Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Dairy-free Yogurt Comparison

I was diagnosed with a milk allergy (which is different from lactose intolerance) when I was in college. For much of my 20s and early 30s, I ignored this and continued to consume whatever milk products I wanted. (I don't actually like milk, but putting it on cereal made a convenient breakfast, and yogurt was an easy, compact item to throw in my lunch bag.)

The older I get, though, the more difficult it is to ignore my food intolerances, so I've given up cow milk and switched to unsweetened vanilla almond milk for my wheat-free cereal. Dairy-free yogurt has been tough, though, For a long time, the only dairy-free yogurt I found was made with soy and I found it less satisfying. Now there are so many options for dairy-free yogurt! Yes, soy milk, but also almond milk and coconut milk in both "traditional" and Greek style yogurt.

I decided to get a a few different varieties and try them out. Here are my opinions on each type...


Kite Hill Greek Style (strawberry - soy and dairy free - made with almond milk)

I saw this at Meijer with prominent NEW signage, and I thought I'd give it a try. The texture is creamy and thick, as I'd expect from a Greek yogurt. The flavor is... I'm not sure how to describe it. I'd say bland, but it is definitely tart and the strawberry pieces are sweet. It's almost nutty... I think? I made my own nut milk once, and the taste reminds me of that, only with strawberries. I will probably not buy this one again.


Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative (strawberry and peach-mango - dairy and nut free - made with soy milk)

This was my first dairy-free yogurt. It's not terrible, which obviously doesn't say much. The flavor, to me, is just so soy. It's like someone pureed edamame and added strawberries. I love me some edamame - and strawberries! - but this is not a great flavor combo for me. The peach-mango was slightly better than the strawberry, but I still couldn't shake the soy taste. Of the many soy milk brands out there, Silk is my favorite (though, as I said, I use almond milk on my cereal), so nothing against the brand or necessarily soy milk. This yogurt alternative is just not a win for me.


Silk Almondmilk Yogurt Alternative (peach - soy and dairy free - made with almond milk)

I much prefer Silk's almond milk yogurt to the soy milk yogurt. (Obviously, if you are allergic to nuts, then the soy is a better option for you.) Peach is also such a sweet fruit that I think it masks a lot of other, maybe bitter or nutty, flavors. Almonds are also sweet, so one sweet thing on top of another sweet thing makes for one very sweet yogurt. I would pack this in my lunch.


So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt Alternative (blueberry - soy, dairy, and nut free - made with coconut milk) 

Ok, first off, I am not really a coconut person. I don't mind the flavor so much as the texture, something I have come to terms with in the past year or two. I will eat macaroons and Trader Joe's Coconut Sesame Seed Clusters (both of which are sugary) or drink coconut rum with Coke or pineapple juice, and I use coconut oil and coconut milk in cooking, but coconut flakes in cake or frosting? Nope, nope, nope. This yogurt, though, I really like. It tastes refreshing. It's creamy, so no gross coconut texture, and is thus more like coconut milk than coconut meat. Coconut is naturally sweet, so it pairs well with fruit. This may be my new yogurt of choice!


Monday, January 29, 2018

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal from I Quit Sugar

A diet (and I mean that in the actual definition of the word) that has been working well for me is the I Quit Sugar diet developed by Sarah Wilson. Wilson shares many of my food limitations while maintaining a feasible array of food options.

Have I cut refined sugar totally from my diet? No, because it's really hard to do! But I have been incorporating more and more recipes that cut out refined sugars and include more whole foods into my recipe rotation. I like trying to new recipes and different ingredients that I am not used to, so it's been a fun experience.

For me, the hardest meal to make is breakfast. I am not a fan of mornings, and if I have to work early, the chances of me getting up early enough to eat before heading in are slim to none. I would much rather lie in bed a few more minutes than eat. I don't wake up hungry, so it usually takes a few hours to even want to eat, usually putting me a couple of hours into my shift, often right around break time. This makes quick, portable breakfasts ideal for me.

This is where the I Quit Sugar Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal comes in. I found it in my copy of I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook. I had to modify the recipe, which calls for amaranth, not a grain I keep on hand in my kitchen (though I'd love to try it one day). Per the book's suggestion, I substituted steel-cut oats that had been sitting in my cupboard for a bit and needed to disappear. (For a thorough explanation of the gluten free status of oats, check out Do Steel Cut Oats Contain Gluten from SFGate.)


