Saturday, May 30, 2009

Iced Green Tea Lemonade

After a day of working in the yard with the kiddos, we all needed something cold and refreshing to drink. I know that water is the best choice, and we drink our share. Sometimes though, you want something different, something with flavor. Not cloyingly sweet and syrupy, not sour. Light, cold, flavor that dances on your tongue. How 'bout good old fashioned iced tea? Something about summer just begs for iced tea. Sun tea, if you have time. No time today, we needed cold refreshment NOW!

Then I remembered that wonderful green tea lemonade I had at Starbucks a few weeks ago. That would be perfect. The crisp refreshment of lemonade and the light energy of green tea. Over a tall glass of ice. Perfect.

Iced Green Tea Lemonade

4 decaf green tea bags
2/3 c organic sugar (or to taste)
1 packet Kool aid lemonade
8 cups barely boiling water
3 cups crushed ice (or whole ice cubes)

Heat 8 cups of water until bubbles form along the bottom and sides of pan, but do not yet rise to the top. Just shy of boiling. Remove from heat and add 4 bags decaf green tea. Stir lightly to make sure tea bags are saturated. Allow to brew 4 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags. Add the lemonade mix and the sugar and stir to dissolve. Put 3 cups whole or crushed ice in a pitcher and pour hot tea mixture over ice. Add more ice if needed, you don't want to melt your pitcher. Serve over ice or chill and enjoy later.

All three of my kiddos downed two huge glasses. This may be our new summer indulgence.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sausage Sweet Potato Burrito

I must have gotten in touch with my creative cooking muse. Inspired by weeks of rotating through the same basic foods, she came to free us from culinary complacency. Thank heavens!

Tonight I was staring into my cupboards, again, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. You know how that goes. Suddenly, images of Irish Cottage Pie flashed through my head. Wouldn't that be tasty? Except my kids were lukewarm on it, and I didn't have the time for that much effort.

Suddenly, it hit me. And I knew what to do. And it was fast. All very good things. (Dinner? Also very good. In fact, it would also make a great breakfast.)

I remembered a recipe for crafting your own sausage patties from the premiere issue of Cooking Light Magazine.* (Seeing as how we were out of actual sausage, this would be perfect, with modifications of course.) My six year old adores sausage. I had left over mashed sweet potatoes in the fridge. My 4 year old adores mashed sweet potatoes. And tortillas. I had those. Also a favorite of my 6 year old. The 2 year old? She'll eat anything that doesn't run.

If I combine them, surely they'll like them. Right?

Mommy liked them. A lot. The savory spice of the sausage seasonings combined with a touch of sweetness from the sweet potatoes wrapped in a crispy tortilla shell made a perfect combination for me. The kids? The oldest devoured hers. The middle one peeled off the tortilla and ate the filling. The youngest? She went to town on the broccoli.

Oh well, you can't win them all.

Sausage Sweet Potato Burrito

1 medium tart apple, peeled and shredded
2 Tbsp grated onion
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp rubbed sage
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp allspice
1 pound ground turkey
1 c mashed sweet potatoes*

In a bowl combine all ingredients except the sweet potatoes. Mix well. Add to large skillet and brown ground turkey mixture. When cooked through, add mashed sweet potatoes and heat through. Heat separate skillet on medium heat. Toss a tortilla on just long enough to warm it slightly, they are more pliable that way. Spoon filling into center of tortilla, fold in ends and wrap to form a burrito. You decide how full to make your burrito. Place on skillet (no oil, just a naked but warm skillet) and brown. Remove from heat and repeat with another tortilla. You can brown as many as will fit on your skillet. The crispy outside that is achieved this way really adds to the appeal of the dish. This should comfortably fill 8-10 tortillas.

*Cook's notes:
  • This is not an endorsement of the magazine. I had a subscription many years ago. It was good. It was pre-allergy living. I have no idea how many recipes would convert. I just figured, if I'm going to use their recipe, I should give them credit.
  • I was lucky enough to have leftover mashed sweet poatoes in the fridge. They were made with coconut milk and brown sugar. You make them the way your family likes them. Or get crazy and just toss in some cooked cubed sweet potatoes. But I kinda liked the way the mashed ones helped hold it all together.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pizza Pasta

Spaghetti has always been a quick and easy standby for dinner at our house. Brown the ground turkey, cook the rice pasta, toss on the sauce. Done. Until about 6 months ago it was a guaranteed winner, with all three girls inhaling at least half their body weight in pasta. Then one day my 6 year old suddenly decided she didn't like spaghetti sauce anymore. There went the easy and well liked dinner for crazy days.

