Where in the World is Green Me? At the Fish Market?

Good question.

I have not been writing of late, because I do not have a complete or final answer to share; however, I thought I would shed light on a bit of what I have been up to for the last 30 days.

I have officially joined the ranks of the gluten free gals in this world. This means that my kitchen know-how has gone swiftly out with the compost. Or the trash. Depending on if you are a half cup full or empty type of person. Personally, I see the world through rose colored glasses, so I think my baking knowledge went out with compost.

I had a few weeks of inedible compost bound baking disasters. Ill rank those with the stinky stage of compost. You know the kind of compost that is ripe for maggot growth and your dad secretly tosses the muffins you sent without mentioning a word.

Next I decide to go with pre-made mixes. Bobs, Pamelas, and a few lesser known brands entered my mixing bowl and out came some decent grubs. I mean grub. The hummus is rich and my confidence is building and so I have thus entered the next stage. Combining my own flours and playing with recipes the way I like to do things.

So far this week my gluten free baking and cooking has been coming up roses. On Monday I made a delicious vegan and gluten free lasagna. Mr. Green Mes only complaint was what he claimed to be a prodigious amount of zucchini. I love zucchini, so I told him tough chicken poop (it is great for the compost after all).

On Wednesday I whipped up a divine meal of butternut squash sauce over baked pasta (Tinkyada) and gluten free meatballs. If Mr. Green Me was the fighting sorta guy, he would have fought me for the leftovers. Thankfully, he is a pacifist and so my own good conscience convinced me into sharing two of the remaining six meat balls. (I further shared the remaining four meatballs with Little Green Me).

Two successful gluten free main courses resulted in a bit of courage and so yesterday I dove into my first from scratch and from instinct (meaning I did not follow a pre-tested recipe) experiment with gluten free bread. I made sort of a rustic bread boule and I am quite pleased. Not enough to share the recipe, but enough to be encouraged!

And lastly, because last night my Dad teasingly asked if I would be bringing any cookies tonight, I decided to surprise him with some Cowboy Cookies made gluten free from the new cookbook Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie-Jar. The first batch is out of the oven and they are very GOOD!

My current challenge and the primary flaw with yesterdays bread baking experience is that I bought a case of OrgraN Gluten Substitute. The Gluten Substitute does do an excellent job of adding a better texture and structure to gluten free baked goods, but so far it has a fatal flaw. To be blunt, it gives my bake goods the slightest hint that they might have spent the day in a fish market. In other words, the flavor, as I swallow, hints of a fish market. Not baked or broiled or teriyaki fish, but DEAD fish.

So far Ive adjusted to eating this deliciously textured gluten free bread by muting the dead fish taste with real fish turning it into tuna salad sandwich. On most days, however, I just like to eat plain bread with a little earth balance, jam or nut butter and dead fish is just not a flavor that I find to complement jam or butter. In the Cowboy Cookie recipe I mostly masked the flavor by tripling the vanilla and adding a teaspoon of almond extract, but I can still taste the tiniest hint of dead fish (well see what my dad has to say).

Anyone ever baked with Orgran Gluten Substitute and have a solution to this dilemma?

Orange Cinnamon Granola

Mr. Green Me loves to eat cereal for breakfast in the morning; however, in our Eat from the Pantry Challenge, cereal is not permitted on the grocery list. I may be okay with scavenging from the cupboards for breakfast, but I want to send my husband off to work with a full and happy belly. And so, I last night I invented my own granola recipe, based on ingredients that we have in our pantry. Mr. Green me had two servings for breakfast and proclaimed it Not too sweet, not too complicated, but just right! And, then he went so far as to say it was in his top a contender for best granola ever (the other contender is homemade granola we had at a B&B on our honey moon).

