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Gnocchi was a pasta we enjoyed prior to becoming gluten-free.  Since then, I don’t think I’ve once seen an alternative in the store.  I made them a few years ago, but thanks to a surplus of mashed potatoes after Easter, I decided to make them this afternoon.  They’re not difficult, although do require a number of simple steps.  However, the end result was worth it, as both of my kids repeatedly professed their love for their dinner (and asked for more).

Potato Gnocchi

I use this recipe, which comes out tender and delicious.  After mashing the potatoes, combine with remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle flour on a clean surface and roll into ropes.
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With a butter knife, slice into one-inch pieces and indent with the back of a fork (which helps them hold sauce, apparently).  If you’re letting the little ones help with dinner, this step is a great one to hand off.

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A few things I’ve learned through making these: Do not leave the potato skins on (which I frequently do with mashed potatoes, but doesn’t taste good in gnocchi), and mash the potatoes until they are smooth with no lumps (again, great in mashed potatoes, but less so in a pasta dish).  The water can get starchy after a few batches, so change if necessary. Drain thoroughly, and eat promptly. These were great with a simple marinara, turkey sausage, and a side of steamed broccoli.  To make dinner happen in a hurry, I mixed the ingredients in the morning, put the bowl in the refrigerator, and left a pot of water on the stove.  At dinner time, I turned on the stove, finished preparing the gnocchi (rolling, cutting, marking) and put them into the boiling water (use a spoon! I burned my arm after dropping the first batch in a little too vigorously).

As I surveyed the dinner mess as we walked back out the dinner for our evening activities, I wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort.  Yes, they were good, but couldn’t I have just stuck to regular pasta?  Probably. But we got back in the car, both of my kids remarked, “That dinner was REALLY good,” so I decided it was.  Probably not something I’d find time for on a regular basis, but a special dinner, especially if you’re gluten-free and miss enjoying this dinner. Share your dinner favorites below with our readers.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

Breakfast can be a carb-laden meal in most homes. Toast, cereal, waffles, bagels; basically, a gluten-fest. It’s often easier, healthier, and more affordable to eat naturally gluten-free alternatives- for example, eggs, turkey bacon, yogurt, fruit, or homemade options. Almost always, gluten-foods are made with refined flours, loaded with sugar (a consolation prize for the omission of gluten?), and at least twice as expensive as the original. Check out the unit prices of some gluten-free foods– crackers can cost more than caviar!

That said, sometimes it’s nice to be able to pour a quick bowl of cereal. We enjoy Chex cereal, as well as some nice options made by Nature’s Path, but that’s about it. A few months back, I read that five varieties of Cheerios (regular, Honey Nut, Apple Cinnamon, Multigrain, and Frosted) would soon be gluten-free and hit shelves around July. Oats, the main ingredient in Cheerios, are already gluten-free, but typically contaminated with other grains during transportation and processing. General Mills (who also make Chex) decided to go the extra mile and make sure their oats are safe.

Beginning at the start of July, my little people have been hopefully checking the cereal aisle each time we went to the store. Finally, this week, jackpot! Our local Shoprite had Cheerios with the special “Simply Made Gluten Free” logo on the box. We haven’t seen any of the other varieties yet, but will continue to wait patiently. In the meantime, I was tickled to watch my girls tear into the box with glee, trying Cheerios for the first time in over four years. It may sound silly; it’s just a cereal after all. But when you think about the average cereal aisle with hundreds of varieties, only about six of which are safe for gluten-free families, this is a big deal. Feeling included is an important.

Cheerios

If you’re a family who will now be partaking in this new breakfast option, I encourage you to let General Mills know how happy you are to be included. We couldn’t wait to send in a letter. It’s only through the voices of the food allergy community that companies will know how important this is to us, and how many families out there are happily awaiting the day when each new, healthy, affordable choice becomes available.

Thank you, General Mills!

