Super Simple Side

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Super Simple Side

  1. Slice and dice a zucchini, make fun shapes, whatever you like
  2. Cut up red onion(about a 1/4 amount of the zucchini)
  3. Rip up or chop fresh basil
  4. Add two tbsp of lemon juice
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
  6. Mix & eat

It is refreshing. The red onion and basil give it immense flavor. I think it is my new favorite summer side dish AND it makes a great topper for a burger!

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Never waste wine. Ever.

Right after my in-laws left, I had a new set of family come into the area. They stayed with my grandmother for about 2 weeks and during that time, we saw them a few times.  They wouldn’t be back any time soon because they came from Germany. Story has it, my grandmother’s sister fell in love with a German man and moved back to his country. Once there, they had one child, who came to visit us on vacation with her husband.

The first time we saw them was just a ‘hello, how are you?’ The second time, we met at SeaWorld and walked around a little and then split. The time after that, we went out to eat spanish food and then a few days later, I cooked them a proper spanish meal.  You know, one with flavor.  The last time we saw them, we went to the first day of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.  They were pretty fun to spend time with, even though there was a little bit of a language barrier; she spoke english fluently but he only knew a few words.

When they left, my grandmother was left with quite a few food items.  Of course, I get a phone call. Honestly, my grandmother is closing in on 70 and sadly she is very close-minded about food (when you grow up in a family with 13 other children, you don’t really get to experience a lot in the way of food growing up, so she didn’t have much of a foundation).  While she kept things like, chocolate pie, sodas, popsicles and such, I was given onions, olive oil, an italian glaze, shiraz, and whole wheat bread(she doesn’t even eat the brown stuff!!).

I got home and panicked. I’ve never cooked with wine before and if my family can do it, why can’t I? I had four onions and shiraz to cook with. I knew I had chicken, we always go. So I went from there. I went on google, read a few recipes and found a base to work with and I then proceeded to ‘get jiggy with it.'(na-na-na-na-na-na-na). I then proceeded to make this gluten free and not adding ANY sodium to anything. Low sodium dishes are getting easier and easier.

Braised Chicken with Onions and Shiraz

(a gluten free, low sodium adventure)

  • 14 ounces chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter + 1tbsp unsalted butter
  • parsley, thyme, garlic powder to taste
  • medium onion
  • 3 gloves garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 broth bouillon, chicken or vegetable
  • 1/2 cup shiraz or other bold red wine

For this dish, I use a stainless steel pan.  I typically use cast iron for cooking but you shouldn’t really cook anything acidic in those, and I want a beautiful sear, so stainless steel is perfect.  Turn your pan to medium heat, add olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Allow them to melt and the pan to heat thoroughly. Pre-heating your pan is VERY IMPORTANT when you want a proper browning of your meat. (Also, never over crowd chicken in your pan because it releases steam.)

Sprinkle your chicken with the thyme, parsley and garlic powder. Once your pan is ready, place your chicken about and leave it alone for about 6 minutes. While it’s browning, place the 1 cup of water and bouillon into a small pot and bring it to a boil. Turn your chicken and then turn your attention to your medium onion. Chop it thoroughly and set to the side. Once your chicken is browned on both sides, remove it from the pan and place in a bowl. Add the last tbsp of butter to the pan you were just cooking the chicken in and toss the onions on top. Give it a quick stir and chop up your garlic while your onions brown. Toss the garlic on top, give it another quick stir and add the broth. Stir very well, removing any fond from the pan. Personally, I cut the chicken into smaller pieces, but you can place the chicken, in larger pieces, back into the pan. Then add the wine and make sure everything is mixed throughout and then place your lid on the pan. Once covered, I reduce the heat a bit and I let it all simmer for at least 6 minutes.

This dish has a delicious sauce that makes absolutely great over a bed of rice with a side of veggies. Last time I made it, I used brown rice pasta.

 

An overcrowded pan. I’m a rebel with a small pan

Following my own tips!! Candles around my cutting board to help with the onion tears!

My onions and garlic before adding chicken and liquids

All of the ingredients simmering in the pot for the un-lidding

The bouillon I used.  NO SALT ADDED?!?! WHAAAAAAT? I wanted to include this photo so that people knew that there were, in fact, options like this out there! I purchased this in a local Whole Foods. It can probably even be ordered online. I know it’s silly to be so excited about this, but broth is always ridiculously salted!

Grilled Bananas

Seriously, I must have had my thumb up my butt for a while because I’ve never heard of or thought to try making grilled bananas. This is coming from a girl who LOVES herself some tostones and sweet plaintains. LOVE! So, when I was flitting about on Pinterest and I saw a post on this, my eyes grew into saucers.

I read a few “recipes” and tips on how to make them so I decided to throw some stuff together and get a little creative.

