The Salad Challenge

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I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest salad fan. My husband, on the other hand, could eat a salad every day and be happy. I know, weird. Here’s photo proof — Scott’s salad/BLT combo and my gluten free fish and chips. The few times we can eat out, there’s a wiring in my brain that says “You better splurge. Don’t waste this opportunity on a salad! Get something filling.”

Well, sad to say that this type of thinking has led to me pack on 8 of the 14 pounds I initially lost when I went gluten free in December of 2010. Ugghh.

In the past year and a half, I’ve explored all types of gluten free diet approaches, watched countless documentaries on food in America and become COMPLETELY overwhelmed. Grains or no grains? Meat or no meat? Dairy or no dairy?  I really don’t think it’s supposed to be this hard. What I know for sure is that I DO need to eat more vegetables and whole foods. Period. I remember thinking back to when the 14 pounds melted off me that it wasn’t so much what I was cutting out as what I was adding in. It was leafy greens. After awhile, laziness and lack of planning led me to forgo healthy choices in favor of quick, filler foods — albeit gluten free.

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One of our family’s favorite meals is steak salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. It’s one of the quickest meals for me to prepare and every single one of us loves it. That’s a good starting point. My next step comes from one of my favorite blogs that I follow. It’s a vegan blog called Oh She Glows. She’s put out a friendly salad challenge for the month of June that I plan to participate in.

Why don’t you give one of her salads a try? Maybe participate in the challenge too? I’m looking forward to having more energy this summer and experimenting with my own salad creations. It should be fun. So instead of trying to restrict myself to a certain way of eating (i.e. vegan/paleo/primal/etc…) I’m simply going to incorporate more veggies. Period. It will be delicious ; )

Fruity Bruschetta

Most of us that have been gluten free for some length of time will find this familiar. In search of what we remember and love about traditional bread, we set off to find a GF equivalent. To start out we buy what’s ready-made. Either the cost or the disappointing texture steers us toward making our own religiously — weekly. Some experiments are more successful than others. The one or two that are decent get quickly worn out. Then comes a time where we just try to live without it altogether. But this phase too shall pass. A little more confidence and experience in the gluten free kitchen may propel us to try to replicate what is by now a distant, chewy, soul-satisfying memory.

Today was my eureka! moment. I saw a delicious photo of some fruity bruschetta on Pinterest and was disappointed to follow the link to a blog in a language I didn’t recognize in the least. So I rolled up my sleeves and created a treat that was exactly what I had hoped it would be.

I searched for a crusty bread recipe that delivered the goods. I followed it to a T including mixing up a big batch of all purpose GF flour that they list at the end of the recipe. This recipe makes 4 loaves of bread. That’s right, 4. Believe me, you’ll wish you’d have doubled it!

My trouble in the past was that I never got my dough to rise well enough. All of that ended today and after 2 hours of rising in the warm oven, I pulled out this light and fluffy piece of heaven. The recipe that follows is directly from epicurious.com submitted by GlutenFreeLove.

Crusty, Soft and Chewy Gluten Free Bread

6 c Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix (see recipe below)
1/2 c powdered milk
2 T yeast
1 1/2 T kosher salt
2 T Xanthan Gum
2 2/3 cups warm water
4 large eggs, beaten til frothy
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
3 T honey

Preparation

Whisk together the flour, powdered milk, and xanthan gum in a large bowl. Combine the olive oil, honey, water and yeast in a small bowl and set aside.Pour the eggs into the dry ingredients. Slowly pour in about 1/3 of the oil mixture while stirring. Mix well, then add the 2nd 3rd. Mix well again. Add the salt, then add the last 3rd. Continue stirring until smooth.Cover loosely and allow to rise for about 2 hours.

At this point, the dough could be placed in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. You may remove some at a time to continue with the next step.

Remove about 1/4 of the dough very gently (1/4 of dough will result in about a 1 lb loaf). Cradle the bread lightly and place on a piece of parchment paper. Dough will be wet, sticky and full of air bubbles you are trying not to condense.

Drizzle a little extra olive oil on top of the wet loaf and us your fingers to lightly spread the olive oil and shape and smooth out the surface of the loaf.

Cover loosely and (only if from out of the refrigerator), let rest for 1 1/2 more hours. 

30 minutes before baking, place a large enameled pot with top or other dutch oven with lid on in the cold oven. Preheat the oven with the pot in it to 500 degrees. 

Just before baking, use a razor to cut three slits across the top of the loaf. 

