Kale Caesar Salad

My sister-in-law recently gave me the most amazing new cookbook.forest feast The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson is not only filled with delicious and inspiring vegetarian recipes, but it is so charming, rustic and beautiful that reading it reminds me of walking through Anthropologie, my happy place.  Honestly, I feel like if Anthropologie were to open a restaraunt, Erin Gleeson would be the head chef.  I have already tried several of the recipes and each one has been delicious, unique, simple and easy. You can find more of her recipes on her blog: theforestfeast.com

Caesar Salad, with its creamy and parmesany dressing, has always been one of my favorites, but one that I have never ventured to make.  I don’t see much health benefit in a salad that consists of lettuce, croutons and cheese with a dressing of raw egg and anchovies…  I was so excited to see the yogurt based Caesar dressing in the Forest Feast made simply with other ingredients that I always use like mustard and lemon.  I also love the idea of using kale (my favorite green) as a base, because though sometimes raw kale can be a bit bitter, the creamy dressing here is a nice complement for it.

The salad was a big hit at my house.  I made a few changes to the original recipe, like adding a little more of my homemade yogurt than the amount of greek yogurt thats called for, I also omitted the “polenta croutons.” Although I don’t often serve dairy salads, this is one I will definitely make again.

IMG_2112

Kale Caesar Salad

Ingredients:

“Caesar Dressing”

IMG_21033/4 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves

3/4 cup homemade yogurt (original recipe calls for 1/4 cup plain Greek if not following SCD)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoon dijon mustard

Salad:

1 bunch of kale

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup pine nuts

optional: handful of croutons

Directions:

Mix all dressing ingredients in blender.

Wash kale well and cut into small pieces.IMG_2106
Add cheese, pine nuts and about 6 tablespoons of Caesar Dressing. Toss and enjoy!

Jon’s Pizza Crust

IMG_2098

After a few months away from the computer, and a few weeks away from the kitchen, I was planning a big re-entry into cooking with some fancy (but still easy of course) recipes from several of the most amazing and beautiful new cookbooks I acquired over my extended winter break. 

I was so excited to get back into my kitchen and try something new to really impress my crowd.  As luck would have it though, the weather outside yesterday was literally -6 (fahrenheit), or as the locals here say, -21 (it’s been 6 years and I am still adjusting to celsius!), so I decided to pass on a grocery store outing, and put those fancy new recipes on hold for a few days… Instead, I was able to work with what we had at home, and make my family’s favorite, and fortunately my easiest recipe that I have been making for years.

Adapted from an SCD recipe I found on-line years ago called John’s pizza (maybe that is why my husband loves it so much) this grain-free, almond flour crust pizza is perfect for a thin-crust lover who can’t live without pizza, but wants to say goodbye to carbs.

Jon’s Pizza

(Adapted from John’s Pizza)IMG_2084

Ingredients:

1 cup almond flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

optional: dried basil/oregano

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in bowl.IMG_2081
Spread over parchment paper lined pizza pan or any baking sheet. The spreading can be tricky because the dough is sticky, For me, using the back of a spoon gently works best. Turn on oven to 350 and place pizza pan inside.  IMG_2083The crust will typically be ready by the time the oven is pre-heated (10-12 minutes) when slightly brown around the edges.  Add toppings and place back in the oven for about another 20 minutes until desired browning. 

IMG_2088yield: 12 inch pizza

Baked Chicken with Spaghetti Squash

IMG_0912 One of my favorite features of Fall is the abundance of winter squash available. Butternut, Kabocha, Spaghetti Squash…these are all major staples in my household year round, but during this time of year the flavors are truly at their peak (not to mention the savings are about half-price).  In my experience, these squash can last for months in a cool, dark area.  When prices are low, I buy in bulk and keep mine in the garage.  Being that there aren’t too many other perks I feel from the weather starting to turn cold, I am thrilled that I have at least this one aspect of the season to look forward to.

When cooking for a gluten-free and grain-free household, as specified by the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), finding starchy filler options can definitely be challenging.  Typically, 4-5 days a week, my menus include a winter squash, whether in a soup, as a side, or part of the main dish.

Last night, I made for my family Baked Chicken with Spaghetti Squash from A Taste of Wellness by Rochel Weiss (a special thank you to my aunt Linda for getting me my copy so many months ago).  What attracted me to this particular recipe was the minimal ingredients required (no need for a grocery store run), and ease of preparation.  The whole recipe, besides for cooking time, took a total of 20 minutes. The result was delicious, filling but still light, and for added bonus, a breeze to clean up:)

Baked Chicken with Spaghetti Squash

(recipe taken from A Taste of Wellness by Rochel Weiss)

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoon mayonnaise  (for SCD, a quick and easy homemade version can be found at comfybelly.com)

Salt and paprika to taste

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 medium spaghetti squash

3 tablespoon oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

IMG_0908In a small dish, mix mayonnaise with salt and paprika.  Spread evenly on both sides of chicken breasts.  Arrange chicken in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until juices run clear.  Do not overcook or chicken will be dry.

