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Grain Free, Dairy Free Apple Crisp

We recently spent a weekend in West Seattle where we stayed at my sweetie’s cousins home, which I must say is quite a charming neighborhood!  We had such a great time walking to the local digs.  Of course, I had to check out the grocery stores, one of my favorite things to do!  I just can’t resist a good natural grocer!  Alki Beach was a short drive away where we spent time enjoying the sights and sunsets.  It was such a wonderfully relaxing mini vacation that was much needed.

The house was such a cute place, with one of the coolest kitchens!  While small, it was a great lay out and seemed very functional; a plus for me since I spend a lot of time in kitchens!  One afternoon as I wandered around the outside perimeter of the house checking out the plants and landscape, I noticed apples on the ground around a tiny tree. It seemed too small to be producing fruit, yet sure enough when I looked up I saw a plethora of red orbs waiting to be picked.  I was so excited and I picked several pounds of apples in no time!  This is one of my happiest moments: picking food from it’s origins then creating something delicious.  This truly makes my heart big.  I love the feeling of this in a way I just cannot describe.  So, I’ll say that I was skipping and smiling pretty big at the bag of apples I had.  My creative juices started going as I began imagining delicious crisp toppings.  I wanted to make it grain free and dairy free so I went a new direction with a topping after a bit of recipe research.

Here’s what I came up with:

I sliced all the apples (about 4 cups) and gave them a lemon water bath to keep them from browning.  After draining them, I tossed them in a large bowl with a few sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg along with a couple tablespoons of coconut sugar then mixed it so all the apple slices were coated.  I spread the slices evenly into a greased 9″x 13″ baking pan.  I made the following topping:

1/2 cup cashew pieces

1/4 cup almond pieces

1/8 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup almond meal

1/8 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp sea salt

I mixed the dry ingredients together until well blended then cut in about 5 Tblsp of Earth Balance Soy Free spread until it was well incorporated.  I sprinkled the topping evenly over the apples slices then baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.

The nuts added a great texture and it had a lovely flavor that wasn’t too sweet.  The spice combination along with those sweet apples gave this crisp an overall fantastic taste.

Next time I’ll whip up a little coconut cream with a dash of vanilla for an extra delicious addition!

baby tree with so much to offer!

baby tree with so much to offer!

all spiced and ready to go!

all spiced and ready to go!

Baked goodness!

Baked goodness!


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Simply Quinoa

The past two weeks have been quite challenging as my return to work has revealed more than I ever could have imagined in obstacles to success as we approach the new school year in our new building.  I knew I was going to face struggles as our program works out the glitches of a new facility and a kitchen that will now be shared.  I could not have imagined the magnitude of  growing problems (and concerns) that seem insurmountable as I now face the beginning of the real school year; We welcome the children back this week.  This means my early days start, large scale cooking begins and chaos will be unavoidable.  There are so many things wrong in my work kitchen right now that try as I did to get good sleep, I was awake at 3:00 am with my head swirling in panicked thoughts of how to make the best of a really awful situation.

Two hours of  “working for free in my head”, as my wise kitchen assistant likes to remind me not to do, resulted in nothing but more worry.  So, I am done working for free and will share my thoughts about quinoa instead.  This is a much more enjoyable use of my thoughts!

A number of people, including my bff, from whom this post was inspired, say to me they have difficulty making fluffy quinoa.  They say it always turns out mushy.  I have been asked on multiple occasions to write a blog on how to make successful quinoa.  Because I cannot seem to solve any other problems, I decided now would be a good time to tackle the simple task of making perfectly fluffy quinoa.  I can handle that problem and I even have a solution!

I love quinoa for it’s versatile uses and nutty flavor.  In addition, it is a super food that provides mega protein and fiber, as well as high doses of magnesium and iron. It is a staple pantry item in our household.

It is important to rinse the dry quinoa with cold water though a mesh strainer vigorously until the water runs clear.  This removes the outer “husk” that creates a bitter flavor and promotes “mush”.

TO MAKE QUINOA

1 cup dry quinoa

1 3/4 c water (or broth)

After rinsing quinoa, add to 2 quart pot with the liquid and cover with lid.  Turn burner up to high heat and allow it to come to a boil.  You will hear and see when it begins to boil. The key is not to open the lid.  Don’t peek!  Simply turn down the heat to a medium low temperature for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the covered pot sit on the burner for 5 more minutes.  For good measure, I will sometimes then let it sit and steam for 5 more minutes, but it is generally pretty perfectly done by this point.