Carefully remove the hot pot and remove lid. Very gently and carefully pick up the parchment paper so that the dough is cradled in it. Place the paper and loaf, together, into the center of the pot.

Replace lid on the pot. Return pot to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Then, remove lid, and turn oven down to 425. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing bread from pot.

Baked bread may be frozen for up to one month.

GLUTEN FREE ALL PURPOSE FLOUR MIX: 6c.(32oz)FINE brown rice flour + 2c.(10.75oz) potato starch + 1c.(4oz) tapioca flour/starch

To make the fruity bruschetta, I spread the slices with chèvre and chives and topped it with raspberries (some still frozen — oops), a drizzle of honey and a few sprigs of lemon thyme. The balance of contrasting flavors was a nice surprise. Not too sweet and not too salty. It really was just right.
I was barely able to snap this pic of Kid Foodie finishing off his piece. Of the 4 loaves I baked today, there are 1.75 loaves left. I am seriously thinking of hiding the last intact loaf somewhere so I can use it for school lunches this week. The boys have come to regard bread the same way that most other kids regard a piece of cake. If it shows up in their lunch, they wonder what the occasion is. Score! What recipes are you ready to give another go?

Sticky Nut Crumble

As much as I try to cut down on sugar, I still have a major sweet tooth. Fortunately treats like these do satisfy and give a nice bit of energy as well. I found the original recipe for Sticky Nut Bars on this blog. The photography is gorgeous! So inspiring.

I decided to bake mine like the blog suggested for a less sticky treat. For the most part it held together, but I have a feeling I cut into it a bit too soon. They stayed together long enough for me to take this first shot. Then the more I messed with them, the more they started to crumble.

And that’s when I thought it might just make a great crumble for a morning granola-ish dish.

I personally like the chewy texture and could see topping this with some almond or coconut milk. Or you could layer it with some Greek yogurt and fruit topping.

Sticky Nut Crumble

10 dates chopped finely

2 Tbsp water

2/3 Cup almond butter

1 Cup mixed nuts/seeds (I used blanched almonds, pumpkin seeds coarsely chopped)

1/4 Cup shredded coconut

1/4 Cup sunflower seeds

1/2 Cup dried fruit (I didn’t have any on hand. But you could use raisins, dried cherries, craisins …)

1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Coat a springform pan with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, stir together dates, water, almond butter over low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to coat. Pour the mixture into the springform pan and chill in refrigerator for about 1/2 hour. Cut them into squares before serving. If you don’t like them sticky, you could bake them at 350˚ for 20-25 minutes.

Kid Foodie’s family had a long day in town this past Sunday and typical them — they didn’t pack lunch. So they tried out the newest sandwich shop in town called Jimmy Johns. The nice thing about this place is that they offer an “un-wich” option which substitutes lettuce for bread. What’s even nicer is that it’s the same price. Most places charge extra for gluten free options and sometimes you even end up getting less food! Crazy!

Kid Foodie and his mom had eaten here once before and both really enjoyed the unwiches. So it was time for everyone to try it. Kid Foodie ordered the “Italian” unwich that comes loaded with meats and cheeses.

Rather surprisingly, Kid Foodie was not able to finish his lunch in one sitting. He almost made it. But not quite. I think it’s incentive for him to come back and give it…

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Split Pea Pesto Salad

Spinach was on sale this week. So I stocked up — 2 tubs for the price of 1. Now we have to use it up before it goes bad. Luckily, we all like spinach (although two out of the four of us would deny it. Any guesses as to who the two are??)

When I dished up this plate to photograph it, I got a couple of boos from the under 10 crowd. Yes, even Kid Foodie balked at the prospect of an entirely green dinner. But then he tasted it. Added a bit here, took away a bit there and he was s.a.t.i.s.f.i.e.d! I wolfed down this plate and loaded up another one. Dad came home and helped himself to two complete servings. And the kicker — after trying many avoidance tactics, Little Brother finally determined to choke his serving down. Imagine his surprise when after the first bite he realized he too liked it. His plate was CLEAN. It might have been a first.

Split Pea Pesto Salad

Ingredients:

1½ cups dried split peas, rinsed and picked over

1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided

1 cup sunflower seeds (raw), divided

1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems

⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cups spinach

 Directions:

1. In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups water to boil. Add split peas and simmer, uncovered, about 25 – 30 minutes until tender. Drain and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.

