Thursday, January 31, 2013

Twice-Baked Broccoli Potatoes

Potatoes are usually considered a starchy side, but they can definitely stand on their own ... each spud = 6 grams of fibre + 6 grams of protein (skin included).  We love baked potatoes for dinner - and so does our budget.  This spin on baked potatoes adds even more fibre and amazing flavour with broccoli and aged white cheddar, twiced-baked to make it extra yummy!

Morgan fought Matt for the seconds ...  These were so good and so filling - I think I'll be making these for dinner more often. :)

5 potatoes (I used white), scrubbed and rinsed
olive oil
sea salt
1/2 cup sour cream (Daisy is our favourite - and gluten-free!)
3/4 cup shredded aged cheddar (Kerrygold Dubliner and Ballyshannon are amazing!)
1 cup broccoli
1/4 cup milk
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
green onion (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Dry off potatoes.  Poke all over with a fork and brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Rub salt and oil all over the potato until it's evenly coated.

Place potatoes on the top rack of your oven and a sheet of foil on the bottom rack.  Bake for 45 minutes, until a knife inserted through the middle of the potato comes out without picking the potato up.

In the meantime, chop broccoli and place in steamer bag ... this particular bag is made by Glad - so fast and easy! But if you don't have steamer bags, no problem - any steaming method works just fine.

When potatoes are finished baking, let them cool slightly until they are easy to handle.  Cut each down the middle and scoop out most the flesh, leaving a small border attached to the skin so it looks like a shell.  Mix the flesh with sour cream, milk, broccoli and 1/2 cup cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into potato shells and top with the remaining cheese.  Place on a cookie sheet or baking stone and sprinkle with green onion.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes until cheese is melted and starts to brown.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Haystacks in a Hurry

Need a dinner on the fly?  Haystacks are a good one!  You can prep everything the night before ... even put the rice ingredients in the rice cooker dish and keep in the fridge until ready.  Any number of toppings work ... I love that it can customize to each individuals taste.  We usually have enough leftover for lunches the next day too.  It's hearty, yet fresh and light - definitely one of our favourites!

Rice  adapted from
1 cup long-grain rice
2 1/4 cups water
1 vegetable bouillon cube (gluten-free)
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 ounce can diced green chilies
1 can peaches and cream corn, drained ... or one fresh cob, kernels removed
1 dash pepper
1 dash red pepper flakes 

Topping Suggestions
fresh cilantro
fresh lime
romaine lettuce
black olives (Lindsay are the BEST!)
black beans
kidney beans
multi-coloured peppers
extra sharp cheddar or Monterey jack
taco sauce
pickled jalapeños

Place all ingredients for the rice into the rice cooker and cook according to your machine's directions.  (Mine just has a little lever I push down to cook, then it automatically goes to warm when it's finished.)

If you do a lot of cooking, this tip is probably not new to you ... but since this recipe doesn't use a whole can of tomato paste (as do many other recipes), I thought I'd share. I separate the paste by tablespoons onto plastic wrap, then wrap tightly and twist so each tablespoon is an individual bundle.  I place in a small freezer bag and keep in the freezer until needed.  I can snip with my scissors in between the sections according to how much I need.  It's super convenient ... and a savings!

Here's the rice when it's complete.  Add a healthy scoop to each plate.

Place toppings in  individual bowls so your family can each build their own haystack with ease.

This is one of our favourite sharp cheddars ... it really does make a difference to use a strong, full flavoured cheese.  Kerrygold's Dubliner is also a great choice.

Serve with a few Tostitos and lime wedges ... and call it dinner! (Gluten-free too and/or perfect for a meatless Monday.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kansas City BBQ Sauce (Gluten-free)

One new and very BIG struggle for me and gluten-free is BBQ.  So many sauces have caramel colour, which could be derived from wheat, so ... all our favourite local Kansas City BBQ sauces have suddenly become off-limits. What??!!  I grew up in Kansas City ... this is simply NOT going to work for me!  Not to mention, Matt ... who lives for the smoky, sweet, tangy flavour of BBQ sauce.