I started off with two bananas. I didn’t wanna go overboard since this was a first time and I wasn’t sure how the kids would like it. They love bananas but kids think any slight change to anything is means for stoning.  I had just bought these green ‘ol bananas. I think they make sure the organic ones are extra green so that people eat the pesticides.  ANYWAYS, I cleaned them, patted dry and then cut the ends off, just so it looked a little more uniform. I, then, carefully cut the bananas down the middle.

This is where I got a little creative. First, I brushed some coconut oil on my cast iron pan and grabbed one of the baby’s bowls. I put in about a tbsp agave nectar, tsp cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp apple pie spice and mixed it into a watery paste. I got my brush and coated the inside of the banana in these amazing concoction.

I arranged the bananas in my pan, which I had heated to medium, insides down. I let them sit about 5 minutes and then flipped them onto the peel side and cooked an additional 5 minutes. I then carefully removed them and placed them on a place, insides gloriously up. I think the most important part of this is having a well oiled and well heated pan so that you get that lush sear of the sugars.

The ‘meat’ of the banana was so soft and sweet. The choco-cinnamon flavor really popped. I think the hardest part was peeling the banana out of the half peel…I think I broke every one of them, so if you want to serve these, I’d say keep them in the peel and let the guest deal with the problem!

HA!

Rainy Days and Comfort Foods

I love my comfort foods. It makes me SO happy to have some of my favorite dishes.

One of my odder comfort foods is shepherd’s pie. My mother was never much of a cook and one of my best friend’s mothers would actually make this. Between the shepherd’s pie and the amazing Italian dishes she made, she was one of my favorite parental units!!

Recently, I started making it on my own, especially after getting the Harry Potter cookbook. I have recently started putting a little spin on it, to increase nutritional value and to avoid putting on the oven, since it’s seriously too hot in the summer.

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I basically make my Shepherd’s Pie a Shepherd’s Skillet meal. I start an onion, brown my meat, add the spices and broth with tomato paste and let it all simmer and sink in, then grate cheese over top of it. While this is going, I make brown rice on the side, so we can replace the less nutrient filled potatoes.Image

Yes, this blog is taking too long to write because I am eating this.

Most recipes say to add a tbsp of flour or however…but I just skip that step and let it simmer down on it’s own…It absorbs all of the flavor and you can keep your meal gluten free!!

Making Breakfast Bars HEALTHY!!

So, I’ve never been a breakfast bar person. I actually used to hate breakfast all together. Mr McDorkins, though, is a breakfast bar junkie. He is an addict and he needs help.  Help, because when you turn one of those scrumptiously decorated labels around, you realize that 1 bar can have 30% of your daily sodium and a massive chunk of sugar!! It’s gross.

I’ve been making snack bars for him lately, especially since the cost of these unhealthy bars are about as stupid as the people who decided labeling something that obviously isn’t good for you as healthy.

First, I made a homemade twist on Larabars. Neither of us have ever, actually, had a Larabar so I don’t know if I can actually compare what made to the real thing. Super simple….

Homemade Larabars

1/4 c dried cherries

1/4 c dried dates

1/2 c cashews

1/4 tsp cinnamon

First thing I do is measure out the dates and toss them in a bowl and cover with water. This softens them and removes the flour/sugar/whatever they put on them to keep them from sticking. I rinse a few times over the course of 5 or so minutes. Once that is done, I put the dates in the processor with the cherries and cinnamon. Pulse until a paste. Scoop into a bowl. Pop the nuts into the processor and pulse until they are chopped, too large and they fall apart a lot easier. Toss those into the bowl, mix and then split in half. I use a piece of plastic wrap for each one, I kind of spoon the mix on and I try to fold the plastic wrap over the bars and shape them while they are wrapped so that I don’t make a massive mess.

They go straight into the fridge and usually are eaten within the next day by Mr McDorkin. I think in the time since I’ve started to make them, I’ve had half of one bar.  Once they start to warm up they become a bit more crumbly but if you have them cold, they keep shape perfectly.

Today, I decided to try something a little different and in a larger batch, rather than 2 at a time. I found this recipe(http://www.food.com/recipe/oatmeal-breakfast-bars-45034) and I put a slightly more crunchy spin on it.

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

2 C uncooked rolled oats(a base, I had to increase this by about a cup to get the right consistency)

3/4 C oats and 1/4 C sliced almonds

1/2 C dates(or whatever dried fruit you have around)

1/2 C dried cherries(or whatever dried fruit you have around)

1 C apple juice

1/4 C turbinado sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C coconut oil

1/4 C chia seeds

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine the 3/4 c oats and 1/4 c almond slices in the food process and process until a fine/flour consistency. Once you get the right consistency, pour into a large bowl. Soak your dates like the recipe above if they are dry and place in the processor with whatever fruit you choose. Pulse a few times to just chop the fruit into smaller pieces. Scoop out and into the large bowl. Add all of the other ingredients. I mixed by hand to combine and mixed and mixed and mixed, adding more oats as needed to get a firmer consistency. You want to be able to shape the dough.

