Friday, January 10, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup


Before I was told that I need to eat healthy food that won't cause inflammation (back when I was eating wheat, dairy, corn, etc.,) I thought butternut squash was that weird stuff that my mom would make instead of spaghetti noodles. What I didn't know was that I love butternut squash; therefore, I LOVE this soup. I will say that butternut squash does take quite a while to peel and chop, so plan time for that, but it's worth the work.

If you’ll notice, I stuck a spinach leaf in the soup for the picture, but you really could throw a handful of spinach into the soup, let the hot soup wilt it, and eat it with the soup. It’s a great way to eat more greens.

Butternut Squash Soup
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large sweet onions, peeled and roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 6 cups)
4 cups chicken stock, warmed (or vegetable stock to make it vegan)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add the salt and pepper and stir. Add the squash and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the warmed stock into the pot—if it doesn’t quite cover the squash, add some boiling water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender, use that to blend the soup. If not, use a blender being careful to let the soup cool first, and then blend it in batches. Season with more salt to taste.

-Recipe from My Father’s Daughter  by Gwyneth Paltrow

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Salmon Beet Salad


Salmon Beet Salad
It’s winter here, so I bake the salmon; if you wanted to grill it that would work too. I've enjoyed this salad as a lunch just for myself or as a dinner with the family. As you assemble the salad, I recommend salting the cucumbers and beets. I like to make sure there’s salt on my raw vegetables without adding a ton of salt to just the top of the salad.

Ingredients
2 large beets
3 medium zucchini, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 cucumber sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch green onions, dark ends discarded
2 6-ounce wild salmon fillets
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt (iodine-free)
1 head of Romaine lettuce or butter lettuce, washed, dried and cut into thick strips
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
½ cup Balsamic and Lime Vinaigrette (see below)
1 lime, quartered for serving

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425.
Steam or boil the beets until cooked through, about 30 minutes.  Let them sit until cool enough to handle and then peel them and cut into a small dice.
While the beets steam, drizzle the salmon with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. I like to put my salmon on my silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet so there’s no risk of it sticking to the pan (parchment paper would work too). Start the salmon baking at 425 for 14 minutes or until done.
In a large skillet, heat about 1 Tablespoon olive oil and sauté zucchini and green onions. Salt and pepper to taste.  Next prep the lettuce and cilantro and make the dressing.
When the salmon is done, break it into pieces. Now that everything is chopped or in pieces, assemble the salad. Lay down the lettuce leaves on each plate and top with beets, zucchini, green onions, cucumber, salmon, and cilantro. Drizzle the lime vinaigrette over the salad and serve with lime wedges.

*Balsamic Lime Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Put all the ingredients in a jar or bowl and whisk. I refrigerate leftovers and then take the dressing out about 20 minutes before I need it so the oil can get into a liquid state again.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Vegan, Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Cookies


I didn't post for the whole half of last year since I found out I again have multiple food allergies (wheat, dairy, corn, eggs, soy) and I also need to avoid certain other foods to keep myself healthy (more on that later). I've spent the past 6 months figuring out what to eat that won't hurt my body and how to make it taste good, and I'm ready to share with you!

This is about the fourth vegan and gluten-free recipe I've tried, and I have to say I’m so pleased that I have got the hang of baking without eggs! I made this recipe based off two other recipes, and it is a keeper. These cookies stay together so well and taste so good!
Gluten-Free and Vegan Chocolate Mint Cookies
Ingredients
1 ¼ c. butter flavored shortening (like Crisco)
1 c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
4 Tablespoons non-dairy milk (like Almond milk, I use vanilla-flavored, unsweetened)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups gluten-free flour mix*
1 ½ teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum if avoiding corn
¾ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups mint chips (get dairy-free mint chips or substitute with another vegan/dairy-free chip, like a carob chip; or use a dark chocolate vegan bar and it break up into small pieces and use it like chips) *confession: my mint chips had a tiny bit of whey in it, but I found this acceptable for the holidays.

Directions
1.       Heat oven to 350
2.       In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugars together until light and fluffy.
3.       Add non-dairy milk and vanilla; beat well.
4.       Combine flour, xanthan gum, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
5.       Gradually blend into creamed mixture. Stir in mint chips.
6.       Drop by Tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. (I use parchment or a silicone baking mat on my cookie sheets.) Bake 8-9 minutes. (Do not over bake; cookies will be soft.)
7.       Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet onto wire rack; let cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen
-Dairy free option
-Gluten free
-Egg free
-Soy free
-Corn free option


*This mix of flours is good for cookies, cakes, brownies, and gravy; I make at least two batches at a time, mix it up and keep it in a bag or glass jar. Xanthan Gum or Guar Gum does need to be added if making something like cookies, brownies, breads, that need to stay together (1/2 teaspoon per cup of gluten-free flour mixture).
2 cups extra fine brown rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
1/3 cup tapioca flour


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Wanderer by Robyn Carr


Love, love, love Robyn Carr! I truly enjoyed every part of this story. What Carr does best is make interesting characters and interesting secondary characters as well, so I loved reading every page. I'm excited for this new Thunder Point series.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Homemade Flour Tortillas