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup amaranth, soaked for 8-24 hours (or 1 cup of oats)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • pinch of ground allspice
  • pinch of vanilla powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated stevia (optional, but I suggest it)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted (to sprinkle on top; I did not do this)
Directions:
  • Drain and rinse the amaranth/oats.
  • Combine in a saucepan with the coconut milk, pumpkin puree, salt, spices, and vanilla powder.
  • Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on the lowest heat for 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching.
  • Watch to see if the liquid level becomes too low; if it does, add a little extra coconut milk or water.
  • Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes with the lid on to thicken. 
  • Sweeten with the stevia if desired, then serve drizzled with coconut milk and sprinkled with the coconut flakes.
The recipe says that it makes 2 servings, but I got a good 3 to 4. (It's also possible that I just don't eat much.) I skipped the toasted coconut flakes because I had used them all to make granola, another I Quit Sugar recipe, and instead topped my oatmeal with a handful of fresh blueberries, which are super high in antioxidants. 

It was still not sweet enough for me, though, so I reached for the I Quit Sugar-approved jar of brown rice syrup... only to discover it had started to mold. (Boo!) So I drizzled a little honey over the oatmeal instead. This turned out to be the right ticket! 

And since it had made way more oatmeal than I am capable of consuming in a day, I divvied up what I didn't eat into various small containers, and put some in the fridge and some in the freezer for later consumption. Having multiple little containers makes it easy to grab in the morning on my way into work, and being fully cooked, also easy to warm up in the microwave in the break room. 

Will I make this again? Not sure. Oatmeal is not my favorite, but I do love pumpkin. If I were to make another attempt, I will definitely grab the amaranth!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Gluten Free and Vegan Chocolate-covered Pecan Pie Cookies


For the holidays, Greg and I were asked to make little goodybags for everyone, so we decided to make chocolate-dipped pretzels and cookies. I wanted to make cookies that I could eat without issues (cutting out wheat seems extra difficult during December), so I got a book out of the library called Sweet Eats for All: 250 Decadent Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes - from Candy to Cookies, Puff Pastries to Petits FoursIt calls for a lot of ingredients I don't have, such as coconut flour, but there is also a thorough list of substitutions, like almond meal, which I do keep on hand.

Because I love pecan pie, the Chocolate-covered Pecan Pie Cookies naturally caught my eye. Even better, I had most of the ingredients on hand, even dairy-free chocolate for dipping. (The recipe calls for raw chocolate for which there is also a recipe included.)

Here is the recipe below as I made it, with my own comments in parentheses. I strongly encourage seeing if your own library has this book, or follow the above link and purchase it from Amazon!

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons ground chia seeds (I did not grind them)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 cups raw pecans
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour (or almond meal)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 dates
  • 3/4 cup raw or dairy-free chocolate for dipping
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 325F. In a small bowl, mix together the chia seed and water and let rest until gelled, for about 5 minutes. (This is fun to see happen. I love chia seeds.)
  • Place the pecans, cashews, coconut flour (or almond meal), and salt into a food processor (make sure it's a good sized one) and blend until crumbly, for about 1 minute. Do not overmix! Once crumbly, add the dates, two at a time, until the mixture clump together easily. Process just until dates are well mixed. Shape into disks 1 1/2 inches wide by 1/2 inch thick and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Let cool and then dip bottoms of cookies into the Raw Chocolate, placing back onto a silicone mat or wax paper-covered baking sheet. Chill for about 20 minutes in refrigerator until the chocolate has set. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.
Yield: 20 cookies (I got 13.)


I put the caution about the size of the food processor because mine was too small, and we had to do this part in two batches. I don't think this negatively affected the cookies, so if you need to do it in batches, too, don't worry about it. 

As for the Raw Chocolate, I did not make this, instead opting for melting dairy-free chocolate chips and dipping the cookies in that. It was pretty messy, leaving no doubt that these cookies were homemade. 

The flavor was pretty close to pecan pie! If I made these again, and I may next year, I would add more dates, or use specifically medjool dates, which are bigger than the regular California dates that we used (at least the Moroccan ones I get from Meijer are). The cookies were very nutty in taste, and I would have liked more sugary goo (my favorite part of pecan pie). 

Given the ingredients, I can only assume these cookies are high in protein and a decent source of fiber, omega-3, and omega-6, so not an awful choice for a holiday treat! And with so many other recipes in this book, there is no reason that people with food restrictions should feel left out of the cookie avalanche that is December.

Monday, January 1, 2018

What to Make With Leftover Turkey


Remember when I made an entire turkey for just two people? Totally worth it. The leftovers fed us for a few weeks. (We didn't only eat turkey during that time, but we did eat mostly turkey.) Rather than spend the next few months blogging about everything made, I am going to list the dishes here for anyone who balks at the thought of cooking an entire bird and being "stuck" with so many leftovers. And I didn't make a turkey sandwich once.

