Hearty Vegetarian Chili

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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.

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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.

Saucy Chicken Meatballs

IMG_4496Walking through the grocery store this week hoping to be inspired, I came across an item in the kosher section that I had never seen before, dark meat minced chicken. I use minced chicken all the time for stir fries or chicken burgers, but it is always the white meat variety, which is great, but has the potential to make food that is dried out. Using minced chicken that is dark meat, is a healthier option than beef, and an opportunity to make meals that are juicier and stay more moist than white meat, what a great find!  As soon as I saw the chicken I knew exactly what I wanted to make–meatballs. Not just any meatballs, but an adaptation of my all-time favourite recipe for Sweet and Sour Meatballs from the old Spice and Spirit purple cookbook (such a classic).  The original recipe tastes amazing but calls for tons of sugar, ketchup, and other processed items that I no longer cook with. Basing my recipe off of memory, and using honey and lemon juice for the sweet and sour, I also decided to add some vegetables to the sauce for extra nutrition and texture.  The combination of the perfectly moist chicken balls, the hearty vegetables and the amazingly sweet sauce was so good, and I could not believe how quickly I was able to prepare my entire dinner.  I am so glad I stocked up my freezer on the minced chicken because I know this recipe will become a staple on my dinner menu!

Saucy Chicken Meatballs

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Ingredients:

for the sauce:

2 tablespoons oil

2 celery stalks diced, leaves removed

2 carrots peeled and dicedIMG_4443

1/2 small onion

2 large tomatoes

1 jar marinara sauce (16 oz)

1 cup water

4 tablespoons honey

1/2 lemon

for the chicken balls:

1.5 pounds minced chicken (dark meat preferable)

1/4 cup almond flour (or gluten free bread crumbs)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 egg

Directions:

on medium heat, saute onions, carrots and celery in oil for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes for another 5 minutes. Add sauce, water, honey and lemon juice and bring to a boil.


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While sauce is cooking, mix all ingredients for chicken balls well. I formed mine about the size of 1 tablespoon rounded. Tip: the chicken is much easier to roll with wet hands, I had to wet mine a few times because the meat was very sticky…

Add “meatballs” to the boiling sauce. When all are in, reduce to simmer and cover for 45 minutes.

Yield: 22-24 meatballs

Strawberry Spinach Pear Shake

IMG_4279There is no better way to start the week than with a fresh shake loaded with fruits, vegetables and protein. In an ideal world, I would own a Vitamix (one day…) and be blending green drinks for my family every single morning, but life gets in the way, and mornings are usually VERY hectic, chaotic and rushed at my house. On those spectacular days when we can actually find two socks that match, shoes for the right season, and all other school/camp essentials without too many tantrums along the way…we are able to make shakes!  IMG_4262
Green drink “shakes” have been an amazing way for me to get my kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables, they love to help decide which ingredients we will be tossing in and to “help” me push the button (I am very careful to only let my girls help with the blender when supervised). My drinks always include a good amount of greens (usually spinach) some fruit, and many times a spoonful of almond butter for extra protein. Bananas are great for thickening the shakes and I like to keep a stash of ready-to-blend frozen ripe bananas in the freezer (for SCD, make sure that bananas are extra ripe, with brown spots).

IMG_4237On this particular morning, we also had some very ripe pears and strawberries that I was thrilled to use for added fiber, anti-inflammatory properties and anti-oxidants.  The result was a sweet, hearty and delicious smoothie. A drink so clean, refreshing and satisfying is the perfect way to start the week off towards easy healthy kosher eating!

Strawberry Spinach Pear Shake

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Ingredients:

2 medium size overripe pears (approximately 2.5 cups cubed)

10 strawberries (fresh or frozen)

1 overflowing cup baby spinachIMG_4250

1 tablespoon almond butter

1 banana (preferably frozen)

1 cup water

1/2 lemon squeezed

optional: 1/2 tablespoon fresh mint

Directions:

Chop strawberries and pear. Place all ingredients in blender, blend until smooth and enjoy!IMG_4259

yield: 6 cups

Tip: frozen fruits are a great way to keep prep-time down and to keep the shake cold without adding ice. Its fun to experiment with all types of fruits.

