Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oatmeal Spice Cookies - Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Refined Sugar Free

My daughter has been asking every day to cook something, so this afternoon I decided to try an oatmeal cookie recipe. I have been looking for gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free recipes that are simple  and delicious. I think I may have finally found one!!

I adapted this recipe from the soft oatmeal raisin cookie recipe posted on Mom's Healthy Eats.

First we gathered all the ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:
1 Cup Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 Cup Bob's Gluten Free Oats
1/2 teaspoon salt (next time I might use 1/4)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup granulated organic coconut palm sugar

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Next, combine all the dry ingredients, except for the palm sugar, in a large bowl. Use a whisk or a spoon to mix well. 

Then melt the coconut oil in a small pan over very low heat. I like to melt it about half-way, remove from the heat and then stir until completely melted. This keeps it from getting too hot. Then stir in one large egg and 3/4 cup palm sugar.  I did all this while my daughter happily played with the dry mix and made a wonderful mess on our table.

Next, mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. We made the mistake of starting with the whisk, but the batter was way to thick for a whisk so we switched to the wooden spoon. The only other tricky part was keeping my daughter's hands out of the mix since it now contained raw egg.

When mixed thoroughly it looks a bit like bread dough.

Spoon heaping tablespoons onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake in the oven at 325-350 for 6-10 minutes. I am learning that temperatures and time really vary from oven to oven. I baked these at 350 for 7 minutes and they were a little too crispy on the bottom so next time I will try 325.

At first my daughter was not at all sure about these...

But then she took a big bite and the cookie was gone within minutes!

I liked this recipe because it was simple and didn't have a million ingredients.  Next time I might cut the salt in half and add a little stevia to sweeten them.

Do you have a favorite sugar-free, healthy treat?  If so, please leave me a comment and share your recipes!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pork Roast - Sunday Dinner With the Boler Family

My side of the family is British and as long as I can remember my mom has cooked the best roasts I have ever tasted.  She perfectly cooks the meat, potatoes, vegetables and gravy. I think she may have a secret ingredient because mine never quite taste like hers, but they are always a hit in our house.  We have started a tradition of cooking a roast on Sundays and inviting people over for dinner.  There is always more than enough food and it is wonderful to come together with family and friends over a hot, home-cooked meal.

Here is what you need for a Pork Roast dinner:

One pork tenderloin
A vegetable (I usually do green beans)
Potatoes (1-2 per person depending the size of the potato)
Olive Oil
Garlic Salt
Majarom (optional)
Bisto Gravy Powder  (The powder not the granules)

This meal usually takes me about an hour and a half from start to finish.  Once the roast is in the oven you will be free to do other things while it cooks.

First, turn the oven on to 350 degree.  Next, peel the potatoes. (This is my least favorite part!) Then cut them into fourths if they are small and eighths if they are medium/large potatoes.

Put them in a large pot, cover them with water, add a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5-10 minutes until the edges begin to soften.  Then drain, put in a large bowl and toss with enough olive oil to coat the potatoes.

Next place the pork tenderloin in the center of a baking pan. Rub with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and marjoram.  Then place the potatoes around the pork and spring garlic salt over everything.  You can also add a little more olive oil if you would like.

Cook for 20-25 minutes. Then remove pan from the oven and baste the pork and potatoes with the oil. I do this by tilting the pan to allow the oil to run into a corner and then using a large spoon to spoon the oil back over the top of the meat and potatoes.

You will want to cook for another 20-30 minutes depending on how big the piece of meat is. If you want your potatoes to be extra crispy you can turn up the heat a little.

I am not great at getting everything ready at the same time but I get it pretty close.  After I have basted the roast I get the beans ready and put them on to boil. Usually by the time they are done the meat is done as well.

Before you pull the meat out you will want to prepare the Bisto powder. You can follow the directions on the package or use my method. I take one cup of cold water and mix in a heaping serving spoon of Bisto powder.

Next pull the meat out.  (Check to make sure the pork is cooked all the way through.) Spoon the potatoes into a serving bowl and cover with tinfoil to keep warm. Then remove the meat and put it on a cutting board or plate to be sliced.

Remove any large leftover chunks of potato or fat but leave most of the drippings. Place the pan on a burner set on low and slowly mix in the bisto powder and water mix.  (If you haven't already drained the beans do so now and add a little of the water to the gravy pan.)

It is very important to stir well and frequently so it doesn't get clumpy.  At this point I begin the dance of stirring gravy, cutting meat, and getting everyone ready for dinner.

After a few minutes the gravy should thicken. If it doesn't then you can add a little more Bisto. (Be sure it mix it with a little water before adding it to the pan so you don't get clumps.) It shouldn't be as thick and an American white gravy but it will thicken enough so that is pours slowly off the spoon.

Pour the gravy out the pan and into a gravy boat or a measuring cup if you don't have one.  Put everything on the table, remove the tinfoil and dinner is ready!