Remove the lid and use a fork (not a mush producing spoon!) to fluff your quinoa.  Simple. Delicious.  Nutritious.  Problem solved.

Now if I can find equally simple solutions to the many problems I will face in just a few short hours at my shiny new work kitchen,  I will call this a successful day.

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Follower of the Month for August: Cathy Mounts

foodradical:

I was honored to be chosen as a guest blogger by Rogene who writes a blog called Espirational. Check out the post I wrote for her blog!  While your at it, give her site a look as well.  She provides some positive and inspirational reads that are sure to lift your spirits.  I am grateful and incredibly appreciative for the acknowledgement. I love the support and encouragement I receive from my fellow bloggers! Thanks!

Originally posted on Espirational:

Our August Follower of the Month is Cathy Mounts of Foodradical.wordpress.com with a wonderful healthy cooking idea.
Campfire Pouches
Campfire Pouch Photo Source: Cathy Mounts

Campfire Pouch
Photo Source: Cathy Mounts

There is something about being out in the woods that brings me a sense of peace. I can relax, I can be wondrous and thoughtful.  I can find healing and gratitude.  I can come back to the city feeling refreshed and renewed.
I have found tin foil pouches to be my number one favorite way to create delicious campfire meals, just the way I like them!  That smoky, campy taste is undeniably delightful.
Using heavy duty tin foil, pull off a sheet that gives you enough coverage for folding (about 12″x12″), fill with your favorite veggies, layering with the veggies that cook the longest on the bottom.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with your choice of spices.  Fold the foil and pinch edges to…

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Birthday Cake. Birthday Memories.

It is hard to believe that nine months has passed since my mom’s death.  Her absence is so strong and I miss her deeply.  I just celebrated my first birthday without her.  That was strange.  I am here on this earth because of her, yet she is not.  I just found that to be a weird feeling.  I did not get a phone call from her wishing me a happy birthday, nor did I get to request a special dessert; a long standing tradition.  I made my own birthday dessert using peaches picked at Sauvie Island.  I spent my birthday in the woods, enjoying one of my favorite camping spots with people I love dearly.  I reflected on birthdays of the past and memories of my mom.

This post is dedicated to my mom, who could make any dessert absolutely delicious.  I appreciate you in ways I never realized when you were living.  I miss your unconditional love.  I miss your ability to just listen without trying to fix anything.  I miss everything about you including your fantastic desserts, even though I couldn’t eat most of them.  Love was laced through out every dish you made whether it was sweet or savory.  I love you dearly and miss you profoundly.  I feel the loss of you in everything I do.  I grieve for you and I grieve for my kids, who also struggle with their own heartache around the loss of their beloved gramma (G’ma).  I feel their loss along with my own.  Even though they are both adults, I still want to remove the pain of your leaving.  I guess that is just the mom thing…..always wanting your kids to be well regardless of their age.  I know you know what I am talking about, mom.  You held the pain of all of your kids when any of us struggled; I know you did.  I know you were close by for my birthday.  I felt your presence as I stared at the star lit sky.  I imagine you would even try and hold my pain for you leaving here.  You were just that way; never wanting any of us to hurt.  I made my own birthday dessert while thinking of our peach picking adventures in my childhood.  I loved the orchards we visited, always excited to take that first juicy bite into a fresh picked peach.

I chose my birthday dessert for a few reasons.  We had peaches that needed to be used.  We were going out of town so I wanted something easy to make and transport.  I had a gluten free cake mix (Betty Crocker GF yellow cake mix) sitting in the cupboard for months.  The end result was a peach dump cake.

It was pretty good, although the cake mix had a rather gritty texture.  I do not generally buy boxed cake mixes, but if I recall, this was a super deal and I wanted to just give it a try to see what it was like.  Everyone who tried it thought it was fabulous.  I made a coconut whip cream as topping.  Delicious!

I peeled and sliced four peaches and lined the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with them.  I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar over them then dumped the dry cake mix over the top along with a bit of water (about 1/2 cup).  I topped it with a mix of chopped nuts (cashews, almonds and walnuts), then sprinkled a little more cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar over that.  I melted about 1/8 cup of Earth Balance spread (soy free kind) and drizzled it over across the top of the cake then baked it in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.

