Sunday, October 24, 2010

Two Delicious Dinners Out

This post is about a week late, but school was different this week. We had conferences with special speakers Wednesday through Friday, and classes were cancelled. Now I have so much to do! Going to the conferences takes up way more time then classes do.

Chang's Spicy Chicken with Broccoli, gluten and soy free.

As a college student, sometimes you forget about the simple things in life. Especially what it feels like to do nothing on a Saturday night except spend time with family and friends and occasionally go out for dinner. Well, my former roommate's mom was in town visiting (yay!) so we went out for dinner. She treated us, which was way too nice of her. I really appreciated it. And I loved my food! I have heard so many great things about PF Changs but have never tried it. I ordered off the gluten free menu and they easily made my dish soy free as well! Thank you PF Changs. I will definitely be by again soon.

Flourless chocolate dome with fresh berries and raspeberry sauce.

Also at PF Changs, they have this amazing gluten free flourless chocolate "dome" dessert. Her mom was so generous really wanted to get a dessert for me. In the end, we decided we would share, but she was so nice and really gave most of it to me. It was soo good, and I certainly didn't mind. I could have licked the plate!

Huge chocolate flourless brownie with pecans,
real vanilla ice cream, fresh whipped cream,
homemade real chocolate sauce and fancy chocolate shavings.

Then, the next Monday, I was treated out for dinner again with my "Aunt" who lives about 45 minutes to an hour away from me at school. I borrowed a friends car and we met in the middle at Outback's. Outback's has become a bit of a restaurant staple in my life, since they have an amazing gluten free menu and are very kind and knowledgeable about the diet. I have heard so much about the flourless gluten free chocolate dessert, The Thunder Down Under, and so we both decided to split it (perfect since we are both huge chocolate lovers!) The dessert was HUGE and perfect for splitting, or thirding, or fourthing! We were having such a good time talking that I forgot to take a picture of my steak, sweet potato and veggies. It was so good I couldn' finish it all. But demolish the dessert we did :)

I am not really used to being able to get dessert in a restaraunt! But since going gluten free I've been forced (but quite happy) to do research and I've found some great options! Do you have a specific dish or dessert at restaurant you really like, or want to try but haven't yet?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Orange Vegetable Soup with Chicken

Oh my goodness! Remember my Red Vegetable soup? Well, this is a similar version of that but with some fall flair and flavor. I used pumpkin!! I am so glad that pumpkin is now on the shelves, since I have been known to eat it out of a can for dinner. But when I make something like this, I don't have to do that. The symphony of vegetables and fall spices (cinnamon) really comes together in this soup. It is so filling and nourishing, but surprisingly light on calories.

Real food soup. Real foodies rejoice!

Both soups look orange, so don't be confused even though I named one soup 'red' and another 'orange.'

Orange Vegetable Soup

1 bag organic baby carrots or half bag large carrots
2 small golden sweet potatoes or yams
2 large red peppers
1 - 29 oz can Libby's pumpkin
4 cups chicken stock (I used Pacific brand)
1 - 10 oz can of dark/white chicken
kelp flakes
black pepper
garlic powder

Yes it's that easy.

To make your soup:
1) Throw all the veggies, minus the pumpkin, with the chicken stock into your favorite crock-pot. Simmer on high until vegetables are soft. Puree with hand blender.
2) Add in pumpkin and spices, blend again.
3) Add chicken and stir.
4) Simmer until all warm and bubbly and you're ready to eat!
5) Serve piping hot with some real grassfed butter on top and enjoy.

Of course, if you have either real homemade chicken stock, roasted chicken and real pumpkin, then go ahead and use that. Being at college I have to use what I can, and sometimes canned is a good option! If you can eat wheat, why not serve in a homemade sourdough bread bowl or with some toasted cinnamon pita chips? This soup is a good option for dipping! In the past I made roast chicken, and dipped the chicken meat into the soup before putting it in my mouth. So delicious!

Color contrasts of fall!

