Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reminders and Slow Cooker Sausage Bean "Stoup"

Ever have those days (okay, weeks even) where you can't remember a single thing? I've had many of those lately. The worst part is having to leave reminders to do something. For years we've had a system of leaving notes taped to the front door so we remember things on our way out. They've ranged from "lunch" to "crock pot". We've lately been using the same three over and over, so we've just kept the note and taped it to the backsplash when we didn't need it. The tape drives me nuts because it leaves a sticky residue on the door knob if you aren't careful. Enter the craft project!!

I'm pretty certain I had seen foam door knob hang tags, but I couldn't find them when I needed them, so I just bought regular foam paper and cut out hang tags. Then we decorated them with stickers. We learned the hard way that regular marker never dries on foam paper. You must use permanent markers.

The hang tags live in a kitchen drawer and when you need to remember something it gets hung on the door into the garage. In this case I taped a piece of paper to one to remind my husband to turn on the slow cooker before he left for work.

In the slow cooker was a recipe created by my friend, Karen. It's a great cold weather cross between a soup and a stew, or, stoup, as Rachael Ray calls them!

Slow Cooker Sausage Bean "Stoup"
I put this together the night before and put the insert in the refrigerator. My husband puts the insert in the slow cooker in the morning. The leftovers freeze quite well. It tastes better than it looks.

  • 1 c dried mixed beans (like a 9 bean soup mix)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 16 oz bag frozen chopped spinach
  • 4 sausages of choice, precooked, sliced 1/4" thick (I've used everything from italian to chicken and apple. Also feel free to leave this out if you're vegan, it will still be delicious!)
  • 1 qt stock of choice
  • 1 c squash puree, optional (I've been know to used canned pumpkin, but anything will work)
  • spices of choice (last time I used ground mustard, thyme, and parsley)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Put everything in the slow cooker and cook over low heat for 8 hours or more. (I usually cook it for 10 hours.)
  2. Serve by itself or over quinoa or another grain.

This recipe has been shared on Diet, Dessert and Dogs' Wellness Weekend, Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten Free Fridays, and Allergy Free Alaska's Whole Food Fridays.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Crazy Pantry and The Week Ahead... 2/25/2013

We were at a party on Friday night and we brought a cheese platter. Keeping in mind the name of my blog and the fact that I'm pretty food allergy aware, I had labeled all the various cheeses. Our friends made all sorts of comments about me being an engineer. Later, someone asked my husband about my pantry. So, I guess it's time for me to fess up... my pantry is insanely organized. All dry goods are stored in matching containers, complete with a label. Loose items, such as chips, nuts, and crackers, are in large bins grouped by GF or non and then type. Oils and vinegars are grouped on one side, canned goods, sorted by type, are on the other side. It's crazy, but it makes me happy!

Menu for the Week of February 25, 2013

Monday: trial casserole (I'm hoping to post the recipe soon)
  • prep chickpeas
Tuesday: Spanish Chickpeas and Sausage

Wednesday: Halloumi Quinoa

Thursday: soup from the freezer

Friday: baked chicken breasts, roasted potatoes, green beans (inspired by Megan's latest round-up)

Saturday: out

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Meatloaf... One name, but so many variations. Bread crumbs, egg, oatmeal, combination? Sauce or dry?

I have a theory that you only ever like your mom's meatloaf. Although, I have slowly converted my husband to prefer my meatloaf, so I guess change is possible. I still adore my mom's meat loaf. It's great the first night, or reheated for leftovers, or as a meatloaf sandwich.

Growing up we always had it with baked potatoes and spinach (frozen) because they all cooked in the oven at the same temperature for about the same time. (My mom truly is a domestic goddess!) I typically serve it with baked potatoes and a veggie. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have a weakness for canned green beans, so that's usually what I serve with it.

If you don't adore your mom's meatloaf recipe, go ahead and give my mom's version a whirl!

My Mom's Meatloaf
I typically prep this the night before so I just put it in the oven once I get home.
  • 1 lb ground meat (I use bison)
  • 1 c rolled oats or quinoa flakes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz tomato sauce (or 4 oz tomato sauce and 4 oz chili sauce)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a loaf pan.
  3. Mix everything together and put in loaf pan (I use my hands.)
  4. Bake for 1 hour.

