Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spicy Green Beans With Pork

It's been months since my last post, but after a crazy-busy summer, I'm back!  This recipe was requested by my dear sister-in-law, Jody.  It comes from the October 2008 issue of Family Fun Magazine, and it's a favorite at our house because it tastes just like takeout. Next time you're in the mood for Chinese, save the money you would have spent going out (and the extra calories too) and try this instead--you won't be disappointed!

1 pound pork tenderloin
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp black bean sauce
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce (use less if you don't want it as spicy)
1 1/2 tsp sugar (I use agave)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 pound green beans, trimmed and snapped in half
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Shave the pork into thin strips.  In a small bowl, toss the pork with 2 Tbsp of the soy sauce, 1 Tbsp of the rice wine, and the pepper.  Marinate the pork at room temperature while assembling the rest of the ingredients.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining Tbsp of soy sauce, the remaining Tbsp of rice wine, the chicken broth, spicy bean sauce, hoisin, chili garlic sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch.  Whisk well and set aside.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the oil.  When the oil is hot, add the beans and stir-fry until they begin to brown or blister, about 10 minutes.  Remove the beans from the pan using a slotted spoon and pour off all but 2 Tbsp of the oil.  Return the pan to the heat and add the pork, garlic, and ginger.  Stir-fry the mixture until the pork is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.  Add the green onions and cook for 1 minute.  Add the reserved sauce and green beans, mix well, and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about one minute.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds before serving.   Serve over rice.   Makes about 5 cups.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gardein "Chicken" Fingers

Two weeks ago Mike had his wisdom teeth out and then a week later he broke his ankle.  Needless to say, it's been a crazy couple of weeks around our house but Nurse Wendy is finally ready to pay some attention to her sadly neglected blog.  I've written about Gardein products before and today I'm highlighting their faux chicken tenders.  Let me reiterate:  Gardein tastes and looks exactly like chicken.  Seriously.  Make these for your family, keep their true nature a secret, and your loved ones will be none the wiser.  The picture above features the Seven Grain Crispy Tenders (Gardein makes several different kinds).  You can buy a bag of these babies from Whole Foods in the freezer section for less than $5.00.  These are a regular at our house; they're fast, delicious, and nutritious!  Also pictured is a Sweet and Spicy Mustard Sauce that I whip up for dipping.  This recipe comes from Amy Green's cookbook Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.  It was worth buying the book for this recipe alone.  It's so, so good.  Many sauces you buy ready-made are full of corn syrup and other unsavory ingredients.  You can feel good about serving this one.

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
4 Tbsp honey or agave (I prefer agave)
4 tsp soy sauce
4 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper

Whisk all together and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note:  If you need to be gluten-free, you can substitute Bragg's Liquid Aminos for the soy sauce, which tastes exactly exactly the same.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chocolate Cake (Gluten Free)

Unlike those with Celiac Disease, I do not need to completely avoid gluten in my diet.  But I own lots of gluten-free cookbooks because many of them are also sugar free.  And frankly, I feel better when I'm eating less gluten.  This chocolate cake is absolutely fab.  It's moist, rich,  and has a texture just like "regular" cake.  It comes from Kelly V. Brozyna, a blogger and cookbook author who lives in Boulder.  I couldn't resist buying her first cookbook because of its title: The Spunky Coconut.  Kelly's recipes are gluten, casein, and sugar free.  Her second cookbook, The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods & Desserts was just published.  This cake comes from her first cookbook and it's a regular at our house.  Everyone loves it, and it makes me happy that we can enjoy something so delicious and not feel guilty about it.  The frosting in the picture comes from Kelly's blog.  It's a vegan frosting and quite delicious.  I'm amazed that she was able to come up with a frosting that has no butter or powdered sugar in it, but still tastes great and has the same texture we all know and love.  Feel free to frost the cake with whatever frosting you like though.

3/4 cup coconut oil, liquified (see notes below)
1/2 cup organic cocoa powder
3/4 cup agave
6 room temperature eggs (cold eggs will harden the oil)
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Chocolate liquid stevia (see notes below)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp xanthan gum

Beat the coconut oil and cocoa powder with an electric mixer.  Add all the rest of the ingredients and beat again.  Pour into greased and floured round cake pans, a bundt pan or a springform pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 34 minutes (don't overbake).

Date Frosting (vegan)

1 1/2 cups dates (soaked overnight if dry)
3/4 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp tapioca flour
1/3 cup coconut oil, liquified
3/4 cup cocoa powder

Put the dates and cashews in a Vita Mix, Blendtec, or flood processor.  Begin to puree.  While pureeing, gradually add the coconut milk.  Puree until creamy and smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until creamy and smooth.  Freeze for about half an hour or put in the fridge until cool and of a good spreading consistency.  This makes a lot!  I usually use half on one cake, and keep the rest in the fridge to frost a second one.


