Frozen Fruit Pops

I love fruit!   The only thing better than fresh fruit is fresh fruit blended and frozen on a stick!  For my last birthday, I got some popsicle molds.  I was moving across the country just a few weeks afterward, so I just left them in the box unused for easier packing.  Over 6 months later, I realized that they were still sitting in the box.  I’ll blame it on the cold winter.   Today I blended up some fruit and made awesome frozen fruit popsicles (we’ll ignore the fact that the high temperature was in the 50s)!

Strawberry/Pineapple Popsicles

Ingredients (this was the perfect amount for my set of 6 popsicles):
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup orange juice

Directions:
1.  Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until desired consistency (I made mine pretty smooth because I felt like they would freeze better.  I don’t know if that is accurate or not).
2.  Spoon into popsicle molds.
3.  Freeze.

Yum!

The secret to getting these out of the popsicle mold is to run the entire thing (stick-side down) under warm, running water.  Wiggle the stick and add pressure, while carefully pulling downward on the stick.  Thank you, Google!

The possibilities are endless!  It’s going to be a tasty summer!

 

Happy eating!

-c

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Spicy Black Bean and Yam Jubilee

Between my husband and myself, we are now paying for 4 gym memberships.  We decided to check out the university gym because we are tired of not finding a place to park or available equipment at our other gym.  The medical campus gym is right beside the building where I work so I don’t even have to move my car.  We also have access to the main campus gym which is supposedly incredible!  We’re hoping that by using the university gym, we waste less time, get home sooner, continue cooking delicious dinners, and still have some time for relaxing before bed!  This worked out really well yesterday, and I had more time to cook something that is quickly becoming one of my favorite meals!

If you have not tried any of my recipes yet, try this one.  This recipe is adapted from Susan O’Brien’s “J&J’s Favorite Yam and Black Bean Burritos” recipe from her cookbook titled The Gluten-Free Vegan.  I have followed her exact recipe before and it’s amazing, but last night I adapted it to use slightly fewer ingredients and groceries I already had stocked in my kitchen.  This dish does not disappoint–it is spicy, sweet, AND savory!

The first time we made this, we used gluten-free rice tortillas (that were not very good).  This time, I whipped up some quick homemade corn tortillas.  If you don’t have tortillas, the stuffing is just as good by itself!

Spicy Black Bean and Yam Jubilee

A pile of vegetables never tasted so good!

Ingredients (for 4 robust portions):
About 2.5 cups cooked black beans
2 large yams or sweet potatoes
1 bell pepper
1 onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 cup of salsa
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
About 10 leaves of cilantro

Directions (steps 1-3 can be done simultaneously):
1.  Boil black beans until soft (or, alternatively, open a few cans of black beans and drain off the liquid).
2.  Cook yams until soft.  I pierced each yam several times with a fork, wrapped in a damp paper towel, and microwaved on high for 6-7 minutes.
3.  Chop onion and bell pepper and add to a large pan.  Sauté in olive oil over medium heat until tender.  Reduce heat to low/medium.
4.  Add in salsa, lime juice, and spices.
5.  Remove skin from yams and chop the flesh into ~1” cubes and add to sauté pan.
6.  Add black beans.  Additional salsa and lime juice can be added as needed to keep the mixture from drying out.
7.  Dice tomatoes and add to pan.
8.  Serve once tomatoes are warm.

Immediately stuff in your face!

Serve with a cold beer (or a Crispin if you’re gluten-free)!

Happy eating!

-c

Beet Salad and Gluten-Free Pasta

I made beets last night!  I’m not so sure that I like them.  Neither my husband nor I had ever eaten a beet before, but they are full of antioxidants so we decided to give them a try.  After my first bite, my husband asked what they tasted like.  “Kind of like dirt”, I answered.  I found this salad recipe from The New York Times and it sounded very different from most salads I eat.  I followed the recipe for the most part, using endive, beets, toasted pecans, and Feta cheese.  I also made a dressing similar to what the recipe called for (using olive oil, red wine vinegar, chives, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and garlic powder).  To prepare the beets, I washed them, added a bit of olive oil, wrapped them in a foil pouch, and roasted at 425°F for about an hour (until soft enough to easily pierce with a fork).

