Double Down….

Sunday I did something I have never done before. 
This something has always intimidated me. In hindsight, it was a silly thing to be scared of. It turned out to be rather simple and fun!
Okay, okay… enough suspense! I made……..
A TWO LAYER CAKE!!!!!!!!!
This was the most moist, delicious cake on the planet! The occasion was my Pop’s birthday. He is 80-some-odd years old and cuter than ever! Look at him enjoying all the attention on his big day!
I used the King Arthur Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix. The cake was springy, light, and sheer perfection!
For the frosting, I was inspired by GF Guy, and every male member of his family, to make a Vegan Peanut Butter Frosting. The men on his side of the family are obsessed with everything Peanut Butter!
Vegan Peanut Butter Frosting
(Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance Non-Dairy Buttery Sticks, softened
  • 1 cup organic Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 5-7 Tblsp Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 2 cups organic Confectioners Sugar

Directions:

  1. Place the Earth Balance and Peanut Butter in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed.
  2. Gradually mix in the sugar.
  3. When mixture becomes thick begin adding the Almond Milk, one tablespoon at a time, until all sugar is incorporated and frosting is thick and spreadable.
  4. Beat at least 3 minutes for frosting to become thick and fluffy.
This was a remarkably light combination. Not too sweet or rich, it did not sit in your stomach after being eaten, as many frosted cakes do. 
Everyone raved about it. In fact, I’ve already had a request for my cousin’s birthday!

What was is your favorite cake/frosting flavor combination? 

- I have a thing for German Chocolate Cake, probably because it is my mom’s favorite! (Love you Mom!)

Do You Like Me?…

Why is it that no matter how old we get we are constantly seeking approval from others?
 We want to be liked, to be admired. We see other people walking around looking so cool and confident. When it all comes down to it, they harbor the same insecurities we do. 
No matter how old I get, I still feel like that awkward, gawky middle school-er, wired with braces from ear to ear timidly stepping out of my dad’s car on the first day of school.
Can you find me? Hint- Look for the crazy red hair!
  People perceive me to be this completely together, bold person living a charmed, easy life. In some ways it is true. I am blessed with a loving husband, a wonderful family, a job I love, and a comfortable home. 
Then there are days when I break two bottles of wine at work, fall and scrape my arm, forget to call my mother, and choose ignore the fact that my house hasn’t been dusted in two weeks! Those are the days I wish everyone could see me, and those are the days I wish I could see everyone else have. Those are the days that make us human. The days that make us connect.
Today, I worked for a few hours, then spent some quality time with my poor, lately neglected, puppy at the dog park. We played for a bit in the sun, then a bit more in the rain. We returned home to bake a 2 tier Chocolate Cake w/ Peanut Butter Frosting for my grandfather’s birthday party on Sunday. Today, I let my guard down. I let myself breathe. I let myself simply be. No television… no radio…. just a girl, her dog, and God. 
It was a good day….

The Clean Plate Club….

Your mom always said to “clean your plate”…

…And I completely agree!

With all of the reports of cancer-causing additives and life-threatening pathogens contaminating our food, eating has become a risky venture!

Eating used to be so simple. You grew it, harvested it, and ate it. Simple.

Now, food is grown with genetically modified organisms, sprayed with chemicals, wrapped in plastic, and shipped from heaven only knows where!

This begs the question: Is it possible to eat clean in a dirty world?


The answer is Yes!

By following a few simple steps, you will be on your way toward eating a mostly squeaky clean diet!

Pristine Plate Tip #1:

  • Be a (Mostly) Vegetarian- Most of today’s generic meats are loaded with saturated fats, added antibiotics, genetically engineered hormones, and are a breeding ground for pathogens. If you don’t want to completely cut out meat, limit you intake to two 3 or 4 ounce servings of organic, grass-fed meat a week. By avoiding or limiting your meat intake, you immediately take leaps and bounds toward cleaning your diet.
I made dinner for my mom tonight. She eats meat most evenings. In fact, I was brought up thinking it wasn’t dinner if there wasn’t meat involved. My how times have changes! When planning our meal, I asked mom what she was in the mood for. The response was, “something light”. Light and clean…. That I can do! 