Coconut Oil:  This is the first recipe I've posted that uses coconut oil.  This is a healthy oil with some great benefits.  I quote from Bruce Fife, author of the Cooking with Coconut Flour cookbook:  "Coconut oil is unique.  It is composed of a special group of fat molecules known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).  MCTs are digested and metabolized differently from other fats.  Insead of being packed away into fat cells, MCTs are used to produce energy.  This boost in energy production stimulates metabolism...So after eating a meal containing coconut oil, your level of energy is higher, your metabolism is running at an elevated level, and you burn calories at an accelerated rate.  Since more calories are burned up to produce energy, fewer calories remain to be converted into body fat.  Adding coconut oil to your food actually reduces the effective amount of calories in the food...As long as you don't overeat, coconut oil can help you lose excess pounds.  Coconut oil also helps regulate blood sugar and prevent insulin resistance."  Pretty great, right?!  You can buy either unrefined or refined coconut oil.  Unrefined is not processed at high temperatures, but it does have a distinct coconut taste.  I prefer to use the refined, which doesn't taste like coconuts at all.  Now don't be confused; when you buy coconut oil, it won't look like regular oil.  In the jar it's a white, solid substance (although if you keep your jar in a hot place, it will liquify).  When using coconut oil in recipes, you need to melt it first (use a really low heat on your stove--it won't take long) and THEN measure it.  You can get coconut oil in most grocery stores and online.  Lately I've been buying the expeller pressed organic coconut oil made by Spectrum.  I buy it at Vitamin Cottage.  Be aware that coconut oil is more expensive than other oils.  Just remember that you're paying for something that's much better for you than butter and other oils.  See my next note, which will help you use less coconut oil in this cake recipe (and therefore save you a bit of money).

Applesauce:  In Kelly's new cookbook, she's used applesauce to replace some of the coconut oil in her recipes.  Love that idea!  You use less of the expensive oil and also cut down significantly on the fat in the recipe.  I made this cake this week and instead of using the 3/4 cup of coconut oil, I used 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and 1/4 cup coconut oil.  I couldn't tell the difference! 

Stevia:  Stevia is a sweetener that is very, very low on the glycemic index.  Another advantage it has over sweeteners like honey and agave is that it doesn't have any calories.  Sounds perfect, right?  Stevia comes in both powdered and liquid forms.  This recipe uses a liquid form which has been flavored.  It's made by a company called SweetLeaf.  You can buy it at health food stores, or order it online if they don't stock the chocolate flavor.  Kelly's original recipe actually calls for Chocolate Raspberry liquid stevia, but since I didn't have any of that I just used chocolate.

Xanthan Gum:  This adds a gluten-like texture to recipes.  It's a white powder and Bob's Red Mill is one brand you can buy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Key Lime Pie

Whenever I'm at the library I take a few minutes to thumb through current issues of healthy food magazines.  Our local branch stocks Living Without (all about gluten-free cooking and eating) and Vegetarian Times.  It was while perusing Vegetarian Times some months back that I came across this luscious recipe for vegan key lime pie.  The ingredients looked doable and it was freezing outside so the warm, beachy feel of this pie was appealing.  I tried it that same week and was absolutely astonished that it tastes exactly like "regular" key lime pie!  This is truly one of my favorite recipes.  I've even eaten it for breakfast on occasion.  The creator of this divine, creamy sensation is Lauren Ulm, blogger and cookbook author.  Her book, Vegan Yum Yum, is beautiful.  She'll become one of your favorite people when you try this pie!

1  1/2 cups crushed vegan graham crackers 
1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted
1/4 cup agave nectar

1 cup cream of coconut (see notes below)
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
7 oz. silken tofu (I just use half of a 12 oz. box, even though that's slightly less)
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp agave
2 tsp grated lime zest

To make crust:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together crushed graham crackers, Earth Balance, and agave in bowl.  Press mixture into bottom and sides of a 9" pie dish using fingers or bottom of drinking glass.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden.  Cool.

To make filling:  Place all filling ingredients in a blender (you need the likes of a Vita Mix or Blendtec for this).  Process until very smooth.  Transfer filling to saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat 5-7 minutes, or until filling thickens, stirring constantly.  Spread filling on crust.  Chill in fridge at least 4 hours before serving (I usually chill overnight).  Serve garnished with lime slices and crushed graham crackers, if desired (or if you're like Mike, squirt a bunch of whipped cream from the can on top.  This, of course, makes the pie not completely vegan).