Roasted Beets

Roasted beets!

I let them cool for a bit, peeled off the skin (it should come off easily), sliced, and chilled.

We had the salad alongside some gluten free pasta with Newman’s Own pasta sauce (that I beefed up with some extra veggies).

Gluten-free pasta

Tinkyada--one of the better gluten-free pastas I have had!

I added about 2 cups of spinach, some leftover broccoli that had seen better days (it was getting very limp), and some red pepper flakes to give it some spice.

sauce

Newman's Own pasta sauce with some add-ins.

Pasta isn’t one of my favorite things, but it’s nice to have some on hand for those times when you need a quick meal.  Gluten-free pasta is cooked just like regular pasta but it gets sticky and mushy even faster, so be sure not to overcook it.

Pasta with beet salad

A relatively simple dinner!

I would like to try beets again but I think I should marinate them or something to provide more flavor next time.  I also decided that I need to extract some of the beet juice to naturally add color to my next batch of soap!  The pink/purple color of the beets was beautiful!

How do you like your beets?

 

Happy eating!

-c

How (Not) To Make Zucchini Chips

I have an obsession with salt and vinegar potato chips.  I will eat them until my tongue is raw and I no longer have functioning taste buds.  They are salty, tangy, crispy, and perfect.  Also, my husband doesn’t like them so I don’t have to share. [Insert evil laugh here.]  I decided to try making salt and vinegar zucchini chips as a healthier way to satisfy my obsession.  I thought I was being really creative until a quick internet search made me realize that many others came up with this idea long before I did.  Without a food dehydrator, I decided to use the oven method.  Basically, you put your thinly-sliced zucchini on a pan and stick in a very low heat oven for several hours.  I wanted to set my oven somewhere around 125°F, but the lowest temperature my oven can be set to is 170°F.  Oh well.  That just means they will dehydrate faster, right?  (Nope.)

Directions for preparing zucchini:

I thinly sliced an entire zucchini squash with a mandoline.  I put the slices in a bowl with some white vinegar (other people seem to use apple cider vinegar, but I didn’t have that on hand) diluted with water (one cup water for every one cup vinegar).  I put the bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the zucchini slices soak up some of the vinegar.

Potent!

After soaking, I poured off the dilute vinegar, patted the zucchini slices dry with a paper towel, rubbed both sides of each slice with a tiny amount of olive oil, and sprinkled with salt.  They were laid out on a baking sheet and baked at 170°F for about two and a half hours until they looked completely dried out.

Time to bake!

Then I attempted to scrape them off of the pan with a spatula.

Oops.

The higher oven temperature led to a complete baking of the zucchini onto the pan and I don’t think more olive oil would have helped.  There were a few zucchini chips that could be loosened from the pan and I enjoyed those (although they were a bit too salty).

I had a few to taste!

I’m going to be trying these again, but might wait until I purchase a food dehydrator.  I have wanted a dehydrator for a long time, and the zucchini chip failure might be a sign that it is time to invest in one.  Until then, I will just have to keep eating potato chips.  Darn!

Happy eating!

-c

Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers

Over four years ago, I had a really good friend who was a study/running buddy of mine.  I started developing a crush on him.  Trying to be smooth, I told him that I was cooking stuffed bell peppers and there would be so much left over that it would probably get thrown in the trash (not true) and then proceeded to invite him over for dinner so that I “would not have to waste any food”.  He said yes and we had what may have been our first date.  He liked the bell peppers, I liked the bell peppers, we both liked each other, and three years later we said “I Do”.

These stuffed peppers might not make you fall in love, but they are easy to make, cheap, and delicious.  They also make fabulous leftovers so you won’t actually have to toss any in the trash (but you’re free to use that as an excuse to cook for your crush).

Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers (for 2 stuffed peppers, or roughly 4 servings):

*Also requires the preparation of Mexican-style rice (my husband’s recipe is shown below) and black beans (we used dried beans, but you can use canned as well).