I have a rule about slow cooking… it shouldn’t require too many steps or pre-cooking, otherwise, quite honestly, why am I using my crockpot? If I’m going to get out the skillet, lots and lots of ingredients, follow complicated steps, etc., I may as well just make it on the stove. The appeal of slow cooking is that I can quickly assemble dinner at breakfast time and go on with my day. However. Sometimes, there are certain steps that greatly benefit a slow cooked dish. Browning ground turkey or beef, for example, is worth it because you don’t want all that wet, slimy fat mixing into your final product. Quickly searing food really helps when you have breaded or floured chunks of meat. And when you want a dish with a nice, crisp coating but aren’t getting home until dinner time, sometimes you have to suck it up and brown the crockpot food in the morning.

My kids often request Chinese food for dinner, but constant take-out is not in our budget, nor is it healthy.  I found a recipe for slow cooker Chinese Orange Chicken on Pinterest, and the picture alone made me hungry. I’m happy to share it here because it doesn’t matter whether or not you are gluten-free; use whatever you have in your pantry and enjoy it all the same.

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Slow Cooker Chinese Orange Chicken

I put this into the crockpot amidst a busy day of homeschooling, a playdate, and cleaning up the kitchen.  My husband had cut the chicken into chunks (chicken thighs) and strips (chicken breast) in the morning, so I was fortunate to have less prep remaining during our afternoon chaos.  I placed the chicken into a bag with a flour/baking powder mixture, tossed well until coated, and browned in batches, paying attention only to the outsides of the chicken since the slow cooking would ensure it was cooked through.  After assembling the sauce ingredients into the crockpot, I added the chicken and mixed well.  I ended up cooking it on low for two hours, and  then high for 30 additional minutes to give the outside a little crispiness.  True to Chinese food expectations, it had a saucy yet crisp coating, and tasted amazing.  My youngest said simply, “This is a really good dinner,”  while taking her second helping.  My husband said, “That was SO delicious.”  I served it over rice with a side of steamed veggies, and my kids even had oranges afterwards as if in a Chinese restaurant.  A+ to this recipe, I highly recommend it.  It came together quickly, the flavor was authentic, and I’ll definitely be making it again.

If you’d like, share your favorite slow cooking recipes with our readers. To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy Spring!

Being gluten free often means stretching your creativity. As in, how do you prepare black bean spaghetti in an interesting and palatable way that your family will enjoy? Should it be Mexican-flavored (black beans?). Should it be Italian-flavored (spaghetti?). I’d never even heard of black bean spaghetti until my mom brought over a package for us to try, but I was determined to make it right. I couldn’t find my inspiration, though, so it sat in the pantry for a while. I’d take it out, look at it, Google it, feel unsure about how it’d turn out, and put it away. One day, a FB friend mentioned feeding her kids black bean spaghetti with garlic and broccoli, and told me it was a fairly neutral pasta. Deciding it was safe as an Italian dish (how is pasta ever a Mexican dish, really?) I decided to make it for dinner.

Black bean spaghetti

Black Bean Spaghetti

Back in my gluten-filled, child-free days, my husband and I lived in a the mid-West for a few years and used to enjoy eating at the Macaroni Grill. My favorite dish was fettuccine alfredo with grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh broccoli or spinach. This meal often resurfaces when I add vegetables into pasta, as I thought the complex flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes would be a nice addition to the milder black-bean spaghetti.

Ingredients

1 lb black bean spaghetti
3 c steamed broccoli, sliced into thin florets
1 c sun-dried tomatoes, diced
4-8 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. While it is cooking, put four tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and saute garlic until lightly browned. Toss in the broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes, incorporating into the garlic and heating thoroughly. Drain the spaghetti, add to the two to four tablespoons of olive oil (as desired) and vegetables, pour in the additional four tablespoons of olive oil, and mix well. Season with salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese, and enjoy hot. We had this with turkey meatballs, but cooked grilled chicken could also be a nice addition.  My kids liked the dish and looked for it for leftovers the next day, which is a good indication of a successful dinner.

Black bean pasta can be found in your local health food store if you’d like to check it out.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  If you decide to try black bean or any other kind of unique pasta, let me know it turns out!