2. Make the cilantro pesto: In a blender or food processor, combine ⅓ cup of the sunflower seeds, the cilantro, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt and a splash of olive oil and puree until smooth. Continue blending while gradually drizzling in the remaining olive oil until the pesto becomes a vibrant green sauce (makes about 1 cup).

3. Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss the cooked split peas and the remaining ⅔ cup of sunflower seeds with two-thirds of the pesto. Continue tossing until everything is well coated. Lay down a bed of spinach on a serving plate, top with split pea mixture, drizzle with some of the additional pesto to taste and sprinkle more Parmesan to taste. Serve immediately.

This recipe was based on this one I found via Pinterest.

For my second serving, I crumbled a bit of gorgonzola over my greens and warmed it up just a tad. It tasted truly decadent. Not sure what the nutritional value is when you start adding rich cheeses, but I figure I’m eating an enormous amount of greens so that’s got to count for something right? In all seriousness, though, this was a highly satisfying meal and very quick and easy to make. It may make another appearance this week or next — depending on how quickly we can go through my stockpile of spinach. I don’t think I’ll hear any complaining the next time I make this dish!

Sweet Potato Flatbread Pizza

I had a strong urge to incorporate flatbread into dinner tonight. It started off this morning, stayed with me all day and hung on through TWO, count them, TWO rounds of flatbread trials. Last week I roasted 3 or 4 sweet potatoes (like I’ve been getting into the habit of doing. It’s nice to have already-roasted ingredients ready to throw into an impromptu recipe.) So I was feeling like I really needed to use them up today. I did a search for sweet potato flatbread and couldn’t really find anything that incorporated the potatoes into the actual dough. Most just had slices topping the flatbread. My solution was to combine two recipes from my tried and true GF cookbooks and make up something entirely new.

The first round was only a marginal success. I rolled out about 8 smaller discs thinking we’d have personal size flatbread pizzas tonight. The only problem was I let them go a bit too long in an oven that was a bit too hot. They’re edible and they look really cute, but it’s not what I was really going for.

After eating 3 little ones (remember, I DID say they were edible ; ) I still had the energy and enough sweet potato puree to give it another go. This time I kept it simple. I used the recipe from the Sweet Potato Biscuits. That’s it. The only thing I did differently was instead of rolling and cutting out rounds, I smoothed it out onto a pizza pan. Oh, and instead of butter, I used olive oil.

Sweet Potato Flatbread

2 cups all-purpose gf flour (I used my most common mix – 1 cup brown rice flour, 2/3 cup sorghum flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 Tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup pureed baked sweet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)

1/3 cup sour cream 

1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk)

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Grease a round pizza pan.

2. In a large bowl, place flour, xanthan, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine. 

3. In a separate bowl mix together olive oil, sweet potatoes, sour cream and milk. Add these ingredients to the large bowl and mix with spoon until dough begins to come together. 

4. On the greased pizza pan, smooth out the dough with a wet spatula.

5. Place in the preheated oven for about 15 – 20 minutes.

6. Top with assorted toppings, place back into oven for another 10 minutes or so.

This second time around was a resounding success! So much so, I almost forgot to document it. I managed to get the last few slices though. Topping our flatbread pizza tonight, were spinach, shredded carrots, caramelized onions with finely chopped rosemary and gorgonzola. Quite tasty! Kid Foodie agreed.


I’m just now realizing how many recipes I’ve posted using sweet potatoes! But hey, they are a superfood right? My only regret from this dinner experiment was that I didn’t make enough to have leftovers. That pizza went fast! Now . . . what to have for dinner tomorrow night?

 

Poached Egg Over Roasted Tomato/Red Pepper/Garlic On Steel Cut Oats

The first “C” grade I ever earned was in 6th grade Home Ec. It was embarrassing. But strangely, the one success I remember from that year was learning to make poached eggs. Until a few weeks ago when I wondered if I could still make them, the one and only time I’d ever had them was in that class (circa 1984). Turns out, I can still make them and I do still love them. Tonight, when searching Pinterest for dinner inspirations, I came across a video on how to poach (or sous vide) eggs in little plastic pouches. The eggs come out nice and intact. I had to try it.

I had seen some recipes that combined poached eggs with tomato sauce that looked delicious. So I decided to try that served over the last of my steel cut oats. It was just enough to serve the four of us. I will definitely be making this again. It would make an awesome, hearty breakfast too.