IMG_0911
Meanwhile, cut spaghetti squash in half; scrape out and discard seeds with a large spoon.  Place squash cut-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at the same time as the chicken for 35-45 minutes, until tender. (Do not overbake, keep strands crispy).

 

With a fork, gently separate cooked spaghetti squash into spaghetti-like strands.

Shortly before serving, heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add squash strands and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cut baked chicken into 1 inch cubes and add to skillet, mix well.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice until piping hot.  Serve immediately.IMG_0920

Yield: 4 servings

Salad Bar Night!

IMG_0229Challah, chocolate, potato chips, lollipops, more lollipops… that was the primary diet of my children over Rosh Hashanah.  Although at home I am careful with what I make and feed my kids, when they are at shul, the rules change.  My daughters have been basically adopted by wonderful members of our shul who each feel it is their responsibility to fill their sugar quota for the week (sometimes the month).  Once a week, I am happy for my kids to indulge and to understand that shabbos is the special day when we get these goodies, a three day yuntif however gets to be a little much in the sugar department.

This week it has been my goal to teach my kids what vegetables are again. Especially my three year old who somehow manages to hide bags of cookies from her Zaidy in her closet.  After studying one of my favorite new cookbooks,michael smith Family Meals by Michael Smith, it hit me, a salad bar dinner night!  My girls, who beg me to let them help in the kitchen, love being the mixers and the ones to decide which ingredient goes next. A salad bar is a perfect way to let my kids get involved and to feel ownership over their healthy choices. Our first attempt at salad bar dinner was a huge success, everyone was so excited about the colorful creations they were making. We made a game to see how many colors everyone could put on their plate, and taste! In addition to how great our dinner tasted, I love the fact that the only part of dinner that required cooking was the simple salmon I baked to go along with the salad.

Tip: cut vegetables can be prepared in advance, most last at least 3-4 days in fridge 

Salad Bar Dinner Night

(Obviously it depends on ingredients you prefer or have in stock, but this was our version)

large bowl lettuce

cooked broccoli

chopped avocado (with lemon juice sprinkled on top)

IMG_0234
Made by a 4.5 year old!

cut cucumbers

shredded purple cabbage

roasted beets

raisins

sunflower seeds

grated carrots

grape tomatoes

corn niblets

sliced mushrooms

chia seeds

ground flax

Dressings:

choice of Honey Mustard (honey, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic) or basic Vinaigrette (olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper).

IMG_0236
What my 3 year old voluntarily served herself and ate!

Tip: I like to buy organic vegetables when possible and cut them at home, but if you are short on time, most great salad bar toppings are available pre-cut and can make salad bar night even easier!

Tip: cut vegetables can be prepared in advance, most last at least 3-4 days in fridge 

Easy Healthy Craft Ideas (Rosh Hashanah)

IMG_0149Being that we are about to enter a long stretch of holiday and shabbat meals, I should be organizing my menu, working on my recipes, making sure I have the groceries I need… but for some reason I just can’t start the cooking yet.  Instead, I find myself busy looking for cute decorations and projects for my kids to help them get into the spirit and excitement of Rosh Hashanah.

IMG_0143My beautiful, brilliant and super resourceful niece who just visited us this past shabbos, passed on this adorable idea for a honey dish from Martha Stewart. So easy to do with a melon baller, but a regular spoon would work too.

 

My girls and I also had fun making cut-out cookies with Rosh Hashanah themed cookie cutters I picked up at Candy and Chocolate Creations.IMG_0157  We found a delicious and easy cookie recipe from comfybelly.com (one of my favorite websites for cooking and baking inspiration), completely grain-free and refined sugar free.  IMG_0161Mixing, shaping and cutting the dough was almost as fun as eating the apple, siddur and shofar shaped cookies cookies!IMG_0166

Apple Kugel

IMG_0088
Apples apples everywhere!  

IMG_0072
Although I may be one of the only people left who has not really begun to think about Rosh Hashanah menu planning yet… apple season falling out at the same time as this special holiday makes it a lot easier to be inspired with apple-filled recipes.

IMG_0067My daughters went apple picking with their school last week and came home with large bags filled with amazing crisp, sweet and absolutely delicious apples from a local farm. Right away we got to work with this easy and healthy apple and honey dish. A wonderful way to start a sweet New Year!

Apple Kugel

IMG_0092

 

Ingredients:

7 cups chopped apples (10 small or 7 large apples)

IMG_00741/2 lemon

2.5 cups almond flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 eggs

1/4 cup oil

1/3 cup honey

sprinkle cinnamon

 

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Peel and chop apples.  Sprinkle lemon juice over apples, cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs, oil and honey and mix well.