Cinnabon Bites (Gluten Free)

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Intrigued by the health benefits of coconut flour (high protein, high fiber, gluten-free…), I decided months ago to order a bag of coconut flour as a change from my usual baking flour of choice, almond flour. Being that all my go-to recipes are made with nut bases, the coconut flour had been sitting unopened for a little while. As I was recently preparing a meal for a family that I invited who have children with nut allergies, I finally remembered the forgotten coconut flour. For inspiration on how to use it, I flipped thru one of my favorite cookbooks, Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, by Erica Kerwien, and found an easy recipe for Cinnamon Bun Muffins to put my coconut flour to the test. The results were amazing, and within minutes the muffins were gone! Who can resist a hot cinnamon bun muffin fresh from the oven? Apparently not my husband… The good news was that the whole recipe takes about ten minutes to prepare, so I was able to make a new batch in no time!

IMG_4352My family and friends have become hooked to this dessert which I have modified slightly to make a little less sweet and a little more moist than the original, found at Kerwien’s website: comfybelly.com. I also changed the size to mini muffins to make sure that every bite is filled with the delicious cinnamon glaze topping–and also so that when my husband eats ten at a time, I don’t have to worry because I know there are at least 40 more….

Cinnabon Bites

Ingredients:

1 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 eggs

2/3 cup coconut milk

2/3 cup honey

Cinnamon Glaze Topping:
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4 tablespoons ground cinnamon

5 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Line mini muffin trays with parchment paper liners. In a medium sized bowl, combine coconut flour, baking soda and salt until evenly blended. Add wet ingredients to the bowl — vanilla, eggs, coconut milk (if using coconut milk from a can, make sure to shake well before opening because the milk separates and will be thicker on top if not shaken) and honey, and mix well with electric mixer. In a separate small bowl, mix topping ingredients together–cinnamon, honey and coconut oil. Use a tablespoon to measure the muffin batter and fill each muffin liner. Then, using 1/2 a teaspoon of topping, swirl over each muffin.

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Bake 10 minutes and enjoy!

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yield: 50 Cinnabon Bites

Tip: I buy coconut flour, canned coconut milk without any additives, and refined coconut oil from: digestivewellness.com

Salmon Vegetable Loaf

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My typical Monday morning starts like this. After 30 minutes of negotiating with my girls about what they can wear to school (they are only 2 and 4…I think I’m in trouble!), we have ten minutes of negotiating breakfast options.  After everyone is satisfied, I sit down with my coffee, my pen and paper, and together, my “team” helps me think up a dinner plan for the week.  The one requirement for Monday night dinner is that it has to be something I can make from the ingredients that I already have.  If I’m lucky, I can stretch out weekend leftovers to get me thru Monday, but some weeks there is no such luck and all I have is a few random vegetables to work with.

Today is one of those days…Luckily I keep my pantry stocked with canned pink salmon because it is loaded with calcium, Omega -3 fatty acids, and tons of potential for easy, healthy and delicious dinner options.  A favorite dinner of mine growing up was my mom’s salmon loaf.  I have changed around some of my mom’s original ingredients to create a healthier version that is gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, SCD friendly and includes more vegetables.  An oldie but a goodie, salmon loaf is so moist, so flavorful, so satisfying, and the best part is it only takes a handful of ingredients and about ten minutes to prepare.

Salmon Vegetable Loaf

Ingredients:

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3 small carrots or two medium carrots grated (approximately one cup)

1 small zucchini grated (about 1/2 cup)

2 eggs

1 (213 gram) can salmon (I use Clover Leaf Red Pacific Salmon)

1/4 cup almond flour (or gluten free bread-crumb substitute of your choice)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

For the Topping:IMG_4225

1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking dish with parchment paper or oil (I use a pyrex casserole dish). Grate carrots and zucchini–either with a hand grater or the food processor. Drain excess liquid from zucchini.
Remove large bone and any unappealing skin from canned salmon and mix together with vegetables, eggs, gluten-free flour of choice, salt, pepper and mustard. Top with mixture of tomato sauce, honey and vinegar.IMG_4179
Optional: surround loaf with any vegetables that you have in stock. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes and enjoy!

yield: 4 servings

Tip: small canned salmon bones don’t need to be removed, they will soften during cooking and are a great source of calcium.