4 Cups Oats*
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, while collecting all of your ingredients. Next toast the oats on a cookie sheet or in a casserole pan in the oven at 350F for about 20 minutes. Stir them every 5 minutes to achieve even browning. Remove oats from oven and pour into a large mixing bowl. Combine peanut butter, canola oil, honey, cinnamon, vanilla and orange extract in a microwave safe bowl and nuke for about 20 seconds until warm, but not bubbling. Pour mixture over toasted oats and stir well to coat. Spread oat mixture back into toasting pan and bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Remove pan, flip, stir or toss oats and return pan to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove oats from the oven just as they begin to turn golden brown. Let cool completely (at least an hour) before pouring into a food safe glass container. Leave lid off for 4 to 8 hours (or over night) to prevent moisture condensation and keep the granola nice and crunchy. Add in 1/4 cup dried berries, mix well and the granola is ready to serve!

Eat from the Pantry: Tex-Mex Bi Bim Bop Casserole

How much do you think your family spends on food each year? Family Green Me spent 2009 tracking our spending in Mint and we were shocked by the reality of our food spending.  I knew that we spent a decent amount on food and my estimate was pretty accurate for our dining out expenses, but my grocery estimate was about 1/3 of our actual expenses!!! (Ill let you in on how much we spent at the end of this post.)

Id like to attribute part of my massive grocery expense to the fact that I like to stock the pantry. In fact, if I didn’t look so human, you might think I was part squirrel (and or I watched the Crash Course one too many times) as I’ve accordingly acquired a huge amount of bulk, frozen and pantry goods since the summer months. With this in mind and I had already decided in December that we need to eat more from the pantry and buy fewer impulse foods or meal ingredients at the grocery store. And so, I was ready to bite when I saw a friend post a link to the Eat from the Pantry Challenge for January, which is being co-hosted by MoneySavingMom and Life as Mom.

We were actually pretty successful with our food budget and eating from the pantry for December and so I am quite excited at the challenge to really batten down the hatches and eat primarily from the pantry this month. The meal I made tonight was absolutely delicious and rescued multiple food items that normally would have been snugging up in my compost pail rather than my belly! It truly is immensely satisfying to have combined both left overs, frozen veggies and old veggies to make a delicious vegetarian meal!

Tex-Mex Bi Bim Bop Casserole (Food Fusion at its best!)

4 cups pre-cooked white rice

1.5 cups pre-cooked black beans (previously seasoned with cumin, allspice, bay and paprika)

1 small napa cabbage, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped

1 cup corn kernels

1/3 cup Veganaise

6 tortillas (I used homemade, gluten free)

12 oz tomato sauce (unseasoned or fire roasted)

1 tsp Kosher (or coarse) salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp paprika

1 to 2 cups grated cheese (vegan or dairy)

Directions: pre-heat oven to 350F and pour 1/2 of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 913 casserole pan. Next, dump your rice, beans, corn, chopped cabbage and onions, and spices all into a big mixing bowl. Measure out 1/3 cup Vegenaise and stir all ingredients together until coated and evenly distributed. Lay 3 tortillas in bottom of casserole pan (you may have to break one in pieces to get full coverage). Spread mixture into pan and top with remaining 3 tortillas. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Cover with tinfoil or a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil or cookie sheet and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Cut and serve like you would a lasagna and enjoy!

I realize that this recipe sounds totally nutty; however, it was really, truly, delicious. Mr. Green Me even went back for seconds, a rare event in our household! Another bonus? This was a mostly local meal! The beans, corn, cabbage, tomatoes and onions were all grown in CO and either stored, frozen or canned before use in this meal! If you dont have identical ingredients on hand you should be able to keep spices, tomato sauce, rice and Vegenaise (I prefer the grapeseed variety) the same, but substitute celery, carrots, potatoes or any other kind of vegetable in place of the cabbage and the corn, and achieve similar results. I served ours with a side of turnips au gratin (left overs from the previous night).