I started by roasting my tomatoes, red peppers and garlic. In a baking dish, cut up 2 – 4 tomatoes into quarters, as well as 4 – 5 smaller red peppers. Peel about 6 – 8 cloves of garlic and place around and between the tomatoes and peppers. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar (about 2 Tbsp ea) over it all and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes at 400˚F. Once they are roasted, transfer all to a blender and pulse to blend so that there are still nice chunks. Set aside.

For the steel cut oats, bring 2 cups of water to boil, add 1 cup oats. Turn heat down and cook for 30 minutes or so.

To sous vide the eggs, tear off a piece of plastic wrap about 12″ x 12″. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and any other herbs you’d like. I added oregano to mine. Center the coated plastic wrap over a small bowl and make a well. Crack an egg into the bowl. Gather the corners of the wrap and tie with string. Do this to all the eggs you plan to poach. Transfer the egg pouches to boiling water and boil for about 4 – 5 minutes. I don’t particularly like runny yolks. I like mine more gelatinous so I let mine go a bit longer.

I put my red sauce in a large skillet to warm it up again. Then I spooned the oats into a bowl, layered on the tomato/red pepper sauce, added the egg and sprinkled grated parmesan cheese and a few green onion slivers for garnish. I had high hopes for this concoction and it blew me away. This garnered another 4 thumbs up from Kid Foodie, Little Brother, Dad and Mom.

I had to snap this pic quick before it was all gone. Quite a compliment if you ask me. And a great encouragement to continue experimenting in the kitchen. What I like about meals like this is that there’s nothing fancy going on. But the taste makes you think otherwise. This is real, whole, rustic food at its best.

Fish Tacos

Growing up along the banks of a salmon stream that fed into the mighty Columbia River and being related to my brother who fishes as naturally and as often as a person can, you’d think I’d be a seafood person. Not true. In fact, I think I’ve only begun eating salmon within the past 10 years or so. I’ve never eaten shrimp and the one time I tried lobster, I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. However, since we’ve overhauled our diet and are enjoying tons of new foods, seafood is back on the list of things to incorporate. I have always been able to eat white fish since it’s so mild. So a couple weeks ago while at the grocery store, I picked up a package of frozen tilapia with one thing on my mind: Fish Tacos!

Kid Foodie begged me to take him to a local place called Diego’s last summer. I knew they were known for their killer fish tacos and that’s where I tried them for the first time. They were pretty darn good. But as we’ve been learning lately, even though commercial places offer foods that are naturally gluten free, there’s still a lot of cross contamination going on through the sharing of grills and such. Sadly, we’ve had to all but avoid any restaurants since Kid Foodie was showing signs of being gluten contaminated lately.

This recipe even includes cornmeal tortillas that I made earlier today. I have to say, I’m getting better at rolling out my tortillas and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the cornmeal tortillas came out. The cornmeal is something I added on a whim and wasn’t sure what to expect. They played nice and rolled out beautifully.

Cornmeal Tortillas:

1 Cup brown rice flour

2/3 Cup cornmeal

1/3 Cup tapioca flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 Cup water (100 F)

Mix flours, xanthan and salt together. Add vegetable oil and combine. Slowly add water until sticky dough forms. Divide dough into 6 equal balls. Between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll out each dough ball to 1/8″ thick. Peel the top sheet of plastic off carefully and sprinkle top lightly with a bit of flour. Heat a skillet on a medium high heat stovetop. With the floured side of the tortilla flipped onto your palm, carefully peel off the second sheet of plastic and drop the disc onto the skillet. Careful to let it drop flat — this may take some practice! Cook each side 45-60 seconds or so. It’s better to have these underdone as opposed to overdone.

Fish Taco Ingredients:
1 pound tilapia
3 limes
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 all purpose GF flour (Bob’s Redmill or custom mix)
8 GF cornmeal tortillas
1 Cup shredded cabbage
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced (or small red pepper if that’s what you have)
Instructions:
1. Cut fish into small cubes.
2. For the lime sauce, juice 2 limes into a bowl, stir in mayonnaise and chili powder. Reserve 1/3 Cup sauce and coat fish cubes in remaining sauce.
3. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil over medium heat. In a shallow dish, combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss fish in flour mix and add to hot oil. Cook 4-6 minutes or until fish starts to flake. Try to turn fish so they brown evenly. Drain on paper towels.
4. Top tortillas with reserved chili-lime sauce, fish, cabbage mix and pepper. Slice remaining lime into wedges and serve with tacos. 
Serves 4.
This meal earned 4 thumbs up tonight. It’s something that I think will find its way into a regular rotation. Not a bad entry into the seafood world I might say.