I love the simplicity and deliciousness of this meal.  Do you have a favorite traditional family meal? If so, leave me a comment and let me know about it!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yummy Granola - Enlisting the help of a toddler

Today I decided to make something with my daughter.  She loves to cook, stirs better then anyone I know... and she even has a chef outfit.

Cooking with little kids can be overwhelming but it is such a blast. Be ready for some extra-work, a mess and lots of giggles.

First the recipe. It is really simple:

4 cups rolled oats (I used Gluten-Free Oats)
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1-2 tbsp coconut flake
1-2 tbsp milled flax seed
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup almond butter (or any type of nut butter)
(You could add, take away or make substitutions)

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients.  Mix in coconut oil (heated to a liquid).  Mix in honey.  Mix in almond butter.  Place in a greased baking pan.  Cook for 30-40 minutes.  BE SURE to stir every 10 minutes until granola is golden brown and the most of the granola is no longer sticking to the bottom of the pan (the gooey honey is gone).

Here is how I made it today.

Before cooking with my daughter I make sure I have all my ingredients and tools out and ready on the dining table.

I let her help me dump all the dry ingredients in a big bowl and then let her loose with the spoon. She has many mixing styles...

The traditional stir:

Using her hands to put the ingredients on the spoon before stirring:

And using the measuring cups:

Once it is mixed you should always smell it:

And of course lick some of the spoons!

Luckily this time most of the granola stayed in the bowl! 40 minutes later it was done and my house was put back in order... until she decided to pull everything off her toy shelf and proudly exclaim "I made a mess!"

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rainy Day - A Shepard's Pie Update

It was a rainy, stormy day and I forgot all about dinner until about 11:30 this morning. The freezer was pretty empty since I do my shopping on Monday evenings but I had some frozen ground lamb. I decided to make shepard's pie again since I knew we wouldn't be going anywhere for the rest of the day.

I decided to try some new things this time.  Because I knew it would be a long afternoon, I left the frying pan on low heat the entire time, even after I added the meat.  It took a lot longer for everything to cook (about an hour) however it freed me up to play with my daughter.  When I cook things that low I don't have to worry about them burning.

This time I added fresh garlic (3 cloves pushed through a garlic press) and thinly sliced carrots. I also decided to be bold and daring and add grated zucchini. (Shhhh... don't tell my husband. I don't think he noticed!) I put the grater right on top of the frying pan.

Because I cooked everything so slowly, in-between chopping each item I was able to play with my daughter and get some laundry done.  She is going through a no-clothes phase. Either she wants to wear only her diaper, her pajamas or she insists on picking her own clothes out.  We are fine with her picking her own clothes out as long as its weather appropriate. (I solved this problem by putting all winter clothes out of sight.) After nap this afternoon she insisted on staying in her pajamas.  No amount of convincing or bribery on my part could get her out them.

I've also stopped folding her laundry while she is awake because she will see something in the clean clothes pile she wants to wear and insist on taking off perfectly clean clothes to change into new clothes.  Today I decided to use this dilemma to my advantage.  Within a minute of beginning to fold her laundry she happily changed out of her PJs and into a dress.  I folded laundry and got her out of her PJS! These days it is the seemingly small accomplishments like this that I take great joy in.

I finished cooking everything just as I described in my prior shepard's pie entry (follow the link for the full recipe) except instead of adding peas I served them as a side dish.  Along the way I even worked up a sweat during an impromptu dance party.

By 5:30 everything was ready.  Unfortunately, my husband had to stay late at work and my daughter refused to sit up for dinner (it was just one of those evenings) but I sat down and enjoyed every bite of this rainy day comfort food.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spaghetti Night - Mommy Boler's Bolognese Sauce

We have spaghetti at least once a week. It is currently my daughter's favorite meal and I grew up on this recipe.  Since it is Saturday I thought I might be able to cook this undisturbed during some daddy-daughter play time, but once again I was reminded that life with a toddler rarely goes as planned.

This recipe is simple, but it takes a little time and some patience.  This recipe also allows for many distractions which proved helpful this evening.

I started around 4:00 by finely chopping a small sweet onion. I then put it in a large frying pan with two to three tablespoons of olive oil and turned the heat on low.  (By sautéing them on a very low heat you don't have to keep a very careful eye on them.)

Next I began to chop two large carrots. I like to slice them in circles so my daughter can pick them out of the sauce with her little fingers.

Halfway through the slicing of the carrot I was summoned to referee an impromptu tooth-brushing session.  It was Daddy-Who-Wants-To-Brush versus Daughter-Who-Only-Wants-To-Suck-The-Water-Off-The-Toothbrush. Unfortunately for Daddy, it was clear who the winner of this one was going to be.  I left my daughter happily playing with the water in the sink to return to the kitchen and finish cutting the carrots. Then I sliced three stalks of celery and put everything in to the frying pan.

