Healthy Habits: Easy Allergy Friendly Company Meal

Help….

This past weekend, my family traveled to New Jersey to celebrate my niece’s First Communion. The reception afterwards was at a beautiful, well-reputed restaurant where my brother had rented a room, complete with a buffet of assorted options from seafood, beef, and chicken to pasta and rice to salads and roasted vegetables. Of the ten items to choose from, I could eat three. The rest were all cooked in butter.

Fortunately, my brother had arranged for a special plate to be made for me, but it can be sad to be the odd person out, watching folks enjoy food you can’t have. This experience was fresh in my mind when a friend called to ask if there was something quick and easy she could make that would also be a “nice, company meal” because she was hosting a dinner where one person had severe food allergies. No wheat, eggs, dairy, nut, soy, or citrus foods could be served.

I applauded her desire to make something which everyone could eat and immediately thought of one of my go-to meals, chicken and vegetables. This may seem like a ho-hum meal to serve company, but if you roast whole carrots with sliced zucchini and bake tender, seasoned chicken breasts and serve both with a beet sauce, the experience becomes more than ho-hum, and if you look at the pictures, the food looks pretty, too, which enhances the appetite.

What’s even better, is that the entire meal takes only about 45 minutes from beginning to end to make, which gives you plenty of time to hang with your guests. While the veggies roast, you work on the chicken, and while the chicken cooks, you work on the sauce.

Company Baked Chicken Breasts and Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients:

2 lb bag of whole carrots, peeled (normal size, not crazy, huge ones)

Zucchini, sliced lengthwise into quarters, about size to eight medium-sized ones

6 chicken breasts, 4 ounces each (palm size portion, not crazy, hormone-induced size)

olive oil

onion powder

garlic powder

oregano

thyme

tarragon

red pepper flakes

black pepper

1 1/2 cups cooked beets (I buy precooked, ready to go ones in the vegetable section)

1 cup unsalted, no sugar chicken bone broth (I find this at my local grocery store)

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tbsp chopped onion

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground ginger

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat the carrots with olive oil and place into a large oven proof pan which will hold the carrots in a single layer with space left for the zucchini to be added.
  3. Roast for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrots.
  4. Remove the pan, stir the carrots, lightly coat the zucchini quarters in olive oil, and add them to the pan.
  5. Roast for 5 minutes, remove the pan and stir, adding onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, tarragon, red pepper flakes and black pepper – all to your liking.
  6. Roast for another 5 minutes and arrange the vegetables on an oven safe, serving platter, and set aside. Turn the heat down to 450 degrees.
  7. While the vegetables are roasting in the oven, line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and lightly brush olive oil on both sides of the chicken breasts. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with the onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, tarragon, red pepper flakes and black pepper – to your taste and liking.
  8. Cover the chicken breasts with another piece of parchment paper, tucking the ends in around the chicken into the pan.
  9. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes.
  10. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it sit, exactly as it is with the parchment covering it, and turn down the heat to 300 degrees. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes to reabsorb its juices.
  11. Put the veggies which have been transferred to an oven safe serving platter into the oven to finish cooking while the chicken sits for the 10 minutes.
  12. While the chicken breasts are resting and the veggies are finishing, put the cooked beets into a blender with the bone broth, garlic, onions, cumin and ginger, and puree until completely smooth.
  13. Pour the sauce into a microwave safe, serving pitcher, and microwave for a minute at a time until the sauce is warm.
  14. After the 10 minute resting time, remove the parchment paper from the chicken, remove the veggie platter from the oven, and serve both with the warmed beet sauce.

 

 

 

Healthy Habits: Rethinking Weeknight Pasta

 

 

“But it’s all I can eat….”

My oldest decided a few weeks ago to do the elimination diet, which basically is eliminating everything except meat, poultry, fish, and non-starchy vegetables from one’s diet. She could not eat wheat, soy, dairy, nuts, peanuts, eggs, sesame, corn, peppers, potatoes, vinegar, yeast, sweeteners of any type, etc…, which meant dinners became a bit more complicated.

Since I usually include non-meat protein in many of our family dinners, I had to rethink our meals for a few weeks to make sure we were not eating too much meat and chicken. Obviously, eating more fish and beans was one solution, but the number of fish or bean dinners we currently eat are not my husband’s and son’s favorites as it is, so I did not want to create issues there. We could increase our vegetable dishes, but not being able to add any cheese, whether dairy or soy, or add tofu meant having no protein at all, which does not work for my or my daughter’s hypoglycemia.

So, as I thought about eating more meat and chicken dishes, it occurred to me that I could rethink weeknight pasta dinners, which is a staple for most families. Pasta and sauce is quick and easy for those busy nights when families do not have much time to pull dinner together. For my purposes, pasta and sauce was also a good dinner to be able to alter for our dietary needs.

For the pasta, we simply opted to substitute many of the grain free, protein packed pastas which are on the market: red and green lentil, chickpea and bean pastas are easily found at most supermarkets and are actually quite tasty. The ingredients are literally just red lentils or chickpeas or beans. Nothing else. So, for folks who need to watch ingredients, these pastas are great one ingredient pastas. (NOTE: there are pastas which mix flours with legumes to add protein. These are fine, too, if folks can eat grains.)

