Thursday, June 2, 2016

Homemade Croutons Recipe

I would love to find a package of croutons to buy in my local store that doesn't contain oils we can't eat, or corn products, or garlic, etc.  But unfortunately, I am out of luck with that, so I decided to make my own.  I buy a loaf of Swiss Peasant Bread every couple of weeks from Red Apple Market and keep it in the freezer, so I use this bread to make these crunchy, flavorful, delicious croutons. The trick to this recipe is the oven temperature and baking time, and the recipe just uses what you have on hand without any measurements, so feel free to experiment with different bread, spices, and oils you might like.  These croutons are great on Caesar Salads, as well as just to snack on.  This is how I make them:

Homemade Croutons Recipe

Olive oil
Dried rosemary spice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Chop into small cubes as much rustic, day-old or semi-stale bread that you have on hand for this recipe.  Add them to a medium mixing bowl, then drizzle a little olive oil over the bread cubes.  Next add a sprinkling of salt and a sprinkling of dried rosemary spice.  Use your hands to mix the bread, oil, salt and rosemary together.  Add another drizzle of oil over the bread cubes if it looks like it might need it (don't overdo the oil), and use your hands to mix it together again.  Pour out the bread cubes in a single layer onto one or two cookie sheets sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake them in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Let them cool completely before storing them in an airtight container in the pantry.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe (Corn-free)

I've been wanting to come up with a creamy frosting for my Yellow Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze Recipe,  to use instead of the sugar glaze.  With the help of my husband and daughter, the three of us came up with a perfectly creamy, delicious cream cheese frosting that uses Caster sugar (super fine cane sugar) instead of powdered sugar (I found the Caster sugar at my local PCC Market).  I also use Singing Dog Organic Pure Vanilla Extract in this recipe (found at my local Metropolitan Market), which is corn-free.  So now we're good to go!

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

1 cup whipped cream cheese
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup Caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all ingredients using an electric mixer and beat until smooth.  Add about 20 drops of food color to get a nice light color shade to the frosting.  This recipe will frost a 9x12 cake.  Refrigerate cake after frosting it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Oven-Roasted Minted Lamb Loin Chops Recipe

I bought some beautiful lamb loin chops at the store the other day and decided to put the mint plant on our deck to some use.  This recipe is super simple, flavorful, and is a great addition to our meat rotation.  These lamb chops go great with rice on the side.

Oven-Roasted Minted Lamb Loin Chops Recipe

1/4 cup olive oil
10 fresh mint leaves
6 lamb loin chops (1 1/4" thick)
Salt and pepper

Finely chop the mint leaves.  Put the lamb chops in a large Ziploc bag and pour the olive oil over them, then add the chopped mint, seal the bag, and move the lamb chops around inside the bag to fully coat them.  Let the lamb chops marinate in the bag for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before roasting (1 hour preferably).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat a large cast iron skillet to High heat on the stove top and add the lamb chops in a single layer.  Generously salt and pepper them.  Sear them for about 3 minutes, then flip them over to sear the other side for about 3 minutes.  Turn off the stove top and use a large spoon to remove the excess oil from the skillet before moving it to the oven.  Transfer the skillet to the oven, uncovered, and roast the lamb chops for 10 minutes for medium-rare or 15 minutes for medium.  Let the lamb chops rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Serves 2-3 people as a main course.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chocolate Pudding Recipe (Vegan)

I've been craving chocolate pudding lately, but with corn being out of our diet, I can't buy packaged pudding mix or pudding cups in the store.  So I came up with my own recipe for chocolate pudding that is thickened with arrowroot powder.  Using unsweetened coconut milk as the base, this is a really delicious, creamy vegan treat.

Chocolate Pudding Recipe

2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 heaping tbsp of arrowroot powder mixed with 1/4 cup coconut milk (for a slurry to thicken)

In a medium sauce pan over Medium High heat, add 2 cups of coconut milk, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and salt and bring it to a boil, stirring it constantly with a small whisk.  In a small bowl, add the arrowroot powder and the 1/4 cup of coconut milk and whisk it together until the powder is dissolved.  Pour the slurry in the sauce pan and whisk it with the rest of the ingredients.  Lower the heat to Low and whisk it until thickened, then turn the heat off and whisk it for a few more minutes to help it to cool down.  Pour the pudding into glass custard cups and let them cool for 20 minutes before covering them with plastic wrap and refrigerating.  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours before eating so the pudding can set. Makes 6 individual servings.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chocolate Cookie Bars Recipe (Vegan)

We've been having some reactions lately and had to cut out cocoa butter, so I decided to come up with a chocolate cookie bar recipe.  Now Sam can still have that rich chocolate flavor, but without as much sugar as brownies have.  These cookie bars are very chocolate-y and moist and are a great addition to our dessert rotation.

