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Monday, February 1, 2016

Crockpot Braised Chicken & Red Cabbage

It's been awhile since I've posted anything here, not because I haven't been cooking but because life has been busy, and I've mostly been retreading familiar recipes...the ones I've posted here!  I've said before that the main reason I started this blog was for my own personal reference, and I've gotten some good mileage on that front in the last few whiles.

The kidlets get bigger and bigger, and they're doing more and more sports/homework/etc. during what used to be my cooking/prep time.  I've been keeping up by using the crockpot, and I'm needing to expand our repertoire.

This is adapted from Blueberry Hill Slow Cooker & Family Recipes.  I prepped it ahead and kept it in the fridge about 3 days before I made it for dinner.  Freezing is always an option, though.  I would definitely saute the veg before freezing it, but not the chicken.  If you don't have a few minutes to brown the chicken before putting it in the crockpot, I think you'll be fine just putting it in unbrowned.  For ease of packaging, freeze extra wine in an ice cube tray and use the frozen cubes for a freezer kit.

If you don't know what else to try juniper berries in, try adding them to sauerbraten.  Or a gin martini.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bubble Solution

A non-edible, but I need to park this information somewhere before I forget it.

And lemme say, I hate bubbles.  I hate how the solution feels slimy.  I hate how store-bought solution smells.  I hate how drippy and messy bubbles are, and all the I-WANT-TO-DO-IT-MYSELF-DO-IT-FOR-ME lunacy from the kids. I hate it when the kids put the wands right on their mouths and get sudsy and then gag on the suds while I'm trying to clean them up.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.

The answer to all of the above is homemade bubble solution, self-serve bubble refills from a 2 gallon sun tea container and big round no-blow bubble wands from the dollar store.  Homemade solution is less drippy, less slimy, and smells better.  The kids got more "blows" out of each refill than they did out of the store-bought stuff, so it lasts longer too.  Less mouth-sudsing too when they do get their lips on it.  And of course, it's cheaper...about $2.50 for a homemade batch compared with $5 for the same amount of store-bought (which goes faster, as mentioned).

Empty spice jars work well for long skinny bubble wands


I used the store-brand generic for regular ol' blue Dawn liquid detergent.  Something cheaper that doesn't suds as well in the sink isn't going to make good bubbles either ya know?  And I like the smell of Dawn.



I had to hunt down glycerin (which I also use to make aftershave).  It's in the pharmacy section of one of our local grocery stores.  I found it on the first aid aisle, but another store said they would carry it in the digestive remedy aisle if they had any in that day (they did not).  Everybody offered to order it for me if I couldn't find anywhere with it in stock.  So...ask if you don't see it.

2 24 oz. bottles Dawn (you'll need the "ultra concentrated" type)
18 cups water (4 1/2 quarts)
3 tbsp glycerin

Stir everything together in a large drink dispenser.  Enjoy! Pin It

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pineapple Grilled Mahi

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The only real notes here are that 1 large pineapple, quartered, then carefully skinned yields 2 pairs of 6" x 3" "slabs".  So about 4 small servings' worth.  Buy accordingly.

I cut the fish to fit the "planks" (making 1" thick pieces of fish), and had to grill it about 5 minutes more than I would have otherwise (15 minutes total for 1" of mahi, turning once).

The fish tastes slightly of pineapple, but not overwhelmingly.  I made this in the morning to cook for dinner the same night; to prep ahead more in advance, I'd prep all the parts and assemble the fish-and-pineapple planks while the grill heated up.




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Monday, May 5, 2014

Apple almond mini muffins (GFCF, dye-free)

These have become a breakfast favorite.



They're dead easy to make, but they do require spensy almond meal.  Here's the neat thing...the recipe is basically a densely filled baked quiche.  Predominantly an egg base with finely milled/grated stuff suspended heavily within.  GF oatmeal can substitute for part of the almond meal if you so desire (Bob's Red Mill has certified GF oatmeal; McCann's...my preferred oatmeal brand, gf or not, processes in dedicated facilities but does not have an official GF certification).