Lastly, a word of caution. If you have a plastic hand blender please exercise common sense. I actually ended up melting my hand blenders puree attachment a bit by not being particularly careful about watching out for the sides and bottoms of the crockpot which are scalding hot! In other words, don't be like me and melt your kitchen appliances. The thing is still useable though, thankfully, and I won't have to repurchase one. And also, (more embarassment) I also scratched the bottom of my crock-pot. Poor Cleo now has some battle scars, and from his very first soup!

We all need a good nourishing fall soup. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Grain-free, dairy-free Banana Cake III.

By now you have probably figured out that I love any baked good that has to do with bananas. That's obvious here, where I made some great banana cake with almond flour, and here, where I made a different version of it instead with soaked oats and coconut flour. Both recipes are very good. I also seem to be obsessed with brownies, but that is another story. Can you handle another version?

I think so.

You can see cinnamon specks!

I've been wanting to make a version of banana cake like this for a long time. Grain free and no dairy, but not lacking in flavor. Some of you readers can't eat any dairy, or live a Primal/Paleo lifestyle. You should be able to enjoy banana cake too. In my own life also, I have discovered that grains really aren't necessary in the human diet. I feel better without them. Believe me, you certainly won't miss them in this recipe!

Banana Cake III (three?!)

1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cup ripe ripe bananas (I used one normal/large banana and two small)
6 large real eggs
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup coconut oil (I did not melt mine since it was soft, but not liquid)
1/2 cup coconut flour (I did not sift, mine was closer to packed)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt

To make your banana cake:
1. In a small bowl, puree bananas, coconut oil, raw honey, cinnamon and salt, together with a hand blender.
2. Last, add the baking powder and coconut oil, switch the attachment to the whisk and blend together. The batter should come together nicely, hold it's shape, but still be fluid and not stiff.
3. Grease your favorite 8x8 pan with a small bit of coconut oil.
4. Pour in the batter and smooth out the top.
5. Place immediately into a preheated 350 degree oven (I confess I am not sure if my school's oven is convection or regular), and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until golden and springy when touched.
6. Let cool before slicing and eating. For refridgerator storage, cut into squares and wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in a large plastic baggie.

Look at that texture!

I confess that I ate probably a 1/4 cup of the batter raw before the oven. It was too good! When I tried it straight out of the oven though, I wasn't quite a fan. Something was missing. But I decided to let it "age" a little bit (think the fridge overnight) and then see how it tasted. Some things are better a few hours later. After it had some time to rest and chill out, I really like the results. It is definitely cakey! That's a hard texture to acquire in gluten free baking. It also holds together very well and is not crumbly. You can really taste the banana and the cinnamon. For those of you who are averse to coconut, do not worry, this cake does not have a strong coconut flavor. In the end, I recommend letting this cool or eating it the next day for the maximum flavor and "enjoyableness." It made a scrumptious breakfast for several weeks :)

*This version is inspired by these recipes: Original Banana cakeBanana cake II, and Coconut Flour Orange cake @ Nourishing Days.

Try it out and let me know what you think! But try not to eat half the pan yourself. Believe me, I was tempted and I have good self control.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Crock-pot Chronicles

So last week when I told you about my crockpot coming in the mail? I never got to mention later that it actually came broken! I couldn't believe it! It is honestly not that hard to package something and ship it so it doesn't break; but because of poor packaging that is exactly what happened. Thankfully, Amazon has great policies, so I was able to send it back and get a replacement.

The replacement came not broken and beautiful (and quick, thanks Amazon)!

I took him on his "maiden voyage" last saturday by making some stewed apples. I haven't decided on a name for him yet and I'm open to suggestions! Here's the basic recipe:

Stewed apples

6 apples, ones that will hold their shape when baked, I used 4- gala and 1-granny smith
1/2 cup water
3 good dashes cinnamon
1 dash sea salt
2 Tbsp butter

Instructions: Cook these on high for 2.5 hours, then stir in 2 Tbsp real grassfed butter, 1 large handful maple sugared walnuts and raisins at the end. Let cool and then store in the fridge. I ate the rest for snacks and leftovers over the course of the week! The apple-y liquid on the bottom tasted like apple cider. It was delicious! I suggest using less water next time, or before storing your finished product drain off the liquid and eat it like hot cider in a mug, while putting the apple portions back to the fridge.