Portobello Mushroom Salad
(Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Portobello Mushrooms, stems and gills removed
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1/4 Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 1 Roasted Yellow Pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 Tblsp fresh Dill, chopped
  • Salad Spring Mix

Directions:

  1. Quarter mushrooms and slice into 1/4″ thick pieces.
  2. Place mushrooms, vinegar, and Bragg’s in a large skillet and cook until liquid is reduced.
  3. Meanwhile, prep vegetables and divide between 2 bowls.
  4. Once mushroom liquid has reduced by about half, divide the mushrooms between the two bowls.
That’s it! It is that simple, clean, and delicious! 

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Friday Foodie Fix!

Kelp and Kickball….

Guess what! 
I joined an adult, intramural kickball team! 
We are called the “Sons of Pitches” and had our first official meeting last night. I threw aside my introverted self and tried to talk to each member of my team. It was exhausting, but worth it! I can’t wait to get started! Don’t worry…. Pictures and score updates will be posted as often as possible!
For dinner tonight, I found an amazing looking Soba Noodle recipe in this month’s edition of Better Nutrition Magazine. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe (you may notice I didn’t even use Soba Noodles!) and ended up with a delicious winner of a recipe! If you are not a fan of heat, reduce the Red Pepper Flakes to 1/8 tsp, or eliminate all together. 

Kelp Noodles with Wild Mushrooms and Ginger-Mirin Sauce
(Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pkg. Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles
  • 1/2 Zucchini, spiralized into “noodles”
  • 1 Tblsp Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 lg bunch Scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 small Red Bell Peppers, cored and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 lb Shiitake Mushroom Caps
  • 1 (3.4 oz) pkg Beech Mushrooms
  • 2″ fresh Ginger
  • 1/4 cup Mirin
  • 1 1/2 Tblsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/4 tsp White Pepper
  • 2 cups Snap Peas, trimmed and sliced 1/2″ wide on a strong diagonal
  • 3 Tblsp Black Sesame Seeds, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, fresh Cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Rinse Kelp Noodles and cut to desired length. Set aside.
  2. In a wok or large skillet, heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add scallions, red peppers, and mushrooms. Toss or stir to coat with oil and cook for about 2 minutes, until mushrooms are soft.
  3. Peel and cut Ginger into chunks. Press juice through a garlic press. Discard solids.
  4. Add mirin, Bragg’s, red pepper flakes, white pepper, and snap peas to the pan and stir to coat. Cook 3-5 min., or until snap peas are just tender.
  5. Add Kelp and Zucchini noodles to the pan with the vegetables and stir to combine.
  6. To serve, divide between four bowls. Sprinkle each bowl with black sesame seeds and cilantro and enjoy!
 This is one meal GF Guy would not enjoy. I seem to be making quite of few of those lately…. I guess it’s good to get it all out of my system before he comes back. 
Speaking of GF Guy….
I get to visit him in Chicago in 7 days, 2 hours, 16 minutes, and 37 seconds!!!!! AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
I’m just a little excited. Can you tell?!
Have a happy Friday, Everyone!

Big, "Blondie", and Beautiful….

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Gluten Free Wednesdays.
Ever since I made my Black Magic Brownies with black beans, I have been wanting to try making Blondies with garbanzo beans. 

I found this recipe on the blog Have Cake, Will Travel, and I just HAD to try it! Instead of using Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam, I used Tahini and Sour Cherry Preserves. There are so many different nut butters and jams out there, this recipe is sure to never get old!
What would your flavor combination be?
Sour Cherry Chickpea Blondies
(Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15oz.) can Garbanzo Beans
  • 1/2 cup Turbinado Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cherry Preserves
  • 1/4 cup Tahini
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tblsp Flax Seed Meal
  • 2 Tblsp Brown Rice Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.
  3. Process until smooth.
  4. Spray an 8×8 baking pan with non-stick spray.
  5. Pour chickpea mixture into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven 25-27 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  7. Cover and refrigerate before cutting.