For the sauces, the solution was simple: substitute half of any meat or chicken with vegetables or quinoa. That way we had the protein but not as much of it. The result were healthier sauces which were just as filling but with less meat and poultry. Some of the pasta sauces and meatball recipes we made are below in case any folks want to try them for themselves.

Beet and Meat Pasta Sauce:

In a large skillet, brown 1/2 lb of lean hamburger meat with finely chopped onions, garlic, and herbs such as oregano, basil, black pepper, and thyme. Drain the fat from the meat and add 8 oz of frozen riced beets, one cup frozen chopped spinach, and a 16 oz can of no salt, no sugar added petite diced tomatoes. Saute until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. Add a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I use Victoria’s which literally only has tomatoes, garlic, salt oregano, and onions as its ingredients). Heat until warm and serve over a protein based ziti style pasta.

Kale-Carrot Turkey Pasta Sauce:

In a large skillet, brown 1/2 lb of lean ground turkey with finely chopped onions, garlic and herbs such as oregano, thyme, basil, and black pepper. Drain the fat from the meat, and set aside. In the skillet add 2 tbsp olive oil. Heat the oil for a minute and add 1/4 cup of a gluten free flour like GF oat or sorghum or millet. Stir until well mixed with the oil. Add 2 cups of a no salt, turkey bone broth, stirring and cooking over medium heat until it begins to thicken. Flavor the sauce with herbs like oregano, thyme and basil. Add the browned turkey, 8 oz frozen chopped kale and one cup grated carrots. Heat until the kale and carrots are soft and fully cooked. Serve over a protein based spaghetti style pasta.

Quinoa Meatballs:

Mix one pound of ground beef, chicken or turkey with 2 cups of cooked quinoa. Add to taste: chopped green onions, minced garlic, black pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, dill, and onion powder. Form into quarter cup size meatballs and place the meatballs on a pan lined with aluminum foil and lightly greased with olive oil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes until browned on top and cooked through. Serve with your favorite sauce and protein based pasta.

Healthy Habits: Most Everything Free Blackberry Filled Mini Sponge Cakes

“You won’t be left out….”

So, what do you do when Valentine’s Day is approaching, and you cannot have eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, nuts, peanuts, chocolate/cocoa powder, sesame, coconut, or any non-fruit sweeteners, whether sugar or natural? Then, even planning for a nice dessert after dinner seems to out of the question, too.

This was the problem presented to me this week, and I had to really think about how to make something which was free of everything but would somehow seem a bit special at the same time. Removing every other ingredient except for sweeteners would not actually be a problem. Removing all sweeteners, however, becomes a bit more problematic.

Removing sugar from a cake means removing the ingredient which absorbs the moisture from the protein and carbs and which helps with the leavening process. This means your baked good will be more moist and dense simply by virtue of removing the sugar. Sugar substitutes like coconut sugar or agave, while not as efficient as sugar, can still do the same job. Once you are limited to only fruit, however, there’s not much you can do, other than to increase your dry ingredients and decrease the liquid but then the result may be a very dry dessert.

As I considered options, I realized that sponge cakes are actually cakes which are made to be more dense on purpose and that maybe I could use the lack of a sugary sweetener to my advantage. In the end I created blackberry filled mini sponge cakes, using Polaner’s Blackberry All Fruit. While not chocolate, it is a different, which could be therefore be considered special.

Blackberry Filled Mini Sponge Cakes

Ingredients:

3 cups whole grain gluten free flour blend

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp ground flax seed

6 tbsp hot water

1/3 cup Polaner All Fruit

1/2 cup hot water

2 cups mashed ripe bananas

1/2 cup safflower oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Polaner Blackberry All Fruit

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt. Set aside.
  3. Mix the ground flax seed with the hot water, and let it thicken.
  4. In a large bowl mix together the blackberry all fruit with the hot water and add to it the mashed bananas, oil, and vanilla.
  5. Add the thickened flax seed to the wet ingredients.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the vinegar and mix just until blended.
  7. Evenly divide the batter among the muffin cups.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until the cakes puff and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove the mini cakes to a cooling rack and allow them to cool.
  10. After the cakes are cooled, fill a pastry bag with a round tip with blackberry all fruit, insert the tip into each cake until the tip is hidden by the cake, and then slowly squeeze the all fruit into the cake until the cake puffs. Slowly pull the cake tip out and fill in the remaining space with all fruit, just ’til a little bit of the all fruit is peeking out of the top of the cake.

 

Healthy Habits: Vegan Dark Chocolate No Added Sugar Cupcakes

“No sweeteners except fruit are allowed….”

This past weekend, I was tasked with figuring out how to make a chocolate cupcake which would not only be dairy, egg, soy, gluten, and nut/peanut free but which also could not include any sweeteners like sugar, agave, honey, molasses, maple syrup, stevia, etc…. And of course, the recipient wanted the cupcakes to be fudgy and “healthy” as well.

Folks who have food allergies know how difficult it can be to find and/or make desserts which are free of whatever one can’t eat. When you add to that difficulty, though, that it has to be vegan and have absolutely no sweetener other than fruit, things become exponentially more complicated for ensuring the baked product tastes good.