I have these fond memories of early morning family day trips that began with getting an egg and cheese on a roll from the corner deli as we drove out of town.  I’m not sure where we were headed, but it really doesn’t matter.  Getting a special breakfast as we left for the day was part of the magic.  I also remember the many times that my dad and I would grab buttered Portuguese rolls as he dropped me off at the train station before work, and it started the day on a high note.

Unfortunately, gluten free folks cannot stop at the corner deli, or the quick mart, or even Dunkin Donuts on their way out of town.  Yet, sometimes you want something nutritious you can grab and go.  Something more than a breakfast bar or bowl of cereal, but not something you need to stop and prepare when you’re busy packing up your beach bag.

Egg and Cheese

Egg and Cheese Wraps

When we have a special day trip planned and know we’re headed out early in the morning, we make breakfast the night before.  The fun part is that we wrap it in foil and refrigerate it overnight; in the morning, we pop it in the (toaster) oven and let it heat while we get ready for the day. Breakfast is ready when we are, and we bring it into the car to eat as we begin our adventure.  By making it at home, you have the ability to control what goes inside, slip in some veggies, limit the bad stuff, and save yourself some money.

Ingredients (per wrap)

2 eggs plus one egg white (for my kids, I make 3 eggs, 2 egg whites, and split it between the two of them)

1/2 cup cooked, chopped vegetables

1 wrap (we use brown rice by Trader Joe’s or Enjoy Life)

1/4 c shredded cheese (we use cheddar)

Directions

Prepare eggs with preferred method.  We scramble, but my husband sometimes prefers over-easy, or we make them as an omelet with the veggies in the center.  Once the eggs are cooked, sprinkle cheese on top and heat until melted.  Transfer eggs to the center of the wrap, slightly to the side, and roll into a burrito.  Wrap in foil, write each person’s name or a special message on the outside of each packet, and refrigerate.  In the morning, heat each on low (set to warm if in the toaster oven, 200 degrees if in the oven) until warmed through, about 15-20 minutes.  Grab as you’re headed out the door, and let the kids keep the bottom wrapped and eat from the top down to keep things neat.   It sounds a small thing, but egg and cheese wraps are something we look forward to whenever we take a morning day trip.  It’s the little memories that add up.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  May the day trip season be upon us soon!

Winter is the time for a bowl of good soup, and everyone who knows me knows that I am always looking for a new favorite to add to our repertoire.  My friend Sarah mentioned recently that she was making her mom’s split pea soup recipe, and I was cautiously intrigued.  I’m not a fan of peas, and was pretty sure that split pea involved ham, which I don’t eat.  Yet, I feel like I’m grown up enough now to try something like it, so I asked for the recipe.  Turns out the ham is optional and the recipe had some sweet ingredients, rather than just savory.  Gluten free and easily dairy free… I was left with no reason not to poke around in the grocery store for a bag of split peas (they’re by the dried beans, in case you are wondering).  With her permission, join me for some split pea soup.

Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup

Ingredients

2 lb. dried peas
1 large apple (peeled, cored, and chopped)
3 qt. chicken broth
2 large onions (coarsely chopped)
2 carrots (peeled and chopped)
1 large sweet potato (peeled and chopped)
2 bay leaves
½ lb. ham, cooked (optional- I omitted)
salt and pepper, to taste (I only use pepper, since broth is salty)
cream, to taste (I used 2 T of almond milk)

Directions

For a richer onion flavor, the onions can be sautéed first.  I did sauté mine, since it didn’t require the use of an additional pan. Ham can be cooked in the soup, added after cooking, or omitted completely.  I chose not to use any.

If sautéing onions, drizzle oil in bottom of pot and sauté until tender, about five minutes.  Add remaining ingredients to pot, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least two hours. Stir occasionally.

Remove bay leaves and add ham (if desired).  Puree with an immersion blender. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the cream, if desired.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, until desired thickness is reached.  I cooked the soup for another hour.

