Category Archives: Food

Creativity in the Kitchen

Living a life with food restrictions has been on of my greatest challenges, but it has also been great fun.  It has required not only stepping outside the box, but sometimes ripping that box to pieces.   I have learned to try things that just seem impossible, because they usually work — like flax seed “eggs” and chickpea brownies.

Major life changes, especially for health reasons can be overwhelming.  It’s not unusual to get stuck, afraid to move, feeling like food has suddenly become the enemy.  Bob and I spent the first 6 months of gluten free life eating a lot of stir fry.  We still love stir fry but I have become more adventurous in experimenting with new recipes.

Maybe your kitchen challenge isn’t related to allergies or other medical conditions.  Maybe you would just like to get your kids to eat more veggies.  This is a great reason to get creative in the kitchen.  Play with your food and have fun!

So, do I have a recipe?  This recipe is dairy free and naturally gluten free.  Adjusting to gluten free was easier for me than dairy free.  I do love my cheese and ice cream.  We are still working on cheese, but I gone way beyond plain “vanilla”  in creating my own dairy free, fruit based ice cream.  Bob calls it fruit cream.  This is one of my favorites

Carrot Cake Fruit Cream
 Carrot Cake Fruit Cream Copyright 2015 by R.A. Robbins
Carrot Cake Fruit Cream
Copyright 2015 by R.A. Robbins
Ingredients
  • 2 cups frozen mashed bananas
  • ½ cup coconut milk beverage (in the carton)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup finely grated carrots (about 1 small)
  • ¼ cup crushed pineapple (drained)
  • ⅛ cup finely chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Add bananas and coconut milk to blender container of a high-speed blender such as a Ninja or a Vita Mix. Pulse a few times then process on high until ingredients are well blended and look like ice cream. If your bananas are frozen very hard, you may have to stop a few times and scrape them down.
  2. Remove blade and stir in remaining ingredients. You may pour the ice cream into a bowl to do this if desired.
  3. The ice cream is now the consistency of soft serve. I suggest putting it in the freezer for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Want more recipes like this one?  Frozen Fun:  25 Dairy and Dairy Free Ice Cream Recipes is available at the Espirational Bookshelf.

A link to this blog post was added to:

Sugar and Spice Link Party

Egg Salad Without Eggs?

Copyright 2018 R.A. Robbins

I developed this recipe while looking for tasty, healthy snacks with protein . I use chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, but there are also recipes using tofu if you prefer. You may be familiar with hummus which is made from chickpeas and often used as a dip with raw veggies. Because I do not care for the flavor of tahini, an ingredient in hummus, I decided to go a different direction.

My first version of this recipe used mayonnaise or salad dressing, which contain eggs. I went on to use a dressing of olive oil, vinegar, prepared mustard and just a touch of lemon juice to brighten up the flavor a bit.  You could use Greek yogurt if you tolerate dairy.  The addition of chopped sweet pickles or sweet pickle relish also adds to the flavor.

The finished salad may be served over salad greens for a light lunch or as a sandwich. Adding a lettuce leaf and a tomato slice will add both color and flavor to your sandwich.

So how do you make that Eggless Egg Salad?

Ingredients:
2 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans) canned or cooked from dry
2 Tablespoons diced onion
2 Tablespoons pickle relish or diced sweet pickles if you have them
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or your favorite vinegar)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt substitute and pepper to taste

Directions:
Drain and rinse chickpeas.

Mash with a potato masher or fork leaving a few chunks of chickpea.

Add onion and pickle relish.

Combine mustard, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl or blender container. Mix together.

Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream. If you are making this by hand blend with a wire whisk while adding the olive oil. If using the blender, blend on low adding the oil through the smaller hole in the lid, do not remove the lid while blending.

Add the dressing to the chickpea mixture and stir together.

Season with salt substitute and pepper.

You may serve as is or chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Serves 4 to 6

This recipe has been shared with the following LInk Parties:

Sugar and Spice Link Party

Egg Substitutes

People avoid eggs for many different reasons. These may include food allergies, needing to cut down on cholesterol, being vegan and not eating animal products as well as concerns about salmonella. If you avoid eggs for any reason, there are alternatives available.

First you need to know what you want the egg to do.  Eggs serve various purposes in cooking. To be able to choose the right substitute you first need to know what purpose the egg serves in a particular recipe. The following are some of the ways eggs are used in cooking.

Eggs as a binder.  When an egg is used as a binder it becomes the “glue” that holds other ingredients together. An example of this is adding eggs to meatloaf. Eggs may also be used as a glue to make bread crumbs or flour stick to other foods as a coating for frying.

Eggs as a leavening agent. They help baked goods rise. If there is little or no other leavening such as baking powder or baking soda in a recipe then you know the eggs are being used for leavening.