This month we have already spent $126 on grocery stores and $54 dollars on dining out. However, for the rest of the month the goal is to spend $25 per week on groceries, netting out at $250 for the entire month. We are going to leave our dining out budget at $150 per month as that is generally not a problem and still brings our total Food Budget for the month to a very reasonable (IMHO) $400.

Goals:

  1. Spend $25.00 or less per week to purchase milk for Little Boy Green; some cheese; and, our weekly eggs. Green veggies or fruit may be included on an as needed basis.
  2. Eat and use leftovers until they are gone versus ignoring leftovers until they are fated to be reborn in the compost.
  3. Eat meat two times or less per week. Eat vegan or vegetarian 5 days per week.
  4. Use frozen vegetables, remaining vegetables from our CSA winter share (still have beets, squash, an onion and potatoes), and frozen fruit before buying new fresh fruit and veggies.
  5. Make bread or pasta from scratch with my vast bulk reserves rather than buying the pre-packaged kind.
  6. Use dried rice and beans until I start to make a dent in our bulk stores. I think we might have enough to get us through March on simply rice and beans!
  7. Send Mr. Green Me to work with leftovers for lunch rather than buying him stand alone lunch packing items.

Hopefully this post has inspired you to both join the Eat from the Pantry Challenge and also to take a look at your food expenses. Who knows, if you are like us, you very well might be able to afford that dream vacation (or solar panels or new windows or preschool for your kid) if you could reign in your food spending!

Dont believe me? While reviewing our year we discovered that we spent nearly 14% of our income on food (groceries, eating out, wine and beer, etc.) in 2009. Now, if you believe statistics, this percentage is on the high end of average. However, that would assume that our family income is also average, which it is not, so I am pretty sure that we spend way more on food than the average American. According to statistics our household income definitely puts us in the category of folks who live a pretty comfy life. My food goal thus for the year 2010 is to cut our food budget in half, while also donating to our local food bank on a more regular basis! Ill let you know how that is going as the year progresses!

Fluffy Gluten Free Free Pancakes

Last week my family and I (Mama and Daddy Green Me plus Little Boy Green) took a little stay-cation right here in Colorful Colorado. We drove south about an hour from the north Metro Denver area and stayed in the Park Meadows and Tech Center area. On Wednesday night we enjoyed a delicious Gluten Free dinner at PF Changs followed by an early night (we slept from 9 PM to 8 AM) in a very comfy over-sized King Room room at the Marriott Denver South for $52.80 (plus tax). The next morning we got up and headed to the Wildlife Experience followed by lunch and a gluten free shopping expedition at Deby’s Bakery & Cafe.

We bought a full selection of items at Deby’s from prepared baked goods to her pastry flour mix. One of the extra bonuses of the Deby’s bakery is that nearly all the goods sold there are also dairy free and many are either vegan and or avoid what they call the allergenic 8. The 8 allergens that many of their products avoid include: gluten, trans-Fat, dairy, caesin, corn, soy, peanut and tree nut.

I thought this was kind of neat although I was disappointed to find that 4 of the 10 products that we bought were mislabeled in some fashion. For example, my pecan pie claimed to be a cherry pie on top and an apple pie on the bottom, a dangerous mistake if someone was allergic to tree nuts! My cinnamon rolls were delicious, but the label said they contained 4 and yet we only found 3 inside and so on.

Nevertheless, everything we bought tasted delicious and upheld the Deby’s tagline: Gluten Free Food So Good You Will Want to Eat It! If you’ve ventured very far into the frozen gluten free goods case at any grocery store, you will know that most gluten free baked goods taste like goat feed. Or worse.

My most exciting purchase, since I generally prefer to make my own baked goods rather than buy them, was a 5lb bag of her pastry flour mix. The mix is somewhat similar to Bobs, but clearly has some variation as the taste was very pure and wheat flour like. And, most importantly to this post, it made wonderful pancakes!  If you do not have access to Deby’s flour you can likely substitute your own gluten free flour mix.

