May 31, 2014

Glutenfree Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake

Online I'm pretty vanilla. I make a conscious effort not to write all the things that pop into my brain on a daily basis. Part of this is an effort to not offend anyone online, but a larger part of it is that what I put online is only part of the person I am. In public I'm not very controversial. I think many things, but have learned as I've gotten older that learning to bite your tongue is hard, but an important lesson. I transfer this understanding online. I could have larger blog hit numbers if I ranted about things daily, if I attacked another person's point of view, or spoke vocally about everything that entered my brain. I chose not to. Yes, the person I am on my blog is only part of the person I am offline. However, it is the part of me that highlights the things that I wish I could be more of in life in general. My blog is me edited down to the person that I strive to be and oftentimes fail miserably at attempting to achieve offline. It's still me though either way.

So vanilla always makes me think of desserts. I love dessert as most of you know and last week I tried a new recipe for Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake from the March 2014 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes 2 hours of total time, 20 minutes of which is active, and makes 8 servings. I did make a number of large changes to the original recipe. First, instead of using all-purpose flour I substituted brown rice flour and a tablespoon of xanthan gum. Secondly, I used my mixer. I know the recipe says not to do the whole recipe in the mixer, to stir the dry and wet ingredients separately and not to over mix or the top will crack. Well, I hate having to make more dishes, so I ignored the instructions. That's right I threw everything in the mixer with the paddle attachment and let it go. Yes, the top split a little bit, but it tasted just as good and no one in my house cared. Plus, I was happy since I only used one bowl. I did find that my total cooking time was a little longer than the recipe suggests, approximately 1 and a half hours total.

This cake turned out really well. It rose beautifully and the gluten free flour made for a moist cake. If you aren't a fan of brown rice flour, potato flour, sorghum flour, or white rice flour would work just as well. I rarely use gluten free all-purpose flour, but it would also be an acceptable substitute. If you use the all-purpose flour omit the xanthan gum since most pre-made gluten free all-purpose flours already have it in the ingredient list.

For the recipe go to Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake. 

May 28, 2014

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Chicken Casserole

I hate college alumni magazines. My least favorite part is the looks at me section also known as notables, people of note etc. I went to a very large undergraduate school and people seem to jump at the chance to laud on themselves in the alumni magazine. The worst is the magazine I receive from one of my undergraduate majors (I'll be nice and not name which one). It turns into an almost pompous one upmanship contest. I was published in such in such magazine, oh wait I won an award, and so on and so forth. I think that I am going to write my own write-up. It will focus on the fact that my kids actually helped me to move the trashcan back from the curb and picked up their toys from the floor in their bedroom. That has to be as exciting as reading another blurb about some former graduate who has become much more successful than I am, no thanks.

My kids have been in moods (not in a good way) due to the end of the school year. Tomorrow is the last day and I am so ready! Due to my kids attitudes I have trying to make meals that are quick and easy to put together. This week I tried a new recipe for Black Bean and Chicken Casserole from the May issue of All You Magazine.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes 4 and a half hours of total time, 12 minutes of which is active,  and makes 6 servings.  I only made a few changes to the original recipe. I used leftover chicken from a roasted chicken recipe I had made the previous night. It was a nice way to save money and use leftovers. Pre-shredded cheese is always more, so I buy big blocks and shred it myself. It saves a lot of money over the course of a year. Finally, I make my own chili powder. I prefer the taste to store bought and I can make a big batch at once. As I normally do I also make beans from scratch using dried beans and my slow cooker.

If you're looking for something quick and easy this is the recipe for you. It goes together very quickly and made enough for two meals for my family of four. The taste is mild enough that even my kids liked the dish and the slow cooker made the cooking work beyond simple. The flavors are simple, which during a busy week is fine with me.

For the recipe go to Black Bean and Chicken Casserole. 

May 24, 2014

Delicious Gluten Free Banana Bread

My brain seems to be on overload. I'm having one of those weeks where the combination of dreaded doctor appointments (which are luckily done), the end of the school year, and the stress of trying to figure out my life in two months when my youngest starts school is coming to a head. When I was at the store today I realized my patience with human beings seems to be pretty low, a woman almost hit our car when pulling out of her parking spot and I had to stop myself from saying a rather bad swear word in front of my kids. My husband isn't doing much better than me, he almost told the woman at the fast food drive through off for being less than pleasant. I think the end of the school year is driving all parents nationwide slightly insane.

