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.

Nearly two years ago our little family became vegetarian.  In the beginning it was rather challenging.  I could cook without meat, that wasn’t a problem.  It just seemed that we had the same four or five meals all the time.  Slowly I became more comfortable and confident cooking a wider variety of foods.  We added new grains to our diet, like quinoa and barley.  I learned to cook new vegetables.  It has been a great adventure.

Since my first pregnancy I have had some recurring health problems.  I’ve tried to control it with medication, but that has only helped a little.  After much research, I decided that I need to switch to a gluten-free, sugar-free diet.  I also have to avoid mushrooms and yeasts.

I don’t think the switch to gluten-free will be that difficult.  A part of me is actually looking forward to figuring out how to bake with 20 different flours at once.  Not having any sugar (including honey or agave) is going to be hard.  It looks like my only option as far as sweeteners go is stevia.  I haven’t tried any yet.  I think my real challenge is going to be giving up yummy, yeasty breads.

Right now, the rest of the family isn’t planning on joining me with all of this dietary change.  Hopefully this will all be worth it and I’ll consistently feel better.

My older daughter just turned two-years-old. Two of her favourite things are expressing herself artisticly and peanut butter.

We have tried homemade salt playdough on several occasions. Most times she plays for a few moments and then starts eating it. I don’t know how she can stand it. It doesn’t taste good. Today we made all-natural peanut butter playdough.

Using natural peanut butter (with nothing but peanuts) requires the addition of more honey than usual. This type of peanut butter also requires refrigeration, and thus it works best to chill the dough for a little while before letting your little one play with the dough.

Peanut Butter Playdough
   1 cup all-natural peanut butter
   4 tablespoons honey
   1/2 cup evaporated non-fat milk
   (more or less depending on peanut butter used)
Combine peanut butter and honey. Mix until consistency is smooth and creamy. Add dry milk slowly and mix with your hands until dough reaches desired consistency. Chill 5 minutes. Store extra playdough in the refrigerator.

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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.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

In the beginning I was pretty good about updating with recipes, but I have not posted in some time.  I’m sorry to my one follow.

As the mother of two beautiful little girls, sometimes I find it fix new recipes as often as I would like.  Experimenting with new recipes is especially difficult with some of Audra’s recent eating habits.  Sometimes she eats extremely well, and then she goes through a stretch of a couple weeks where anything new ends up on the floor.  All she wants is macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, and pancakes.  Other times I get so busy with finding fun activities for the girls (or just keeping up with them) that I don’t have the time to play around in the kitchen.

Most of my time is spent finding and creating fun activities to do with the girls.  We are big proponents of attachment parenting and keeping our home as natural as possible for the girls.  This is something that I feel very strongly about, so I have decided to share some of this with you on my blog.

Welcome to the new  blog.  It will now be a combination of natural parenting and natural vegetarian cooking.  I hope all of you mommys and daddys out there enjoy.

Today I had the pleasure of hosting a baby shower for a friend of mine.  She is expecting her second little one and is VERY ready to have her little girl out of her belly and into her arms.  I know she is tired and ready to no longer be pregnant, but she looked beautiful and radiant (and round).

It’s so much fun to host things at our new house.  I love having the chance to cook for lots of people in my wonderful, big kitchen.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just cook and bake and enjoy myself in the kitchen and the dishes would magically wash themselves.

When I was pregnant there were two sweet things that I always craved.  Chocolate and Lemons.  Really, when cooking for any large group of women can one really go wrong with chocolate?

I made brownies and lemon bars.  The brownies are based on a recipe I found about a month ago.  I’ve experimented with it a little bit and think that what I’ve come up with is a wonderfully rich brownie that strikes a good balance between the richness of a fudge brownie and the flavor of a cake brownie.  These brownies have a light flaky crust and a rich chewy center.  When making these brownies be sure to use a good natural or Dutch-processed cocoa.  My favorite is Green & Black’s.

Today was my first attempt at this particular lemon bar recipe.  I adjusted a few things from the recipe while I was cooking.  After making them I have adjusted the recipe a little bit to make them a wee bit more tart.  These lemon bars have a hearty, crunchy crust, a smooth, custardy middle, and a crispy, flaky top.  I was very pleased.

I hope you enjoy trying these recipes and making them your own.

Brownies
  10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  1 1/4 cups sugar
  3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  1/4 teaspoon salt
  1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  2 cold large eggs
  1/2 cup all-purpose flour

With a rack in the lower third of the oven, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Place a medium heatproof bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.  In the bowl combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Stir occasionally until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Set the bowl aside to cool until the mixture is only warm.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Stir the mixture vigorously after each egg.  When the batter is well-blended and shiny add the flour.  Stir until completely combined.  Beat vigorously for AT LEAST 40 strokes with the wooden spoon.  Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes (until a toothpick poked in the center emerges slightly moist with batter).