Happy birthday to me!   This was the first birthday for me that I celebrated you mom, along with me.  Thank you mom for giving me life.  As I sit here staring out at the ocean on one of my last out of town trips of the summer, I feel your presence.  You loved the beach and each time I am here I know you are close.  I wonder if you can feel me when I think of you.  I hope you can feel my love.  You are missed.

 

My mom at around my age. At the beach; one of her favorite places.

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Summer Squash Appetizer

I believe this is the longest I have gone without writing a blog.  Not that I haven’t had interesting stories to tell or exciting foods and recipes to share, it’s just that I have been so busy trying to make up for my lost fun and adventures of July. August became a whirlwind of camping trips up and down the west coast.  I had fun and I definitely traveled enough locally to make up for my previous debacle.  

It is amazing how quickly time passes.  My summer break has just ended and I am back to work in our new facility.  I am sure I will have plenty to share about that in the near future.  It has been a challenging and frustrating first week of work.  For now, I will share a delicious appetizer that I created from some beautiful summer squash I found at the farmer’s market.

I used a combination of almond flour and a little coconut flour along with some spices to make a “shake and bake” type of coating.  I cut a medium sized summer squash into half inch disks, dipped them into an egg wash then coated them with the flour/spice mixture and added them to a cast iron skillet on the stove top to cook them.  I used about a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and did this in batches.  I made a dill dipping sauce by using plain almond yogurt, a little lemon juice to thin it, salt, pepper, garlic and dill.  I gave it all a mix and let it sit in the fridg to allow the flavors to meld.  It was quite a tasty appetizer and that dip was pretty amazing.  The combination was delightful.  Give this a try and toss in your favorite spices for a simple yet impressive evening appetizer.

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On The Road Again

I am about to head out again; this time with my new car and my sweetie!  This combination will be a success.  Except I woke up to rain.  Not just a little rain.  I’m talking R.A.I.N!!!  Pouring rain!  This should be interesting.  Camping and rain are not my favorite combination.

I was quite productive yesterday in getting things ready for this trip.  I started out my morning feeling so anxious about taking my new car on this trip.  My daughter told me I had car PTSD.  She may be right!  I was so worried that I took my car in to a shop that specializes in my particular make and had it looked over for any potential problems.  Once again, I was told my car is beautiful and in great mechanical condition.  I should go on my trip worry free.  I guess I can start relaxing.  

It helped me feel more excited and gave me motivation to prepare some delicious food for this trip. I kept busy in the kitchen all day and had quite a bit of fun in the process!

I made some “chips” from rice tortillas.  They are easy, portable and will taste delicious with the dip I made, which was a combination of spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, kalamata olives and white beans all blended together.  It tastes delicious but is not that eye appealing so I decided against a picture.  I’m sure it will go great with the veggies I packed, too!   

I love grilled veggies in tin foil packages so I added a couple of those to our cooler.  This is a mix of yellow onions, garlic, carrots, turnips, radishes, green beans, sweet potatoes and curly kale.  I mixed it with olive oil, some basil, cumin sea salt and pepper.  

I made a some pizza with my favorite store bought crust.  The base is basil pesto using fresh basil from our garden.  I topped it with red onions, kalamata olives and a mix of shredded daiya cheeses.

Of course, I always have to add a treat to the menu.  I thought I would try a no bake cookie and the end result was not that appealing, in my opinion, but I’ll take them along anyway.  I think I need to tweak this recipe a bit to make it better.  So, I’ll leave the recipe out for now until I can perfect it more.

We are ready, with great food in tow.  Rain or not, we are on the road toward fun!

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Raspberries And Reflections

Our one raspberry bush has produced so much fruit this season I am finding it hard to keep the pace with their succession of ripening.  This is a raspberry bush that was cut back to practically one stalk last fall after the summer harvest.  The bush was not planted in the best location.  It was growing up onto the end of the deck and throwing sprouts in places that just were not good spots for berries to grow, like under our deck.  We had raspberry vines coming up through the planks in the deck!  All the sprouts were removed, one was replanted to a better location but didn’t survive and this one came back with a vengeance in the best kind of way.  It has grown wider around and even though it does still branch out onto the end of the deck, there have been no sprouts under it trying to make their way up through the deck and overall this bush is growing earnestly.

Raspberries are my favorite type of berry (Marionberries are a close second) and I am thrilled with the abundance of this fruit in our yard.  I find myself thinking up the next best recipe using raspberries before they hit their peak and turn to mush, which is really just a few days once picked.  They are such delicate berries.