Roasted Eggplant Stuffed with Mushrooms and Tahini Dressing

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A few years ago, I was at my cousin Karen’s house for the holidays, and she served the most delicious appetizer of roasted eggplant stuffed with sautéed meat and covered in a  tahini sauce.  I was so taken by the dish, not only for the savory blend of flavors and textures, but also for the beautiful presentation that I knew could be achieved so easily. Over the years, I have served my cousin’s eggplant recipe many times and it is always a crowd pleaser.

Recently, I decided to try and make a lighter and  healthier version of the aforementioned recipe as a side dish at a large meal.  IMG_4131
I already had a lot of protein options in my menu, but I had an eggplant in my fridge and was determined to use it.   Instead of the usual meat stuffing, I decided to try it with sautéed mushrooms to achieve a similar mix of flavors and textures without all the heaviness.  The new recipe was a major success!  My guests loved the unique combination of vegetables and the creamy tahini dressing.  I know this recipe will be used again and again at my house, I can’t wait to try it with the mini eggplants for individual sized portions!

Roasted Eggplant Stuffed with Mushrooms and Tahini Dressing

I am dividing the recipe into 3 parts just to keep it clear.  Don’t be scared off if it looks long, this recipe is so easy!

Roasted Eggplant

IMG_4147Ingredients:

1 large eggplant

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 (if your oven has an optional setting for roasting, that would be best).
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Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Gently score inside of eggplant with a knife, making a crisscross pattern. Blend olive oil, salt and pepper and “paint” over inside of eggplant. Lay eggplant flat on parchment paper lined baking sheet and pierce skin of eggplant 2 or 3 times on each half.IMG_4085 Roast about 40 minutes or until skin is very soft (this is a good time to prepare mushrooms and tahini). Remove from oven and let eggplant stand as is for 10 minutes.  Mash the inside of the eggplant gently before filling (only do this step immediately before serving).

Sautéed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 medium white onion diced

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optional: 3 cloves chopped garlic

8 ounces fresh white mushrooms sliced thin

8 ounces crimini mushrooms sliced thin

1.5 tablespoon oil (can use coconut or preferred oil)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Sauté onions (and garlic if using) in oil on medium heat about 5 minutes, until soft. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 10 minutes.

Tahini Dressing

It is always an option to use store bought tahini or chummus for this dressing, being that I can’t use those products because of SCD guidelines, I make my own.

Ingredients:

1 cup crushed sesame seeds
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3/4 cup water

1 cup fresh parsley leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/2 lemon freshly squeezed (about 3-4 tablespoon)

Directions:

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until creamy.
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When I am not serving dish immediately, I keep all ingredients separate to re-heat. After heating, use a fork to gently mash the eggplant. Add mushrooms. Spread a dollop of dressing on top. If the tahini gets too thick in the fridge, you can thin with either water or lemon juice. Enjoy!IMG_4125

Zucchini Breakfast Bread

IMG_3836It is such a thrill for me to find a recipe for a baked good that has vegetables listed in the ingredients. Adding vegetables into gluten free cakes, muffins and breads is the ideal way to indulge my sweet tooth without the guilt, and also a perfect opportunity to sneak more vitamins into my cake-loving 2 year olds diet. Naturally low calorie and a good source of fiber, zucchinis provide essential vitamins A and C, and also add moistness to baked goods.  I love starting my day with a fresh slice of this lightly sweetened hearty grain-free zucchini bread (filled with chia, flax and chocolate chips for non-SCD).  I also use this recipe for mini muffins as a delicious side dish for a big meal.