Not one to give up, however, I figured out a way to make exactly what was ordered… a fudgy, dark chocolate cupcake which had some healthy greens mixed in and which used only fruit sweeteners. What came to my rescue was an apple butter pure fruit spread – apple butter sweetened only by fruit and no sugar. The result was quite tasty, even though it wasn’t sweet.

Vegan Dark Chocolate No Sugar Cupcakes 

(makes one dozen)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup gluten free flour (I used King Arthur’s whole grain version)

1/2 cup Country Farms Super Greens powder (you can omit this and just substitute another cup of gluten free flour, if you’re not interested in adding “healthy greens”)

1/2 cup Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup plant based milk (I used unsweetened gluten free oat milk)

1/2 cup plant based oil (I used avocado oil because it brings out chocolate flavors well)

1 cup apple butter pure fruit spread (I found this at a local store; made with only fruit)

1 1/2 tsp gluten free vanilla

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. Mix together the gluten free flour, greens, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the water, oat milk, avocado oil, apple butter, and vanilla.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, along with the vinegar and whisk together until well blended.
  5. Divide the batter evening among the twelve cups. The cupcake liners will be filled almost to the top.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until the cupcakes puff and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Mine took 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the muffin tin to a wire cooling rack and allow the cupcakes to cool about five to ten minutes in the tin before removing them. They will collapse a bit, but that is what makes them fudgy.
  8. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and cool completely. They keep well in a covered tupper ware.

 

Healthy Habits: Vegan Protein Waffles

“I did well… lasted two days….”

Happy New Year! We are two and a half weeks into 2019, and the question, of course, is how we are all doing with any resolutions we’ve made. As someone who does not make resolutions in January, I am fascinated by people who do. I understand how and why the beginning of a new year prompts us to “want to do better”. What I don’t understand is why folks want to start in the dead of winter when it’s dark and cold, and we are too depressed to sustain changes (for those of us who live in the northeast part of the United States, that is!).

I spoke with a friend recently who had decided she’d incorporate walking every morning as a new routine. The problem, of course, is that after the first two days, the weather became frigid, and the sidewalks were too icy, and she didn’t want to leave the comfort of her warm bed. As we chatted, I suggested that maybe she needed to make an attainable goal for herself instead, like occasional outdoor afternoon walks, weather permitting, which supplement indoor exercise, maybe a home video or taking a class at a gym once or twice a week.

Too often, the reason we cannot sustain New Year’s resolutions is simply that they’re too lofty. I counsel folks in my baking workshops to make little changes, one at a time, which over extended time become habits and lead to overall better healthy eating in the long run, as opposed to changing everything at once and finding it to be too overwhelming and unsustainable.

So, in that vein, the next few posts will simply be some healthy recipes which folks can incorporate as you choose into your diet, and today’s recipe is for a vegan protein waffle. Homemade waffles are great because you can control what goes into them. Since waffles can be full of carbs, though, I wanted to find a way to add some protein. Also, with so many folks going vegan these days or having food allergies, I wanted waffles which most anyone could eat. We had them as a family last weekend, and they were delicious!

Vegan Protein Waffles

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup whole grain gluten free flour blend (you can use a rice flour blend but it won’t have fiber and protein)

1 cup ground golden flaxseed

1/4 cup hemp protein powder (if you have a favorite protein powder, you can use that instead)

2 tbsp egg replacer (just put in the powder as is without mixing it with any liquid)

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups high protein “milk” (I like to use a GF soy or oat milk)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup plant based oil (oils like an extra light olive oil, safflower, avocado, etc…)

1 tbsp maple syrup

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Prepare and preheat your waffle maker as instructed.
  2. Mix together in a large bowl the GF flour, ground flaxseed, protein powder, egg replacer powder, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the milk with the lemon juice, and set aside.
  4. Mix together the oil, maple syrup and water. Add to the milk mixture.
  5. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and add the vinegar. Whisk well until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.
  6. Cook waffles in your waffle maker as instructed.
  7. Enjoy!

NOTE: My niece told me that every time she tried to make vegan waffles they stuck to the waffle maker. I had no such issues with either of my waffle makers when we made these waffles. If you find that the waffles stick, it may simply be that your waffle maker has not been “seasoned” enough. Brushing the waffle maker with oil or spraying it with a non-propellant olive oil spray, as I do, tends to work.

Holiday Hints: Allergy Friendly Ice Cream Cake

“Don’t be people who destroy hearts….”

I watch as Yoko Kawashima Watkins, author of So Far from the Bamboo Grove, explains to a group of 7th graders that the Japanese Kanji for “busy” is a combination of the characters for “heart” and “destroy”. At 83, her body is frail but her voice is strong as she leans in closer to the children.

“Never have I told anyone that I am ‘busy’,” she says to them. “I don’t want to destroy anyone’s heart, and neither do you, right?”

Her gaze takes in each individual child as they vigorously nod their heads. They’ve already promised to thank their “honorable” parents for all that they do to take care of them (without letting their parents know that Yoko told them to do so, of course), so what could it hurt to agree with Yoko on this, too?

