

2.  An hour or so before you plan to eat, shred the chicken using two forks.

3.  10 minutes or so before serving, add the rice and stir thoroughly.  Remove bay leaves.

Crockpot Beef Stew
1 lb beef stew meat
1 can beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes
5 baby potatoes, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Combine all ingredients in a crockpot set on low for 8 hours.

2.  Eat and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Coconut Oat Pancakes

It never fails.  I am up, showered, ready for the day, and my kids sleep in...forever.  I hit the gym at 5am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  I love my early morning runs/workouts.  Not only does it free up time during the day with my kids, but it really gets me moving and energized for the day.  I love that I am home, and usually back in bed reading, before my husband leaves the house.  This month I started Rachel Wojnarowski's Read Your Bible in a Year Challenge.  Today is Day 16, but because everyone was snoozing this morning, I read ahead a couple of chapters.  Woohoo!  After the hubs left, I took my time getting ready, and couldn't believe my girls were still sound asleep after a shower, load of laundry, 2nd cup of coffee, and two wardrobe changes.  I decided I would lure them out of bed with the delicious aroma of coconut pancakes.  Delicious indeed!

Not only is coconut super healthy for you (full of fiber, low glycemic index, and gluten-free to name a few benefits), it is very tasty too!  In our house, we drink coconut milk, eat coconut yogurt, cook with coconut oil, and bake with coconut flour.  Moisturizing with coconut oil or lotion is fabulous, too!  This morning I mixed coconut flour with oat flour (which is super fancy - throw some gluten-free oats in a blender and process til it's flour) and whipped up some pancakes.  Tropical paradise on an icy morning, can't beat it!  And yes, they did come running for breakfast.  Well, at least the one that wasn't trapped in her crib did.  

Coconut Oat Pancakes
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup oat flour
2 teaspoons egg replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons rice milk
2 1/2 cups coconut milk, possibly more if your batter sits for awhile
2 tablespoon melted coconut oil
optional - a couple teaspoons of sugar or agave, frozen berries, chocolate chips 

1.  Whisk flours together thoroughly to break up any clumps.

2.  Add 2 cups of coconut milk, egg replacer mixture, and melted coconut oil.  If batter is too thick, add more coconut milk 1 tablespoon at a time.  

3.  Using a ladle, pour batter onto a slightly greased griddle.  Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side.

I always find that the longer coconut flour sits, the more moisture it soaks up.  Duh.  So, I end up using a lot of moisture when baking with coconut flour.  If you feel like your batter is too runny, just let it sit for a couple minutes, it won't be runny for long!  I think these pancakes could benefit from some sweetness, and so did my sweet-toothed 3-year old.  The next time I try these, I may add a tablespoon or two of agave nectar.  Or just use extra syrup :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Anniversary Dinner - Molasses Balsamic Glazed Salmon & French Yogurt Cake

Today my husband and I celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary.  Pretty cool if you ask me.  We've had a great six years.  The day we got married it was freezing cold, and there was snow on the ground.  We had recently had a snow and ice storm making the roads very treacherous.  But our guests still came and it was a fabulous time!  I'm not kidding when I say we had a blast.  If I could live my wedding day all over again, I totally would.  I loved every second of it.  Except for the cake.  Apparently it was really good, because by the time my husband and I went to have a piece, there was none left (and it was not a small cake!).  Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, as at the time I had not yet gone gluten-free, so it would have been a guaranteed bloat-fest and tummy ache!  So, I make it a point to bake a special cake every year for our anniversary.

Now, on with the food.  Because we celebrated over the weekend with a lovely night out to dinner and the symphony in Seattle, I really didn't go out of my way to do anything special for dinner.  But I did of course make a cake.  For our main course tonight we had salmon with a balsamic molasses glaze (recipe below).  And for dessert I made a slight variation of Cybele Pascal's French Yogurt Cake from my trusty baking bible, The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook.   All were a hit.  Have I mentioned my kids are obsessed with salmon?  They are.  And I love it, too. We eat it once a week.  

Molasses Balsamic Glaze Salmon
1 large filet salmon (I usually buy Coho or King, and always wild never farmed)
4 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking pan with foil.

2.  Mix all glaze ingredients together in a bowl.

3.  Place salmon in baking dish and pour glaze over the the top

4.  Bake for about 25 minutes

French Yogurt Cake (Recipe calls for yogurt container to be used as the "measure")
1 (6oz) container vanilla coconut yogurt (I use So Delicious)
1 1/2 "measures" sugar
1 tablespoon egg replacer mixed with 1/4 cup rice milk
1 "measure" canola oil
3 "measures" basic gluten-free flour blend
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a loaf pan and sprinkle with a little flour.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients, adding them one at a time in the order listed, beating on medium speed after each addition.  Beat until smooth, about 1 minute.  Pour into the loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour, rotating pan halfway through.

3.  Let cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack.  Slice with a serrated knife.  Serve plain or with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or dollop of sorbet.

