Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Delicious Way To Dry Plums

I'm just not a big prune fan…but I do like plums. We have two plum trees that provided us with more plums than we could eat and share.  Being fans of dried fruit, we decided to try drying the plums sliced like many other fruits.  

We learned a couple things from this…they take twice as long to dry, and they are wonderful!!

Just place sliced plums on dryer racks and set the temp at 135. Let dry least 6-8 hours but depending on thickness of slices it could take longer  .

When they are dry there should be no juicy or squishy parts on the fruit. As you can see in the photo below.

 Place in freezer bag or other air tight containers and store in a cool part of the house for 6-12 months.

We like to add cut up dried fruit to our green salad, cereal, trail mix, or just eat alone as a snack.
Weight watchers count 3 points for 1/4 cup of dried fruit.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Slow-Cooker Refried Beans - insanely delicious

These are absolutely the best homemade refried beans I have ever made! It took a few tries, but this recipe is a keeper!

What do I love even more about this recipe? It makes the best slow cooked pinto beans I have ever had too! I can make three different meals from just this one batch of beans.

The traditional refried beans of course perfect for dips, burritos, or a side dish.

Or this...

Serve them whole in a burrito with chunks of roasted sweet potato, rice, fresh mango salsa, and guac. It's amazing!!

Or maybe this...

Ladle some into a bowl with the juice from the slow cooker, add some leftover rice and stir. This makes a delicious, hearty bean soup. Perfect for lunches too.

My recipe is for a double batch because when I make these I like to divide them up...leave half of the batch whole, and mash (refried) the other half. I freeze them into 2 cup containers and heat them up for quick lunches or dinners.  This recipe will require a large slow cooker, or divide the recipe in half for a smaller size slow cooker.

Some say beans don't have to be presoaked. We eat beans daily, and I haven't been pleased with the results when I skip the presoak step. So I will suggest it, but it's entirely up to you.

To count weight watcher points, a 1/2 cup of refried beans is 4 points and 1 cup of whole beans is 6 points.

*Presoak quick method: Rinse the beans in a colander. Discard any stones or debris. Place beans in a pot and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring water to a boil on high. Cook for 1 minute, remove from heat and cover. Let sit 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans and they are ready for your recipes.

Slow-Cooker Refried Beans 
2 lbs (about 5 cups) dried pinto beans - presoaked and drained.  *I use the quick method.
10 cloves of garlic or 5 tsp minced.
2 medium yellow onions, chopped.
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped.
1/2 each - green and red bell pepper. Seeded and chopped. (or both whole peppers)
1/2 tsp black pepper.
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I use 1/2)
7 cups water
4 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth for plant-based diets.

In a skillet use a little broth to sauté garlic, onions, and all of the peppers. Add seasonings and continue cooking a few minutes more.
Add sautéed vegetables and presoaked beans to your slow cooker with water and broth. Mix well. Cover and cook on low 12 hours, or on high for about 8 hours. Don't ask me why...but I prefer low for 12 hours.

For traditional refried beans, drain the beans reserving about 3 cups of the liquid. Use a potato masher or a hand mixer to mash beans to desired consistency adding liquid as needed. You may find you like your refried beans left coarser, or maybe you prefer a smoother consistency. It's completely up to you how much liquid you add while mashing.

Serve them up or place in freezer containers to use at a later time, like on a busy week night.


Drain and mash beans, adding liquid for desired consistency.

A coarser consistency of refried beans.

A smoother consistency of refried beans.

Leave beans whole for burritos or a side dish.

One of our favorite Meatless Monday meals!

Or store in freezer safe containers.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sweet Potato Hash Browns - a healthy side dish cooked in coconut oil.

Healthy potatoes? Absolutely! These colorful gems are full of wonderful nutrients. Some might say they are even a superfood.

I am always open to new ideas...well, almost always.

When my daughter made these for us, I was completely blown away at how incredibly delicious they were.  It's also a fast way to cook sweet potatoes, which is always a plus, and the leftovers disappear by the next day...if there are any!

This flavorful side dish is almost too easy, and complements almost any entree. Here is something that you might not know...they are incredible in burritos.

