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March 2 is a big day at our house.

The girls have been asking all day if they can call Grammy. We’ll FaceTime with her soon. Today is her 52nd 32nd birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom.

Today would have been Dr. Seuss’ 109th birthday. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel, this great American writer, poet, and cartoonist penned 46 children’s books under various pen names, most notably Dr. Seuss. His love of meter and rhyme (and social commentary) has made is books favorites of many children, ours included. Thanks to Grandma and Papa, we have quite the collection of books by Dr. Seuss and Theo LeSieg. The girls love them. They are still to young to read them on their own, but they know entire pages by heart. As they “read” along with me I hope that they will always enjoy reading. (Though I still groan every time a little girl brings me Fox in Sox.) As my husband tweeted earlier today, “Celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday with my kids is not about honoring one man; it’s about teaching them the magic of reading.”

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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

2 cups white beans (cooked and cooled or canned)
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup coconut oil (liquified)
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine wet ingredients with beans and pulse in the food processor. Add dry ingredients and blend until combined. Portion into muffin tins. Bake at 325 for 22-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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Remember, “the more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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This week winter finally decided to visit Northeastern Oklahoma. Granted, a blizzard with ice and 14 inches of blowing snow isn’t really ideal, especially in a city not equipped to clear the roads. We did all the normal winter storm preparation: grocery shopping, winterproofing, menu planning. I decided that a big pot of daal would be the perfect step in our storm preparation.

Before you ask, daal or dahl or dal or dhal is a spicy Indian lentil dish. The spelling and some of the specific ingredients can vary by where regions as this dish is popular throughout the region in Nepal, Shi Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Daal is an excellent source of nutrition and protein, especially in a meatless diet.

Daal

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 carrot, diced
2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 cup red lentils
1 cup brown lentils
5 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rasins
3 tablespoons curry powder*
1 tablespoon cumin*
1 tablespoon turmeric*
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes*
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
salt to taste.

In a large pot, combine carrot, 1 tablespoon ginger, lentils, and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until lentils are tender.
In a separate skillet, heat sunflower oil over medium heat. Saute green onions, garlic, ginger, and raisins. Add curry, cumin, turmeric, and dried chili flakes and saute for about two minutes to allow spices to bloom.
Add tomatoes and coconut milk.
Add to pot of lentils and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Salt to taste and serve with brown basmati rice or naan.

*My curry powder has a lot of great flavor but not a lot of heat to it so I added additional spices. If your curry powder is hot you may not need these ingredients.

Snow and cold weather always make me want to bake. With a solid layer of sleet on the ground and the snow piling high and drifting in the front yard, this morning seemed the perfect time to settle in and bake something tasty for breakfast.

These muffins are hearty and healthy. As the recipe is, it is egg-free. If you use non-dairy yogurt and milk you could easily make these tasty muffins vegan.

Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Muffins
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup yogurt, plain low fat
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil, sunflower or vegetable oil
2 bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon flax meal
3 tablespoons water
1 cup oat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine oats, yogurt and milk in a bowl and allow to soak about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl combine flax meal and water and allow to sit 3 minutes.
Combine flours, salt, spices, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Whisk lightly to combine.
To the oat mixture, add brown sugar, mashed banana, and flax meal mixture. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the rolled oats mixture and mix well. Fill greased or lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes (10 minutes for mini muffins) in a 400 degree oven.

I love being able to stay at home with the girls, but some days are trying. Elie is normally very easy-going and happy, but cutting two molars will put anyone in a bad mood.

Audra is always a little bit more challenging. She’s brilliant. She’s strong-willed. She’s spirited. And she’s two. Sometimes this combination leads to beautiful moments and amazing discoveries. Other times it leads to screaming and crying and poop on the walls.

Today we had a mix of both. On the one hand it’s better than having a whole day of destructo-toddler, but it can emotionally be very challenging for mommy. All morning Audra used the potty and shared with her little sister. She ate well at lunch. She said she was sleepy and ready for a nap. Then she smeared poop all over the nursery walls and carpets while I was getting Elie settled down for a nap.

On a day like today, let’s just be honest, Mommy NEEDS chocolate.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Cookies:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup teff flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer, beat butter. Add sugar and cream together.
Add vanilla and egg. Continue mixing until creamy and smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (tapioca flour, teff flour, sorghum flour, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Whisk together to combine.
Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix. Dough will start out grainy, but will come together to form a dense cookie dough.
Roll the dough into teaspoon-sized balls and put on lined cookie sheet. Place a small piece of parchment paper on top of balls and press to 1/4 inch thick.
Bake cookies 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

Filling:
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together all ingredients until a fluffy frosting forms.
Smear on top of one cookie and place a second cookie on top to form sandwich.

When my younger daughter was born (about 15 months ago) our
wonderful friends at church brought meals so that I wouldn’t have
to cook. With a toddler running around the house, a c-section
incision to tend, and a newborn to nurse I couldn’t have asked for
a better gift in all the world. People brought lentils and rice,
fruit, bread, pasta dishes, soups, quiche, and other delightful
meals.