This soup begs for something warm and crunchy to dip into it.  Keeping the carbs low, I made biscuits made with almond and coconut flour, very similar to this recipe.  Both of my daughters, my husband, and I loved the soup.  It was a filling meal, and good enough to eat for lunch as leftovers two days in a row.  In fact, I offered my husband some crumbled turkey bacon to add to his soup and he declined it, which is a rarity for him.  I’m happy to report that split peas taste differently than regular peas, and this easy recipe will warm your bones on a chilly winter’s eve. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your family’s recipe.

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I’ve really been into breakfast lately… we wake up feeling energized and adventurous, wanting to create something fun and exciting. I wish I could say this carried over into dinner, but our evening meals have been lackluster and uninspired. Perhaps sooner or later this breakfast energy will appear again in our later day food prep, but for now, our special breakfasts have been getting us through the day.

Crepes

Gluten-free Crepes

Crepes are a treat with which we fell in love long before becoming gluten-free. I decided to take our favorite recipe and spend some time reworking it.

Ingredients

2 eggs
2 egg whites (or 1/3 cup liquid egg whites)
1 ½ to 2 cups milk (we use almond, any kind is fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoon sugar
1 cup of all-purpose gluten-free flour
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your flour contains it)
2 teaspoon cinnamon
Crepe filling of your choice (suggestions below)

Directions

Whisk together the egg, egg whites, 1 ½ cups of milk, vanilla, and sugar. Add in flour, xanthan gum, and cinnamon, and mix until smooth and without lumps. The batter should be thinner than pancake batter. Since gluten free flours and their absorbencies vary, add more milk a tablespoon at a time if the batter seems too thick.

Coat a small frying pan very well with cooking spray, and heat over medium heat. When hot, pour ¼ cup into pan and swirl batter around until it is uniform and flat throughout. Cook for two minutes, waiting until middle becomes firm, and then try lifting the edges with rubber spatula. If the sides of crepe release easily from pan, slide spatula underneath and gently flip crepe. Cook another one to two minutes, until lightly browned.

Remove from frying pan, respray pan, and pour in another ¼ cup. Then prepare cooked crepe with your favorite filling and fold in half. Our filling of choice happens to be a spoonful of Nutella spread thinly and topped sliced strawberries, but diced apples and cinnamon, banana slices, peanut butter, jam, or whatever your heart desires will go nicely inside.  This recipe makes about eight to 10 crepes.

Caveat. Go into this process knowing that the first crepe (or two) will stick and come out of the pan as a bit of a mess, but it will get easier. (This may just be me, but I always eat this torn crepe for quality control; I think it’s only fair to be selfless and make sure they taste okay). The pan has to be at just the right temperature and the technique of when and how to flip the crepe has a little learning curve. I promise it is worth the effort… once you master it, this is a quick and happy breakfast that everyone in your family will love. My youngest asks for crepes a few times a week… I’m not able to say yes that often, but I appreciate her enthusiasm!

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We love to cook and bake in our house, and somewhere along the lines, my kids got spoiled.  Cereal for breakfast is an insult… if it isn’t hot and doesn’t involve ingredients, it doesn’t count.  That said, I’m not running a diner, and can’t be expected to serve up a full breakfast on a daily basis.  We recently discovered the muffin-in-a-mug, and have never looked back.  What I love about this recipe is that it is grain-free, oil-free, and sweetened with honey instead of refined sugar. It satisfies our cravings for a “hot” breakfast without requiring mixing bowls, pans, and use of the oven.  It’s an easy one for the kids to put together themselves, and you can measure out dry ingredients the night before to streamline morning prep.  Best of all, it’s fun to watch as it bakes.  The muffin rises beyond the rim of the mug as it cooks, and then settles as it cools.  While the little ones are mixing ingredients and watching their breakfast cook, perhaps you use those 80 seconds to enjoy some peace and quiet?

Muffin in a Mug

Muffin in a Mug

I found many muffin-in-a-mug versions online, but most required oil or sugar.  Wanting to make our breakfast a little healthier, I adapted and experimented with a recipe until it was to our liking.  It’s perfect now, and in 80 seconds, breakfast is on the table.

