Thursday, March 21, 2013

100% Naturally Tinted Coconut "Grass" - Just in time for Easter


I was recently asked to make cupcakes for the Easter party that my daughter's class was having.  Besides myself, there are quite a few parents who keep their children gluten and dairy free, and limit artificial colors and sugar laden foods as much as possible.  Having experience in this area already, I was up for the challenge.

My original idea was to put green tinted coconut on top of the cupcakes as "grass" but, traditional food coloring was not an option.  So I set out for our local health food store to get natural food coloring.  No luck... they are a newer store and they have not orderd it yet.  It was already too late in the day for me to drag 2 kiddos out to a different store that's not even remotely close to my house just for food coloring.  Plus, I still had to go to Super Target for other key grocery items.  What to do, what to do?

I walked around the store racking my brain for something that might work and then it suddenly hit me.  Literally out of no where.  I came up with the idea to use... wait for it... SPINACH(shhhhh... don't tell the kids!).  You may be wondering at this point if I lost my mind.  But, somehow, I just knew deep down that it would work.  But, the coconut I was using was unsweetened so, I was definitely going to have to sweeten it up to mask any spinach flavor.  Not wanting to use traditional sugar, I decided I would make a fruit juice reduction to puree the spinach with and then fold it all into the coconut (which is pretty dry).  This was my plan.  So when I was at Target later that day, I grabbed some 100% white grape juice and organic baby spinach leaves and set for home.

The end result was more than perfect!  I can't believe how well it turned out with just my first guesses at ratios.  The puree added the perfect amount of moisture to the coconut to make it soft and fluffy, the juice reduction sweetened it just right.  Not too sweet.  And the spinach provided the perfect shade of green and nothing more...you could not tell in the least that there was spinach in there.  It tastes like sweet, moist coconut and nothing more.  And the best part is, it's REALLY easy to make!  (Cupcake & frosting recipe will be blogged soon).

Ingredients:

2 C of 100% White Grape Juice
1 1/3 C Shredded Unsweetened Coconut (I like the Let's Do Organic brand)
1 C Packed Baby Spinach Leaves

Directions:

 1.  First make a juice reduction by boiling the 2 cups of juice on high heat until reduced down to about 1/2 cup.  (Stir occasionally).  You can see in the photo how much darker the juice reduction gets...
2. Place the juice reduction in the freezer for 15-20 min to cool completely.  (You don't want to "cook" the spinach leaves).

3.  Add spinach leaves and ONLY 1/4 of the juice reduction to a blender.  (I tried my food processor first but it just kept getting spit off to the sides...my blended did the job faster and more efficiently).

4. Puree for 2-3 min total, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides.  Puree mixture should look frothy and almost creamy.

5. Place coconut in a mixing bowl and fold the puree into the coconut until very well blended.

6.  Let sit, covered for about 10 min so the coconut gets nice and soft.

Enjoy!  :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Fun in the Tub

After pinning this idea eons ago, I finally remembered to pick up some shaving cream.  This was a huge hit with my 5 year old and she can't wait to do it again. It only takes a minuet or so to prepare and provides at least an hour of fun, if not more.  I should note though, filling the muffin tin up all the way proved to be WAY to much.  A little "paint" goes a long way!

I love her picture.  She said it's our family (her, Daddy, Mommy & baby brother) and out yellow house.  Perfect!  :)  (she said there was also a heart and some swimming pools and a green slide.)


Happy Painting!



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Vegan Grain Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies



This recipe has been in the making since October.  About 5 months now!  It first started with a recipe I pinned called Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie.  But of course, I had to make changes.  First of all, I'm not a huge fan of chocolate & pumpkin together because I feel chocolate overpowers the pumpkin flavor, and if I'm having something pumpkin, it's because I want to actually taste the pumpkin.  (I just LOVE all things pumpkin!!!)  But, omitting the chocolate chips was not my only change here, so, once again, I bring you a Pin Re-Spin.  My other changes include, pumpkin pie spice in place of cinnamon, making these cookies more comparable to pumpkin pie.  I also added molasses to add a touch more sweetness and to bring more depth to the pumpkin flavor.  I added flax seed meal (as an egg replacement) to bind the cookies a little more.  Lastly, I swapped out the oil for almond coconut milk (though I'm sure just about any dairy free milk would work here, I just really love the almond coconut blend.).  Almonds are quite high in the fat & calorie content so, I felt the oil was just a bit overkill.  In the end, I finally had a vegan, grain free Pumpkin Spice cookie that we LOVE!

The cookies had just a bit of crunch on the outside and they were super soft in the center.  (But, I put them in my cookie jar before cooling 100% so they lost that bit of crunch.  Next time, I know better.)  These were seriously addicting...it took a lot of will power for me to stop at 2 cookies in one sitting.  (If I wait 5 minutes, is that long enough to consider it a new sitting?)  ;)  and even my husband said that he couldn't stop eating them.  (I'll take that as a compliment).  These were also delicious dipped in a hot cup of coffee.  Mmmm!  Or along side a nice cup of tea.  (Tazo's Sweet Cinnamon Spice is the perfect pairing for these cookies).  I have worked on & tweaked this recipe about 6 times in the last 5 months and the 2nd time I made them I tried something different, which didn't workout the way I had hoped.  But, that mistake turned into something else entirely better & different...a Pumpkin Spice Crumble Topping.  (link coming soon!)  What are you waiting for?  Go make some cookies already!  

