Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes (Gluten, Soy, Casein Free!!)

For a month I have been placed (willingly, I might add!) on a rebalancing diet which essentially means no wheat, cow's milk products, refined cane sugars, soy products, or yeasts.  This can be extremely tricky for the uninitiated - fortunately I have virtually been cooking this way for a year since my daughter India, and husband Greg, have also been on this diet and chosen to eat this way permanently because of how wonderful they felt afterwards.

I have my annual book club meeting tonight at the house of my girlfriend, Kathy (who is also on the same rebalancing diet!) and so, I decided to whip up these little treats for us to snack on!!!  They are really yummy and I obtained almost all of the ingredients at my local "Bulk Barn"!  The recipe comes from an amazing blog ~ gingerlemongirl which you should all check out!  As you can see from the photos, I made a dozen mini-cupcakes for the book club, and the others were for India and Devon as an after-school treat!!  This recipe will make a dozen regular sized cupcakes (there was one large and small cupcake that I didn't photograph as they are presently in my stomach!!!)

Cupcakes ~
1/3 cup brown rice flour 
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 cup sugar (I used coconut sugar)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, slightly beaten

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cupcake cups and dust pan lightly with sweet rice flour.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add milk, oil, vanilla, and beaten eggs. Whisk together until combined and pour into prepared cups.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Do not over bake as these can dry out quickly!!
  • Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.
 Frosting ~
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I used agave syrup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 - 4 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
Glaze ~
 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used Callebaut chips)
1 tbsp oil (grapeseed, coconut, or olive)
3 - 4 tbsp water

  • In a large bowl mix peanut butter with powdered sugar. Add vanilla and non-dairy milk. You can add more or less milk to create the consistency you prefer.
  • Spread peanut butter icing over completely cooled cupcakes.
  • In another bowl melt chocolate chips and oil over a pot of simmering water, until melted. Whisk in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get a drizzling chocolate sauce consistency. Drizzle glaze over frosted cupcakes.
  • Serve immediately or chill.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Almond Flour Pizza Crust (Gluten, Casein, Grains and Yeast Free!!!)

I have joined India and Greg in a rebalancing diet which excludes casein, wheat, refined sugar and yeast - this is a little tricky when it comes to one of my favourite foods - pizza.  Stumped, I decided to surf the web and found this fantastic website by "Ginger Lemon Girl" After reading this recipe I immediately went out and purchased "Bob's Red Mill" almond meal/flour and decided to treat us all to homemade pizza.  It was not only super-easy to create, but has a great texture and taste!!! YAY!  Pizza is back in my diet!!!
2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
 1 tsp each; dried oregano, garlic powder and dried basil
3/4 cup pureed white beans (I used white kidney but cannellini or navy beans are also good!)
3 eggs
3 tbsp EVOO 

  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a 12" round pizza pan or rectangular baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients together.  In a smaller bowl mix the last three ingredients.  Combine dry and wet ingredients.  The dough is wetter than the average pizza dough, but don't worry!
  • Using a spatula, gently spread the mixture over the pan to a thickness of 1/2" and place in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
  • Add your choice of toppings and bake for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, or until you toppings are cooked through or melted.
  • ENJOY!!!!

Saag Paneer (Indian Spinach with Homemade Cheese)


 This is a classic Northern Indian dish that consists of spinach and fresh, unripened cheese made by curdling whole milk to separate the curds from the whey.  You can find it in many stores,
but as with most things, I find homemade best!

2 bunches spinach, trimmed
2 tbsp vegetable (or coconut) oil
3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp finely grated fresh gingerroot
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (AKA coriander)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Pinch cinnamon
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup Balkan-style yogurt
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala
8 oz paneer, cubed
Saag Paneer!!!