I have been trying to clear out my cupboards and use the foods that I have already bought before school ends on Thursday. Last week in order to use the blackened bananas I had on my counter, I tried a new recipe for Banana Bread from the Food Network.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 3 hours and 10 minutes of total time, 20 minutes of which is active, and makes one 12 serving loaf. I made a few significant changes to the original recipe. First, instead of regular flour I used white rice flour and a small amount of xanthan gum (about 1 tablespoon). Secondly, I cheated. I poured all the ingredients into my mixer and let it do the work. I hate, hate, hate using two separate bowls when baking and I avoid it if I can. I found that the total time to bake the gluten free banana bread was slightly longer, closer to an hour and 20 minutes.

The texture of this bread was great. It tasted very similar to non-gluten free banana bread and my two boys couldn't tell the difference, they thought I had made them regular banana bread. The bread is a little on the buttery side, which I like, but if you prefer you could reduce the total amount of butter to 3/4 of a stick or substitute coconut oil.

For the recipe go to Banana Bread.

May 20, 2014

Polenta with White-Bean and Roasted Pepper Ragout

I hate going to the doctor. Not just a little bit, I dread the whole experience. During my twenties I was horrible about going, I pretty much didn't go other than when I was pregnant. Then I had pneumonia and I go at least twice a year now. However, I still hate it. Growing up my mother had diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure in addition to being over weight and having horrible anxiety. I have been lucky to have only inherited the horrible anxiety, especially when it comes to doctors. A large part of it stems from having kidney problems growing up and spending a lot of time in the hospital. It made me avoid going to the doctor unless I was sick. Since my mother had so many problems I always have to have a lot of blood tests, which come out normal every time, but I still hate the whole process. Yuck.

One way I try to stay healthy is by cooking meals that are either vegetarian or use meat as an ingredient rather than the main part of a meal. My kids have grown to love beans as much as meat, which is a win in my book. Last week I tried a new recipe for Polenta with White-Bean and Roasted-Pepper Ragout from Martha Stewart Living Magazine.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 45 minutes of total time. 30 minutes of which is active, and makes 4 servings. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used homemade chicken broth, the taste is better and you can control the amount of sodium. Second, I used quick-cooking polenta, I prefer it since it's quick and easy. I doubled the amount of polenta since my family loves polenta.

I liked that this recipe was simple and easy to prepare. My husband and I enjoyed the combination of the beans and polenta, it was a nice change from having pasta or rice. I wasn't sure what my two boys would think, but they loved the beans and ate their whole servings. This would be a nice summer meal since it's light and doesn't take much time to cook.

For the recipe go to Polenta with White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Ragout.

May 14, 2014

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

I am so sick of spam comments. This week I had two major food sites spam me. I expect spam from small sites, but these were pretty major food selling sites that obviously set up fake accounts to leave fake comments with link backs to their sites. I expect more of larger sites, they should be able to get links without shady tactics. The funny thing is if they had asked for a review I would have done one with a no-follow link. However, PR companies have figured out that they can have follow links on sites by spamming in the comments. I really hate this practice and have thought about emailing the two companies that left their addresses as spam comments. I'm not going to name names, but they are big enough to know better. Maybe I should be flattered that a company that large decided to spam me for a follow link, but I'm not. I'm just annoyed.

On to lighter subjects, food! Last week was very hot so I used my slow cooker most of the week. I tried a new recipe for Slow Cooker Baked Beans from the May/June 2014 issue of Eating Well Magazine.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 8 hours and 15 minutes of total time, 15 minutes of which is active, and makes 12 servings. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used dried navy beans, homemade chicken broth, and sweet onions. These are just personal preferences. Additionally I left out the bourbon. I don't keep liquor in the house except for cooking and I didn't want to have to buy a small bottle just for the the recipe. Finally, I found that my beans needed a little longer than the recipe stated. I always let my beans cook 8-10 hours on low, I like my beans very tender and this recipe was no exception.