Eggs for moisture. If a cake recipe calls for eggs, but little or no liquid such as water or milk the eggs are being used to provide moisture.

Eggs as the main ingredient. This is when eggs are the recipe, such as an omelet, Quiche or frittata.

Once you know what job you want the eggs to do in a recipe it is time to start thinking about substitutes.

Tofu is probably your best option if you want to make a dish where eggs are the main feature. To make Tofu Scramble used crumbled firm tofu. Remember tofu takes on other flavors so don’t be afraid of adding veggies and spices. Add a little turmeric or nutritional yeast for the yellow color of scrambled eggs. You may also use tofu to make an eggless egg salad, but I like to use chick peas for mine.

Ener-G Egg Replacer TM is a commercial product and is a powder that may be mixed with water or used dry depending on the recipe. It is used mostly for baking, but may be combined with buttermilk and cheese to make an omelet. Read the back of the package for directions and ideas for using this product.

Commercial egg substitute made from egg whites such as Egg Beaters® .  There are other brands on the market as well. These are made from eggs (usually egg whites) so are not suitable if you are allergic to eggs or are vegan. They may also be used for most of the things you would expect an egg to do in any recipe. I use them to make egg dishes, such as omelets, quiches and frittatas, but I use egg substitutes to lower fat and cholesterol content in my recipes, not because I am allergic.

Fruit Puree including applesauce, mashed bananas, pureed pumpkin or prunes may be used to replace eggs. Use 1/3 cup to replace each egg in recipes that use eggs primarily to add moisture.  If the eggs are used as leavening try ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder for each egg to give your baked goods a little more lift.

Flax seed meal makes a great egg substitute for baking.   Mix 1 Tablespoon flax seed meal which is ground flax seed, with 3 Tablespoons hot water for each egg you are substituting. You can buy flax seed meal or grind flax seed in a spice grinder. After adding the water let it sit until it becomes thick and about the consistency of egg whites. Most resources say to only use this for up to two eggs, but I have used it to replace up to four in my carrot cake with no problem. I use this to replace eggs in most of my baking without increasing the leaving and it works fine. Flax seed is also high in fiber and essential fatty acids giving baked goods a little nutritional boost as well. Don’t ask me how this works as an egg substitute. It took me a long time to even try this because I could not see how it could possibly work. You may also use chia seeds, but they are more expensive than flax.

Vinegar, yes plain old apple cider vinegar. Mix 1 Tablespoon with 1 teaspoon baking soda. If you have ever made a volcano for a science project you know it will foam up, so be prepared. This is what I use in my Easy Egg Free Chocolate Cake.

Cooking without eggs is not as scary of difficult as it may sound. It does require a little experimentation so don’t count on getting it right the first time. Remember one substitute will not necessarily work for all recipes. Give yourself time and permission to play and you will find the egg substitutes that work for you.

If you use egg substitutes, what is your favorite?

Tommorrow:  My Eggless Egg Salad Recipe


 

 

Pizza!

Greek Pizza
Copyright 2018 by R.A. Robbins

We went into town for pizza to celebrate Valentines Day.  The gluten free Greek pizza was not bad, but it wasn’t mine.  The one in town had a small commercial crust with toppings that could almost be seen.  I make my own crust and load on the toppings — no comparison.   Look good?  Want to make your own?

Genie’s Greek Pizza

Crust Ingredients:
2 3/4 c. all purpose gf flour (my flour blend is 3 parts sorghum flour, 2 parts potato or corn starch and 1 part brown rice flour)
1 T. sugar
1 package quick rise yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees, a few drops on your wrist should feel warm but not hot)
2 T. olive oil

Topping Ingredients:
1 teaspoon dried oregano
About ½ bunch of fresh spinach, cleaned and stems removed
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast baked and cut in bite sized pieces
1 small red onion sliced thin
1 can (14 ounce) artichoke hearts, drained
1 small can whole black olives, drained
6 ounces goat cheese crumbles

To Make Crust:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray pizza pan with pan spray.

Combine flour sugar and yeast in a bowl.

Add water and oil and stir to combine ingredients. This will form a dough, it will not be a batter.

Put dough in a 15 inch pizza pan sprayed with pan spray. With damp hands push the dough out to fill the pan. (I did not roll out the dough this time but may try that later.) Smooth the top of the dough.

I take one finger dipped in water and draw a slight indentation around the dough about 1/2 to 1 inch in from the outside of the dough. This will help form your crust.

Let dough rise in a warm place in the pan for 30 minutes. Don’t skip this step, it is important if you want a thicker, deep dish style crust. The dough should double.

Bake crust for 5 minutes.