IMG_0083

Pour in greased ramekins and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Bake 40-45 minutes or until light brown.

Yield: 15 ramekins 

Happy and Healthy New Year to All!

Eggplant Parmesan Vegetable Lasagna

IMG_0047At first, I honestly had no idea what to call this delicious dinner creation.  On the one hand, it has all the components of eggplant parmesan, the eggplant, the breading (gluten-free), the sauce and cheese. On the other hand, it has the textures, and overflowing vegetable inside of a saucy lasagna.

It all started with a pretty bare looking fridge and a strong will to avoid going grocery shopping. With an eggplant, sauce and cheese in stock, eggplant parmesan was an obvious choice but just didn’t seem to offer enough nutritious value. Luckily, I found one very large zucchini to use, and, inspired by the recipe for “Veggie Eggplant Parmesan” from A Taste of Wellness by Rochel Weiss, I decided to turn the parmesan concept into a vegetable loaded lasagna casserole.

My favorite memories of lasagna are of my mom’s saucy lasagna where every bite was exploding with vegetables and saucy goodness.  My mom has always been great at spontaneously adding vegetables into meals and is a constant inspiration for my healthy cooking.

IMG_0034Another valuable lasagna lesson that I learnt from my mom was that if you use enough sauce, you don’t need to boil the lasagna noodles before baking.  I applied that rule to the eggplant here, and decided to forgo the frying or baking that is typically done as a separate step before layering the eggplant (also a good way to cut unnecessary calories).  Fortunately, breaded eggplant and noodles are more similar than one may think, it totally worked! The resulting combination of breaded eggplant, vegetables, sauce and cheese was an amazing blend of tastes and textures and, in my opinion, can only be known as an Eggplant Parmesan Vegetable Lasagna!

IMG_0043

Eggplant Parmesan Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant

IMG_0016

1 large zucchini, chopped small

1 small red onion, chopped small

2 tablespoon oil, divided

2 eggs

2 cups tomato sauce

2 cups almond flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (with extra for sprinkling on eggplant

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or preferred cheese)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Slice eggplant into pieces 1/2 inch thick.  Lay eggplant slices flat on paper towel and sprinkle lightly with salt.

IMG_0021

IMG_0020

 

 

 

 

Sautée onion in oil on medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add zucchini, reduce temperature to low, and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  While vegetables are cooking, beat eggs well and place in large shallow dish. In another large, shallow dish, mix together flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Prepare baking dish (I used an oval casserole dish, but a rectangular 9 by 13 or square 8 by 8 pan also would work) by spreading one tablespoon of oil and 5-7 tablespoons tomato sauce on the bottom, enough to cover pan.  Dry off excess moisture on eggplant, then dip slices in egg, shake gently and coat in flour mixture.

IMG_0026 Place one layer of battered eggplant on the bottom of the pan (over sauce) to cover as much space as possible (I sometimes cut the battered eggplant to fill gaps, but it’s fine of there are some empty spots…)

IMG_0030IMG_0032
 

 

 

Cover eggplant with sautéed veggies and then top vegetable layer thinly with tomato sauce (4-5 tablespoons). Add another layer of breaded eggplant and top with remaining sauce and cheese.

IMG_0039

Cover tightly and bake 1.5 hours, uncover and bake 10-15 more minutes, until lightly browned.

IMG_0059Enjoy!

Yield: 4 servings

Carrot Squash Ginger Muffins (Gluten-Free, Grain-Free)

IMG_4419

When I first started on my journey in grain-free cooking (to accommodate my husband’s strict SCD diet) over 5 years ago, one of the first cookbooks I discovered that made me believe our restricted ingredients could actually still yield delicious results, was the Grain-Free Gourmet by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass.  Although I typically enjoy cookbooks with pictures on every page, here, the recipes for grain-free pies, tarts, muffins and cakes had me so excited and motivated that I didn’t even care what the foods looked like, but just the knowledge that these recipes existed gave me hope (and there are plenty of nice pictures, just not every page!). One of the first recipes I tried from Grain-Free Gourmet, all those years ago, was the recipe for carrot muffins, because we all need a good, easy carrot muffin recipe to fall back on…After trying several variations of the original recipe, my favorite has become my Carrot Squash Ginger muffins. I prefer the resulting texture of the carrot-squash combo, and I think the added ginger adds an interesting and unexpected kick.  Although the consistency of this muffin is a not as fluffy as a typical gluten-filled baked-good, this moist and delicious treat is a favorite side dish, breakfast food and snack, at my house.