As with any recipe with bacon in it, my kids loved this dish. The beans were sweet, without being overly so, and with 10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup they were a nice way of sneaking in beans to my family's diet. If you aren't a big fan of maple syrup or brown sugar you could try substituting other sweeteners such as agave etc. and the beans could be changed to great northern or switched to canned and the time cooking time decreased.

For the recipe go to Slow Cooker Baked Beans.

May 10, 2014

Mediterranean Tuna and Bean Salad

Lying by omission. This has been the hard life lesson I have been trying to teach my oldest son the last couple of weeks. I think that as adults we do it all the time. Some lies we do to spare other people's feelings, but some lies by omission we do to make our selves feel better or avoid feeling uncomfortable. Instead of lying I have been trying to teach my son ways to be constructive with his criticism. If you don't like something don't lie about it, but don't make the other person feel bad about the situation. It's okay if you don't like dinner, just don't say it was horrible. Instead tell me what you liked about the dish and add a compliment at the end, "I liked the peppers in the meal even though the dish was spicy, it reminds me of that great recipe with peppers you made last week." You don't have to like everything and you shouldn't have to lie about it, just don't tell the truth in a way that hurts someone else. I would rather that someone told me something constructive than tell me that everything that I ever did was wonderful and great, nothing is learned or gained from never having anything negative told to you. It's all about balance in the end, both positive and negative comments help us to be well rounded individuals.

Since it has been hot for the last week in my area I have been trying to make cooler foods for dinner. It doesn't help that my oven broke and it wasn't until today that I finally got a new one. So cold salads have been on the menu in my house a lot lately. Last week I tried a new recipe for Mediterranean Tuna and Bean Salad from the Kroger home mailer. 

Now 99 percent of the time I don't copy recipes outright. The exception I have always made are recipes that are sent in coupon circulars and recipes on packages. I still change the steps to avoid copyright, but I view these recipes as advertisement for the product and company and not in the same category as other printed recipes. So here is the recipe from Kroger: 
  • 2 (5 ounce) cans solid white tuna in water, drained
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 12 radishes, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and mix. Serve over spinach or salad of your choice. Also great with crackers. 

That's it. I would suggest adding a small amount of fresh dill if you have it. I love fresh dill with tuna it gives it a nice fresh taste and during the summer dill is very easy to grow in a pot or in your garden. My dill is doing great right now and I look forward to many recipes using dill soon. 

May 3, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Nacho Soup

I went grocery shopping last night with my two kids. We didn't get to the store until 9 and I was worried that the store would be crowded and my kids would be wild. Turns out I love Friday nights at the store. It was dead, no cranky women (like there always are on Saturday afternoons), very friendly cashiers, and my kids were perfect. It helped that they were tired and too sleepy to run around acting crazy. All I know is that it was the best grocery shopping trip I have had with my kids in years. I told my husband this morning that I am switching my shopping to late on Fridays, if nothing else it will help to keep my sanity the rest of the weekend.

It's been soup season in my house. Our spring weather has been all over the place. One minute it's 90 and the next we have snow. My oldest told me that the weather is drunk this year, it definitely has been a little off. Since I love soup year round (even when it's hot, weird I know), I tried a new recipe for Chicken Nacho Soup from the April issue of the Food Network Magazine.

This recipe has 17 ingredients. It takes 8 hours and 20 minutes of total time, 20 minutes of which is active, and makes 4 servings. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used homemade chicken broth. This is the method I use for most recipes, it saves money and cuts down on the amount of sodium. For the cheese sauce I allowed it to sit for approximately five minutes. This allowed it to thicken and made it easier to pour over the soup. Finally, I added the chicken at the beginning of the recipe. I prefer to cook my chicken in the soup adding flavor. The meat came out very tender, so there was no problem with toughness.

We are big soup fans in my house and this recipe went over well. It was mild enough for my kids to enjoy, but with enough flavor for my husband and I. You can adjust the amount of heat by removing (or not) the amount of jalapeno seeds. The recipe states that this dish makes 4 servings, but it was more than enough for my family of four with leftovers for the next day.

For the recipe go to Chicken Nacho Soup.
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