Remove from oven.

Add Toppings and Bake:

Sprinkle oregano over crust.

Cover crust with a layer of spinach leaves.

Separate red onion rings and scatter over spinach.

Add chicken, artichoke hearts and black olives in that order.

Finally cover pizza with cheese crumbles.

Bake at 425 for 15-20 minute. If you have never used goat cheese before it does not “melt” like other cheeses.” You also do not want it to brown. When done the top will look much the same as when you put it in. Lift up a corner of the crust  — it should be lightly browned.

Cut pizza into slices and enjoy.

Did you miss the cooking video?

In case you missed it this is the video of me cooking sweet and sour chicken in my kitchen here at home.  If you see this on Sunday 1/21/2018 there is still time to get a free copy of The Gluten Free Good Life from the Kindle Store.

 

This was shared at the Sugar and Spice Link Party.  Check it out!

The Secret to Cooking Good Healthy Food

Last year a culinary instructor named Todd Mohr gave a free webinar on how to cook like a chef.  It was not what I expected.  Instead of talking about all the “secrets” and difficult recipes we think professional chefs know he talked about how home cooks make things too difficult.  The focus of his webinar was learning basic techniques, cooking methods and spices then using your own fresh ingredients to create original dishes.

My Rocky Beginnings

When Bob and I first started living gluten free I was scared to death.  There were already a number of foods we didn’t eat for health reasons and I was sure there would be nothing left to eat…  So I started with stir fry and kept working on figuring out all those difficult gluten free recipes and exotic ingredients.   I eventually began to convert my own recipes and realized it really wasn’t that difficult, but I kept collecting recipes trying to find new, different and perfect recipes that met our needs.

Already Heading in the Right Direction

When I heard what Chef Todd had to say I realized I was already heading in that direction.  I was already putting together my own ingredients to create new soups and salads. I rotisserie whole chickens and use the meat for various dishes and boil the bones to make stock. Then I realized I had my “magic mixture” which was usually black beans, onion, corn, salsa or canned tomatoes and chili spices and sometimes chicken.  This ends up on baked potatoes, gluten free pasta, spaghetti squash, salad greens and most recently with rice rolled into a gluten free wrap for burritos. Sometimes I add rice for the closest thing to a casserole I do now.  I like to make a big batch to have on hand.

The Gluten Free Wraps and a Discovery

The gluten free wraps were part of a prize package from Toufayan Bakeries which I won through a drawing at the Gluten Away Online Expo.  The first couple of days after the package arrived we enjoyed some wonderful deli style sandwich wraps.  I even made a special trip into town for good deli meat, goat cheese and condiments.

Then I started looking for different ideas and went to the Toufayan website where I found the recipe for Chicken and Black Bean Freezer Burritos. When I realized I already had the basics down all I needed to do was think a little outside the box and wrap the stuff up in a tortilla or other flat bread, I felt a little embarrassed. But this was an excellent illustration of Chef Todd’s point just a few days after listening to him.

When I made these I cut eat one in half and wrapped them in plastic wrap then put in a freezer bag.  I ended up with two bags of these. Quite a bit of work, but good to have on hand for a snack or meal emergency.

Burrito wrap w/ filling.
Copyright 2017

 

Burritos ready for freezer.
Copyright 2017

Do you Make Things too Difficult?

Home cooks do make things way too difficult. We try to impress people with our skills or some sort of secret recipe or knowledge that only we have. Add food restrictions such as wheat or dairy to the mix and things can really get crazy. It is easy to panic and wonder what on earth you are going to eat.

My suggestion.  

  • Focus on techniques. Review or learn basic cooking methods such as baking, roasting, steaming, sauteing, braising, grilling, stir frying, etc.  These I have mentioned can all be done gluten free and dairy free.
  •  Then bring in your own fresh ingredients and seasonings and mix and match to your hearts content.  You might also want to play around with sauces and toppings.

The benefit of cooking this way is that you get to choose your own ingredients.  I think this is the easiest way to cook for special diets.

All you have to do is get started. It is a different way of thinking about food and cooking than many of us are used to. Take that first step and get started. Don’t be afraid to play a little and get creative.  Things will get easier as you go along and you will eventually find yourself thinking, I really made this?  This is so good!

What is your secret to cooking good, healthy food?

It’s Time to Buy Cranberries

My Fresh Cranberry SauceCopyright 2011 by R.A. Robbins
My Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Copyright 2011 by R.A. Robbins

I know the holidays are over, but there may still be fresh cranberries available in your grocery store.   This is a good time to stock up.

Why Cranberries?