Don't forget to see the Turkey Pot Pie that I made, too.


DAY ONE
Turkey Egg Scramble for Breakfast

I read about this online, and I wasn't sure how well it would work until I remembered that pig-eaters include ham in their eggs all the time. It's one of the reasons I have to be so careful when ordering breakfast at diners. 

I selected a few large chunks of dark turkey meat, chopped it down into bite-size pieces, then threw them in a skillet with olive oil, chopped onions, and frozen spinach. Once the onions and spinach were cooked down some, I tossed in two eggs and a little salt and pepper, scrambling all together, then topped with some (still) leftover cheese curds at the very end. It was really tasty! 


DAY TWO
Turkey Stew

One of the reasons I wanted to try a whole bird was to attempt a meat stew from scratch. Since my husband Greg is allergic to chicken broth, turkey was my best option. After picking all of the meat from the bones (and dividing it into Tupperware, half bound for the fridge, the other half for the freezer), I put the turkey carcass along with the congealed juice and fat at the bottom of the pan into my largest pot and let it boil with herbs and spices (unfortunately, I lacked celery ends and carrot tops to boil with them). There was still an old bag in the freezer of parsley we grew in the garden a few seasons ago that was perfect for this. 

I let this boil for several hours, adding more water when it got too low, then removed all the bones and added chopped fresh baby carrots, frozen mixed vegetables, and frozen corn (some of these bags had been previously opened, so I finished them off in the stew). I also chopped up both dark and light turkey meat and tossed that in, as well. This turned out to be the tastiest stew I have ever made, and I ended up having a cold for most of the time that the leftovers lasted, so it was also perfect timing. The half I had put away in the freezer for later dinners did not stay frozen long.


DAY THREE
Turkey Divan

A friend of our family's when I was growing up often made a casserole dish called Chicken Divan, a simple dish largely comprised of chicken, broccoli, and cheese. The recipe I used called for cream of broccoli soup, but if you do an internet search for it, you will see that a lot of recipes have you make the creamy soup from scratch, making it easier to ensure this dish is allergen and intolerance free. Substitute turkey for chicken, and you still have a tasty dish made with your turkey leftovers.


DAY FOUR
Shredded Turkey Tacos

Greg has his own way of making tacos that is not at all like my friends from California make them. This time, he cooked the leftover turkey with his own blend of taco seasonings, then added chopped onions and bell peppers. We usually use soft tortillas, but we had hard shells leftover from a past Game Night, so we layered fresh baby spinach, the meat mixture, and shredded cheese into these hard shells. 


DAY FIVE
Turkey Nachos

Since there was so much taco mixture, a couple days later we made nachos with it! And this finished off our turkey at last.

So you see? There are so many things you can do with an entire turkey! And again, we didn't spend the next five days eating these meals, mostly because many of these fed us for multiple meals, but these were five days of dinners - and one breakfast! - interspersed with pizza, Chinese take-out, and chicken (we're predominantly a poultry-eating family). A lot of the ingredients I had either lying around the house or could have purchased for very little. It was about $14 for two turkeys, and I only kept the one, so for less than $20, I got all of this!! 

Next Thanksgiving, do not hesitate to buy a big bird. And after Thanksgiving, run to the store for those after-Thanksgiving turkey deals! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Gluten Free Turkey Pot Pie


Note: This recipe is also mostly dairy free, as well, because I use almond milk (I'm allergic to cow's milk), but the cream of mushroom soup has some cream in it (mostly water and mushrooms, though, interestingly, so it doesn't bother me as much as cow's milk does). Try here or homemade dairy free cream of mushroom soup

As I said in my last entry, Turkey, Stuffing, and Poutine, I bought and cooked an entire turkey. Now I have a bunch of turkey leftovers! So I made my own version of an old Bisquick recipe for chicken pot pie, Gluten Free Turkey Pot Pie.


Ingredients:
  1. 1 cup diced, cooked turkey
  2. 1 can condensed cream of... soup (I use mushroom because my husband is allergic to cream of chicken, the more usual option)
  3. 1 2/3 cup frozen or canned mixed vegetables (I typically use frozen)
  4. 1 cup gluten free baking mix (or regular baking mix if you don't need GF)
  5. 1/2 cup milk of your choice (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  6. 1 egg
Preheat oven to 400F.

The Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, condensed cream soup, and mixed vegetables. Spread this mixture evenly in a 9x9 glass baking dish.

The Crust:
In the same or another bowl, combine the baking mix, milk, and egg. Spread this evenly atop the turkey-soup-veggie mixture in the same 9x9 pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. The crust should be golden (or as near as possible).