  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch spinach until just wilted; drain.  Chill under cold water and drain again.  In a food processor, puree spinach with 1/4 cup water and set aside.
  • In a large deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat;  cook cumin seeds until slightly darkened (approx. 10 seconds).  Add onion and butter; saute until onion is golden (approx. 8 minutes).  
  • Reduce heat to medium; stir in garlic and ginger and saute for 1 minute.  Stir in fresh cilantro, cayenne, turmeric, ground coriander, salt and cinnamon.  Saute, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds before adding tomatoes.  Stir until tomatoes break down (approx. 3 minutes).
  • Stir in pureed spinach; cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding 1 to 2 tbsp water if mixture is getting too dry, until steaming hot (approx. 3 mins).
  • Stir in yogurt, lemon juice and garam masala; bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and add paneer.  Cover and cook until heated through (approx. 2 minutes)
  • Serve and ENJOY!
12 cups homogenized milk
1 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
  • In a large saucepan, bring milk to a boil; remove from heat.  Add lemon juice; stir until milk curdles and separates into spongy white chunks (curds) and greenish milky water (whey).  Stir in salt.
  • Pour into a double cheesecloth-lined stainer set over bowl.  Let stand until most of the liquid has drained off.  Fold cheesecloth over top; weigh down with a plate and full 28oz can.  Refrigerate for 8 hrs or up to 24 hrs.
  • Remove cheesecloth and use!
*I substituted goat's milk yogurt - it is thicker and my family who is lactose intolerant can eat it!  I also omitted the butter and used coconut milk for the saag recipe...the paneer recipe I followed to a "T".

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Easy Spanakopita

I tried looking this recipe up on my blog and was shocked that I hadn't posted it before now?!  During the spring when baby spinach is in season and is plentiful in our CSA boxes, I make this recipe a lot!  It's fast, easy and delicious.  Serve on its own, with a salad or as a side dish - you'll be amazed at how easy and economical it is!

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1lb baby spinach
1 large egg
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
10 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for approx. 8 minutes, or until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring constantly to prevent burning and sticking, for 1 minute.  Gradually add the spinach leaves and saute, stirring often, until wilted.  Transfer to a medium sized bowl and stir in egg, feta, herbs, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  • Lay 1 sheet phyllo on parchment lined rimmed baking sheet (cover remaining phyllo sheets with a damp teacloth as they will dry out really quickly!), and brush all over with the melted butter.  Repeat twice.  Spread spinach mixture in the centre and gently spread to within 1 1/2" of the edge of the pastry.  Top with 3 more buttered sheets.  Fold in sides to seal the spinach mixture in the pastry sheets.  Butter remaining 4 sheets and crumple gently like tissue paper, on top. 
  • Place in oven and bake until a golden brown (approx. 40 minutes)
  • ENJOY!  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Braised Sausage with Grapes and Balsamic-Glazed Onions

We all love sausages and I was intrigued by this recipe that I found in Fine Cooking magazine as it uses red grapes.  Unfortunately the package that I had in the fridge had only 5 sausages in it and the recipe called for 8, but it didn't matter!  Pair with garlic mashed potatoes, a salad or kale chips!!!

2 tbsp olive oil
8 links of sweet Italian sausage, pricked with a fork
1 lrg yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
20 seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • In a large 12" skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the sausages and cook, turning every few minutes until they are browned all over (approx. 8 minutes).  Transfer to a large plate.
  • Add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and the onion to the skillet with the salt, and saute until the onion softens completely and starts to turn light brown.  Add the chicken broth and balsamic vinegar and scrape the bottom of the skillet  to incorporate any browned bits.
  • Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Add the sausages and grapes, cover the skillet with the lid ajar, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sausages are cooked through (approx. 25 mins or cut one to check)
  • Serve sprinkled with oregano and ENJOY!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Better Than Take-Out Lemon Chicken!

In a quest to find something fast, easy and tasty to create for our busy Thursday nights, I found this recipe in amongst my pile of recipes torn from magazines.  Served with basmati rice and steamed broccoli, it makes a complete and VERY tasty meal!!!
  1 1/2 pounds chicken breast or chicken tenders, cut into chunks
1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour*
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Pinch ground ginger
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth or stock
8 ounces (1 cup) prepared lemon curd**
1/4 cup hot water
1 lemon, zested
2 green onions, thinly sliced

  • Coat the chicken cubes lightly in flour, seasoned with a little salt, the garlic powder and ginger. 
  • Heat a large skillet or a wok-shaped nonstick pan over high heat. Stir fry chicken until golden in the oils for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan and return pan to heat. Reduce heat to medium.
  • Add a splash of vinegar to the pan and let it evaporate. Add stock or broth to the pan and scrape up any drippings with a whisk. 
  • Thin curd by stirring in a little hot water. Add curd to broth and whisk to combine. 
  • Add chicken back to the pan and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken sauce and finish cooking chicken pieces through. 
  • Remove the pan from heat, add the green onions and zest, and toss chicken pieces well to combine zest and green onions evenly throughout the sauce. 