You will need just three simple ingredients, some salt and pepper, and a hot skillet or grill. 

Sweet Potato Hash Browns
3-4 sweet potatoes, washed and dried. I buy organic so I can leave the peel on.
1 large onion. I use yellow, but any type you have is fine.
1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Grate sweet potatoes and set aside.
Chop onion into small pieces.
Heat coconut or other oil in a hot skillet or on a hot grill.
Add sweet potatoes and onions to hot oil and cook until slightly browned and tender. Turn every 3-5 minutes, or as needed to cook evenly.

Serve them up with your meal.

If you have leftovers they are wonderful warmed up for breakfast.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jo's Zuppa Soup - a gluten free dinner idea

Who's Jo, you might ask...Jo is my mom. She loves this soup!

I realize most folks call this, Zuppa Toscana Soup...but my mom just calls it Zuppa soup, and that's the only way I've  know it.

She got the recipe from a friend a few years ago. While she was recovering from back surgery, she asked me if I would make her some. And of course I did! In fact I made a double batch so she could take some home and freeze it for several "ready-made" dinners.

Personally I think it's a little heavy on the fats.  I'm going to suggest a few lighter substitutions, and I will definately make a lighter version next time as well. We have cholesterol watchers at our house!

I like that fresh kale is added to this soup, and I just happened to be growing some in my garden. The kale adds  nice color to the soup, not to mention it's a super healthy vegetable.

 I should mention it's gluten free.  Just be sure to check the labels on the sausage and the bouillon.

Jo's Zuppa Soup
1 lb Italian sausage, check labels for gluten free if needed. Optional - use a less fat sausage.
4-5 pieces of bacon, sliced or cut up in chunks. Optional - turkey bacon for less fat.
1 lg white onion, diced. I probably used a yellow onion.
1 cup heavy cream. Optional - half & half, or 2% milk for less fat.
3 lg potatoes, peeled and sliced.
2-3 tsp minced garlic.
1/4 bunch of fresh kale, chopped.
1 tsp crushed red peppers.
5 chicken bouillon cubes. Gluten free if needed. Herb Ox is gluten free.
10 cups water.

Cook sausage in a large kettle. Drain off fat. Add crushed red peppers, saute another minute or two. Remove sausage from kettle and chill until ready to use.
In same kettle cook bacon, onions, and garlic. Spoon off as much bacon fat as possible.
Add chicken bouillon, and water. Bring to a boil.
Add sliced potatoes and kale and cook until soft. Add cream or lower fat options and sausage; heat thoroughly.


I made my family's favorite, Quick  Homemade Dinner Rolls to go with this soup.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fiber & Protein Rich Chocolate Breakfast Pudding - gluten & dairy free

I just love this colorful breakfast! 

My daughter sent me this picture of her breakfast a few weeks ago. Wow! Not only was it a great photo, but it looked absolutely delicious! 

Since my husband and I had already had breakfast, I decided to make it for dessert that night.

Chia pudding has become quite popular.  It's a nice break from the regular breakfast routine, providing some protein, fiber, and healthy fats...this is nutritious. Top it with some fresh fruit...even better!

This recipe provides 10-11 grams of protein when divided into 4 servings, and 7 grams when divided into 6 servings. It also provides 16-18 grams of fiber when divided into 4 servings, and 10-12 grams when divided into 6 servings.  Raw cacao powder has more antioxidants and your pudding will have  stronger chocolate flavor as well.

If you prefer to use regular unsweetened cocoa, which is absolutely fine. (so do I in many recipes)  The fiber and protein grams will be a little less, but guess what...so will the fat grams. Each 2 Tbsp serving of unsweetened cocoa powder actually has 3 grams less fat than raw cacao powder. Unsweetened cocoa powder will give you a pudding with a milder chocolate flavor, which you probably already guessed.

Choose what is best for you... use whatever you have on hand and give this pudding a try!