Chocolate Cookie Bars Recipe

1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Spray an 8x8 square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread batter evenly into pan with a spatula. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Toaster Pastry Recipe

These homemade toaster pastries (we call them "Toaster Pops" at home) are made with minimal wholesome ingredients, so you don't feel bad when your child wants one.  I've found that jam works better than jelly for the filling (it's less runny when heated).  These toaster pastries are flaky and delicious and are a good complement to any breakfast or afternoon snack.

Toaster Pastry Recipe

1/2 recipe of Flaky Pie Crust (I use 1 cup of just unbleached flour for it, not both types of flour)
Your favorite jam
Sugar in the Raw

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Make the pie crust recipe.  Lay a piece of wax paper on your work surface, put a chunk of the dough in the middle, and lay another large piece of wax paper over the top. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to a flat, thin piece.  Use a knife to cut out a long rectangle the width of a store-bought toaster pastry, but twice as long.  Spoon out some jam into the middle of one side of the rectangle.  Be sure to keep the jam about 1/4 inches away from the edges.  Fold the other half of the pastry over the jam side and use a fork to press the 4 edges together.  The dough should be enough to make 4 toaster pastries.

Lay the toaster pastries in a single layer on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.   Use a knife to cut a couple of slits in the tops of each pastry, and sprinkle Sugar in the Raw on them.  Bake them in the oven for 15 minutes.  Eat them right away, or let them cool completely before laying them in a single layer in a large Ziplock freezer bag.  When you want to have one, take it out of the freezer, microwave it for 20 seconds on High, then put it in the toaster.  I use two knives (one on either side of the pastry) like tongs to remove it from the toaster when done since they are so flaky.

Flour Tortillas Recipe (Corn-free)

Sam is sensitive to corn, and in ridding my kitchen of corn products and its derivatives, I discovered that I cannot buy flour tortillas in the store without cornstarch in them.  We eat a lot of Mexican food in our house, so I had to come up with a flour tortilla recipe that doesn't use cornstarch (baking powder).  This recipe took a lot of trial and error to come up with, but the result is fantastic.  The hardest part was determining the correct oil/water combination to give the tortillas the right texture and consistency.  These tortillas are flexible, slightly chewy, and work great for soft tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, enchiladas, etc.  You can store them in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze them for later use.

Flour Tortillas Recipe

2 cups unbleached flour, plus flour for dusting work surface
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp vegetable oil mixed with 1/2 cup water
Additional water to bring dough together

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  In a small cup, using a fork, mix together the oil and water until well combined.  Pour the oil/water mixture over the dry ingredients and use the fork to mix it all together.  Continue adding small amounts of water and stirring it together just until a ball of dough is formed - do not over water it.  If you accidentally add to much water and the dough is too wet, add flour until it is a nice ball of dough.

Heat a flat indoor grill pan or large skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray to Medium heat.  Dust your work surface with a little flour.  Either divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, or just estimate and take a small bit of dough in your floured hands and roll it into a ball.  Lay it on the work surface and use a rolling pin to roll it out into a really flat, thin round (about 6 to 8 inches across is good, and the thinner the better).  To get the round shape, keep turning and flipping the dough as you roll it.  Peel it off the work surface and add it to the skillet.  Dust your work surface again and roll another tortilla.

When the tortilla on the skillet bubbles up a bit, or gets light brown spots (about 5 minutes), turn it over and cook the other side for about the same time.  Remove the finished tortillas to a plate and stack them as you go.  Periodically, re-arrange the order of the tortillas on the stack (i.e. move the top ones to the bottom) as the bottom ones get steamed if they stay on the bottom.  Makes about 8 to 10 tortillas depending on how big you make them.  Serve right away still warm, or cool them completely, then store them in a large Ziplock bag and store them in the fridge for up to a week.