Graham crackers:  try to find a brand that has less white sugar.  I like New Morning Organic Honey Grahams (you'll have to go to Whole Foods or Vitamin Cottage for these).

Cream of Coconut:  This is NOT coconut milk.  It's the stuff they use in pina coladas and it does contain sugar (but I don't let that stop me from enjoying this pie!)  Coco Lopez is one brand (it comes in a can) but I like Coco Real Cream of Coconut which comes in a plastic squeeze bottle.  I buy it at Super Target and it's in the "drink mixers" section.

Tofu:  I realized as I was typing this post that the original recipe calls for extra-firm tofu (drained).  I've only ever used the silken stuff.  The extra-firm might give the pie a firmer texture, if you prefer that.  I like mine on the more creamy, smooshy side.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mexican Haystacks

You may be familiar with "Hawaiian Haystacks" which are delicious and fun to eat.  You layer a bed of rice with chicken in a creamy sauce, and then top the whole shebang with your choice of things like cheese, pineapple, raisins, chopped and steamed veggies, peanuts.......So yummy.  Well, here is the Mexican version.  This recipe is done in a crock-pot and I tend to make it on Sundays.  I get the meat cooking in the morning and when we get home from church, the house smells fabulous and we're ready to eat.  Sheer Genius.  My sister-in-law Marianne gave me this recipe (thanks Girl!) and I've tweaked it just a bit to make it as healthy as possible.  Muy Bien!

Meat Sauce:
3-4 chicken breasts (I actually use a pound of chicken tenders)
1 15-oz can of Red Enchilada Sauce (I make my own, see recipe below)
1 packet of taco seasoning (try to buy a brand that doesn't contain sugar.  I use Wick Fowler's Famous Taco Seasoning Mix which only has a handful of ingredients and no sugar.  Whole Foods has it.)

Place all ingredients in a crock-pot and stir to combine.  Cook on high about 4 hours or low about 6 hours (if you're going to be cooking it longer, you can use frozen chicken breasts or tenders).  When ready to serve, shred the chicken with a fork.  Serve over rice (we use brown rice) and add any of the following toppings:

chopped tomatoes
chopped cilantro
sour cream (thinned with a little milk so it's easy to drizzle)
shredded lettuce
Corn Salsa (recipe below)

Red Enchilada Sauce
This recipe comes from The Diet Rebel's Cookbook by Jillayne Clements and Michelle Stewart.  I prefer to make my own sauce since it's lower in fat and sugar. 

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
14 oz. tomato sauce
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup water
1-3 Tbsp chili powder (depending on desired heat and flavor; I usually use just 1 Tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp evaporated cane juice (Sucanat)
1/2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, but you could use regular apple cider vinegar in a pinch)

Saute onion and garlic in oil until tender.  Add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer, covered, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This may be pureed in a blender or left as is (I'm lazy so I don't bother to puree).

Corn Salsa

About 1 1/2 cups of frozen corn, thawed  (I  just eye-ball the amount)
1 diced red bell pepper
1 chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 can black beans, drained (I leave this out since my family likes it better that way)
Italian Salad Dressing (see below)

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.  (can be made the day before)

OK, so here's the deal on the salad dressing.  The original recipe calls for a dry packet of Italian salad dressing that you mix as instructed on the packet.  I wanted to healthy things up a bit since these packets have sugar and some other ingredients I don't love.  I discovered Bragg's organic Healthy Vinaigrette, a bottled dressing made with EVOO and a bit of honey.  Patricia and Paul Bragg have a whole line of healthy products which you can buy at Whole Foods and the like.  The only thing about this dressing is that it solidifies in the fridge, which is fine for storage.  But if I'm going to make this salsa, I take the dressing out of the fridge and bring it to room temp so it's pourable.

A few final notes:

For some strange reason, Mike doesn't like to use rice in his haystacks.  He'll eat a burrito with all of these same ingredients INCLUDING rice at Chipotle, so it's a mystery to me why he doesn't like the rice in this instance.  But we each have our quirks, right?  So I buy Fritos and he puts everything on those.