Tonight, I had a bit of an inspiration driving the kids home. My picky eater used to love pizza sauce. (Long, long ago when we made our own pepperoni rolls.) Why not use it on pasta? And a dinner idea was born.

Of course, only my 2 year old ate it. Three helpings. The other two? New sometimes takes a time or two. I thought it was tasty, and so did my husband. So, it's worth sharing.

Maybe it'll inspire you.

Pizza pasta

1/2 small onion, chpd
6 baby portabella mushrooms, chpd
4 pieces uncured uncooked bacon
2 Al Fresco Sweet Italian sausages
1 14 oz jar of your favorite pizza sauce
12 oz Tinkyada Fusilli pasta (or pasta of your choice)

First, get the pasta started.

Now, chop onion and mushrooms. (And any other pizza toppings you like. We were out of red and green pepper, or that would have gone in too.) Cut bacon into bite sized pieces. Add onion, mushroom and bacon to large skillet to saute. (No oil needed. The bacon will release enough fat to keep everything from sticking.) While those cook, cut sausages in half (or quarters, like we did) lengthwise, then chop into bite sized pieces. When bacon is cooked through, add sausage to skillet to brown, about 5 minutes. Add your pizza sauce and heat through.

Remember that pasta? Drain it, rinse it. Decide whether to mix it with the sauce or serve a bed of pasta topped with a ladle of sauce.

The great thing about this recipe is you can change it up to suit your pizza passion. Toss in some zucchini, leave out the bacon, whatever fits your family. And if you eat cheese, it would be great with a sprinkle of mozzarella. Yum!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

I love biscuits. Hot from the oven, bare naked biscuits. Glutinous, tender, flaky biscuits. My quest one day not long ago was to make a tantalizing gluten free biscuit that my munchkins could enjoy. I searched online and found this recipe, which sounded too good to pass up. And it was incredibly tasty. A bit too much white rice flour for me, making it slightly gritty. I made a few alterations, like using coconut oil in place of butter. And coconut milk. And mixing up the flour combination. (I just can't leave a recipe alone anymore.) As I was eating them, I thought- 'If I add a pinch of sugar, this would make a darn yummy shortcake!'. And it was a plan.

I was planning on serving shortcake for dessert last night. But I ran out of time to make them. They sounded sooo good, I couldn't wait until dinner time. So I thought, why not have them for breakfast? Biscuits for breakfast makes sense. With berries, that's fruit! And whipped cream, there's calcium. Serve with a side of bacon and it sounds like a full and complete breakfast to me! Of course, you can stick to tradition and make Strawberry Shortcake for dessert, it would be just as yummy. However, I like to break the rules. I like pie for breakfast. Life is short, start your day sweetly.

And, if you aren't sold just by the mere thought of fluffy, tender, slightly sweet biscuits layered with berries picked at the peak of juicy ripeness and topped with a dollop of light and airy whipped're a hard sell. So is my husband. You know what? He liked it. No qualifiers. It was good.

Here it is. Enjoy. I know I did.

Old Fashioned Shortcake Biscuits

1/3 c white rice flour
1/3 c amaranth flour
2/3 c brown rice flour
1/2 c potato starch
1/4 c tapioca starch
1/4 c sugar (edited to add this very important ingredient!)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or safe margarine)
2 Tbsp shortening
1 c coconut milk (or preferred milk substitute)
2 tsp vinegar

Preheat oven to 450. Pour milk into a small bowl, add vinegar and let stand 5 minutes. In another bowl whisk together dry ingredients. (Don't get hung up if you don't have this exact flour combo. Use what you have. This one is good though.) Cut in coconut oil and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in buttermilk mixture and slowly stir until well combined. Drop generous spoonfuls onto a well greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

The slightly sweet coconut flavor these have goes so well with strawberries! Last time I made them, I used all potato starch, and they had a slightly more tender crumb. If you do use all potato starch, cut the xanthan to a generous 1/4 tsp.

Top with sliced berries and Coconut Whipped Topping made from coconut milk. I altered the recipe slightly by using DariFree powder in place of soy milk powder. I have a few sample envelopes left, so I used one of those. (21g as labeled) I also omitted the lemon, and used a splash of vanilla extract in place of vanilla powder. Wow. Sinful indulgence. Lick the plate good. Promise.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A canine rant

Before you start reading, be forewarned: the following is not a happy how to bake article. It is a full fledged rant. From a slightly deranged mama who is frustrated frequently by misconceptions about allergies.