Sweet Potato Veggie Fritters

This weekend we experimented quite a bit in the kitchen. Overall there were two triumphs and one fail. Parmesan flatbread = TRIUMPH! Sweet Potato Macaroons = TRIUMPH! Gluten Free Pita Bread = EPIC FAIL! While I was trying to decide which recipe to talk about today, I went ahead and used up the rest of my sweet potatoes from yesterday’s macaroons for a quick weeknight dinner. You know what? Those other recipes can wait. Tonight’s experiment trumps them all!

These fritters could easily be used as fulfilling and delicious veggie burgers complete with bun but they’re great on their own too. (Besides, I’ve yet to find a gluten free hamburger bun that doesn’t take concentrated effort to choke down. If you’ve discovered one, please let me know!) Either way, these fritters are quick and easy.

Ingredients:

1 medium roasted sweet potato

4 green onions, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped finely

3 small, multicolored peppers

1 egg

2 Tbsp all purpose flour (I used a brown rice/sorghum/tapioca flour mix)

2 Tbsp olive oil for frying

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Mash the roasted sweet potato in a medium bowl. Add onions, celery, peppers and egg. Mix well. Add flour, salt and pepper and mix. Form into patties. Heat olive oil in a hot pan on the stovetop. Place patties into pan, sear over medium high heat on both sides. Turn heat down to medium heat and cook through, flipping once or twice. 

Serve and enjoy. Yields 4 patties.

While Kid Foodie claims to dislike sweet potatoes, I know better. Since I’ve already devoured my fritter, I can confidently claim this experiment to be a success. So if we include this with this weekend’s recipes, that officially makes 3 triumphs and one fail. Not too shabby. If you decide to give these a try, let me know your thoughts. I’ll try to be back in a couple days with the other winning recipes from this soggy spring weekend.

Valentine’s Day Feast

I guess the title of this post is a little misleading. Yesterday I created more of a Valentine’s Day snack for the boys. It was the second year I’ve done it. Last year I surprised them with a chocolate fondue spread that they loved! They asked for it again this year, so I happily obliged. Not one to repeat anything, I thought I would fulfill Little Brother’s request for Nutella stuffed crepes and Kid Foodie’s desire for something containing raspberries.

So here was the spread I put together. In my little pump house studio I set up this table layered with vintage finds and things that represent each boy — like the painter’s palette for Little Brother who is a fantastic artist with a gallery showing already under his 8 year old belt. Accents of blue instead of traditional red or pink because they are, after all, elementary school aged boys! And mounds of elevated food as a nod to Kid Foodie’s passion.

Of course, I didn’t have all the ingredients to do what I originally had in mind. I wanted to make a raspberry galette but had to settle for cream puffs with a raspberry sauce. This was a great decision, in my opinion. You get a lot of bang for your buck, the ingredients list is short and the technique quite easy.

Now, I know I need to work on my food styling a bit here. In hindsight I wish I would’ve used something other than the blender container to pour the sauce onto the crepes, but I pretty much only had 2 opportunities, and this was the best one. Little Brother had heard about Nutella stuffed crepes from his teacher and wanted me to try it. So I found a recipe for homemade Nutella and whipped some up myself. And you know what? It worked!

All in all, the boys appreciated my effort (which was good since I spent an unusually long day in the kitchen preparing it all)! However . . . after a couple of bites and a bit of complaining about putting raspberries on the crepes (Little Bro doesn’t like anything that looks gloppy/jelly-like) their attention quickly turned back to the mounds of terrible processed candy that came home with their classroom Valentine’s cards. What’s a mom to do?

I’ll do separate recipes later on for the Nutella, GF crepes and GF cream puffs. They each deserve their own post, I think. I hope everyone got to enjoy some part of Valentine’s Day. Did anyone try something new for their special someone yesterday? How did it turn out? I’d love to hear your stories.

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  • About This Blog’s Authors

    Even before his diagnosis of Celiac Disease in 2010, Kid Foodie was passionate about food. Although the diagnosis brought some restrictions, his appreciation and appetite for good, healthy food has only skyrocketed.

    For me, his diagnosis of Celiac opened up a world of food possibilities and a new way of thinking about what we eat. It has absolutely been a joy to overhaul our family's food choices and we all continue to benefit from it. We write this blog to help our family and friends understand how to cook gluten free and to provide them recipes to try out themselves.

    Kid Foodie now has his own blog:
    heykidfoodie.com

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