Growing up, my working single mom arranged for me to go to a friend’s house after school in sixth grade. My friend is Mexican and her mother would make the most delicious flour tortillas just as I was leaving (around dinner time). If I was lucky, I was offered one of the soft, thick, velvetly flour tortillas, and I’ve never forgotten them. Thanks to Facebook, I was able to reconnect with my sixth-grade friend and ask her for her mom’s recipe. Of course, her mother didn’t make the tortillas from a recipe, but she looked on the internet and found a photo tutorial by Cynthia Detterick-Pineda. By the time this information was passed on to me, I had already mixed the ingredients following Pioneer Woman’s recipe. So, below is a blending of the two.  I follow Pioneer Woman’s list of ingredients for the tortillas (we LOVE these tortillas so much, I’m scared to try anything different now), and I follow the methods of Cynthia Detterick-Pineda.

Ingredients
2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
2 Tablespoons (additional) Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
1 cup Hot Water
*Note: I used butter flavored Crisco and that’s why mine turn out with a slightly yellow tint. I want to try real lard next.

In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
With a pastry cutter/blender (unless you are one of those, like my teachers, who always used their hands) cut in the lard or shortening. You want these ingredients to cling together slightly and hold a form when squeezed in your hands.
If the mixture crumbles, you do not have the shortening mixed in well or have too little (if it makes a hard clump them you need more flour and less shortening).
Add the water all at once and mix the dough quickly with a fork or by hand until the dough forms a mass.

Work it in the bowl, moving it around the sides to pick up any flour remaining in the bowl.
Knead the dough by folding it in half, pushing it down, and folding again. It should take about a dozen folds to form soft dough that is no longer sticky. 

Cover the dough with a towel or plastic wrap to let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Allowing the dough to rest lets any of the liquid absorb into the flour, which will give you a softer tortilla after cooking.
Take your ball of dough and begin pinching off 1-inch diameter balls. Knead each of these into a tight ball by folding them over with your fingers, turning and repeating until it is shaped like a fat disk. Place it to one side of the mixing bowl and continue to do this until you have used all of the dough. Before rolling out the tortillas, allow the dough balls to rest at least 10 minutes. This will permit the gluten to relax and make them much easier to shape and roll.

On a lightly floured surface take one of the dough balls and begin to roll it out. To keep a somewhat round shape, roll one directions, make a 1/4 turn and roll again, make another 1/4 turn and roll. Continue to roll and turn until you the dough is about 1/8-inch thick and 8 to 10 inches in diameter. NOTE: You can roll the thinner or thicker, if you like. Just remember to adjust the cooking time for how thick they are rolled. I roll mine the way they are done in New Mexico – slightly thicker than any store bought ones.


Heat a Comal, cast-iron griddle, or small skillet to about 450 degrees F. over medium to medium-high heat until water droplets "dance" when dropped on the surface. You might have to increase or decrease the heat after you cook your first tortilla, but you should be able to tell if the tortilla is cooking too fast on the outside and still raw on the inside, or increase it if your tortilla is taking more than 30 seconds to begin to “puff” when placed on the comal.
Place the raw tortilla on the preheated Comal and allow it to cook until it begins to puff up with air pockets, turn carefully since not only is the comal hot, the tortilla is hot and the air pockets may release steam that can burn. Each side should cook about 30 seconds, leaving the tortilla puffy. Press on a center part of the tortilla slightly to be certain the inside is cooked. If it looks as though it has compressed down and is a darker color, your dough is not cooked in the center and will need to be returned to the comal.



  • The tortillas can be place in bags or containers and kept for several days in the refrigerator, and they can be frozen (although I do not recommend this as the taste changes some when they are thawed).
  • The dough can be frozen easily before cooking and thawed later.
  • Store extra tortillas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Since they don't have preservatives, they will spoil after a couple of days on the counter. 

Comal Definition - Mexican Comal or cast iron plate used to make tortillas. If you do not have a comal, a large cast iron skillet or griddle works well, or even an electric griddle can be used when heated up to 400 to 450 degrees F.
Notes on cooking tortillas: I, along with others who have been making tortillas for quite some time, will roll the next tortilla while the previous is cooking. Unless you feel very comfortable doing this, I would recommend either having someone else flip the tortillas and pull them off the comal, or wait until the present tortilla is cooked before starting to roll a new one. You will find that tortillas can cook very quickly (approximately 1 minute), and they can burn very quickly! If you are using a cast iron comal, and the tortilla burns you will need to scrape off the char and use a damp rag to wipe down your comal before continuing to cook. The flavor of one burnt tortilla can ruin the remainder of the batch. 
As you pull the tortillas off the comal, place them in a tortilla warmer or on a plate (lined with a dish towel or paper towels to keep them warm).
Storing fresh-made tortillas:

The House that Love Built


Beth Wiseman's The House that Love Built is an easy and comforting read. This is my first Beth Wiseman book, and based off this one, I would be interested to read more of her work.

The Love Shack (Beach House No. 9 series)


The third in Christie Ridgway's Beach House No. 9 series, The Love Shack is a good read. I've read the first and the third in the series now, and am waiting for my copy of number 2 from the library. Four out of five stars!