Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lemon Lavender Rice Krispie Treats


Leather and Lace by Stevie Nicks and Don Henley
Have I ever told you about the time Stevie Nicks and I shared a soul?  No?  Well, I'll save that for another post.  But today I'm sharing a dessert that's scented with lavender.  And in my mind the thought connection goes like this - lavender ~ lace ~ romance ~ Leather and Lace by two of my favorite artists of all time.  Stevie Nicks is spellbinding when she performs.  Don Henley is my favorite Eagle and his voice is balm to my soul.  Another thing about Henley - he reminds me a lot of my uncles in his appearance - hairline, eyes - he could be related.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.

I know Valentine's Day was yesterday
but romance is in the air in my
home right now as my
youngest is getting married in a
couple months!

All the preparations!!

Well, neither she nor her fiancé
like frosting and have 
chosen to not have the traditional
wedding cake.

So what do they like?

Rice Krispie Treats!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Roasted Apples


You Make Me Feel Brand New by The Stylistics
I got desperate today and felt like I just HAD to have a dessert type of food.  So I figured I'd give roasting some apples a try - without any sweetener.  I was expecting average at best.  But folks, I could have cried!  These were sooooo good!  And soooo easy!  And I truly felt new life being breathed into my soul with every bite!  I felt brand new!  And I felt that maybe I will be able to see this experiment to the end!  Sugar Free Roasted Apples - who knew?!?!

There once was a woman who wasn't 
allowed to have sugar for awhile.
This made her very sad because
she LOVED dessert.

Every day she went without sugar
she felt much better
but, still, she missed it so much!

One wintry day, she felt like
she just couldn't handle it any more!
Snowy cold days were usually
when she would make something yummy
and sweet in her oven - 
warming her home and her tummy
at the same time.

With hope and optimism in her heart
she heated her oven to 375 degrees.
She went to her refrigerator to see
if she could find some inspiration.
She also couldn't eat anything with flour
or butter or eggs so it was a challenge.

She noticed that she had an 
abundance of apples in all sorts of 
varieties and colors.
She selected five of them
and washed them and peeled them 
and cut them into big chunks.

She sprinkled them with a little salt
because she knew that doing
that would bring out the sweetness
already in the apples.
Then she added a bit of cinnamon, too.
Then she went to her pantry to see
what other ingredients she was 
allowed to eat that she could add.
She found some coconut oil
and a bottle of vanilla bean paste.
After heating the coconut oil,
she stirred in some of the vanilla
and covered all those apple 
slices with it.
The apple slices thanked her!
The woman placed the apples into
a sprayed baking dish and,
with a prayer in her heart that
the lack of sugar would not
hinder the satisfaction she craved,
she put the dish into the oven.

Within minutes her home
was filled with the scent of
apples and cinnamon - much to the joy of 
the inhabitants therein!

She peeked now and then and
was pleased to see the transformation
of the apples with tiny bits of
caramelization here and there.
The caramel color told her that
the natural sweetness in the apples
was being made even sweeter.
Her spirits soared!
After 40 minutes she
removed the apples and stirred
them around to coat them with the
drippings in the dish.
She scooped some of the 
soft apples into a dish.
"Oh! If I could only have some cream
to go with these beautiful apples!" 
she cried.

But then she remembered
how often she had used
coconut milk to fill the need
for cow's milk!

She warmed some coconut
milk and then ladled a few spoonfuls
over the steaming apples.
She raised a spoon of the
scented fruit to her lips
and tasted her creation.

She made a loud
"MMMMM!"
and then exclaimed
"Oh my goodness!!"
and all those around
became desirous to taste
the apples, too.
And she shared.

She felt like a new woman!
She was filled with hope
and with a new determination
that - if she could have
something that tasted THIS GOOD
and still be within the confines 
of her diet - she would be able to
be completely satisfied!!

Her apples were good!
They were very, very good!
Fit for a queen, even!

With triumph in her voice
she exclaimed, 
"Who needs sugar!!"
"Not I," said the woman.
"Not I," said her grandchildren.
"Not I," said her daughter.
"Not I," said her husband.

And the woman happily dreamt of the next day
when she would roast more apples.

Roasted Apples
serves 5

5 - 6 apples
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or
beans from half of one vanilla pod
1/2 cup coconut milk, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Peel and core the apples and cut into large chunks.