Later after I drive Yoko home, I think about the Japanese Kanji for “busy” and how interesting it is to me that being busy is seen as something that destroys one’s heart. Here in the States, being busy means you’re being productive, getting things done, not slacking off. When we’re “too busy”, then maybe it is something which can destroy one’s heart, but being just plain busy?

The holidays are probably a good example of what Yoko meant, though. Often the busyness of preparing for the holidays eclipses the amount of time actually spent just being with family members. For this reason, I’ve always tried to keep food prep to a minimum in favor of more time with my family, and as we think about yet another “special” dessert for New Year’s, I thought I’d share the fastest dessert recipe I have – allergy friendly ice cream cake.

You simply buy two flavors of your favorite pint size ice creams, a package or two of your favorite cookies, and a container of a chocolate frosting – all of which can be found in allergy friendly options- and within ten minutes you can assemble a dessert which will be both pretty and delicious. Below I will post the version which is pictured above.

Ice Cream Cake

Ingredients:

2 pint size containers of allergy friendly vanilla ice cream (I used So Delicious coconut milk version)

8 to 10 oz package of allergy friendly chocolate sandwich cookies (I used KinniToos)

2 cups of allergy friendly chocolate animal crackers (I used K-Kritters)

2 pint size containers of allergy friendly chocolate ice cream (I used Cados avocado version)

one cup chocolate frosting (I used Simple Mills)

Sprinkles (optional)

Assembling Instructions:

  1. Take out the four pints of ice cream and let them sit on the counter while you crush the cookies.
  2. Crush the chocolate sandwich cookies into bit size chunks and set aside.
  3. Crush the chocolate animal crackers into medium-sized crumbs.
  4. In a large bowl, scoop out the vanilla ice cream, and using a rubber spatula or wide wooden spoon, mix the chocolate sandwich cookie chunks into the ice cream until well mixed.
  5. Spread the ice cream evenly into a 10 inch spring form pan, making sure to level the ice cream flat.
  6. Sprinkle the chocolate animal cracker crumbs evenly over the layer of ice cream.
  7. Scoop out the chocolate ice cream into the large bowl and mix until the ice cream is soft and spreadable.
  8. Drop the ice cream gently in scoops to evenly cover the animal crackers. Then carefully spread the ice cream evenly over the chocolate crumbs and level the ice cream flat.
  9. Put the ice cream cake into the freezer for a few minutes while you’re working on the frosting.
  10. In a small bowl, stir the chocolate frosting until it is soft and spreadable. Spread it evenly over the ice cream cake.
  11. If desired, decorate the top of the ice cream cake with sprinkles.
  12. Put the cake back into the freezer and freeze until ready to eat.
  13. To cut the cake, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan and remove the side of the spring form pan. Run a large knife under hot water and cut the cake into wedges to serve.

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Easy Roasted Vegetable Medley

“Do you have a go-to recipe..?”

For the past couple of weeks I have been posting some thoughts for different dishes folks could consider making for Thanksgiving, and this week someone wrote in, asking whether there was anything “easy” I tended to always make.

The answer is, “Yes.” My go-to for any occasion, not just Thanksgiving, is a medley of roasted vegetables. It’s easy to do, looks pretty, and can be “jazzed” up. I use frozen, chopped vegetables, which cuts both the roasting and prep times, and once the vegetables are roasted, it takes just minutes to “adorn” them. Once that’s completed, the vegetables can sit in your fridge until about thirty minutes before you’re ready to eat them, at which point, you simply warm them at 300 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes.

If I am making the medley for Thanksgiving, I try to make them a bit more “special” by caramelizing onions and adding it to the vegetables or roasting garlic and adding slivers with freshly chopped herbs. Sometimes I make a gluten free bread crumb topping and top the vegetables with it. Other times, I make it “au gratin” and add vegan parmesan. Any of these options makes for a delicious side dish.

For folks who are wondering about the turkey which may go with the roasted veggies, I did a post a couple of years ago which you can find at Turkey Talk and which provides some tips for tackling turkey.

Roasted Vegetable Medley

Ingredients:

olive oil

frozen vegetables of choice (baby carrots, butternut squash, baby brussel sprouts, cauliflower, etc…)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Arrange vegetables of the same size in an ovenproof pan and drizzled with a tiny bit of olive oil. Mix and roast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning every four to five minutes, until the vegetables are to the desired tenderness.
  3. If you have vegetables of different sizes, you may need to do a couple of rounds of roasting, by size, until all your vegetables are done.
  4. Arrange all the vegetables in a pan that fits them well. Top with your desired method of flavoring: mixing with freshly chopped herbs and black pepper; caramelizing onions and mixing them in; roasting garlic and mixing in slivers; making a bread crumb topping and sprinkling it on top; shaking parmesan on top.
  5. If serving immediately, you’re good to go. If serving at a later time or day, simply allow the vegetables to cool, cover well, and then thirty minutes before meal time, heat the dish at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until warm.

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Pumpkin Pie, Two Ways

“But pie….”

After posting the black bean-kale soup recipe, I received a question about pies. More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving tends to be about the pies. Pumpkin, apple, cranberry-pear, and mince meat tend to be the more traditional pies associated with Thanksgiving, but I have seen people put out other types like lemon meringue and chocolate pies as well. For today’s post, I’ll focus on the question asked which was for a vegan pumpkin pie, but below are links to other pies I’ve posted about in the past.