Dry Ingredients (sift together):

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour mix*
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp flax meal
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients (stir together well):

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups soy milk (or your favorite milk product)

1. Sift together the dry ingredients

2. Beat together wet ingredients

3. Combine wet with dry and stir vigorously for about 1 minute. Make sure that everything has combined well. Stir again for another minute. Batter should be very thick, but spreadable. Similar to cake batter. Set aside.

4. Prepare your griddle or pan, while letting batter sit for about 5 minutes. You will see the leavening starting to react and make the batter kind of puffy.

5. Scoop 1/4 cup of batter (plus a little) onto your seasoned hot griddle (or your frying pan). Spread it out a bit if needed. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until firm enough to flip. Cook another few minutes until golden. My batch made exactly 11 pancakes about 4 inches in diameter.

6. Serve warm with fried eggs or your favorite breakfast sides! Delicious, light, fluffy with just the right amount of crisp on the outside!

*Deby’s Gluten Free Pastry Flour ingredients are listed as: Rice flour, Potato starch, Tapioca flour, xantham gum. If your were to mix up your own you might try 3/4 cup Rice Flour, 1/4 cup each Potato Starch and Tapioca flour, plus 1/4 tsp xantham gum.

P.s. I will eventually post a picture, but I took it with our back up camera, before realizing that its memory card does not plug into my lap top.

Allergy Free Antioxidant Muffins

A few weeks ago I decided to use juice and flax seed to make a fruit based mini-muffin as a snack. We were hosting a play date for a baby sitting co-op that my neighbor is putting together. At the meeting I had guests with allergies to eggs and nuts, as well as, gluten and dairy intolerance. One of the guests may have also had an issue with soy.

To get around all these food issues I made a pumpkin muffin using rice flour and juice for the liquid. The muffin turned out pretty tasty, but it was not quite perfect and so warranted a little adjustment. Most of all I was pleased to discover that juice made a perfect substitution for milk in a muffin recipe and so I was quite thrilled this morning to find a box of POM juice on my front porch.

Earlier this fall Id been contacted by POM to see if Id like to try some of their juice in a few recipes. Ive been a pomegranate lover since I was a little kid and my husband and I were definitely early adopters of POM Pomegranate juice; however, in the last few years since having our son weve sort of fallen off the band wagon.

One issue with being gluten free or dairy free or really anything free is that folks who eat these diets are more prone to nutritional deficiencies due to limited food groups. Dairy free folks tend not to get enough calcium and vitamin D.  Gluten free folks can easily miss out on fiber and other nutrients found in wheat, rye and or barley. And, so not only is it fun to make a muffin focusing on increasing antioxidants and other nutrients, but it is also smart!

And so, with a box of POM juice in my kitchen I was inspired to make an antioxidant muffin. Pomegranate juice has been all the rage for the last few years not only due to taste and its rich color, but because the fruit is packed with more antioxidants than your average fruit or berry. To make this muffin I decided to combine the antioxidant power of the POM with some organic cocoa powder rich in polyphenols and some flax seed meal to add both fiber and lignans, which are yet another antioxidant powerhouse.

You will also notice that I used raw Agave and cinnamon. Some people like agave, some don’t. If you are in the anti-agave camp feel free to substitute an equivalent amount of honey for similar results. I’ve found that adding cinnamon to recipes with either chocolate or fruit rounds out the flavor. Furthermore, studies show that cinnamon may help reduce both blood glucose and cholesterol. These are not health issues for my immediate family, but they are for much of the population, so whether or not you choose to use agave, I do insist that you make these muffins with cinnamon!

Sift Together Dry Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cups gluten free flour mix (I used Bobs Redmill)

1/4 tapioca flour

1/4 cup finely ground flax meal

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1.5 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

Add 1/2 cup mixed dried berries after sifting and stir to coat berries with flour.

