Individual Scalloped Potatoes

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Ahhhh…comfort food.

It’s been raining here for what seems like years.

I think we’ve only had one full day of sun in something like 4 or 5 weeks.

I’m still in winter comfort food mode.

Can you blame me?

Some people think it’s the end of their world when they’ve been diagnosed with food allergies. Being dairy free and gluten-free isn’t really all that difficult. It can be done, and it can be done well. You don’t have to deprive yourself of all of the comfort foods life has to offer. Scalloped potatoes are definitely one of those comfort foods I would certainly hate to say goodbye to forever and now I don’t have to.

If you have a favorite holiday food or special side dish that you can no longer “have” because of allergy limitations, get creative. Carve out a little time in your schedule once every couple of weeks to experiment with your favorite dish. Do some research, use the original recipe as a starting point for measurements, etc. This recipe is adapted from Food Network Magazine’s recipe for Mini Scalloped Potatoes. I used it as a starting point so that I would have a balance between the solids and liquids. Then, I added garlic, green onion, thyme, paprika, bacon, sheep’s milk cheese and exchanged the dairy ingredients to non-dairy ingredients. It’s really just as easy as that.

 

Living allergen free does mean that a little more work and patience is required on your part. But it certainly does not mean that you will need to learn to be happy with less tasty and satisfying meals. These scalloped potatoes are 100% dairy and gluten-free. Perfect alongside your upcoming Easter ham.

Individual Scalloped Potatoes

About 1 Tablespoon Dairy Free Butter, melted for the ramekins

1 1/4 Cups Daiya Vegan Cheddar Style Cheese

1/2 Cup Dairy Free (Vegan) Parmesan Cheese

About 2 Tablespoons Sheep’s Milk Cheese, crumbled

(Next time I would also add Manchego…)

1 Green Onion, finely chopped

1 Large Clove Garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Fresh Thyme, finely chopped

About 1 Tablespoon Crisp Bacon, crumbled (if you have it leftover from breakfast)

1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes, (4 to 5 mini ones) sliced about 1/8 inch thick

1/2 teaspoon Paprika

A Healthy Pinch of Kosher Salt

Several Grinds of Pepper

1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Creamer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously brush ramekins (I used 3 oversized, their recipe calls for 6 – 6-8 ounce ramekins) with the melted butter and set aside. I don’t think it would quite fill an 8×8 baking dish though. If you plan to have it with a holiday meal, I would double the recipe.

Combine the vegan cheddar, vegan parmesan, sheep’s milk cheese, onion, garlic, thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, and potatoes in a medium bowl.

Divide half of this mixture among the ramekins, arranging the potatoes around each ramekin and distributing the cheese mixture as evenly as possible. Top with half of the non-dairy cream.

Repeat with the remaining potato and cheese mixture and cream. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove tin foil, increase oven temperature to 425, and bake for another 20 minutes.

Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Pineapple Pick Me Up

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I love smoothies. They are fast, easy, and you can get as creative or “un”-creative as you like. You can make them healthy or make them more like a dessert or milk shake. I’m fighting off a cold and for some reason, when I have a cold I crave citrus. Maybe it’s the vitamin C or maybe it’s because citrus smoothies are easy. Either way, this one hit the spot and gave me some added energy to tackle another “to do” list for the day.

Pineapple Pick Me Up Smoothie

*Makes 2 –  16 ounce smoothies

About 2 1/2 Cups Fresh Pineapple, diced

About 1/3 Cup Sweetened Coconut

About 1/3 Cup Toasted Pecans

About 1 1/2 Cups Unsweetened Almond Milk

About 2 Cups Ice

Place all ingredients in a Vita Mix or heavy-duty blender and blend until smooth.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds – Two Ways

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It’s that gorgeous time of year again! Crisp mornings have arrived and the trees are turning beautiful colors. The view in our backyard is gorgeous. The leaves are turning and some of them are just beginning to fall to the ground.

People are finding themselves in the mood to drink pumpkin lattes, bake pies, and decorate for the season. A couple of weeks ago we visited our favorite local farm, Carver Farms, and picked pumpkins, cornstalks, and all kinds of gourds and neat things to decorate the house with.

They also had half of a field full of blooming Gladiolas.

This last weekend, my son’s girlfriend and I carved seven pumpkins. Yep, seven, between the two of us. I love to decorate for the holidays and you certainly know I love to cook and bake for the holidays, but I have to admit, I have no need or desire left in me to carve another pumpkin…well, until next year. By then I’m sure we will have forgotten how sore our hands were and how my son’s girlfriend could barely move her arm the next day and how my weird ball throwing/dog injury elbow issue cropped up again. Now I guess I can call it pumpkin elbow.

Here’s our handy work after carving for a couple of hours on Friday night and several hours on Saturday.