The price may be going down. In fact it may already have.  If you haven’t already picked up a bag or two or six this is a good time.  I have found cranberries priced as low as 2 for $1 after the holidays.  Cranberries freeze well.  You can just pop the unopened bag in the freezer of put it in a freezer bag.  They freeze well so you will have them on hand for later.

They are full of wonderful nutrients.  In addition to being fat-free, cholesterol free, gluten free, sodium free and a good source of vitamin C and fiber, they also contain antioxidants and may help prevent urinary tract infections.

There are so many ways to use fresh or frozen cranberries.  You can eat them raw, but they are very tart.  You can make cranberry sauce, and of course cranberry nut bread, but they may also be used in savory dishes and stews.  The great thing about cooking with fresh cranberries is you control the sugar.

Copyright 2011 by R.A Robbins
Copyright 2011 by R.A Robbins

My fresh cranberry sauce and pumpkin cranberry bread (with dried cranberries) recipes are in my new e-book, Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday, available in the Amazon Kindle Store.

Healthier Holiday Sweet Potatoes

Orange Spice Sweet Potatoes
Photo Copyright 2013 by R.A. Robbins

Who needs candied yams when there are so many other wonderful ways to prepare sweet potatoes?  Sweet potatoes are loaded with so many wonderful nutrients it seems a shame to load them up with refined sugar.

So here are a few of my favorite ways to serve sweet taters:

Simple Sweet Potato Soup is a great way to start the holiday meal.  Beginning a meal with a light soup makes you less likely to over eat and this just tastes good too.  The recipe is available in my e-book Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries are good any time, not just at the holidays.   Cut a sweet potato into wedges.  Coat with a little extra virgin olive oil and spices.  I like to use what I call “sweet and heat” with sweet potatoes which is cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  Go easy on the cayenne if you’re not used to it.  Bake at 400 degrees until they are browned on the outside and fork tender.  You will need to turn them over as they bake.

Baked Sweet Potatoes  are great plain, with a little butter, sprinkled with a little cinnamon, or I like salsa on mine.  Or you can get fancy and make them “twice baked” by scooping out the shell and mashing the pulp with a little milk or juice and putting it back in the shell.  Of course you can fancy it up with cheese, nuts, dried fruit — whatever, just try to keep it reasonably healthy.

Orange Spice Sweet Potatoes are my fancy version of mashed sweet potatoes.  The recipe is available in my e-book Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday.

 Sweet Potato Apple Bake begins with layering cooked, sliced sweet potatoes and cored, sliced apples in a baking dish.  Pour a mixture of 1/4 cup orange juice and 1 Tablespoon molasses over the top, Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake covered at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, until apples are tender. With the sweet taste of sweet potatoes, apples, orange juice and a hint of cinnamon, you won’t miss the marshmallows.

So go out there and enjoy your sweet potatoes, just be careful what other ingredients they associate with.  Don’t worry, they can still taste wonderful.

Please feel free to leave your ideas for healthier sweet potatoes in the comments below.

This post is linked to:

Sugar and Spice Link Party

 

Fun and Easy Ways to Shine Your Light: Did Somebody Say Cookies?

Copyright 2016 by R.A. Robbins
Copyright 2016 by R.A. Robbins

Yes, it’s National Cookie Day, just in time for the holidays.  Time to get started or at least start planning your holiday cookie baking.  Maybe even time to think about hosting a cookie exchange.

I love cookie exchanges because you can get as simple or fancy with this as you want.  The basics are that everyone brings a set number of cookies, the recipe and a container to bring their cookies home in.  The cookies are set out on the table and there is sampling, conversation and cookies to take home.

The cookie exchanges I have attended we each brought one dozen cookies and we took one dozen cookies.  I don’t know where the six dozen cookies that seems to be common now came from.  You could adjust the number to fit the number of participants if you wish.  You could also decide on 2 or 3 dozen cookies if you wish, which is an average size for a batch of cookies.  We also took enough copies of our recipe for everyone.  That’s the basics.  Now if you want to provide containers for guests to take their cookies home in or have a craft time and decorate boxes or provide decorative envelopes for people to put the recipes they collect in that is totally up to you.

What I like about this idea is that it can be customized for special dietary needs and would be great for a support group meeting.  You can invite all people who are gluten free, dairy free, vegan, allergic to nuts — whatever your need may be.

Try not to get too obsessed with the details.  The point of this is to hang out with friends, enjoy a few cookies and recipes, relax and most of all have fun!  Group activities are always good at the holidays.  You never know who may need a little bit of light in their lives.  You could be the one who brings it and not even know.

Now a few tips on planning a cookie exchange from My Recipes, The Cooking ChannelGood Housekeeping and Martha Stewart.

This article is linked to the Sugar and Spice Link Party.

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More information on gluten free holiday celebration ideas is available in the my holiday book, Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday.