Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Week Ahead... 11/25/12

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I know I did! It even snowed in Pittsburgh! And, now we move onto the next holiday...

Christmas! Lights and decorations are already up in the neighborhood. We purchased a new artificial tree today as our old one is too short for our "new" house (we moved almost 2 years ago.) We'll be decorating throughout the week as we are hosting a party next week.

One of my favorite events of the Christmas season is cookie baking day. My mom and my two sisters and I spend a day making cookies. We typically make about eight different varieties, even a gluten and dairy free one.

What are you looking forward to this Christmas season?

Menu for the Week of November 25, 2012

  • prep meatballs and portions of sauce
  • remove beets from freezer
Tuesday: Beet Salad

Wednesday: quinoa with stuff (likely spinach, adzuki beans, and apple)
  • prep shepherd's pie
  • prep sweet potato foil packet tacos

Saturday: ???

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Reflections and Cranberry Coffee Cake

Sometime in my teens Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. There's a certain emotional warmth that comes with Thanksgiving. The warmth of being together with people who love and care about you. The warmth that comes with a day where you come together just to be thankful. It's quite restorative, for me at least.

Thanksgiving is also special because it was my father's favorite holiday. He, too, loved that it was a low-key holiday where you were surrounded by loved ones. He passed away eight years ago, but he's always present in my mind on Thanksgiving Day.

My mom started a new "tradition" a few years ago where everyone at the dinner table shares one thing for which they're thankful; it's one of the highlights of the day for me. This year I'm thankful for my middle sister. She's had a rough year, but the way she's dealt with it all has been inspirational, especially the last few months.

The recipe below is another family tradition as my mom always made it for Thanksgiving breakfast. It was originally a Bisquick recipe, but a few years ago I didn't have any Bisquick but wanted coffee cake, so I engineered it into this version. Last year I substituted Living Without's Self-Rising Flour Blend for the all-purpose flour and it tasted exactly like it was supposed to!

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!

Cranberry Coffee Cake

  • 1-1/2 cups flour (I use Living Without's Self-Rising Flour Blend)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour 8”x8” pan.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and sugar.
  3. Cut in shortening.
  4. Blend in egg and milk. 
  5. Spread batter in pan.
  6. Mix brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter. Spoon cranberry sauce over top.
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Drizzle glaze over cake and serve warm. 
This recipe was shared on Diet, Dessert, and Dog's Wellness Weekend and Gluten Free Fridays.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Traveling and The Week Ahead... 11/19/12

We'll be traveling this week for Thanksgiving. Between a gluten- and cow-free person and a 2.5 year old, we bring a lot of our own food. We have a 4.5 hour drive to Pittsburgh, so we typically stop some place for lunch and it's easier to pack lunches. We also bring supplemental food for the rest of trip, just in case. Below is a list of the items we typically bring with us:

  • hummus
  • veggie straws
  • deli meat
  • individual fruit cups (mandarin oranges, peaches)
  • mozzarella cheese sticks
  • leftovers (probably 2-3 servings)
  • dried mango
  • individual cups of strawberry yogurt
  • cereal
  • Lara Bars & granola bars
I'll be bringing two pies for Thanksgiving Day, pumpkin and pecan. Both will be GF, per the method in my previous post. If you have difficulty finding the crust recipe, I've pinned it to my "Food - Dessert" Pinterest board. Unfortunately, my nutritionist recommended this past week that I try grain free (except quinoa) for a few months, so I won't be eating much of the traditional fare, including pie.

Menu for the Week of November 19, 2012

Monday: veggies over quinoa pasta

Tuesday: beet salad
  • prep slow cooker
Wednesday: slow cooker sausage, spinach, and beans over quinoa

Thursday: Thanksgiving yumminess

Friday: ??

Saturday: pizza

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Making Salads Fun, or How I Got My Spring (Rolls) On

There are very few women where I work as the construction industry is still a male-dominated field. We currently have two female engineers, and three women in the "front office" (admin, marketing, etc.) out of 22 employees. I was the lone female engineer for many years until recently.