Our pastor’s wife brought baked oatmeal. Randall doesn’t
like oatmeal, so I had a whole pan of baked oatmeal to myself,
until Audra found me out. Evey morning I would have a bowl of baked
oatmeal with warm milk. It was perfect and filling but I could eat
and prepare it quickly and get back to the babies demanding my
attention.

The cold weather (and promise of snow) got me thinking
about baked oatmeal again. As we waited for the now to fall, Audra
and I got out all the ingredients for baked oatmeal. I created our
assembly line and she poured and mixed to her little heart’s
content until we got to our ever-important B ingredient. Around
here, B is for blueberries. Audra carefully counted the blueberries
as she added them to the baking dish, then ate one, then fed one to
sister, then added one to the baking dish. As I’m sure you can
imagine, not as many made it into the oatmeal as I had intended.

We had a wonderful time mixing and counting and baking and eating this
simple baked oatmeal based on my pastor’s wife’s recipe. I hope you
enjoy it as much as we did.

Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries

1 egg beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup agave syrup
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal (gluten free)
1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1 cup blueberries

Mix ingredients in a lightly greased 8-inch
square pan or 9-inch round pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and
turbinado sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

It seems that the organic bananas have been turning very quickly recently. I buy them when they’re still green and within a couple of days they are half brown, skipping the yellow stage entirely. Audra and Eleanor both love bananas, but they can’t eat them that quickly. Or rather, I won’t let them. When Audra was starting on solids I learned the hard way what too many bananas do to a baby.

Three over-ripe bananas have been sitting on the kitchen counter for several days. I have thought several times about making banana bread, but the recipe I have always used is wheat-based and full of loathsome gluten. On several occasions I have looked online for a gluten-free banana bread recipe, but my little girls seem to have been exceptionally demanding.

One of our friends is moving to Michigan next week and there is a going away party after church on Saturday. I found out yesterday that everyone is supposed to bring snack food. With renewed purpose and a deadline I set out to find a recipe.

Currently my favourite gluten-free cooking blog is “Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.” Shauna has wonderful recipes and stories. She also has a little girl about Audra’s age. On her blog is a recipe for a chocolate banana bread. Her recipe calls for yogurt. Since I make my own yogurt it is difficult to resist the urge to cook with it.

I adapted this recipe to make an amazing egg-less banana bread with a nearly cake-like consistency. For vegan banana bread try using a non-dairy yogurt (soy, coconut, etc).

Nearly Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread (egg-less)
  4 oz teff flour (about 1 cup)
  6.5 oz brown rice flour (about 1 cup)
  5.5 oz sugar (about 3/4 cup)
  6 tablespoons cocoa powder (high quality)
  1 teaspoon baking soda
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  3 overly ripe bananas (about 1 cup)
  1/2 cup applesauce
  1/3 cup light olive oil
  1/4 cup plain yogurt
  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease two small loaf pans.

Combine flours, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Use a fork to break up clumps in the cocoa powder. Use a whisk to incorporate dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl mash bananas. Add applesauce, oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Mix well.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients using a spatula. Batter will be lumpy. Do not over mix.

Portion batter into pans. Bake for about 45 minutes. When bread is done a toothpick inserted into the middle will come out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on rack to finish cooling.

Serve warm or completely cooled. Enjoy!

One of my favourite things to do in the morning is make pancakes with Audra.  I get out a all the ingredients, a big bowl, measuring cups, and two spoons.  While the pan is heating I help Audra to the table.  I measure out the ingredients.  Audra tells me what they are as she pours them into the bowl.  She’s great at mixing.  Mommy adds the eggs and makes sure everything is well-combined.  Then Audra climbs into her high chair to continue narrating while I cook.

Everyone in our house enjoys pancakes.  Daddy likes to eat them with butter and syrup.  Audra likes hers with “abutter” which is sometimes peanut butter, sometimes cashew butter, and sometimes almond butter.  She doesn’t really care what kind of butter it is, but it must be butter.  Eleanor and I usually have ours with fresh fruit or berry compote (which Audra also enjoys with her butter).

The leftovers go in the freezer.  Any time Audra wants a pancake (which is often), I just pop one in the toaster.  It works well for us…that is it did until I had to switch to a gluten-free diet.

It has been difficult finding gluten-free pancake recipes that the my whole family likes.  I’ve made several that I like and Randall doesn’t.  Others Randall and I both like but Audra and Eleanor don’t care for.

I spend a lot of time looking at recipes.  Thursday afternoon I was looking at cornbread and polenta recipes and was inspired.  So I got up early Friday morning to make blueberry corn meal pancakes.

For the best pancakes, make sure you get the finest ground corn meal/flour.  I chose to add the blueberries to each pancake individually.  This prevents the blueberries bleeding and turning your pancakes blue, and you can control how many blueberries are in each pancake.  I served ours with fresh honey butter.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes
  2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus more for pan
  1 1/2 cups cornmeal, finely ground
  3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  1 teaspoon salt
  2 eggs, lightly beaten
  2 to 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  1 pint blueberries

In a bowl combine cornmeal, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs, butter, and 2 cups of buttermilk.  The amount of buttermilk needed will depend on the the texture of the cornmeal.  Add more if needed until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter.