When I got over my rant, I started looking online for some way, some how to make my own.  I stumbled upon this YouTube video and a glimmer of hope twinkled in my eye.  I did adapt it a bit.  Heinz ketchup is gluten-free, but I thought it needed a little more flavour and chili sauce seemed to do the trick.  It really does taste like home - like Gates ...

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon celery seeds
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon ground red pepper (1/4-1/2 tsp if you don't want it spicy)
1 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 heaping teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (Braggs is the best!)
2 cups chili sauce (Heinz is gluten-free ... just check the label on your bottle)
3 drops of liquid smoke
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice (I just squeeze in a couple drops)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sauce doesn't burn on the bottom.


Cool to room temperature and spoon into jars.  Store in the refrigerator - it will keep for a month or so, but I doubt it will last that long. :)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gluten-Free Berry Scones


Muffins, scones, buscuits ... there's nothing better than one of these delicious treats with a warm mug of tea.  It's a habit I've developed over the past few years living Canada.  I like baking ... and generally try to keep a little stash of semi-nutritious treats in the freezer, but now that we've started the gluten-cleanse in our house, these little confections have disappeared.  It's hard to get a good taste and texture ... after all, I'm trying to please a ten year old and a husband (not that their picky, but ... ).

I was so excited when I found this recipe!!  It didn't call for weird ingredients or "gums" - something I was really struggling to stay away from (I like simplicity).  So I gave it a try and they were delicious! 

Morgan begged for seconds - more than once!  They aren't too sweet and come in at around 158 calories each (give or take).  Not too bad!!  They did have a bit more of a scone texture, but I like that. :)

Adapted from
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons sugar or evaporated cane juice
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups brown rice flour + 2 tablespoons
4 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
zest of one lemon
1 cup fresh berries

Streusel Topping:
4 tablespoons sugar or evaporated cane juice
3 teaspoons brown rice flour
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.

ToppingIn a small bowl, mix sugar and flour. Add butter and mix until it forms coarse crumbs.

Muffins: Combine all ingredients except the blueberries and two tablespoons of flour into the mixer.  Blend until fully incorporated.  In a small baggie, shake the berries and the flour gently, just so the berries are coated (this keeps the mix from turning blue).  Add berries into the mix and fold gently with a spatula until they are evenly mixed through.

Spoon into the prepared muffin tin and sprinkle with streusel topping. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly browned.

Allow to cool for few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. 

Serve with a little spread of butter and jam ... and a hot mug of tea! MMMMM!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Homemade Pasta Sauce

I've tried for so long to find a pasta sauce recipe I love.  I've tried ALL KINDS with no luck - they were either too garlic-y or too tomato-y, were too sweet, too chunky, too watery, etc etc etc.  Buying jar sauce is easy, but when your family loves sauce as much as mine, it can get pricy to buy the good stuff ... not to mention all the sugar and preservatives added - even corn syrup in some!

So ... I came up with this giant recipe and haven't looked back.  The flavour is deep and rich, yet it seems to have just the right balance of seasoning and tomato.  It's great on pizza and pasta both ... and since it makes so much, I freeze it in freezer bags (flat so they'll stack) of various sizes so I can pull out the quantity I need for the dish I'm making.  Serve with pasta or pizza crust (we love gluten-free corn and rice pastas from Trader Joe's ... and Bob's Red Mill GF Pizza Crust Mix) and a yummy garden salad ... and the meal is complete!  If you'd like to try your hand at homemade pasta, Morgan and I tried out Mario Batali's recipe and it was amazing!

olive oil
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp crushed red pepper (reduce to 1 if you don't want any zip)
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp pepper
4 small onions or 2 large onions, white or yellow
8 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small cans tomato paste
2 all-vegetable bouillon cubes*
1/3 cup sugar or evaporated cane juice
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (106 oz) Costco-size can tomato sauce
1 (106 oz) Costco-size can crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add spices, onion and garlic.  Sauté for 30 seconds to allow the onions to sweat and the spices to start releasing their flavour.  Add tomato paste and continue sautéing and stirring for another 30 seconds or so.  Stir in bouillion cubes, sugar, and vinegar.  Very carefully add in both cans of tomatoes (they always wants to splatter), stirring to incorporate.