This recipe was shared on Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten Free Fridays and Allergy Free Alaska's Whole Food Fridays.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Gardening and The Week Ahead... 2/8/2013

I just spent a lovely weekend in Colonial Williamsburg. We were planning on being in the area on Saturday for a birthday party, so we decided to make a long weekend of it and invite my mother as well. Although it was cold, we enjoyed ourselves.

I purchased a book on organic gardening in the 18th century and can't wait to read it. I had two tomato plants in the ground last summer, and two in pots. They did surprisingly well and I'd like to plant more vegetables this year. My son also enjoyed the plants. One of the potted grape tomatoes was so popular with him that hardly anyone else got to taste them; he would eat them right off the vine. He still talks about growing tomatoes!

The Colonial Garden in Williamsburg had lots of cabbages and turnips growing, many using cloches. They also had lots of plants getting started in straw-insulated hot boxes. Below are some pictures from the garden.

Menu for the Week of February 18, 2013

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Curried Spinach and Chickpeas with rice (sweet potato for me)

Wednesday: scrambled eggs with tomato and wilted spinach, tater tots

Thursday: hot dogs, baked beans, salad

Friday: no cooking - friends house for dinner!

Saturday: who knows?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Engineering Dessert: Nut Butterfingers

Reminder: Find my on Twitter (@EngDinner), Facebook (EngineeringDinner), and Pinterest (Engineering Dinner)

One of the best things about being an adult involved in Girl Scouts is that you meet some wonderful women! And, they span the decades in age and all bring various backgrounds and interests to the group. Amazing!

There's one woman in particular who is such a sweetheart and bleeds Girl Scout green! She used to volunteer as a Service Unit Manager, which is a person who oversees anywhere from 20 to 35 troops. She now is a paid Girl Scout employee. Anyway, we were at a meeting planning events for multiple service units and she brought the most amazing snack I had ever had (okay so I was pregnant at the time!) They were a peanut butter and oatmeal bar cookie base with chocolate and peanut butter on top. I immediately asked her for the recipe. The next time I saw her, not only did she have the recipe, but she had made a batch just for me! And, she was sharing a recipe that had been her mother's. The woman was probably around 60, so this is definitely a well-loved, tried-and-true recipe!

I've made them many times but have only dreamt about them since becoming gluten free. But in my desire to create another dessert for the blog I decided to try tackling them based on my current food philosophy. I was pretty close on the first try, the second try was even better, and now I'm declaring them just as amazing as the gluten-full, grain-full, refined-sugar-full, dairy-full version! (And, just for kicks, I omitted the egg.) I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Nut Butterfingers
The original recipe was called Peanut Butterfingers. My son is allergic to peanuts, and while he doesn't care for sweets, he does like to help me bake, so I use almond butter if he's helping. My husband actually prefers the almond version to the peanut version, but he's not a peanut butter and chocolate fiend. By the way, this makes a lovely half recipe in an 8"x8" pan.

Cookie Bar Base
  • 1/4 c Earth Balance
  • 1/2 c coconut palm sugar
  • 5 drops stevia (I used vanilla flavored)
  • 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 Tbsp boiling water, let sit for 15 minutes)
  • 1/3 c nut butter (I've tried almond and peanut so far)
  • 1/4 c applesauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (watch out for corn starch if avoiding grains!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c almond flour
  • 1/2 c chickpea flour
  • 1 c quinoa flakes

  • 6 oz chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar (can make your own using unrefined sugar)
  • 1/4 c nut butter
  • 2-4 Tbsp milk (I used almond)

  1. Preheat the over to 350°F. Grease a 13"x9" baking pan (I used glass.)
  2. In a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and stevia.
  3. Blend in the egg, nut butter, applesauce, salt, baking powder, and vanilla.
  4. Stir in the almond flour, chickpea flour, and quinoa flakes.
  5. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let stand for 5 minutes to melt.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, nut butter, and milk until smooth.
  8. Spread the melted chocolate chips evenly over cookie bar base.
  9. Drizzle the nut butter over the melted chocolate and pull a spatula through to mix the two toppings.

This recipe has been shared on Diet, Dessert and Dogs' Wellness Weekend, Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten Free Fridays, Allergy Free Alaska's Whole Food Fridays, and Simply Sugar and Gluten Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happiness, Kids, and The Week Ahead... 2/11/13

I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition on Friday (like I do every morning) and they did a piece about happiness and how many countries have adopted some measurement of happiness as one of their published statistics. The interviewer was speaking with an economist who's been tracking happiness for a number of years. Many economists and psychologists have kept data for so long that they believe they can gauge a person's happiness by knowing some personal information. The third bit of personal info requested was if the interviewer had children. She did, which according to one economist meant that she was unhappy, but the other said that was debatable. When they said parents were unhappy my husband responded, "That's because we're always tired!"