Coat a baking dish with cooking spray and place apple chunks in it.

Sprinkle with the salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Melt the coconut oil and then stir in the vanilla.  Pour over apples and stir to coat evenly.

Place in heated oven and roast for 40 minutes or til starting to brown on edges.

Remove and serve with cream or coconut milk.





Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mini Lamb Meatballs in Mushroom Sauce

Hold On by Wilson Phillips
This has been my mantra for 31 days now.  My post will explain further.  But I've been doing something very difficult - for me - with hopeful promise of better days ahead.  And at the end of each day I congratulate myself for making it one more day - and send myself encouraging thoughts to just hold on for yet one more day.  Day by day.  That's how you do hard things.

Right after my last post I went to an 
appointment with my endocrinologist.
I've had concerns with the growing number of
autoimmune issues I've been having.
She had some encouraging words for me
and gave me some homework.
First, to read a book about the root causes of
autoimmune diseases.
Second, to check out something called the
AIP diet - which stands for Autoimmune Protocol.
The book was very clinical and difficult for me 
to get through but I pressed forward
and learned about some hopeful new thoughts
about my situation.
Then I checked out the diet.

This isn't a diet to lose weight -
with which I am very familiar!
This is a diet designed to heal your gut.
It's not meant to be a lifetime way of eating.
It's diagnostic to see what foods
could be making your body ill 
and attack itself.
You begin by eliminating a vast amount
of food from your diet by either a weaning process
or by cold turkey - your choice.
Then you go through a 30 day elimination
phase without these foods - designed to 
give your gut time to settle down and heal.
Then you begin reintroducing foods back
 in a slow and methodical manner.

There are a few differing opinions in
the AIP diet community as to which 
foods are OK to eat and which are not.
But the majority of the foods are agreed upon.
It took me a good long week to
rumble with myself as to how would be 
best to approach this huge undertaking.
I chose to start cold turkey because
I wanted to start getting results faster.

Cold turkey - even though we had a two week
vacation the first part of January!
Was I nuts?!?!?!

Probably - but we are ALWAYS traveling
and trying to find a long stretch of time
where I'd be home just wasn't feasible.
So, January 1, I started.

My list of NO foods are as follows:
Grains
Dairy
Legumes
Soy
Nuts
Seeds
Eggs
Nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant)
Shellfish
Canola, sesame, sunflower, flaxseed oils
Sugar
Chocolate (let's pause for the impact with this one!)

The YES foods:
Meats
Poultry
Fish
Fruits
All vegetables that aren't nightshades
Coconut, olive, avocado oils
Animal fats
And I allowed myself Rice

Scary right?

I eat simply now.

And the results?

I feel better than I ever have!
I am beginning to think I've never known
what it's like to not feel bloated and gassy.
It's a beautiful feeling!
Weight loss has been a pleasant 
side effect for me.

Today I start to reintroduce.
I've made up a calendar for when I get to
say hello to all the foods I've eliminated.
Shellfish is my first one.
March 15 is chocolate.
I'm LIVING for March 15!

One of my YES foods is lamb.
I haven't cooked much with lamb
but, when your choices are limited, you 
expand your horizons, right?

I came up with this recipe and am 
really happy how it turned out!
I thought I'd share it in case others out there
might be looking for foods within
the protocol.
Or even if you just wanted to
try lamb and were afraid to try!
I made them mini for my grandkids
(who, incidentally, ate them up!)
but you could turn it into a loaf or larger meatballs!

Mini Lamb Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce
serves 4

For meatballs:
1 lb. ground lamb
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix ingredients together in a bowl until well combined.  Shape into mini meatballs and place in a mini-muffin tin.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

While meatballs are baking make the Mushroom Sauce.