Apple Pies

Struesel Cranberry Pear Pies

Peach Pies

Chocolate Pies

Making a pumpkin pie vegan is easy. For the crust, folks can simply substitute vegan butter, vegan shortening or coconut oil for the butter or shortening in any pie crust recipe without anything else needing to be done to the recipe.

For the pumpkin filling, the first ingredient which makes pumpkin pie non-vegan is the eggs, and in pumpkin pie, the eggs simply act as a binder, which is simple to replace. To make a pumpkin pie which is just like regular egg-filled pumpkin pie, the easiest substitute for the eggs is a flour or a starch. Most recipes you’ll find use cornstarch. Many folks, however, are allergic to corn, and I personally like to add protein and/or fiber if possible when I can, so I opt to use a gluten free flour like oat or millet or sorghum.

The other ingredient in pumpkin pie which is dairy is the milk, whether it’s evaporated milk or heavy cream which is used. To substitute for milk in a pumpkin pie, one can choose a plant based “milk” like almond or soy or hemp or flax or any other type on the market which you prefer.  Usually 1 1/2 cups of a “milk” is equivalent to a can of evaporated milk.

For folks who might want a slightly different pumpkin pie and who are not allergic to soy, I also make a pie using tofu which tends to be a heartier, more protein filled pie. Pureed tofu then acts as the binder which eliminates the need for flour, and the pie also does not require any “milk” at all.

For both types of pumpkin pie, I reduce the “sugar” amount substantially and use an alternative to refined white sugar – coconut sugar for the more traditional type of pumpkin pie and agave for the tofu pumpkin pie. Folks who have eaten my pies never say it’s not sweet enough and always comment on how the pumpkin flavor really shines.

Below are recipes for both versions.

Pumpkin Pie Recipes

Ingredients:

Pie crusts (click the link for tips on making Allergy Friendly Pie Crusts)

Version 1 Filling:

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (canned works, too)

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 tsp spices (I use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and/or cardamom)

I 1/2 cup plant based “milk” (I prefer to use flax or soy milk)

1/4 to 1/2 cup gluten free flour (use the lower amount for a more silky pie; the higher amount for a sturdier pie; I like to use millet or sorghum or GF oat flour to add some protein and fiber)

Version 2 Filling:

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (canned works too)

1/2 cup agave (I like to use the maple flavor agave for this pie; if you can’t find it, you can mix 2 tbsp of maple syrup with enough agave to make 1/2 cup – this gives you the flavor but substantially reduces the amount of calories you’d get from using 1/2 cup of maple syrup)

2 tsp spices (I use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and/or cardamom)

16 oz silken tofu, pureed to be smooth and creamy

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the pie crust and put into a 9.5 inch glass pie pan. Set aside.
  3. Choose which pumpkin pie filling to make, and mix all the ingredients until well blended.
  4. Pour into the prepared pie crust.
  5. Cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminium foil, leaving the center of the pie uncovered.
  6. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes until the pie is set and the center only jiggles a bit.
  7. Put into the fridge to completely cool. Best to cool overnight but at the very least, several hours. Without the eggs, the cooling is what solidifies the pie.

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Black Bean Kale Soup

“It is wonderful that she can see other people eat like this….”

I had a workshop last weekend where a mother brought her entire family. She explained that she wanted her daughter to see that they were not the only family who had to eat the way they did – meaning allergy friendly. Over the course of the two hour workshop, I watched the daughter enjoy treat after treat, surprised that her mother had told her she could eat anything she wanted from the table.

Too often the holidays are difficult for folks with health and/or food allergies because we know that much of what is on the table we can’t eat. At Thanksgiving, this can be especially depressing since Thanksgiving is celebrated largely through food.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been trying to post Thanksgiving ideas which are not as traditional, just to give folks something new to consider. From the emails I’ve received, it seems folks liked the the notion of vegan, gluten free cornbread stuffing and vegan, gluten free butternut squash swirled cheesecake. Today I’m going to suggest a hearty soup for folks who like to serve a soup course for Thanksgiving.

For any traditionalists who may have people with food allergies or health needs coming to dinner, making a roasted vegetable soup is a good way to go. The Roasting Vegetables post shares how to roast vegetables in a quick and easy way. To make what you’ve roasted into a soup, simply add to the roasted vegetables your favorite no salt, no sugar added vegetable broth, herbs, garlic and onions and puree to the consistency of your choice. Then on Thanksgiving day, just put it into your crockpot and let it cook until your guests arrive. Serve with allergy friendly crushed croutons, “cheese”, “sour cream”, and/or sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Anyone who may be looking for something a bit heartier and different, though, I offer a black bean, kale soup, just as easy to prepare as the roasted vegetable soup but which adds not just another flavor to the meal, but which can be a more “filling” soup for vegans who have come for dinner.