Playing around in the kitchen always provides plenty of opportunity for reflection. Sometimes I completely immerse myself in my project, using every bit of focus to create a dish, which frees my mind of the clutter that often generates turmoil.  I like to call it my “brain break”. Sometimes my kitchen time becomes the place where I work through an issue I am having or to reflect on life, my surroundings, ideas…or whatever happens to be rolling around in my mind.

Most recently, I have been mulling over my recent travel troubles.  It has taken me quite a few days to work through what I experienced and come to terms with the loss of not only my car but a long term dream that did not get fulfilled.  There have been days when I felt like I just could not take any more challenges or obstacles.  It is still hard not to feel completely defeated by life.  How much can one person handle?  I often feel like I have reached my limit and beyond.  It has been hard for me to reach out, to get support and to find ways that will lift me.  Basically, I have been an incredibly depressed mope!

Thank goodness I have some amazing friends.  One particularly wonderful friend called the other morning and what she said spoke to the deepest part of me.   She listened, she related and she offered kind, wise words.  She encouraged me to keep my dream alive; that this trip was not a failure.  She reminded me of my strengths and my overall positive attitude in even the toughest situations.  Then she suggested we meet for coffee the next day.  I feel like that get together was the lift I needed to begin moving me forward and help pull me from the depths of despair.  Okay, that may sound a little dramatic, but it is certainly not a stretch in the way I have been feeling.   I should add that this friend is also a life coach and quite naturally offers practical, simple advice to guide people on their right path.  She is one of the most genuine and truly caring people I know.  She sincerely wants to help people and offers whatever she can from the kindness of her heart.  She is a gem.

When we met she did exactly what she does for anyone struggling with the torments of life; pulled out her notebook and began a list of weekly things for me to do that will keep me on my right path.  In addition, she gently offered plenty of sage wisdom, lots of love and strokes of  affection.  In the days since we’ve met I have looked at my list a few times, especially when I find myself going the direction of despair.  My list grounds me to the moment and keeps me focused on good things.  I tell myself to just do what’s on the list, even if it feels meaningless.  I find that at days end I feel accomplished.

Things are looking better.  I have purchased a new to me car.  This time I did some thorough research on the make and model, talked extensively with the former owner and asked a lot of questions.  I think I got a great car and one that will last me many years, I hope!   It is definitely the nicest looking and most mechanically sound vehicle I have owned.  I am still cautiously optimistic.

Other things are falling in to place as well.  I have a few aspirations I am following and feel pretty good about those potential outcomes.  I am trying a little harder to stay connected with friends.  I am taking advantage of my time off to do good things for myself like my list says, even if it is just painting my toe nails or checking out a cool library book.  The most exciting thing is my sweetie now has time off and in a couple of days we are going on our own mini road trip that will include camping.  I am looking forward to our together time in nature.  We have amazing travel adventures.

I’ll be back on the road soon, this time with my favorite companion.  I have an assurance that I will not only have a great time, I will not get lost because my sweetie is the best at navigating just about anywhere.  It seems my dismal mood may be nearing it’s end, just like our raspberries.  Those sweet things are just about done producing for the season.

As I reflect on my recent life conflicts, I realize this is just another notch in my growth. Someday I will more fully understand the lessons in these events.  For now, I’ll keep working on closing this chapter and moving forward with the things that make life good–Friends, love, and raspberries. Here’s what I have been doing with those lovely little berries.  Try some of these ideas at your house, or mix it up and use the next cycle of berries that will be ripe soon-blackberries!

Note: I did make some changes with the scone recipe I made.  I used coconut oil in place of palm shortening.  I used hemp milk and I also added a total of 1 1/2 cups of berries.  I used hemp milk in the chia seed pudding; a first that I wasn’t as excited about as when I use coconut milk.  The salad was absolutely amazing!  In addition to chopped kale, which I massaged gently with sea salt and olive oil to make it softer to chew, I added Fuji apple slices, raspberries and toasted slivered almonds.  The dressing was a mix of olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, grated ginger a bit of agave and a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

I highly recommend any or all of these delicious dishes!  Take advantage of this season of berries and try these recipes today!

 

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raspberry chia seed pudding using 2 Tblsp chia seeds, 8 ounces hemp milk, 1/2 tsp agave, 1/3 cup raspberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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