*Since we don't eat wheat flour, I dusted the chicken in brown rice flour which made them really crispy!
**Lemon curd can be found in the jam and jelly aisle in your local grocery store.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry

    This easy one-pot meal is perfect for using up any of those random vegetables in your crisper!  There are many ingredients, but don't let that deter you - the complex flavours created from using these spices and vegetables is delicious!!

    2 tbsp coconut oil, or olive oil
    1 large yellow onion, finely diced
    4 medium cloves garlic, minced
    1-2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
    1 tbsp ground coriander
    1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    3/4 tsp ground turmeric
    1/2 tsp cayenne
    1 tbsp tomato paste
    2 cups vegetable broth
    1 cup light coconut milk
    1-3" cinnamon stick
    Sea salt and black pepper
    1 small cauliflower, broken into florets
    1lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1" cubes
    2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
    2 lrg carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" thick rounds
    1can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    4 lightly packed cups of fresh baby spinach
    2 tbsp fresh lime juice
    1 tsp finely grated lime zest
    2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
    • In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until beginning to brown (2 to 4 minutes).  Reduce heat to medium and cook until the onion is richly browned (5 to 7 minutes more).  Add the garlic and ginger; cook stirring for 1 minute.
    • Add coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne; stir for 30 seconds to toast the spices.  Add the tomato paste and stir until well blended with the spices.
    • Add the broth, coconut milk, cinnamon stick, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
    • Add the cauliflower, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.  Discard the cinnamon stick.
    • Stir in the chickpeas, spinach, lime juice, and zest;  cook until the spinach has wilted (about 3 minutes).
    • Serve garnished with the cilantro and ENJOY!

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Mediterranean Squares

    I have had this recipe for 10 years and continue to enjoy it time and again!  My friend Sharon made this for lunch one day when our eldest children were babies and it soon became a staple for gatherings and our various lunches with Siobhan.  It is simple, consists of ingredients that you can find in your pantry and fridge, and takes no time at all to prepare.  The best is that it is just as tasty cut up into small bite-sized squares and eaten cold!
    1 medium onion, diced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tbsp olive oil
    Pinch of dried rosemary
    1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
    2 medium hot house tomatoes, sliced
    1 cup sliced mushrooms
    1 tsp dried basil 
    1/2 tsp oregano
    1/4 tsp black pepper
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
    1/4 cup cornmeal
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tbsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    1/3 cup cold shortening (or cold butter)
    3/4 cup milk
    • Preheat oven to 425F.  Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet by sprinkling with 2 tsp cornmeal.  Set aside.
    • In a small microwavable bowl, pour olive oil over the garlic and onions and microwave, uncovered at high for 1 minute, or until softened (*I generally place the ingredients in a small pan and saute till softened)
    • In a bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in shortening until it becomes coarse crumbs.  Add milk all at once and mix to make a soft, sticky dough.
    • Turn out onto a floured surface and knead approx. 10 times (avoid overworking the dough!)  Roll out to fit pan.
    • Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the crust.  Arrange tomatoes, mushrooms, and onion mixture on top of the cheese.  Sprinkle with basil, oregano, pepper and Parmesan.
    • Bake in bottom third of preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and crust is browned.  
    • Slide on to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes prior to cutting into squares.
    • ENJOY!
    **Since my family cannot really tolerate wheat and dairy, I use gluten free all-purpose flour, coconut oil instead of shortening or butter, almond milk, and goat's cheeses!

    Lentil and Chickpea Soup

    "Harira" is a traditional Ramadan soup that is easy to prepare, makes a large quantity and is substantial for supper after fasting all day.  I've made this often over the years and all of us enjoy the wonderful aroma and taste of this delicious soup!

    1 large bunch of fresh parsley and cilantro (coriander)
    8 cups vegetable stock
    1 cup green or brown dried lentils
    1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    2 cans (each 19oz) chopped tomatoes, drained
    2 onions, diced
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 tsp each ground cumin, ground ginger, turmeric and black pepper
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    2 tbsp EVOO
    • Chop 1/4 cup each of the cilantro and parsley; set aside.  Tie together remaining coriander and parsley and place in a large pot.  Add stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  Discard herb bundle.  Add lentils; cover and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.
    • Add chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, turmeric, and pepper.  Cover and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
    • In a food processor, blender or using an immersion blender, puree 3 cups of the soup.  Return to the pot and stir in the lemon juice, olive oil and reserved chopped herbs.
    • Serve in warmed bowls and ENJOY!