The Result:
The gluten free crust didn't brown like the chicken pot pies I used to make, and it was a tad on the chewy side (Bisquick and Jiffy Mix fluff up nicely!), but I liked it anyway. While it's true that gluten free can't be exactly like wheat products, I don't feel like I'm settling. This was a tasty pot pie!

Addendum:
How can you tell of a soup is allergen free when it doesn't say on the label? The best way is to make it yourself (it's really not that hard). But if you don't have time for that, try writing to the soup maker and asking what is in their soups. It's possible condensed soups are gluten free if a non-wheat-based thickener was used, but you won't know for sure unless you ask. A lot of people online have shared that their preferred way of making quick and easy cream of mushroom soup is to buy Progresso's mushroom soup, then thicken it themselves with the starch of their choice. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Turkey, Stuffing, and Poutine

After Thanksgiving, turkeys were buy-one-get-one-free at Meijer. One good-sized turkey can easily feed a pair of people for a week, but I didn't need two, so I texted my good friend and former food cohort Kimmy to see if she wanted a turkey for her and her fiance. Heck yeah she did! So I asked my husband Greg if we could get the turkeys.

"What are we going to do with a turkey?" he asked.

"Eat it," I answered. Duh.

So we got two turkeys, and I passed one off to Kimmy the next day.

I hosted an orphan Thanksgiving dinner once in California, so I have roasted a turkey once. It's not as intimidating as I'd always been lead to believe, it just takes quite a bit more time than a smaller bird like a chicken and preparation. For a solid reference page, check out How to Cook a Turkey: the Simplest, Easiest Method.

A turkey also requires sides. One of my favorite foods, possibly because we only got to eat it once or twice a year growing up, is stuffing, so making stuffing was a no brainer for me. Unfortunately, when I went to the store to buy gluten free stuffing, the power was out and the store was closed, so I had to go to Meijer, where I could not find gluten free stuffing (no surprise). Rather than drive all over town looking for it, I decided to get corn stuffing, which still has wheat, but hopefully not as much and I won't feel too awful after I eat it.

Several weeks ago, we made a poutine bar for a party we hosted, and we still had bags of cheese curds and a container of turkey gravy, so I decided to make more poutine as another side for the turkey. Gravy is another thing we only had a couple of times a year growing up reserved for turkey dinners or Yorkshire pudding, so gravy is another special treat for me. Greg doesn't generally like gravy, but he does love poutine.

The turkey gravy from Trader Joe's is not that great, so I suggest either making your own or trying a different brand. Despite the less than thrilling gravy flavor, I poured it on everything, even the turkey, which was pretty moist and didn't require it. The Meijer-brand corn stuffing was oddly grainy, but otherwise tasted fine.

The skin on the turkey was crispy - just the way I like it! - seasoned lightly with salt and pepper and rubbed down with olive oil. It took about 3.5 hours to cook, so I camped out in the kitchen to take advantage of the cozy warmth while getting some work done. (I do not enjoy winter weather.)

The day after our turkey feast, I had one of the legs for lunch, along with more stuffing. I have plans for turkey pot pie, maybe a turkey casserole, and definitely turkey soup, which can also be frozen for future quick dinners. Greg can have the turkey sandwiches. I'm still iffy on the taste and texture of gluten free bread.

If you have any turkey recipes or tips to share, or have a favorite gluten free bread or stuffing suggestion, please comment below and help a sibling out!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

How to Hide a Serving of Vegetables Inside Meatloaf


I have often said on this blog that I am huge fan of all-in-one meals. If I had the time to make a main dish plus one or two involved and interesting side dishes, I would, but I don't, so I make stews, casseroles, skillets, and one-pan dinners. (Click here for some of my favorite easy chicken recipes.)

A dish that probably isn't first to mind when brainstorming such dishes is meatloaf. Yes, it is possible to sneak a full serving of vegetables into meatloaf. Here are some of my suggestions. Mix and match or, if feeling adventurous, try them all! 

Also, I recommend substituting bread crumbs with almond meal for a paleo- and gluten free-friendly option. (It probably adds some healthy things, as well, being almonds and all.)

  1. Shredded carrots 
  2. Chopped onions
  3. Shredded zucchini
  4. Chopped celery
  5. Shredded turnips
  6. Chopped or shredded squash
  7. Chopped green beans
  8. Chopped bell peppers
  9. Chopped mushrooms (not a vegetable, but tasty)
  10. Corn kernels (technically a grain)
With a food processor, you could probably cook up any vegetable or veggie medley, spin it into tiny bits and sneak them into the ground meat mash. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy experimenting!