Husband’s Mexican Rice

Ingredients:
15 ounces dried brown rice
1 (10 ounce) can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (we use Rotel original) – also add the juice from the can
Water for boiling
1 Tablespoon butter (we use Land O’ Lakes, unsalted)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
A few shakes of salt
A few shakes of red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to your rice cooker or pot.  Cook as you normally prepare your rice.  If you are using a rice cooker, fill the water up just past the marker for 3 cups of rice (even though the recipe is for 2.5 cups).  The extra water is to make up for the volume displaced by the addition of the diced tomatoes.

Additional ingredients:
Roughly 2 cups cooked black beans
2 large bell peppers
About 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese (we use Kraft Natural)

Directions:
1.  Prepare the rice and black beans.
2.  Drain excess liquid off of the black beans, add the rice, and mix in a large pot or bowl.

Rice and beans, courtesy of my husband!

3.  Core and remove seeds from the bell peppers, leaving a hole where the stem once was.  Microwave on high for 5-10 minutes to slightly soften the peppers.

Ready to stuff.

4.  Place bell peppers in a baking dish hole-side up (I use a loaf pan for just 2 peppers).  Scoop rice/bean mixture into the bell peppers and around peppers in the baking dish.

These are probably the largest bell peppers I have ever seen!

5.  Top with grated cheese and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes.

OR

5.  Place covered baking dish in the refrigerator if you want to bake it later.
6.  Remove from refrigerator, top with grated cheese, and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes.  You can cover the dish for part of the time to prevent the cheese from burning with the longer cooking time.

These make great leftovers.  We made a bunch of extra rice and beans to pack up for lunches.  There’s not much cheaper than a meal prepared primarily from dried beans and rice, but the addition of some spices really makes it delicious.

I know what I'm going to be eating all week...

Happy eating!

-c

Baked Spaghetti Squash Casserole

If you have not tried spaghetti squash, you should.  It’s pretty amazing, simple to make, and can easily serve as a substitute for spaghetti noodles in any dish.  I was once quite intimidated by the larger varieties of squash because I never really knew how to cook them.  Then I figured it out (and it’s not so hard!).  I made this dish for my family this past Christmas and my entire meat-eating, bread-loving family really enjoyed it.  The only problem with this dish is that it is not filling at all.  One cup of cooked spaghetti noodles has roughly 220 calories, while one cup of cooked spaghetti squash only has 40-50 calories.  So unless you have a stomach of steel and can eat 10 cups of it, I would either serve it as a side dish or plan to have a big snack later. I usually do the latter.  I have made this dish many, many times before but for some reason I had a pretty severe gluten-reaction this time.  I have used every ingredient in this dish previously without issues so I’m guessing there was some sort of cross-contamination with one of the ingredients.

The joy of celiac disease is getting sick when you would least expect it.  On Sunday evening, we decided to make this delicious baked spaghetti squash casserole.  I ate it, enjoyed it, went to bed, and woke up the next morning feeling like crap.  Had some Pepto Bismol and some Aleve and gradually started feeling better.  Assuming that it was something other than the spaghetti squash that made me sick, I ate leftovers for lunch on Monday.  That was a big mistake.  My headache started literally right after I finished eating and got worse and worse throughout the afternoon.  By 6:00 in the evening, I felt awful.  This morning, I felt a bit better and thankfully, by this evening, I’m finally back to normal.  I kind of feel like a jerk saying “hey, check out this awesome gluten-free recipe that made me incredibly sick”, but all of the ingredients I used are gluten-free so hopefully it was just some bad luck.

Baked Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Ingredients (serves 4):

One medium spaghetti squash

1 (24 ounce) jar of your favorite marinara sauce or a single batch of my marinara sauce

Roughly 2 cups of spinach (frozen or fresh)

About ¾ cup mozzarella cheese, grated (I used Kraft Natural)

About ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated (I used Kraft Natural)

About ½ Tablespoon olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Garlic powder

 

Directions:

1.  If making your own marinara sauce, prepare and let simmer.

2.  Cut spaghetti squash in half length-wise (use a super sharp knife and be careful or you’ll lose some digits).

3.  Scoop out seeds* and stringy bits in the center.

4.  Pierce the outside of the squash with a fork (3-4 times for each half).

5.  Coat the inside of each squash half with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and garlic powder.

Pre-baking

6.  Set flesh-side down onto a cookie sheet or baking pan and bake at 400°F for about 30-40 minutes.  Remove once flesh is soft and easy to pierce with a fork.  Set aside to let cool for a few minutes.