Black Bean-Kale Soup 

(serves 6 to 8, depending on size of bowls)

Ingredients:

14 oz can no salt, no sugar added lentils

one tsp olive oil

minced garlic to taste

chopped onions to taste

crushed thyme leaves to taste

ground cumin to taste

black pepper to taste

one to two cups frozen or fresh finely chopped kale

1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced yellow pepper

14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp to 1/4 cup finely diced vegan ham

32 oz no salt, no sugar added vegetable broth

salsa to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a food processor or blender, empty the contents of the can of lentils and puree/blend until smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a large-width pan shallower (not a narrow soup pot) which has at least 2 inch sides, add the olive oil, garlic, onions, thyme, cumin and black pepper. Saute over medium-low heat for a minute to release the flavors, stirring so nothing burns.
  3. Add the kale and yellow pepper and saute for another couple of minutes to release the water from the vegetables.
  4. Add the drained and rinsed black beans and vegan ham bits, and saute for a minute, mixing them well with the herbs and vegetables.
  5. Add the vegetable broth and salsa to taste, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes over low heat until the soup has reduced a bit and is thicker.
  6. Serve with allergy friendly sour cream and “cheese”, if desired.

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan, Gluten Free Butternut Squash Swirl Cheesecake

“Why not?”

A few years back, a cousin of Tim’s brought chocolate cupcakes to a Thanksgiving dinner, and when asked, “Why?”, she responded, “Why not?” Since we knew her fondness for chocolate it made sense, but of course the traditionalists of the family thought it was odd to not bring pie. As someone who is not fond of making pies, I was silently in her camp about a different type of Thanksgiving dessert being okay.

Where I did differ, though, is that I felt if you’re going to upset the apple cart, so to speak, then you might want to keep the “new” dessert in line with Thanksgiving flavors. With that in mind, I looked around for different types of desserts folks tended to make for Thanksgiving and noticed that cheesecake was actually the number one “non-pie” dessert eaten. I found many recipes for swirled cheesecakes using pumpkin which seemed interesting.

I picked one to use as a base and immediately realized that it needed work. The original recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs for the crust, mixed with 1/2 cup of butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 tsp molasses. The filling was 3 packages of cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 3 tbsp molasses, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 eggs, 2 cups sour cream, 1 tsp spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger), and 1 cup of pumpkin. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know how I reacted to all that “sugar” in the recipe and that I was figuring out how I could cut the fat to at least some degree.

To revamp the crust, I cut the sugar and molasses completely from it. All graham crackers, whether they are wheat based, gluten free and/or sugar free, have sweeteners of some sort in them. There is no need to add any more. I also reduced the butter to 5 tbsp and swapped a vegan butter because you just need enough to moisten the crumbs so they’ll stick when baking. For the flavoring, which is what I presumed the extra molasses was for, I added 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice.

For the cheesecake filling, I swapped Tofutti dairy free cream cheese for the regular, and for the sweetener, I mixed 1/4 cup agave with 1/4 cup maple syrup. This kept the maple taste but with much less calories and sugars. I cut the white sugar out completely and reduced the molasses to 1 tbsp which would keep the molasses flavor but also reduce the sugars. To do something about the fat, I reduced the sour cream to 1 1/2 cups (a 12 oz container) and eliminated the eggs entirely so vegan folks could eat it, using instead 1/4 cup of arrowroot starch. Instead of the vanilla I opted to use 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice plus 1/4 tsp cloves which tend to be the flavors of Thanksgiving pies.

My final swap was to use roasted, pureed butternut squash but that simply was because I didn’t want to make a pumpkin cheesecake when there was going to be pumpkin pie, but folks can always choose to make it a pumpkin cheesecake, should you desire to do so.

Vegan, Gluten Free Butternut Squash Swirled Cheesecake

Ingredients:

For Crust:

2 1/2 cups gluten free crushed graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

5 tbsp melted vegan butter

For the Filling:

Three 8 oz dairy free cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup agave

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

12 oz (1 1/2 cup) dairy sour cream

1 tbsp molasses

1/4 cup arrowroot starch

1 cup pureed roasted butternut squash (or canned squash or pumpkin)

Baking Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap aluminum foil around the base of a 10 inch spring form pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

  1. Mix together the graham crumbs and pumpkin pie spice. Mix in the melted vegan butter. Spread the mixture evenly on the bottom of the spring form pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust is puffed and golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a mixer, blend the dairy free cream cheese until smooth.
  3. Mix the maple syrup with the agave and slowly pour it into the cream cheese mixture while the mixer is on low, until all is incorporated into the cream cheese.
  4. Add the pumpkin pie spice and ground cloves and mix.
  5. Add the dairy free sour cream and molasses and mix.
  6. Add the arrowroot starch and mix until it is fully incorporated and the filling is smooth.
  7. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cheesecake filling and mix that with the pureed butternut squash.
  8. Dot the top of the crust with half of the cheesecake filling, using a spoon to drop spoonfuls onto the crust. Then using another spoon, drop spoonfuls of the squash filling to fill in the holes of the cheesecake filling.
  9. Using the second half of each of the fillings, drop spoonfuls of the squash filling on top of the first layer of cheesecake filling, and drop spoonfuls of the cheesecake filling on top of the layer of squash filling.
  10. Once both batters are completely in the pan, use a knife to swirl through the layers and then smooth down the top of the cheesecake to make sure the batter is even.
  11. Put the spring form pan into a larger pan, pour hot water in the pan until it’s about 1/3 to 1/2 way up the sides of the spring form pan.
  12. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the cheesecake is mostly firm and just jiggles a bit in the center.
  13. Turn off the heat, open the oven door and allow the cheesecake to cool for an hour and a half, before removing to the fridge to cool overnight.
  14. Before you are going to serve it, run a knife around the edges to loosen it. If you want to garnish it, to make it prettier, you can sprinkle ground cinnamon or decorate with dairy free whipped cream or do both as I did in the picture.

 

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Gluten Free Cornbread (to eat or for Stuffing)

“It just requires a bit of planning….”

I was chatting with friends this week about Thanksgiving and the fact that I am making Thanksgiving dinner for folks who are vegan in addition to the folks with all the food allergies in our family. As someone who enjoys hosting and creating menus, this fact doesn’t overwhelm me, but I realized as I chatted with a person in line at the grocery store yesterday, that for some, cooking for folks with food restrictions seems daunting.

I explained to the woman in line that it doesn’t have to be. It just requires a bit of planning. And with that in mind, I thought I’d take the initiative over the next couple of weeks to post some recipes and thoughts which might be helpful for folks who need to think about family members with food sensitivities.

As it happens, I promised my mother-in-law that I’d make cornbread for a gathering this weekend, and I thought it would be a good chance to talk about stuffing. Many folks believe Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without stuffing. I am inclined to agree. If you are wheat or gluten sensitive, though, traditional stuffing won’t work for you. The nice thing about today’s world, though, is that you can choose from a variety of ready-made whole grain gluten free breads which you can simply substitute for regular bread in any stuffing recipe.

If you’re looking for something a little different, though, cornbread stuffing is a nice addition to any Thanksgiving meal. If there are food allergies, though, it is not as easy to find cornbread “stuffing” bread which is gluten, dairy, nut, and egg free. There are certainly gluten free mixes which you can swap out vegan alternatives for the butter, eggs and milk the box will tell you add, but if you’re going to take the time to do that, you may as well make your own from scratch which won’t take you any longer to do.

The recipe below is one I created for making a vegan, gluten free cornbread. You can make it as bread to eat or turn into corn muffins. You can also turn them into cubes for using in stuffing recipes.

Vegan, Gluten Free Cornbread

Ingredients:

2 tbsp ground golden flax seed

6 tbsp hot water

1/4 cup agave (optional) or additional 1/4 cup cold water

3 tbsp vegan butter

2 tbsp agave

1 1/2 cup dairy free milk of choice (I usually use soy milk)

2 cups favorite whole grain gluten free flour blend

1 cup gluten free cornmeal

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp chives

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp other herb of choice (like rosemary, sage, marjoram, or a mixture of all three)

1/2 tsp ground onion powder

1 tbsp vinegar (white or apple cider)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare pan with parchment paper or favorite method of greasing the pan.**
  2. Mix the ground flax seed with the water and allow it to thicken. If you are used to “regular” cornbread, once the flax seed mixture has thickened add the agave. If you prefer a more savory cornbread, use water in place of the agave.
  3. Melt the vegan butter and add 2 tbsp of agave (regardless of whether you added the above 1/4 or not). Set aside.
  4. Measure out the milk and set aside.
  5. Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chives, thyme, herb choice, and onion powder.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, mix into the dry ingredients the flax seed mixture until you have a mixture which looks like coarse crumbs.
  7. Add the butter mixture, the milk and the vinegar and whisk together quickly just until incorporated and somewhat smooth.
  8. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes until puffed and golden and a finger pressed into the top reveals that the cornbread is firm to the touch.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

** If you’d prefer making cornbread muffins for Thanksgiving dinner, you can spoon the batter into greased muffin tins and bake until the muffins have puffed and are golden and firm to the touch. Usually the muffins will only need about 15 minutes, if using a traditional sized muffin tin.

To make cornbread crouton cubes for stuffing: To turn them into cubes for making stuffing from it, you simply cut the cooled cornbread into the size cubes you desire, lightly coat the cubes with a neutral tasting plant oil such as extra light olive oil, place the cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven until they have dried into a crouton-texture. Most recipes for croutons will tell you to use higher temps like 400 degrees. I prefer to use a lower temp of 250 degrees, and I shake or turn the cubes over a couple of times during the process. It’s up to you what you choose, but what’s important is to definitely check on them every ten minutes or so and pull them out as soon as they dry out. You don’t want to brown or burn them. Once you have the cornbread croutons, then you can substitute those into any of your favorite cornbread stuffing recipe.

Creative Cooking: Vegan Gluten Free Lasagna

“It’s what you choose….”

Last week, a woman starting walking across the space I was going to pull into at the grocery store parking lot. Having been raised to be both courteous and safe, I put my blinker on to let people behind me know what I was doing and then patiently waited for the woman to finish crossing. Just as she finished making her way across, a car came from the other direction and pulled into the spot, narrowly missing hitting the front fender of my car.  As you can imagine, I was a bit perturbed, but the spot was taken, and I chose to believe that maybe the gentleman hadn’t seen me waiting for the spot. After all, no good would come of doing anything other than moving on.