If you also like to decorate for the season and end up carving a field of pumpkins, whatever you do, don’t throw away the seeds! I know, I know, after carving a bazillion pumpkins the last thing you want to do is dig through that pile of guts for all the seeds. This is when another family member or friend (or husband or son who doesn’t want to help carve pumpkins) comes in handy. Put someone else, besides yourself, in charge of digging out the seeds and rinsing them. It will all be worth it in the end, I promise.

In case you didn’t already know, pumpkin seeds are very good for you. Did you know that they are beneficial to prostate health? (Another good reason to make the men in your house fish out the seeds and rinse them for you…they do benefit from them too, after all.) According to TheWorldsHealthiestFoods. org, the carotenoids found in pumpkin seeds and the omega-3 fats found in the seeds are being studied for their potential prostate benefits. Men with higher amounts of carotenoids in their diet have less risk for benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). They are also high in Zinc which is great for bone mineral density. It was once thought that mainly post-menopausal women were at risk for Osteoporosis, but now they are finding that almost 30% of hip fractures occur in men.

Pumpkin seeds are also being tested for their anti-inflammatory benefits for arthritis. In animal studies, the addition of pumpkin seeds to the diet were comparable to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs without the side effects that those types of drugs often cause. Who wouldn’t rather eat pumpkin seeds than take drugs with side effects? Pumpkin seeds are also a fantastic source of minerals, protein, and monounsaturated fat. They can also help lower cholesterol, enhance the immune system, and decrease the risk of certain cancers.

 

Now that you’ve boned up on all of the healthy reasons for someone other than yourself to dig through the pile of guts and retrieve the healthy, delicious, pumpkin seeds…you also need to know that they taste great. Quite addictive actually. And you can season them and spice them up any way you choose.

To make the very tasty and good for you pumpkin seeds, follow the directions below.

Rinse the pumpkin seeds well. Spread out on paper towels and allow to completely dry. I left mine to dry for two days, but only because I didn’t have time to get to them. I’m sure they would be plenty dry if you just left them overnight.

Once the seeds are completely dry, spread them in half.

For Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds:

1/2 of your seeds

about 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil

a generous amount of cayenne pepper

a generous amount of  chili powder

a generous amount of chipotle chili powder

a generous amount of ground sea salt

about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of sugar

When I say generous amount, what I mean is, add as much as you think you might like and then multiply it by two. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Toss all of the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until they are completely combined and all of the seeds are coated. Spread the seeds out on the parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes or until the seeds are lightly browned and crisp, tossing a couple of times in between with a spatula.

For Garlic & Sea Salt Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:

1/2 of your seeds

about 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil

about 1 heaping teaspoon of minced garlic, preferably the kind in the jar

a generous amount of ground sea salt

Again, when I say generous amount, what I mean is, add as much as you think you might like and then multiply it by two. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Toss all of the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until they are completely combined and all of the seeds are coated. Spread the seeds out on the parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes or until the seeds are lightly browned and crisp, tossing a couple of times in between with a spatula.

Vegan Walnut Pesto

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What do you do when you have a ton of basil because you keep buying it thinking that you’re out but you actually already have three packages in your fridge? You make pesto, of course! I don’t “do” cheese as you know, and I didn’t have pine nuts so I improvised and used walnuts instead of the pine nuts and left the cheese out altogether. It’s wonderful even without the cheese and really, you can make pesto with any nut you like.

Fill your food processor up with fresh basil

Add about 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic

Add about a handful of walnuts

Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon into the mix

Pulse until thoroughly combined.

Turn food processor on and slowly drizzle olive oil in until it comes to a somewhat smooth consistency.

Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Hellloooo…Breakfast

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This morning I was meandering through a fellow blogger’s food blog and ran across a delicious looking smoothie. Made me realize I haven’t had a smoothie in a really long time. It seems like we’ve had the longest, rainiest, cloudiest, winter ever…which makes me want to eat comfort food for breakfast. This morning, even though it’s still cloudy, I actually woke up to the sweet sound of birds singing, a true sign of spring! Goodbye heavy oatmeal and scrambled eggs and hello fruit smoothies.

This is kind of a “what’s in the fridge” smoothie. I also had spinach and parsley that I considered, but I just couldn’t stomach the thought today. I’ll have to do a super foods smoothie another day.

What’s In The Fridge Smoothie

*Makes 2 – 16 oz. glasses with a little left over

2 Tbsp. Brown Rice Protein Powder

1/2 Cup Almond Milk

1/2 of a Large Organic Banana, peeled

1/4 of an English Cucumber, peeled

1 Whole Mango, peeled & rough chopped

1/2 Cup Organic Carrots

6 Kumquats, washed and green end nubs removed

1 Cup Pineapple in its own juices, not sweetened

1 Cup Organic Frozen Blueberries

1 Cup Ice

Get all of the ingredients ready to go.