7.  Use a fork to scrape out spaghetti squash (it should remove from the skin easily and become stringy like spaghetti noodles).

Looks like spaghetti!

8.  Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce and add a layer of stringy spaghetti squash on top (I usually only do two layers, one half of the squash per layer).

9.  Add spinach (fresh or, if frozen, thaw first).

10.  Add half of your cheese.

11.  Add more sauce, then spaghetti squash, then spinach, then cheese.

12.  Once you have used all of your squash, top with a bit more sauce and cheese.

13.  Either store in the refrigerator to bake later or stick in the oven at 400°F for about 25-30 minutes (until sauce is all bubbly).  If you choose to store the layered casserole in the refrigerator to cook later, you will need to cook it longer (covered for part of the time) to make sure it is warm throughout.

*Save the seeds to roast as a salad topping!

A delicacy in our household!

This was amazing as always, but I needed a nice snack of Koala Crisp cereal with soy milk and some peanut butter on the side about 2 hours later.

In other news, I had the ultimate hipster sighting over the weekend.  I had never heard of the term “hipster” until moving to Richmond.   Since then, I have become hyper-aware of the entire hipster culture and it really amuses me.  There were some hipsters out on their front porch having what appeared to be a juicing party.  I’m talking massive (probably gallon-sized) juicer with about 10 pounds of carrots, an entire pineapple, and a bunch of other stuff.  I commented loudly while walking past, “Yum, that smells good” and got what was quite possibly the most evil glare I had ever received.  I’m guessing they thought I was being sarcastic or something, but it did actually smell amazing.  Check out this funny video if you are also amused by the hipster culture.

Happy eating!

-c

This thing has potential.

It’s nice when things work out perfectly the first time.  Unfortunately, that does not often happen–in life or in the kitchen.  That is probably the biggest lesson I have learned as a scientist.  If something works the first time, you did something wrong.  When things do not work out, as is the case 99.999999% of the time, you then make an educated guess as to what went wrong and decide how to proceed.  I have carried these lessons into my kitchen and some of the best meals I have made are the result of modifying less successful recipes.  If I had never tried the recipe again and made changes, I never would have discovered something great.  I recently tried a new pancake recipe that definitely has the potential to be amazing and I am determined to adjust it to make it even better!

A few weeks ago, my husband and I made the most basic gluten-free pancake recipe we could find on the internet.  It was okay.  In fact, it was so “okay” that I already lost the recipe and can not seem to find it again.  For my most recent pancake attempt, I found another simple recipe that did not require 1,001 ingredients (as many gluten-free pancake recipes seem to do).  I just do not bake enough to find it sensible to keep things like tapioca starch and xanthan gum around my kitchen at all times.  This recipe did not specify what type of flour to use, so I figured I could just use whatever I had on hand.  I always have brown rice flour, as I use it more often than any others, but I wanted to try something different.  I decided to use a one-to-one mixture of oat flour and almond flour that I quickly prepared in my food processor.

Oat flour (left) and almond flour (right).

I made several substitutions from the original recipe and added more things.  I aimed to keep my amount of solids and liquids consistent with the recipe I found because I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to gluten-free baking.  I noticed that 1 cup of milk would have made the batter way too runny in my opinion, so I added ½ cup instead.  It was still a little runny, but manageable.

The batter was slightly runny, but it smelled delicious!

Nutty Blueberry Pancakes (For 3 medium-sized pancakes):

Ingredients:

1/3 cup almond flour

1/3 cup oat flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free rolled oats)*

½ Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

½ cup milk (I used Silk Vanilla soymilk)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup blueberries

¼ cup chopped pecans

*I realized later on, that the author of the previous recipe (who seems to have much more experience with gluten-free baking than I do) noted that oat flour is often too heavy for things like pancakes.  Oops.