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before mixing

Place your mixture into a pan and flatten out so that it reaches the edges. Pop it straight into the over for about 35 minutes. Once you pull your pan out, cut your bars. I used a pizza cutter and then cleaned up the ends with a butter knife. Let cool completely before removing. Eat. Makes about 12 bars, depending on how you cut them.

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these smell SO good baking!! 

 OF COURSE, you can take these recipes and put your spin on them. Use YOUR favorite fruits to make them, not mine. I think the best part of recipes if that you can always personalize them and make them your own!! That’s the fun of it, right?

Cooking is art, have fun and create.

Black Bean Chocolate Cake

With the birthday season in my house quickly approaching, I have been pinning and reviewing recipes that are a bit healthier than the traditional recipes I have used.  A friend of mine posted a black bean chocolate cake recipe she had recently found and tried and I decided, after reading about the black bean brownies and the such, maybe they were on to something. 

http://www.grouprecipes.com/118314/black-bean-flourless-chocolate-cake.html

I was happy to try a gluten free cake since I have been trying to stay away from wheat. I have been bad and ate wheat for 2 days in a row and I feel like someone has kicked me in the stomach and I am suffering greatly for my gluttonous choices.

I did make a few little changes to the recipe above. I took it down from 5 whole eggs to 3 and added 2 egg whites. I also didn’t add additional salt, since baking soda and baking powder already have sodium in them. So, here it is…

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Black Bean Chocolate Cake

2 cups black beans(I used dried beans, rehydrated and cooked as normal)

3 large eggs

2 egg whites

1 tbs vanilla

1 Tbs water

6 tbs melted butter, or extra virgin coconut oil or olive oil

3/4 cup sugar

6 tbs baking cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 and grease your pan how you like it. I used coconut oil all around.

I cooled my cooked beans and threw them in the processor with all of the wet ingredients(eggs, vanilla, water, coconut oil) and processed them down until they were a liquid with skin chunks. Sound sexy? In a large bowl, I mixed the dry ingredients. I poured the wet ingredients into the bowl and mixed until completely combined(I would have used the processor but mine is small and wouldn’t fit it all, sadly).

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Pour it into the greased pan and pop it in the oven. It bakes for 50 minutes at 350. Take it out, let it cool, remove from pan.

They say, in the link, to leave it overnight for the best flavor, so I did. But I was a nimrod and didn’t remove it from the pan, so it became a crumbly mess and we are sort of digging it out to taste it. If I could make any other changes, I would reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe. It’s very sweet to me and I think a rich chocolate topping would me amazing on this and would probably send it way over the edge for sweetness. I’ve never really had a sweet tooth, though, so you can make that call. I’d make it again, but I’d remember to take it out of the pan before it was fully cooled and inhabiting the tin it was in. 

So far, everyone has really liked it, Mr McDorkin and Baby McDorkin have both inhaled a good amount. I think there is a slight aftertaste– to me it just tastes like it was made with artificial sweeteners, maybe just because it was too sweet. 

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Lazy/Sick Day Soup

I am a firm believer in soup. It’s amazing. I think it has a lot of healing qualities, depending on the ingredients.

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I haven’t been feeling too well, so utilizing some leftover pork in the fridge and ingredients I have in my kitchen, I made super healthy and delicious soup that drop kicked the cold that I had in the face.

Lazy/Sick Day Soup(Gluten-Free, Low Sodium)

1 cup dry rice noodles, per serving

low sodium broth, however much YOU like, chicken, vegetable, whatever you have on hand

1 tsp ginger

herbs(your favorite, i used a few leaves each basil and cilantro)

 thinly sliced onion, to taste

lemon zest

whatever else you want to throw in there…boiled egg, meat, veggies

Easy ingredients, right? I only use one pot to make this. Bring water to a boil and cook your noodles until done. Remove from heat, promptly strain and place the noodles straight into your bowl. Put the pot right back on the heat and bring your broth up to a simmer(Mine was already hot because it is perpetually cooking) and then toss in your herbs, cut up or ripped up or whole…whatever you like and diced ginger. I let that simmer while I grab my other ingredients, in this case I sliced my onion and placed it directly in the bowl with my noodles and got the leftover shredded pork out of the fridge and tossed it in the pot. Give it a swirl, make sure everything is heated through and just pour it on top of the noodles and onion in your bowl. Super quick meal that is very satisfying and has a ton of flavor. I made this when I was sick as a dog yesterday, so it’s not hard at all. Promise.

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