Refried Beans Recipe (Vegan)

I used to buy Safeway Vegetarian Refried Beans because they were just beans, oil, salt, and water.  Now they have all kinds of ingredients including chilies and onions in them, and I can't buy them anymore.  So I started making refried beans myself.  It's a very simple recipe, and a good arm workout at the same time.  You'll need a potato masher utensil (pictured below) and a cast iron pan to make them as described.  The end result is creamy with a bit of texture.  If you don't like the texture, just blend them with a hand-blender in the end.  You can also make them ahead of time, refrigerate them, and heat them up in a small pan at meal time (this is what I do).

Refried Beans Recipe

1 can pinto beans (15 oz.)
2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

In a cast iron pan over High heat, add the oil and a whole can of beans (including liquid).  Use the potato masher to mash the beans into a creamy paste while it boils.  It takes about 5 minutes of mashing for the beans to get to the right consistency.  You can serve them right away as they are, or pour them into a mixing bowl and use a hand-blender to blend them even creamier.  You can also refrigerate them until a later time, reheating them in a small pan on the stove.  Serves 4 as a side dish.

This is the potato masher utensil I use:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Braised and Baked Chicken Thighs Recipe

I love the braised chicken that I've ordered in high-end restaurants that is super moist and flavorful, with crispy skin.  I wanted to create my own version for home that is quick, easy, and delicious using Marsala cooking wine and my Homemade (Chicken) Broth.  This recipe is very simple to make, is extremely moist and flavorful, and the skin is crispy.  The sauce goes great over side dishes such as rice or potatoes to compliment the meal.

Braised and Baked Chicken Thighs Recipe

4 to 6 chicken thighs, bone-in with skin
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup Marsala cooking wine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle olive oil over the skin of the thighs and salt and pepper to taste.  Using a large, stainless steel, oven-safe pan, heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil over Medium High heat.  Add the chicken thighs skin-side down brown them for 8 minutes (do not move them during this).  Salt and pepper the up-side of the thighs while the skin side is browning.  When the 8 minutes is up, use tongs and turn the thighs over for 5 more minutes undisturbed.  When the 5 minutes is up, use a spoon to remove any extra oil from the pan, and then add the chicken broth and Marsala cooking wine around the thighs.  Use the spoon to scrape any bits from the pan into the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a boil.  Transfer the pan to the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes if 4 thighs, and up to 45 minutes if 6 thighs.  When the time is up, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the thighs to a high-sided serving dish.  Spoon the sauce over the thighs and pour the rest of the sauce around them.  Serves 2 to 4 people as a main course.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Baked Empanadas Recipe

 I love simple, hand-held meals like pasties and taquitos, so it made sense for me to come up with an empanada recipe for my family. The ground beef seasoned with my taco seasoning (linked below) is the perfect empanada filling, along with hard-boiled egg and black olives.  Also, these empanadas are baked, not fried. When baked, the dough is chewy and crispy, so it is almost as if they are fried. They go great with guacamole, or sour cream if you eat dairy.

Baked Empanadas Recipe

For the empanada dough:

1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water
Olive oil to brush over tops of empanadas before baking

Mix together dry ingredients with a fork. Add the oil and cut it in with the fork until the mixture resembles course meal. Add the water and mix thoroughly, just until the dough forms a ball. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap until ready to make empanadas.

For the empanada filling:

1 lb extra lean ground beef
Taco Seasoning Recipe
3 hard-boiled eggs
12 medium black olives (whole)

Cook the ground beef per the instructions in the Taco Seasoning Recipe.  While you are browning the ground beef, hard boil 3 eggs in a small pot, and when they are done, peel  them and cut them each in half.

To make the empanadas:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly dust your working surface with flour. Take a piece of the dough, roll it into a ball in your hand, lightly dust it with flour, and use a rolling pin to roll it to a thin 6 inch circle. Put 1/3 cup of meat filling, a hard-boiled egg half, and two whole black olives (arranged how you want them) onto one end of the circle, not too close to the edge.  Fold the dough over, press the two edges together to close the empanada, and fold the edge up and over and press again to make a lip. Press a fork along the lip edge to secure the seal. Put the empanada on the cookie sheet and use a knife to cut a few slits in the top of it. When all of the empanadas are on the cookie sheet, brush them lightly with olive oil before putting them in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Makes 6 empanadas.