Directions:

1.  Combine flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

2.  Add egg, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and mix well with a fork.

3.  Stir in blueberries and pecans.

4.  Pour into a preheated (medium-high heat) skillet sprayed with olive oil or cooking spray.

5.  Flip when bottom appears cooked and top is bubbling.  Then cook the other side.

Yummy!

These did not hold together as well as a normal pancake.  I actually had to flip the pancake into another preheated and oiled skillet because I could sense an impending disaster.  They were not incredibly dense like most gluten-free pancakes I have had, but I was also unable to get them quite as solid as a typical gluten-containing pancake.  I don’t know whether this was due to the flour combination I used and/or the volume of milk I used.  The taste was really amazing though.  I really like the rich, nutty taste of almond flour compared to the less flavorful rice flours.  The pecans and cinnamon added a lot of flavor and the blueberries were delicious!  Both my husband and I really liked them a lot and agreed that this recipe has the potential to be amazing.   I think that next time (and there will definitely be a next time), we might try adding a bit of corn or potato starch to thicken them up a little bit.  I think this recipe could turn into a nice muffin too!

Happy eating!

-c

Thai-Inspired Crock Pot Chili

I feel like cooking with a crock pot is supposed to be easy.  Isn’t that the point?  You throw a bunch of random things in there before you head to work, and you have a hot, delicious dinner waiting for you when you arrive home?  I think that my fear of keeping warm things plugged in while I’m not at home has kept me from utilizing my crock pot to its full potential.  My first crock pot failure occurred several years ago.

My husband and I had just started dating.  I had one of those bags of bean soup mixes that comes with dry beans and spices already mixed together.  Early one Saturday morning, I put the contents of the entire bag in my crock pot with a bunch of water and set it on low.  I was sure that I would be enjoying bean soup for dinner.  After five or six hours, the beans were still completely hard, so I changed the setting to high.  My husband and I had planned to hang out that evening and, after it became apparent that I would not be having bean soup for dinner, I headed over to his apartment.  With an entire crock pot full of hot beans.  We hung out at his place for awhile (with crock pot plugged in), then went back to my place.  With an entire crock pot full of hot beans.  After transporting those beans across town two times and after two days of cooking, I finally had some bean soup for dinner on Sunday.  The beans were still hard.  Needless to say, I have not attempted to use my crock pot since for purposes other than keeping previously-cooked foods warm.  Until just the other day.

I don’t know what inspired me but I decided that it was time to attempt crock pot cooking again.  It was a success!

 

Thai-Inspired Crock Pot Chili

I am a crock pot master!

Ingredients:

1 cup raw chickpeas

About 1/4 peeled and diced raw eggplant

1 1/2 cups raw, diced potato

3/4 cup frozen spinach

1 cup fresh broccoli

1 400mL can of coconut milk (I used A Taste of Thai, Lite)

Water (to desired consistency)

2 Tbs red curry paste (I used A Taste of Thai)

4 garlic cloves

Salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes

 

Directions:

1.  Bring chickpeas to a boil in regular pot.  Reduce to simmer and let simmer about 45 minutes (you want them edible but not completely soft).

2.  Once chickpeas are nearly finished, shake coconut milk and pour into crock pot (set to high).  Add red curry paste and stir to blend.

3.  Add partially-cooked chickpeas, raw potatoes, eggplant, broccoli, and spinach.  Add water to desired consistency.

4.  Mince garlic and add to crock pot.

5.  Add all spices.

6.  Let cook on high for about two hours until vegetables are softened.

 

I had a back-up dinner idea ready just in case, but didn’t even need it!  This chili was delicious and made great leftovers too!  Does anyone else have any good crock pot recipes?

Happy eating!