Mix together Wet Ingredients separately:

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup Raw agave

3/4 cup POM Pomegranate Juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry with wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Lightly oil mini-muffin pan (makes 24) or line regular muffin tin with liners. Spoon batter into tin until just below the top of the tin – do not over fill. Bake mini muffins for about 18 minutes and regular sized muffins for about 22 minutes. Muffins should rise gently and be springy to the touch when finished baking. Remove from oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes gently remove from tin and cool on rack for another 10 to 20 minutes.

Serve immediately or eat within 24 hours. Freeze any muffins that are not consumed in 24 hours. Gluten free baked goods tend to taste better when frozen and reheated rather than being left out.

Substitutions:

  • You can easily substitute the gluten free flour mix with a regular whole wheat flour. If you do so, omit the tapioca flour and reduce the baking powder to 3/4 tsp.
  • You may substitute the ener-g egg replacer for one real egg. Add the egg to the wet ingredients and reduce the canola oil by 1 tablespoon.
  • You may could also increase the flax meal by one tablespoon and eliminate the egg replacer with no additional alternations.
  • If you do not have POM juice on hand you could use another juice; however, if you are looking for pomegranate juice read the labels carefully. In my own research Ive not been able to find another pomegranate juice that is 100% Pomegranate they all seem to be diluted with grape juice or other fruit juices. Also, POM juice is made from 100% California Pomegranates, which is important if you are concerned about clearing of forests elsewhere to grow pomegranate trees.

Nutritional Info for 2 Mini Muffins or 1 regular muffin (recipe makes 24 or 12): 180 calories; 7 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrate; 2 grams protein; 3 grams fiber.

Disclaimer: The author of this blog did receive complementary POM Pomegranate Juice from POM; however, I have no other agreement with nor have I received compensation from POM other than to use the juice in recipes. I readily agreed to this offer as I am continually looking for healthy and tasty ways to mix up and inspire our everyday foods! Please feel free to add questions or comments below and I will respond as best I can!

Easy Rolled Arrowroot Meringues (Gluten Dairy Free)

Yesterday I had a friend visiting for tea who is allergic to corn. I wanted to make a snack that was guaranteed to be corn free with a hint of Christmas. At first I was dismayed to learn that all I happened to have left in my pantry was a package of arrowroot flour! I made a quick Google search for arrowroot flour recipes and came upon these tasty little cookies!

They were quick to make, easy to roll and are quite pleasing to eat! The big surprise is that they are very light and delicate with a crunch. Much more like a meringue than a traditional sugar cookie. The flavor was lightly sweet with a hint of almond and I will definitely make (and eat) them again.

I made some adjustments to the recipe to make them 100% corn and dairy free, as well as, gluten free.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups arrowroot flour (plus more for rolling)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 oz +/- plain soy milk

Per the instructions at the Perfect Pantry I first sifted the flour and sugar together. I then beat the egg and canola oil together with the almond extract. Next I added in 2 oz of the soy milk. While stirring I added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, slowly adding additional soy milk until everything was just barely combined. I then commenced kneading the dough. At first I was skeptical that it would become pliable, but all of a sudden it was almost too pliable. I turned the dough on my silicon mat and sifted about a teaspoon of arrowroot flour on the dough, which I then kneading back in. I had to do this a few times until I had a soft, but workable dough that was easy to roll out and perfect for cut cookies! Next time I make them I will use coconut milk (or cream), but it is good to know that the recipe worked just perfectly with a substitute!

editors note: These cookies also make good cat treats. When we returned from an outing to the park several were broken and one was on the floor. I figured my toddler must have gotten at them when I was putting on my shoes, but later in the afternoon I caught my cat eating one! Needless to say the remaining cookies are now in the cookie jar!

Gluten and Dairy Free Brownie Bites

On Saturday night we attended the annual holiday party for my husbands office. For the past few years the party has been held at the lovely home of one of his co-workers and the finger food style dinner has been catered by Whole Foods. The food is generally very good, but not friendly to a gluten or dairy free palate.

