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.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fruit Sauce

A confession: This is so ridiculously easy it's almost embarassing to call it a recipe.

It came about as an accident. One of our frequent Saturday morning breakfasts is wheat-free, egg-free pancakes, usually using one of the recipes from Cybele Pascal's first book. One of our favorites is Peach Pancakes. The easy way is to use drained, canned diced peaches. Only we didn't have diced peaches this particular morning, only peach slices. Daniel was also pulling on my leg and making it very clearly known that he was hungry and he wanted his pancakes NOW! Rather than take the time to chop up the peach slices, I decided to try chopping them in my Magic Bullet.

Now, I love my Magic Bullet, and I use it quite frequently. It makes decent oat flour in a pinch, and really mixes my homemade hot chocolate mix very well. It does not, however, chop canned peach slices very well. It puréed them very quickly.

Being a thrifty allergy-free mama, I didn't really want to pitch it, so I decided to make the best of it and turn it into a warm fruit sauce for the pancakes. The older boys loved it. (Daniel, not being adept with a spoon yet, did not get any, so I cannot report what a toddler would make of it.)

Fruit Sauce

1 can fruit (I used peaches, but I think just about any fruit would work)
Sugar to taste
Spices, optional

Drain fruit, reserving juice. Purée fruit. As I said earlier, the Magic Bullet works very well for this, but any blender would work. Pour fruit purée into a saucepan, add the reserved juice, sugar to taste and any spices you think would go well with it. Heat through and serve over pancakes, waffles, or even ice cream.

Fruit/Spice Suggestions: Peach/ginger, peach/cinnamon, pear/ginger, pear/nutmeg, pear/cardamom, apple/cinnamon

Friday, April 8, 2011

Red Skin Potato Salad

Spring is finally coming to our corner of the world, and we've had some very warm days already. Thomas, my oldest son, was clambering for a cook-out (which really means Mommy grills on the grill). Part of the traditional picnic fare includes potato salad, and Thomas and Josh's favorite is red skin potato salad. Unfortunately it's made with mayonnaise, which contains eggs, which Daniel cannot have. So, to go along with the hot dogs (wheat-free, of course) and bunless burgers, I decided to experiment with potato salad.

While egg-free mayonnaise is available, I'm not a big fan. I think it tastes funny and doesn't quite have the right consistency. It's too gelatinous and not creamy enough. For the creamy base for this potato salad, I turned instead to sour cream. That, however, proved to be too thick, so I added a little milk to thin it to the perfect consistency.

Red-Skin Potato Salad

3-4 medium red-skinned potatoes, cubed
3 tablespoons sour cream
Milk, to get the desired consistency
1 teaspoon dried dill weed (I'm sure fresh dill would have packed a better flavor punch, but you work with what you've got.)
Splash lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, put in serving bowl and toss with the dressing. Chill for 30 minutes or so to let flavors meld, if you can wait that long. Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate-Banana Oatmeal

Breakfast in our house is usually a grab-and-go affair. The two older boys get breakfast at school, and the baby gets breakfast at daycare. That leaves me to fend for my breakfast self. Mornings are crazy anyway, what with getting three kids around and out the door on time. I rarely have time to sit down and eat a leisurely breakfast. Most of the time, I end up taking it with me. It would be easy to subsist on Pop-Tarts and granola bars, but those don't actually fill me up, not to mention the fact that they're nutrition nightmares. The most common alternative for me is oatmeal.

Now, I don't go for those little bitty packets. Again, not enough there, loaded with sugar, and, well, not a wide variety of flavors. Homemade oatmeal, on the other hand, is only limited by what is in the pantry. Usually I go for some sort of dried fruit, maybe some nuts for protein, and a little brown sugar for sweetening.

Recently I came across an article in one of my magazines with brief recipes from their latest diet plan, including several breakfast recipes. One of them was for Pear-Ginger-Chocolate Smoothie (which was yummy, BTW). That got me thinking. If I could have chocolate in a breakfast smoothie, why not chocolate in my oatmeal?