Fiber & Protein Rich Chocolate Breakfast Pudding                  Serves 4-6
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 1/2 cups unsweetened non-dairy substitute, I used half rice milk and half coconut milk
1/2 cup raw cacao powder, unsweetened cocoa is fine but you will have less grams of protein & fiber.
1 frozen banana, sliced
6 oz of pitted dates, remove pits before weighing
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter, or other nut butter of your choice
unsweetened coconut to sprinkle on top
blueberries, strawberries, or other fruit of your choice
Chopped nuts to sprinkle on top

In a heavy duty blender combine all ingredients except coconut, fruit, chopped nuts. Purée until completely blended. Dates and frozen bananas may take a little longer to incorporate. Stir once or twice or as needed until mixture is nicely blended.

Spoon into small custard dishes or similar type dish. Let chill for about an hour to overnight, or enjoy right away. This mixture thickens so quickly a long chilling time isn't necessary, but I think it enhances the rich chocolate flavor. Top with chopped nuts, fresh fruit, and unsweetened coconut.

If you like a pudding that is a bit less thick, feel free to mix in a couple more tablespoons to one fourth cup more of the non-dairy milk product.

My husband had never had chia pudding before and wanted to know everything that was in it.
He also said he would eat another dish full tomorrow!


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fresh Tahini Sauce

Here is a super quick & easy recipe for tahini sauce that you will want to make again and again.

Tahini sauce will add a little zing to your sandwiches and burgers. Use tahini as a dip for veggies or try it on a salad. Switch it out for the tartar sauce next time you serve onion rings or baked salmon. 
The ideas are endless. 

Here is my favorite way to use tahini sauce...in a falafel wrap! Yum!

Tahini Sauce                      Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup tahini
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp salt or to taste
4 Tbsp water
Mix all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and serve with falafel or chill to serve with vegetable sticks.

Weight watcher points for tahini sauce count as 2.5 points for 2 Tbsp.


Rhubarb Grows Like No Other! Perfect Add-In To A Fruit Crisp...

Just when I think I'm making jam all day...I take a peek in the garden and find this!

It's actually kind-of perfect though, because since I picked all those marion berries yesterday for jam, I have plenty to make this yummy Rhuberry Crisp too!

You may remember this recipe from last summer. It was kind-of an experiment that turned into one of the best fruit crisps we had ever eaten.

If you didn't try this recipe before...I certainly hope you do soon!  Even "non-rhubarb" fans will love this!

Gluten Free Rhuberry  Fruit Crisp                 Serves 8 -10 depending on size of pan.
1/2 cup brown rice flour, sorghum, or any other gluten free baking blend. 
1/2 cup old fashioned oats, gluten free. 
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped.  (Any nut of choice)
1/2 cup brown sugar.
1 rounded tsp cinnamon.
1/4 cup butter, or non-dairy substitute.
4 cups marion berries. (Other varieties of berries are fine too)
1 1/2- 2 cups rhubarb, cut into pieces just under 1/2 inch.
3 Tbsp corn starch.
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract.
1 Tbsp lemon juice.
1 cup agave or honey. (I used 1/2 of each) For vegans use agave or pure maple syrup...or both.

Preheat oven to 375.
Set aside a 7 1/2 x11-inch or 9 x13-inch rectangular baking pan.  I used the smaller size - we like a thicker crisp.
In a small bowl add flour, oats, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir together. Cut in butter or non-dairy substitute. I use a pastry cutter and then finish with my fingers to incorporate the butter as much as possible.
Set this mixture aside.

In a large mixing bowl add berries and rhubarb, gently mix. Sprinkle corn starch over fruit and add the rest of the ingredients over the corn starch. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Microwave fruit mixture for 3 minutes. Stir. Microwave 2-3 minutes more. Stir.
Pour fruit mixture into baking pan. Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over fruit.
Bake for 40 minutes. Fruit should be bubbling all around the golden colored topping.
I always peek a little early just to make sure my topping isn't getting too brown.
Let sit briefly or let cool to room temperature.

And don't hesitate to add some ice-cream or a non-dairy frozen variety on top of your crisp.
We like to whip up some Allergy Friendly Vanilla Soft Serve, it's just enough sweetness without any extra added fat or sugar.