By this time my daughter had moved on from brushing teeth to blowing bubbles.  She insisted that mommy had to blow the bubbles so I left my husband in charge of stirring the pan every five minutes.  After about 15 minutes of enthusiastic bubble blowing she was ready to move on to something else and I was able to return to the kitchen.  The celery and onions were clear and the carrots had began to soften so it was time to add the meat.

Most recipes call for you to remove the vegetables before adding the meat and then returning them after the meat has been browned, but for simplicity and to cut down on dishes I just put the meat on top. I break about one pound of defrosted ground beef into two inch chunks and turn the heat up, but only to medium. It takes longer to brown the meat but the lower the temperature the less tough the meat will be.  I mix and stir the meat every couple of minutes until it is cooked through. The meat breaks apart during this process but leaves big enough chunks to spear with a fork or pick up with little fingers.

Then I use a large spoon to drain the fat.  You can also use a baster to do this. Once the fat is drained I add one small can of tomato paste, 1 and 1/4 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to the frying pan.  I stir well, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low.  At this point you could also add any other seasonings you would like. My mom includes a bouillon cube (which I eliminated because I am gluten-free) and some oregano (which I eliminated because I don't like it).  You could also add fresh tomatoes, canned diced tomatoes, bay leaves etc.

The key to this recipe is to let this simmer for a while. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't get dried out. If the water gets all absorbed add some more. I think professional chef's call this "reducing".  I call it haphazard, play-it-by-ear simmering. Sometimes I add extra water once and sometimes I add it three of four times depending on how long I want to leave it simmering. The sauce is ready once the water is mostly absorbed and the carrots are soft.  If you make this in the middle of the day you can just turn off the heat, put a lid on it and save it until dinnertime.

This evening while it was simmering I got to pretend I was at the beach with my big hat and flip flops and then had a pretend snowball fight.  I love the imagination of a toddler!

About twenty minutes before dinner I began to prepare the spaghetti according to the directions on the package. Tonight I cooked regular spaghetti and quinoa spaghetti. (I like to use Ancient Harvest Quinoa Spaghetti)  I haven't sold my husband on the quinoa pasta... yet.

Finally,  I drained the pasta and served it with several large spoonfuls of sauce.  Tonight I was feeling lazy so we just ate spaghetti... I didn't feel too guilty since it includes meat and vegetables! You can also serve this with salad or any other vegetable. When I was growing up my mom often served it with carrot sticks.

We love this meal. It is warm, nutritious and comforting.  I also usually have enough sauce left over for the next day or to freeze.  But the best part is that my daughter asks for it for dinner... and lunch... and snack!

Here is the full recipe:

Bolognese Sauce
Approximately 1 pound ground beef
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small sweet onion
2-3 carrots
3-4 celery stalks
1 can tomato paste
garlic salt
Optional: Diced tomatoes, Chicken or Beef Bouillon for flavoring,  Oregano etc.

Finely chop onion, celery and carrot.  Saute in a large frying pan with olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside.  Brown meat. Drain fat. Return onion, celery and carrot to the pan. Add tomato paste, water, garlic salt, pepper and any other desired seasoning to the pan. Mix well, bring to a boil and leave to simmer until all water is absorbed. Add more water and repeat if the carrots are not yet soft.  Sauce is done when most of the water is absorbed and the carrots are soft. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tarragon Chicken - Mommy Boler's Crock-Pot Version

I've spent the last few months trying to find healthy recipes for the crock-pot that the three of us will eat. I need it to be gluten-free, dairy-free, preservative-free, sugar-free etc. My husband just wants it to taste good and doesn't want to know how healthy it is. And my daughter, well she is two... who knows why she likes certain things and not others!

This is the only crock-pot recipe that I've cooked more than once and it has quickly become a weekly meal.  It makes enough chicken to leave leftovers for lunch or the next night's dinner.  The chicken just falls apart as you take it out of the crock-pot and melts in your mouth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pork Chops - Dinner in 30 minutes

I've had several friends ask me how to cook a meal so everything is ready at the same time. The simple answer is: practice.  And then there is the realization that's it's never really all ready at the same time. You just get it as close as you can.

Tonight I made an old standby: pork chops, rice and broccoli.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Quinoa - The solution to the lunch dilemma

I am not very good at lunch. I don't particularly like eating lunch and I never know what to eat. I've been like this my whole life. Really I think lunch is stupid... but I admit I feel a million times better if I eat it.

I've tried to do the salad thing. And the conclusion I have come to is that I LOVE salads in restaurants and HATE them at home. I can never get it right. So I have moved on... to quinoa.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Shepard's Pie - A Midday Cooking Adventure

This is a well-loved, time-tested recipe. The point of my blog is not necessarily to share new recipes but to try and document how the heck someone makes a home cooked meal for their family while juggling all the other beautiful chaos occurring in a typical household.

This recipe falls into my "Midday" category because I make it in the middle of the day on those days that I don't have time or don't want to cook in the evening. (I can either serve this all by itself or in the evening quickly cook some green beans to go with it.) Today I decided to make it during the hour prior to nap time while my daughter was eating lunch, playing and watching Sesame Street.