Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Greek Potato Salad

This winter has been long. Very long. It finally turned nice this week, and the kids wanted a cookout. Among the traditional cookout sides, potato salad has always been an issue with food allergies (see Red Skin Potato Salad), but I thought I had found a recipe that sounded good, and that was Daniel-friendly.  I also thought I remembered all the ingredients when we spontaneously decided to get cookout food.

I should know better than to trust my memory.  The recipe called for store-bought tzatziki sauce, which, aside from the fact that it cannot be found in town, I did not remember.  I did remember the cucumber.

So, potato salad with cucumbers. Okay, I can do that. Hm, sounds Greek to me!

For Red Skin Potato Salad, I used sour cream, but since then, I've discovered Greek yogurt. Toss is the kalamata olives in the fridge, some oregano, some olive oil, some white balsamic vinegar, and it becomes yummy.

Credit does have to go to Thomas, my taste-tester, for suggesting the addition of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For this, I prefer the white balsamic vinegar for it's lighter taste and color.

Greek Potato Salad

3 to 4 red-skinned potatoes, cubed
1/2 large cucumber, diced
1/2 cup pitted and quartered kalamata olives
1 carton (6 ounces) plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon oregano
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil (a good drizzle)
White balsamic vinegar (a good splash - maybe a couple of tablespoons)

Cook potatoes in water until tender, about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool while chopping the cucumber and olives. Mix cucumber, olives and potatoes in a large bowl. Add yogurt and gently fold to coat vegetables. Add oregano, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil and vinegar. Gently combine, but make sure it's mixed well.  Chill, if desired.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

This would be good with feta cheese, too, but I didn't happen to have any.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

When the lunch lady asks you for a recipe, you know you might have a winner.

Because of his food allergies, Daniel takes his lunch every day.  Often it is leftovers from the night before, especially if it was something that he ate well.  The lunch lady heats it up for him, and he eats with his classmates.  No big deal, he just has a different meal.  The cook is gone when I pick Daniel up, so she sometimes comments on the previous day's meal the next day.

The day after Daniel brought this dish, she said it looked and smelled really good.  She was tempted to try a bite, but that wouldn't be right.  We still had some leftover, and Daniel really liked it, so I sent it again the next day, and I sent a little bit for her to sample.  The next day, she asked me for the recipe.

Like most of my recipes, it's really pretty simple.  As I have reminded my budding chefs, often the simplest things are the best.  Or, as culinary grand dame Julia Child put it, "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients."

This recipe came from a gift of cooked spaghetti squash.  A gallon bag of it. That's a lot of spaghetti squash.

The first two meals of the week were tomato-based, and they were, sadly, flops. It happens.  We move on.  I was ready for something less tomatoey.  No marinara on spaghetti squash.  It would have taken a lot of marinara anyway.

I picked up a package of Italian sausage on the way home, and I just happened to have a carton of ricotta cheese in the fridge.  As you can see, this was largely improvisational, which is why I don't have more pictures.  I wasn't sure how it would turn out.

But it did.  And everyone, even the cook at school, pronounced it a keeper.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Sausage

1 to 2 spaghetti squash, cooked and flesh shredded (I actually not entirely sure how much spaghetti squash I had.  It was a gallon bag almost full, and the chef told me he had fixed two spaghetti squash.)
1 package (16 ounces) Italian sausage
1 carton (16 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the kind in the can is fine, although the real stuff will pack a better flavor punch)
1/8 cup dried basil (or fresh if you have it)
1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove sausage from casings and brown.  If you like, you can add garlic to it as well.  Come to think of it, I'm not sure why I didn't.  Break up the sausage into small pieces, more like cooked ground beef.

Combine spaghetti squash, cooked sausage, ricotta, Parmesan and basil in a very large bowl.  Mix well.

Pour the whole thing into a greased casserole dish. (I used a 9-inch square dish, but an 11x7-inch pan would probably have worked a little better; it was full to the top.)  Sprinkle with the Italian blend cheese.  Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, or until heated through.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hotel Fried Bananas

We've been traveling for the holidays.  I like to stay in hotels that have some cooking facilities, at least a microwave, because it's easier (and cheaper) than restaurants when traveling with food allergies.  The hotel we happen to be staying in at the moment has a very small kitchenette with two small burners.  It did come with pans and utensils, which made things a bit easier. 

The kids were clambering for dessert, but what can you do with no oven and allergies to wheat and eggs?  And I didn't want to buy a lot of ingredients, most of which I wouldn't use before we had to leave.

I did have two bananas left from the small bunch that I got when getting groceries for the stay.  Hm, skillet, bananas...  Ding, ding ding!  Inspiration.  Fried bananas.

I took a little help from breakfast, with a couple of pats of butter, a bit of brown sugar and a few walnuts.

This really is pretty simple. First melt the butter.

Then slice the bananas into the pan.  The great thing about bananas is that they are soft enough to cut with a butter knife.

Cook the bananas until they're softened and warmed, then add the brown sugar and walnuts and stir until the brown sugar is melted and the bananas are glazed. 

Note:  If you happen to be cooking this in a hotel and use brown sugar from breakfast, don't keep it in the fridge; it loses moisture and clumps.  Ask me how I know.

Finally, plate them and top with whipped cream.

Don't leave the whipped cream out where kids can help themselves. Otherwise you might end up with a plate of fried bananas like this:

Would you like a little fried banana with your whipped cream?

Hotel Fried Bananas

2 large bananas
2 tablespoons butter (or 2 pats)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (more or less)
A few chopped walnuts
Whipped cream

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Slice bananas into saucepan.  Sauté until the bananas start to soften and caramelize.  Add brown sugar and walnuts.  Gently fold until bananas are glazed with brown sugar.  Divide among four small dessert plates, and top with whipped cream.