Because there were so few women, we used to have "ladies' luncheons". For a while we did it once a month, and then it tapered off to just a few times a year. The person who spearheaded them, we'll call her AD, has left for new endeavors so I don't know if we'll have any more. We would always pick a theme and everyone would bring in a portion of the meal. When I went gluten and cow free every item conformed to my new eating plan (not a diet) and that was pretty awesome. We had a woman who was vegan for a while, so we did vegan luncheons a few times.

AD's mom is Vietnamese and so she grew up eating, and making, Vietnamese food. I had bought a package of spring roll wrappers, which I knew AD knew how to use, so we decided on spring rolls for the last ladies' luncheon we had. AD showed us the ropes for re-hydrating the wraps and filling and rolling them.

I enjoyed the spring rolls so much that I make them at home quite often. I do not make authentic spring rolls, but rather, something I call a "salad spring roll" which is basically whatever I have around, wrapped up. It's far more fun than plain salads!

Salad Spring Rolls
  • spring roll wrappers
  • rice vermicelli (authentic, according to AD) or bean threads (what I use because that's what my grocery store had)
  • greens of some sort, typically spinach
  • something sweet (mango, pear, apple), sliced in thin strips
  • something crunchy (cucumber, apple, red pepper), sliced in thin strips
  • shallow plate filled with water (I use a pie plate)
  • dipping sauce (optional) - I use this one, although salad dressing would also work!
  1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions and set aside.
  2. Dip the wrapper in the water so that it is wet. You don't want to put it in the water and saturate it. Let the excess water drip off and move it to your work surface. I like to use a wood cutting board. The wrapper will still be stiff, but will soften over the next minute.
  3. Once the wrapper starts to become pliable, pile the filling near one edge. By the time you've put your filling in, the wrapper should be completely pliable.
  4. Roll the edge over the filling. Then fold in the sides and continue to roll.
The filling for the spring rolls in these photos is spinach, pear, apple, red pepper, and bean threads.

This recipe was shared on Diet, Dessert, and Dog's Wellness WeekendGluten Free Fridays, Allergy Free Alaska's Whole Food Fridays, and The Daily Dietribe's 5-Ingredient Mondays.

Products I use
Re-hydrating the wrapper
Don't saturate!
Let the excess drip off
Filling and rolling
Pile filling near edge
Roll edge over filling, fold in sides
Continue rolling!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Week Ahead... 11/12/12

I'm watching Iron Chef and the challenge is leftover Thanksgiving. I just realized that this holiday is only two weeks away. Last year was my first time cooking Thanksgiving and I did a pretty good job. It was also my first gluten and dairy free Thanksgiving. In my family, the only gluten containing items are the gravy, stuffing, and pies. I used a GF all purpose flour in the gravy.

I made a small portion of stuffing for myself and it was delicious! My mom has always made her stuffing from leftover pieces of bread that she saves throughout the year, so that's what I did as well, it just happens to be all GF bread.

For the pecan pie (my favorite), I used my standard pie crust recipe with the high-protein flour mix from Living Without and Earth Balance. Since then I've realized that the pie crust method from Cook's Illustrated makes an awesome GF crust with that same high-protein flour mix. I used Healthy Top but will likely try the coconut cream this time around.

This year we will be with my in-law's. I haven't coordinated yet, but I'm thinking everything will work approximately the same as last year.

Menu for the Week of November 12, 2012
I have a late appointment on Wednesday, so leftovers will be easiest. My husband will be spending the weekend at Penn State for his annual boys weekend with his college roommates. I haven't decided what to do for the weekend, so I'll leave Saturday unplanned for now.

Monday: Kale Meatballs with potato salad

Tuesday: chard with dates, roasted brussels sprouts, rolls

Wednesday: leftover ham bean soup with corn bread

  • prep butternut squash

Thursday: Butternut Squash Pasta

Friday: hot dogs and baked beans

Saturday: ???????

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Man, am I beet, errrr, beat...

(I've added two gadgets to my blog. One is a "Follow by email", and another is a "Follow me on Pinterest". Both are located in the sidebar to the right.)

What a week it's been! Not many things have gone according to plan, including my bed time. I cannot wait for the weekend.

In my last post I promised that I would soon have a post NOT about squash. This is it! This recipe for beet salad is amazing and easy. It has become even easier now for me...