Chocolate for breakfast? Sure, why not! By using dark chocolate, it actually gives you a dose of anti-oxidants. Add in banana, and it's like a banana split in oatmeal form!

A note on oats: oats are not necessarily gluten-free. Some gluten-sensitive people react to oats, some do not. If you are gluten-free due to celiac, you might want to steer clear of oatmeal, especially regular grocery-store oatmeal. If you are gluten-free due to a wheat allergy, you might want to take into account that regular grocery-store oatmeal may be cross-contaminated with wheat. I feel comfortable using regular oats, as I am the one eating them, rather than my wheat-allergic son. Bob's Red Mill does make gluten-free oats, but I have heard of people reacting to that as well.

Chocolate-Banana Oatmeal

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup water
1 very ripe banana, broken into chunks
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (this could be made vegan if you use dairy-free chocolate chips)

Put all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Allow plenty of room for the water to boil up during cooking. I use a 1-quart Corel casserole, one of the deep, square ones. Otherwise, you might end up cleaning your microwave. Microwave on High for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Stir and enjoy. No need for extra sugar or sweetener. Makes 1 serving.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spaghetti Squash with Mini Meatballs

One of my youngest son's staple meats has been meatballs. However, this past week, he has decided that he is tired of them and has, of course, refused to eat them, to the point of throwing them off his high chair (he's 14 months). When the two older boys actually agreed on spaghetti and meatballs one night, it gave me an idea on how to mix up the youngest's meatball strike.

Although there are good gluten-free, egg-free spaghettis out there, they are more expensive and are not readily available in our small-town grocery stores. My favorite alternative is spaghetti squash. For well under a dollar a pound and packed with nutrition, they are a deal. Eating healthy is only expensive if you're eating a lot of meat or if you're relying on "healthy" processed foods. Fruits, veggies and beans/legumes are a better value nutrition-wise--and frequently budget-wise--than a box dinner "made with whole grain". But that's another soap box for another time.

I like to make my spaghetti sauce from scratch, eliminating preservatives and hidden ingredients. The timing of this recipe had me feeling like Iron Chef, with everything timed just right, and no wasted time. I was wishing I had my own sous-chef!

Spaghetti Squash with Mini Meatballs

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 pound gluten-free Italian sausages, casings removed
8 ounces tomato sauce
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut squash in half. This is easier said than done. I wish I could share an easy secret for cutting a squash in half without a struggle. Unfortunately, I have not learned that secret. My best guess involves either a chain saw or a machete. Place squash cut sides down on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

As soon as the squash is in the oven, put the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes in a medium saucepan over low heat.

While the squash is baking and the tomatoes are warming, form the Italian sausage into small meatballs, maybe 1-inch in diameter. No other ingredients, just the yummy goodness of the sausage. I did one sausage link at a time, as that seemed to be a nice fit in my skillet, and I could roll up the next sausage while the first one was browning.

Place the meatballs in a skillet that has been heated over medium heat. Brown the first side for a minute or two (this helps them stay together better instead of ending up as crumbles), then sauté them until they are cooked through. Remove and keep warm. Repeat with remaining sausages until done. Add the sausages to the tomato sauce and bring heat up to medium-low. (I used two sausages worth for the sauce, and set the rest aside for my son's meals later.)

At this point, the squash is probably ready to come out of the oven. Set it aside to cool a bit so you can handle it, and continue with the sauce.

You probably ended up with drippings from the sausage. You're probably inclined to drain it off. Not so fast. This is where the flavor is going to come from. Add the onions and garlic to the drippings and sauté until the onions are tender. Add them to the sauce along with the Italian seasoning. Let the flavors meld and get happy while you tend to the squash.

Although it will have cooled some, you still may want to use hotpads. Shred the "meat" of the squash into spaghetti-like strands using a fork. It's really pretty easy!

Serve sauce over spaghetti squash, making sure each plate gets some of the meatballs, and top with Parmesan cheese if desired and/or allowed. Makes 4 servings.