I have some sweet potatoes that I might make into a stew this weekend. I'm just itching to make some soup! I love fall.

October and Cupcakes

It's October already? The beginning of October always finds me with mixed emotions. In one way I am happy because October means that fall is officially here, and in another way I feel sad because my favorite month is September! Why? Because it is the start of new things, like school, new seasons (I love fall), seeing friends again and hopefully ending the summer well... and of course, my birthday!

It's been along time since my initial birthday post and I owe everyone an update on what happened on my birthday. And here it is, as promised!

Basically I have never really been surprised on my birthday, so for a year or so I've been talking about that with my friends hoping that I would get surprised in some way on some day eventually. I enjoy surprises when I have no idea what is going on and when the surprise is good. It's generally hard to surprise me though because I figure out things quick.

On the day of, after our first two morning classes, my friend N said, "Meagan, let's get lunch to go from the cafe because we are having a picnic."

This came as complete surprise for me, and I continued to wonder in my head what they were plotting. So N and I and my our friend E too, got our lunches and walked out a secluded "secrete" spot on campus that people generally don't know about. It is grassy and has a rope swing! They had to stop by their dorms to "get something" so I waited for a few minutes and then we walked to the spot. We put out a blanket and started eating our lunches. They gave me a birthday pin, and we ate with party pink and white polka dotted plates and napkins! They know me so well. The main event was when they pulled out a gluten-free Sprinkles cupcake, whipped out a candle and sang to me.

Sprinkles cupcake, gluten free :)

SPRINKLES! These cupcakes are so good. They are made by a bakery that has a couple different locations now. They use all natural, premium, or organic ingredients in their cupcakes; nothing artificial. About six months or so ago they debuted their first gluten free cupcake, which I was so happy about since now I can get a cupcake with my friends when they go, whereas before I couldn't participate in the cupcake goodness.

A few more of my friends joined us at the picnic and we hung out for a little bit. After we left, I went off to do some homework, talk to my parents, and get ready for class. It was a long night. Wednesdays are my worst day with two early morning classes and then two later night classes (the last one being a long lab). I go from before 8:30 in the morning to over 9:00 at night with classes with a 3-4 hour break in between, but no break between night classes for dinner.

After lab, I was soo done. I hadn't eaten dinner, I just wanted to go back to my room, find food and do nothing! N walked with me to get some hot tea from Common Grounds, the on campus coffee shop, and we walked down to lower campus to our dorms. N came up to my room with me, I can't really remember why, but when I opened the door, I saw streamers! I thought, "Oh this is nice, they decorated my room when I was gone" but before I knew it people were jumping out of the darkness and blowing party things in my face and shouting "Happy Birthday!" I was surprised!! But I must admit not 100% surprised, since N was texting the whole time we were walking to my dorm and I knew there was chance something could be up.

When I walked into my room there were pink streamers everywhere, with pink and white balloons scattered about on my bed, the floor, the walls. They made me a poster with pictures of us all, gave a photo album so I can put in more pictures of our fun times and also a photo frame with personal notes from each of them. I was so touched! They did so much to make it special. After they presented me all those things, they pulled out another Sprinkles cupcake. They bought me two!! I put in the fridge for later :)

We all sat in my room talking for the next couple of hours. Soon I was tired, and hungry so we said good-bye and I ate and went to bed. It was a very different birthday than anything that I've every had. But it was definitely one of the best.

ALSO, Looking to make some of your own cupcake goodness? Try some of these cake recipes, spoon them into muffin tins and make some cupcakes! Some of these are standard gluten free cake, while other use real food and are grain free, sugar free or dairy free. Check them out:

Upside-down Blueberry cake - Already in mini size!
Banana Cake, original - My famous banana cake.
Carrot-cake bread - A delicious healthy college creation.
Coconut flour Orange cake - I've been wanting to try this for a long time!
German Chocolate cake - I made this delicious thing this summer!
Red, White and Blue cupcakes - (but no food coloring!)
Vanilla Bean cake - With a secrete ingredient you'd never guess!
Double Vanilla cupcakes - Be sure to edit to make gluten free
Coconut cupcakes - A perfect combination!