My husband did the grocery shopping a few weeks ago. The list said to buy 3-4 beets, and he did. But one of the beets was the largest beet I have ever seen! It was the size of 3-4 beets. (Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture.) Knowing that we would not eat that many beets before they went soft, I went ahead and cooked them all and tried freezing them. Much to my surprise, they defrost beautifully, which speeds up making this salad!

This recipe calls for pre-cooked beets. I've accomplished this a few ways over the years. Until recently, I usually steamed them in the microwave, per the method described in Joy of Cooking. Sometimes I'd just buy the steamed beets from the refrigerator section of Trader Joe's. Now I use my pressure cooker, which will likely be the subject of one of my kitchen gadget posts :-)

As an aside, my 2.5 year old son LOVES beet salad. He does not want a salad unless it has beets in it.

Beet Salad
Serves 4

  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2-3 cooked beets, sliced
  • 1-2 tomatoes, depending on size
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • spinach, fresh
  • fresh herbs (optional), my favorite are mint, chives, and basil
  • goat cheese (optional)
  • pumpkin seeds (optional)

  1. Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat. I use a little more oil than I normally would as this becomes the dressing.
  2. Once the onions are sauteed, add in the beets, tomato, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Cook on low until everything is warm, usually about 5 minutes.
  3. Serve beet mixture over spinach. Top with fresh herbs, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds.
This recipe was shared on Diet, Dessert, and Dog's Wellness Weekend, Gluten Free Fridays, and Allergy Free Alaska's Whole Food Fridays.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Week Ahead... 11/5/12

As I've mentioned before, I'm a Girl Scout leader. I have a troop of eight high school girls (seven 11th graders and one 10th grader.) I have two co-leaders, and none of us have girls in the troop. In fact, we're all in our early 30s, and two of us have young boys.

I had a wonderful weekend with my Girl Scout troop. My co-leader's mom has a house at Lake Anna, VA and she graciously let us stay there for a fun overnight! Mainly the girls got a chance to be girls. They talked, fished, drove the golf cart, made fires, ate s'mores, and talked some more.

We did work on our Sow What Journey, which explores food and the environment. We discussed making a hotbox to sow seeds in and then growing them in window gardens. We also had a "Chopped Challenge" which was basically like a team version of the show Chopped. I was blown away by their creativity and cooking skills. I have lots of notes and pictures, so I'll be blogging on that in the future, even though it wasn't gluten and diary free.

Menu for the Week of November 5, 2012
What's up this week, folks? ELECTION DAY (at least in the US)! That's right, I'm excited to exercise my responsibility to vote. I don't care who you vote for, I just hope you vote. Some people consider it a right, but I think it's my responsibility as a citizen. I will be voting after work, so we'll be eating leftovers that night.

Monday: Curried Spinach and Chickpeas with rice (it didn't get made last week)

Tuesday: leftovers
  • prep Wednesday meal

Wednesday: Kale Meatballs with potato salad

Thursday: scrambled eggs or leftovers

Friday: salad spring rolls with Trader Joe's frozen biryani

Saturday: Ham Bean Soup

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gadgets... "Degunking" Squash

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone. We were spared most of it in Northern Virginia, just a lot of rain and wind. We were fortunate enough to not lose our power, nor did we have any water in our basement. Our thoughts are with those who have not fared as well.

We spent two days inside the house, which was challenging at times with a 2.5 year old who loves to play outside. We made these bars, practiced trick-or-treating, built lots of Mega Blok tunnels, read books, ran trucks around the house, and watched Fireman Sam.

It was rather odd to wait out a hurricane at the end of October. I associate Fall with a lot of things, but hurricanes are not one of them. Fall is for leaves, raking, Halloween, apple cider, and, of course, squash.

I promise to someday post about something other squash... but not today. Today I'm sharing my favorite tool for cleaning the seeds out of squash, or degunking, as I like to call it.

HIC Serrated Grapefruit Spoon - Single Spoon
The Lowly Grapefruit Spoon

That's right folks, the lowly grapefruit spoon is a squash-lovers best friend. Otherwise relegated to one task during the winter months, the shape is perfect and the serrated edge helps to cut away the strands. It also works well for cleaning seeds out of melons, such as cantaloupe. Best of all, the price is right!

Happy degunking!