This recipe serves about 4, but you can double the meat sauce recipe easily.  This is also really fun for entertaining as guests can help themselves and tailor the toppings to their liking.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Northwoods Chicken Salad (plus a vegan version)

I grew up in Minneapolis, and there's a fabulous grocery store there called Byerly's.  This recipe comes from Byerly's and it utilizes the Minnesota state grain, wild rice.  Wild rice is grown in Minnesota and Canada, and is native to North America.  This delicious grain was a staple of the Chippewa and Ojibwa Indians.  It's low in calories; one cup of cooked wild rice contains only 130 of them.  It also contains more protein than other types of rice and  has potassium, B vitamins, fiber, and Vitamin E.  Wild rice can be a bit pricey, so I order mine online in a big 5 pound bag from Wilderness Family Naturals.  It's cheaper this way and the big bag will last awhile.  This online source offers either "Conventional Parching" or "Hand Parched" wild rice.  Last time I purchased the "hand parched" variety, which cooks quicker than the conventional.   You can find wild rice in any grocery store as well.  This salad is one of our favorites.  I'll serve it with muffins for a complete meal, and even my husband Mike is happy.  Make it the day before and you've got a delicious, healthy meal waiting--great for those days when you know you won't have time to make dinner.  Kinsey often takes this salad to school for lunch.  One of her friends asked to try it and reported, "well, it looks funny but it tastes great!" 

1 cup uncooked wild rice
5 1/2 cups chicken broth
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 chicken breast, cooked, cooled, and shredded
3 green onions
1/2 red pepper (though I usually use the whole thing)
2 oz sugar or snow peas (cut into pieces)
2 avocados
1 cup cashews

Place rice and broth in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then adjust to a summer and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes (the hand parched will cook quicker).  The grains will start to split open and you want to make sure they're completely cooked--slightly chewy and soft.  If you need to add more liquid, just add some water.  Line a colander with a towel and drain.  Rinse well.  Transfer to a bowl and toss with lemon juice while still warm.  Cool.  Add chicken, onions (which I usually leave out), peppers and peas.  Toss with dressing.  Cover and refrigerate 2-4 hours or overnight.  Just before serving add avocados and cashews.

2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar or agave nectar
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil

Combine all in a food processor or blender.

Vegan Version:  This is equally as delicious!  And you just need 2 simple substitutions.  First, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth or vegan chicken broth.  Second, replace the chicken with a product called Gardein.  This is a miracle product developed by a Canadian named Yves Potvin.  It looks and tastes like chicken, but is made completely of vegies and grains.   Kinsey and Mike both like it, which makes me happy since they are both so-so with other vegan meat substitutes.  Gardein comes in lots of varieties, but for this you want just plain tenders.  You can get them in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods (different varieties of Gardein are also sold in the freezer section). Buy the plain tenders, prepare as directed on the package (basically you just pan-fry them for a few minutes on each side).  Then when they've cooled, shred them and add to the salad in place of the chicken.  Trust me, this is totally delish!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Oatmeal Cake

My mom sent me an e-mail wondering how to substitute alternative sweeteners for white sugar.  Thanks for the question mom!  It's a good one.  I'll focus today on agave.  Quoting from Ania Catalano: "When adapting a recipe to use agave nectar, reduce the other liquids by one-third.  When replacing table sugar, plan on using about 25% less agave nectar to achieve the same level of sweetness; for example, use 3/4 cup of agave nectar for every cup of sugar.  Also, baked goods with agave nectar brown more quickly, so reduce oven temperatures by 25 degrees to avoid burning."

Today's recipe is a great example of substituting healthy ingredients (including agave) for not so healthy ones.  I took 3 different recipes I had for this oatmeal cake, made some substitutions of my own, and came up with this version which is low in fat, white sugar free, and every bit as delicious as the original!  Seriously, give it a try.  You will not be disappointed.

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp boiling water
1/2 cup oatmeal (I've used both quick cooking and regular oats and they both work)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/8 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup agave
1 egg white (I buy All Whites liquid egg whites that come in a carton.  3 Tbsp equals one egg white)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour boiling water over oatmeal.  Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.  Add applesauce, buttermilk, agave, egg white, and vanilla.
Whisk dry ingredients together then mix with the wet ingredients (you can do this by hand).  Pour into a greased 8 inch square pan.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Put 1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup amber agave, 3 Tbsp light or regular butter, and 2 Tbsp evaporated skim milk in a small saucepan.  In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp cornstarch with 1 Tbsp evaporated skim milk.  Add this to the saucepan as well.  Bring this to a boil, then cook 1 more minute.  Stir in 3/4 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened is best) and 1/3 cup chopped and toasted pecans.  When the cake comes out of the oven, pour the frosting on top and smooth out with a knife.

The reason I use amber agave in the frosting is to give it a darker color (like brown sugar would).  If you don't have the amber on hand though, just use light agave.
The pecans in the frosting are optional.  I don't usually put them in, but most people love them.
This cake is delicious both warm and cold.