How true! I rarely go to bed before 11 and I'm up at 5:30. Lets admit it, that is just not enough sleep for anyone. One of the main reasons I'm up so late is because I spend a fair amount of time preparing food for the next day and making my lunch. I'm not the most efficient person when it comes to keeping on track and staying focused on a task later in the evening. After thinking about this for a while I've decided that I need to start doing more of what my nutritionist calls "convertibles", when you re-engineer a meal as a different meal later that week. This is my first attempt, and it's not very creative but hopefully I'll get better.

Last week I had also started pre-packing snacks for the week. If I know I'm going to have hummus and chips in my lunch every day, why not package them out at the beginning of the week and save myself some time?

Now to return to the happiness and kids thing... Raising children (or a child, in my case) is incredibly difficult but incredibly rewarding! Cliche, I know, but it is the truth. One of the things I read in a parenting book that has helped me the most is knowing that my child's job is test. Push and push until I finally set a boundary. Try it again, with maybe a slightly different twist, and see where the boundary is now. That's how children learn. It's trying, but at the end of the day when you get a huge, tight hug and a kiss it no longer matters!

May the week ahead be filled with happiness, children or not!

(Find that NPR report here)

Menu for the Week of February 11, 2013


  • prep chili

Monday: chili in the crockpot (didn't get to it last week)

  • prep broccoli and slaw dressing, cut and degunk squash

Tuesday: baked beans, roasted kabocha squash, broccoli and apple slaw

Wednesday: Cuban style beans from the freezer, and rice (sweet potato for me), avocado, tomato, cheese

  • prep cauliflower, degunk squash

Thursday: still trying to work up a recipe with acorn squash, cauliflower, and spinach (I had to do something different last week because the grocery store had neither acorn squash nor cauliflower)

Friday: leftover chili over baked potatoes

(Of course, I came home from my mom's tonight with leftover meatloaf and au gratin potatoes. I think it will mostly be used for lunches, but it may become a last minute substitute!)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gadgets... Pressure Cookers and The Week Ahead... 2/4/13

When I first changed my food philosophy to include a lot of beans I decided to switch to buying dry beans and cooking them myself instead of canned. I looked into pressure cookers at that time but didn't really see the benefit. Instead I bought a 3 quart sauce pan.

Then, I confess, I started watching QVC from time to time (my middle sister got me started), particularly the kitchen gadget shows. They kept having electric pressure cookers on and this caught my attention. One of the funnier lines was "this is not your mother's pressure cooker" meaning it was less likely to blow up, I think. I started thinking about pressure cookers again because I didn't really like watching the beans cook on the stove, but an electric pressure cooker was more set-it-and-forget-it.

Much research later and I purchased a 6 quart electric pressure cooker made by Cuisanart. Some people have problems with this model because it's high pressure is only 10 psi and I guess most are 15 psi, so cook times are longer than many recipes. However, it comes with an extensive recipe booklet and guide so I haven't run into any problems.

I have not cooked complete meals in it, but mainly use it for beans, beets, potatoes (for potato salad), squash for purees, and once for soup. I also cook rice and quinoa in it. I use it a fair amount (more than my husband expected me to, which is an ongoing joke for us regarding kitchen toys, uh, gadgets.)

So, does one need an electric pressure cooker? No, but it is nice to have. I do like the electric one because I set it and let it do its thing. I don't have to watch a gauge to get it up to pressure, nor do I have to maintain the pressure while cooking as you would with a stovetop model. I also have a gas range and I don't like to stray too far from the kitchen when it's on, but after a few uses of the pressure cooker I'll even leave the house while its running.

And, mine just beeped to let me know the beans for tomorrow night's dinner are done!

Menu for the Week of February 4, 2013

  • prep squash and white beans, clean kale
Monday: Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Bean Soup (using pressure cooker)
  • prep cauliflower, acorn squash, prep kidney beans
Tuesday: a little recipe I'm working up with acorn squash, cauliflower, spinach and who knows what else...
  • prep chili
Wednesday: chili in the crock pot

Thursday: leftovers
  • prep potatoes, meatballs
Friday: Kale Meatballs, Potato Salad

Saturday: ???? (too many potentials to plan, but if I'm cooking it's likely to be this)