Ingredients

1 egg
1 ½ teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon applesauce
1 ½ tablespoon almond flour
1 ½ tablespoon ground flax seeds (meal)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder

Directions

Crack egg into mug.  With a fork, whisk until until uniform in color.  Stir in applesauce and honey.  Add flour, flax seed, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and baking powder.  Mix until well combined.  Cook in microwave on high for 80 seconds.  Bottom of muffin will be moist and slightly gooey (almost like a lava cake); adjust cooking time as desired.  Frozen blueberries can be mixed in before baking; this will extend cooking time by 20-30 seconds. Chocolate chips would probably taste great added in, but we have yet to go down that rabbit hole.  Try out the muffin in a mug, you won’t be disappointed!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

It seems kind of ironic to share a chilly beverage or treat recipe during this cold snap, I am aware. Yet, with all of the New Year’s resolutions and detox plans, a smoothie seems like the perfect way to start your day. And since Santa brought us awesome ice pop molds, you better believe we couldn’t wait to try them out.  We often use fresh baby spinach in our smoothies, but I kept this one fruity.  It makes enough to enjoy a glass for yourself and set the rest aside for the kids’ pops.

Ice pops

Simple Fruity Smoothie

2 c milk (we use almond)
2 bananas (mine had been peeled and frozen)
1 1/2 c frozen strawberries
1 c fresh pineapple (as an aside, if you’re cutting a fresh pineapple, throw the core in, too, it’s loaded with vitamins)

Blend until smooth. Add more milk to thin if desired, or ice to thicken if your fruits were not frozen. Smoothie consistency is really personal preference. My kids like it thin enough to suck through a straw but thick enough to look icy.

To make into ice pops as I did, first fill the molds about halfway with orange juice, and freeze for three to four hours. Remove from freezer, fill remaining space in mold with smoothie, and freeze overnight.

We had these during a recent movie night, frigid temperatures be damned. We all enjoyed them, from kids to grown ups. I love that my kids can have a “treat” sweetened only by fruits, yet the two colors in the pop mold make it feel special. This can be altered with any combination of fruits, even vegetables. Give it a try and feel free to share your variations below!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Keep warm!

Blueberry muffin

I have collected a lot of recipes over the years, and they all have something in common… my trademark cooking smudges and penciled in notes all over them.  Partially because I tend to be a bit picky and like to make substitutions; partially because I funnel my creativity into primarily two avenues (cooking and photography).  Whatever the reason, this habit became quite fortuitous when we became gluten-free and I needed to rework some old favorites so that they would not be left behind.  So this morning, I present you the blueberry muffin, once gluten-filled, yet now gluten-free.  Not just any blueberry muffin, though.  One with a crunchy topping, one that tastes like the stuff that daydreams are made of. Something you thought would live only in the past when you became gluten-free and settled for frozen, pre-made muffins purchased from your grocer’s freezer.  Don’t put this muffin into your healthy, low-cal, start-your-new-year-right category.  It’s a special one, saved for a lazy weekend morning when you have time to savor breakfast and the special people that make up your day.

Not your frozen blueberry muffin

Muffin:

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose gluten-free flour

1 t xanthan gum (omit if your flour contains this)

1/2 to 3/4 c sugar (your preference here)

1/2 t salt

2 t baking powder

1/4 c milk

1/4 c applesauce

1/4 c oil

1 egg

1 c blueberries (unthawed frozen or fresh)

Topping:

1/2 c sugar

1 1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/4 c all-purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 c gluten-free oats

1/4 butter

*Note: “t” stands for teaspoon

Directions:

In a large bowl, place flour, xanthan gum, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Whisk to combine.  In a small bowl, mix applesauce, oil, egg, and milk.  Add to flour mixture, stir well.  Gently fold in blueberries.  Divide into greased muffin tin- either a standard 12 or a jumbo six muffin tin yields perfect muffins.

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Dice butter.  Place in medium bowl along with remaining topping ingredients. Combine with two butter knives, pastry cutter, or fingers until mixture is pea-sized.

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Sprinkle on tops of muffins, bake in preheated 400 degree oven; 20-25 minutes for 12 muffins, 35 minutes for six muffins, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Happy baking!

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