In a heavy-duty blender add the pineapple, protein powder, and carrots. Blend until smooth. Add the kumquats, mango, and cucumber. Blend until smooth.

Add the banana and blend until smooth. Add the blueberries a little at a time, blending until smooth. Add almond milk and ice and blend for about 1 minute.

 

Crisco Alternative

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I posted a recipe for sugar cookies a while back that requires Crisco shortening. A friend who doesn’t allow any partially hydrogenated fats into her diet wrote me a note and asked if there was an alternative. I did about 30 seconds of research on the internet and found the Spectrum Organic All-Vegetable Shortening made with palm oil. Little did I know, it had been sitting right in the health food aisle at my grocery store where I shop all the time. I used it in another cookie recipe recently and didn’t even notice the difference. Next on my list is to try it in the pie dough I make that calls for shortening. I’m not extremely hyper about not eating hydrogenated fats because I don’t do it all that often. Once you educate yourself a little bit on the matter though, you’ll see why it makes sense to get as much of it out of your diet as possible. You can go here to read an interesting short article on the negative effects of having these types of fats in your diet. There are also links below that explain the ingredients in Spectrum and Crisco.

Here is a break-down between the two:

Organic Spectrum

Organic

Non-hydrogenated

Serving Size 1 Tbsp.

110 Calories/12g Fat Per Serving

Saturated Fat 6g

Trans Fat 0

Polyunsaturated Fat 1g

Monounsaturated Fat 5g

Ingredients: Mechanically Pressed Organic Palm Oil

Cost of the 24oz tub of Spectrum Organic All- Vegetable Shortening: $6.49

Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening

Non-Organic

Fully Hydrogenated Palm and Partially Hydrogenated Soy

Serving Size 1 Tbsp.

110 Calories/12g Fat Per Serving

Saturated Fat 3g

Trans Fat 0

Polyunsaturated Fat 6g

Monounsaturated Fat 2.5g

Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Fully Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Palm and Soybean Oil, Mono and Diglycerides, TBHQ, and Citric Acid.

Cost of the 16oz Tub of Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening: $3.59

Clementine & Chocolate Shortbread

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Today is the perfect day to set aside a few minutes to sit down with a hot cup of tea, a good book, and a little treat. Well, I guess I would have to say almost every day is a good day for that! Unfortunately, most of us don’t take much time for ourselves to relax, even just for a short spell. The craziness of life sweeps us up and all of a sudden our day has gone by so quickly, most of it was just a blur.

Keep in mind that these cookies are to be savored. They’re something special. No drive by quickie, grab a cookie and go. Your house will be filled with the spicy scents of warmed oranges, ginger, cinnamon, and rich chocolate. A comforting, come hither, kind of warm breeze. Take some time even if it’s just a few short minutes, to place a couple on a pretty plate, brew yourself a nice cup of tea, grab your favorite book, take a deep breath…and relax.

Clementine & Chocolate Shortbread

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Makes about 28-30 1 1/2 inch cookies.

1/2 Cup Earth Balance Butter, room temp. (Can also use real butter.)

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

2 tsp. Clementine Peel, finely grated

1/2 tsp. Pure Orange Oil (I buy mine in tiny bottles at Cost Plus World Market.)

1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger

1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1 Cup Mama’s Almond Blend All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Cream in powdered sugar until completely combined, scraping mixing bowl once or twice.

Grate the clementine peel.

Add the peel, orange oil, ginger, and cinnamon to the butter and sugar mixture. Cream until completely combined, scraping bowl. Slowly add in the flour, mixing until dough is combined and comes together.

Scrape out onto plastic wrap, cover, flatten into a disc, and refrigerate for 2 hours or more.

When you’re ready to work the dough, remove it from the fridge and allow it to sit on the counter for about 20-30 minutes. Place on floured (Gluten Free Mama’s) parchment paper and roll to about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Cut with desired cookie cutters. I used a 1 1/2 inch square.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10-13 minutes. Edges should be slightly golden. Remove carefully to cooling rack. They are very fragile when they’re hot.

While you allow the cookies to cool completely, start the dipping chocolate.

Orange Chocolate

1 1/4 Cups Miniature Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (Can also use regular.)

1/2 tsp. Orange Oil

Pour chips and orange oil in a small microwavable bowl and melt in 20 second increments, stirring well until completely smooth. If you wait to add the orange oil until after the chocolate is smooth, sometimes it will seize up. It’s best to heat them together.

*Because I’m not giving these cookies as gifts I did not temper the chocolate. Tempering gives the chocolate a shine even after it has set and cooled completely. You can learn how to temper chocolate here.

Carefully dip half of each cookie into the melted chocolate allowing the extra to drizzle off. Place on a piece of parchment (I used the same parchment the cookies were baked on).

Allow chocolate to set up before serving.