I admit: I have never been a dog person. Really, they are too high maintenance for me. Feed me, walk me, play with me, let me in, let me out, clean up after me, bathe me. That's what kids are for. Except children eventually begin to take on each of those tasks themselves. The dog? Not so much.

Cats, those are my pet of preference. Low key, easy to maintain. Put out food occasionally and they eat as needed. (Rather than inhaling the entire contents as if it may vaporize if left in the bowl longer than 72 seconds.) Change the litter box regularly and be done. No poop hide and seek in the yard. I have always had house cats, so there is no in and out dilemma. And you get the occasional snuggle and happy purr, low key affection to show you are loved. You can leave them alone (and uncaged) for a weekend and be confident that you will return to an intact home- shoes and all. It works for me.

My husband? Not a cat person.

We were both strangely relieved when we found out that our oldest daughter was allergic to cats and dogs. We would never have to duke it out as to whether we should get a pet, and what kind. Pets? Maybe a fish... someday. When the two year old can understand that she should not share her cheerios with it, or give it an extra jar of fish food just because. And that fish swim alone. No need to get naked and jump in. Really.

We understand that there will be no furry pets in our house.

Here comes the ranting part... there are no allergy free dogs. Barack Obama advocated getting a dog by doing it himself. Here is an intelligent, well educated man perpetuating the misconception that there are hypoallergenic dogs. Very publicly breeding the idea that people with allergies just need to seek the right kind of dog. We have long sought to help people understand there is no safe dog. Unless it's stuffed. And the wise and esteemed leader of our nation just acquired a dog for his allergic daughter. So it must be ok. And now we work twice as hard to overcome the myth that some dogs are safe for people that are allergic. It comes up more often now, along with the opinion that we haven't tried hard enough. And that we are over stating the severity of the allergy.

Aaaack! Yes, some dogs are less likely to set off major allergy attacks for those mildly allergic to dogs. They will still be allergic to the dog. What if it's short haired? Hairless? Surely she would be ok with a hairless. Um, no. It still has skin. And saliva. Most people with pet allergies are not allergic to the hair, but to the dander. The skin that naturally sheds and flies willy nilly about the house, sticking to whatever it should land on. Walls, lamps, furniture. And vacuuming? Nice thought. When is the last time you vacuumed the curtains, walls, lamps, and everything else from floor to ceiling? Dander goes everywhere. Everywhere. And when you walk across the room, you can kick up a fresh cloud.

And the saliva. How many dogs do you know that refrain from kissing their owners? Yes, you can be allergic to doggie saliva. Many with dog allergies are. (And the urine too. Heaven forbid the dog should pee on the slide. Even if it dries before the kiddos go down the slide, the allergens remain. Nothin' like an itchy bum.)

I realize that many people see their pet as a member of the family. They love them. I'm good with that. If you have a pet, you should treat it like family and love it well. I get perturbed though, by people that think it is appropriate to take the dog everywhere. The doctor's office. Shopping. The airport. The library. Craft class. Everywhere they go. Your pet is yours. Take it on a walk. Take it to the park. Take it to the vet. Take it to the pet store. Sure.

But please don't bring it into our space. Not at the doctor. You're sick, not the dog. Not craft class, dogs aren't so good with scissors. Haven't seen a dog read yet, so maybe not the library. If he needs company then STAY HOME and play with him. He'll like that better.

So many people think I am over reacting. I get that look. You know the one. The one that says "Yeah, whatever." I offend people by turning down invitations to visit their home because they have a dog. Yes, I appreciate the offer to put it in the basement while we visit. No, we won't be coming. Unless you shampoo the carpet and furniture, paint the walls and ditch the dog. Yes, I'm serious.

Recently my niece brought over her leap pad game system, complete with big bag of game books and matching cartridges. She had moved up in the gaming world and would not need these, so was gifting them to my munchkins. How awesome. Ten minutes after beginning to play with them, my daughter was covered in hives. That's right! My niece had a dog. Had. It died 4 months before they brought the games to us. There was enough dander remaining on the games to trigger an allergic reaction. Benadryl and a bath for her. The remainder of the evening for me was spent wiping off every page of every book, inside and outside of the gaming system, and every cartridge. (Throwing them away would have caused too much heartbreak.)