    Chestnuts and Coconuts….

    More from the Test Kitchen!
    A few days ago, I wrote a post about my ingredient guilt. My Fairy Blog Mother responded with a recipe link that incorporated 3 of the offending ingredients!
    AMAZING!
    I put together this recipe, but found the batter to be a bit dry. I added water…. and more water… and more water… until I finally reached a more muffin batter consistency. The resulting muffins tasted delicious! The combination of Chestnut Flour and Coconut Flour adds a natural, sweet nuttiness that I found addicting! Texture wise, these muffins are a bit on the crumbly side. Oh well! If you have any suggestions to fix that let me know! 
    Next up: using the Chestnut Flour to make Biscotti!
    Chestnut Carob Chip Muffins
    (Gluten-Free, Dairy Free)

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups Chestnut Flour
    • 3/4 cup Coconut Flour
    • 3/4 cup Turbinado Sugar 
    • 1 Tblsp Molasses
    • 1 Tblsp Baking Powder
    • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
    • 1/4 tsp Salt
    • 2 Eggs
    • 8 Tblsp Coconut Oil
    • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
    • 3/4 cup Water
    • 1 tsp Vanilla
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Carob Chips (be sure they are Gluten-Free!!!!)

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, soda, powder, and salt. Set aside.
    3. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the coconut oil, sugar, and molasses.
    4. Add the eggs and beat until creamy.
    5. Add the vanilla and beat about 30 seconds more.
    6. Slowly add the flour mixture. About half way through add the milk and water. Continue adding the remaining flour mixture, beating until smooth.
    7. Stir in the carob chips.
    8. Drop by rounded spoonfuls into lined muffin tins.
    9. Bake 18-20 minutes.
    10. Cool on a wire baking rack.

    Professor Sprout….

    Sprouts….

    Who would have thought these little shoots would cause such a stir?

    How do you sprout grains, beans, and seeds?…
    Is sprouting hard?…
    Why do people sprout grains?…
    These are among the most common questions I hear regarding sprouting.
     
    Sprouting is the process of soaking, draining, and rinsing seeds until they germinate, or sprout. Sprouting grains, beans, and seeds make them easier to digest for some people. Additionally, sprouts contain a variety of vitamins, enzymes, proteins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that are more abundant while in sprout form than in a fully mature plant. When a grain, bean, or seed is soaked in water, its enzyme inhibitors are removed allowing the germination (sprouting) process to begin at a rapid pace. This releases a chain-reaction that dramatically increases the seeds’ vitamin and enzyme content and begins the break down of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into a “pre-digested” form.
    Got it?

    Sprouting really is as easy as one, two, three. Well, that, and a little bit of trial and error.

    The Equipment:
    • Clear, Glass Jars
    • Screen, cut in a circle
    • Rubberbands
    • Seeds/Dried Beans
    • Water

    The Method: 

    1. Place seeds in your jar and completely cover with water.
    2. Soak seeds overnight, or at least 4 hours.
    3. The next day, drain and rinse.
    4. Leave jar inverted, at an angle, in your sink. This will drain the water, but still allow air to flow.
    5. Rinse sprouts 4 times a day.

    Tips:

    • Sprouts like a cool environment (70-75 degrees F), but will tolerate slightly warmer temperatures.
    • Use 4-6 Tblsp. of seeds, depending on the size of the jar.

    Sprouting Times:

    • Alfalfa: 4-5 days
    • Broccoli: 5-7 days
    • Garbanzos: 2-4 days
    • Lentils 4-6 days
    After seeds are finished sprouting, store in an air-tight container in your refrigerator.
    Now go out there and get sprouting!

    Miso Happy….