This would also be good with coconut oil and toasted coconut (which would also make it vegan).  It would also be good over ice cream or non-dairy frozen dessert.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chicken Thighs with Creamy Dill Pan Sauce

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a flavorful alternative to chicken breasts.  They don't need much to make them taste delicious, and this simple, low-fat pan sauce adds a touch of elegance. Because it's so simple, fresh herbs are absolutely necessary.  Dried herbs just won't have the same flavor punch.

Chicken Thighs with Creamy Dill Pan Sauce

Servings:  4 to 6

6 to 8  boneless skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half
1 tablespoon fat-free sour cream

 Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray (I use an oil mister from Pampered Chef).  Add chicken thighs and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  You could also use a salt-free seasoning blend.  Cook chicken on both sides until almost done.  The last one or two minutes, add the fresh dill and turn chicken over.  Remove chicken to serving plates.  Add half-and-half to pan and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom.  Add the sour cream and stir until melted.  Let pan sauce simmer until thickened slightly.  Spoon over chicken and serve.

I served this with a basic risotto with dill as well.  Both were a hit with my kids.  Even my picky almost-4-year-old cleaned his plate (he calls it a happy plate).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chocolate Banana Shake

Several weeks ago, I was faced with bananas that were really ripe.  I was going to be out of town for the weekend, and they would have gone bad before I could make banana bread.  To preserve my precious organic bananas, I mashed them up and froze them in ice cube trays, with some vague idea that I might use them to make banana bread in the future.

Fast forward a few weeks.  It has been hot here, and, being on the river, it has been humid.  Talk about uncomfortable!  All things ice cream and frozen have sounded really good.  On a whim, I decied to use the banana cubes.  One of my favorite shake flavors is chocolate-banana, so I decided to make a chocolate shake.
Does this not look delicious?

Oh, my goodness!  It turned out to be one of the best shakes I've ever had, and ridiculously easy to make.  I haven't introduced it to the kids yet, because I know if I do, I'll be making shakes nonstop.  Making it with frozen puréed banana means you don't end up with the unblended ice chunks that bother the oldest boy so much.

As usual, some notes on ingredients.  This can be made free of most allergens.  Use your favorite non-dairy milk.  Silk makes a dark chocolate almond milk that would be heavenly in this.  In that case, omit the chocolate syrup.  It could also be made using cocoa powder, but you might need to add sweetener of some sort.

Chocolate Banana Shake

Servings: 1
Three simple ingredients...

6 frozen banana cubes
1 cup milk or non-dairy milk of choice
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  I used my Magic Bullet, using the handled cup container. 

Blend until banana cubes are mostly broken up.  Unlike ice cubes, banana cubes are soft, so if a few chunks are left, it's okay.  Enjoy immediately.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lemonade Beets

My kids look forward to going to the Farmer's Market every weekend.  They ooh and aah over all the locally-grown produce.  Often they ask to get some of the vegetables.  Last weekend, one of the stands had baskets of lovely baby beets.  You guessed it: they asked for beets.  I have unusual children; I freely recognize this. 

Growing up, I never liked beets, because all I ever had was the insidious beets from a can.  I distinctly remember at least one time when I sat at the table for more than an hour because I wouldn't eat a single bite of beet.  It wasn't until I was grown and my kids were old enough to start asking for vegetables that I had the courage to try beets again.  I pulled out my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and fixed them with an orange glaze.  I was hooked (and so were my kids).  They were actually good!

back to the beets we got from the Farmer's Market.  I opened the fridge to fix the Orange-Glazed Beets and discovered that we were out of orange juice.  We did, however, have lemonade that the oldest son had bought.  Inspiration struck, and Lemonade Beets were born.

Lemonade Beets    

1 pound fresh beets
1 tablespoon margarine
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
1/4 cup lemonade

Trim stems from beets to 1 inch. Scrub and put in a microwave-safe casserole dish. Add a splash of water. Microwave on High (100% power) for 9 minutes, or until crisp-tender.

Meanwhile, melt margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in lemon peel and lemonade. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened.

When beets have cooled enough to handle, slip skins off and slice into lemonade glaze. Gently toss to coat beet slices. Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Vegan Blackberry Muffins

I know, it's Fall. I should be baking with apples, and spices, and pumpkin. But the truth is, I still long for a little taste of summer. And when blackberries went on sale several weeks ago (probably for the last time this season), I had to jump on it.

It also happened to coincide with the older boys' Cub Scout campout. It was great fun, and all the food was provided--as I knew it would be. But, aside from the fruit, breakfast was off-limits to the youngest son--as I suspected it would be.

Da-da-da-DA! Supermom to the rescue! In retrospect, there were probably less messy muffins to make for an almost-two-year-old, muffins with apples or pumpkin. But they wouldn't have been one last, yummy bite of summer.

Vegan Blackberry Muffins

1 ¾ cup GF all-purpose flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons rice milk
1 cup rice milk
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup blackberries (roughly chop or leave whole)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients together. I prefer to use a whisk, because the GF flour I use has a tendency to clump with a spoon. Make a well in the center and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, mix Egg Replacer with 2 tablespoons rice milk; beat with a fork until combined. Add remaining rice milk and canola oil and whisk with fork until well combined.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. (Baking 101: Overmixing makes tough muffins. Tough muffins are worse than tough cookies.) Gently fold in blackberries--and I stress gently, otherwise you end up with purple muffins.

Fill muffin cups or liners ¾ full. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, or until done and lightly browned on top. Let cool in pan for a few minutes, then finish on a wire rack, if you can wait that long. Or serve warm with vegan buttery spread. Mmm.