As I put my car into drive and started to move forward, though, I noticed that several of the folks who had witnessed what happened were shaking their heads at the driver in the other car and giving me sympathetic looks, which seemed to annoy the gentleman based upon the look he had on his face. One man who had apparently been walking to his car, pointed to me, to himself, and then to a car in the next row to my right, as if to say that I should follow him and take his spot. I smiled at him and waved, “Thank you,” but indicated that I had seen a spot which was already open in the row to my left and would be taking that.  He nodded at me, and we both continued on our paths.

We make decisions every day about how we are going to react to any given situation. Sometimes we act in manners which we may not want to admit in public to; other times we are proud of how we behaved. At times, life situations weight us down; at other times, we are able to rise above them.  When it comes to food allergies, it is easy, I think, to sometimes be upset about the foods we can’t eat or the ways restaurants may not be accommodating or how extended families may forget that we can’t eat certain foods or about recipes which simply don’t work.

I had dinner with friends the other night, and we talked about my constant reworking of a vegan, gluten free lasagna recipe. For years I have been trying to figure out how to make nondairy cheese crust up the way that mozzarella does on top of a lasagna. It was so disappointing to bite into a lasagna and not have that crispy, gooey top layer. Another friend had recently used the word “bulldog-ish” to describe me. I’d choose tenacious, but either way, my tenacity finally paid off, and my friends told me I should write a cookbook. Since I don’t want to write a cookbook but have this blog, I’m going to share my recipe with you instead.

Vegan, Gluten Free Lasagna

Ingredients:

Topping:

8 oz vegan mozzarella (I use the Daiya brand)

4 oz vegan parmesan (I use the Follow Your Heart brand)

4 oz nutritional yeast (I use the Bragg brand)

finely chopped onions to taste

finely mince garlic to taste

herbs to taste (I use basil, oregano, and thyme)

2 to 3 tsp extra light olive oil

Filling (Homemade Vegan Ricotta):

8 oz extra firm tofu

herbs and seasonings to taste (I use black pepper, basil and oregano)

minced garlic to taste

chopped onions to taste

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp white miso paste

1/2 to 1 cup vegan mozzarella (depends on how “cheesy” you want the filling; I use the Daiya brand)

2 tbsp to 1/4 cup vegan parmesan (depends on how “cheesy” you want the filling; I use the Follow Your Heart brand)

Tomato Sauce:

one eggplant, finely diced

two zucchini, finely diced

one small jar roasted red peppers, finely chopped (depending on the brand, 8 to 12 oz size)

minced garlic to taste

chopped onions to taste

black pepper to taste

herbs to taste (I usually use oregano, basil and marjoram)

14 oz can petite diced tomatoes

8 oz of your favorite chorizo style vegan sausage (I usually just buy whatever is on sale)

two jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce, reserving about a cup for the bottom of your lasagna pan (24 oz size jars will usually do)

Pasta:

1 to 2 boxes of your favorite gluten free no boil lasagna noodles (how much you use depends on the size of your pan and number of layers you make; I usually use the Barilla brand oven ready gluten free noodles because they’re flat and smaller, so much easier to layer and use)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Ready the topping by mixing the mozzarella, parmesan, nutritional yeast, onions, garlic and herbs together in a bowl. Add the olive oil and mix until all ingredients are sufficiently covered with the olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Ready the ricotta filling by pureeing in a blender or food processor the tofu, herbs and seasonings, garlic, onions, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and miso paste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the mozzarella and parmesan. Set aside.
  3. Ready the tomato sauce by sauteing the eggplant and zucchini with a little bit of olive oil over medium-low heat. Just as they are softening add the roasted red peppers, garlic, onion, black pepper, and herbs. Cook for a minute and add the diced tomatoes. Let the mixture cook for several minutes until the tomato juice has evaporated. Turn off the heat and add the chorizo and the spaghetti sauce (minus the cup you are reserving).
  4. Preheat your oven to the temperature your no boil noodle package says it needs.
  5. In a large, deep pan, spread the reserved spaghetti sauce to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Lay down one layer of noodles. Completely cover every inch of the noodles with some of your tomato sauce.
  6. Lay down another set of noodles, going in a different direction from the previous layer of noodles and again, completely cover the noodles with some of your tomato sauce.
  7. Carefully drop spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture all around on top of the sauce and then spread the ricotta filling to cover the noodles. (If your pan isn’t deep but large in width, use all the ricotta in this layer. If your pan is deep and small in width, use half here and do another layer of noodles, sauce and ricotta before moving on to the next step.)
  8.  Lay down another set of noodles, going in a different direction from the previous layer of noodles and again, completely cover the noodles with the rest of your tomato sauce. (If your pan isn’t deep but large in width, this will be your last layer of noodles. If your pan is deep and small in width, you may need to add another layer of noodles and sauce before moving on to the next step.)
  9. Sprinkle the mozzarella topping mixture over the top of the sauce to completely cover the noodles. Use all of the mixture.
  10. Cover the pan with two layers of aluminum foil. Be sure to spray or grease the first layer of foil before laying it down or your cheese will stick
  11. Bake the lasagna with the foil on for the time indicated on the pasta box. After the allotted time, regardless of what the box says, remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 10 to 20 minutes until the topping has bubbled up, browned and is crusty.
  12. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes before serving so it can set completely.
  13. Enjoy!