I can't wait to try this again with a little orange or lemon extract and zest.  I also can't wait for my husband to finish putting my daughter to bed so we can actually enjoy a slice together!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


What's the hardest part about eating gluten-free?  Bread!  The rest is easy - rice, corn, or quinoa noodles are delicious, gluten-free oatmeal is readily available, there are many cereal choices made from rice or corn, and baked goods can usually be adapted by a wide variety of gluten-free flours.  Baked goods with the exception of bread, that is.  Nothing quite rises or binds or has that fluffy bread taste and texture like wheat bread.  I have tried many store-bought gluten-free breads, and so far the only brand I (and my family) have loved is Schar.  They have many products, most tasting quite "normal."  However, I have yet to find them in a brick and mortar, and online they must be bought in bulk.  For months now, I've been spending about $75 a month on bread.  Pretty outrageous, right?  But, when you have two picky little toddlers who really need to put on some pounds, you do what you have to do.  I have tried and tried to find bread recipes that my whole family will eat.  I have been semi-successful.  My three-year-old changes her mind about what she likes every day, so taking into account that she is a tricky one, I think I have some winners.  And as a backup, I will keep buying Schar, though I hope she will come to love some of these recipes as much so I can cut that cost.

When I bake, I bake a lot.  In my opinion, there's no point in hauling out all the flours, xanthan gums, powders and sodas, and all other ingredients that are necessary for allergen-free baking, mixing them all up and then proceed to attempt a recipe if you're not going to bake for the masses.  I figure, if I have all the ingredients out, I may as well make as much as I can.  This is when an extra oven or proofing box would come in handy.  Maybe someday....

And since I bake so much, I freeze a lot.  Ziplock freezer bags and sharpies are at the ready as soon as those babies cool down.  It's super handy to have breads, muffins, scones, etc in the freezer to pack for outings, lazy mornings when I'm lacking creativity, or when I have a week with a sick kid and can't get any baking done, such as this past week.  Here is what I made today:

Buckwheat rolls, basic dinner rolls, flax meal biscuits, and basic sandwich bread

Buckwheat Dinner Rolls
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 cups multigrain flour blend
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 1/4 teaspoon active yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup warm water
3 teaspoons egg replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons rice milk (equal to 2 eggs)
up to 1/4 cup additional flour for dusting

1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Combine the flours, xanthan gum, yeast, salt, baking powder, sugar in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Blend the oil, water, and egg replacer in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed for about a minute.

4.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Mix on medium-low speed until combined.

5.  Beat for 5 mintues on medium-high speed until the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl.

6.  Spread the dusting flour on a flat surface.  Scoop the dough on top of the flour.

7.  Divide the dough into eight equal portions.  I did this by splitting the dough in half, then again, then again; repeat with the other half.

8.  Roll each portion in the flour to lightly coat.  USe your hands to gently roll into balls.

9.  Arrange the balls on the lined baking sheet.

10.  Proof for about an hour.

11.  With 5 minutes left to rise, preheat the oven to 350.

12.  Bake at 350 for 13-16 minutes.

Flax Meal Biscuits
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons rice milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flaxseed meal
3/4 cup Spectrum soy-free shortening cut into tablespoon sized pieces
1 tablespoon rice milk mixed with 1 tablespoon canola oil

1.  Combine the rice milk with apple cider vinegar.  Let sit for about 20 minutes.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the flax meal and mix well.

4.  Cut in the shortening until you have a pea-sized crumb.  Add the rice ilk mixture, and stir until just combined.  

5.  Flour a surface and turn out the dough.  Lightly flour your hand and sprinkle the dough with a little flour, as well.  

6.  Gently pat the dough into a 1-inch thick disk, pressing in any loose bits.

7.  Use a floured biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut out the biscuits.  Cut them as close together as possible.  Transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet.  Gather together the scraps, and repeat.

8.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with the rice milk and oil mixture using a pastry brush.  

9.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.  Transfer to a warming rack, or eat fresh out of the oven!  

Friday, January 4, 2013

More Cones Please, Mama (That's kid-speak for scones)

It's a lazy day today.  And by lazy, I mean I am still in my pajamas even though it's 2pm.  That is the extent of the laziness.  I did not get a lot of sleep last night, so today's plans got put on hold to accommodate a pajama day.  So far today I have washed and folded four loads of laundry and I'm waiting on the fifth to finish drying.  I've dusted and vacuumed every room in the house, scrubbed the bathroom floors, changed the sheets in all beds of the house, and even broke out the iron (which needed dusting itself!) to smooth out a few shirts.  Oh, and then I watched Cinderella with my girls, all the while feeling like Cinderella myself.  I remember when lazy days meant pajamas and relaxing - reading a book, scrapbooking, baking, etc.  I can't believe I haven't done any baking today!

But I did yesterday!  And boy are these scones, or "cones" as my 3-year-old calls them, yummy.  This is a recipe adapted from Cybele Pascal's book, The Allergen-free Baker's Handbook, which is my go-to book for most of my baked goods.  This particular scone recipe is great as-is, or you can dress it up with berries, chocolate chips, dried fruits, etc.  My kids are particularly fond of the chocolate chip version, as am I!

Allergen-free Scones
1 (6 oz) container vanilla vegan yogurt (I use So Delicious coconut yogurt)
1 cup rice milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 cups Multigrain gluten-free flour blend
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup grapeseed oil

1.  Preheat oven to 400 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Whisk together the yogurt and rice milk mixture.  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

4.  Add the rice milk mixture along with the canola oil.  Stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  At this time, I add Enjoy Life chocolate chips or frozen berries if I am in the mood to spice things up.

5.  Flour a work surface and turn out the dough.  Lightly flour your hands and sprinkle the dough with a little flour, as well.

6.  Divide the dough in half and pat into two 6-inch disks.  Cut the disks into 6 wedges and place on the baking sheet.

7.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Transfer to a cooling rack.  These are terrific served warm.