Zucchini Breakfast Bread

*Recipe adapted from A Taste of Wellness Zucchini Muffins by Rochel Weiss

Ingredients:

2 medium to large zucchini (approximately 3 cups grated zucchini)

3 eggs

IMG_38173 cups almond flour

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup honey

2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt.

optional add ins for non-SCD:

1.5 teaspoon mixture chia seeds and or ground flax

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

IMG_3821Preheat oven to 325.  Use a hand or box grater to coarsely grate zucchini.
In a separate bowl, mix almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add in oil, honey and eggs. Squeeze out excess liquid from grated zucchini and stir into mixture.  If not following SCD and using optional add ins: mix in chia/flax and chocolate chips. Line two loaf pans (9.25 by 5.95 by 2.75) with parchment paper or line approximately 36-40 mini muffins.  Fill pans with batter 2/3 high, leaving room for muffins to rise. Bake loaves 30 minutes (mini muffins 18-20 minutes) or until toothpick in the middle comes out dry.

Tip: For baking, I prefer buying almond flour from: www.digestivewellness.com

Perfect Pears with Crumble Topping

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After the tragic news of this past week, it is so hard to resume normal life. I find myself completely hooked to my Facebook newsfeed for the continuous stream of news reports and individual responses to the sorrow that is felt around the world. During the past few weeks, I have gained so much strength from watching the amazing families of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad and from the unity of the Jewish people at this time. My thoughts are with the families of Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad and my hope is that they should be able to find strength and comfort from the knowledge that so many of us will try and move forward by creating more meaningful and more worthwhile lives in the memory of their beloved sons.

Perfect Pears with Crumble Topping

IMG_3945Last I checked, pears were considered a “fall” fruit, yet, lately every time I’m at the grocery store, it seems as though beautifully displayed pears are front and center. Not wanting to pass up these gorgeous fruits, I decided to abandon my original plan for a more summery strawberry rhubarb crisp (I will try and get to that another one of these days) and instead made a pear crisp.

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I mixed the pears with lemon juice, a touch of lemon zest, apple sauce and a drop of honey to moisten and enhance the flavour of the fruit. For the crisp topping, I combined all the nuts I had on hand, almonds, pecans and walnuts, with a bit of honey and coconut oil to hold it together.

At first, as I pulled out my new creation from the oven, I was disappointed for the lack of sizzling, bubbling juices that typically accompany a mouth watering crisp. After I tried this new dessert though, I was pleasantly surprised and delighted at how fresh and crispy the pears tasted, despite baking for so long, and how well the lightly sweetened nuts balanced the delicate fruit. Hot out of the oven, served with ice cream, or chilled from the fridge, this light tasting healthy dessert is a great gluten free option any time of year!

Perfect Pears with Crumble Topping

Ingredients:

7 (green) D’anjou pears

1/2 lemon juiced (2 tablespoons)

1/4 cup applesauce

3 tablespoon honey, divided

1 cup almond flourIMG_3959

1cup pecan meal

3/4 cup walnut nibs

1/3 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

5 tablespoon melted coconut oil

1 tablespoon canola oil

Tip: I order almond flour/pecan meal from www.digestivewellness.com, if these items are not available, this recipe would work by placing whole nuts into food processor. Coconut oil is available at most grocery stores in the health food section.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325. Cut pears into 1 inch chunks and mix well with lemon juice, zest (optional), applesauce and 1 tablespoon honey. In another bowl, combine almond flour, pecan meal and walnut nibs (any combination of nuts would be good) with remaining honey, baking soda, cinnamon and melted coconut oil.

IMG_3963Crumble with fingers to get a sand-like consistency. Dip a paper towel in canola oil to grease the bottom of 12-14 ramekins (I like baking in ramekins to make desserts individual size when possible, if you don’t have ramekins, any regular baking dish would work). Place approximately 2 tablespoons of fruit mixture in each ramekin and cover with crumble topping. Bake uncovered for one hour or until crisp looks brown and toasty.

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Tip: the topping recipe yields a lot of extra. This topping freezes well and can be used for later crisps.