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Monday, April 21, 2014

GFCF/Dairy-free (vegan) ranch dressing

My kids have gone through dipping and non-dipping phases many times.  We had a mercifully brief stretch where Boy #1 wanted ketchup at every meal and dunked everything from peas to strawberries in it.  While the kids aren't (yet) interested in MY personal dipping fave (blue cheese dressing), they do occasionally want something like ranch dressing (also one of MY personal favorites).

Since ranch dressing is buttermilk-based, I needed to find a substitute.  While it doesn't have to be vegan for my household, the recipe I decided to try was nut-based and therefore vegan.  My go-to homemade recipe for ranch dressing calls for mixing a blend of herbs and spices (given below) into equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk.  While you can mimic the acidity of buttermilk by adding a little lemon juice to a non-dairy milk, I thought the flavor might still fall flat and that the cashews might help return a bit of richness to the dressing flavor.

Also I have a bottomless bag of chia seeds that I need to use up.

My first attempt at following this recipe exactly as written was underwhelming.  My results were on the thin, runny side and rather bland for my taste.

The consistency issue is likely a two-pronged problem...I prefer a thicker, more commercial consistency (the better for dipping, yo) and also I'm using a food processor rather than a Bone Crusher 6000 blender.  I have a blender that makes a decent daquiri, but it can't reduce raw carrots to sub-atomic particles.  The food processor does better, but it's also no cell-phone grinder.  I'd maybe get a thicker, creamier dressing with a higher-powered blender.

In lieu of heavier-duty equipment, I went with heavier-duty ingredients.  I doubled the amount of nuts and chia seed, reduced the liquid and went with my personal tried-and-true blend of herbs and spices for what *I* think ranch dressing should taste like.  It's a little heavy on the garlic and dill, but that's what I like and I'm not apologizing for it :)

I'd like to try this nut-and-chia recipe head-to-head with an acidified non-dairy milk plus mayo base to see if I prefer one to the other, but for now here's the nut-and-chia vegan version.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Natural Egg Dyes

This is all over Pinterest, but I'm so pleased with the results we had from our natural egg dying, that I want to jot down my notes for next year :)


I used the What's Cooking America website for ideas of materials to try dying with.  We tried spinach, carrot tops, beet peels, paprika, espresso, red wine, red onion skins, yellow onion skins and red cabbage.  Other possibilities include herbals teas (especially rooibos and hibiscus), other spices like cumin, saffron and turmeric and really, anything else you can think of that will turn cooking water a color when it's boiled.

Yellow onion skins, red onion skins, red cabbage, beet peelings, espresso and spinach

The day you decide to make the dye solutions, make sure you have LOTS of pots available and a couple of hours to spare.  I've only got 4 burners on my stove, so I could only boil 4 dye materials at once and had to wash pots out in between batches.

Also when you go to dye the eggs, unless you're going to do a bunch of eggs in a single color, have lots of little containers handy (1/2 pint jars were a great size for a single egg) so your kids can concoct special color combinations for each egg.

I hard-cooked the eggs first, made the dye solutions separately, and soaked the eggs overnight to color them.  If you make your dye solutions, then boil the eggs IN the dye solutions, the colors will turn out much darker and richer.  But then there's no mixing of colors for the kiddos.  And that's no fun.

We dyed 23 eggs in individual cups (you always lose one when you boil a batch, dontcha?) in a total of 3 quarts of dye solution (and actually had some left over).  Probably you'd use less dye solution to cover a bunch of eggs in one bowl than each egg individually ya know?  That's just to give you an idea of what kind of volume of dye solution to shoot for.

3 quarts total dye solutions
To make the dye solutions, I didn't do a lot of measuring.  For vegetal stuff, I put in enough to come about halfway up the sides of my pot (or as much as I had, in the case of the red onion skins and carrot tops), covered with water by about 1/2" and boiled.  For spices, I could only get about 1 tsp to dissolve per cup of water.