Vegan Grain Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies (a Pin Re-Spin)

Dry Ingredients:
2 C almond flour (I used both Honeyville Grain & Bob's Redmill w/ similar results but, Honeyville is MUCH more affordable)
1 tsp baking soda
1 & 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

Wet Ingredients:
1/3 C coconut sugar
1 & 1/2 tsp. molasses
1/3 C  almond coconut milk
1 Tblsp vanilla
1/3 C pumpkin puree
2 Tblsp very hot (almost boiling) water
1 Tblsp golden flaxseed meal

Directions:
  1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2.  Mix the flax seed meal with the hot water and set aside.
  3.  In a medium bowl mix the dry ingredients.
  4. In a larger bowl, first mix the coconut sugar & molasses with a fork until very well combined.
  5. Now mix in the rest of the wet ingredients, including the flax seed mixture.  Whisk until well blended.
  6. Fold dry ingredients into wet (work smarter, not harder).  Keep mixing until the batter looks moist.
  7. Use a tablespoon to spoon dough about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and lightly flatten the cookies with the back side of a spoon (or your fingers). 
  8. Bake for 20-25 min.
  9. After removing them from the oven, gently transfer the cookies to the cooling rack by sliding the parchment  paper right off the cookie sheet onto the cooling rack. Let them cool at least 10 minutes before handling.   (Who doesn't love a warm cookie?).  But, to keep that crunch, make sure they cool completely before storing.  And if you don't like your cookies to have a crunch, then store them while they are just barely warm.
Makes about 12 cookies.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Veggie Loaded Taco Nacho's *Dairy & Gluten Free*



As I was grocery shopping the other day, I was racking my brain for what to do for dinner.  I am ashamed to admit that I am horrible at meal planning.  So I end up visiting the grocery store MUCH more often than I probably should in one week.  Anyways, back to dinner:  Bord with the usual stand-by's, I decided to start with a package of ground turkey.  Tacos came to mind first.  Generally, it's a quick & easy meal to make and it pleases everyone including Miss M.  But, I wanted something more... something different than the usual.  So then I started thinking Taco Nachos (corn chips instead of taco shells).  But, since I can't have dairy, that would mean no cheese or sour cream.  Lettuce, tomatoes and meat seemed like a pretty boring way to do "nachos".  So I started thinking veggies.  I wanted LOT'S of veggies.  I just started making it up as I went along through the produce isle.  And I decided the perfect thing to top the nachos off with would be my most favorite homemade Avocado Tomato Salsa (bringing in even more veggies).  As I was about to grab a packet of taco seasoning, I remembered that I made my own last time & I could not bring myself to buy a packet when I already had all the spices at home to make my own.  The only thing, was that it did not make a "sauce" like the packets do, so I knew that I needed to add something else to it.  Tapioca Starch (aka Tapioca Flour) turned out to be the perfect solution. Nom, nom, nom, nom!  My mouth was beginning to water.  I had to be careful that I didn't start to drool in the store like my 6 month old.  (JK...sort of).  While this was not as fast and easy to prepare as standard tacos, in the end, it was totally worth the extra time & effort.  Dinner was delicious, super filling and loaded with about 8 servings of vegetables.  Miss M loved it, she gobbled it all up and asked for seconds.  And this made enough for us to have leftovers, which I put over rice the next day.  This works well for a casual dinner (something Bree Van de Kamp would NEVER serve her family) or for a healthy party dish.


Veggie Loaded Turkey Mixture

1 large zucchini
1 large summer squash
1 very large carrot (or 2 med or 3 small)
 1 green bell pepper
1/2 large yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2-3 cups baby spinach leaves
1 wedge of lemon
6 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 C Water
20 oz package of lean ground turkey
fresh cracked pepper
salt

Taco Sauce

1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp onion powder
1/2 Tbsp garlic salt (Lawery's)
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp tapioca starch (or corn)
1/4 C cold water

Here is the link to the Avocado Tomato Salsa.  It's SO, SO delicious!
I personally am not a huge fan of jalapeno so I sub it out with a small amount of finely diced red onion.  And I ALWAYS double the recipe because it's that good that it simply does not last long between the 3 of us.  When Mr. L starts eating it, I might have to triple the recipe.  And I highly recommend the corn cakes w/ the salsa.  It'd a delicious summer meal.

Directions:

Preheat 2 TblSp of the Olive Oil over medium heat.
 Shred the carrot & dice the onion & green pepper.
Stir-fry with fresh cracked pepper (about 6 twists) and a pinch or 2 of salt in the olive oil until onions begin to caramelize.
Meanwhile, dice the squash & Zucchini, set aside.
Add crushed garlic to the onion mixture and stir for 30 seconds.  Place mixture in a large serving bowl.
Next, pre-heat 3 Tbl Sp of olive oil over medium heat.
Add Squash, Zucchini, fresh cracked pepper (about 8 twists) & 2 pinches of salt.
Stir occasionally and cook until squash & zucchini begin to brown just slightly.
Meanwhile, mix the taco seasoning spices and tapioca starch.  Mix in the cold water and set aside.
Add the squash & zucchini mixture to the bowl with the onion mixture.
Preheat the last Tbl.Sp. of olive oil of med heat.
Add spinach leaves, a pinch of salt, 4 twists of fresh cracked pepper & the juice from the lemon wedge.
Sautee until the spinach cooks down.
Add to bowl with other veggies.
Increase the heat to med-high.
Heat the 1/4 cup of water in the pan to boiling, add ground turkey and break up, really well, stirring continuously.
When the ground turky is done, stir the taco sauce mixture and pour into the pan.  Cook for an additional 1-2 min, until the sauce thickens.
Add turkey to the veggie mixture and stir well.

Put some corn chips (we like Misson Tortilla Strips) on your plate, top with the veggie meat mixture and the salsa and enjoy!  You could also toss on other traditional toppings such as olives, peppers etc.  But, it really does not need cheese or sour cream...that would only take away from the explosion of fresh flavors in this dish.  Happy Eating!