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Perfect Plum Bread

I have been playing around in my kitchen a lot these days. I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of different dishes just for the fun of seeing what I come up with.  I have dared to stretch my imagination and use my creativity to adapt recipes that suit my dietary guidelines, or even more exciting: make up my own recipe!

I finally have time to use my kitchen as my playground all day long if I choose because I recently decided to quit my job.  There were a lot of factors that entered into this decision and many conversations with my sweetie before I chose to go bold and make my exit while I still had some sanity.  The new school year and the new kitchen brought new insights for me.  It became too difficult for me to knowingly compromising my morals on a daily basis. Additionally, I could no longer contain my repugnance at such a broken system.  I had too many concerns and no influence to create change.  The heaviness of it all made me tired and stressed every day.  For my own mental health and really, to say “this is not okay”, I chose to leave my job.  I left on good terms and I will continue to have connections to the people I worked with closely.  It was the best decision I could have made.  I was no longer happy in my work.  From the moment I gave my notice, I felt a lightness in my entire being. It continues into my third week of job freedom.  I have been healing my overworked body and enjoying a slower pace.  Physically, I feel so much better and have more energy. Mentally, I have more focus and definitely more calmness in my mind.

I am deeply grateful I have the option of quitting my job and explore other creative outlets for a while.  There are some new opportunities that have recently been presented to me and I am eager to network with like minds.  I feel excited for new discoveries.  And of course, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen.  So, let’s get back to that!

I purchased some plums at the local farmers market, ate a few then was going out of town so I just popped them in the freezer whole.  I had never tried this before, but I must say it was quite a successful freeze and thawed much like bananas.

I adapted this recipe from the “Eat Right For Your Type” Cookbook.  When I first began my gluten free life transition, I relied heavily on this book to guide me toward healthier choices for my body.  I made this recipe often and always received compliments on it so I wanted to give it a try again to take on our recent trip to Seattle.  However, this time I wanted to make it completely dairy and gluten free with no oats.  I did some substituting and came out with a really lovely bread that has a great texture and consistency, just the way I like a sweet bread to be.  The batter, which had a thick, gummy consistency going into the pan worried me at first.  My experience has been that means the end product will be dense and doughy.   However, it is moist without the gritty texture I often find in GF baked goods.  I was really happy with the outcome.

Here is the original recipe version from “Cook Right For Your Type”[author-Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo;copyright 1999] : 

Banana-Plum Bread

1 cup spelt flour

3/4 cup oat flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

5 Tbsp. softened butter

2/3 c turbinado sugar

1-2 tsp grated lemon rind

1 to 2 eggs, beaten

1 cup mashed banana

3 ripe plums, diced

1/2 to 1 cup walnuts, broken into pieces

I prepared it in the same way as the cook book describes except I used only 1- 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan and I sprayed mine with oil versus coating the pan with butter.

Here’s my adaption:

Plum Bread

1 cup AP Gluten Free flour {I used a brand called Namaste that I purchased from Costco}

3/4 cup almond meal

3 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

5 Tbsp soy free Earth Balance spread

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

2 tsp grated lemon rind

1 egg, beaten

6 medium sized ripe plums (fresh, frozen then defrosted) or just fresh!, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.  Sift flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt into one bowl.  In another bowl, blend “butter”, sugar and lemon rind until creamy.  Beat in egg.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in three parts, mix until just combined after each addition.  Fold in plums.  Pour into prepared loaf pan.  Bake about 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on rack.  Slices very well.

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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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