Mushroom Sauce:
8 oz. of mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 - 3/4 cup coconut milk (I used light)

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and stir to coat with the oil.  Sprinkle with the salt and cook until they start to get a dark golden brown.  Stir in the chicken stock and cook until it reduces by half.  Remove pan from heat and stir in the coconut milk.  Return to heat and continue to cook it down until it reduces by half.  Remove cooked meatballs from the oven and toss into the pan with the mushroom sauce and stir to coat.  Serve while hot.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Almond Butter

What Strangers Are These by Will Ackerman (featuring David Cullen)
I chose this song simply because it was what was playing in the kitchen while I made this delicious Almond Butter - and it just felt so perfect.  The atmosphere in my kitchen was cozy and the mood was that of a simple life - which is nice to feel at a time of the year that can feel anything but simple! Guitar music is the ultimate feeling of peace for me - and I could just close my eyes and imagine that my Dad was sitting there with me.  Please do yourself a favor and click on the link and spend a few minutes in YouTube land with this beautiful guitar duet that oozes comfort and peace.  Oh - while enjoying some delicious Almond Butter on toast - or apples - or celery - or on a spoon even!

I was making a recipe a while back and it 
called for some almond butter.
I didn't have any in the house.
Nor did I have much confidence that
our local grocery store would have it either.
I did, however, have almonds.
Lots of them.

How difficult could it be to make your own?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Easy Alfredo Sauce

Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas
Were you hoping for a Christmas song to go along with this December post?  I normally would but there is absolutely no other song that can go with today's recipe than this one.  And the reason is this - Alfredo Sauce is THE SEXIEST SAUCE ON THE PLANET!!  Italian fare has long been considered the substance of romantic dinners and, within Italian cuisine, this sauce is the most popular.  Rarely do I run into someone who prefers the red over the white.  And I happen to think this song is one of the sexiest songs on the planet!  I mean, there's Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton.  And Suzanne, written by the late great Leonard Cohen and performed beautifully by Neil Diamond.  And If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot.  These are all top contenders in my book.  But Smooth is perfect for the creamy nature of this incredibly easy sauce.  So get your dancing feet ready - because you just won't be able to stop yourself!  And, as the video in the link above shows, it's the kind of song that gets under your skin and makes you want to run out and dance around in your underwear!  My neighbors should take that as a warning.  LOL

One of the more revelatory moments
when I teach my cooking classes
comes on the class we cover pasta sauces - 
specifically this Alfredo Sauce.
The students are always amazed at how 
easy and quick it is to make -
rivaling the pathetic packets they
are used to buying at the grocery store.
Furthermore, I've had students who
claim that their husband won't eat Alfredo
Sauce - only to hear the next week
that the alfredo-hating spouse
had eaten an entire pan of pasta
made with their freshly made Alfredo!

Making your own Alfredo 
deserves a try, folks.
There is no comparison between the
packets and homemade.
And it is super quick as well!
Consider it a gift in this hectic holiday season.
It's basically a cream reduction
with flavorings and very few ingredients!



And before you start gasping at
the word "cream," I beg you to
consider that you don't
need much - and it's being shared between
a group - unless you happen
to have one of those alfredo-hating husbands
who will end up eating the whole pan!

And this need not only be served
over pasta!  Vegetables are elevated
to royal status when covered with it.
And just stop and ponder, for a moment,
the pleasure of dipping a hunk of bread!
Sigh!

So let's get started!


Alfredo Sauce
serves 4
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine, optional
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Start by heating the oil in a medium size saute pan over low heat.  You don't want to burn or even brown the garlic - all we are doing is warming it.
After the oil is warmed, add the garlic and stir to coat with the warm oil.
Gently heat for a minute.  Next, add the white wine.
Adding the wine is optional, but the comment I hear most is that no matter what they do, people just can't seem to replicate that flavor they get in the restaurants.  If they aren't using wine, that's probably why.  It's going to cook down until it is almost completely evaporated.  But if you aren't comfortable cooking with wine, then skip this step.  After you add the wine, you can increase the heat to medium and cook until it almost disappears.  After the wine, you will slowly pour the cream in.
I usually drizzle it down the side of the pan into the remainder of the oil and wine and garlic contents.  I give it a stir or swirl the pan.  You'll see small bubbles begin to form.  At this point, increase the heat to medium high if you want to speed up the process a bit.  You will see the bubbles go through a transformation as these pictures will show:


At this point I like to add a few tablespoons of pasta water if I'm going to use it over pasta.  

That's optional, though.  
Now you will add the cheese and stir to distribute it.  Then you are free to add the cooked pasta to your pan and stir to fill all the crevices of that pasta!  Taste and season, if necessary.  Usually it's not.
I promise that each one of those penne tubes are going to ooze this fabulous sauce with each bite!
This whole process takes 10 minutes or less.