Rather than feeling sorry for myself I decided to whip up a few Whole Foods inspired dishes to complement the standard party fair. First I baked a loaf of Gluten Free Rosemary Olive Oil Bread. I’ve made this twice and followed the recipe precisely, except that I do not add xantham gum or walnuts. It makes an excellent bread, especially when served warm.

And, second I made Brownie Bites. If you have not had the opportunity to try the Whole Foods Bakery Brownie bites you are missing out. They are dense, moist, chocolate, and irresistible in the fashion of a potato chip. You can never eat just one. Sadly however, they are made with flour and not gluten free, and so I had to create my own recipe to satisfy the craving. They were a hit to say the least!

Gluten & Dairy Free Brownie Bites

3 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ tsp orange extract

3 oz dairy free dark Bittersweet or Unsweetened Bakers chocolate
8 oz dairy free chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance Buttery Sticks

1/3 cup rice flour
¼ cup arrowroot flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ tsp baking powder
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease a mini muffin pan (makes 24)
  3. Beat eggs and blend well with sugars, vanilla extract and orange extract
  4. In a double boiler or stove top pan on low, slowly melt the chocolate and the buttery sticks together. Stir until smooth and then slowly add to egg/sugar mixture.
  5. Sift together the flours, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and xantham gum. Add to wet mixture and stir well.
  6. Spoon batter into mini-muffin tins (makes 24 bites) or spread in 99 non-stick pan and bake for 18 to 22 minutes.

I apologize for the lack of photos, but the brownie bites did not stick around long enough for a photo shoot!

Cashew Sugar Cookies

After a not-so-successful attempt at gluten free gingerbread cookies last week a little voice in the back of my head has been begging for delicious holiday cookies. Cookies may be super easy to eat, but they are also one of the most complicated items to bake. Add gluten free and dairy free to the mix and things get even more complicated.

In November I had great success baking both an almond flour and a hazelnut flour tort, so I thought Id go check out Elanas Pantry for a sugar cookie recipe. I found this one for Pecan Shortbread Cookies, which looked perfect, until I realized that Id used up all but 1/2 cup of my almonds earlier in the week. Upon further inspection I realized that I have a ton of cashews that my son has been refusing to eat because they’ve lost the flavor of sweet fresh cashews and are now a bit stale. Elana lives in Boulder (we are thus at the same altitude) and her recipes are quite popular, so I figured that Id have a better chance of success at mixing and matching to make a new recipe for Cashew Sugar Cookies.

Dry Ingredients (mix well):

2 cups Cashew flour (I used raw cashews, ground fine)

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 cup arrowroot powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup white sugar

Melt Buttery stick and stir in the following ingredients:

1 Earth Balance Buttery Stick Melted (1/2 cup)

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla (Costco brand)

1/2 tsp real almond extract

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Once both wet and dry ingredients were mixed well I poured the wet into the dry and mixed the dough thoroughly with a spatula. I then scraped the dough into a sheet of wax paper and rolled it up per Elana’s instructions. After an hour in the freezer I removed the cookies and sliced them about 1/4 inch thick. I next laid them out on a cookie sheet (Id separate by at least an inch). To add a festive holiday look, brush each cookie top lightly with water and sprinkle decorative sugar on top! Promptly bake at 375F for about 8 minutes or until the edge of the cookies just start to turn golden.

I used a honey/sugar mixture rather than Agave, because I am also out of Agave. I was a bit skeptical that the recipe only need 1/4 tsp of baking powder, but Ive never actually made short bread before, so I went with her recommendation and it worked. I left out the chopped pecans, because I was hoping for a more sugar cookie texture. Cashews are already sort of buttery in nature and I think the combination worked just fine. Next time I might try macadamia nut flour for an even creamier flavor!

Conclusion: Flavor is very good, but crumb is a little large. Next time I think Ill go for more finely ground flour. The cookies are also a tad crumbly, but not so much that it bothered me. My assistant 100% approved and promptly ate two!