Ladle 1/4 cup of batter onto hot pan or griddle.  While the batter begins to cook add a few blueberries to the pancake.  When bubbles rise to the top of the batter flip gently.  Cook on second side until golden brown and firm.

Makes about 20 small pancakes.  Enjoy!

One of the first outings I went on with my husband was to P.F. Chang’s.  We had been at a coffee shop all afternoon.  He finally convinced me that I needed a study break, we got in his little red rally car, and headed across midtown in the snow.  He had Orange Peel Chicken, one of his favourites.

Several months later, when we were dating, I decided to try to copy their recipe and make Orange Peel Chicken at home.  It was good, and I modified the recipe several times.  I also gave myself several second-degree burns (let’s just say there are two reasons I don’t fry food).  I had taken what was a pretty good copy of P.F. Chang’s recipe and turned it into something that suited both of our tastes a little bit better.  Then we became vegetarians.

I modified the recipe a little bit more today to make it gluten-free and sugar-free.  Now I can’t imagine why it needed either to begin with.

Orange Peel Vegetable Stir-Fry
    Sauce:
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 onion, sliced
    2 green onions, sliced
    1 cup tomato sauce
    1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
    juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup)
    1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
    1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
    1 tablespoon corn starch

    Stir Fry:
    1 bell pepper, chopped
    1 carrot, julienned
    1 head broccoli, cut
    1/2 cup edamame
    1/2 cup mushroom, sliced
    peel from 1/4 orange, julienned

Prepare sauce by heating 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions.  Quickly add the tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water (before garlic browns).  Add orange juice, chili flakes, and soy sauce.  Combine corn starch with 1 tablespoon of water.  Slowly stir in to sauce.  Bring sauce to a boil and simmer until the sauce thickens.  Turn off heat.

In a wok heat 1 tablespoon oil.  Add mushrooms.  Cook until lightly browned on one side.  Add bell peppers and cook lightly.  Add carrots, broccoli, and edamame.  When everything is cooked through, add orange peel.  Cook for 20-30 seconds.  Add sauce to the pan and stir until heated and combined.

Serve over brown rice.

*I only put mushrooms on my husbands serving.  This dish would also be good with tofu, but my family does not like it.  Feel free to use whatever vegetables your family likes.  This is what I had on hand today.

As vegetarians, sometimes we have a hard time finding good places to eat when we’re out.  One of our favourite places to eat out is at Cosi.  My husband likes to go on Tuesdays when they have their Moroccan Lentil Soup.  He loves it.  For this reason I have spent several months trying to find a recipe for lentil soup that was similar to theirs.

I had little luck.  After hours of searching and four different recipes we found a soup that we liked in theory.  I made several small changes and came up with our version of Moroccan Lentil Soup.  It is different from what they have at Cosi, but we really like it.  So does our friend, Eddie.

Moroccan Lentil Soup
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T turmeric
2 T cumin
1 t red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, cut into shoestrings
2 potatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 c red lentils
1 c lentils
1/2 inch fresh ginger or 1 t ground ginger
4 c vegetable broth
4 c water
salt to taste

In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, onions, and bell peppers.  Cook until onions are soft, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the cumin and turmeric.  Stir occasionally and allow spices to “bloom.”   Add 2 c broth and 2 c water.  Stir in red pepper flakes and ginger.  Bring liquid to a boil.  Add potatoes, carrots, and red lentils.  Boil for 20-30 minutes, or until lentils are soft.  Stir occasionally.  Add tomato paste and remaining broth and bring to a boil.  Add lentils.  Boil for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt to taste.

Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream if desired.

Two notes:
  Allowing the spices to bloom is the key to the flavour of this wonderful soup.
  Add salt at the last minute.  Adding salt while the lentils are cooking can lead to tough lentils.

My G-ma was a great cook for most of her life. One summer she taught ma how to bake what everyone in our family called “G-ma Bread.” Though I have tried many times I have not been able to recreate her bread.

G-ma liked to take a recipe from a cook book and change it little by little until it was just the way she liked it. The problem: she never wrote her new recipes down. Not that you could recreate her exact dish if she had written it down. Her favourite measuring units were a pinch, a dash, and a dollop.

What are oven pancakes, you might ask. They are a crazy-looking bubbly pan of baked goodness. My recipe for oven pancakes is adapted from G-ma’s basic recipe for oven pancakes. (I usually make a half batch for our little family.)

Oven Pancakes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Melt butter in 9×13 pan.
Combine flours and milk. Add salt and nutmeg.
Beat the eggs lightly and blend into the mixture.
Carefully pour into pan with melted butter.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.

G-ma always made apricot syrup. My mom likes them with powdered sugar. Randall likes regular syrup. I prefer fresh berry compote. These hearty pancakes can stand up to anything you can dish out.

Enjoy.

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