Allow to cool in pan 10 minutes.  Lift the ends of the parchment and transfer to a wire rack.  Allow to completely cool before cutting.

Makes 24 Small Brownies

Lemon Bars
Crust:
  1/2 pound salted butter, room temperature
  1/2 cup granulated sugar
  1 cup whole wheat flour
  3/4 cup unbleached flour

Filling:
  7 large eggs, room temperature
  3 cups granulated sugar
  2 tablespoons lemon zest (4-6 lemons)
  1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1 cup unbleached flour
  Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with parchment paper.

For the crust, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Add the flour and mix on low until just combined.  Allow to sit at least 15 minutes.  Dump the dough onto a floured surface and gather into a ball.  Flatten the dough and press into the 9 by 13 inch pan.  Crust should be 1/4 to 1/2 inches.  Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Return parchment and crust to pan.

For the filling, whisk together eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.  Pour over the crust and bake 30 to 35 minutes.  When the filling is set remove from oven.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut.

Makes 20 squares or 40 triangles.

I first made this recipe when my family was here for Christmas.  It was okay, but I felt like it still needed some work.  I added ingredients, adjusted the ratios of several ingredients, and made it again while Randall’s parents were here for the weekend.  This time it was nearly perfect.

Regular onions don’t tend to agree with Audra, so I use green onions instead.  Feel free to use a regular onion in yours.  I think a yellow onion would taste best.

Also, this time I used 4 cups of vegetable broth since I was feeding 4 1/2 people.  There was enough for all of us to have seconds.  I like it a little bit thicker, so when we don’t have company I’ll probably reduce the liquid a little bit.

Enjoy!

Roasted Poblano Corn Chowder
    1 large poblano peppers, washed, split and seeded
    1 Tablespoon olive oil
    2 green onions, diced
    2 clove garlic, diced
    2-3 button mushrooms
    2 Tablespoon butter
    3 Tablespoons flour
    1 teaspoon cumin
    pinch cayenne pepper
    1-2 medium potatoes, diced
    2-4 cups vegetable broth
    salt and pepper to taste
    2 cups frozen corn kernels (use fresh if seasonally available)
    1 can cream style corn
    12 oz evaporated skim milk or 1/2 & 1/2
    diced avocado (to garnish)
    shredded cheddar cheese (to garnish)

Place the peppers on a sheet pan and flatten with your hand. Broil until blistered and charred, taking care not to overcook the peppers. Poblanos are thinner-walled peppers and cannot withstand the blackening that bell peppers can. Remove from the pan and immediately place in a bowl. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and allow to steam. After 15 minutes, peel and dice the peppers, set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 4 quart sauce pan. Saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Add mushrooms and continue sauteing for a minute.  Add the butter and flour and stir until the mixture is bubbly and colors slightly. Add the cumin and cayenne, stirring constantly to help the spices bloom. Add the broth, peppers and potatoes. Cook at a simmer until the potatoes are just tender. Add the corn kernels and cream style corn. Cook until the corn is heated through, then add the milk or cream. Heat until hot. Portion into bowls and sprinkle with the green tops of the onions, avocado and cheese if desired.

Quinoa is a pseudocereal.  It not technically classified as a cereal or grain as it does not grow as a grass.  This hearty plant originated in the Andean region of South America and was an important food source for the Incas.

Quinoa has a high protein content, thus making it a good food choice for those with a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Quinoa is considered to be a complete protein since it has a balanced set of amino acids.  In addition to being a good source of protein quinoa is also a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, iron.

I’ve been trying to add variety to the grains we eat.  We’ve tried quinoa several times.  I’ve learned that Randall does not like quinoa cold.  He also seems to like it a lot better if I toast the “grains” before cooking it.  Unrelated to the quinoa, Audra likes toasted pine nuts.

Hot Asparagus and Potato Quinoa Salad
    2 cups white quinoa
    4 cups water
    4 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
    1/2 large yellow onions, chopped
    1 clove garlic, chopped
    1 cup pine nuts, toasted
    1 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch segments
    1 green onion, sliced
    zest from 1/2 lemon
    vegetable broth
    olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa until the water runs clear and allow to dry completely.  Toast quinoa over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes.  Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a large pot.  Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes (until quinoa releases spirals and becomes transparent).  Drain any excess liquid and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and onions.  After a couple minutes, add the potatoes and a little bit of salt.  Toss to coat the potatoes and cover for a few minutes.  Uncover and toss again.  Cook for a few minutes longer until the potatoes begin to turn golden brown.  Add asparagus and lemon zest.  Continue tossing the mixture until the potatoes are done and slightly crispy.  Add a little bit of vegetable broth to deglaze the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.

Toss the quinoa with a splash of olive oil.  Gently mix in the potatoes and asparagus.  Top with toasted pine nuts and green onions.  (You could also dish the quinoa into a bowl and top with the potatoes, asparagus, pine nuts, and green onions.)

Serves 4 – 6.

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