IMG_4405

Carrot Squash Ginger Muffins

Ingredients:

2 medium or 3 small carrots, cut in chunksIMG_4362

approximately 1/2 butternut squash, cut in chunks

*total combined carrots and squash grated should be about 3 cups

sugar-cube sized chunk of fresh ginger, peeled

2 eggs

1 tablespoon water

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2.5 cups almond flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

IMG_4365Preheat the oven to 325 and line 30 mini muffins with parchment baking cups. Place carrots and butternut squash in food processor (I use S blade) until very finely shredded. Make sure the combined ingredients yield approximately 3 cups of grated vegetables (extra can be reserved for other recipes, soups, etc).  Add ginger, eggs, water, honey and lemon juice into food processor until well blended. If your machine has room, you can add in all other ingredients. If not, mix flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and then add the wet ingredients.

IMG_4375Fill each muffin liner about 2/3 high, and bake 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out dry. Try one right out of the oven, it tastes so good!

 

IMG_4414yield: 30 mini muffins or 12 regular size

Tip: high quality almond flour makes a major difference in the quality of grain-free baked goods. I buy mine from wellbees.com for great quality and better prices (especially when buying in bulk)

5 Minute Honey Mustard Roasted Chicken

IMG_4314

I have always found honey and dijon mustard to be a delicious, no-fail duo. Whether for a chicken, salmon or london broil marinade, salad dressing or dip, the sweet and tangy combination always provides great flavor. A few years ago, I was hoping to take my predictable honey roasted chicken recipe up a notch, so I did what I always do when searching for cooking inspiration, I headed on-line.  I somehow came across the recipe for Honey Baked Chicken at allrecipes.com which intrigued me because of the addition of curry powder to the honey mustard dressing.  Not having any curry powder, I tried it with turmeric and the result was AMAZING! I served it one Friday night for dinner, and for the first time ever, I barely had enough chicken because everyone kept taking more. I was so excited to have found such an easy recipe (it only took me 5 minutes to prepare) that was so full of flavor.  Besides for switching turmeric for curry, I have adapted the original recipe a few ways, including substituting olive oil for butter to make it kosher and healthier (I also cut the amount of fat in half), and by slightly reducing the honey to save some calories.  This unbelievably easy and delicious dish has come to be a regular at my Friday night table

 5 Minute Honey Mustard Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken cut into 10

IMG_42821 large onion sliced in rings

4-6 garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

3 heaping tablespoons dijon mustard

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of baking pan with onion rings and garlic cloves.IMG_4299
Lay chicken pieces, skin side up, over onions and garlic. Mix together all remaining ingredients (salt, turmeric, honey, olive oil and mustard) and “paint” over chicken. Bake uncovered about an hour and 15 minutes. Baste with juices at least once during cooking, best after first 30 minutes of baking.

 

Tip: Chicken can be prepared in marinade the night before to really intensify the flavor (and also to save 5 minutes of preparation on a busy Friday)!IMG_4320

Hearty Vegetarian Chili

IMG_4713
Last week, my family, along with my parents, siblings, and all of our children (for the first time ever all-together) had a fun-filled trip to Ohio in honor of my parent’s anniversary.  We had an amazing week of camping, hiking, and barbecuing.  Anyone who knows my family understands that although we referred to our beautiful accommodations as “camping” and we called our short walks that ended in 15 minutes of scenic picture taking as “hiking” the only part of that statement that was really true was the BBQ component. Basically we grilled and ate and grilled and ate…Although the food was all delicious, I definitely reached my quota on chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers for a good while and I was actually looking forward to a break from meat this week.  Not wanting to make fish and heavy cheesy dishes all week long, I found a few recipes for vegetarian chili that I combined and tweeked to fit my own requirements  for a wholesome meal that is natural, kosher, and a perfect healthy meatless dinner option. I served my chili with a recipe for vegan sour cream, from ohsheglows.com, but if you can tolerate dairy, any sour cream or melted cheese would make for a tasty topping

Hearty Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients:

2 cups red kidney beans (soaked, prepared and cooked according to SCD guidelines) ***OR, if not following SCD, 2 cans of kidney beans drained and rinsed would be a quicker option

2 tablespoon oilIMG_4675

1/2 sweet onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 small zucchini, diced

1 tomato, chopped small

7 oz (200 g) shitake mushrooms, stems removed, chopped small

1 cup frozen peas

1 1/2 cup strained tomatoes

1/2 cup marinara sauce

1/4 cup waterIMG_4680

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Optional add-ins to make it hot:

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder extra

1/2 teaspoon cayanne pepper

to make it really hot:

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions:

On medium heat, add oil and sauté onion, garlic, and celery for 5 minutes.IMG_4686 Add red pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, frozen peas, sauté another 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add tomatoes, kidney beans, strained tomatoes, marinara, water and seasonings and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low until flavors are melded together and sauce has thickened, about 10 more minutes.

IMG_4705

I served my kids this dish, without the spicy seasonings, on top of gluten-free rice noodles. For my husband and myself, I made a cauliflower rice as a SCD friendly and lower carb side dish.