    I acquired some Red Miso a few weeks ago. Every time I open the refrigerator door, there it is… staring at me…
    Okay…. That’s not the Red Miso, but that’s the grumpy face it was making in my imagination!
    Does anyone else get “ingredient guilt”? You know… that guilty feeling every time you see a really cool ingredient you bought on a whim, but have never used.
    Currently, my “ingredient guilt” items are: 
    • Chestnut Flour
    • Carob Chips 
    • Coconut Flour 
    • Coconut Nectar
    • Gluten Free Pancake Mix
    Anyway, I finally decided to be brave and experiment with my miso. 
    I was inspired by a Chef Cat Cora recipe I saw in the newspaper for Udon Noodle Soup. She used White Miso, but I decided Red was going to have to cut it! :-)
    The resulting soup is delicious, light but filling, and a new favorite!
    Bon Appetit!
    Kelp Miso Noodle Soup
    (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

    Ingredients:

    • 4 cups No-Chicken Broth (made by Imagine Foods)
    • 1/2 cup Zucchini, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup Sugar Snap Peas, sliced on the diagonal
    • 1 cluster fresh Beech Mushrooms
    • 2 Tblsp Red Miso (made with brown rice)
    • 1/2 cup Scallions (green onions), sliced
    • 1 (12oz) pkg Kelp Noodles, rinsed and cut to desired length

      Directions:

    1. In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. 
    2. Lower the heat to medium, add the zucchini, and cook until crisp-tender; about 2 minutes.
    3. Add the sugar snap peas and cook until slightly tender, but still bright green; about 1 minute.
    4. Add the mushrooms and cook about 45 seconds.
    5. Remove from the heat.
    6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the miso and a ladelful of hot broth. Combine until smooth.
    7. Add the miso mixture to the soup. (Caution: Do not bring the soup to a boil once the miso is added or it will become gritty!)
    8. Add the kelp noodles and scallions.
     ***I enjoyed my soup with roasted Kabocha Squash. It was a delicious addition! Follow this link for the recipe, just subtract the potatoes.***
    This is one meal GF Guy would not have like. Fungi freak him out! Along with being able to pee with the bathroom door open, being able to cook new and unusual foods is a perk of being a “theater widow”! (You’ve got to look on the sunny side of life, my friends!)
    Until next time… Chin-up, smile, and carry on!

    (PS- The next post will be a sprouting tutorial! My cousin used to run a major sprouting farm, and he showed me the ropes this week!)

    Brotherly Love….

    My little brother is awesome! No, seriously… He is…  

    Every time he comes home from school he seems to get bigger! 

    I don’t know how I ended up being the mega-shrimp of the family, but, at 5’3″, I’m “pocket-size” in comparison. 

     

    As interesting as his size may be, that is not the reason I started this post with lauding my brother’s praises. He and his college buddy are starting a little business making custom t-shirts for their friends, classmates, and families. That, in and of itself, is pretty cool. But wait!…. It gets cooler!…

    They are donating a portion of their proceeds from each sale to the Celiac Sprue Association

    HOW COOL IS THAT?!

    They dreamt this plan up all by themselves! I couldn’t be prouder, or more touched. I love him!

    If you are interested in a shirt, visit their wordpress site, Falcon Tees, by following this link. 

    Remember, they are just starting out, so the site is in its baby stages. I just couldn’t wait to be the proud sister and brag on them!

    Okay… recipe time!

    This recipe was prepared with my little brother in mind. Last time he came to visit, we stopped by Starbucks for a quick pick-me-up. After having a lengthy conversation about which beverage choice was the healthiest, he ordered a tall, black coffee….. AND “a little sliver of that pumpkin bread”. He then proceeded to inform me, if he was going to be really bad, he would have gotten the rice crispy treat! He cracks me up!

    The following recipe is a healthier, and probably tastier, version of my brothers’ ultimate “splurge”. It is gluten-free, vegan, whole grain, and scrum-didle-e-uptious!! 

     Chocolate Chip Rice Crispy Treats

    (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan)

    Ingredients:

    Directions:

    1. Heat Earth Balance in a small saucepan, until melted.
    2. Add Ricemellow Creme and stir until smooth.
    3. In a separate bowl, combine cereal and chocolate chips.
    4. Moisten hands and gently mix warm Ricemellow into cereal mixture.
    5. Press into an 8×8 pan.
    6. Chill until firm.
    7. Cut into desired size squares.
    8. Store bars in the refrigerator.