Add in bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer for at least an hour, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn't burn.

Remove bay leaves and let come to room temperature.  Pack into labelled freezer bags of different sizes.  To defrost, I usually put the bag in a sink filled with a little warm water.

MEAT OPTION:  You could make this a meat sauce as well ... just brown the meat in the bottom of the stock pot (ground beef, sausage), drain, then add in the seasonings and onion, etc.

*I love this brand of boullion ... and it's gluten-free! :)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Easy Bean Dip

What a cold, grey, lazy Saturday here in Southwestern Ontario. Nothing better than a warm, cheesy and HEALTHY treat as we snuggle up by the fire to watch a little marathon tv (starting with season 1 of The Cosby Show). Life is good :) ... and so is this easy bean dip!!

olive oil
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

4 tsp dried minced onion
3 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup taco sauce (Ortega is our favourite!)
1 (16oz) can refried beans (Refried Black Beans with Jalapeños from Trader Joe's are amazing!)
1 (4oz) can chopped green chilis
1 cup shredded cheddar, Monterrey Jack ... or, while not the healthiest, white American cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl combine seasoning ingredients.

Using a large skillet, heat a little olive oil. Add lentils and kidney beans. Stir until heated through.

Add seasonings and stir, allowing the seasonings to open and become fragrant - about 30 seconds.

Add taco sauce, refried beans and chilis. Smash and stir (a potato masher is quite handy for this).

Fill half a baking baking dish with the beans, top with cheese. Spread on another layer of beans and top with more cheese.

You really could eat it just like this. BUT ... if you wait until it's baked - MMMMM!!!  Even better!
I had a little bit of extra beans, so I made a mini dish for Matt's lunch Monday.

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven off and the broiler on HI. Broil until the cheese is toasted and bubbly - about 3 minutes.

Unfortunately in the wintertime, the tomatoes aren't as good ... but I could definitely imagine chopped, garden fresh tomatoes all over the top with a squirt or two of lime juice. Mmmmm!!!  Serve with your favourite chips and enjoy! :)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lentils and Rice Stir-Fry

This meal, served with fresh cut veggies, is now an established weekly routine in our house. Not only is it fast, budget friendly and nutritious ... it's super yummy.

2 cups dry basmati rice - brown or white
1 gluten-free, vegetable bouillon cube (McCormick Gourmet makes good all-vegetable option)
1 tsp sea salt
3-4 tbsp butter
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 can lentils
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Cook rice at your convenience.

I use a rice cooker, but you could make it easily in a saucepan as well. To prep the rice for cooking, let in soak in water for 30 min. Drain and rinse well before adding to the rice cooker. Add 3 cups water, bouillon cube and salt - stir, breaking up the bouillon cube a little. My rice cooker has two settings - cook and warm. I set in on cook and when I see that it's switched to warm, I unplug it and let it sit until I'm ready for dinner. It can sit on the counter all day, as cold rice is better for stir-fry anyway.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally until they are caramelized and soft - about 15-20 min. (Have a cup of coffee, stir, work on homework with your kiddos, stir, do a load of laundry, stir - I love low-maintenance meals!). 

Drain and rinse the can of lentils.  Add them to the onions and turn heat to medium. Stir and fry for about 30 seconds.

Add rice and continue stirring and frying.

5 minutes later - done!
Serve with a healthy squirt of Sriracha, if you want to give it a kick (not for the kiddos, of course).

I would even go as far to say this has become a comfort food to us. It's warm, hearty and full of protein and fibre! Don't forget fresh veggies on the side (snap peas, carrots, sweet cherry tomatoes ... the list goes on) - they are a perfect compliment!