-c

Gluten-Free Eggplant Parmesan

Get ready for the most amazing recipe ever.  If you want a man to fall in love with you, cook this for him.  If you want a woman to forgive you for being a jerk, make this for her.  I have been making this amazing eggplant parmesan for years now.  I haven’t made it since my celiac diagnosis, but last night I made my first gluten-free version and it was just as good, if not better, than the original.  The only things I had to adjust to make it gluten-free were to find an alternative to the Italian-style breadcrumbs and be sure to use gluten-free marinara and cheeses.  I already have an awesome marinara recipe that I have been using recently and I had some random packages of gluten-free bread in the freezer.  Several packages had just the end piece(s) left and others just had broken bits.  I’m sure you can find gluten-free breadcrumbs somewhere, but I decided to go all out and make my own using all those frozen bread scraps that I had just taking up valuable freezer space.

 

Italian Bread Crumbs

Ingredients:

5-6 pieces of gluten-free bread (any variety)—I used a combo of 3 different types

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp basil flakes

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

1.  Cut thawed bread into cubes and process into crumbs (they don’t have to be too fine yet)

2.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit to remove moisture and slightly brown.  Mine took about 20 minutes with occasional stirring.

3.  Let breadcrumbs cool, and process again with garlic and spices.

 

Simple!

 

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants

2 jars or at least 1.5 batches of my homemade marinara sauce

2-3oz fresh spinach

Shredded mozzarella cheese (Kraft Naturals*)

Shredded parmesan cheese (Kraft Naturals*)

bread crumbs (2 cups or so)

2 eggs

basil

oregano

 

*Many shredded cheese brands coat the cheese in flour to prevent clumping.  Sargento and Kraft Naturals (and perhaps other brands that I am not aware of?) use potato starch or cellulose powder instead to coat their pre-shredded cheeses.

 

Directions:

1.  Peel raw eggplants and slice into circular discs of about 1/3-1/2” diameter

2.  Sprinkle salt liberally on each side and lay out on a plate for at least half an hour.  The eggplant should appear to start sweating (beads of moisture will form).  The purpose of this is to remove some of the water from the vegetable so your casserole isn’t too watery.

Don't worry if it turns a little bit brown.

3.  Rinse the eggplant slices in water very well to remove the salt.  Pat dry with a paper towel.

4.  Dip eggplant slices in beaten egg mixture, being sure to cover the whole thing.

5.  Let excess egg drip off of eggplant and dip egg-coated eggplant slice in bread crumbs to cover the entire slice.

6.  Lay slices out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-10 minutes (until slice becomes a bit softer).  Flip slices and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

 

Pre-baking

Start layering casserole dish:

1.  Pour marinara sauce in bottom of dish to cover surface.

2.  Put a layer of breaded and baked eggplant slices on top of the sauce.  You can use a sharp knife to cut slices in half to form a complete layer.

3.  Put a spoonful of marinara sauce on top of each eggplant slice and spread to mostly cover the eggplant slice.  Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the entire layer.  Add basil and oregano on top of the cheese.

4.  Add a layer of spinach for extra greens.

One layer.

5.  Add another layer of breaded/baked eggplant, then sauce, then cheese, then spices, then spinach, as done for the first layer.  Continue doing this until pan is mostly full.  Top with more sauce, cheese, and spices.

6.  Bake the entire dish at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes until the top is brown and the sauce is all bubbly.  If the cheese starts to burn, cover with aluminum foil.

It tastes as good as it looks!

7.  Serve with generous portions of red wine.

Some meals just aren't as good without wine.

 

I was moving all day yesterday.  I had a good workout in the morning with a 5-mile run, some sprints, push-ups, and ab work.  Then my husband and I went for three separate walks (totaling at least six miles!).  One was for errands, one was for fun, and one was for ice cream.  The weather was so nice, we went down to the river to walk around and take some pictures.  We found lots of pretty flowers and a snake!

 

James River

 

Pretty!

 

Eek! I took the picture and ran!

Today, I might take my bicycle out for a long ride.  I’m trying to lay off the longer distance running for a bit.  My right hip flexor has been bothering me on runs over 8-9 miles for the past few months.  After last week’s 11-mile run, I’ve decided to back off the mileage and focus on interval training and shorter runs/other forms of cardio for awhile to see if I can resolve this.