So here's my materials rundown:
  • Peels, tops and tails from 5 beets (cooked the beets for dinner) --> boil 30 minutes --> 1 quart dye solution
  • Skins from 4 yellow onions --> boil 30 minutes --> 1 quart dye solution
  • Skins from 1 red onion plus tops and tails --> boil 30 minutes --> 1 pint dye solution
  • 4 cups chopped red cabbage --> boil 30 minutes --> 1 pint dye solution (I could have gotten more of this dye with the same amount of vegetable just by using a bigger pot and more water)
  • tops from 1 bunch carrots --> boil 30 minutes --> 1 1/2 pints dye solution
  • 4 cups spinach leaves, finely chopped --> boil 1/2 the spinach for 30 minutes, add the remaining spinach and boil 30 more minutes --> 1 1/2 pints dye solution 
  • 2 tsp paprika --> dissolve in 2 cups boiling water --> 1 pint dye solution
  • leftovers from the coffeepot plus water to make 2 cups plus 1 tbsp espresso powder --> 1 pint dye solution
  • don't finish the red wine bottle --> 1/2 cup or so dye solution
Boil, strain, put in a jar.  Fridge until needed.

Dying was a lot of fun.  The kids each got a large measuring cup and requested mixtures of colors.  We Grownups poured the colors into the measuring cups to order, then the kids put an egg in a container and poured the mixture over.  No spills, no broken eggs...it was well-nigh an Easter miracle LOL  We poured a bit of vinegar into each cup afterward (about 1 tsp per egg cup), mixed gently with a spoon and let them sit overnight in the fridge.

Mad Color Scientist at work
Getting the wet eggs out of the dye baths requires a bit of gentle handling.  Some of the colors want to rub off very easily while wet (spinach and red cabbage particularly).  Some were sturdier even while wet (beets and the onion skins).  This is where one of those wire egg dippers could come in handy.


Color rubbed off the wet egg where my fingers slipped on it
I put mine on a cooling rack under a ceiling fan for a few hours, turning them once *very* carefully.


Once the eggs are dry though, no more color rub-off.  They will dry more mottled and speckledy than they look while wet, but they're still beautiful!

Beet dye
As far as final color results go, don't be surprised by what you get.  The dye may not be the same color as the plant material (yellow dye from carrot tops, blue-purple dye from red cabbage), the color on the wet egg may not be the same as the dye color, and the dry finished color may be different as well.

The 3 reddish dyes all produced rather different final colors.  The very intense beet dye solution gave a pale mottled pink.  The red onion skin dye gave a deep orangey red.  The yellow onion skin dye gave a solid yellow.


The red cabbage dye was not surprisingly the most striking dye.  Definitely want more of that one next year.  Since red cabbage liquid will turn different colors with acids/bases, I'm curious to try adding baking soda to the dye bath in place of the vinegar (not in addition to!) and see what we get.

Red Cabbage dye

The red wine had an interesting effect...sediment fell out of the wine and crystallized on the eggs, leaving the eggs a surprising mixture of blue, green and wine-purple with sparkles.

Red wine dye

The spinach was fairly pale.  I might try a greener green next year...kale or collards maybe?  When we combined spinach and carrot top dyes, we got more vibrantly colored eggs than using either one alone...perhaps I'll do a mixed batch of spinach-carrot top as well.

Whatever else we think up to try, we will definitely be doing this again next year :)  Happy Easter! Pin It

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Flourless GFCFDF muffins

In our expedition into the world of GFCF cooking, I've been looking for recipes that don't try to mimic gluten-based baked goods.  I've been looking for recipes that are natively gluten- and dairy-free, that don't use a ton of substitute ingredients.



This is one of them. Yay!

These are incredibly delicious.  And sneaky with the veggies.  You seriously would have no idea that there was a vegetable in these guys.

The only tricksy part here GFCF-wise is the chocolate chips...if you want a totally dairy-free recipe, you have to find specialty dairy-free vegan chocolate chips. Which exist. But not at my regular grocery store.  I chose to use regular white chocolate chips because we still had some hanging around that needed to be used up, and our need for dairy-free foods is not as absolute as it might be with, say, a true food allergy.  You could leave them out altogether (though you'll lose a muffin or two in terms of yield), or use something like chopped nuts instead.

As always, do what works in your kitchen and household.

A note on butternut squash puree...I actually did see this in a can on the organic-and-other-oddments part of the canned vegetable aisle at my grocery store.  I personally used 2 cups of boiled butternut squash, which was about 1/2 of a medium-sized squash.  The main difference I suspect is the remaining moisture content of the two...the homemade puree will likely be moister than the canned, and will possibly take longer to bake (this was my experience).

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