So, no, I am not a maniac. Yes, my daughter is severely allergic to dogs. Feel free to come to our house and play. We still like you. We just don't love your pooch. No offense.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chicken Apple Sausage Skillet

I have been trying to make a breakfast recipe that my girls will eat using Al Fresco Chicken Apple Sausage. It just seems like it would be perfect in a breakfast casserole type dish. Alas, no luck so far. I have had a few that are close, but the girls won't eat them. Finally it hit me- the tastes are too similar. They blend too well, not allowing each flavor to combine in a flavorful harmony but instead forming a monotone meal. Nothing to tantalize the taste buds.

Last week I just knew what to do. My inner Emeril was talking. Too bad I didn't write it down then, when it was fresh in my mind. My girls ate every bite. I enjoyed it. And in the morning it was gone. No note, no goodbye kiss, no picture to remember our happy times.

Here is my attempt at recapturing that brief inspired moment of culinary creativity. It's not the original, but it's still worth trying.

Chicken Apple Sausage Skillet

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet red pepper
1/2 medium onion
1 pkg Al Fresco Chicken Apple Sausage (I find them at Giant Eagle.)*
2 c chicken broth
6-8 oz pasta of choice (we use Tinkyada)
1 cup frozen corn
1 Tbsp brown rice flour
dash garlic powder

Chop onion and red pepper into bite sized pieces. You decide what bite sized it at your house. Heat olive oil in large skillet, add red pepper and onion and cook until onion is soft and just starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice sausage into coins, or an angled cut for larger coins. Add to skillet and brown. Remove pepper, onion and sausage from pan for now. Toss in frozen corn and 'roast' for 5-8 minutes. (You can add about 1/2 tsp of cilantro here for color and a subtle flavor.) Remove corn and add to sausage mixture. Add chicken broth to still warm pan and stir to deglaze pan. Bring to boil. Add pasta. Cover and cook to desired doneness. Add more broth if needed (about 1/4 cup) to make a touch of sauce. Sprinkle flour over pasta and stir, cook about 3 minutes to thicken. Sprinkle with garlic powder if desired. Add sausage and pepper mix back to panto warm through. Taste and spice if needed. (Nothing more added here.) Simple and yummy.

* Cook's notes:
Not all chicken apple sausages are the same. Some are sweet, some savory, the spices vary greatly from brand to brand. We like Al Fresco because it is a very sweet and mild sausage. A different sausage will significantly change this dish, but won't necessarily make it better or worse. Just different.

I did not measure a single ingredient. All of the above are guesstimates, as is usual with my cooking. I like to wing it. I'm sorry if it makes you crazy.

And while this sounds too simple to be tasty, it really is. The flavors compliment each other very well. Even my husband, the one with the distinguished (read: snobby) palatte, complimented this dish.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What's for Dinner?

When I tell people what my daughter is allergic to, they often respond with "Oh my! What does she eat? Air?" If you have seen her, she certainly looks as though that is a substantial part of her diet. She does, in fact, have a decent appetite. As long as you can be patient enough to let her eat, because she is definitely not a fast eater. But- hey! Haven't studies shown that's why the French stay so lean even with their incredibly rich diet? Because they savor their meal and enjoy each bite slowly while they talk. She'd be a great french citizen.

That aside, I certainly do have my nights when I just don't know WHAT to make for dinner. Every mom has those, even moms with no dietary restrictions to deal with. The difference? I can't throw my hands in the air and order pizza. I know you can't either.

So, I have decided to randomly post dinner ideas from our house. Feel free to share dinner ideas from your house, because I could use some inspiration too! I might even get crazy and post a whole weekly menu. I do have them.

Our first dinner is a great example of "fast food", meaning that it takes only 30 minutes from start to table. It would have been much faster, but those darn lentils just don't like to be hurried. (Leave off the lentils and you could sit down in 15 minutes.)

I couldn't resist sharing this dinner because the colors were so vibrant. With that kind of visual appeal it's so much more enjoyable to eat. Kids are suckers for this, though they don't know it. Really. Serve a meal that is lacking in visual appeal and they are less likely to dive in. Try to avoid visually bland meals by making sure to get different colors in every meal, or eating from a plate that contrasts with your food. Advertisers know color choices matter, they chose colors that will help appeal to their audience and make the sale. Aren't you trying to sell something too? On a much smaller scale. Just a little food for thought. Pun intended.

So, what was on the menu? Just in case something in the picture is hard to identify:
  • Pan Seared Chicken Breast
  • Steamed Sugar Snap Peas
  • Rice Pilaf with Lentils (from Near East)
  • Apricot Halves
  • Beverage of Choice
So quick and easy to throw together that I don't even need to post ingredients or directions. And the kids ate it. (Though my four year old had to have ketchup for dipping. I'm good with that. Whatever gets it in.)