I hope the Easter bunny left everyone lots of chocolate.  I didn’t get any and I am very disappointed!  I’ll just have to hit up the clearance sales tomorrow!

Happy eating!

-c

Gluten-Free Strawberry Banana Muffins and Almond Butter

On a typical Friday evening, I eat something as quickly as possible and then glue my butt to the couch with a glass of wine and don’t move for several hours.  For some reason, last night was different.  I was feeling motivated for some reason…maybe it was because our refrigerator and pantry were both barren.  We have been needing to go to the grocery store for several days, but we just kept putting it off.  Finally, last night, we realized that the situation had become quite dire.  We had no milk, no eggs, no fruit, no vegetables, no cheese, no soup, etc.  Basically our pantry had become a spice rack with a few jars of dried beans and a random assortment of nuts.  So, we summoned up the energy to do a massive grocery shopping trip.  In addition to that, we swung by Target where my husband got a few shirts and I got two pairs of jeans that actually fit me.  Win!

After putting the groceries away, the energy remained.  I engaged in some extreme dish washing…

I've got mad skillz.

…then I tried out a new recipe!

 

Gluten-free recipes!

I found a muffin recipe in a grocery store magazine from last week’s 10K expo.  I rarely make muffins, mostly because I like them too much and can eat way too many of them without ever feeling satisfied.  These muffins seemed interesting because they require cornmeal and almond flour, instead of other gluten-free flours that are more typically used in baking.  They also required very little sugar compared to most baked goods, and were sweetened primarily with a bit of honey and a mashed banana.

 

Gluten-Free Strawberry Banana Muffins (makes 10 muffins)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole, raw almonds

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup ground flax seed (Bob’s Red Mill)

2 Tbs granulated sugar

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 banana (preferably very ripe)

1 cup diced fresh strawberries

2-4 Tbs milk (I used 2 Tbs Silk Vanilla)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbs honey

1 1/2 Tbs melted better

Directions:

1.  Grind almonds until a fine powder.

2.  Add cornmeal, flax meal, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.

3.  In a separate bowl, mash banana until smooth.

4.  Add milk, egg, honey, and vanilla to banana and mix well.

5.  Melt butter and add to other liquid ingredients. Stir.

6.  Add liquid ingredients to solid ingredients and stir until everything is wet.

7.  Gently stir in diced strawberries.

8.  Pour into muffin tin (mine was sprayed with olive oil) and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes until slightly firm and turning brown on the top.

 

Gluten-free baked goods rarely rise in the oven. Fact.

According to my magazine, each muffin contains 170 calories, 11g fat, 17g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 9g sugars, and 5g protein.

The most important thing I have learned about gluten-free baking is that it really can not be compared to normal baking.  Forget everything you know about baking with gluten.  Baking without gluten looks differently, behaves differently, and often tastes differently. These muffins were quite delicious though!  I actually felt like I was eating something that could be breakfast, unlike most muffins, that seem much more like a dessert.  Since I had already dirtied up the food processor with almonds, I decided to go ahead and make a batch of almond butter.  If you have never made your own almond butter, you should.  It’s kind of a pain, because you have to constantly scrape the sides of the processor to get the oils well combined but it is well worth it in the end.

 

Fall Spice Almond Butter

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups raw almonds

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

1.  Toast almonds (I did 16 minutes total, stirring halfway through, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit) and let cool.

2.  Process almonds (this will take at least 10 minutes, and stir/scrape off of blades/sides of processor whenever the blades look like they are experiencing difficulty or whenever the almond butter turns into a giant mass that doesn’t move).

3.  Once the almond butter gets thinner and starts sticking to a spatula, you are almost there.  Add vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg at this point and process some more.

4.  Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator.

This will not last long around here...

Upon waking up this morning, I was very thankful that the grocery shopping was already done and that, with all of the new food options, I could eat a breakfast fit for a king.

I'm stuffed!

I’ve got a fun and semi-relaxing day planned.  I’m going to go exercise in a bit (once my breakfast digests), then will hit up the public library for some books, start cleaning the apartment, and prepare an epic dinner.  There may or may not be a scheduled nap involved.

Happy eating!

-c

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